Thursday, January 20, 2011

Opening the vault

Perhaps this has already been all around the net, but I got a press release this morning that four famous Met broadcasts were being released next Tuesday... on Sony Classical.
FIRST OFFICIAL, REMASTERED CD AND DIGITAL RELEASE: These historic performances originally broadcast via the Metropolitan Opera's Saturday afternoon radio series have never before been available internationally in authorized versions from original sources. Now, Sony Classical is presenting the first commercial releases of this material, newly remastered from the original sources and with the imprimatur of the Met.

ROSSINI: IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA, December 16, 1950 (two CDs). This live broadcast from the Met of the Rossini favorite features the legendary Lily Pons in the role of Rosina, with the sterling young tenor Giuseppe di Stefano as Count Almaviva, a role he never recorded commercially, and baritone Giuseppe Valdengo, well known for his recordings with Toscanini, as Figaro. Alberto Erede conducts the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus, with the cast also including Salvatore Baccaloni as Don Bartolo and Jerome Hines as Don Basilio.

PUCCINI: LA BOHÈME, February 15, 1958 (two CDs). This classic performance of one of the repertory’s most popular operas stars the passionate singing of two paragons of Italian style, soprano Licia Albanese as the doomed seamstress Mimi and tenor Carlo Bergonzi as the poet Rodolfo. The conductor is Thomas Schippers, with the cast also including Mario Sereni as Marcello and Laurel Hurley as Musetta.

GOUNOD: ROMEO ET JULIETTE, February 1, 1947 (two CDs). The star-crossed lovers in this version of Shakespeare's tale are the celebrated Swedish tenor Jussi Björling and the sweet-voiced Brazilian soprano Bidú Sayão, both in roles they never recorded commercially. Emil Cooper conducts, with the cast also including John Brownlee as Mercutio and Nicola Moscona as Frère Laurent.

PUCCINI: TOSCA, April 7, 1962 (two CDs). Live from the Met, Leontyne Price sings Puccini's tragic title heroine – in the prime of her career, opposite the thrilling tenor of Franco Corelli as Cavaradossi. Baritone Cornell MacNeil sings the evil Scarpia, one of his most famed portrayals. Kurt Adler conducts the Met Orchestra and Chorus.
There have been previous releases of this stuff -- mostly in pirate editions -- but a commercial release is a very big step. Whatever you might say about his administration, Peter Gelb (himself, of course, the former head of Sony Classical) has certainly done well to solve the apparently intractable rights issues involved in freeing the Met's amazing archive for general consumption.

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Absolutely no axe-grinding, please.