Thursday, May 24, 2018

Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed….

Guest blogger EB reviews three performances seen whilst visiting New York last month:

Cendrillon, Massenet, Metropolitan Opera, April 20th 2018
Luisa Miller, Verdi, Metropolitan Opera, April 21st 2018
Tosca, Puccini, Metropolitan Opera, April 21st 2018

…something blue? Maybe Anna Netrebko’s dress for the finale of her first ever Tosca (more of her later) but otherwise the traditional wedding saying will do for a satisfyingly busy weekend at the Met, worth taking a trip from London for three operas in two days.

Three operas, three composers, one conductor. Bertrand de Billy was already listed for both the Tosca and Cendrillon performances, but then took over Luisa Miller after James Levine’s departure. More about him later, but from the start let me praise his sheer energy as much as his musical achievements.

First up, Cendrillon, or “something borrowed” - in this case Laurent Pelly’s production. It has appeared in a number of houses – I saw its London outing – having started life in Santa Fe as a vehicle for Joyce DiDonato. The production’s provenance explains its relative economy and low-rise designs – Santa Fe has limited flying facilities – and the sets, with their palate of whites, reds and golds, take their cue from the words of the fairy tale upon which the opera is based. The production is full of witty touches – business with lamps, rooftops, a comic ballet for Prince Charming’s would-be future wives. Massenet gives a straightforward rendition of the familiar tale: Pandolfe (Laurent Naouri, idiomatic but underpowered) has married the rich but ghastly Madame de la Haltière (a bombastic Stephanie Blythe, vocally and visually several sizes larger than life). She and her dreadful daughters treat Pandolfe and daughter Lucette, known as Cendrillon (DiDonato) abominably but her Fairy Godmother, La Fée (Kathleen Kim) ensures she goes to the ball, glass slippers and all. There she meets, and at midnight runs away from, Prince Charming (Alice Coote). They almost meet again in an enchanted forest – they can hear but not see eachother in Massenet’s most original scene – before a more traditional happy ending.

DiDonato, who has a real affinity and love for French music and language, remains a superb interpreter of the title role, such a contrast from her more recent outings as Didon and Semiramide. Perhaps there is a loss of the easy lightness I recall from London, but her remarkably humble portrayal of Lucette, her vocal control and her sense of style are impeccable. Coote’s voice has also moved in a different direction over the years – a thrilling Vitellia last time I saw her – but their duets were moving. Kim’s is perhaps the most successful performance, effortless and sparkling high above the stave, and looking a million dollars.

I had been expecting Parisian De Billy to have a natural affinity for this music, but the delicate score felt pedestrian at times, perhaps not helped by the size of the house. Somehow the particular combination of lightness and perfume that characterise Massenet was missing, although this is partly the score itself which isn’t quite the composer’s greatest work. Massenet’s best music is also his sexiest – think Manon, Thaïs, Hérodiade – and perhaps the innocent Lucette didn’t inspire him in quite the same way. I suspect my wish for the finale of La Cenerentola is a clue that De Billy and Massenet had missed the mark – but this was a highly enjoyable evening nonetheless.

Sonya Yoncheva, Placido Domingo, Pietr Beczala
“Something old” - the Met’s Luisa Miller, directed by Elijah Moshinsky’s and hailing from a bygone operatic age of brown and beige, the monumentally murky sets intermittently spotlit. Without screaming “Tyrol” or setting the stage alight dramatically, it proves an effective enough frame for the performers, and has a certain grandeur. And it’s grand operatic stuff, the tale of the Luisa (Sonya Yoncheva), innocent daughter of Miller (Placido Domingo), betrothed to Carlo – himself the disguised Rodolfo (Piotr Beczała), son of Count Walther (Alexander Vinogradov). Aided by cartoon baddie Wurm (Dmitriy Belosselskiy), a plot ensues whereby Luisa is forced to betray Rodolfo to save her father’s life; Luisa and Rodolfo take poison and die along with Wurm in the dramatic finale.

Whilst we are still in the transition from the bel canto structures of his earlier works to mid period Verdi, meaning that some of the music is formulaic, there is plenty to show us what would come later - some strong finales, one truly great tenor aria and a final act of duets and a trio which foreshadow Rigoletto and Forza. The fine overture was scorchingly performed by the Met orchestra and in all I found De Billy much more engaged with this music than with Massenet the night before, the playing and pacing very stylish.

