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Many of the most important historic recordings of complete operas emanate from the New York Metropolitan Opera, where the regular broadcasts instituted in 1933 have leftus a vast legacy of live sets, often with mouth-watering casts. Such is the case with a December 1939 performance of La Gioconda on the Immortal Performances label that is graced by the presence of Zinka Milanov – a deservedly legendary exponent of the title role – alongside Giovanni Martinelli (perhaps past his best as Enzo), the redoubtable Bruna Castagna (Laura), the estimable Carlo Morelli (Barnaba) and Nicola Moscona (Alvise), all under the exciting baton of the experienced Ettore Panizza. Some gaps in the surviving transcription discs have had to be filled in and the sound is undeniably patchy. But it’s an important account of the work, with many impressive qualities. In his note, the late, lamented John Steane contributes a spirited defence of what remains an unfairly maligned piece, and the worthwhile extras include interviews with both Milanov and Martinelli.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Opera Now, 2012 - ©Rhinegold Publishing