Nina Simone Sings the Blues, issued in 1967, was her RCA label debut, and was a brave departure from the material she had been recording for Phillips. Indeed, her final album for that label, High Priestess of Soul, featured the singer, pianist, and songwriter fronting a virtual orchestra. Here, Simone is backed by a pair of guitarists (Eric Gale and Rudy Stevenson), bassist (Bob Bushnell), drummer (Bernard "Pretty" Purdie), organist (Ernie Hayes), and harmonica player who doubled on saxophone (Buddy Lucas). Simone handled the piano chores. The song selection is key here. Because for all intents and purposes this is perhaps the rawest record Simone ever cut. It opens with the sultry, nocturnal, slow-burning original "Do I Move You," which doesn't beg the question but demands an answer: "Do I move you?/Are you willin'?/Do I groove you?/Is it thrillin'?/Do I soothe you?/Tell the truth now?/Do I move you?/Are you loose now?/The answer better be yeah…It pleases me…." As the guitarists slip and slide around her husky vocal, a harmonica wails in the space between, and Simone's piano is the authority, hard and purposely slow.
This Meistersinger, Otto Schenk’s Metropolitan Opera production that premiered in 1993, is an old friend. I’ve seen it four times over the past decade and hope that the Met’s powers-that-be choose to keep it around for a lot longer. It’s a visual feast—warmly lit like an old master painting, the sets and costumes sumptuously detailed… If you are building a Wagner video collection, this one’s a must. Andrew Quint, FANFARE
Mirella Freni returns as a glamorous Russian princess involved with a dashing aristocratic spy (Plácido Domingo) in this production of Giordano’s Fedora from 1997 conducted by Roberto Abbado. The audience and critics were unanimous in their praise for her dramatic authority, power, warmth and brilliance of her voice and the partnership of Freni and Domingo was described as “operatic royalty.”