This album established Joan Sutherland as 'La Stupenda' and in it she sings long-forgotten (at least at that time) bel canto arias from the 19th century. It has never been equalled, let alone rivalled by any other singer since it was first made. What more is there to say? And for those of you who are still hard to convince after all this, maybe the additional three Rückert-Lieder on this album will do the trick - plus it has been remastered at 96kHz in 24-bit digital stereo from the original analogue mastertapes!
'Her incomparable technique, stylistic virtuosity and full-bodied tone were captured at their peak, without any trace of subsequent mannerisms.' BBC Music
'Vocally, Joan Sutherland was at her freshest when she recorded The Art of the Prima Donna in 1960...Her brilliance in vocal pyrotechnics amazes, and is here matched by the fullness of a fleshy tone rarely heard in such offerings...one of the essential Sutherland albums.' Opera Now
'[...], I should like to report that this album exhilarates me. Moreover, I find that after the exhilaration comes depression, or at least a morose thoughtfulness. The causes of the exhilaration are not difficult to find. Joan Sutherland takes sixteen tests in Advanced
Vocalism, and sails through them with startling freedom, scattering gruppetti and volate as she goes. Curiously enough, the depression seems traceable to the same causes, for while one is gladdened by the thought that our generation has produced a brilliant graduate in the study of traditional vocal art, one is also dismayed by the realization that most of the other outstanding professionals could be classified, with utmost charity, as nothing more than sophomores - a fair number of whom have come this far by cheating on the exams.' High Fidelity Magazine
Extract from the sleeve notes by Alan Blyth
When these recordings first appeared Joan Sutherland was on the brink of a spectacular international career which was to span more than thirty years. Just behind her was the sensation of her Lucia at Covent Garden on that famous evening in 1959 (17 February), by the end of which she had operatic London at her feet. But before that auspicious date she had achieved a more than modest success in a wide variety of repertory at the Royal Opera House, which The Art of the Prima Donna to some extent reflected (though it was, on the whole, more a prophecy of what was to come).
These recordings, comprising a formidable array of varied music, did much to inform the operatic world that Sutherland was no ordinary soprano, but an extraordinary phenomenon - not, of course, the mere reincarnation of all the prima donnas whose music she was adopting or to whom she was paying tribute, but an amazingly versatile singer of a Lilli Lehmann kind, able to encompass Handel, Mozart and Verdi as easily as the coloratura requirements of the soprano leggero. And, like all great prima donnas, she has a style all her own, which in these invaluable performances can be heard as one of fidelity to the music, vocal strength throughout a wide range, faultless technique, and a voice of unmistakable individuality.
Chorus & Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden
Francesco Molinari-Pradelli, conductor