The principals were very satisfying. Of Domingo’s “baritone” roles this is one of the most successful, once the listener accepts that his is not a Verdi baritone voice and takes the performance on its own terms. Some parts of the voice remain remarkably intact and powerful, and he sang better than at the broadcast a week before, with impeccable Verdian phrasing. Dramatically, he is most convincing as Luisa’s tragic, elderly father. In Domingo’s previous (tenor) role, Beczała poured forth irresistible, honeyed Italianate tones - much like Domingo in his prime in fact. This was my first encounter with the Polish tenor, and I hope the first of many. Yoncheva is a familiar performer from London stages and this role debut comes after some heavier recent assignments. She is convincingly girlish in the lighter, more florid music at the start, has the heft for the role’s (surprisingly) dramatic moments, and is touching in the finale. Vocally close to the demands of Violetta (one of Yoncheva’s signature roles in New York and elsewhere) it is not surprising that this is a great part for her at this stage in her career. Mention too for Vinogradov – a rolling, ample bass-baritone, oozing style – and Olesya Petrova, ear-catching in the smallish role of Federica.

Anna Netrebko and Yusif Eyvazov
Credit:  Sarah Krulwich, The New York Times
Last then, “Something New”, or new-ish. David McVicar's Tosca opened on New Year’s Eve (with Yoncheva in the title role, in fact), and returned principally to showcase Anna Netrebko’s long awaited first performances of the title role. Very long awaited in fact – people have been talking about her taking on this role for years. I was lucky enough to hear her as Lady Macbeth in London in March, when she was in splendid, fearless voice, and Floria Tosca inhabits a similar vocal ball park.

Netrebko has everything she needs for the title role – her familiar dark, even and beautiful tone is capable of scorching (but not screeching) intensity and she has a genuine chest voice which is well connected to the rest, crucial for some of the key low-lying lines. She was a little cautious at the very top – I think she will take more risks later – but histrionically holds little back. I have always been struck by her natural instinct for moving around the stage and her acting was spontaneous, never calculated – the leap to her death felt genuinely shocking. “Vissi d’Arte” was introspective and expressive without resorting to mannerism, and predictably caused quite an explosion in the house. Interviews have indicated she doesn’t perhaps feel the affinity for the role that she does for others, but I hope she keeps it in her repertoire, for she is very close to being a Tosca for the ages.

As in the London Macbeth, the tenor was her husband Yusif Eyvazov, a relatively late replacement for Marcelo Alvarez, and on these showings certainly more than just “Mr Netrebko”. His voice is light in colour, but vibrant and powerful, and vocally, he can act. He was a big hit with the house. Scarpia was Michael Volle, one of our truly versatile singing actors (I’ve heard him in French Verdi and Strauss already this season) and a seasoned Chief of Police. He was a superb foil to Netrebko in the second Act, not stinting on menace but stopping short of melodrama.

McVicar’s production looks fabulous, the opulent designs full of colour and detail. Designer John Mcfarlane is a painter, and at first sight his sets look naturalistic (the church and the palazzo feature a lot of paintings, after all). Alongside the naturalistic details like Scarpia’s roaring fire, however, there are touches of expressionism, the skewed perspectives culminating in a stunning final act, a queasy dawn cloudscape looming over the castle battlements and Roman skyline, all dramatically lit by David Finn. The production has no specific “angle” - McVicar understands that Puccini works best when following the score and directions to the letter – but there are some telling details (Tosca swigging wine before spotting the knife – her thoughts easily readable from Netrebko’s expressions), and the blocking is always purposeful (Tosca is cornered on the castle roof with the jump down her only route of escape).

De Billy gave his best performance of the weekend for me, leading his excellent principals and his debuting diva with a firm dramatic pulse. It was a busy weekend for him and a busy weekend for me – but once again the Met served up a feast well worth the flight across an ocean. Til next time…

Monday, May 21, 2018

Another glorious YouTube Verdi Requiem

Yes, dear reader, I know it's far too easy, but I've found another wonderful YouTube performance of the Verdi Requiem. This is actually not a live performance, but a video created from a 1967 recording under the baton of Georg Solti, with Dame Joan Sutherland, Marilyn Horne, Luciano Pavarotti, Matti Talvela, the Vienna Philharmonic, and the Vienna State Opera Chorus. What's not to like?

