The tolerant opera buff will be rewarded with this latest volume in Desiree Records’ Great Voices of Australia series, which features amateur recordings – some of atrocious quality, others better – made on the 1965 Sutherland-Williamson Grand Opera Season tour of Australian cities. Compiled by maestro Brian Castles-Onion, they feature Sutherland conducted by Bonynge in excerpts from Lucia, Faust, Sonnambula, Traviata, L’Elisir d’Amore, Semiramide and Onegin.
The set is worth the price alone for the chance to hear La Stupenda at her best in Lucia and Faust, opposite the superb American tenor John Alexander. However the real gems are her appearances with then exciting newcomer Luciano Pavarotti. The Sonnambula tracks sound as if someone’s frying sausages next to the microphone but you still get an idea of their magical quality together. The Traviata excerpts are better, Sutherland and Pavarotti in scintillating form, with a fine performance by baritone
Cornelis Opthof as Giorgio.
The 40-page booklet contains quotes, photographs and details of back-stage fallings-out. Sadly the recording of Elizabeth Harwood in Lucia is so faint as to only give a glimpse of this lovely soprano. The prompt, a former La Scala hack, can be heard throughout like a Neapolitan bingo caller.
Joan Sutherland: Great Australian Voices is available from Fish Fine Music