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Great Opera Collection [Box set]

Giacomo Puccini Audio CD
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: CDN$ 193.02
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Collection April 27 2009
Format:Audio CD
This is probably one of the best opera collection available. Every opera features the great Renata Tebaldi and is in excellent sound. My personal favourite (and Puccini's personal favourite) is Suor Angelica, a role Tebaldi never sang on stage, but she gives a powerful performance in it anyway. There are no librettos, just track and cast lists and summaries of each track on each Cd. The price is amazing. Highly recommended. Tebaldi is a fantastic singer.
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Amazon.com: 4.8 out of 5 stars  8 reviews
112 of 113 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Andato Col Vento! March 13 2008
By Good Stuff - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Most of us who are of a certain age know these recordings and have lived with them, off and on, for decades.

A few things need to be cleared up, since Amazon hasn't exactly gone out of its' way to be of help: These are the stereo versions of each of the operas, not the earlier mono recordings.

The earliest are the Manon Lescaut from 1954 and the Turandot from a year or so later. They both feature the glorious Renata Tebaldi and Mario Del Monaco, respectively, in their absolute best voices. The too seldom recorded Inge Borkh is heard to thrilling effect as Turandot. The sound on the Manon Lescaut is somewhat superior than that on the Turandot, although both are certainly good enough. Fanciulla and Butterfly are from 1958 and Boheme came along a year later, along with Tosca, featuring the astounding Scarpia of George London, who, just a few years later, would find his voice silenced forever by illness. All were recorded at the Academia di Santa Cecilia, Roma, a favorite venue for Decca and other recording companies at the time.
The final three operas in the set, The Trittico, date from around 1962 and were recorded at the Maggio Musicale, Fiorenze, not, in my opinion, quite as successful a recording location. Also, of all the operas on this set, many of which are what I consider desert island musts, these three show the beginnings of the inevitable wear voices singing this repertoire can experience. Tebaldi is just off that blush of greatness that distinguishes the earlier works. Del Monaco is very powerful in the Tabarro, which is not foreign to the role. But it sounds like, by this time, he was losing the ability to scale down his voice above the staff. On the other hand, the legendary Boheme and Butterfly catch the young Carlo Bergonzi in magnificent form. If there has ever been a better recorded Butterfly Act 1 duet (and I am even including the De Los Angeles/Bjoerling effort many of us love so much), I have not heard it.

But these are, when taken as a whole, a remarkable set of operatic recordings from what must surely be thought of now as a golden age. There isn't a clinker in the lot, and several of them, Boheme and Butterfly, for example, have seldom been equaled, and never, I would suggest, surpassed.

There are other great singers sprinkled amongst the various casts: Cornell MacNeil, Robert Merrill, Giorgio Tozzi, Giulietta Simionato,Fernando Corena, Fiorenza Cossotto, and others. Of course, these recordings point out the glaring weaknesses of the contract system of the day. Many greats were excluded. No Bjoerling, of course. He was under contract to other labels. None of the other wonderful singers who were around at the time. Decca had its' coterie of exclusive artists, right down to the compremario singers (Piero di Palma must have made a fortune from Decca)and it used them over and over. A recording stock company, if you will.

And so it was, back in the day when recording companies felt their was some worth in recording great singers in their greatest roles with as much love and care as possible.

If it hadn't already been used, I would be tempted to say this set should actually be called "Gone With The Wind".
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Content Information July 9 2011
By Moonfish - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
+ Manon Lescaut:
Renata Tebaldi, Mario Del Monaco, Mario Boriello, Fernando Corena & Piero de Palma
Francesco Molinari-Pradelli; July/August 1954

+ La Bohème:
Renata Tebaldi, Carlo Bergonzi, Gianna d'Angelo, e Bastianini, to Cesari, Cesare Siepi, Fernando Corena & Piero de Palma
Tullio Serafin; August 1959

+ Tosca:
Renata Tebaldi, Mario del Monaco, George London, Silvio Maionica & Fernando Corena
Francesco Molinari-Pradelli; July 1959

+ Madama Butterfly:
Renata Tebaldi, Carlo Bergonzi, Goro Angelo Mercuriali, Fiorenza Cossotto & Enzo Sordello
Tullio Serafin; July 1958

+ La fanciulla del West:
Renata Tebaldi, Mario del Monaco, Cornell Macneil, Piero di Palma & Silvio Maionica
Franco Capuana; August 1958

+ Turandot:
Inge Borkh, Renata Tebaldi, Mario del Monaco, Bicola Zaccaria, Fernando Corena, Mario Carlin, Renato Ercolani, Gaetano Fanelli & Ezio Giordano,
Alberto Erede; August 1955

+ Il Trittico:
Robert Merrill, Renata Tebaldi, Mario del Monaco, Renata Tebaldi, Giulietta Simionato & Fernando Corena
Orchestra e coro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Lamberto Gardelli; July 1962

Orchestra e coro dell'Accademia di Santa Cecilia, Roma
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great, but... Jan. 21 2011
By What's in a name? - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
The operas in this set are:

Manon Lescaut
La Bohème
Tosca
Madama Butterfly
La fanciulla del West
Turandot

Il trittico (The Triptych, or the three one act operas that were intended to go together):

Il tabarro
Suor Angelica
Gianni Schicchi

This set is in some ways easy to review, as it is a collection of solid performances at an unbelievably great price (typically, Amazon sells this for about half of the low retail price of $49.98, or, in other words, about the full price of one opera). The sound quality is quite good considering when it was recorded, and is good enough to be rewarding on a good stereo (I played this set through some Apogee Stage speakers; just do an online search for reviews of these speakers). Really, if one is on a tight budget, this is well worth getting as one's only set of Puccini operas, and if one is rich, one ought to buy it for comparison with other performances.

