WORKS: I Puritani
PERFORMER: John Kentish, Joan Sutherland, Nicola Filacuridi, Giuseppe Modesti, Ernest Blanc, David Ward, Monica Sinclair; Glyndebourne Chorus; Royal Philharmonic Orchestra/Vittorio Gui
CATALOGUE NO: GFOCD 009-60
Just a year after her momentous first Lucia di Lammermoor at Covent Garden in 1959, Joan Sutherland took the star part of Elvira in Glyndebourne’s 1960 production of I puritani – the first outing for Bellini’s opera in the UK since 1887. With the release of this recording of the Glyndebourne production, we are reminded of Sutherland’s astonishing skills in this music.
For critics, there’s an occasional droopiness of manner to pick on. Other than that, Sutherland’s sizeable voice moves around Bellini’s ornate roulades with an ease that borders on the miraculous, defining the smallest notes with precision and setting them gracefully in the larger expressive context.
The surrounding cast is impressive, too. With neat playing from the Royal Philharmonic, it’s an appreciable achievement, given additional distinction by Vittorio Gui’s conducting. The sound is a bit enclosed and brittle, not really allowing the voices to blossom fully. But it’s a fine live account to set aside Sutherland’s two later studio recordings of the role. George Hall