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Re: [ARSCLIST] Mercury Living Presence Opera sets

Hi Steve:

Wading into an opera argument is somewhat akin to walking into a pitbull ring wearing bacon grease, so I'll stick to facts here.

The sessions book says Rigoletto was recorded July 2-7 and July 9-10, 1960 at Teatro della Pergola. The warehouse story sounds highly fable-ish.

As for the Mercury operas, I believe all were co-produced with Ricordi and ownership reverted to Ricordi at some point. Did EMI end up owning Ricordi's masters? I think the Mercury recording of Callas ended up on EMI CD. I'm not sure if any of the other operas were ever released on CD but I do know that Polygram did not own them by the 1990's. Someone else on this list might know more details about Ricordi.

I'm not sure how similar the situation with Ricordi was to the Mercury recordings with Pye of the Halle orchestra, but those I know a bit about and here's how that worked. Mercury made the recordings and had US rights but the rights eventually reverted to Pye. Pye was bought by EMI and thus some but not all of the Halle recordings ended up on EMI CD's in the 1980's and 1990's. I think some are now available from the Barbirolli Society. The CD's made by EMI were made from Pye's masters, which were "binaural" (2-track, made from the left and right mics and not including a feed from the center mic, all of this at Pye's request) and sound somewhat different from the original LPs. I'm not clear if the 3-track masters used for the Mercury LPs are in EMI's vaults or Universal's.

Here's other Mercury opera session details:

Medea, recorded at La Scala September 3 and September 14-19, 1957.

La Cambiale di Matrimonio, the Barber of Seville and La Serva Padrona were recorded in various parts from July 25 to August 14, 1959 in Brescia at the Teatro Grande.

Lucia di Lammermoor was recorded August 25-September 1, 1959 at La Scala.

-- Tom Fine

----- Original Message ----- From: "Steve Abrams" <steve.abrams@xxxxxxxxx>
To: <ARSCLIST@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
Sent: Saturday, September 06, 2008 9:12 PM
Subject: Re: [ARSCLIST] Mercury Living Presence Opera sets

Here's one for Tom Fine.

There has been a thread on Opera-L about the Mercury Living Presence recording of Rigoletto recorded in Florence in July 1960 by the usual team of Cozart, Fine and Lawrence. The brochure says that the venue was the Teatro della Pergola. The recording seems to have been made on behalf of Ricordi, who were represented at the sessions by Dr. Carlo Ricordi.

One of the contributors to Opera-L insists that the Mercury program note is incorrect and that Wilma Cozart later said that the recording was actually made in a nearby warehouse. The same contributor (Max Paley) says that the original master tapes "seem to have disappeared."

There are some other interesting Living Presence opera recordings, including Paisiello's Barber of Seville, and Cherubini's Medea with Callas. Also recordings of Lucia and La Serva Padrona.

I would really like to hear the Rigoletto and Basrbiere on SACD.

What is the fate of the original recordings and where was the Rigoletto recorded?

Steve Abrams

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