Recently in Recordings
Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara -
Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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.
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.
Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au
bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc
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.
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’.
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.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and
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.
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.
This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.
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 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’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.
Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.
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.
19 Apr 2005
Sir Thomas Allen: Great Operatic Arias
Some 20 years ago I ended my subscription to Opera Magazine after an article by its editor, the late Harold Rosenthal. He had written a review of La Clemenza di Tito that described tenor Stuart Burrows in words that, for those who did not attend the performance, they had missed the second coming of Enrico Caruso, Jussi Björling and Beniamino Gigli in one person. I had attended and I knew that Rosenthal and his colleagues could be almost funny in their chauvinism but enough was enough. Well, I’m happy to report the old tradition still lives on. I looked at some reviews of this recital by British critics and Giuseppe De Luca, Tito Gobbi and Robert Merrill in their heydays would have been proud of such notices.
Great Operatic Arias, Vol. 16 — Sir Thomas Allen
Thomas Allen, baritone
London Philharmonic Orchestra, David Parry
Chandos Opera in English series
Chandos CHAN 3118 [CD]
Some 20 years ago I ended my subscription to Opera Magazine after an article by its editor, the late Harold Rosenthal. He had written a review of La Clemenza di Tito that described tenor Stuart Burrows in words that, for those who did not attend the performance, they had missed the second coming of Enrico Caruso, Jussi Björling and Beniamino Gigli in one person. I had attended and I knew that Rosenthal and his colleagues could be almost funny in their chauvinism but enough was enough. Well, I'm happy to report the old tradition still lives on. I looked at some reviews of this recital by British critics and Giuseppe De Luca, Tito Gobbi and Robert Merrill in their heydays would have been proud of such notices.
Now I have some fine memories of Tom Allen ("has someone ever called him "Sir Thomas" in all seriousness?) in the theatre. One Figaro in Barbiere at Covent Garden was especially fine and I liked his aloof diplomatic coolness as Sharpless at the Met as well. But most people will agree that a lot of pleasure comes from his outstanding acting: I suppose he could as easily have had a big a career in straight theatre. Not that the voice is devoid of charm but I doubt Allen himself would call it a great natural instrument, though he makes a sizeable sound that carries well in a big house.
An extremely intelligent performer as Allen slowly built a great career without ever extending his means: as an outstanding Mozartean Allen wisely let big Verdi or Puccini alone and restricted himself to such lyrical parts as Marcello or father Germont. He has been singing since 1969 and there was still a lot of voice left after a 34-year career in this 2003 recording. Most of the arias, however, don't belong in his natural voice category and it sometimes shows. Take father Miller's aria "Sacra la scelta" and especially the cabaletta "Ah, fu giusto il mio sospetto." The voice is somewhat dry and not rich enough for this kind of aria. There is no weight of tone in the middle voice and the angry outburst goes for nothing.
An aria that would suit him better like Valentin's farewell from Faust suffers from a somewhat dull sound and a top that doesn't ring free. He is better in one of his best roles, that of Figaro, though there, too, is some unsupported sound that makes the voice opaque.
Allen has no real low notes and he clearly is not at ease in Yeletsky's aria where he compensates with some caressing tone. He is very fine as the count in Nozze where he sings the rarely performed alternate version of the Count's aria in an almost tenor tessitura. Tannhäuser too brings out the best in him: soft plangent singing.
I don't think it a coincidence he is at his very best in arias written in English or in some more showy fare. Billy Budd's monologue is full of melancholy; finely tuned moving singing. The same can be said of the clown's aria in the second act of Die Tote Stadt. And then there is room for the magnificent Allen.
I have an inkling that 60 years ago Allen could have been a big star in operetta or classical musical. The moment he started his career the money for classical singers in Europe was no longer in those magnificent, yet dwindling, genres but in heavily subsidized opera. Singers have to eat too! But in his duets of both Fledermaus and The Merry Widow, he is just wonderful: charming, boyish even at his age and with voice to spare. And he doesn't yield one penny to Gordon MacRae in Billy Bigelows' Soliloquy. Typically, one doesn't miss the meaning of one single word in this monologue which cannot be said of the operatic arias, especially in translations with newly minted words by conductor David Parry, who proves to be an accomplished accompanist. Moreover everything is recorded as "come scritto": every small sentence by a comprimario, every note for chorus is included. To be honest, I wished Tom Allen had given us a whole operetta and musical CD. It would have been a worthy successor to that wonderful CD with love duets from musicals he recorded with Valerie Masterson some 12 years ago.