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

11 Jun 2005

SCARLATTI: Disperato Amore

Alessandro Scarlatti, a contemporary of Handel and father of Domenico Scarlatti, was a prolific composer of cantatas, oratorios, and operas. He wrote more than 60 operas and 600 cantatas. Contemporaries frequently distinguished between styles according to the locale in which they might have been performed or to which they were appropriate: the church, chamber, and theatrical styles. The cantata was considered a genre of the chamber style and offered listeners refined counterpoint and delicate changes in dynamics; cantatas of the period generally set pastoral or love texts and employed recitative alternating with arias. Many of Scarlatti’s cantatas were written for performances at aristocratic residences; most survive in manuscript form and were never published.

Alessandro Scarlatti: Disperato Amore
Matthew White (Countertenor) with Les Voix Baroques
Analekta AN 2 9904 [CD]

Alessandro Scarlatti, a contemporary of Handel and father of Domenico Scarlatti, was a prolific composer of cantatas, oratorios, and operas. He wrote more than 60 operas and 600 cantatas. Contemporaries frequently distinguished between styles according to the locale in which they might have been performed or to which they were appropriate: the church, chamber, and theatrical styles. The cantata was considered a genre of the chamber style and offered listeners refined counterpoint and delicate changes in dynamics; cantatas of the period generally set pastoral or love texts and employed recitative alternating with arias. Many of Scarlatti's cantatas were written for performances at aristocratic residences; most survive in manuscript form and were never published.

This recording presents a selection of solo cantatas, one solo motet, and two instrumental sonatas from Scarlatti's last years in Naples. It features renowned countertenor Matthew White and Les Voix Baroques, an early music chamber ensemble based in Montreal. White has performed with, among others, Glyndebourne Opera, New York City Opera, Opera Atelier, and Houston Grand Opera in countertenor roles, as well as at many early music festivals. He brings his considerable knowledge of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century music and performance practice to this recording.

White sings with clarity and elegance, beautifully interpreting the cantatas and motet. Each cantata on this recording employs a standardized formal pattern typical of the time: two da capo arias interspersed between recitatives. These vocal works provide moving examples of Scarlatti's contrapuntal expertise and expressive writing. The first two cantatas, Ombre tacite e sole and Bella quanto crudel spietata Irene, set love texts, while the last, Non so qual piu m'ingombra, sets a text concerning the coming of the Messiah. The instrumentation is a point of interest: Bella quanto crudel is a more typical cantata for continuo and voice alone, while the remaining two cantatas call for violins and viola in addition to the continuo, giving rise to vivid instrumental writing. These additional instrumental forces bring great narrative depiction to the cantatas, such as in the first aria in Non so qual piu m'ingombra, "Non sarà?" which features independent violin motives in dialogue with the voice; their meandering "comments" depict the confusion of the protagonist at his unexplained joy.

The Latin motet, Infirmata, vulnerata, depicts the protagonist's difficult encounter with divine love; it adopts a vocal style typical of the secular cantata. The tentative but deliberate opening aria of the motet, concerned with a languishing soul that is weak and wounded, is written in evocative counterpoint in a low register, suited to the topic of the text.

Throughout the recording, the recitatives are often dramatic in their use of instruments, chromaticism and dynamic shadings, to which White and the ensemble draw our attention; listen, for example, to the opening of Non so qual piu m'ingombra, which begins with an upbeat instrumental introduction depicting the joy of the Messiah -- a narrative event not revealed textually until the second recitative -- the depiction of "serene air" through the echoing of the voice in the strings, and an undulating string motive depicting "murmuring waves." Equally pictorial is the opening of Ombre tacite, which additionally employs chromaticism to convey the loneliness and horror described in the text.

The instrumental sonatas, given attractive and vivacious performance on original instruments, offer a nice contrast to the vocal selections. While the composer was best known in his lifetime for his vocal music, in his last years he turned more attention to instrumental music, from which these sonatas emanate. Scarlatti wrote these two sonatas for flute, violins, and continuo, and they are here performed with recorder and oboe, respectively. Each sonata contains a series of contrasting movements, and each captures Scarlatti's prowess at contrapuntal writing, particularly in the fugal movement within each sonata.

One minor concern about this recording is the accompanying booklet. The tempo markings of the arias are nowhere indicated despite the importance of the markings for both the composer and audience (a fact to which the liner notes draw our attention, in fact, by quoting the composer on this subject.) The composer, and contemporaries of his day, used tempo markings to indicate the affect, character, passion, and so on of individual arias and are therefore integral to the pieces. Secondly, the original Italian poetry is not usually presented in poetic form; instead, probably to save space, all lines are put in paragraph form, thus at times concealing the form and rhyme schemes. However, this is a high quality recording with beautiful performances of the musical selections.

Dr. Mary Macklem
University of Central Florida

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):