I wouldn’t normally give a “Rack Filler” CD a moment’s thought, but here I am actually recommending one!  “40 Most Beautiful Arias” is pretty much exactly what it says it is, and at $14 from Amazon for over 2 hours of achingly beautiful music, it is a great deal.

http://www.amazon.com/Most-Beautiful-Arias-Vincenzo-Bellini/dp/B0012908F0

These opera arias are collected from the Warner catalog, and it is pretty much stacked from beginning to end with major international names, including Plácido Domingo, Thomas Hampson, Cecilia Bartoli, José Carreras, Barbara Hendricks, Roberto Alagna, Angela Gheorghiu, Marylin Horne, Karita Matilla, Jennifer Larmore and many others.

The recordings themselves range from good to very good.  Nothing really stands out as being either very bad or truly exceptional.  But whoever has selected 40 arias to cram onto two discs has actually done a very creditable job.  With one exception though, which might make you spill your drink in frustration.  The famous duet from Bizet’s “The Pearl Fishers” suddenly stops half way through – an almost unforgivable omission.

A lot of people find opera to be too heavy going for them, and that is fine.  But a lot of those same people do enjoy the occasional highlight aria when they hear them, often out of context.   This album is for those listeners.  It is not designed to make an opera fan out of you, but it is an album you’ll want to play from time to time, just to make you feel good.