Zubin Mehta’s recording of Turandot with Sutherland, Pavarotti and Caballé is justly famous, but his recording of La Fanciulla del West is arguably just as good, and in fact won a tranche of awards when it was first released back in 1977.
It is based on performances of a spectacular new production at Covent Garden (which I saw in revival with the same two leads). The main difference in the recording from the stage performances is that Sherrill Milnes replaces Silvano Carroli as Jack Rance, presumably because he was a bigger name.
All three stars certainly acquit themselves admirably and Carol Neblett, who for a short time was the Minnie to see is just about perfect in the role, warmer voiced than Nilsson and securer on high than Tebaldi. Supporting roles are all well characterised, with a superb contribution from Gwynne Howell as Jake Wallace, and there is a great feeling of ensemble about the performance.
The score is surely one of Puccini’s finest, though I still find its setting somewhat incongruous. Still, this is a great recording of a very fine work and well worth anyone’s attention.