LUCIANO PAVAROTTI / EDITION 1: THE FIRST DECADE 4785946

. . . [this edition] is a spectacular reminder of the young artist's ambition, his natural ease with the bel canto line, his incredible breath support, his brilliantly intuitive singing, and his once-in-a-century vocal gifts . . . One of the delights of this edition is a bonus disc that includes five tracks from a recently discovered recording of Pavarotti's stage debut, in 1961 . . . The audience is thrilled by his first "Che gelida manina", just as they would be thrilled by his Rodolfos for decades to come . . . the top notes are already gorgeous . . . But by 1966, when he sang the relatively small tenor role of Orombello in Bellini's "Beatrice di Tenda" . . . the voice has become the one we know today. The bottom has filled out, the breathing is more natural, and some of the Pavarotti quirks -- the endearing flashes of passion that he interjects into the line, usually with more musical than textual purpose -- are already there . . . from this first Bellini opera through to the still unrivalled "La favorita" he recorded in 1974, he proves a magnificent ensemble singer . . . And there is a clear and consistent quality to Pavarotti's singing in these middle spaces that goes beyond mere vocal beauty: a tendency to precipitateness . . . by the time he made that astonishing string of Bellini and Donizetti operas in the late 1960s and early '70s, he is relentlessly impetuous, jumping into his notes, constantly pushing things forward. Everything he sings is incisive, with a distinctive snap, as if he is physically grabbing at each note . . . a brilliant partnership [with Joan Sutherland] led to a succession of recordings that have been, for decades now, the definitive touchstones for the essential operas of Donizetti and Bellini . . . Pavarotti's Tonio in "La fille du régiment" is impulsive and cocksure, with a winning sense of his own charisma. "Ah! Mes amis, quel jour de fête" isn't just a musical marvel of nature, a document of one of the most naturally gifted singers of the past century . . . Those nine high Cs aren't just stunts, they propel the character, the music and the drama forward, and no one has ever sung them better . . . There was a particular personality type, a psychological profile, that fitted both his voice and his stage manner, which made him a great Duke in "Rigoletto" and an even better Riccardo in "Un ballo in maschera". . . when the music carries the majority of the weight, in songs and sacred works that allow you to drift off from the nuance of the text, the pleasure of Pavarotti's singing is unalloyed . . . This is music that seems to sing itself, and it flows out of Pavarotti in such wonderful, purling streams of golden sound that you are inevitably seduced away from any kind of resistance. Or take the tenor part from the Verdi "Requiem" he recorded with Sir Georg Solti in Vienna in 1967 . . . The "Ingemisco" may be the most beautiful ever recorded. . . He lightens the voice to a daring degree and achieves a tenderness that rivals the best moments of his 1972 Rodolfo from "La bohème" . . . The wonder of Pavarotti's career was its longevity . . . [and this edition] contains the seeds of that longevity . . . In the music represented here, there is nothing but vitality, a gorgeous artlessness and an enduring appeal.

Unbelievably beautiful singing from the young Pavarotti. Truly unmissable.

We are some way here from the later stadium star who shared stages with Sting and Bono . . . For this "first decade", as Decca has named it, matters were simpler and less frenetic . . . Pavarotti was just a young singer [who] had that magical "tingle factor". . . and nobody but the meanest (and deafest) grouch would deny the sheer beauty and point of the vocalism caught here in, say, Donizetti's Tonio or, more dramatically, in Puccini's Calaf. The now cliched adjective "Italianate" is crying out to be attached by default setting to that bright, forward sound . . . much praise where praise is due. The strongest sets reissued here are those where a fine musico-dramatic line has been taken -- the Bonynge "Fille du régiment" taken effectively straight off the Covent Garden stage, the Karajan Puccinis, and the Mehta "Tarandot", where Pavarotti manages clearly to encompass both the passion and remorse of Calaf. Fearless vocal commitment takes him into a more exciting zone than rival versions . . . Here is singing we can call great without resorting to lazy modern hype.

. . . a limited-edition boxed set documenting the golden-voiced tenor's first decade in the Decca studios . . . a thrilling Verdi Requiem under Georg Solti . . .

. . . remastered in lupenreiner Klangqualität . . . I-Tüpfelchen der Box ist die Erstveröffentlichung einer kleinen Audio-Sensation: . . . ein bisher unbekanntes Band aus dem Jahr 1961 . . . das die erste Tondokumentation überhaupt des damals noch in den Startlöchern stehenden Italieners als Rodolfo in "La Bohème" darstellt. Die ebenfalls dokumentierte, deutlich vernehmbare Reaktion des Publikums spricht für sich: Ein gebanntes Raunen und ungläubig begeisterte Zustimmung, die es kaum an sich halten kann, begleiten den Auftritt des jungen Tenors, als dieser mit entwaffnender Leichtigkeit "Che gelida manina" intoniert. Ein wunderbares Tondokument, nicht nur für Fans.

Ein Opernfest, eine Ansammlung von Referenzaufnahmen, dass man nur staunen kann, in welch inspirierter Perfektion und mit welcher Liebe zum musikalischen Detail man noch in den späten Siebzigerjahren des letzten Jahrhunderts große Opern-Studioproduktionen veranstalten konnte . . . [man ist] gefangen vom Gesamteindruck der Opernaufnahmen, die für sich genommen schon eine starke und beinahe auratische Wirkungsmacht entfalten.

. . . ["the first Decade"] illustre à merveille les débuts solaires du ténor à la voix d'or, reprenant la totalité des opéras (de Donizetti à Verdi, de Bellini à Puccini), oeuvres religieuses (telles le "Requiem" de Verdi, dirigé par Solti) et autres romances de salon ("La Serenata" de Tosti) gravés par le natif de Modène entre 1966 et 1974. Avec, en bonus, un livret là encore richement illustré et nourri de photos rarement montrées.