Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Herbert Howells: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has played a role in the evolution of British music. This recording honours this heritage and Stephen Cleobury’s contribution in particular by focusing on Herbert Howells, who transformed the British liturgical repertoire in the 20th century.

Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphony no. 21 (“Kaddish”)

Mieczysław Weinberg witnessed the Holocaust firsthand. He survived, though millions didn’t, including his family. His Symphony no. 21 “Kaddish” (Op. 152) is a deeply personal statement. Yet its musical qualities are such that they make it a milestone in modern repertoire.

Kenshiro Sakairi and the Tokyo Juventus Philharmonic in Mahler’s Eighth

Although some works by a number of composers have had to wait uncommonly lengthy periods of time to receive Japanese premieres - one thinks of both Mozart’s Jupiter and Beethoven’s Fifth (1918), Handel’s Messiah (1929), Wagner’s Parsifal (1967), Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette (1966) and even Bruckner’s Eighth (1959, given its premiere by Herbert von Karajan) - Mahler might be considered to have fared somewhat better.

Lise Davidsen sings Wagner and Strauss

Superlatives to describe Lise Davidsen’s voice have been piling up since she won Placido Domingo’s 2015 Operalia competition, blowing everyone away. She has been called “a voice in a million” and “the new Kirsten Flagstad.”

Nicky Spence and Julius Drake record The Diary of One Who Disappeared

From Hyperion comes a particularly fine account of Leoš Janáček’s song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared. Handsome-voiced Nicky Spence is the young peasant who loses his head over an alluring gypsy and is never seen again.

Jean Sibelius: Kullervo

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op. 7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn’t allow it to be heard after its initial performances, though he referred to it fondly in private. This new recording, from Hyperion with Thomas Dausgaard conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, soloists Helena Juntunen and Benjamin Appl and the Lund Male Chorus, is a good new addition to the ever-growing awareness of Kullervo, on recording and in live performance.

Mahler: Titan, Eine Tondichtung in Symphonieform – François-Xavier Roth, Les Siècles

Not the familiar version of Mahler's Symphony no 1, but the “real” Mahler Titan at last, as it might have sounded in Mahler's time! François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles present the symphony in its second version, based on the Hamburg/Weimar performances of 1893-94. This score is edited by Reinhold Kubik and Stephen E.Hefling for Universal Edition AG. Wien.

Verdi: Messa da Requiem - Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann (Profil)

It has often been the case that the destruction wrought by wars, especially the Second World War, has been treated unevenly by composers. Theodor Adorno’s often quoted remark, from his essay Prisms, that “to write poetry after Auschwitz would be barbaric” - if widely misinterpreted - is limited by its scope and in a somewhat profound way composers have looked on the events of World War II in the same way.

Matthias Goerne: Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 & Kernerlieder

New from Harmonia Mundi, Matthias Goerne and Lief Ove Andsnes: Robert Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 and Kernerlieder. Goerne and Andsnes have a partnership based on many years of working together, which makes this new release, originally recorded in late 2018, well worth hearing.

Leonard Bernstein: Tristan und Isolde in Munich on Blu-ray

Although Birgit Nilsson, one of the great Isolde’s, wrote with evident fondness – and some wit – of Leonard Bernstein in her autobiography – “unfortunately, he burned the candles at both ends” – their paths rarely crossed musically. There’s a live Fidelio from March 1970, done in Italy, but almost nothing else is preserved on disc.

Stéphanie D’Oustrac: Sirènes

After D’Oustrac’s striking success as Cassandre in Berlioz Les Troyens, this will reach audiences less familiar with her core repertoire in the baroque and grand opéra. Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été and La mort d’Ophélie, Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder and the Lieder of Franz Liszt are very well known, but the finesse of D’Oustrac’s timbre lends a lucid gloss which makes them feel fresh and pure.

Luminous Mahler Symphony no.3: François-Xavier Roth, Gürzenich-Orchester Köln

Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No.3 with François-Xavier Roth and the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln, now at last on CD, released by Harmonia Mundi, after the highly acclaimed live performance streamed a few months ago.

A First-Ever Recording: Benjamin Godard’s 1890 Opera on Dante and Beatrice

The composer Benjamin Godard (1849–95) is today largely unknown to most music lovers. Specialist collectors, though, have been enjoying his songs (described as “imaginative and delightful” by Robert Moore in American Record Guide), his Concerto Romantique for violin (either in its entirety or just the dancelike Canzonetta, which David Oistrakh recorded winningly decades ago), and some substantial chamber and orchestral works that have received first recordings in recent years.

