The original release of this double-LP set in 1960 changed the way we hear music. Not as dramatically exciting as Callas
or as vocally ravishing as Tebaldi
, the Australian Joan Sutherland
was nonetheless as important as either of them. Nobody in her day, or ours, and perhaps few in earlier eras, could sing so high, so fast, with such power and awesome beauty. Through 16 selections spanning much of opera's history, this recording set new standards for operatic achievement; perfectly fine singers covering the same repertory wilted in the blaze of Sutherland's glory. Her talent didn't stay at this album's level: As she conquered the operatic world in a long, long career, some of the sympathy and zest retreated from Dame Joan's singing. But 40 years later, to hear her conquer such challenges as "Let the Bright Seraphim" from Handel's Samson
is to be reintroduced to the potential of the human voice. Anyone who's ever cared for any kind of singing can't afford to do without this reissue.