All the soloists are in top form. Dame Joan, of course, had all the transcendent qualities in this recording that I mentioned in writing recently of a the 1960 recording. Truly the 1960s were her best decade. The floaty section like Huic ergo in the "Offertorio" and the Requiem aeternam section of "Libera me" were glorious. I can't say whether it's the influence of Mr. Solti or of seven more years of a high-profile career, motherhood, and marriage to Richard Bonynge, but Dame Joan's "Libera me" had more desperation than in the 1960 recording. As it should be! (I hate to say this, but Requiem aeternam section did include some of the droopy, artificially dark sound we associate with Dame Joan once she started listening to people's advice.)

I am not always of one mind about the blessed Marilyn Horne, whose presence has indeed been a great gift to the American opera and vocal music scene. Known for lyric mezzo-soprano roles, the great Miss Horne also sang Wagner and Berg soprano roles in her early career. I always thought her voice lay somewhere in between--low-lying soprano roles and high-lying mezzo roles. One associates the Verdi mezzo role with Amnerises and Azucenas, which was not Miss Horne's forte. But she delivered. Beauty of tone, warmth, expression, and the ability to be heard quite well in ensembles with full orchestra were all present. While her "Liber scriptus" didn't exactly part one's hair, as I have written of other mezzos, one certainly knew it was there! And her "Lux aeterna" was beautiful.

Luciano Pavarotti. What can one say? Again, in his prime, again with a sunny voice that imparts optimism and joy. This was the same year as the first Verdi Requiem I wrote of. The man could sing. No doubt about it. He could float the Hostias section of "Offertorium" and also deliver a powerful and sensitive "Ingemisco".

Matti Talvela. First, his Mors stubebit was absolutely in tune! Everything else was icing on the cake! He was powerful, passionate, and sensitive, delivering exactly what one expects of a true bass singing this role. (I have heard bass-baritones and been disappointed often.) Mr. Talvela is the bass soloist on another recording I plan to feature, and I will write more about him then, but suffice it to say that I have no complaints whatsoever about this performance.

Of course the chorus and orchestra were amazing. World-class ensembles tend to be. We heard from Mr. Solti the well-shaped phrases we love, and the control and precision, especially in contrapuntal sections, that sometimes eludes other conductors. Again, I often only notice conductors if something goes awry. This conductor earned my indifference, if that makes sense. I knew he was in control and I had nothing to worry about. This was a great performance.

Now that's what I call singing!

I have two Verdi Requiem recordings on CD beside me that I will get to, but Friday and Saturday I had the pleasure of listening to a recording I had downloaded and forgotten about. This was a 1960 recording under Carlo Maria Giulini with Dame Joan Sutherland, Fiorenza Cossotto, Luigi Ottolini, and Ivo Vinco, with the Philharmonia Chorus and Orchestra. What a joyful experience!

Each recording I hear is different in its own ways, but there is a huge amount of tradition holding most of them together. I might think, "Oh, this conductor uses a healthy bit of rubato there," or, "That conductor is doing more to keep the texture and rhythm on point than another one did."  In the end it's nit-picking.  It's hard to ruin the Verdi Requiem for me. (Believe me, people have tried!)

Now we must discuss the soloists, of course.  This was Dame Joan at her best, before she started listening to advice.  Of course she could float a vocal line like no other, and she had the vocal color and weight to hold her own against an orchestra with three other soloists. "Libera me" was heavenly--the tremendous contrasts of mood, the sublime quiet moments, the dramatic moments.

I've rhapsodized about Fiorenza Cossotto in this role before, and she was just as remarkable as expected. I always love a good "Lux aeterna", and Ms. Cossotto never fails to deliver.  I wasn't very familiar with Luigi Ottolini or Ivo Vinco before, but I quite liked them. Mr. Ottolini has the sound, the vocal heft required for this role, as well as the vocal subtlety it also requires.  "Ingemisco" was just what you want from a tenor, and Mr. Vinco's Mors stupebit section was both beautiful and mostly in tune.

Although this is a fantastic recording, this is a brief post, largely because I'm running out of things to say about the Verdi Requiem. I will never, ever tire of the work--of that I can promise you!--but it's hard to be creative. Since I have more an analytical nature, maybe I'll do a comparison spreadsheet when I've done all the recordings I'm going to do.

Friday, May 18, 2018

A retread, but a beautiful retread

For this installment in my Ten Verdi Requiem series (the notion of Ten Days fell by the wayside on day 2, I think!) I point you toward a magical performance I witnessed a few years ago and wrote about. Here is the link to that post. Please read and respond here with comments and questions.

OK, next.....

