It is interesting that Montserrat would agree to record secondary female roles after having established herself as one of the leading prima donnas of her generation.
It is however a testament to her craft that she could place art above all else...another artist of lesser stature would feel slighted and insecure to be asked to sing anything less than the lead role. Another artist of a lesser technique would be hard pressed to scale down her instrument to fit the more delicate needs of these sometimes more fragile roles.
But Montserrat did just that...and so one of the greatest Normas of her time sings Adalgisa, and the future Turandot becomes the slave girl Liu.
Joan Sutherland is Norma, Montserrat Caballe is Adalgisa, Luciano Pavarotti is Pollione, Samuel Ramey is Oroveso.Richard Bonynge conducts the orchestra and chorus of the Welsh National Opera. (London, CD 414 476-2, $35). Recorded at Walthamstow Assembly Hall, London in November and December, 1984.
It is telling of Montserrat's unfading stature and humility that so many years later, she would still be the pick to record Adalgisa opposite the other great Norma of their generation, Joan Sutherland. A singer of less calibre will easily be eclipsed by La Stupenda, but Caballe is more than up to the demands of this most exquisite opera of the belcanto repertoire. The part of Adalgisa was originally created by Bellini for a soprano although latterly has been appropriated by a mezzos with high notes. Some present day productions have reverted back to the original dual soprano casting, and this recording is a very prime example of how the casting of the opera was probably intended. Such a casting roster would have created a stampede at the box office, and would have been any opera lover's dream.
Joan Sutherland is Turandot, Luciano Pavarotti is Calaf, Montserrat Caballe is Liu and Nicolai Ghiaurov is Timur. Zuhbin Mehta conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the John Alldis Choir. Studio recording first released on LP's in 1974 and subsequently on 2 CD's in 1989 (London421 320-2, about $35, also on a single highlights disc, as featured here, $10).
Caballe herself would later record the title role, but for now employs her sweetest tones to produce one of the most beautiful and fragile Liu on record. Many critics are in agreement about her most affecting portrayal especially her singing of Liu's two big arias , 'Signore ascolta', and "Tu che di gel sei cinta'. Here is a Liu holding her own against the very formidable Turandot of no less than Joan Sutherland. Caballe at her sweetest, gentlest best.
the Caballe recordings I have heard, the one I find most ravishing is her Liu, to Sutherland's Turandot. In this CD her singing is heard to perfection, ably enhanced by Joan Sutherland's magnificent Turandot. The two sopranos prove glorious foils for each other. It is only to be pitied that no one had the idea of pairing them together in a CD of duets!
- Daniel Hammond
Signore, ascolta 2 (.wav format 1.5 mb)