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Legendary Voices is a bumper crop of goodies, ten CDs that remarkably retail at around £3 per disc. You don’t get booklets or libretti, just the running orders, but most of the repertoire is pretty standard so you hopefully won’t flail. And some discs are no longer available separately, so it is even more tempting. Where to start… Agnes Baltsa rips through her arias with her sexy, resinous mezzo; Brigitte Fassbaender is more detailed in hers, with her bronzed tones. Edita Gruberová’s soprano sparkles, especially in the stratospheric 1912 version of Zerbinetta’s aria – hers is not a voice that generally recorded well, but seems well-caught here – and Adrianne Pieczonka is majestic in Wagner and Strauss. Piotr Beczała’s refined tenor compares interestingly with Franco Bonisolli’s more extrovert Neapolitan songs, and Carlo Bergonzi and Dietrich Fischer- Dieskau combine different sound worlds effectively in their duets disc. One slight disappointment is Grace Bumbry in soprano mode, whose magnetic stage personality isn’t reflected in her rather implacable vocal manner; some arias are vivid, some straight-laced. Júlia Várady is hugely exciting in her Tchaikovsky arias, having the ability to create mood and personality with immediacy. Perhaps best of all is Krassimira Stoyanova, an aristocratic artist whose selection blends the familiar with some rarities (two arias by Gomes). Her phrasing is immaculate, her soprano fleet where required, and her sheer tonal beauty is unsurpassed. What an abundance of riches. If you are stuck for a Christmas gift, I recommend it – not only is it a cornucopia, but it is unlikely that the recipient will have the recordings on disc.

Francis Muzzu Read the full review on Agora Classica

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