Puccini's three-part opera ''Il Trittico'' -- which will be aired on the radio live from the Metropolitan Opera (Saturday, Dec. 12, check local listings) -- has never fully caught on as an operatic outing.
But on records it has received a good deal of attention, much of it favorable.
The best of the lot is the recently reissued set on Angel SCLX-3849E. Tito Gobbi dominates the ''Tabarro,'' the most chilling Michele on records, with Margaret Mas the effective Giorgetta. Vincenzo Bellezza is the seasoned conductor. Victoria de los Angeles, who also sings an enchanting Lauretta in ''Gianni Schicchi,'' is the sweetest Angelica of all, though her confrontation with the Princess (the superb Fedora Barbieri) is chilling.
Tullio Serafin gives loving support and makes the mawkish finale all but unbearably touching. Schicchi is sung by the irrepressible Gobbi, with a seasoned Italian cast for support and Gabriele Santini offering a sturdily routined accompaniment (in the only true stereo recording of the set).
When Renata Scotto first offered her superb performance of these three soprano roles to Met audiences, it was clearly a historic event. She got to do two of the roles for posterity: Her Giorgetta is stunning, her Angelica the finest all-around performance on records. CBS Masterworks, with typical misjudgment, gave the Lauretta to Ileana Cotrubas, who runs into serious trouble at times. The complete set (CBS M3-35912) is further weakened by the erratic, willful conducting of Lorin Maazel and the woolly Michele (''Tabarro'') of Ingvar Wixell. Marilyn Horne as the Princess (''Angelica'') and Tito Gobbi's ebullient Schicchi are pluses. Each work is available separately.
The complete London set is deleted, though each opera is available individually. ''Il Tabarro'' receives the strongest performance -- Robert Merrill, Renata Tebaldi, Mario del Monaco, all in superb form, and stunning atmospheric sound (London OSA-1151). ''Angelica'' (London OSA- 1152) finds Tebaldi consistently uncomfortable, Giulietta Simionato magnificent as the Princess. The ''Schicchi,'' despite the presence of Fernando Corena in the title role, is no more than routine (London OSA - 1153). Lamberto Gardelli conducts all three works.
RCA Victor has withdrawn its tepid ''Tabarro'' with a miscast Leontyne Price, Domingo, and a generally fine Sherrill Milnes, Erich Leinsdorf conducting. Another deleted RCA set (often available as cutouts in record stores) is an ''Angelica'' boasting a young, insecure Katia Riciarelli in the title role and a sensational Fiorenza Cossotto as the Princess.
The ''ideal'' ''Trittico''? The Angel box is fine. Separately, try the London ''Tabarro,'' the Scotto (CBS) ''Angelica,'' and the Gobbi (Angel) ''Schicchi.''