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

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.

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

With this recording of Mozart’s 1771 opera, Il sogno di Scipione (Sicpio’s Dream), Classical Opera continue their progress through the adolescent composer’s precocious achievements and take another step towards the fulfilment of their complete Mozart opera series for Signum Classics.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

29 Jun 2005

Teatro La Fenice: Gala Reopening

The liner notes dryly state that “This was a stringent programme for an opening-concert audience used to lighter fare at such events.” In the past this would surely have been true but together with “Das Regietheater,” there is now a firm tradition in European houses that the reason for their very existence is art, and preferably in its purest form. Audiences are not there to amuse themselves or even to enjoy the music but to ponder on whatever life’s questions may be at that exact moment. They are mightily helped in their endeavours by conductor Riccardo Muti who cannot be caught with a single smile on his face during more than an hour of music making. Therefore a house where five operas by Giuseppe Verdi were premièred cannot be expected to open with such banalaties as Ernani, Attila, Rigoletto, La Traviata or Simon Boccanegra. Even worse would have been a concert with some prominent singers performing well-known arias and duets from these operas. The danger of enjoyment would have been too great. A conductor who reopened La Scala one year later with that immortal masterpiece L’Europa riconosciuta can be expected to make more original choices. Muti preferred lesser known music by maestros who had some ties with the city itself, even with the opera house.

Teatro La Fenice: Gala Reopening

Works by Beethoven, Stravinsky, Caldera and Wagner.
Patrizia Ciofi (soprano), Sara Allegretta (soprano), Sonia Ganassi (mezzo-soprano), Sara Mingardo (alto), Roberto Saccà (tenor), Mirko Guadagnini (tenor), Michele Pertusi (bass) and Nicolas Rivenq (baritone).
Orchestra e Coro del Teatro La Fenice, Riccardo Muti (cond.).
Recorded Live at the Teatro La Fenice, Venice, 14 December 2003.
TDK DVW-CORLF [DVD]

The liner notes dryly state that "This was a stringent programme for an opening-concert audience used to lighter fare at such events." In the past this would surely have been true but together with "Das Regietheater," there is now a firm tradition in European houses that the reason for their very existence is art, and preferably in its purest form. Audiences are not there to amuse themselves or even to enjoy the music but to ponder on whatever life's questions may be at that exact moment. They are mightily helped in their endeavours by conductor Riccardo Muti who cannot be caught with a single smile on his face during more than an hour of music making. Therefore a house where five operas by Giuseppe Verdi were premièred cannot be expected to open with such banalaties as Ernani, Attila, Rigoletto, La Traviata or Simon Boccanegra. Even worse would have been a concert with some prominent singers performing well-known arias and duets from these operas. The danger of enjoyment would have been too great. A conductor who reopened La Scala one year later with that immortal masterpiece L'Europa riconosciuta can be expected to make more original choices. Muti preferred lesser known music by maestros who had some ties with the city itself, even with the opera house.

Muti starts with the Beethoven overture "Die Weihe des Hauses", op. 124 (The Consecration of the House) and he does it with vigour and 'schwung', actually making the music better than it probably is in the hands of a lesser maestro. Then it's time for Stravinsky's 20-minute Symphonie de psaumes with some excellent chorus singing. (The composer is buried on a Venetian island and his The Rake's Progress premièred at La Fenice.) A Venetian born composer should have his place in such a concert though not Antonio Vivaldi; that would have been too easy. The honour goes to Antonio Caldara with a not very interesting Te Deum. This has the advantage of introducing 8 soloists; most of them having only a few sentences to sing during this 10-minute piece. Even then Ciofi and Pertusi succeed in making some beautiful sounds while tenor Sacca and especially bass Rivenq with worn or wobbly voices make one wonder why they were chosen.

The concert ends with two fairly unknown pieces by Wagner (who died in Venice). The Kaisermarch is an interesting one. The former revolutionary clearly had an eye on the powers that could be. His protector, King Ludwig II of Bavaria, was in financial difficulties. Bavaria and some other South German states had been allies of Austria in their brief war with Prussia in 1866. Austria which had been the most prominent German state for hundreds of years in the First Reich (800-1806) was ousted out of Germany and in 1871 little Germany or the Second Reich (1871-1918) came into being with the Prussian king elevated to the rank of Emperor. (The Austrians would briefly rejoin the Third Reich 1933-1945 though as a junior instead of a senior partner). King Ludwig, definitely against the wishes of his subjects but bought out of his debts by the Prussians, convinced the other South German sovereigns to join the new empire and Wagner jumped upon the wagon. His Kaisermarch starts out well with some interesting melodic ideas and all at once the famous Luther chorale pops up. For a moment the listener thinks he is in Les Huguenots where that same device was so rejected by Wagner. The introduction is a sure fire political statement by the composer as it firmly connects the new empire with Protestantism; one of the reasons Bavarians loathed their new federal state which indeed would start a war with the Catholic Church a few years later and lose it miserably. After some 5 minutes, Wagner's usual tediousness takes over, his melodic inspiration flags and even Muti's drive and incisiveness isn't enough to make the second part more interesting. Wagner's Huldigungsmarch concludes the concert and is mercifully more brief.

Still even this concert reveals some time honoured Italian traditions. It may be a Gala Reopening of the House but this only means that all that's visible to an outsider is restored. In reality the stage and the technical equipment were still to be completed and it was only a year later that the opera house really opened with a not very successful La Traviata.

As a TV-producer I had some experience with RAI and I am happy to note that some endearing qualities, a certain sloppiness, have not disappeared. This is a live registration and then some things can happen nobody can control. As there is no shortage of panoramic views I would have thought that several ugly shots, where the view is obscured by someone's back or even by a lady's feathers, might be supplanted during the editing process for this DVD; but it was decided to keep these artistic touches.

A hilarious moment comes at the end of the DVD. Often in these programmes, subtitles run along with the last images giving credits to all important collaborators. This is serious business as some people (especially technicians) are very touchy to get their due credits. Either the person responsible for those titles starts them too late or Muti only allowed to have them started the moment he left the rostrum. Anyway, those titles run at breakneck speed along so that everyone gets his credit, though it is impossible to read one single name. For the rest this is a true professional registration with one camera along the orchestra to shoot Mr. Muti's artistic face. Either the director can read a score or he had help but he anticipates correctly and we get the appropriate player each time there is a solo moment. The sound is clear.

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):