Between Mendelssohn and Wagner: Max Bruch’s Die Loreley

Max Bruch Die Loreley recorded live in the Prinzregenstheater, Munich, in 2014, broadcast by BR Klassik and now released in a 3-CD set by CPO. Stefan Blunier conducts the Münchner Rundfunkorchester with Michaela Kaune, Magdalena Hinterdobler, Thomas Mohr and Jan-Hendrick Rootering heading the cast, with the Prager Philharmonischer Chor..

Gottfried von Einem’s The Visit of the Old Lady Now on CD

Gottfried von Einem was one of the most prominent Austrian composers in the 1950s–70s, actively producing operas, ballets, orchestral, chamber, choral works, and song cycles.

Britten: Hymn to St Cecilia – RIAS Kammerchor

Benjamin Britten Choral Songs from RIAS Kammerchor, from Harmonia mundi, in their first recording with new Chief Conductor Justin Doyle, featuring the Hymn to St. Cecilia, A Hymn to the Virgin, the Choral Dances from Gloriana, the Five Flower Songs op 47 and Ad majorem Dei gloriam op 17.

Si vous vouliez un jour – William Christie: Airs Sérieux et à boire vol 2

"Si vous vouliez un jour..." Volume 2 of the series Airs Sérieux et à boire, with Sir William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, from Harmonia Mundi, following on from the highly acclaimed "Bien que l'amour" Volume 1. Recorded live at the Philharmonie de Paris in April 2016, this new release is as vivacious and enchanting as the first.

Bohuslav Martinů – What Men Live By

World premiere recording from Supraphon of Bohuslav Martinů What Men Live By (H336,1952-3) with Jiří Bělohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra from a live performances in 2014, with Martinů's Symphony no 1 (H289, 1942) recorded in 2016. Bělohlávek did much to increase Martinů's profile, so this recording adds to the legacy, and reveals an extremely fine work.

Berlioz: Harold en Italie, Les Nuits d'été

Hector Berlioz Harold en Italie with François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles with Tabea Zimmermann, plus Stéphane Degout in Les Nuits d’été from Hamonia Mundi. This Harold en Italie, op. 16, H 68 (1834) captures the essence of Romantic yearning, expressed in Byron's Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage where the hero rejects convention to seek his destiny in uncharted territory.

Le Bal des Animaux : Works by Chabrier, Poulenc, Ravel, Satie et al.

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthaüser’s latest song recital is all about the animal kingdom. As in previous recordings of songs by Wolf, Debussy and Poulenc, pianist Eugene Asti is her accompanist in Le Bal des Animaux, a delightful collection of French songs about creatures of all sizes, from flea to elephant and from crayfish to dolphin.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

28 Apr 2005

HANDEL: Rodelinda

There was a time, not so long ago, when Handel was a rare bird on the video shelves of opera shops and record retailers, but it seems that with the advent of the slim ‘n sexy DVD disc, and (in Europe at least) a more flexible attitude to rights issues between record companies and opera houses, that those days are now, happily, past. The latest offering from Farao Classics is the 3 year old Munich Staatsoper production of his “Rodelinda” with staging by David Alden, music direction by Ivor Bolton, first given at their Festival in 2003. I’m not entirely sure why certain operas get chosen for DVD release and others don’t, and this one is a bit of a puzzle for several reasons.

Georg F. Handel: Rodelinda
Rodelinda: Dorothea Röschmann; Bertarido: Michael Chance; Grimoaldo: Paul Nilon; Eduige: Felicity Palmer; Unulfo: Christopher Robson; Garibaldo: Umberto Chiummo
Das Bayerische Staatsorchester, Ivor Bolton
FARAO Classics D 108 060 [DVD]

There was a time, not so long ago, when Handel was a rare bird on the video shelves of opera shops and record retailers, but it seems that with the advent of the slim 'n sexy DVD disc, and (in Europe at least) a more flexible attitude to rights issues between record companies and opera houses, that those days are now, happily, past. The latest offering from Farao Classics is the 3 year old Munich Staatsoper production of his "Rodelinda" with staging by David Alden, music direction by Ivor Bolton, first given at their Festival in 2003. I'm not entirely sure why certain operas get chosen for DVD release and others don't, and this one is a bit of a puzzle for several reasons.

