Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Recordings

Green: Mélodies françaises sur des poèmes de Verlaine

Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France

A worthy tribute for a vocal seductress of the ancient régime

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.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

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.

Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail @ Hangar-7

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: Notturno

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 Sings Mahler Lieder

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.

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Hänsel und Gretel

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.

Magdalena Kožená: Love and Longing

Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená.

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Amore e Tormento

Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’ 

Rivals—Arias for Farinelli & Co.

In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi. 

Verdi at the Old MET

With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s major opera houses today.

Italo Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre re

In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions. 

Così fan tutte from DG

Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790. 

Heart’s Delight: The Songs of Richard Tauber

During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.

Adriana Lecouvreur from Decca

Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.

Lawrence Brownlee’s Spiritual Sketches

It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.

Great Wagner Conductors from DG

As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive archives.



29 Jun 2005

VERDI: Il Corsaro

The CD incarnation of this performance, reviewed earlier on Opera Today, faces the formidable competition of an earlier Philips set conducted by Lamberto Gardelli, with Jose Carreras, Montserrat Caballé, and Jessye Norman in the cast. As a recording, that set remains the best recommendation for this neglected (fairly or not) Verdi score.

Giuseppe Verdi: Il Corsaro

Zvetan Michailov (tenor), Renato Bruson (baritone),Michela Sburlati (soprano),Adriana Damato (soprano).
Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Regio di Parma, Renato Palumbo (cond.),Lamberto Puggelli (dir.)
Dynamic DVD 33468 [DVD]

The CD incarnation of this performance, reviewed earlier on Opera Today, faces the formidable competition of an earlier Philips set conducted by Lamberto Gardelli, with Jose Carreras, Montserrat Caballé, and Jessye Norman in the cast. As a recording, that set remains the best recommendation for this neglected (fairly or not) Verdi score.

However, the DVD release of the Parma performance offers enough reward for it to merit attention from more than just those with an affection for early Verdi. Some singers who were not favored by the microphones reveal much more to admire when seen as well as heard. And with a mostly imaginative, attractive production, this incoherent melodramatic folderol comes into focus as a more than interesting predecessor to its great successor, Il Trovatore.

In fact, not only does the plot bear some strong parallels to the later opera (as briefly described in the earlier review of the CD), but the music does as well. The first soprano aria, for the Corsair's beloved, has a sad, minor key feel that suggests Tacea la notte. The corsair himself opens the opera with an extended scene that musically resembles the great third act Manrico double-whammy of Ah, sì ben mio and Di quella pira, to the extent that the Corsair even ends his cabaletta, joined by chorus, with cries of "all'armi"!

And the nefarious baritone role, here a cruel Muslim warlord named Seid, has his Il balen del suo sorriso moment as well, as he laments his unreciprocated longing for a slave girl. And what a great aria name: Cento leggiadre vergini, translated on the DVD as "A hundred lissome virgins1..." And where on earth would one find a hundred of those?

After hearing the unprepossessing CD, the DVD performance comes as something of a revelation. The melodies grow on one, so that suddenly one sits forward and realizes that the score has sunk into one's subconscious. No, it is not Trovatore, but Corsair's music provides a very satisfying alternative.

The singers deserve further reevaluation as well. Bruson sounds only tired and strained on the CD. He still is on the DVD, but his dignified, even arrogant bearing fills in the outlines of this character sketch, and helps the listener to forgive the exhaustion of his voice.

The tenor, Zvetan Michailov, has been mauled by a vicious make-up artist, especially as regards his eyes. But his voice is strong and manly, although his acting leaves much to be desired.

Adriana Damato, however, really must be seen to be appreciated. Her middle range is not her glory, and that seems to be emphasized on the CD. Seen and heard live, Damato inhabits the slave girl role fully, with sensuality and pride, and offers some fine singing, especially in the top of her range. Hers is the most successful total performance of the cast.

Unfortunately, the other soprano, Michela Sburlati, does not improve when seen as well as heard. Her wayward intonation and struggle to maintain a line make her role, thankfully brief, rather a trial.

Conductor Palumbo appears to be a young man; on the basis of this performance, many houses should look to him for Verdi. His leadership is sensitive and dynamic as called for, and he gets tremendous playing from a youthful appearing Teatro Regio di Parma orchestra.

As mentioned before, the attractive production finds creative ways to suggest different locales with a minimum of changes, mostly due to effective lighting. Not all the costuming can be praised — Damato appears to be wearing jeans in her final scene, and the Corsair dons a hideous blue jacket. Bruson gets to stride through the performance, however, in some very elegant silks, the caftan equivalent of a white tux. Very nice.

Corsaro is a short opera, about 90 minutes, and the story telling makes Trovatore seem to be a naturalistic masterpiece. The music, however, for any Verdi lover, should not be dismissed. If one has the Philips set, return to it and rediscover some marvelous tunes. If not, take a chance on this DVD. It may be no classic performance, but despite the liability of one disappointing singer, the DVD provides enough pleasure to justify adding it to the collection.

Chris Mullins
Los Angeles Harbor College

1 More correctly translated as "One hundred fair virgins."

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):