Three Releases from Nightingale Classics

Yes, even classical artists can have
labels which exist predominantly for the distribution of their own creative

For well over a decade Nightingale Classics recorded for posterity the
voice of superstar (at least in Europe) Edita Gruberova, in complete sets of
the operas with soprano roles which best display her amazing coloratura
agility and crystalline high notes. Now a new distributor in the US seeks to
bring renewed attention to these sets, and three will be considered here:
I Puritani, La Fille du Regiment, and Die

Fabio Luisi’s career as a conductor has grown rapidly since he led this
I Puritaniin 1994. His efforts here
are compromised by rather distant sound and the proficient but not
convincingly idiomatic reading of the Bellini score by the Munich Radio
Orchestra (the ensemble for all three recordings discussed here). neither of
the principal male leads offers anything distinctive. Justin Lavender manages
the high notes for Lord Arturo, but not with much impact, and his tone
throughout his range lacks beauty. Ettore Kim’s Sir Riccardo has more
personality, if not any more basic attractive vocal quality.

This set then truly serves as a showpiece for Gruberova, raising the
question of whether a highlights CD might have been a better option. She has
full command of the role’s demands, and that plaintive aura in her middle
range works well for Elvira, who spends most of the opera despondent, when
not insane. A better cast overall can be heard on the recent DVD release
(reviewed on OperaToday), and though Gruberova is fresher,
obviously, on this recorded set, seeing her in the role does make a greater

gruberova_fille.jpgMarie in La Fille du Regiment has
two sad-tinged arias as well, despite the comic setting, so Gruberova gets to
display most of finest attributes in this set, probably the best overall of
the three. The contribution of Deon van der Walt as Tonio must be respected
here; this role, currently a favorite for Juan-Diego Florez, requires a
charismatic tenor with reliable high Cs for this great “Mes Amis” aria, and
van der Walt delivers, if without Florez’s greater tonal allure. The rest of
the cast and Marcello Panni’s conducting all keep the fun feather-light.

gruberova_fledermaus.jpgThe best cast for any of these releases distinguishes the Die Fledermaus set. Gruberova ‘s classic
Adele supports Thomas Moser as Eisenstein and Adrienne Pieczonka as
Rosalinde. Friedrich Haider conducts capably. However, two mitigating factors
make a whole-hearted endorsement unlikely. First, once again, a DVD with
Gruberova is available, with an even finer cast: Wiekl, Popp, Fassbaender,
recorded in Vienna, and also reviewed here on OperaToday some time ago.
Second, some may object to all the dialogue being cut, while others may be
grateful. very few, one suspects, will be glad to have the third act comic
relief character of Frosch lead us through the opera’s story with monologue
interludes, in German (of course). Translations are included in the libretto
(all these sets have good booklets, although the English translations of the
essays have an unintended comic quality).

So for those who have a taste for Gruberova and an indifference, if not
dislike, for DVDs, the Donizetti and Strauss sets can be recommended. Fans of
the Bellini score should look for an alternative, with sopranos as great as
Callas, Sutherland, and Sills all still available on disc.

Chris Mullins
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy

image_description=I Puritani
product_title=Vincenzo Bellini: I Puritani
product_by=Edita Gruberova (Elvira Valton), Justin Lavender (Lord Arturo Talbo), Ettore Kim (Sir Riccardo Forth), Francesco Ellero d’Artegna (Sir Giorgio), Katja Lytting (Enrichetta di Francia), Dankwart Siegele (Lord Gualtiero Valton), CarloTuand (Sir Bruno Roberton), M¸nchner Rundfunkorchester, Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Fabio Luisi (cond.)
product_id=Nightingale Classics NC170562-2 [3CDs]