Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Women's Voices: a sung celebration of six eloquent and confident voices

The voices of six women composers are celebrated by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and soprano Yunah Lee on this characteristically ambitious and valuable release by Lontano Records Ltd (Lorelt).

Rosa mystica: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

As Paul Spicer, conductor of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, observes, the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is as ‘old as Christianity itself’, and programmes devoted to settings of texts which venerate the Virgin Mary are commonplace.

The Prison: Ethel Smyth

Ethel Smyth’s last large-scale work, written in 1930 by the then 72-year-old composer who was increasingly afflicted and depressed by her worsening deafness, was The Prison – a ‘symphony’ for soprano and bass-baritone soloists, chorus and orchestra.

Songs by Sir Hamilton Harty: Kathryn Rudge and Christopher Glynn

‘Hamilton Harty is Irish to the core, but he is not a musical nationalist.’

After Silence: VOCES8

‘After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ Aldous Huxley’s words have inspired VOCES8’s new disc, After Silence, a ‘double album in four chapters’ which marks the ensemble’s 15th anniversary.

Beethoven's Songs and Folksongs: Bostridge and Pappano

A song-cycle is a narrative, a journey, not necessarily literal or linear, but one which carries performer and listener through time and across an emotional terrain. Through complement and contrast, poetry and music crystallise diverse sentiments and somehow cohere variability into an aesthetic unity.

Flax and Fire: a terrific debut recital-disc from tenor Stuart Jackson

One of the nicest things about being lucky enough to enjoy opera, music and theatre, week in week out, in London’s fringe theatres, music conservatoires, and international concert halls and opera houses, is the opportunity to encounter striking performances by young talented musicians and then watch with pleasure as they fulfil those sparks of promise.

Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players: a world premiere recording

“It’s forbidden, and where’s the art in that?”

John F. Larchet's Complete Songs and Airs: in conversation with Niall Kinsella

Dublin-born John F. Larchet (1884-1967) might well be described as the father of post-Independence Irish music, given the immense influenced that he had upon Irish musical life during the first half of the 20th century - as a composer, musician, administrator and teacher.

Haddon Hall: 'Sullivan sans Gilbert' does not disappoint thanks to the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Andrews

The English Civil War is raging. The daughter of a Puritan aristocrat has fallen in love with the son of a Royalist supporter of the House of Stuart. Will love triumph over political expediency and religious dogma?

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

Beethoven Symphony no 9 (the Choral Symphony) in D minor, Op. 125, and the Choral Fantasy in C minor, Op. 80 with soloist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester, new from Harmonia Mundi.

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

A Louise Brooks look-a-like, in bobbed black wig and floor-sweeping leather trench-coat, cheeks purple-rouged and eyes shadowed in black, Barbara Hannigan issues taut gestures which elicit fire-cracker punch from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Alfredo Piatti: The Operatic Fantasies (Vol.2) - in conversation with Adrian Bradbury

‘Signor Piatti in a fantasia on themes from Beatrice di Tenda had also his triumph. Difficulties, declared to be insuperable, were vanquished by him with consummate skill and precision. He certainly is amazing, his tone magnificent, and his style excellent. His resources appear to be inexhaustible; and altogether for variety, it is the greatest specimen of violoncello playing that has been heard in this country.’

Those Blue Remembered Hills: Roderick Williams sings Gurney and Howells

Baritone Roderick Williams seems to have been a pretty constant ‘companion’, on my laptop screen and through my stereo speakers, during the past few ‘lock-down’ months.

Bruno Ganz and Kirill Gerstein almost rescue Strauss’s Enoch Arden

Melodramas can be a difficult genre for composers. Before Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden the concept of the melodrama was its compact size – Weber’s Wolf’s Glen scene in Der Freischütz, Georg Benda’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea or even Leonore’s grave scene in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

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):