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

A Verlaine Songbook

Back in the LP days, if a singer wanted to show some sophistication, s/he sometimes put out an album of songs by famous composers set to the poems of one poet: for example, Phyllis Curtin’s much-admired 1964 disc of Debussy and Fauré songs to poems by Verlaine, with pianist Ryan Edwards (available now as a CD from VAI).

Giovanni Simon Mayr: Medea in Corinto

The Bavarian-born Johann Simon Mayr (1763–1845) trained and made his career in Italy and thus ended up calling himself Giovanni Simone Mayr, or simply G. S. Mayr. He is best known for having been composition teacher to Giuseppe Donizetti.

Matthias Goerne: Bach Cantatas for Bass

In this new release for Harmonia Mundi, German baritone Matthias Goerne presents us with two gems of Bach’s cantata repertoire, with the texts of both BWV 56 and 82 exploring one’s sense of hope in death.  Goerne adeptly interprets the paradoxical combination of hope and despair that underpins these works, deploying a graceful lyricism alongside a richer, darker bass register.

Gramophone Award Winner — Matthias Goerne Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge

Winner of the 2017 Gramophone Awards, vocal category - Matthias Goerne and Christoph Eschenbach - Johannes Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge and other Brahms Lieder. Here is why ! An exceptional recording, probably a new benchmark.

Véronique Gens: Visions from Grand Opéra

Ravishing : Visions, Véronique Gens in a glorious new recording of French operatic gems, with Hervé Niquet conducting the Münchener Rundfunkorchester. This disc is a companion piece to Néère, where Gens sang familiar Duparc, Hahn, and Chausson mélodies.

John Joubert's Jane Eyre

Librettists have long mined the literature shelves for narratives that are ripe for musico-dramatic embodiment. On the whole, it’s the short stories and poems - The Turn of the Screw, Eugene Onegin or Death in Venice, for example - that best lend themselves to operatic adaptation.

Through Life and Love: Louise Alder sings Strauss

Soprano Louise Alder has had an eventful few months. Declared ‘Young Singer of the Year’ at the 2017 International Opera Awards in May, the following month she won the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

A Master Baritone in Recital: Sesto Bruscantini, 1981

This is the only disc ever devoted to the art of Sesto Bruscantini (1919–2003). Record collectors value his performance of major baritone roles, especially comic but also serious ones, on many complete opera recordings, such as Il barbiere di Siviglia (with Victoria de los Angeles). He continued to perform at major houses until at least 1985 and even recorded Mozart's Don Alfonso in 1991, when he was 72.

Emalie Savoy: A Portrait

Since 1952, the ARD—the organization of German radio stations—has run an annual competition for young musicians. Winners have included Jessye Norman, Maurice André, Heinz Holliger, and Mitsuko Uchida. Starting in 2015, the CD firm GENUIN has offered, as a separate award, the chance for one of the prize winners to make a CD that can serve as a kind of calling card to the larger musical and music-loving world. In 2016, the second such CD award was given to the Aris Quartett (second-prize winner in the “string quartet” category).

Detlev Glanert : Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch

Detlev Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch should be a huge hit. Just as Carl Orff's Carmina Burana appeals to audiences who don't listen to early music (or even to much classical music), Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch has all the elements for instant popular success.

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

A Resplendent Régine Crespin in Tosca

There have to be special reasons to release a monophonic live recording of a much-recorded opera. Often it can give us the opportunity to hear a singer in a major role that he or she never recorded commercially—or did record on some later occasion, when the voice was no longer fresh. Often a live recording catches the dramatic flow better than certain studio recordings that may be more perfect technically.

Karine Deshayes’s Astonishing New Rossini Recording

Critic and scholar John Barker has several times complained, in the pages of American Record Guide, about Baroque vocal recitals that add instrumental works or movements as supposed relief or (as he nicely calls them) “spacers.”

Knappertsbusch’s Only Recording of Lohengrin Released for the First Time

Hans Knappertsbusch was one of the most renowned Wagner conductors who ever lived. His recordings of Parsifal, especially, are near-legendary among confirmed Wagnerians.

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered, from SOMM Recordings, makes available on CD archive broadcasts of British and German song. All come from BBC broadcasts made between 1947 and 1952. Of the 26 tracks in this collection, 19 are "new", not having been commercially released. The remaining seven have been remastered by sound restoration engineer Ted Kendall. Something here even for those who already own the complete recordings.

Color and Drama in Two Choral Requiems from Post-Napoleonic France

The Requiem text has brought out the best in many composers. Requiem settings by Mozart, Verdi, and Fauré are among the most beloved works among singers and listeners alike, and there are equally wondrous settings by Berlioz and Duruflé, as well as composers from before 1750, notably Jean Gilles.

Matthias Goerne - late Schumann songs, revealed

Matthias Goerne Schumann Lieder, with Markus Hinterhäuser, a new recording from Harmonia Mundi. Singers, especially baritones, often come into their prime as they approach 50, and Goerne, who has been a star since his 20's is now formidably impressive. The colours in his voice have matured, with even greater richness and depth than before.

LALO and COQUARD: La Jacquerie

La Jacquerie—here recorded for the first time—proves to be a wonderful opera, bringing delight upon delight.

Urania Remasters Marriage of Figaro

Good news for lovers of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro: the famous Living Stereo recording, a co-production of RCA Victor and English Decca, is now available again, well remastered, on Urania.

Opera Rara: new recording of Bellini's Adelson e Salvini

In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.

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):