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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.
24 Jun 2005
One of my oldest memorabilia is a programme of a performance of Zigeunerliebe by my father’s operetta company just after the war. It was one of the many amateur companies in Flanders though the title roles were sung by good singers who earned extra money by combining a few companies. I was too young to assist at this performance but a few years later I would be a regular spectator. The moment I could read I was put into service rehearsing my father’s lines. Every time the company put on a new piece I eagerly read the libretto. Most people nowadays think that an operetta is something like a Carmen with a few dialogues but that’s definitely not true. A Lehár operetta always had a lot of spoken dialogue and often had a 50% spoken 50% sung lines balance. Many an operetta lasted 3 hours without including pauses.
Franz Lehár: Zigeunerliebe
Johanna Stojkovic (Zorika); Dagmar Schellenberger (Ilona); Zoran Todorovich (Jozsi); Bernhard Schneider (Jonel); Ksenija Lukic (Jolan); Stefan-Alexander Rankl (Kajetán); Markus Köhler (Dragotin); Raphaela Schulze (Frau von Kerem); Andreas Hörl (Mihaly).
NDR-Chor and NDR Radiophilharmonie, Frank Beermann (cond.).
cpo 999 842-2 [2CDs]
One of my oldest memorabilia is a programme of a performance of Zigeunerliebe by my father's operetta company just after the war. It was one of the many amateur companies in Flanders though the title roles were sung by good singers who earned extra money by combining a few companies. I was too young to assist at this performance but a few years later I would be a regular spectator. The moment I could read I was put into service rehearsing my father's lines. Every time the company put on a new piece I eagerly read the libretto. Most people nowadays think that an operetta is something like a Carmen with a few dialogues but that's definitely not true. A Lehár operetta always had a lot of spoken dialogue and often had a 50% spoken 50% sung lines balance. Many an operetta lasted 3 hours without including pauses.
That's the first thing that struck me in this new recording: not a single sentence of dialogue is included. Personally I like that better than the half hearted solution used in the famous EMI-series (Gedda, Rothenberger) where small artificial dialogues full of clichés were included between musical numbers. As these two CD's include the full score (119 minutes) one can easily conclude there will rarely have been complete performances. As such this is an absolute first among recordings.
Many collectors have a copy of the 1951 radio performance with Herbert Ernst Groh and that has some 20 minutes of music cut. The score was even more drastically cut in a 1975 TV-recording that at the time made the rounds of European public channels. A pity as that colourful spectacle had some outstanding singers and that's where this new recording is a little bit at fault.
The reasons are several. The operetta tradition is gone and therefore the style, the way of singing is gone. Every bawler with a big voice can get through an opera for a few years but for operetta what is needed is impeccable legato, imaginative phrasing and tons of charm. Fritz Wunderlich never performed one operetta on the scène in his whole short life but nevertheless could sing tons of operetta with utter conviction, steeped as he was in the tradition in the fifties when one could hear Tauber, Wittrisch, Schock, Anders, Klarwein etc all day long on every radio channel.
This is somewhat lacking in most singers in this recording. Take the male lead tenor Zoran Todorovich. There isn't much charm to be heard, some harsh sounds and an unnecessary difficult high C in his big aria, no doubt picked up by listening to Joseph Schmidt's classic recording. The second tenor which ideally should be sung by another lead singer is here given to Bernhard Schneider, a smallish buffo voice instead of the full tenor voice the score requires (Adolf Dallapozza was wonderful in the TV-version). But this is now a perennial operetta problem. Before the war there was far more money to be earned in operetta and a big spender as Tauber was lured into service. Nowadays all money (taxpayers' of course) goes to opera and any tenor with a little bit of voice tries to make his way exclusively in the opera house and operetta has to do with the less talented singers.
The ladies are better. Johanna Stojkovic sings with gusto and a good sense of style. Dagmar Schellenberger as the other lead soprano (one can more easily cast most operas than Zigeunerliebe) is even better. The voice is warmer and she knows how to sculpt a waltz. She has of course one of the best tunes though here too her 'Hör ich Zimbalklänge' doesn't come near to Pilar Lorengar's wonderful recording of the aria.
Every Lehár operetta has a lot of comprimarii and they are more than acceptable; in fact they are better than their colleagues on the famous EMI-recordings where singers (well, actors with a little bit of voice) like Harry Friedauer often were the fly in the ointment. Frank Beermann and his radio-orchestra know their Lehár and they show the lush orchestration, the unbelievable melodic richness of the master at its very best. But, even Beermann cannot quite overcome the great musical contrast between the formidable beauty of the score for lead singers and the somewhat trivial, though still melodious, numbers for the buffo couple (necessarily as a lot of people flocked to the theatre for buffo Hubert Marischka at the time of the première). Anyway due to the completeness of the recording, the excellent sound and some good female performances this is a recording that cannot be missed.
cpo has recently done a lot of good for Lehár's artistic heritage. They issued a 1974 radio-recording of that fine work that is Der Rastelbinder (somewhat forgotten as it couldn't be performed in the Third Reich because the title role is a Jewish tinker). Even better they recorded Der Sterngucker of which barely a note was known and they gave us Die Perlen der Cleopatra by Oscar Straus. Let's hope they will continue the good works as we are still without recordings of Wiener Frauen, Die Ideale Gattin, Die Blaue Mazur, Clo-Clo, Libellentanz and that forgotten masterpiece Eva (which only exists in a Spanish highlights-version, though one doesn't envy the recording firm that has to find a singer that can compete with the Octave Flaubert of Alfredo Kraus during his heyday).
[Editor's Note: Click here for more information on the operettas of Franz Lehár.]