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Two reissues from London’s Royal Opera House are worth watching. Firstly, Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera from 1975 in an admittedly dingy production by Otto Schenk. There’s Claudio Abbado’s fleet and polished conducting, then Plácido Domingo’s suavely sung and acted Gustavus, and Piero Cappuccilli’s stentorian Anckarström (rivalled in the baritone stakes by Elizabeth Bainbridge’s booming Madame Arvidson!) Perhaps most interesting is Katia Ricciarelli as Amelia, a role a size too big for her, showing offboth her stunningly limpid and velvety soprano and at the same time just how she pushed it to tatters: sadly the better she is the more harm you know it’s doing her.

Richard Bonynge’s conducting of Donizetti’s Lucrezia Borgia (1980) could also be described as fleet, if not polished – many a slip ’twixt stage and pit. Joan Sutherland tackles the title role with her usual attributes of a voice of considerable size, extension and pinpoint agility, no acting skills but a grand presence and indifferent diction. Alfredo Kraus, ever the tenor stylist, limns an elegant Gennaro with acting to match his soprano. Anne Howells is a vivid Orsini, Stafford Dean a gravelly Alfonso. John Copley’s lavish production is traditional to a T, with the extra fascination of watching 16th-century Italy through the lens of 1980s ‘Dallasty’ fashion – sleeves have never been bigger.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Opera Now, 2017 - ©Rhinegold Publishing