his is the one I’ve been waiting for, and DG has brought it to us, though without the familiar DG logo anywhere on the package. It’s a 1973 recording with an ideal cast and great sound. I could easily wax rhapsodic after hearing this again and tell you it stands alone. But, to be honest, it does not. I have owned the Callas LPs for years, and I know how thrilling she is in this opera. And I’ve heard Sutherland do Bellini often enough in the opera house to believe what I hear in her great second recording for London (Decca). Our Overview (Sept/Oct 2000) mentions those two recordings along with the Sills as the top contenders.
But one must also pay some attention to the other singers. Callas has Di Stefano: he may be winsome, but those screeching high notes are not pretty. Sutherland has Pavarotti in his prime, sounding very good. But can either of those tenors match Gedda? He takes high Ds and Fs in stride; he never sounds strangulated. He is golden in tone, warmer than Pavarotti.
I’ll accept that there are three great recordings of this opera, but this is my favorite. Sills is dazzling, and she has more feeling than Sutherland and a lovelier voice than Callas–the best of both worlds? Rudel’s pacing is never slack, and the choral and orchestral work are great. Plishka and Quilico are old favorites of mine, and who will say they are inferior to the singers on the other recordings?
It is highly amusing to listen to stuffy English Puritans expressing themselves in Italian and hot-bloodedly cursing and swearing vengeance (”vendetta!”). The music is unfailingly beautiful–the kind of thing you can listen to from beginning to end without becoming bored. As a discriminating opera collector who keeps rather few complete operas in his collection, I have to recommend this one.