WORKS: Adriana Lecouvreur
PERFORMER: Elena Obraztsova, Sherrill Milnes, Giancarlo Luccardi, Florindo Andreolli, Lillian Watson, Ann Murray, Paul Crook, Paul Hudson; Ambrosian Opera Chorus; Philharmonia Orchestra/James Levine
CATALOGUE NO: 88697446212
The three superstars of the Sony stable – Renata Scotto, Plácido Domingo and Sherrill Milnes – combine on top form with a fourth, doughty Russian mezzo Elena Obraztsova, to make Adriana Lecouvreur sound like the greatest Puccini opera composed by someone else.
Francesco Cilea’s comparable dramatic balance between light and shade, delicate orchestration and thunderous melodrama, are all superbly served by the Philharmonia and James Levine on top form, making you wonder why the American maestro ever felt the need to play a more grandiose Furtwängler in other repertoire.
As the real-life actress adored by Voltaire, and legendarily despatched by poisoned violets from a rival, Maria Callas could not have outstripped Scotto in this title role: listen to the endless phrase at the beginning of her last aria, ‘Poveri fiori’.
Domingo sounds ardent and ideally youthful as her aristocratic boyfriend, Obraztsova pulls out all the ferocious chest notes needed for the imperious love-rival and Milnes oozes tenderness playing a lovesick theatre director.
Altogether unsurpassable. David Nice