Recently in Recordings
Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara -
Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.
It is not often that a major work by a forgotten composer gets rediscovered
and makes an enormously favorable impression on today’s listeners. That has
happened, unexpectedly, with Herculanum, a four-act grand opera by
Félicien David, which in 2014 was recorded for the first time.
This recording, made in the Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music in June 2014, is the fourth disc in SOMM’s series of recordings with Paul Spicer and the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir.
Félicien David’s intriguing Le désert, for vocal and orchestral forces plus narrator, was widely performed in its own day, then disappeared from the performing repertory for nearly a century.
This well-packed disc is a delight and a revelation. Until now, even the
most assiduous record collector had access to only a few of the nearly 100
songs published by Félicien David (1810-76), in recordings by such notable
artists as Huguette Tourangeau, Ursula Mayer-Reinach, Udo Reinemann, and Joan
Sutherland (the last-mentioned singing the duet “Les Hirondelles”
This new release of John Taverner’s virtuosic and florid Missa
Corona spinea (produced by Gimell Records) comes two years after The
Tallis Scholars’ critically esteemed recording of the composer’s
Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, which topped the UK Specialist Classical
Album Chart for 6 weeks, and with which the ensemble celebrated their
40th anniversary. The recording also includes Taverner’s two
settings of Dum transisset Sabbatum.
Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according
to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.
Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au
bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc
Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.
Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.
As the editor of Opera magazine, John Allison, notes in his editorial in the June issue, Donizetti fans are currently spoilt for choice, enjoying a ‘Donizetti revival’ with productions of several of the composer’s lesser known works cropping up in houses around the world.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and
Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.
This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.
This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.
We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.
Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but
this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas
Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings
can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.
Bernarda Fink’s recording of Gustav Mahler’s Lieder is an important new release that includes outstanding performances of the composer’s well-known songs, along with compelling readings of some less-familiar ones.
Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.
This live performance of Laurent Pelly’s Glyndebourne staging of
Humperdinck’s affectionately regarded fairy tale opera, was recorded at
Glyndebourne Opera House in July and August 2010, and the handsomely produced
disc set — the discs are presented in a hard-backed, glossy-leaved book and
supplemented by numerous production photographs and an informative article by
Julian Johnson — is certainly stylish and unquestionably recommendable.
13 Nov 2004
ARG Reviews Mercadante's Emma d'Antiochia
MERCADANTE: Emma d'Antiochia Nelly Miricioiu (Emma), Maria Costanza Nocentini (Adelia), Bruce Ford (Ruggiero), Roberto Servile (Corrado); Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, London Philharmonic/ David Parry Opera Rara 26 [3CD] 183 minutes I have long been on a campaign to revive the works...
MERCADANTE: Emma d'Antiochia
Nelly Miricioiu (Emma), Maria Costanza Nocentini (Adelia), Bruce Ford (Ruggiero), Roberto Servile (Corrado); Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, London Philharmonic/ David Parry
Opera Rara 26 [3CD] 183 minutes
I have long been on a campaign to revive the works of Saverio Mercadante. Eight of his operas and some of' his choral and orchestral works have been issued on CD from a variety of performance venues, good, bad, and indifferent. Bongiovanni has been the leader here. But only Opera Rara has published studio recordings of his music: Italian songs (Nov/Dec 1999), the complete opera Orazi e Curiazi (Jan/Feb 1996), and a quasi-introduction to Mercadante's music, Mercadante Rediscovered (Jan/Feb 2004), a compilation with selections drawn from several Opera Rara recital recordings. To begin its new series, "The Essential Opera Rara", selections from an opera that will give the "essence" of the work, they chose Mercadante's Zaira (July/Aug 2003). All have been favorably reviewed in these pages.
It is said that you cannot judge a book by its cover, but certainly the sheer luxurious elegance of Opera Rara's presentations goes far in establishing the credibility of the music. Most of all it establishes the feeling that Opera Rara has a strong belief in and support for the music. As usual there is an extensive performance history of the work, an examination of text and music, and a complete libretto with English translation. There is even information on Mercadante's use of the glicibarifono (a bass clarinet kind of instrument).
Although the opera was written at the height of Mercadante's career, had a libretto by the prolific Felice Romani, and was written specifically for super-diva Giuditta Pasta (along with almost-as-popular star Domenico Donzelli and the soon to be super-diva Eugenia Tadolini) Emma was a disaster at its premiere (La Fenice, March 8, 1834). Pasta was ill, but "graciously consented to appear" in a highly truncated version of the opera. But at the third performance Pasta was back in form and the opera was awarded a sensational reception. It was performed almost annually though the mid-1840s, disappeared briefly, had a few revivals and was last performed in Malta in 1861.
Thanks to Opera Rara for bringing Emma back to life. The music is packed with good, solid, sing-along tunes as effective as many of early Verdi, with many unusual touches of orchestration. Rhythmic devices are always ear-catching and pull the listener (and the singer) excitedly along. The melodramatic excesses of the plot can easily be ignored in favor of the music.
Conductor Parry seems to have an almost uncanny insight into music of the bel canto school, particularly in the selection of tempos. He is rhythmically propulsive, always supportive of the singers, but not subject to their whims. Indeed, this is (as is so often true of Parry-led operas) a true ensemble effort. Miricioiu is her own spectacular, gutsy self imperious, confident, supremely musical, emotionally restrained, no Italianate super-diva stunts, trusting in the music to deliver its own emotional impression. One has come to expect a similar performance from Ford, and he delivers it handsomely. Servile has a curious mushy pronunciation that is not intrusive and a voice darkly rich and handsome in tone. Nocentini's brighter, smaller soprano sound is an effective contrast to Miricioiu. The Geoffrev Mitchell Choir again are a strong lot.
Charles H Parsons
THIS REVIEW ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2004 ISSUE (VOL. 67 NO. 6) OF AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE (ARG). IT IS REPRINTED HERE WITH THE KIND PERMISSION OF ARG. FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON ARG, GO TO ITS WEBSITE AT www.americanrecordguide.com.