The background to this release is found on the first link below. Here is a significant amount of Jessye Norman material not previously issued, recorded between 1989 and 1998. There’s a selection from Tristan und Isolde conducted by Kurt Masur, perhaps not associated that much with opera, although these sixty-seven minutes, including the ‘Prelude and Isolde’s Liebestod’, prove compelling in their theatrical fervour, with not just Norman providing this quality but also Thomas Moser, Hanna Schwarz and – as the Sailor – Ian Bostridge, played superbly by the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, led from the front by Masur. Whether ‘Scenes from’, “excerpts” (Decca) or an ‘abridgement’, this is compelling listening in excellent sound from the Gewandhaus made under studio conditions. With the Berliner Philharmoniker and James Levine are Richard Strauss’s Four Last Songs and Wagner’s Tristan-related Wesendonck-Lieder (orchestrated Felix Mottl and – ‘Träume’ – by the composer I believe). These cycles are less compelling from the orchestral perspective – Levine’s steely-sounding conducting rather than the playing – and the Strauss opens with audience ambience and idolatry welcoming applause, closes with it, too, but all-clear with the Wagner, which is the finer performance anyway, although, throughout both works, Norman is too closely balanced and overly dominant. Finally, with Seiji Ozawa and the Boston Symphony, said to be live if without any trace of an audience, are Berlioz’s Cléopâtre, Haydn’s Berenice, and Britten’s Phaedra, one of his final masterpieces, all very well brought off, with the singer more naturally balanced and Ozawa a fine partner as well as insightful to each score, not least the Britten. Decca’s annotation includes all the sung texts and translations, as well as essays by George Hall and Cyrus Meher-Homji, the latter revealing that Boulez was writing a piece for Norman but it never materialised … that would have been fascinating, but would she have sung it given she withdrew from the premiere of Tippett’s Byzantium, much to Solti’s annoyance. Decca 485 2984 (3 CDs).