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The two final items are of historical importance. Firstly a Don Giovanni, recorded live in Munich in 1973. I realise it can be a danger to lionise past performances at the expense of those both current and worthy: opera really must remain a living and developing art form. But if I had been lucky enough to attend the Bayerische Staatsoper on this night in 1973 I think that Don Giovanni would have been spoiled for me for any future performance.

Wolfgang Sawallisch conducts a confidently brisk and magisterial interpretation and the sound is generally very good, with little extraneous stage noise. Ruggero Raimondi reminds us of why his Giovanni was so celebrated, the sheer charisma of the voice providing the presence and sexiness so often lacking in the role. Margaret Price is a sumptuous Donna Anna, Julia Varady an electrifying Donna Elvira, and Lucia Popp a headstrong Zerlina. Each voice is glorious – where today would we find three sopranos in their early thirties to surmount these roles with such assurance and aplomb. Kurt Moll, Stafford Dean, Hermann Winkler and Enrico Fissore complete the outstanding cast.

This month’s last item is an album simply entitled Elena Obraztsova, and that’s all it requires. The late mezzo, captured here in studio recordings from the Bolshoi (mainly in the ’60s) is unique: her tone is unmistakeable, her manner grand, her attack absolutely fearless. She rips through a selection of Russian arias before moving on to other warhorses – Dalila, Carmen, Azucena. In an age when we enjoy an abundance of vocal talent but lament the lack of large voices, especially mezzos, it is already like listening to history.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica


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