Karajan: The Opera Recordings

Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989) is one of the most legendary conductors of all time. His legacy is well-preserved on record as he made many recordings thru his career.


This year Deutsche Grammophon released a 70 CDs box set with the complete opera recordings by Karajan on Deutsche Grammophon and Decca entitled Karajan: The Opera Recordings.


This box set features two opera recordings with Pavarotti:

  • Puccini: La Bohème with the Berliner Philharmoniker (recorded in 1972)
  • Puccini: Madama Butterfly with the Wiener Philharmoniker (recorded in 1974)

Both recordings are available separately on Decca CD, download and streaming.


If you want to own a collection of great opera recordings then this lavish box set might be just what you need. See details in the video and the illustration below.


This post was first published 29-12-2015. Last revision 29-12-2015.

Pavarotti and Freni in rehersal for the centennial La Bohème in 1996

In 1996 Italy and the world celebrated the centennial for the première of the wonderful Puccini opera La Bohème. The world première performance was on 1 February 1896 at the Teatro Regio in Torino (Turin).

Pavarotti and Mirella Freni sang in a special centennial performance of the opera exactly 100 years later in the same Teatro Regio in Torino. The event was broadcast on Italian TV. It can seen on YouTube and can be obtained on very unofficial DVD editions.

Here are two clips from the rehearsal for this historic performance.




This post was first published 07-06-2015. Last revised 07-06-2015.

Happy 80th birthday, Mirella Freni!

Today is the 80th birthday of the great Italian soprano Mirella Freni. She wasn’t just one of Pavarotti’s most important singing partners, she was also a lifelong friend of Pavarotti.

Mirella Freni was born on 27 February 1935, in the same year as Pavarotti. She was born in the little Italian town of Modena, just as Pavarotti. Their life turned out so that they became lifelong friends and colleagues on the operatic stage. They also recorded many complete operas together.

We celebrate the 80th birthday of the great Mirella Freni with three operatic duets by Luciano and Mirella together! The three operatic duets are in running order:

  • O soave fanciulla from Puccini’s La bohème (live 1996)
  • Tutto apprendi, o sventurato from Rossini’s Guglielmo Tell (studio 1978-79)
  • Cherry Duet from Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz (studio 1968)

As a bonus video I give you Luciano and Mirella in rehearsal for Donizetti’s L’elisir d’amore. What fun they were having! They can’t stop giggling!

Happy birthday, Mirella bella! 🙂




This post was first published 27-02-2015. Last revised 27-02-2015.

The anniversary of Pavarotti’s debut at the Metropolitan Opera

Today is the anniversary of Pavarotti’s debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. On November 23, 1968, Pavarotti made his Met debut in a matinee performance of Puccini’s opera La Bohème.

Pavarotti of course sang the role of Rodolfo, and his childhood friend from Modena, the soprano Mirella Freni, sang the role of Mimì.

The performance went very well for the young Pavarotti and he got fairly good reviews for his performance. Sadly, no recording of Pavarotti’s promising debut at the Met exists as far as I know.

Pavarotti sang the role of Rodolfo at the Met several times during his career. The performance on March 15, 1977 was quite special as it was the first ever live TV transmission, or telecast, from the Met. The recording of this telecast is now available on Deutsche Grammophon DVD.

Listen and watch as Pavarotti sings Che gelida manina from this historic performance.

Pavarotti started and ended his Met career with Puccini. On March 13, 2004, Pavarotti sang Cavaradossi in Puccini’s opera Tosca. This performance was Pavarotti’s last performance at the Metropolitan Opera.

For more than 35 years Pavarotti had a very strong and succesful relationship with the Metropolitan Opera. Pavarotti sang in 378 performances at the Met. No other singer has sung that many performances at the Metropolitan Opera.

Luciano Pavarotti, a baker’s son from a little town in northern Italy, became one of the greatest singers who has ever graced the stage of the Metropolitan Opera.

Pavarotti died in his hometown Modena on September 6, 2007.

This post was first published 23-11-2014. Last revision 23-11-2014.

Pavarotti in Puccini in Chicago

Pavarotti sang in Chicago many times during his career. Here are some samples from a gala in Chicago in 1975 (audio only), both taken from the Puccini opera La Boheme. At this gala Pavarotti sang together with Mirella Freni.

First Pavarotti sings the aria Che gelida manina followed by Freni who sings the aria Mi chiamano Mimi. Pavarotti and Freni then join forces in the duet O soave fanciulla.

