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

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. 

Saverio Mercadante: I due Figaro

Though 2013 is the bicentennial of the births of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, the releases of Cecilia Bartoli’s recording of Bellini’s Norma on DECCA, a new studio recording of Donizetti’s Caterina Cornaro from Opera Rara, and this première recording of Saverio Mercadante’s forgotten I due Figaro, suggest that this is the start of a summer of bel canto.

Christian Thielemann’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Recording Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is for a record label equivalent to a climber reaching the summit of Mount Everest: it is the zenith from which a label surveys its position among its rivals and appreciates an achievement that can define its reputation for a generation. 

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

31 May 2005

GOMES: Salvator Rosa

One of the nice features of art in former times was the care-free way artists took in mining the same sources over and over again. Contents and quality were held in higher esteem than an “original” idea. Auber’s La Muette de Portici was still in full swing in many theatres when Antonio Ghislanzoni of Aida-fame concocted a libretto on the same subject: the rising of Naples led by the fisherman Tomas Aniello against the Spanish viceroy in 1647. (Incidentally, it is a legend that La Muette triggered the separatist mutiny that ended the united Netherlands in 1830). And in 1953 composer Jacopo Napoli won third prize in the Verdi composition competition with another Mas’aniello which was duly performed at La Scala. As they couldn’t find a tenor, they asked a youngster, thanked him profusely after the job was done and sent him back home for another two years: Carlo Bergonzi.

Antonio Carlos Gomes: Salvator Rosa
Francesco Ellero D'Artegna (duca); Francesca Scaini (Isabella); Mauro Pagano (Salvator Rosa); Gianfranco Cappelluti (Masaniello); Sofiya Solovey (Gennariello); Leonardo Gramegna (Conte); Salvatore Cordella (Fernandez); Volodymir Deyneka (Corcelli); Analisa Carbonara (Bianca); Tiziana Spagnoletta (Ines); Emil Zhelev (Lorenzo)
Coro da camera di Bratislava and orchestra Internazionale d'Italia, Maurizio Benini (cond.)
Dynamic 472/1-2 [2CDs]

One of the nice features of art in former times was the care-free way artists took in mining the same sources over and over again. Contents and quality were held in higher esteem than an "original" idea. Auber's La Muette de Portici was still in full swing in many theatres when Antonio Ghislanzoni of Aida-fame concocted a libretto on the same subject: the rising of Naples led by the fisherman Tomas Aniello against the Spanish viceroy in 1647. (Incidentally, it is a legend that La Muette triggered the separatist mutiny that ended the united Netherlands in 1830.) And in 1953 composer Jacopo Napoli won third prize in the Verdi composition competition with another Mas'aniello which was duly performed at La Scala. As they couldn't find a tenor, they asked a youngster, thanked him profusely after the job was done and sent him back home for another two years: Carlo Bergonzi.

The real hero in Ghislanzoni's story however is the painter Salvator Rosa who assists Masaniello in the uprising. To the best of my knowledge the real painter was in Florence during the uprising and in any case lived another 26 years; a feat one would not surmise when one hears his desires for early death in this opera if he cannot have the girl. Well, I will not poke fun too much at the libretto but Ghislanzoni didn't take too much pains. The painter is hopelessly in love with a girl he has seen once (so are Fernand in La Favorite and especially Raoul in Les Huguenots; this ploy is still used in Fred Raymond's popular operetta Maske in Blau). She is of course the daughter of Rosa's bitterest enemy (Donizetti's Duca d'Alba) In the second act we get a song on the conquest of Naples with a Pim!Pom! text (Marcel's Pif!Paf! in Les Huguenots).

The same eclecticism can more or less be said of Gomes' music. One irresistibly thinks of a mixture of late Donizetti, middle Verdi and early Ponchielli, though the melodies of Gomes are just pleasing and do not get under the skin like Verdi's best ones. Nevertheless Gomes could write a tune like the still famous bass aria and the magnificent song Mia peccerella, though some Caruso fans will be surprised that the aria is meant to be sung by a soprano instead of a tenor (did ever a soprano record E lucevan le stele or la donna è mobile?). The opera is a long one (2 hours and 40 minutes) and Gomes' inspiration starts to flag somewhat in the last two acts though the music never degenerates into nondescript noise.

This is the third and very much the best recording of the opera. The 1977 live recording from Sao Paulo only gave a faint impression of the opera due to the bad sound. A new one from Dorset opera had some cuts and a lot of singers for whom 19th Century Italian opera was somewhat strange territory. The set under review was culled from performances in July 2004 at the wonderful Festival della Valle d'Itria in Martina Franca where so many operas are resuscitated and at the same time recorded by Dynamic (La Reine de Saba, Polyeucte). This year we get Marchetti's Romeo e Giulietta and if the music is half as good as his Ruy Blas, we are in for a treat. The artistic director is Sergio Segalini (now the boss at La Fenice, too) who was for many years the editor of France's best known magazine Opéra International. He invariably passed his summers as a jury member in any singing competition that offered good fare and a nice hotel. But, in that way he got to know a lot of young aspiring and promising singers who afterwards could be hired rather cheaply for the Festival and with a recording as a little extra.

The find on this recording is soprano Francesca Scaini; a wonderful spinto with a personal, somewhat smoky and sensual sound, who sings with passion and fire without chopping up phrases. And when she opens up she can drown anybody on the stage. A pity that Gomes had lost some steam by the moment he composed her big aria. For the moment, she is singing most of the time in Germany (and in Bieito's productions as well). I hope her career will not be hampered by the fact that some directors think she has not enough "le fysique du role".

The title role is sung by tenor Mauro Pagano, winner of the Gigli-competition in 2000. During the actual performances it was announced he suffered from laryngitis but this is not noticeable on the recording. We hear a firm, full and richly coloured tenor, not too subtle but with charm. He gives the impression the voice comes from rather deep in the throat without sounding ugly but he overcomes the long killer role very well.

Sofiya Solovey, a young Ukrainian soprano, is an outstanding Gennariello with a fresh spontaneous well schooled voice who gives us Mia peccerella with a real lilt in the voice. Baritone Gianfranco Cappelluti is somewhat the weak link; a rather rough and ready sound without any original colour in the voice and only a good top as an asset.

Bass Francesco Ellero d'Artegna is the only international star in the cast and, though he has one of the best tunes (Di sposo, di padre), he strikes me as a little bit bland, a little bit impersonal. Maybe the voice doesn't record too well as I remember him as a compelling singer with an impressive sound in the flesh.

Conductor Maurizio Benini believes in the work he is conducting and he is joyous, sentimental or furious without ever exaggerating tempi. Only his Bratislava chorus (probably cheaper than Italian choruses) sounds a little thin.

The sound of the recording is fine and there are only a few extraneous noises. The recording comes with an Italian-English libretto.

All in all, a most rewarding experience and a must for those among you who can by now sing every Verdi from start to finish and vice-versa.

Jan Neckers

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):