Various Artists

Senza Parole: Opera without Words

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Usually, "opera without words" is a term applied to recordings of operatic selections with all the vocal parts removed or played by instruments, and this sub-genre of classical music has had its share of fans, especially those who collected André Kostelanetz's opera-themed albums from the late 1960s. They may be a little disappointed, however, with Berlin Classics' triple-disc compilation, Senza Parole, also titled Oper Ohne Wort and Opera Without Words, because it really is a collection of famous opera overtures and popular orchestral excerpts, rather than a "music minus one" treatment of arias or scenes. With that clarification, this is an attractive collection of many the best-known concert staples taken from the operas of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Richard Wagner, Georges Bizet, Johann Strauss II, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov, Giuseppe Verdi, Bedrich Smetana, Jacques Offenbach and fifteen other composers. The performances are led by a number of well-known conductors associated over the years with Berlin Classics, including Othmar Suitner, Rudolf Kempe, Kurt Masur, Vaclav Neumann, and Herbert Kegel, among others, and the orchestras they lead are familiar, including the Gewandhausorchester Leipzig, the Staatskapelle Dresden, the Dresden Philharmonie, and other German ensembles. Because many of these recordings date from the analog era, and suffer from some of the technical imitations of recording studios in the former GDR, the sound is not on a par with contemporary digital standards, and some allowance needs to be made for the inconsistency of volume levels. However, if this compilation is available at a reasonable price, having all these pieces together may be a good trade-off for newcomers to classical music.

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