Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Camille Saint-Saens: Mélodies avec orchestra

Saint-Saëns Mélodies avec orchestra with Yann Beuron and Tassis Christoyannis with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Markus Poschner.

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories are designed to occupy the final three days of Holy Week, and contemplate the themes of loss, betrayal and death that dominate the Easter week. As such, the Responsories demand a sense of darkness, reflection and depth that this new recording by Stile Antico - at least partially - captures.

Mahler Symphony no 9, Daniel Harding SRSO

Mahler Symphony no 9 in D major, with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, new from Harmonia Mundi. A rewarding performance on many levels, not least because it's thoughtfully sculpted, connecting structure to meaning.

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

Winterreise by Mark Padmore

Schubert's Winterreise is almost certainly the most performed Lieder cycle in the repertoire. Thousands of performances and hundreds of recordings ! But Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout's recording for Harmonia Mundi is proof of concept that the better the music the more it lends itself to re-discovery and endless revelation.

The Epic of Gilgamesh - Bohuslav Martinů

New recording of the English version of Bohuslav Martinů's The Epic of Gilgamesh, from Supraphon, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck. This is the world premiere recording of the text in English, the original language in which it was written.

Maybe the Best L’heure espagnole Yet

The new recording, from Munich, has features in common with one from Stuttgart that I greatly enjoyed and reviewed here: the singers are all native French-speakers, the orchestra is associated with a German radio channel, we are hearing an actual performance (or in this case an edited version from several performances, in April 2016), and the recording is released by the orchestra itself or its institutional parent.

Stéphanie d’Oustrac in Two Exotic Masterpieces by Maurice Ravel

The two works on this CD make an apt and welcome pair. First we have Ravel’s sumptuous three-song cycle about the mysteries of love and fantasies of exotic lands. Then we have his one-act opera that takes place in a land that, to French people at the time, was beckoningly exotic, and whose title might be freely translated “The Nutty and Delightful Things That Can Happen in Spain in Just One Hour”.

Stefano Secco: Crescendo

I had never heard of Stefano Secco before receiving this CD. But I see that, at age 34, he already has had a substantial career, singing major roles at important houses throughout Europe and, while I was not paying attention, occasionally in the US.

French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

With this recording of Mozart’s 1771 opera, Il sogno di Scipione (Sicpio’s Dream), Classical Opera continue their progress through the adolescent composer’s precocious achievements and take another step towards the fulfilment of their complete Mozart opera series for Signum Classics.

Mozart’s Requiem: Pierre-Henri Dutron Edition

The stories surrounding Mozart’s Requiem are well-known. Dominated by the work in the final days of his life, Mozart claimed that he composed the Requiem for himself (Landon, 153), rather than for the wealthy Count Walsegg’s wife, the man who had commissioned it in July 1791.

Schumann and Mahler Lieder : Florian Boesch

Schumann and Mahler Lieder with Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau, now out from Linn Records, following their recent Schubert Winterreise on Hyperion. From Boesch and Martineau, excellence is the norm. But their Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen takes excellence to even greater levels

Hans Werner Henze : Kammermusik 1958

"....In lieblicher Bläue". Landmark new recordings of Hans Werner Henze Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge and Kammermusik 1958 from the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, with Andrew Staples, Markus Weidmann, Jürgen Ruck and Daniel Harding.

Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

07 Mar 2005

STRAUSS: Die Fledermaus

Film freezes time and even serves to transport an enrapt viewer into its temporal world. Viewers of the recent DVD release of a December 1980 performance of Strauss’ operetta classic, Die Fledermaus, may not be quite as ecstatic as the local audience, but resistance is futile. Have some champagne ready for the curtain calls. Lovers of this art form will rejoice, and even the operetta-resistant (of which your reviewer is one) must succumb to the energy, star power, and sheer good will of all involved.

