The classic RCA recording of 1953, with four of the reigning stars of the Metropolitan Opera at their peak, remains among the very finest recorded versions. The transfer by Mark-Obert-Thorn bring out the full beauty and character of all four principals very vividly and are particularly valuable when Zinka Milanov, always an iconic figure at the Met., is here recorded with a purity and firmness that transcends many of her later, all-too-rare recording. Bjorling is, as ever, superb in his heroic projection, though in a performance with the usual cuts he is allowed only one stanza of Di quella pira. Leonard Warren and Fedora Barbiere are also perfectly focused, with Renato Cellini drawing lively playing and singing from the RCA Victor Orchestra and the hand-picked Robert Shaw Chorale. A recording to treasure and not to be missed at Naxos price. The bonus items of six songs from Milanov’s native Yugoslavia, recorded in New York in 1944, give a different perspective on the voice: closer and earthier if just as characterful.
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