Firstly, when seen live, this production had a spacious, if gloomy and weighty, feel to it - big spaces, long vistas, endless walls of imprisoning brick, that effectively reduced the human characters to tiny figures, fighting the powers of oppression and tyranny that threatened to overwhelm them at every moment. Think old black and white spy films: it's night, it's Vienna, the fascists are everywhere, huge stone statues of "the Boss" (or is it the ex-Boss?) dominate the square, the population is cowering unseen behind endless dark tenement windows, and it's raining. A cigarette flares briefly in the dark shadows, a knife flashes, a woman cries softly and a huddled figure shuffles through the puddles, looking for who knows what, maybe a kingdom. Somewhere in the distant gloom a single red light flashes sadly over a bar-room entrance.

Rodelinda is the story of a brave queen from ancient Lombardy fighting the usurper Grimoaldo, who covets her missing husband Bertarido's throne, and she uses every wile to evade his attempts at seduction. On the stage this worked well visually against the totalitarian landscape she was incarcerated within. But transferred to the small TV screen, there's an obvious problem of scale - how do you effectively represent both the elements of a huge set and tiny, intense, human emotions? Experienced TV director Brian Large has responded by relying heavily on the use of close ups and mid shots. But these are always fighting the low light levels of the set, and it takes a committed viewer to keep a visual memory of the wider picture, only occasionally glimpsed, and reach the meat of the story, and eventually some much-needed broader canvases.

Secondly, although the setting of the drama has been updated to a mittel-european 1950s urban streetscape, replete with fascist tokens, all the dark Mafioso type suits, and calf-length dreary dresses do somewhat depress the eye; it's with relief that we greet even a few sparkling jewels on Eudige's costume or a blinking red and yellow café sign in the glare of a Mercedes' headlights. Rodelinda may be one of Handel's most intense and serious dramas, but you can have too much of a good thing.

Thirdly, the singers are an uneven, if dramatically strong, bunch. Dorothea Roschmann as Rodelinda isn't perhaps in her most favoured fach and makes rather heavy weather of some of the most beautiful arias Handel wrote for soprano, although her bearing is suitably regal and restrained. She is at her best in the arias of contempt and anger, when she confronts the tyrant Grimoaldo or his traitorous henchman Garibaldo. As Bertarido, Michael Chance is something of a surprise - he has become, rather late in the day, a rather good stage actor and this certainly helped him overcome a slightly lacklustre vocal performance, which unfortunately pointed up the limitations of his voice compared to his more lustrous countertenor colleagues Daniels and Scholl who have both triumphed in this role recently. He still has a beautiful, elegantly-handled instrument, but he seemed to lack some power and stamina - this is certainly noticeable by the time he reached his final big aria "Vivi Tiranno". A really pleasant surprise is the vocal quality of Paul Nilon, tenor, as Grimoaldo the hesitant baddy - here is a real Handelian singer with power, elegance and restraint. He can act too. But not as well as the second countertenor in this production, the evergreen Chris Robson, as Bertarido's faithful servant Unulfo. I would suggest that any young opera singer looking for inspiration in how to work on a stage and get the best out of what must be called a now less-than-perfect voice, should view his performance here - it's a triumph. The perennial put-upon "little man", despised by most, but dogged and even brave in defending what he knows to be right, Robson's Unulfo must be one of the most affecting Handel performances I've seen. I have to admit to a lump in the throat as he staggers bloodied to the floor after a beating and sings of his loyalty to his king and his conviction that these storms in life will pass, in the lovely aria "Fra tempeste". It's at this point too that we get another bonus: one of the best shot and lit scenes of the opera as poor Unulfo completes the aria's de capo section walking into a curtain of sulphurously-lit falling rain, a visual metaphor for, we hope, a cleansing of the evil that surrounds him.

Of the other main roles, Umberto Chiummo as the dastardly real villain Garibaldo is a bit rough vocally, not really reaching his lowest notes, and is also a bit of the "rolling eyes" type baddy - acting by numbers you might call it. Elias Maurides plays the silent boy's role of Rodelinda's son Flavio. As Eudige, the elegant Felicity Palmer is, frankly, a little too mature for the part although she is of course hugely experienced and could manipulate her slightly depleted vocal range to good effect as her character changed emotional course through the opera.

So, this Rodelinda is not a world beater, but certainly worth a look for some memorable scenes - but do try to watch it on as big a screen as possible in order to get the best from it.

Technical details:
2 DVD Set; Subtitles in English, German, Italian and Japanese; Reg Code 0 (all); RT: 3'23"

© Sue Loder 2005

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):