PUCCINI La Fanciulla del West – Mehta
Based on the Covent Garden production of ten years ago with Sherrill Milnes brought in as an extra star to make Jack Rance a noble villain, this DG set of La fanciulla del West remains among the most successful of Zubin Mehta's opera recordings, taking the
The transfer captures the fullness and boldness of the original recording, but the slight drying-out process of the digital sound makes tuttis rather more strident than I had remembered with some hardness in the treble. That sometimes affects the recording of Domingo's tenor too. It remains a fine heroic performance, but his singing is more strenuous than we are used to now, when increasingly since the Otello seems to have been such a liberating factor for him. I wish that ''Ch'ella mi creda'' was more varied in dynamic, for example. Carol Neblett makes a touching Minnie, not so characterful as some but rich and true in the formidably exposed top notes. Milnes, as I say, brings out the nobility of Rance without diminishing his menace, and the rest of the cast, with Covent Garden stage experience behind them, provide a formidable team, with Gwynne Howell outstanding in the haunting minstrel ballad in the opening scene. Compact Disc enhances the precision of the voice as it is first heard off-stage, highly evocative. I am now curious to hear a digital transfer of the Decca set with Tebaldi and del Monaco, which was one of the earliest operatic spectaculars in the stereo era. I have a feeling the placing of voices and instruments in the stereo spectrum might be even more precise, but that is an academic point, when this DG set provides so outstanding an answer for anyone wanting this colourful, fascinating opera on CD, a piece even more moving on disc, I have often found, than on stage.'