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In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.
Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.
A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.
The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.
Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.
‘Can great music be inspired by the throw of the dice?’ asks Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, in his liner notes to the ensemble’s new recording of Josquin’s Missa Di dadi (The Dice Mass). The fifteenth-century artist certainly had an abundant supply of devotional imagery. As one scholar has put it, during this age there was neither ‘an object nor an action, however trivial, that [was] not constantly correlated with Christ or salvation’.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the
Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement
violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his
ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.
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.
22 Dec 2004
Zelmira Gioachino Rossini, music and Andrea Leone Tortola, libretto ORC 27 Scottish Chamber Orchestra Maurizio Benini, conductor Besides its Opera in English series on Chandos, Peter Moore's Foundation has sponsored the recording of many a fine bel canto rarity on...
Gioachino Rossini, music and Andrea Leone Tortola, libretto
Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Maurizio Benini, conductor
Besides its Opera in English series on Chandos, Peter Moore's Foundation has sponsored the recording of many a fine bel canto rarity on the label Opera Rara. Donizetti operas received much attention in past years; lately, Rossini has been favored, and Opera Rara's latest resurrection, Zelmira, is a worthy tribute indeed — a finely played, beautifully sung performance of an opera perhaps unlikely to ever regain a foothold in the staged repertory, but with music more than worth a hearing.
All the hallmarks of the classy Opera Rara production are here: superlative artwork, beautifully presented; a booklet of substantial size and content, with a comprehensive essay and fully translated libretto (Italian/English), a lovely range of photos of the performers rehearsing and performing, and most importantly, a commitment to the highest musical standards. The sets do not come cheap, but no one could doubt that the price is justified.
Zelmira belongs to Rossini's string of dramatic efforts composed for Naples, perhaps the best known of which today are La donna del lago and Ermione, the latter having recently enjoyed a remarkable run at New York City Opera. While many of Rossini's comedies maintain a firm grip in the repertory, these dramatic efforts have suffered relative neglect. Before too many reasons are proposed, a look at the performing history of Zelmira, contained in the CD booklet and supplied by the estimable Tom Kaufman, suggests that it is not only the modern era that slighted these operas. Zelmira premiered in 1822; it enjoyed performances in many top opera houses for about ten years. Lisbon saw it in 1839, and after that, Zelmira fell into a long slumber, not to reawake until 1965. This live set is not from a staged production, but rather from a concert performance at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2003.
Why the neglect? Here the essay by Jeremy Commons really earns our thanks, for it is not only wonderfully informative but also clear and honest in its perspective. Right from its debut, the opera earned fine notices for Rossini's score and derisive comment for the libretto, especially the contrived story. Commons refers to the plot's "inverosimilitudes," and they are aplenty. Our finest directors would really be put to the test by a scene such as the one where our put-upon heroine, going to see her estranged husband, interrupts a murder attempt, pulls the knife out of the assassin's hand, only to have the villain tell the freshly-awakened king that she (still holding the knife, of course) was about to commit the crime.
But such unlikely scenes occur throughout many a well-regarded opera. The difference here is in the superficial characterization. Zelmira is the dutiful daughter and faithful wife, despite every tribulation thrown her way. Her husband Ilo is the loving husband in sorrow for the seeming duplicity of his wife, which he believes due to the efforts of the dastardly Antenore and his malevolent lieutenant Leucippo. None of these characters undergoes change or reveals any depth. Zelmira pretty much proceeds like an old silent serial, with various cliff-hangar situations until the literally incredible end, where just as the villains close in to finish off our saintly heroes, the good guys break through a wall and send the baddies off to meet their just desserts.
And what a great time a classy cast has with all this malarkey. Bruce Ford and Marco Palazzi, tenor and baritone, make a wonderfully evil pair. Palazzi's handsome voice should go on to more prepossing roles. Elizabeth Futral's soprano aches with femininity and pain without allowing the heroine's outlandish trials to become too exasperating. A nice counterpart to Ford's high-flying tenor villain is Ilo, an even more high-flying tenor role for the good but confused prince/husband, sung by Antonio Siragusa with admirable control and resourcefulness, if not the last word in elegance.
Rossini's tremendous scoring, often calling to mind great moments in later, more esteemed operas (particularly those of early/middle Verdi) gets a tremendous performance by the Scottish Chamber orchestra, led by Maurizio Benini. The ensemble's chorus also makes a wonderful contribution, especially in a chorus by priests near the end of act one.
This set represents the best Opera Rara has to offer - featuring some wonderful music that would otherwise go unheard, offering talented performers the opportunity for some real vocal display, and providing an important historical service to those who want to know more about the origins of this art form. Zelmira, despite the "inverosimilitudes," is a veritable winner.