Johann Strauss: Die Fledermaus
Lucia Popp (Rosalinde, Edita Gruberova (Adele), Brigitte Fassbaender (Prinz Orlofsky), Bernd Weikl (Eisenstein), Walter Berry (Dr. Falke), Joseph Hopferwieser (Alfred), Erich Kunz (Frank), Helmut Lohner (Frosch), Katrin Göttling (Ida), Karl Caslavsky (Iwan)
Chor und Orchester der Wiener Staatsoper, Theodor Guschlbauer (cond.)
TDK DV-CLOPDFM [DVD]

Film freezes time and even serves to transport an enrapt viewer into its temporal world. Viewers of the recent DVD release of a December 1980 performance of Strauss' operetta classic, Die Fledermaus, may not be quite as ecstatic as the local audience, but resistance is futile. Have some champagne ready for the curtain calls. Lovers of this art form will rejoice, and even the operetta-resistant (of which your reviewer is one) must succumb to the energy, star power, and sheer good will of all involved.

The camera pans the gleeful, expectant audience, and then a lanky young man with hair and glasses that proclaim, "The '70s are still with us!" sweeps into the orchestra pit. He is Theodor Guschlbauer, and he will prompt the orchestra to a consistently lively, stylishly inflected performance. This is all the more to be commended, as director Otto Schenk, with partner Peter Weiser, have revised the dialogue and more importantly, apparently kept or even increased the total amount. Guschlbauer has to reinspire his troops throughout the evening as they return to their instruments after another hiatus for chatter.

By the time of this performance, Schenk may have known the opera better than Strauss himself, and his love radiates throughout the evening. The sets have the opulent traditionalism he is known for, and the singers/actors have been directed right up to the point of cartoonish caricature, with only the briefest slips over the line.

And what a cast. Bernd Weikl, if fine voice and manic mood, splays his long legs all over. At one point, in the riotous dance than concludes act two, he even resembles John Cleese in his Ministry of Silly Walks skit. More importantly, Weikl is able to let us laugh at the self-important Eisenstein and not get too annoyed with his boorishness, so that his concluding apology can have at least some of its intended effect.

His wife, irrationally ignored, is Lucia Popp. Her act two czardas may not be the last word in Hungarian affectation, but like all her singing throughout the show, it is the purest, sweetest cream.

Moving on to the men, we have the title-referenced pranskter, Dr. Falke, in the person of Walter Berry. He sounds a bit worn in his act two singing, but otherwise contributes greatly to masking the mean-spiritedness behind some of the plot with his enthusiasm. The absurd tenor, Alfred, has surely been sung by more appealing voices than Joseph Hopferwieser's, but with his puffed-out chest and gloriously self-infatuated air, no complaint should register.

Of the major singing roles, that leaves two truly outstanding performances. Brigitte Fassbaender's Prinz Orlovsky must be the standard. Boyish and yet even more pleasingly ambiguous, she sings with such smooth tone and high spirit that one regrets that the character has so little to do in act three.

Finally, in a bit of a coup, Edita Gruberova's Adele seems to have blossomed into one of the leading roles. Something about the role inspires Gruberova to comic greatness, but even better, her agile, luscious voice, here in its prime, makes every solo a highlight. Even a scream in act two comes out as a pearly high note that many another soprano would die for.

Many will find the DVD, and of course the work itself, a laugh riot. Despite all the wonderful attributes described above, your reviewer has to admit with being impatient at times and even mildly put-out with some of the goings-on. The laborious "funny French" scene in act two seems to stretch on forever. And the Frosch, an amazingly limber Helmut Lohner, gets through all the "funny drunk" business with flair and expert timing. But it's still "funny drunk" business.

In a couple of longuers, supposedly comic, your reviewer's mind wandered to thoughts about the incipient alcoholism many of the character's seem to exhibit, and the faintly nasty social stratification, with Adele's chambermaid position being alternately a source of embarrassment and an opportunity for exploitation (as both the Prinz and Frank offer to take her on as a "protégé.")

Well, the only answer is to join the singers at curtain call in downing some champagne. The TV director, by the way, shows all the curtain calls, including the solo bows, until it's time for Weikl and Popp to emerge. Then the cameras swing to the balconies.

Unfortunate, that, but the greater part of the direction is excellent. This series of DVDs, with the insignia "Wiener Staatsoper Live," continues to provide treasures. Opera Today eagerly awaits the next.

Chris Mullins
Harbor Teacher Preparation Academy

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):