DELIBES: "COPPELIA." National Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Richard Bonynge. London 414 502-2 (two compact discs). Bonynge re-creates the elegance and the sentiment in Delibes'-Saint-Leon's 1870 hit, striking a comfortable balance between choreographic and purely orchestral demands. The spirited conducting immerses itself in the Second-Empire wit of the score, the extended, closing divertissement emerging with a much less anticlimactic feeling than usual. The minuses include an underpopulated orchestra, especially in the violins, and glassy, brittle digital sound, devoid of warmth.
ARIAS BY CILEA, GIORDANO, CATALANI, BOITO, ROSSINI, MEYERBEER, DELIBES, VERDI, CHERUBINI, SPONTINI. Maria Callas, soprano; Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, conducted by Tullio Serafin. Angel CDC-7472822 (mono compact disc). Reissued from two 1954-55 recording sessions, these 13 arias find the late Greek-American diva in her halcyon period, imbuing Verismo and early 19th-Century material with lacerating musical insights and interpretive nuance. One marvel follows another, from Boito's deranged, mournful Margherita to Rossini's calculating, determined Rosina, to the grandly tragic Giulia of Spontini's "La Vestale." Callas' range of color seems limitless, as does her rhythmic stability (try the Bolero from "Vespri Siciliani"), but even in this era, the curdled top notes can be excruciating. Serafin's peerless accompaniments and Angel's refurbished transfers command admiration, although the hiss level is high. Texts and translations.