Opera Special Feature: 101 Best Opera CDs
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101 Best

Rameau: Les Boréades
Jennifer Smith, Anne-Marie Rodde, John Aler, Philip Langridge, Jean-Philippe Lafont, Gilles Cachemaille, François Le Roux
English Baroque Soloists
John Eliot Gardiner, conductor

Rameau's last opera, unperformed until this century, shows the octogenarian's undiminished powers with a cast and conductor at his service who know the secrets of projecting this music. The fact that a stage production preceded the recording contributes to its success.

Rameau: Hippolyte et Aricie
Véronique Gens, Bernarda Fink, Annick Massis, Jean-Paul Fouchécourt, Russell Smythe, Laurent Naouri
Les Musiciens du Louvre
Marc Minkowski, conductor

Minkowski is as much at home in Rameau as other composers of the period and reveals the theatricality inherent in his music. Gens and Fouchécourt as the lovers languish elegantly while Bernarda Fink's Phèdre reveals a true tragedienne.

Rameau: Platée
Michel Sénéchal, Nicolai Gedda, Janine Micheau, Nadine Sautereau, Huc Santana
Orchestre de la Société des Concerts de la Conservatoire
Hans Rosbaud, conductor

Gilles Ragon, Guy de Mey, Jennifer Smith, Véronique Gens, Vincent le Texier Les Musiciens du Louvre Marc Minkowski, conductor Erato

Rameau's cynical masterpiece received a masterful interpretation 40 years ago with the incomparable Michel Sénéchal in the title role. I wouldn't have thought it possible, but Minkowski just about equals the earlier version, with singers who can get around the music more easily if without all the character of the older generation.

Rossini: The Barber of Seville
Victoria de los Angeles, Laura Sarti, Luigi Alva, Sesto Bruscantini, Ian Wallace, Carlo Cava
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra
Vittorio Gui, conductor

Highly civilized Rossini, conducted with plenty of verve by one of the earliest partisans of a return to Rossini's original orchestrations. Despite the cuts, this remains essential for a cast unequalled since, with none of the mugging which disfigures many of the later recordings.

Rossini: Il Turco in Italia
Maria Callas, Jolanda Gardino, Nicolai Gedda, Nicola Rossi-Lemeni, Franco Calabrese, Mariano Stabile
Chorus and Orchestra of La Scala
Gianandrea Gavazzeni, conductor

An incredibly corrupt text, but a theatricality which continues to shine through after 40 years. There are now singers better able to cope with Rossini's coloratura but somehow the pursuit of correctness has diminished the liveliness.

Rossini: Il Viaggio a Reims
Cecilia Gasdia, Lella Cuberli, Katia Ricciarelli, Lucia Valentini-Terrani, Edoardo Giminez, Francisco Araiza, Samuel Ramey, Ruggiero Raimondi, Enzo Dara
Chamber Orchestra of Europe
Claudio Abbado, conductor

A major rediscovery/exhumation of the Rossini canon, which remains a festival piece because of the forces required. The first cast from Pesaro recorded in performance leaves nothing to be desired, each of the many notes securely in place, with Abbado securely in charge of his forces.

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