This will be a shorter post. Perhaps inundating my senses with Verdi Requiem performances isn't such a good thing. Really good performances become just OK and sub-par performances become colossally terrible. Nevertheless, your intrepid reporter has braved yet another Verdi Requiem performance, one of long acquaintance through many long drives (in a car with a much better stereo than that mentioned in my second post of this series), and one that is considered very fine indeed. This is an RCA Gold Seal recording of Arturo Toscanini and the NBC Symphony Orchestra with Herva Nelli, Fedora Barbieri, Giuseppe di Stefano, and Cesare Siepi, along with the Robert Shaw Chorale. It also features other Verdi choral works and arias. How can one go, "Meh" to that? The performancs are great! I confess I didn't know soprano Herva Nelli, but she was fully the equal of the other three soloists. Mr. Toscanini was with the NBC Orchestra from 1950 to 1954, but the exact year of this recording is not given. Although I didn't hear the precision in the orchestra I heard in the two La Scala recordings I wrote about, it was still a fine performance. I did hear great things from the four soloists. Beyond that, as a reason to buy this CD? With the wealth of audio and video resources out there, this is something to buy only if you're interested in Toscanini or one of the soloists specifically. I'm glad I own this CD collection, but I'm not sure I'd buy it today.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

All's right with the world

I'm back with more Verdi. Had to take some time off after the Eurovision Song Contest. I was totally spent after watching that. This is why I don't go to movies--if a television commercial has me in tears, and a song contest wears me out completely, I just can't bear to invest that much time and emotion in a 90-minute narrative story. I'd want to throw myself off Tower Bridge. (Doing it from the George Washington Bridge is so déclassé!)

Anyway, this is the third Verdi Requiem in this series, and my third medium of enjoying it. First was watching a DVD in my living room. Second was a CD on my crappy car stereo. This time it was a full-length YouTube video with stereo headphones on. Of the three, I don't recommend the crappy car stereo. The stereo headphones offered benefits neither of the other media did--most clearly evidenced in the true stereo effect when the various brass choirs entered in the "Tuba mirum" section.

This was a 2013 La Scala performance, with Daniel Barenboim conducting the chorus and orchestra therefrom and soloists Anja Harteros, Elina Garanča, Jonas Kaufmann, and René Pape, all of whom I've praised in these pages. Once again I praise the chorus and orchestra of La Scala--among the finest examples of either in the world!--and I must say I liked this performance by Mr. Barenboim. I don't often notice a conductor unless he's bad or makes exceptionally wise and sensitive choices. In this case, I loved the dynamic shading and the phrasing. I loved his attention to his singers. The overall performance was quite different from the 1967 La Scala performance conducted by some other dude I wrote of recently. Both are beautiful and completely valid in my book.

Daniel Barenboim in action
Screen grab from YouTube video above
I am in love with Elina Garanča. The first time I saw her was several years ago, singing Angelina in La Cenerentola, and singing it very, very well. She announced that that production was her last coloratura role, and since she has done more serious roles. I've seen her as Charlotte in Werther (I think I have--in any case, I know she's done it lots) and Sara in Roberto Devereux. Always convincing, always spot on vocally. Can she be heard in Verdi quartets? You bet she can! And she sounds great. Her "Lux aeterna" was a shimmering delight.

Elina Garanca, Jonas Kaufmann, René Pape, Daniel Barenboim
Screen grab from the YouTube video above
And I really must say that any woman singer is very brave to wear an off-the-shoulder dress when singing. Remember the crowd--eyes won't be on her boobs, but rather on her throat and shoulders. Not a sign of tension or extraneous movement anywhere! (At this point I must rib all the teachers who advised I use a mirror while practicing, but never once told me what to look for. It was Debbie Crawford, of blessed memory--the teacher I went to after my second graduate school!--who clued me in. Am I pushing my tongue down or is it relaxed? Are my shoulders moving? Is there any movement that shouldn't be there?)

Anja Harteros in a blissful moment from the Libera me
Screen grab from the YouTube video above
Several years ago I wrote that Anja Harteros had delivered the most beautiful Non mi dir I'd ever heard. I still stand by that assertion. I've long been a fan of her singing, and I was glad to hear her interpretation of this fiendishly difficult role. I was not disappointed. Beautiful sound, nuanced delivery, an aura of complete comfort and mastery--what's not to love? I adored the "Agnus Dei"--the movement in which soprano and mezzo sing in parallel octaves. It was spine-tingling. I will try to refrain from comparing performances as I do these Verdi Requiem posts, but let us say that her "Libera me" stands proudly alongside other great performances.

