Sometimes the effect is rather bitty; the Aida love duet on the Nile stops abruptly after three minutes. The best feature of these discs, for me, is the orchestral and choral work which illustrates the improvement, probably due to the influence of the Toscanini recordings, that has taken place in the performance of Verdi’s music in the past 50 years.

Also noticeable is the excellence of Richard Bongynge as a conductor of Italian opera; he stands successfully alongisde the other famous conductors represented. Pavarotti is a serious and musical artist, but there is a bleating, rasping quality to his voice above forte which may not be noticeable in the opera house (where I never heard him) but which becomes tiresome and irritating when heard in long stretches. He does not have the silvery quality of Bjorling or Bergonzi or the dusky beauty of Villazón’s voice.

Of his distinguished associates, Margaret Price sounds excellent in the Ballo in Maschera excerpts, Kiri Te Kanawa exhibits too much tremolo as Desdemona, Maria Chiara is so good as Aida that one wonders why she is not better known, Monserrat Caballé, as usual, sounds far better on records than she ever did in the opera house, at least in my hearing.