Royal Philharmonic Orchestra: Verdi; Giordano; Puccini...

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A collection of Italian opera overtures and intermezzos, this compilation from the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra is, for the most part, an attractive offering that will give listeners new to the genre a taste of its lyrical beauty, passionate emotions, and opulent orchestration. Featured composers are Giuseppe Verdi, Umberto Giordano, Giacomo Puccini, Pietro Mascagni, and Ruggero Leoncavallo, all major opera composers of the Romantic and early modern eras, and the orchestral selections from their works present many of their major melodies, as well as some dramatic context or general atmosphere. The overtures, all here by Verdi, are opening works that anticipate their operas' themes and moods, while the intermezzos are pieces positioned between acts, as in the famous intermezzos from Mascagni's Cavaleria rusticana and Leoncavallo's Pagliacci. Listeners will have to decide whether or not to try the whole operas if these orchestral pieces are appealing, but many casual listeners will appreciate this CD as a relaxing album of richly scored and tuneful music in its own right, good for quiet background listening. The playing by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, under the leadership of Andrea Licata, is polished in tone and smooth in execution, and the sound quality is first-rate on these all-digital 1998 recordings. However, there is one caveat: when heard at a moderate or higher volume, some humming is audible, and this reduces the disc's quality to a degree.

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