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

Early Swedish opera - Stenhammer world premiere

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.

Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 2

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.

The Tallis Scholars: Josquin's Missa Di dadi

‘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’.

A Venetian Double: English Touring Opera

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.

Walter Braunfels : Orchestral Songs Vol 1

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.

Lalo: Complete Songs

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.

New from Opera Rara : Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe

Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara - Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.

Félicien David: Herculanum

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.

Samuel Barber: Choral Music

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.

A Prize-Winning Rediscovery from 1840s Paris (and 1830s Egypt)

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.

Félicien David: Songs for voice and piano

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” with herself!).

John Taverner: Missa Corona spinea

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.

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

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.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

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.

Review: You Promised Me Everything

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’.

Donizetti: Les Martyrs

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.

Green: Mélodies françaises sur des poèmes de Verlaine

Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France

A worthy tribute for a vocal seductress of the ancient régime

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.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

05 Mar 2005

ZEMLINSKY: Une Tragédie Florentine

The operas of the Austrian composer Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942) continue to fascinate audiences with their combination of carefully composed music and well-selected librettos. After using fairy-tale elements in his early operas, such as Sarema (1897), Es war einmal (1900), and Der Traumgörge (1905-6), Zemlinsky turned to Renaissance settings for Eine florentinische Tragödie (1917) and Der Zwerg (1922). In fact, Zemlinsky’s Florentinische Tragödie is based the dramatic fragment A Florentine Tragedy, by Oscar Wilde, whose works intrigued other composers of the time. Beyond the provocative drama Salome set by Richard Strauss, Franz Schreker used a story by Wilde as the basis for his ballet Die Geburtstag der Infantin (1908).

Alexander von Zemlinsky: Une Tragédie Florentine [Eine Florentinische Tragödie]
Iris Vermillion, Viktor Lutsiuk, Albert Dohmen
Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Armin Jordan (cond.)
Recorded live 13 September 2003
Naïaut;ve V4987 [CD]

The operas of the Austrian composer Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942) continue to fascinate audiences with their combination of carefully composed music and well-selected librettos. After using fairy-tale elements in his early operas, such as Sarema (1897), Es war einmal (1900), and Der Traumgörge (1905-6), Zemlinsky turned to Renaissance settings for Eine florentinische Tragödie (1917) and Der Zwerg (1922). In fact, Zemlinsky's Florentinische Tragödie is based the dramatic fragment A Florentine Tragedy, by Oscar Wilde, whose works intrigued other composers of the time. Beyond the provocative drama Salome set by Richard Strauss, Franz Schreker used a story by Wilde as the basis for his ballet Die Geburtstag der Infantin (1908).

With his Florentinische Tragödie, Zemlinsky dealt with an incomplete text by creating a one-act opera. The drama revolves around an assignation between Bianca and her lover Guido Bardi, upon which Bianca's husband Simone intrudes. Ultimately Simone murders Guido, and the scene ends with the couple responding to each other by acknowledging their attributes. The final lines find Simone realizing Bianca's beauty, and Bianca commenting on her husband's strength. Whether that infers renewed love on the part of Simone or suggests fear on the part of Bianca is a moot point, since Wilde went no further. Critics have speculated about what Wilde might have written in the first scene (only the second scene survives), and the fragmentary text itself begs the question of where Wilde would have taken the drama. As a play, it is a drama in medias res, and the challenge facing a composer like Zemlinsky is to arrive at a whole which, in turn, the performers must convey to the audience in a convincing way.

In responding to that challenge, this latest of the three recent recordings offers a finely executed performance. One of Zemlinsky's most important tools in giving shape to this fragment is his use of music and especially the orchestration to punctuate the drama and to contribute some sonic points of references for understanding the text, and the conductor Armin Jordam treats this aspect of work with a deft hand. Likewise, the cast is well-suited to the piece, with Iris Vermillion singing the part of Bianca, Viktor Lutsiuk as Guido, and Albert Dohmen as Simone. In fact, both Vermillion and Dohmen sang the same roles in the earlier recording of the opera with Riccardo Chailly conducting the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (in the series "Entartete Musik" released on London/Decca as CD 455112). This recording is somewhat shorter than the one by James Conlon on EMI Classics (released in 1997, with Debra Voigt as Bianca).

As an opera, this work is compressed as if it were a miniature, with every gesture carefully weighted. The music rises and falls as the characters comment to each other portentously. At times, the silences in the orchestra are striking and suggest similar places in the score of Debussy's Pelléas et Melisande, a work with the kind of responsive conducting Jordan evinces in this recording.

In this reading, the work builds almost obsessively, as the characters begin to understand each other. In fact, the penultimate number, the interchange between Guido and Simone that begins "Simone, jetzt muss ich nach Hause gehn!" is tellingly intense in leading to the dénouement in the finale trio. The impassioned singing of Lutsiuk as he is murdered is powerful, just as the subdued tones of Dohmen as reflects on what he just did sounds convincing as the orchestral accompaniment underscores his plaintive realization of Bianca's beauty. The music that Zemlinsky composed to bring this work to a close is, in a sense, a commentary on the libretto, and Jordan's handling of the final measures gives the work the kind of closure that makes the score effective.

This is the latest of three CDs of Die florentische Tragödie in current release, and it is an excellent choice for those who might want only one recording in their personal collection. A further strength is the fine essay by François-Gildas Tual, which is included in the booklet that accompanies the CD. In fact, Tual's comments about the relationship of this opera to Berg's later work on Wozzeck and Lulu are noteworthy. The booklet includes the full German text, along with translations in French and English.

James L. Zychowicz
Madison, Wisconsin

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):