Puccini: La Fanciulla del West (In English) - Fretwell, Smith, Herincx; Braithwaite. London, 1963
Listen to a Sample:
Sung in English, this is a very British production of a very Italian opera of a very American story. The sound is quite clear and well-miked, and the singers, by and large, are excellent in both character and diction. Raimond Herincx has to deal with the worst of the English translation's syntax mangling, but gives a nuanced if occasionally woofy performance as Puccini's most sympathetic baddie. Australian tenor Donald Smith is a highlight of the recording, a strong, beautifully sung Dick Johnson who gives a stunning rendition of the third act aria (here, "Let her believe that I have gained my freedom"). His Minnie, Elizabeth Fretwell, also hails from down under. She has a brightly-colored, beautifully-wielded instrument, and if she sounds more at home as Minnie the schoolmarm than Minnie the shotgun-wielding heroine, one can really blame the librettist. Warwick Braithwraite does wonders with the opera's moments of sweeping grandeur, and lets the card-playing climax of act two simmer without ever quite boiling over.