Best ever Pearl Fishers duet?

Best ever Pearl Fishers duet?


norman lebrecht

June 20, 2018

I’m torn.

Lived with the above all my life.

And this is fairly epic (albeit auf Deutsch).

But this…



  • Barry Guerrero says:

    All three are good, right? I’ll go with Bjorling/Merrill. I don’t think Merrill is such a beautiful singer on his own, but he supports Bjorling so well. Little wonder that the Peerce/Merrill collaborations are still so highly regarded (not to mention Toscanini’s input).

    Wunderlich/Prey are wunderbar too, but almost ‘too pretty’, nes pas?

    Kaufmann and Hvorastovsky are quite good in their way, but I don’t think their voices match so well. There’s something almost hard about Hvorastovsky’s tone. Still, . . .

  • Sue says:

    I’m immensely saddened to see Dmitri singing in this clip; it’s still so raw for me.

  • AndyB says:

    Well, it could all be a matter of personal preference.
    Purely on vocal terms Hvorostovsky’s voice sounds so much freer than Kaufmann’s which loosens up a bit in the second half of the duet. Both make an admirable attempt to sing the text with intention and to observe dynamics.
    Wunderlich makes his mark by being a great lyric tenor and Prey, whose recordings I appreciate more and more , has such a gorgeous voice, full of humanity. They bring the scene to life with a feeling of its context so I don’t mind that it is auf deutsch rather than en francais for once.
    Bjorling has the right voice for French opera of this period. In fact he made a speciality of Des Grieux , Faust etc. There is just something in that plangent , but ringing tone which brings a tear to the eye and warmth to the soul. Merrill’s singing is wholesome and supportive. I couldn’t be without this recording – even if a section of the duet is cut.
    I am always dubious about the use of the word ‘ unsurpassed’ as by meaning it is so ‘final.’ We do love discussing recordings/ performances of the past and present but we can look forward to the performances of singers of the future too..

  • Lawrence Kershaw says:

    What? Better than Bocellii/Terfel at the Classic Brits….?!

  • Dominic Stafford says:

    Oh, for God’s sake. I can imagine people in France laughing at their computers…

    Vanzo and Bacquier:

    Luccioni and Deldi:

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Good point. I feel like poor accents make a dent on the otherwise stellar musical quality of all three clips. (No, I am not laughing at my computer, maybe because I am not French.)

      I also love Gedda-Blanc.

      • Sue says:

        Everyone must have been in stitches of laughter, then, when Joan Sutherland warbled and not a single syllable was ever comprehensible.

        • Zelda Macnamara says:

          Quite. I couldn’t abide her. She might have been singing “la la la” for all the meaning the text had. A Scottish opera singer once told me that if you can’t hear the words, it means that the singer isn’t thinking about them. And, Sue, one of your favourite singers (and mine) had impeccable diction, you could hear every word (and so helpful for learning Russian).

  • Dominic Stafford says:

    Oh, for God’s sake. I can imagine French people laughing at their computers.

    Try Vanzo and Bacquier or Luccioni and Deldi.

    • Barry Guerrero says:

      . . . we did. You posted them above. I’m guessing you added that later. Indeed, they’re terrific.

  • Richard Craig says:

    Mr Kershaw try and listen to GREAT singers sometime as these two come nowhere close to the above clips

  • Richard Craig says:

    apologies Mr Kershaw in the back of my mind it had occurred to me!

    • V.Lind says:

      The exclamation mark after the question mark might have been a tip-off — Mr. Kershaw may not know how to do :)!

  • Bylle Binder says:

    The best I’ve ever heard was Villazon/Hvorostovsky, followed by Alagna/Terfel. Kaufmann/Hvorostovsky shows for me the problem I mostly have with Kaufmann in the last two or three years: His voice sounds mostly overstretched and as if he’d put too much pressure on it.

    • Bylle Binder says:

      Sometimes I dream of getting some pieces in my “ideal” cast. For the pearl fisher’s duet I’d love have to get Neil Shicoff and Sir Thomas Allen at their best … (I got them first time in ‘Boheme’ and they kind of spoiled it for me. I’ve never heard the “O Mimi” duett as wonderfully done as they sang it on this night in London).

  • Michael Comins says:

    Although his musicianship may have been called into question, Merrill’s glorious baritone was not. IMHO, his vocal quality has not been surpassed.

  • Zelda Macnamara says:

    Bjorling and Merrill for me. I was/am a great admirer of Hvorostovsky and consider him the best baritone ever, but I don’t think that his and Kaufmann’s voices match. Fortunately there are plenty other Hvorostosky clips (both solo and with others) to listen to, so I never bother with this one.

  • Umberto says:

    I don’t know about best ever, but I enjoy this one:
    Placido Domingo & Sherrill Milnes, James Levine conducting the Met orchestra.