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

Pan-European Orpheus : Julian Prégardien

"Orpheus I am!" - An unusual but very well chosen collection of songs, arias and madrigals from the 17th century, featuring Julian Prégardien and Teatro del mondo. Devised by Andreas Küppers, this collection crosses boundaries demonstrating how Italian, German, French and English contemporaries responded to the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Laci Boldemann’s Opera Black Is White, Said the Emperor

We normally think of operas as being serious or comical. But a number of operas-some familiar, others forgotten-are neither of these. Instead, they are fantastical, dealing with such things as the fairy world and sorcerers, or with the world of dreams.

The Devil, Greed, War, and Simple Goodness: Ostrčil’s Jack’s Kingdom

Here is a little-known opera that, like an opera by the Swedish composer Laci Boldemann that I have reviewed here, and like Ravel’s amazing L’enfant et les sortilèges, utterly bypasses the usual categories of comic and grand/tragic by cultivating instead the rich realm of fantasy and folk tale.

Grands motets de Lalande

Majesté, a new recording by Le Poème Harmonique, led by Vincent Dumestre, of music by Michel-Richard de Lalande (1657-1726) new from Alpha Classics. Le Poème Harmonique are regular visitors to London, appreciated for the variety of their programes. On Friday this week, (11/5) they'll be at St John's Smith Square as part of the London Festival of Baroque, with a programme titled "At the World's Courts".

Perpetual Night - Early English Baroque, Ensemble Correspondances

New from Harmonia Mundi, Perpetual Night. a superb recording of ayres and songs from the 17th century, by Ensemble Correspondances with Sébastien Daucé and Lucile Richardot. Ensemble Correspondances are among the foremost exponents of the music of Versailles and the French royalty, so it's good to hear them turn to the music of the Stuart court.

Maria Callas: Tosca 1964: A film by Holger Preusse

When I reviewed Tosca at Covent Garden in January this year for Opera Today, Maria Callas’s 1964 Royal Opera House performance was still fresh in my mind. This is a recording I have grown up with and which, despite its flaws, is one of the greatest operatic statements - a glorious production which Zeffirelli finally agreed to staging, etched in gothic black and white film (albeit just Act II), with Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi, if not always as vocally commanding as they once were, acting out their roles like no one has before, or since.

Hubert Parry and the birth of English Song

British music would not be where it is today without the influence of Charles Hubert Parry. His large choral and orchestral works are well known, and his Jerusalem is almost the national anthem. But in the centenary of his death, we can re-appraise his role in the birth of modern British song.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

01 Jun 2005

GIORDANO: La Cena delle Beffe

The recording industry has recently been good for Umberto Giordano. We now at last have well recorded performances of Mala Vita (Bongiovanni), Siberia (Gala), Madame Sans-Gêne, Il Re and Mese Mariano (all on Dynamic). Still missing are recordings of his first opera Marina, of Regina Diaz, Marcella (Gigli recorded one aria) and Giove a Pompei. La Cena delle Beffe was somewhat better represented. There was a live performance on MRF-LP and in 1988 Bongiovanni recorded another performance (with Fabio Armiliato) in Piacenza. Both recordings however are no match for the RAI broadcast of the 14th of April 1956 (and not 1955 as the sleeve notes say). That recording was already issued several years ago by the same company (Myto 2MCD002.220). The big difference between both issues is that this first version included an Italian language-only libretto while this new issue doesn’t. That can make a difference for enjoying the recording though Sem Benelli’s Italian libretto is not exactly written in house and kitchen Italian.