Jonas Kaufmann. Yeah, I guess he's OK.

I kid! He's pretty damn good in this performance, too! I think I this role is quite appropriate for his voice, and his voice for this role. Nowadays we often see lighter tenors singing the Verdi Requiem, and although many do give good performances, overall we want more sound. We want meat. Blood on the floor if necessary. It is Verdi after all! Herr Kaufmann delivered sound and passion and sensitivity we dream of. So what if the trill in the sotto voce sections of the "Offertorio" were a challenge to him? In the end we don't care, and that's what a fine interpretation from a fine singer gives us.

I adore René Pape. I loved him in the Kenneth Branagh Magic Flute film, and I've seen and loved live performances several times as well. The man can do no wrong. (OK, he did fall into the "Mors stupebit" intonation trap, but only a little, and he got himself out of it.) I can say nothing except that this is a very fine, intelligent, sensitive singer. Go ye and hear him at every opportunity!

One might suspect from what I write above that I quite liked this performance. Well, I did. Flawless? No. Is any performance ever flawless? Great? Yes. Moving? Definitely! After the horrors of the second Verdi Requiem I posted about, this was balm for my weary soul. Which needs lots of balm. I have included a link to the actual video so that you can enjoy it, too, and will also include fun screen grabs.

Friday, May 11, 2018

I might have set the bar too high

Yesterday, in the first installment of Ten Days, Ten Verdi Requiems, I reported about luxuriating in an amazing DVD of Herbert von Karajan's 1967 filmed performance with a stellar cast and the chorus and orchestra of La Scala. I wondered whether I'd compare all of them to that one, and whether any other recording would measure up. Well, I'm here to tell you today's recording certainly didn't. And it was another von Karajan recording!

Wanting to find a recording I hadn't heard in a long time, if at all, I discovered one a friend had given me when he was moving and downsizing--a 1970 recording with Gundula Janowitz, Christa Ludwig, Carlo Bergonzi, and Ruggiero Raimondi, conducted by Herbert von Karajan, with the Vienna Philharmonic and Vienna's Chor der Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde. I confess I had never listened to this recording. Although the experience of listening on a car stereo while driving to Dutchess County and back is very different from watching a DVD in one's own living room, I don't think that's the reason this recording didn't suit me. I simply didn't feel the same precision, the same sense of ensemble, the same passion in this recording I did in the La Scala recording. I can understand why this recording is not on a major label.

Christa Ludwig was the best thing about this recording. A very different singer from yesterday's mezzo, but a very good interpreter of this demanding role. A beautiful sound, which is always very important to me, and a sensitive dramatic interpretation. Although she was the soloist on this recording with the longest-standing career in 1970, she was the soloist with the freshest sounding voice. That speaks volumes. (I confess I have not shown the great Frau Ludwig enough love in this blog. I hope to rectify that situation while the dear lady is still with us.)

This may hurt some people I know, but I've never been a big fan of Gundula Janowitz. To me she always had the brittle sound, the fast vibrato, and the occasional sharp pitch of someone negotiating an uncomfortably high tessitura. This recording reinforced my opinions. I also wished for more a sense of legato, more warmth, more passion. Everything seemed studied. And I found myself in the curious situation of dreading the Libera me. Turns out I had good reason to. (In her defense, the recordings of her singing Beethoven and Strauss used to fill out the second CD were much more pleasing to the ear than her singing of the Verdi. But those pieces were all lower in tessitura.)

Carlo Bergonzi had also had a long career already in 1970, and among many moments of great sweetness and vocal beauty there were occasional moments when one heard his age. Like  the tenor soloist in yesterday's recording, Mr. Bergonzi had a light voice but performed a wide range of roles successfully. Some of his unfortunate moments in this recording--admittedly very few--reflect that lightness in vocal weight not negotiating dramatic singing requirements as one might wish.

Ruggiero Raimondi was the youngest of the lot, but had already accomplished great things by 1970.  He also confirmed the opinions I held of him--very blustery in parts of voice, but a good top and good musical instincts. In the crucial "Mors stupebit" passage, by which I confess I judge every bass who sings this role, he erred and strayed like a lost sheep, and his blustery upper middle/passaggio was more out of tune than any bass I can recall hearing. In the remainder of the work, his singing was mostly very pleasing and sensitive.