But it is not an ideal set, for several reasons. First, as others have noted, there are no libretti. So if you are the sort of person who wants to read along as they sing, so that you will know what they are singing, this is a significant drawback. Even if you obtain a copy of the libretti elsewhere, there will be no markings in it to tell you what track the passage is on, so if you get lost or just want to know what they are singing at a particular point in the opera, you may have difficulties finding what they are singing.

Second, although the sound quality is very good, it is certainly not the best, and certainly not state of the art. So if one is very picky about sound quality, then one might want to look elsewhere (and, if one is that picky, one ought to generally avoid recordings this old, as this sounds better than one ought to expect for that time period [1950's to early 1960's]).

Third, although the performances are great, and deserve 5 stars generally, they are not all the best that money can buy. The three operas recorded by Pavarotti in the early 1970's Puccini - La Bohème / Freni, Pavarotti, Harwood, Ghiaurov, Karajan, Puccini - Madama Butterfly / Freni, Pavarotti, Ludwig, Wiener Phil., Karajan, & Puccini - Turandot / Sutherland · Pavarotti · Caballé · Ghiaurov · Krause · Pears · LPO · Mehta are probably definitive, and have better sound quality as well (though still fall short of current state of the art, for the obvious reason that recording technology has progressed since the early 1970's). However, they typically cost as much each as this entire set.

(If one wants all three of them, buying the boxed set that contains them will cost about the same as buying those three separately, and one will get two more operas, in which one can hear that Pavarotti was singing past his prime Puccini: The Definitive Collection, though it seems not to have bothered many of his fans. The operas that that set lacks that this Tebaldi set has are, in my opinion, less famous and well-known for good reason, but it obviously hurts nothing to have more, and others may disagree with my opinion on this matter. Interestingly, that set is the same label, Decca, as this Tebaldi set.)

So, should you buy this set? Well, they are great performances and the sound is very good. But they are not the very best performances of the operas that can be had (at least of the three mentioned above with Pavarotti in the early 1970's), and the sound quality isn't the best either, though as already stated repeatedly, they are great performances with good quality sound. The lack of libretti may also disappoint. But at this price, I think it can confidently be asserted, you will never do better. If the sets were the same price, I would recommend the other Decca set above, but it typically costs about three times as much and lacks four of the operas in this set. If you have the money and love Puccini (everyone should!), buy both sets. If you don't have the money for both sets, think carefully about what, exactly, matters most to you, and buy accordingly.

One more thing. If you order this set, like with all boxed sets, immediately when you receive it, check to make sure that all the CDs are there and seem to be in good condition. The first set I got from Amazon was missing a disc. But buying from Amazon is great, as they paid the return shipping for that set and sent me a replacement. 5 stars for Amazon.com!
20 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Response to complaint about iTunes/iPod tags Oct. 17 2008
By pm444 - Published on Amazon.com
The set is an amazing bargain and anyone who loves Puccini and knows these artists will buy it while it's still available.

However, I feel compelled to write a brief response to the reviewer who criticized Decca for not having consistent CD data for the various CDs in this set. The record companies do not generate the tags (album name, artist, etc.) that are used by online music databases. Instead, the information is entered by a variety of independent users who employ a variety of standards or conventions when entering information about a CD. Thus, one user may enter the data for the first CD in a set, while another user enters the data for the second CD, and the two users may enter the data using different conventions. The record companies do not and cannot control the way this data is entered, and it's not a fair complaint to criticize them for a lack of standardization. In any case, it's very easy for the user to change these tags within iTunes by simply selecting multiple tracks and then renaming the disc, artist, or any other data field with the user's personal preference.

The major record labels may be guilty of any number of offenses, but this is not one that can be laid at their doorstep. Given the extremely low price of this set, it's even more unfair to complain about something that's so easily modified by the consumer.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Puccini set ever Jan. 4 2011
By bob turnley - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Audio CD|Verified Purchase
Even though I already had three of these recordings on LP I couldn't pass up this set. Recorded between 54 and 62, Tebaldi, Del Monaco, Bergonzi, and Merrill are all in wonderful voice. Every one of these recordings is a classic and if you had only one recording of any one of these operas you couldn't do much better than these.
For me the peerless performances are the Fanciulla and the Tabarro. They alone are worth the cost of the set. The sound quality is excellent and I would take this 1954 Manon Lescaut over the 1993 Pavarotti/Freni recording.
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