Donizetti: Anna Bolena

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Donizetti
LABELS: Millennium
WORKS: Anna Bolena
PERFORMER: Beverly Sills, Paul Plishka, Shirley Verrett, Stuart Burrows, Robert Lloyd, Patricia Kern; John Alldis Choir, LSO/Julius Rudel
Both these recordings date from the Seventies, and pose difficult choices because each has its virtues and its liabilities. Both feature less than compelling voices in the role of Henry VIII – Nicolai Ghiaurov (opposite Souliotis) and Paul Plishka (opposite Sills) sing with irritating dryness. Most seriously, Elena Souliotis was close to the end of her meteoric prime when she recorded the role of Anna, and her vocalism will sound pretty raw to those unfamiliar with her. Her decline is rendered all the more poignant opposite Marilyn Horne’s superb Jane Seymour. John Alexander provides some lovely quiet passages, but in general his Lord Percy is pallid. Varviso’s conducting is fluent. On the other set, led with true flair by Rudel, Sills performs one of her greatest roles in fine fettle, and the electricity between her and a towering (if occasionally overpowering) Verrett is hair-raising. Stuart Burrows’s Percy has a fine lyrical ring. Barrymore Laurence Scherer