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By Gaetano Donizetti

VIDEO: Volcanic souvenir of Beverly Sills in the most demanding role ever written for a prima donna, Queen Elizabeth I of England. Her small voice is strained way too much, but she puts on a real show in this part, and we get to understand just why its original interpreter, Ronzi, was the kind of woman who really did get into a hair-pulling fight with a rival diva! Sillls stars opposite John Alexander; Julius Rudel conducts; NYCO at Wolf Trap; 1975; VAI 69080 [G.R.]

AUDIO: A) HRE: Jose Carreras, Monserrat Caballe, Rudel conducting, "live"; Caballe does not quite have the dramatic command of Sills, but she sings with some feeling and her voice is better suited to the role; Carreras, at his vocal peak (1977), is matchless and makes one regret all the more his short-lived prime [G.R.]

B) [NIGHTINGALE]: a new recording featuring soprano Edita Gruberova; looks interesting on paper (have not yet heard it), may split the difference between Sills' vocal shortcomings and Caballe's somewhat generalized approach; definitely the finest sound quality available in this opera; stereo [G.R.]

C) [No Longer Available]: Leyla Gencer, Ruggero Bondino, Rossi conducting ("live," 1964); its first 20th-century revival caught for posterity; Rossi's conducting and an idiomatic cast combine for the most committed and lively presentation available, but Gencer, notwithstanding the darkest, most imposing vocal presence of all and a dramatic imagination the equal of Sills, has to radically simplify much of her coloratura and cope with unruly register breaks for much of the evening (her final Mad Scene, though, is riveting), while Bondino's so-called tenor voice is a distinct liability [G.R.]

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