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Simon Thompson
MusicWeb International, March 2012

this Domingo box set gathers together three very attractive performances featuring the great tenor, as first among equals. These are traditional productions that have a lot going for them.

Any French Grand Opera is a rarity nowadays, so if you’re going to do one you might as well do it properly. Thankfully, that’s exactly what this 1988 production of L’Africaine from San Francisco does. Lotfi Mansouri’s staging is grandly traditional, embracing the period and style and satisfying the most conservative elements of its audience. …there are some very attractive moments, most famously the great tenor aria, O Paradis. There are also some great duets and a diverting Liebestod for the heroine in the final scene. Domingo himself is on cracking form here, and the production might as well have been built around him.

The same is true for this lovely Gioconda. This ultra-conservative production is in true stand-and-deliver style, with painted flats and whimsical costumes. It allows the story to be told clearly and directly and it isn’t ashamed to take this opera for the blood-and-thunder melodrama it is. Eva Marton…here sounds fantastic. Domingo is at the top of his game here, obviously much younger and more vigorous…Fischer manages to draw a beautifully warm sound from the Vienna strings and the sense of a great occasion is well captured.

Back to San Francisco for Samson, and here the production is, if anything, even more lavish than for L’Africaine. The stage sets are reminiscent of a Hollywood Biblical epic, and Nicolas Joel pulls out all the stops (literally!) for the final scene in the temple of Dagon, which collapses most convincingly. Domingo sings well in the first two acts, but rises to a thrilling climax in the prison scene before pulling the house down at the end. The choral singing, very important in this opera, is also very impressiv…

So, to finish where I started, Arthaus have again gathered a trilogy of Domingo performances that showcase the great tenor at his best. They also succeed in averting the danger of a one-man-show. These are great ensemble performances of highly enjoyable operas and the price is very good value too. This is a set to indulge in. © 2012 MusicWeb International Read complete review

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