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Stylish is also the word for Un ballo in maschera, caught live in Vienna 30 years ago. There’s the air of an event about this recording, not just from the ecstatic applause, but generated by the occasion itself: megastar Pavarotti gracing the stage with his Riccardo, Piero Cappuccilli (a more regular Staatsoper performer) as Renato and local girl Gabriele Lechner seizing her big chance as a stand-in for Margaret Price, plus Abbado in the pit. Luxury indeed. The sound is excellent, and Abbado leads an exciting and pacey account, balancing the score’s elegance and violence, galvanising the orchestra into some superlative playing. Pavarotti is on top form, the voice fresh and the style clean, avoiding the exaggerated mannerisms that often marred his work from mid-career. It’s a pleasure to hear such nuanced singing, plus, of course, his immaculately projected tone. Cappuccilli resists merely barnstorming his way through things, and vocally conveys Renato’s hurt. Lechner has all the technical requirements of the role and rises to her daunting challenge, though there is a glassy sheen to her soprano that can be off-putting. It’s good to hear Ludmila Schemtschuk as Ulrica, her mezzo rich and even from top to bottom – it puzzles why she was such a star in this house but never took the world by storm.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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