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Descriptions du produit
Pour clore en beauté l'année Puccini, Decca - le label de l'opéra par excellence - réédite dans un coffret luxueux les plus grands enregistrements pucciniens de Luciano Pavarotti et de sa partenaire privilégiée, Mirella Freni : les mythiques Bohème et Madama Butterfly, dirigées par Karajan, mais aussi Tosca et Manon Lescaut. C'est Montserrat Caballé et Joan Sutherland qu'il retrouve dans le non moins légendaire Turandot de Zubin Mehta, une référence absolue depuis presque bientôt 40 ans. LA collection d'opéras de Puccini à posséder et à offrir en cette fin d'année.
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First of all, though, let us consider what is great about this set, and why it absolutely deserves 5 stars. The box is attractive and sturdy, it comes with libretti for all of the five operas included, the sound quality is very good or superb on them all, and the performances, though not all of equal quality, are all either first-rate or at least very good. Of the five operas in this set, the three recorded in the early 1970's--La Bohème, Madama Butterfly, and Turandot--are first choice recordings. You will not find any recordings better than these, now or probably ever. That alone justifies buying this set. At the prices that are current as of the writing of this review, buying this set is less expensive than buying those three operas separately, so this is a very good deal right now (though it used to cost more, and obviously I have no idea what it will cost on the day you are reading this). By the time Tosca was recorded, Pavarotti was a bit weaker, no longer at his absolute peak of greatness, but still extremely good and still well worth hearing. With Manon Lescaut, both Pavarotti and Freni are past their prime, a shadow of their former greatness. They are not actually bad in this, but they are not nearly as great as they had been about 20 years earlier (Turandot [without Freni] and La Bohème were recorded in 1972, and Madama Butterfly was recorded in 1974, whereas Manon Lescaut was recorded in 1992; no one's voice lasts forever; the ravages of time always take their toll). The absolute fans of Pavarotti may not notice or care, but for the rest of us, this is something to consider (remember, "fan" is short for "fanatic"). Still, overall, the performance is quite good, deserving of 4 or 5 stars anyway, with the support from the lesser-known singers quite good, with fine orchestral playing and superb sound quality. One also has the interesting experience of hearing a youthful up and coming Cecilia Bartoli, who is at the peak of her abilities in this time period. These performances are all good enough to be one's only version of each of these operas, though only three of them are at the pinnacle of greatness.
With some of the other sets, such as the set with Renata Tebaldi, Puccini - The Great Opera Collection (Box Set), which is well worth owning if one can get it at a good price, one gets more operas, but the level of quality is, overall, a step down from this set. That, by the way, is a great compliment to this set, as the Renata Tebaldi one is very good, and I am glad that I own it. But now that it seems to be out of print, the prices for it have jumped up, so this is now the better deal, with better sound quality (being newer recordings, though the other has very good sound quality) and better performances generally.
For those who dislike Pavarotti, who think of him as a fat old man singing cheesy songs on PBS specials, you should hear his performances on the operas from this set that were recorded in the early 1970's. There is a very good reason that so many people regard him as being absolutely great, and that is because he was absolutely great. You cannot properly judge his voice in the 1970's by how it sounded in the 1990's, just as one cannot judge an athlete's early performance by what he or she is capable of as an elderly person.
This Puccini box set release by Decca certainly is definitive as the name suggests. Containing Boheme, Butterfly, Manon Lescaut, Tosca, and Turandot, this set is great for both listeners new to Puccini and the avid collector looking to round out his collection.
The Sutherland, Caballe, Pavarotti Turandot is great - no Turandot since was recorded to such standard (Sutherland alas is not the world's most definitive Turandot, but I would say this recording as a whole is magnificent).
The Mirela Freni - Boheme, Butterfly, and Tosca is a must have in every opera fan's collection and boast the top-notch singing that can be expected of world class singers such as Freni and Pavarotti. Not many opera fans would argue with me that Freni is the best soprano to sing Puccini. Not a single opera fan would argue with me that Freni is the best soprano to sing Puccini still alive today. These three opera recordings are definitive of the current industry.
Though I do realize the price offered is much greater than the EMI or the other Decca Puccini box set with Renata Tebaldi in the lead roles, the quality of Freni's singing could easily outweigh the extra cost. This set is a must have for any fan of Italian opera. No Puccini fan will be disappointed with Freni, Pavarotti, Sutherland, or Caballe's singing of these roles.