This production is now 65 years old. Why bother?
Well, first, Arturo Toscanini conducts his NBC Symphony Orchestra, an accomplished group. Associated with that: Toscanini in his younger years actually knew Giocomo Puccini. Thus, there is a personal link to the composer that has always intrigued me. As I recall, when Toscanini first conducted "Turandot," he stopped the performance at the point when Puccini had died during the composition process (my memory, of course, might be mistaken).
Second, a good cast. Licia Albanese as Mimi is most appealing. She had a fine soprano voice and could create affecting characterizations. Jan Peerce? I must confess that he has never been one of my favorite tenors. His vocal qualities put me off. I simply don't find his voice that appealing. However, obviously, he was pretty well regarded in his time, so I cannot take my own views as figural here. Anne McKnight is fine as Musetta, as is Francesco Valentino as Marcello (a key role).
Third, there is a crackling quality to the music (not surprising, given Toscanini's approach to conducting music). Indeed, Toscanini's clear interest in the subject is one of the reasons that I enjoy this version so much. He gets carried away! Listen to "O soave fanciulla." At a particularly poignant moment, one can hear him singing along with Mimi and Rodolfo! I always get goose bumps listening to this. There are those who do not much like Toscanini, but I find it compelling that he gets so caught up in the moment that he "sings along."
All in all, I regard this as a nice version of "La Boheme." Of course, the technical quality of the recording is not up to contemporary standards, but the end result is a version that ranks pretty high as I compare the different variations "out there."
- Audio CD
- Please Note: Requires SACD-compatible hardware
- Number of Discs: 2
- Format: Audiobook, Hybrid SACD - DSD, Original recording remastered, Super Audio CD - DSD
- Label: Living Stereo
- ASIN: B000G759KS
- Other Editions: Audio CD
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