his was recorded at Beverly Sills’ peak, in 1970. Here, her slightly narrow tone is at its fullest, the coloratura is accurate, fast, and dazzling, the top notes secure (including an unnecessary high F in the restored scene with Raimondo), and the use of words pointed and intelligent enough to make the manic-depressive character heartbreaking. As if Callas had not proved the point, Sills made it clear that the days of the chirpy, empty Pons and Peters were over, and even the glorious Joan Sutherland, who probably sang the role better than anyone in history, was not in Sills’ league. In short, at this point in her career Sills had everything. If you want to carp, you might argue that there are slightly too many embellishments (nary a line is left unadorned)–but why bother? This is a great reading and singing of the role.
Sillis is excellently partnered by the mature Carlo Bergonzi as Edgardo, elegant and outraged, and the brutal Piero Cappuccilli as the cruel Enrico. Justino Diaz is the cast’s woolly weak link as Raimondo. The lamented Thomas Schippers leads a tight, exciting, as-if-it-were-new performance, with every cut opened (including a thrilling Wolf’s Crag scene), and he uses the glass harmonica Donizetti wanted in the Mad Scene, which adds just the right amount of eerieness. Of course you can’t do without a Callas Lucia, but Sills is just as necessary (as, let’s face it, is Sutherland). It’s great to have this set available again.