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

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.

Mozart’s Requiem: Pierre-Henri Dutron Edition

The stories surrounding Mozart’s Requiem are well-known. Dominated by the work in the final days of his life, Mozart claimed that he composed the Requiem for himself (Landon, 153), rather than for the wealthy Count Walsegg’s wife, the man who had commissioned it in July 1791.

Schumann and Mahler Lieder : Florian Boesch

Schumann and Mahler Lieder with Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau, now out from Linn Records, following their recent Schubert Winterreise on Hyperion. From Boesch and Martineau, excellence is the norm. But their Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen takes excellence to even greater levels

Hans Werner Henze : Kammermusik 1958

"....In lieblicher Bläue". Landmark new recordings of Hans Werner Henze Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge and Kammermusik 1958 from the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, with Andrew Staples, Markus Weidmann, Jürgen Ruck and Daniel Harding.

Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

Premiere Recording: Mayr’s Telemaco nell’isola di Calipso (1797)

No sooner had I drafted my review of Simon Mayr’s Medea in Corinto,

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 Simone 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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Edmond Audran: La Mascotte
27 Aug 2005

AUDRAN: La Mascotte

Chances are the world of opera bouffe is somewhat foreign to most listeners. Many may know one or two operettas by Offenbach - La Perichole, perhaps, or La belle Helene and a large number of melodies from various of his works collected for the ballet Gaite parisienne. But this extensive body of works from the last quarter of the nineteenth-century is infrequently performed, and, apart from the occasional aria heard on an inventively programmed recital, the repertory today is heard about more than it is heard. The names Audran or Lecoq are largely unknown, despite their having been very popular in this country at the end of the nineteenth century. (Maurice Grau brought many French productions to New York during the 1870s and 1880s, and the operettas, sung in French, were quite popular. Productions in the original language allowed the retention of the racy dialogue and numerous double entendres - most of which would have been unacceptable in English -- so typical of these works.)

Edmond Audran: La Mascotte
Livret by Alfred Duru and Henri Chivot; adapted by Max de Rieux.

Genevieve Moizan, Robert Massard, Lucien Baroux,Denise Cauchard, Bernard Alvi, et al. Orchestra and chorus conducted by Robert Benedetti.

Accord ACRD4658772 [2CDs]

 

The relative disappearance of the genre, also due in part to the rage for Gilbert and Sullivan that began in 1878, is too bad, for as this CD reissue of a 1956 mono recording of Edmond Audran's La mascotte demonstrates, the joys of the genre are many. They may not be to everyone's taste, but they are joys nonetheless. For several reasons, however, this may not be the set to serve as an introduction.

To begin with, because the recording was first made almost 50 years ago, the sound is not what most listeners are used to, and the ear has to make some adjustments. For those of us who grew up with recordings from the 1950s and 1960s, the sound is almost nostalgic; for anyone else, it will more likely prove unsatisfying. The remixing is excellent, as are the performances, but it all - especially the orchestra -- still sounds like it is being performed in a can. The highs border on distortion and the lows are rather shallow, and an overall tinniness is at times inescapable.

Second, the accompanying booklet is in French with no translation provided. Anyone with an intermediate ability in the language (and a dictionary) should be able to negotiate it with little difficulty, although the plot analysis uses a few idiomatic expressions that might give pause. The booklet also does not provide the text for the work, only a plot synopsis, a list of the numbers with titles, characters, and track indicators, and a brief biography of Audran. Understanding the sung and rapidly spoken French is somewhat more challenging than getting through the booklet, and much of the humor will be lost on listeners with only modest skills in the language.

Still, the performance is infectious, possibly indicating why the work is, according to Andrew Lamb, Audran's "most lastingly successful operetta." The plot is simple enough to follow but convoluted enough to provide the necessary opportunities for farce and amusing ensembles. "Une mascotte" refers to a person who serves as a good luck charm, and Bettina, a keeper of turkeys (really), possesses this gift. Rocco, the owner of a small farm, is afflicted with bad luck ("avoir la guigne"), and his brother brings Bettina to him, hoping to make things better. Meanwhile, Pippo, Rocco's shepherd, falls in love with Bettina and Laurent XVII, Prince of Piombino, who is having his own run of bad luck, decides to appropriate Bettina for his own "mascotte." And on it goes, eventually winding up in an Italian inn and also involving Fritellini, the Prince of Pisa, and many others. It is all very silly, very spirited, and very French. And very tuneful.

Among the numbers, one is perhaps somewhat better known than the rest. The duet for Bettina and Pippo, "J'aime bien mes dindons" ("I like my turkeys"), seems to have become especially popular, perhaps because of the barnyard noises made by Bettina to intensify her point. But the vaudeville finales are all delightful, that for the first act utilizing bells to demonstrate the ringing indicated by the title "on sonne" ("it rings"). Like its Gilbert and Sullivan counterpart, the French operetta also favored the patter, or character, song for a mature comedian, and this work has several wonderful examples. Most are performed by Lucien Baroux, who sounds as if he was the French equivalent of Martyn Green. His first act couplets are particularly amusing, appropriating as they do the old gag of another singer providing the high notes at the end of a verse. (The second time, Baroux provides his own, which are even funnier than the substitution gag.) The music for Bettina is full of charm and occasional coloratura, and Genvieve Moizan performs it with confidant charm. Her high notes are exemplary, especially considering the quality of the recording, and it's not hard to imagine her a delightful Olympia in Les contes d'Hoffman. (She also does a nice turkey impersonation.) Full of waltzes, character songs, and sparkling ensembles, the score is a wonderful potpourri of styles representative of the genre, and it is performed with great elan by the cast, all of whom seem to be specialists.

This recording is one in a series of French operettas reissued by Accord. (They are listed on the CD box.) If it is representative of the collection, they are all wonderful performances recorded in what now seems substandard sound quality. If listeners are already familiar with the genre and have a good working knowledge of French, the series will be a treasure despite the sound. If a listener doesn't know the genre and doesn't understand or read French, the joys may remain a mystery.

In short, highly recommended, but probably not for everyone.

Jim Lovensheimer, Ph.D.
Blair School of Music, Vanderbilt University

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):