Puccini: La Boheme Album Review

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A brilliant recording of my favorite opera. La Boheme is one of the world’s most accessible operas for beginners. Nowadays, when opera is widely regarded as some sort of snobby, elitist thing, it’s easy to forget that 100 years ago opera composers and stars were the rock stars of their day. Puccini was one of the biggest, and when listening to La Boheme, it’s easy to see why. Seriously, every damn tune in the whole opera is hummable.

Like most great operas, La Boheme is a blend of the ridiculous (she’s dying of tuberculosis and she sings like THAT?) and the sublime. This particular album reaches more towards the sublime. Although Pavarotti wasn’t my favorite tenor, his voice blends beautifully with that of Mirella Freni as Mimi and Rolando Panerai as Marcello. The other performances are also top-notch.

Here’s the great love duet from Act 1: “O Soave Fanciulla”:

My rating: (5 / 5)

Julian Kestrel Mystery Series Review

The cover that caught my eye

The cover that caught my eye

Sometimes it pays to judge a book by its cover. One day years ago, I was browsing in a nice little independent bookstore in my hometown when my eye was caught by the cover of The Devil in Music, by Kate Ross. I noticed it first because it was illustrated by Kinuko Craft, one of my favorite illustrators, but when the pages decorated by the cover turned out to contain a murder mystery starring a Regency dandy named Julian Kestrel as sleuth (plus: opera!), well, there was no way I wasn’t taking it home!

It was a good choice.

The Julian Kestrel series was cut tragically short when Ross lost a long battle with cancer at the age of just 41, but she left behind four very enjoyable mysteries. I ended up reading them all out of order. The Devil in Music turned out to be the fourth and last book in the series, but I read it first anyway, then I read the second and third, because I had trouble getting a copy of the first. I finally read the first last! This worked out okay because the books are mostly stand-alone, and I might even recommend starting with the fourth, as it might make you less likely to guess the twist. However, I’ll review them in the correct order.

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Domingo/Milnes: Great Operatic Duets Album Review

Plácido Domingo: Great Opera Duets

Price: $5.20

4.9 out of 5 stars (21 customer reviews)

6 used & new available from $5.19


Another album I grew up listening to on vinyl and love. Domingo and Milnes were in their prime when they recorded these duets together, and they’re a perfect match. The gorgeous duet from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers (“Au Fond du Temple Saint”) is simply sublime and the album’s standout for me, with “Solenne in quest’ora” from La Forza del destino and “Sì, pel ciel marmoreo giuro” from Othello close behind.

My rating: (5 / 5)