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

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):