An Evening at the Lyric Opera of Chicago

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The Lyric Opera of Chicago was founded as recently as 1954, but within two years it had secured the services of many operatic stars of the day, who were doubtless reassured of the quality and warmth of reception at the company by the trailblazing US debut of Maria Callas as Norma in its first season. Sir Georg Solti, too, made his operatic debut in the US not with the more storied Metropolitan in New York but in Chicago, conducting Salome, Die Walkare and Don Giovanni within a fortnight of each other in October 1956. He then returned in November to lead two performances of La forza del destino followed, on the 10th, by a Gala Concert which was recorded by Decca and is now reissued here. The singers were worthy of a gala anywhere in the world. Replacing Jussi Bjorling at short notice, Richard Tucker sang the Andrea Chénier duet with Renata Tebaldi, with Ettore Bastianini adding 'Nemico della patria' from the same opera. The evening was dominated by Tebaldi, however, in solo roles that she had made her own on stage (Delilah, Tatyana, Mefistofele's Margherita) and in duet both with Tucker and with the mezzo-soprano Giulietta Simionato, then in the prime of her career.  'So it went on and over,' reported Seymour Raven in the Chicago Tribune, 'with musical and emotional climaxes topping one another in the best gala concert style.' This live recording has had a chequered career on disc. It was originally issued in 1958, but contractual issues prevented the inclusion of the Chénier duet. The opening Forza del destino overture was sacrificed to accommodate the record of the event on a single LP, and both items were missing from the concert's first CD issue in 2009 within a 5CD Decca box dedicated to 'Great Voices of the 1950s'. They have finally been restored, and the complete recording has been newly remastered. For the first time it may be enjoyed in full as a one-off record of, without doubt, some of the greatest voices of that era.