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As always, Bonynge is intent in bringing a vivid sense of theatre to his recordings and there's nothing of the 'cut and paste' approach to be found lurking in his Puccini Passion. Soloist Cheryl Barker's increasingly close identification with Puccini roles demonstrates her firmly etched lyrical finesse and her evident affinity with Mr Bonynge's Puccinian style. During a tireless career he's devoted numerous recordings to works of Adam, Auber, Balfe, Donizetti, Kálmán, Meyerbeer, Rossini, Sullivan, Verdi, et al.

For the most part, however, the operas of Giacomo Antonio Domenico Michele Secondo Maria Puccini (1858-1924) have been noticeably absent.

The best known Puccini from Mrs Bonynge (Dame Joan Sutherland) is the Turandot recording (Decca, 1973) with the London Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Zubin Mehta.

Thus, welcome though this Melba release is, there's nothing here to dislodge a few heaven-sent Puccini performances from full opera recordings of yesteryear. Two among several such productions spring instantly to mind. One is Beecham's La Bohème (RAC 1956) with the RCA Victor Orchestra, Victoria de los Angeles as Mimi, and co stars Jussi Bjorling, Giorgio Tozzi, Fernando Corena and John Reardon. This performance is unsurpassed and maybe unsurpassable. Then there's Maria Callas as Floria Tosca (EMI 1953). In this miraculous performance Victor de Sabata conducts the Orchestra of La Scala, Milan and the cast includes Giuseppe di Stefano and Tito Gobbi.

Take Passion in measured doses [listen -- track 4, 2:11-3:46]. While I recently sat in comfort through nineteen soprano songs of Massenet, an equal unbroken number of Puccini arias (71+ minutes) proved more than I could digest without a couple of breaks to recoup.

Copyright © 14 January 2008 Howard Smith, Masterton, New Zealand


Puccini Passion - The Richard Bonynge Edition

MR 301085 Stereo FIRST RELEASE 71'20" 2003 Melba Recordings

Cheryl Barker, soprano; Orchestra Victoria; Jo Beaumont, concertmaster; Richard Bonynge, conductor

Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924): Se come voi piccina ... (Le Villi); Addio mio dolce (Edgar); In quelle trine morbide (Manon Lescaut); Sola, perduta, abbandonata (Manon Lescaut); Mia chiamano Mimì (La bohème); Quando me'n vo' (La bohème); Donde lieta uscì (Le bohème); Vissi d'arte (Tosca); Un bel di (Madama Butterfly); Che tua madre dovrà (Madama Butterfly); Con onor muore (Madama Butterfly); Chi il bel sogno di Doretta (La rondine); Ore dolci e divine (La rondine); Senza Mamma (Suor Angelica); O mio babbino caro (Gianni Schicchi); Signore, ascolta! (Turandot); Tu che di gel sei cinta (Turandot); E I'uccellino (arranged for orchestra by Brian Castles-Onion); Sole e amore (arranged for orchestra by Brian Castles-Onion)



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