Veteran performers Richard Bonynge and Elizabeth Whitehouse have done the opera-loving public a great service in bringing to light this richly varied collection of rare French and Italian arias, drawn from the bel canto and verismo schools. Apart from "La mamma morta" from Andrea Chenier and "Io son l’umile ancella" from Adriana Lecouvreur, which are well known to devotees, the remaining 15 arias are indeed rarities. With their lavish orchestrations (think harps) and often lush harmonies, these arias evoke all the operatic aspects of love, from the tragic to the comic. Bonynge’s profound knowledge of this repertoire allows him to inspire some fine performances, including the humorous "Sortita di Si" by Mascagni and the plangent "O ma lyre immortelle" by Gounod. Whitehouse’s artistic maturity is well served by the sensitive accompaniment of Orchestra Victoria.
There is much fine music to discover here and Melba’s presentation is up to its usual high standards.