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Bill White
Fanfare, November 2017

The singing here by all the principals is just short of amazing compared to what has become today’s rather mediocre standard. Led by a young and vigorous Claudio Abbado, the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House gives us Verdi in his melodious prime.

This cast is made up of stellar Verdian singers from a time when such superior casting was still possible. Tenor Plácido Domingo (Gustavo), soprano Katia Ricciarelli (Amelia), and baritone Piero Cappuccilli (Renato), are all perhaps in their best roles at the height of their very substantial vocal abilities, a rare and wonderful combination. The smaller roles taken by Reri Grist (Oscar), Elizabeth Bainbridge (Ulrica), William Elwin (Silvano), and Gwynne Howell (Samuel), are similarly outstanding. There are really no weak links here. © 2017 Fanfare Read complete review

Christie Grimstad, September 2017

At age 34, Plácido Domingo is a well-positioned Gustavus III, exceedingly radiant in voice and in interpretive skills. The brewing love triangle is made all the more palpable with Katia Ricciarelli’s Amelia and her exceptional strength and poise as a dramatic lyrical soprano. Claudio Abbado dictates a superb tempo, knowing when to pull back the throttle and when to step on the pedal. Further, the maestro shows pliability by allowing singers to actually take command of the music, most notably when Amelia sings her emotionally wracked aria, “Non sai tu che se l’anima mia” in Act II: baton flexibility strengthens singer to move more freely inside his/her own rôle.

Baritone Piero Cappuccilli’s projection is consistently stalwart, though the conveyance of his “Eri tu” doesn’t persuade strongly enough within this two-sided aria. Rounding out the principals, Reri Grist is the quintessential Oscar, a page who dispenses with all the appropriate nuances and vocal acrobatics, while the deep bass dimensions wrapped up inside Gwynne Howell’s and Paul Hudson’s Count Ribbing and Count Horn, respectively, continue to heighten the drama as the opera proceeds into Act III. Aiding Un ballo with impending doom and menacing consequences, the occult is strongly magnified via Elizabeth Bainbridge as Madame Arvidson. © 2017 Read complete review

Peter Reed, September 2017

Plácido Domingo was thirty-four at the time and is in glorious voice, looks the romantic regal part, complements the grandeur of the staging and was in complete command of how to characterise with his voice. As Amelia, Katia Ricciarelli looks wonderful in Jürgen Rose’s sumptuous gowns and floats a voice full of passion and vulnerability, and her love-duet with Domingo’s Gustavus is magnificent.

The king’s closest friend and eventual nemesis Anckarström is sung by Piero Cappuccilli with an unnerving grasp of the process of love turning to hatred giving the role a sort of Mafiosi inscrutability. His beautiful suave baritone and elegant motionless presence suggests a huge emotional range, fully expressed in the misery of ‘Eri tu’ in Act Three.

Reri Grist sparkles in the breeches role of Oscar, the king’s page, she supplies a sinister top to the Act One quintet and is on top form in the coloratura of Act Three’s ‘Di che fulgor’. Elizabeth Bainbridge turns up the doom volume as a majestic Madame Arvidson.

Claudio Abbado guides the singers through Verdi’s amalgam of melodrama, the supernatural and raw passion with a flexibility that keeps the music close to the drama and makes it sound more than usually through-composed. © 2017 Read complete review

Allan Altman
American Record Guide, September 2017

The 1975 Royal Opera, Covent Garden production is directed by Otto Schenk. Though Placido Domingo and Katia Ricciarelli, both in the prime of their careers, make a particularly handsome couple, it is their vocal identities that propel the drama: Domingo’s mellow tenor is both regal and sensual, and Ricciarelli’s ravishing vocal purity confirms her character’s innocence more powerfully than any stage business could. Likewise, Piero Cappuccilli as Gustavo’s trusted deputy, has a voice of warmth and absolute firmness; and Reri Grist’s sparkling soprano tones leave no question that Oscar would be the life of any party. Claudio Abbado keeps the performance moving along; in this world, dramatic passion and frivolity are both frenetic. © 2017 American Record Guide Read complete review on American Record Guide

