Michael Walsh
February 01, 1991 AT 05:00 AM EST

The Complete Caruso

Current Status
In Season
Enrico Caruso
RCA Victor Gold Seal
Classical, Reissues

We gave it a B+

Well, what can you say about an icon? The Complete Caruso has everything the great tenor recorded for the Victor Talking Machine Co. between 1902 and 1920. The works have been spruced up for CD via the Soundstream process, which purports to reveal the true sound of music recorded with archaic technology; true or not, the 12 CDs have a vivid immediacy that makes the collection irresistible. Still, was there any particular reason why Golden Age singers had such a cavalier attitude toward intonation? The Great Caruso himself wanders off pitch from time to time, and his collaborators — particularly soprano Geraldine Farrar — are often gruesomely out of tune. It makes one appreciate all the more the pleasures of modern opera singing, which may have lost something in dramatic immediacy but makes up for it in better musicianship. B+

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