Umberto Giordano: La Cena delle Beffe
Antonio Annoloro (Gianetto) ; Anselmo Colzani (Neri) ; Enzo Guagni (Gabriello and Trinca) ; Franco Calabrese (Tornaquinci) ; Arrigo Cattelani (Calandra) ; Antonio Sacchetti (Fazio) ; Aldo Corelli (Dottore) ; Walter Artoli (Lapo and Cantore) ; Gigliola Frazzoni (Ginevra) ; Mafalda Micheluzzi (Lisabetta) ; Liliano Pellegrino (Laldomine and Cintia) ; Pina Leo Tanco (Fiametta) .
Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano della RAI, Oliviero De Fabritiis (cond.)
Bonus: Gigliola Frazzoni in La Fanciulla del West (RAI Milano 1955) with Ken Neate and Mario Petri
Myto 052.H103 [2CDs]

The recording industry has recently been good for Umberto Giordano. We now at last have well recorded performances of Mala Vita (Bongiovanni), Siberia (Gala), Madame Sans-Gene, Il Re and Mese Mariano (all on Dynamic). Still missing are recordings of his first opera Marina, of Regina Diaz, Marcella (Gigli recorded one aria) and Giove a Pompei. La Cena delle Beffe was somewhat better represented. There was a live performance on MRF-LP and in 1988 Bongiovanni recorded another performance (with Fabio Armiliato) in Piacenza. Both recordings however are no match for the RAI broadcast of the 14th of April 1956 (and not 1955 as the sleeve notes say). That recording was already issued several years ago by the same company (Myto 2MCD002.220). The big difference between both issues is that this first version included an Italian language-only libretto while this new issue doesn't. That can make a difference for enjoying the recording though Sem Benelli's Italian libretto is not exactly written in house and kitchen Italian.

La Cena was created by Toscanini who clearly believed in the opera and cast it from strength with Lazaro and Melis (Tebaldi's teacher). When it reached the Met, Ruffo, Alda and Gigli sang it and one can easily agree with the tenor's fury at Gatti's decision to press such a strenuous role upon a lyric instrument. After its first rounds, La Cena gradually disappeared and one can understand why. Though the music is firmly tonal, Giordano, of course, knew the works of Zemlinsky and Strauss surely enough; and there is a lot of "meaningful" dissonance to be heard. What ultimately is lacking is the firm melodic touch the composer showed in his best work. The first part of the opera is taken in by a lot of Italian sprechgesang. From the second act on things are getting better though the melodies always sound a little laborious, a little too uninspired. And then there is that one moment of genius in the fourth act when the composer gives us a wonderful serenade (Tornato e maggio), which would be a hit in every tenor's repertoire if this had appeared in Chénier. Now there is only Alessandro Valente's recording and moreover in the opera the serenade is sung by the second tenor (one can hear Gigli sigh) and cut short in the second strophe (yes, like in Di rigori where Benelli and Giordano obviously got the idea).

The recording is a good mono one and the singers belong to that last generation that got their musical education when opera and the verismo traditions were still a living thing in Italy. Antonio Annoloro in the title role has a big, somewhat unrefined, spinto tenor that cuts easily through the thick orchestration and he is absolutely convincing as the vengeful Gianetto. He soon realized that with his less than beautiful voice there was a career to be made in unhackneyed operas and in the same RAI season he sang in the best version up to now of Franco Alfano's Sakuntala ( not on CD but well known in the collectors' circuit).

As Neri baritone Anselmo Colzani is perfect: sinister where necessary, raging when playing the madman. He too is badly underrepresented on recordings and moreover he was a good actor and he would have been terrific on the scene in this role. Tenor Walter Artioli sings the serenade quite well though one of course longs to hear a Ferruccio Tagliavini in this piece.

All comprimari combine individual sound and incisive singing and we even meet Corelli's older brother, Aldo, in a small role. Gigliola Frazzoli sings Ginevra with her big, round though not very individual voice and she, too, clearly believes in her role. In fact, the issue is somewhat centred around her as the second CD has only the short fourth act followed by Minnie's three big duets from Fanciulla, broadcast on the 13th of March 1956. Surprisingly for a radio recording, the sound is rather dull and not better than her well-known complete live recording at La Scala of the same year. As to be expected there are no great differences, either in singing or interpretation, between those two performances. Her radio tenor is Australian Ken Neate with a good solid voice, with gleaming high notes, rather rare for an Anglo-Saxon tenor, and a not very personal or Italian timbre. Though he sings well and stylishly he cannot compete with the thrilling sound of young Franco Corelli in the La Scala recording.

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):