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"The role of Queen Elisabeth [in "Roberto Devereux"] was probably the biggest challenge I faced in my career: 50 pounds of costumes, grotesque makeup, a role that was [vocally] very heavy for me and that I really had never tried out on any other stage. Every singer has in the back of her head two or three performances where she feels she accomplished everything she set out to do. And on the opening night of Devereux I turned to my mother and said, 'There! Show me somebody who can top that.' That was one of three times in my entire life that I ever felt that way."
--Beverly Sills describing the production that ultimately launched a series--presented as a trilogy--at NYC Opera in the 1970s. These legendary performances of Donizetti's three operas based on real-life Tudor queens have now been released on CD for the first time in a beautifully packaged box edition, "The Three Queens."
"The Three Queens":
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"Haydn: Armida"
Cecilia Bartoli, Christoph Pregardien, et al.; Concentus Musicus Wien; Nikolaus Harnoncourt, conductor
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It's been the long-standing consensus that in the realm of opera, Mozart traveled light years beyond his good friend Franz Joseph Haydn. Yet that doesn't mean the latter's own operatic creations should be written off. For a taste, and for a fuller understanding of a composer whose genius remains strangely underrated, try out Nikolaus Harnoncourt's bristling account of one of Haydn's best operas, featuring mezzo Cecilia Bartoli in exceptional form.

"The Golden Harvest"
The Boston Camerata; Joel Cohen, conductor
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This is a beautiful and nicely conceived anthology. Its topic is Shaker music going back to the mid-19th century. The Boston Camerata performs in various configurations, from solo to group settings, coloring the music with a diversity of textures.

"Reinhard Keiser: Croesus"
Roman Trekel, Dorothea Roschmann, et al.; Akademie fur Alte Musik; Rene Jacobs, conductor
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A decade older than J.S. Bach, baroque composer Reinhard Keiser flourished during a vigorous period of opera making in Hamburg that focused not on the court but on the public. In this new recording of Keiser's opera about the vanity of vanities, "Croesus," Rene Jacobs and colleagues reveal just how vibrant was this pocket of creativity, which has been unjustly diminished by subsequent biases in music history.

"Thomas Beveridge: Yizkor Requiem"
Christine Goerke, Alberto Mizrahi, et al; Washington Choral Arts Society; Norman Scribner, conductor
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When contemporary composer Thomas Beveridge set out to cope with the death of his parents, the result--signified in the ecumenical title--was a sacred choral work drawing on both Jewish and Christian liturgies, including the Jewish Yizkor memorial service. This performance is another triumph for Naxos's American Classics series.

"The Complete Works of J.S. Bach: Edition Bachakademie"
Helmuth Rilling, conductor, et al.
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Just in case you haven't reached your full satiety level with J.S. Bach--and who really can?--the lovingly prepared complete Bach edition issued by Germany's Hanssler label is now available. Along with conductor Helmuth Rilling as presiding spirit, the 172-CD set features such artists as Trevor Pinnock, Yevgeny Koroliov, Andrea Marcon, and many others.

The future looks bright for opera's once-endangered species, the countertenor--a voice that only recently was considered a relic of the baroque past. And in the year 2000, the stage belonged to David Daniels, who has become its superstar exemplar in recordings such as that of Handel's "Rinaldo." Daniels's recital "Serenade" numbers among the top 10 new Opera & Vocal CDs of 2000, and Daniels himself is the Opera & Vocal Artist of the Year.
To sample Daniels in Handel's oratorio "L'Allegro, Il Penseroso ed il Moderato," follow this link:
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With the release of Andrea Bocelli's first full-length opera recording, "La Boheme," many music lovers who've never encountered a complete opera before will take the plunge. And in his tragicomic portrait of the lives of a circle of young bohemians, Giacomo Puccini created what is in many ways the quintessential opera--which also became the inspiration for one of the most successful musicals of the 1990s, "Rent." "La Boheme" makes a perfect entree for the budding opera lover. Try out our Get Started in Classical feature--which includes an audio tour--and explore Puccini's "La Boheme."
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One of the great projects in the history of recording has recently been completed: Hyperion's Schubert Edition, a 37-volume labor of love that covers the entire lyrical output of perhaps the world's greatest songwriter. Guided by pianist Graham Johnson, the Schubert Edition showcases the talent of such leading lieder interpreters as Janet Baker, Ian Bostridge, John Mark Ainsley, and many more.
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For this pairing of some of the most sublime love music Wagner ever penned--the meeting of Siegfried and Brunnhilde from the Ring Cycle and the doomed "Night of Love" of Tristan and Isolde--Deborah Voigt and Placido Domingo are at their white-hot best. The recording is one of our top 10 Opera & Vocal releases for 2000. Download two excerpts from these thrilling Wagnerians, under the baton of Antonio Pappano.
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EMI's vast catalog includes some of the greatest legends in recorded classical music, such as the incomparable diva Maria Callas--and this anthology of the soprano is a perfect introduction to what made her art a matter of groundbreaking significance. It's just one part of our EMI Store, which includes other legendary artists, great bargains, digital downloads, and more.
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