Neil Fisher
Gramophone, July 2017

…Claudio Abbado is laser-focused with the Royal Opera Orchestra, making a strong argument for Verdi’s score as one of his most psychologically astute and dramatically nuanced. There’s tremendous intensity when we need it—the staccato opening chords of Act 2 give us all the atmosphere the stage design does not—but there’s also flounce, swagger and glitter, all slowly curdling as the bloody climax moves inexorably closer. © 2017 Gramophone Read complete review on Gramophone

David Denton
David's Review Corner, July 2017

The star-studded cast, headed by Placido Domingo, was assembled in London’s Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, for a 1975 classic production by Otto Schenk. The story is the very simple. One of the King of Sweden, who is much favoured by the populace, falls in love with Amelia, the wife of his Secretary, who, having discovered his treachery, vows with other enemies of the King to kill him. This he does at a masked ball, only to learn too late, that the King was sending him and his wife to live in Finland to be well away from him. Simple though this may be, Verdi invested the work with an unending flow of unforgettable arias and duets for the four main protagonists, not least for the King’s page, Oscar. Forty-two years ago, the young Domingo was in fine voice, never holding back from an an outpouring of his large voice. Katia Ricciarelli, as Amilia, was imperious on stage, but just a little uneasy in terms of intonation early in the work, and, like Oscar, she was given a hideously large wig that does nothing to flatter her appearance. Unlike the young Domingo, the baritone Piero Cappuccilli, singing the part of the Secretary, Renato, was coming towards the close of a most distinguished career. Though, he still possessed a commanding stage presence and a wonderful voice. Yet it is the diminutive Reri Grist, as the effervescent page, who captures attention in a role that could have been made for her. In the orchestra pit, the conductor, Claudio Abbado, seemed cautious in his tempo for the opening scene, but he obtained very fine playing from the Royal Opera House Orchestra. Volume levels change much depending upon the singer’s position on the stage, but the visual side of the video is very good. It has been left in its original Standard Definition and 4:3 picture format which means you do not have a full screen picture, and though it comes with English subtitles (which are permanent) they are used just to tell the story. This is a legendary performance you must see, but I wish, as I have commented on previous Opus Arte historic releases, they had included biographies of singers who will, at best, be no more than names to our younger generation. © 2017 David’s Review Corner

Simon Thompson
MusicWeb International, June 2017

They don’t make ‘em like this any more!

It’s ultra, ultra-traditional, with beautiful flats, lovely costumes and naturalistic sets. Ulrica’s cauldron comes complete with ghoulish lighting and dry ice, and the set for the ball scene draws wowed applause from the Covent Garden audience. Schenk opts for the Swedish setting, for all that it matters, and he conjures up the kind of show that Covent Garden just doesn’t do any more. Thus the target market seems to be the nostalgia brigade, and that’s reinforced by the fact that the three leads and the conductor were all in their youthful prime when this was filmed.

Abbado looks like he’s fresh out of school but he primes the orchestra to give of their best and he is a wizard with this score, …Plácido Domingo brings sunshine and verve to the part of Gustavus, with a perpetual smile in his voice, not just in the laughing ensemble that brings Ulrica’s scene to an end. He never sounded better than he did at this point, and his fans will want to see as well as hear him during this golden period for him. The same applies to Piero Cappuccilli, who sings the role of Renato with golden passion and honeyed vigour. His Eri tu is outstanding, a model of control and precision. Katia Ricciarelli was often criticised, both in her day and later, but you won’t hear her better than here. © 2017 MusicWeb International Read complete review

Robert Benson, June 2017

This is first-class all the way, an exciting performance with a particularly dynamic murder scene, Video is fine, audio satisfactory although it is perhaps too close-up for the singers. Here we have Domingo in his prime, Katia Ricciarelli also in top form. © 2017 Read complete review

Lark Reviews, May 2017

This recording dates from 1975 but I doubt if there are any currently available to match its musical impact and beauty. The production by Otto Schenk may seem dated—how often do we get sets and costumes close to those imagined by the composer?—but it still works well and if only for Placido Domingo the work is well work adding to your collection. © 2017 Lark Reviews

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