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How do you select The Singers of the Century? That’s what Alto Records have attempted to do in their 2-CD release covering 35 largely famous names, though with one new to me – that of the Russian bass Alexander Pirogov, a regular Bolshoi performer and a celebrated exponent of Boris Godunov; here he sings a plangent account of Aleko’s cavatina from Rachmaninov’s opera. He joins an august company, almost entirely selected, though, from the second half of the 20th century; the earliest recording is Kirsten Flagstad’s 1937 valiant version of Brünnhilde’s Battle Cry from Die Walküre, conducted by Eugene Ormandy, and only three other titles precede 1950. These include Giuseppe di Stefano’s ardent, live ‘Salut! demeure’ from Faust, complete with a flawless diminuendo on the top C. But there are many treasures here, with items recalling the superb artistry of Birgit Nilsson, Leopold Simoneau, Renata Scotto, Jon Vickers and many others, forming an ideal sampler of great opera singing in the period covered.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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