I recently opined that nearly every recording or performance I have enjoyed of the Verdi Requiem has had one weak link--a miscast soloist, a chorus too small, a very badly chosen performance space (St. Thomas Fifth Avenue? Really?)--but in this case, the anomaly was the one strong link, Christa Ludwig. Again, my perception suffered from hearing it on a car stereo while driving at highway speeds, and likely from poor recording quality. I started out thinking I'd listen again when I got home. In the end, however, I didn't want to. I guess that says it all.

Tremens.....factus....sum ego.....

A Facebook friend accepted a Ten Days, Ten Albums challenge, discussing ten albums that were life changing. His first was a recording of the Verdi Requiem, which, judging by the personnel involved, must be amazing. I'm creating my own challenge--Ten Days, Ten Verdi Requiems. Surely I have that many recordings! If I don't, then I can revisit memorable performances I've seen. Word of warning--I might not complete all of this challenge in ten successive days. I can only listen to one recording per day in order not to cloud my already muddled brain. There's only so much wailing and gnashing of teeth at the gates of Hell one can take, you know? (Actually, I'm talking about my day-to-day life--I should listen to non-stop Verdi, come to think of it!)

What better way to start out than with this gem, a DVD of a 1967 film with Herbert von Karajan, Leontyne Price, Fiorenza Cossotto, Luciano Pavarotti, and Nicolai Ghiaurov, with the perfectly wonderful orchestra and chorus of the Teatro alla Scala? To say this was electrifying would be pointless, especially since the sticker on the front of the package says it for me, quoting a Gramophone review.

Of course I was drawn in from the beginning. It was magical. 100% commitment from everyone on stage, including the chorus. I hate when YouTube commenters make insipid guesses about what the composer or the performer must have been feeling, but I imagine everyone on stage having studied both classical and church Latin since childhood and knowing every single word of this piece. Not a one of them was glued to a score, and their performance musically precise, vocally lush, and full of passion and subtlety.

The first half of the Requiem was stunning, of course, but from the Offertorio on I was on the edge of my seat. (Side note: Why do they so often have a break between the Lacrymosa and the Offertorio in live performances? What, you're fighting eternal damnation, but you need to check your makeup and call the sitter?) When the sublime closing of the Offertorio was broken by the wall of sound that is the Sanctus, I couldn't help but to cry out! OK, just to cry. The Agnus Dei was ethereal, and the Libera me was a monumental tempest of conflicting emotions only Verdi could write. The older I get, the more I understand those who have called the Requiem Verdi's most operatic work.

The soloists. Incomparable! First, this was Leontyne at her prime.  I've always said her best singing was in the 1960s. Here we had that beautiful, dark, rich sound and that thrilling pianissimo that we love, but the smoky timbre that crept in later had not yet come, and although we had a few hints of swooping, it was tastefully done. (I know it's sacrilege to speak of Miss Price in any terms other than glowing, but there is a reason the 60s were her best decade. Although the 70s and 80s were damn good by comparison to anyone else!) I can only single out a few moments: "Fac eas de morte transire at vitam" was heavenly, and I thought the sustained B-flat at the end of the "Requiem eternam" section in the Libera me would last forever. I hoped it would. Miss Price uttered the words "Tremens factus sum ego" with a desperation that clearly showed what was at stake. 

Luciano Pavarotti was the new kid on the block in this cast. He was young, when his voice was amazingly fresh, but he hadn't yet learned the subtlety as his colleagues had. Luckily, Maestro von Karajan was there to lead him. From his first powerful entrance with "Kyrie eleison" to the beautiful Ingemisco to his part in the Lux aeterna trio, Pavarotti's sunny voice is the most optimistic thing about this performance, the thing that makes us think we might not be damned after all. 

The mezzo soloist should part our hair with the opening of Liber scriptus and make us feel transported with the opening of Lux aeterna. Fiorenza Cossotto did not disappoint. As if such a thing were possible! Already at her prime in 1967, she displayed power and tenderness and the unique vocal timbre we associate only with her. Nicolai Ghiaurov, also at his prime in 1967, was all power and expressive passion. His Confutatis was a wonder. It pains me to report, however, that a few moments in the "Mors stupebit" section were not exactly as one would wish, although he did end the section in the same key as the orchestra, which always surprises me in any performance.

This recording is available on audio and video. I am happy to own the DVD, and have watched it many times. I shall continue to do so. And I shall continue to recommend this recording to you.