Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail @ Hangar-7

We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.

Richard Strauss: Notturno

Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.

Bernarda Fink Sings Mahler Lieder

Bernarda Fink’s recording of Gustav Mahler’s Lieder is an important new release that includes outstanding performances of the composer’s well-known songs, along with compelling readings of some less-familiar ones.

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Hänsel und Gretel

This live performance of Laurent Pelly’s Glyndebourne staging of Humperdinck’s affectionately regarded fairy tale opera, was recorded at Glyndebourne Opera House in July and August 2010, and the handsomely produced disc set — the discs are presented in a hard-backed, glossy-leaved book and supplemented by numerous production photographs and an informative article by Julian Johnson — is certainly stylish and unquestionably recommendable.

Magdalena Kožená: Love and Longing

Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená.

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Amore e Tormento

Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’ 

Rivals—Arias for Farinelli & Co.

In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi. 

Verdi at the Old MET

With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s major opera houses today.

Italo Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre re

In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions. 

Così fan tutte from DG

Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790. 

Heart’s Delight: The Songs of Richard Tauber

During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.

Adriana Lecouvreur from Decca

Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.

Lawrence Brownlee’s Spiritual Sketches

It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.

Great Wagner Conductors from DG

As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive archives.

Great Wagner Singers from DG

There could be no greater gift to the Wagnerian celebrating the Master’s Bicentennial than this compilation from Deutsche Grammophon, aptly entitled Great Wagner Singers.

Adding Movie Magic to The Magic Flute

What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?

L’Incoronazione di Poppea from Virgin Classics

Since its first performance at the Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo during Venice’s 1643 Carnevale, Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea has been one of the most important milestones in the genesis of modern opera despite its 250 years of unmerited obscurity. 

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

05 Apr 2005

MOZART: Idomeneo

In 1934, John Christie launched an institution of English musical life with Fritz Busch and Carl Ebert: The Glyndebourne Festival. Since 1951, the Festival has staged four productions of Mozart’s opera seria Idomeneo (1781), the most recent being in 2003.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Idomeneo (KV 366)
Richard Lewis, Leo Goeke, Bozena Betley, Josephine Barstow
The London Philharmonic Orchestra, The Glyndebourne Chorus, John Pritchard
Arthaus Music 101 079 [DVD]

In 1934, John Christie launched an institution of English musical life with Fritz Busch and Carl Ebert: The Glyndebourne Festival. Since 1951, the Festival has staged four productions of Mozart's Idomeneo (1781), the most recent being in 2003.

Listening and watching a performance almost thirty years after the event is in some respects like Monday morning quarterbacking. It is good to keep in mind that at the time of this performance, the study of historical performance practice was still in its nascent stage and Mozart research was, by today's standard, still in its youth. More significantly, the re-discovered performing score of 1780/81, used by the composer, was not available in 1972 when the Neue Mozart Ausgabe score of Idomeneo was published. To speak of a single definitive Idomeneo is difficult because of the many variants and alternatives that Mozart composed for this opera.

This 1974 production, the third staging at the Glyndebourne Festival, takes editing liberties of its own to fit a four-hour opera into two hours, without the ballet. Act I begins with scene eight, skips Idamante's aria Il spadre adorato, and segues to the Intermezzo, which is also edited. The remaining two acts are similarly edited, omitting recitatives and abridging the arias. Program notes attempt to fill the void.

Act II scene one, uses the opening scene composed for the 1786 performance in Vienna, namely, a recitative between Idamante (Leo Goeke) and Ilia (Bozena Betley). Goeke sings the aria that follows accompanied by an obligato violin, both of which are disappointing. Act III is the most dramatic and was the most appealing to Mozart--"there is hardly a scene in it which is not extremely interesting." (3 Jan 1781) Elettra's final aria (Oh semania! Oh furie!), which always "brings down the house," is considered by some the best in the opera. This performance by a young Josephine Barstow does not disappoint, either vocally or dramatically, and illustrates why the soprano is today one of the Grand Dames of opera.

Mozart referred to this work as his "Munich opera" or his "grand opera" (meine grosse oper), but not as an opera seria. Composed for the celebration of carnival in Munich (1781), this work differs from the traditional opera seria most noticeably in its musical continuity and the exquisite ensemble writing, a hallmark of Mozart's operas. Regrettably, the vocal ensembles are not at their best in this performance. Markedly, the quartet Andro ramingo e solo, which moved Mozart to tears, neither draws in the listener nor elicits a depth of emotion.

The sound of the orchestra is not always even, a fault of the recording. The overall vocal performances are good but not stellar, and there are moments where intonation is uncertain. Richard Lewis, the first English Idomeneo in the 1951 production, and Leo Goeke are wanting; their acting and characterizations are stiff and uninspiring; posed and bland. Unfortunately, this seeps into their singing. Goeke however, finally breaks out of the box in the last scene, giving more drama and voice than previously heard. Bozena Betley and Josephine Barstow dominate the opera both vocally and dramatically. Barstow's performance as the lascivious, vitriolic, and frenzied Elettra is a total package; she does not miss a beat. Bozena Betley's coloratura is remarkably natural; she is at her best in the Act II aria, Se il padre perdei.

The set design by Roger Butlin is reflective of the 1970s. A receding series of rings/arches--reminiscent of depictions of time warps--frame an already small stage, making it seem even smaller. Halfway through the opera, one might feel claustrophobic. It is only in the last scene of the opera that their purpose becomes clear: the interior of Neptune's temple. It is not worth the wait. The backdrops capture some of the splendour of opera seria, the pastoral scenes are quite pleasing; the storms are effective but the sea monster--called for in Mozart's original directions--is disappointing, bordering on the ridiculous. The chorus, whose overall performance is good, delivers one of its better scenes at the end of Act II with the appearance of the sea monster. Its effectiveness is compromised however, by the staging which has the chorus seemingly fettered to their places as they sing "let us run, let us flee." When they finally do leave the stage, it is simply too orderly for a citizenry fearing for its life. It seems that the size of the stage, once again, contributes to the problem.

In 1974, this John Cox production did not thrill the operagoer. Thirty years latter, it is still a "mixed bag." It is the performances of Dame Josephine and Bozena Betley however, that are worth the view.

Geraldine M. Rohling

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):