I don't know if Puccini's La Boheme is the most often recorded opera ever written, but if it isn't, it has got to be one of the prime contenders for that honor. The tragic lovers have been sung by most every significant soprano and tenor of the past century, many more than once: Callas and Freni, Victoria de Los Angeles and Montserrat Caballé, Placido Domingo and Jussi Bjorling, and Gigli and Pavarotti. And these are only a few. It has been recorded by nearly all of the world's greatest opera companies under the baton of the world's greatest conductors — Arturo Toscanini, Sir Thomas Beecham, James Levine. You name the artists, it is more than likely they have recorded the opera, if not the complete four acts, at least the highlights.
Why then, you might ask, why then does the world need still another recording. It is not as though none of the previous performances were any good. Recording after recording has been praised for musicianship, sound quality, drama, and general artistic quality. There are recordings that are legendary, like Beecham's with Bjorling and de Los Angeles. There are recordings that are becoming legendary, like Herbert von Karajan's with the Berlin Philharmonic and Mirella Freni and Pavarotti. And of course there are those that ... well the less said about those the better.
Now along comes Sony Classical with a remastered two disc recording of the Metropolitan Opera's live broadcast performance of February 15, 1958 with Thomas Schippers conducting the Met Orchestra and Chorus. So one has to ask why — and there is really only one answer. You can never have too much of a good thing. Great art does not fall victim to the law of diminishing returns. A fine performance is its own justification. You can't have too many Hamlets, and you can't have too many La Bohemes. Great artists always have something of their own to bring to a great work, something that makes the work their own.