, July 2001
"Volume Four of Naxos' complete, chronological Caruso collection (how's that for alliteration!) brings us to 1908-10. These were prime years for the legendary tenor, and every selection on this disc is an outright winner. Treat Buzzi-Peccia's slight but charming 'Lolita' as a curtain-raiser to Caruso's final and foremost recorded versions of 'Questa o quella' ...from Verdi's Rigoletto--the latter boasting a famous added cadenzaKthe Act 4 duet 'Ai nostri monti ritorneremo', with Louise Homer (recorded the next day). A few weeks later, Caruso took another look at 'Celeste Aida'. This fifth of his six recordings improves on his relatively sluggish 1906 attempt (see Vol. 3), but we'll have to wait a few volumes for the incandescent 1911 version.
Still, we have Caruso's valedictory 'E lucevan le stelle' from Puccini's Tosca, where the tenor harnesses the gushing ardency of his earlier traversals and emits but a solitary sob. Then there are Caruso's celebrated back-to-back 'Flower Songs' from Bizet's Carmen: one in the original French and one in Italian. I marginally prefer the Il Trovatore 'Miserere' (with Frances Alda) in its unissued version without the Metropolitan Opera Chorus, which adorns the originally issued take. Last but not least, Caruso pairs up with the great French bass Marcel Journet for a memorable Act 1 duet from Flotow's Martha. You're in safe hands with Ward Marston's truthful, well-equalized transfers. In sum, a must for Caruso fans."