Needless to say, both singers are at the top of their career. Riccardo Chailly conducts the Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra.

When performing in Chicago Pavarotti mostly sang in opera performances at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. More about that and all the rest of Pavarotti in Chicago in later posts.



This post was first published 05-09-2014. Last revision 06-09-2014.

The newly discovered Pavarotti recording: Perhaps not so newly discovered after all?

August started with what looked like very good news for Pavarotti fans. Several sources reported that a newly discovered Pavarotti recording is to be released officially by Decca for the first time. In fact, we are talking about Pavarotti’s first ever recording (!).

The recording in question is Pavarotti singing “Che gelida manina” from the Puccini opera “La Bohème”. The recording was made in the early years of his career, and to quote the Decca press release: “lay in Luciano Pavarotti’s own personal archives for 50 years. It was only after his death that the recording was unearthed by his widow, Nicoletta Mantovani, and the aria has now been re-mastered and is now made available to the general public for the first time.”

A reasonable interpretation of the Decca press release suggest that the recording was from Pavarotti’s début on the British TV show “Sunday Night at the London Palladium” on August 25, 1963. This is also how music journalist Petroc Trelawny understands it in an BBC interview (see the video). Trelawny dates the recording to “the early 50’s” which must have been a slip of the tongue for “the early 60’s”.


An article in The New York Times starts out by stating that the recording was from the 1963 TV show, but confuses its readers by going on talking about another early Pavarotti recording from 1961: “The performance was recorded by colleagues at the Reggio Emilia Theater, in Italy, where Pavarotti had made his professional debut in “La Bohème” two years earlier, and given to Pavarotti, who squirreled it away in his personal archives.”

This is confusing! Is the recording in question from 1963 or 1961? If it’s from the 1963 TV show it’s indeed good news as it hasn’t been available before, at least to my knowledge. If it’s from 1961 then it’s probably Pavarotti’s operatic debut at the Teatro Municipale di Reggio Emilia, the opera house in Reggio Emilia, Italy on April 29, 1961. And then it’s not the recording sensation it looked out to be.

This recording has always been regarded as Pavarotti’s very first recording, but has in fact been available unofficially since the days of vinyls, and complete recordings of this performance is available today on CD and download, easily obtainable from Amazon and elsewhere. The history of this particular performance and the recording of it is also quite a well-known part of Pavarotti history. Read the story here.


However, Decca will release the recording of Pavarotti singing “Che gelida manina” as part of a two-CD compilation, “Pavarotti: The 50 Greatest Tracks”. The title of the album says it all about its content. No other unknown Pavarotti recordings are included, but all 50 tracks are digitally remastered at 24-bit. And that’s a good thing I’ve heard.

And by the way: The track information on the Amazon page also supports my conclusion that the recording in question is from 1961 (CD 1, track 26). When comparing the newly discovered Pavarotti recording on SoundCloud with a YouTube recording of the 1961 debut, it sounds very much the same to me. What do you think?

At first this looked like great news for Pavarotti fans, but I dare say it is not. It looks like this newly discovered Pavarotti recording perhaps is not so newly discovered after all. Or could it be that the recording in question is none of the above?

This Pavarotti recording offers many more questions. We will have to see if more information surfaces the weeks ahead. Maybe the booklet on the two-CD compilation will tell us more. It will be released in September this year. Anyway: Odd Pavarotti is confused!

This post was originally published 03-08-2013. Last revision 03-08-2013.

Get well very soon, Plácido Domingo!

It was reported yesterday that one of The Three Tenors, the great Plácido Domingo, is in hospital after suffering a blockage in an artery of the lungs (pulmonary embolism).

The great Spanish opera singer, well-known for his heavy work schedule as a singer, conductor, and opera manager has cancelled upcoming performances.

He is expected to recover fully, but at the age of 72, it’s easy to recommend Maestro Domingo to slow down, at least somewhat!

The video of today is Domingo and Pavarotti singing together “O Mimì, Tu Più Non Torni” from the Puccini opera La Bohème. This rare duet is from a gala at the Metropolitan Opera in New York in 1991. The entire gala was in its time broadcasted on TV and is available on Deutsche Grammophon DVD.

Pay attention to the very funny introduction made by the Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter.

All the best to the great Plácido Domingo! Get well soon, Maestro Domingo!


This post was originally published 10-07-2013. Last revision 10-07-2013.