Kathleen Battle & Placido Domingo
Live in Tokyo
Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
James Levine, conductor
Deutsche Grammophon, 1989
This album was recorded live in Tokyo in June 1988, during the tour of the Metropolitan Theatre in Japan, under James Levine’s conduction and featuring Kathleen Battle and Placido Domingo.
Levine is an exquisite conductor, who never steals the scene to the singers, and a consummate performer, who from time to time is brilliant or tragic, even though at times he is a bit too sharp, especially in the Overture from La forza del destino. The Overture from L’italiana in Algeri, on the other hand, is lively and witty. Levine is appreciated in particular for his sense of proportion and his unfailing and authoritative direction, providing the perfect accompaniment to every piece.
Kathleen Battle is here at the height of her career: around the same years she was Susanna in a recording of Le nozze di Figaro conducted by Riccardo Muti and was one of the soloists of the Coronation Mass conducted by Hebert von Karajan in San Pietro in Rome. Her voice is melodious and her timbre is unmistakable, her phrasing is refined and the capacity for empathy makes very personal every interpretation: she proves to be sorrowful in Traviata, mischievous in Don Pasquale and becomes biting when she gets irritated in the duet of L’elisir d’amore. The American soprano is therefore a pleasant, fresh and interesting interpreter, of whom you will never be bored.
Placido Domingo is certainly not a less valuable artist and proves it with his energetic and elegant singing, that does not permit to emerge to Nemorino’s comic side as it should, but that redeems him as Alfredo and Romeo and makes exceptional his Edgardo: of the latter, I remember in particular the long notes that conclude Tombe degli avi miei, obviously expecting applause, but that do not fail to arouse admiration in the listener. Even his foray in Don Giovanni, of which he sings the duet with Zerlina, is definitely successful.
The final duet, the famous waltz from The Merry Widow, is also worth listening. It is an appropriate end to Live in Tokyo, a perfectly successful album that proves irresistible to this day.