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The Importance of Being Earnest , Gerald Barry’s fifth opera, was commissioned by the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra and the Barbican, and was first performed in concert, Thomas Adès conducting the London premiere.
‘Beauty is the one form of spirituality that we experience through the senses.’ In Thomas Mann’s, Death in Venice, Plato’s axiom stirs the hopes of the aging, intellectually stale poet, Gustav von Aschenbach, that he may rekindle his creativity.
What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?
There is a sense in which it all began in London, Puccini having been seized in 1900 with the idea of an opera on this subject after watching David Belasco’s play here.
The tenor that the audience most wanted to hear, Plácido Domingo, opened the vocal program with “Junto al puente de la peña” (Next to the rock bridge) from La Canción del Olvido (The song of Oblivion) by José Serrano. He sounded rested and his voice soared majestically over the orchestra.
Tucked away somewhere in the San Francisco Opera warehouse was an old John Cox production of Così fan tutte from Monte Carlo. Well, not that old by current standards at San Francisco Opera.
Rossini's Maometto Secondo is a major coup for Garsington Opera at Wormsley, confirming its status as the leading specialist Rossini house in Britain. Maometto Secondo is a masterpiece, yet rarely performed because it's formidably difficult to sing. It's a saga with some of the most intense music Rossini ever wrote, expressing a drama so powerful that one can understand why early audiences needed "happy endings" to water down its impact
I suppose it was inevitable that, in this Britten Centenary year, the 66th Aldeburgh Festival would open with Peter Grimes.
Die Entführung aus dem Serail at Garsington Opera at Wormsley isn’t Mozart as you’d expect but it’s true to the spirit of Mozart who loved witty, madcap japes.
What a pity! On a glorious — well, by recent English standards — summer’s day, there can be few more beautiful English countryside settings
than Glyndebourne, with the added bonus, as alas much of the audience appears
to understand it, of an opera house attached.
Described by one critic as “cosmically gifted”, during her tragically short career, American mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson amazed and delighted audiences with the spellbinding beauty of her singing and the astonishing honesty of her performances.
Since its first performance at the Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo during Venice’s 1643 Carnevale, Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea has been one of the most important milestones in the genesis of modern opera despite its 250 years of unmerited obscurity.
“I wrote it almost without noticing.” So Verdi declared when reminded of his eighth — and perhaps least frequently performed, opera, Alzira. One might say that, since he composed the work, no-one else has much noticed either.
Just when you thought the protagonist was Hoffmann! Who, rather what stole the show?
When is verismo verily veristic? Or what is a virginal girl dressed in communion white doing in the two murderous acts of the Los Angeles Opera’s current production of Tosca? And why does she sing the shepherd's song?
Though 2013 is the bicentennial of the births of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, the releases of Cecilia Bartoli’s recording of Bellini’s Norma on DECCA, a new studio recording of Donizetti’s Caterina Cornaro from Opera Rara, and this première recording of Saverio Mercadante’s forgotten I due Figaro, suggest that this is the start of a summer of bel canto.
Wagner’s Lohengrin is not an unfamiliar visitor to the UK thanks,
in the main, to Elijah Moshinsky’s perennial production at Covent Garden.
Philip Glass's The Perfect American at the ENO in London is a visual treat, but the libretto is mind-numbingly anodyne.
Recording Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is for a
record label equivalent to a climber reaching the summit of Mount Everest: it is the zenith from which a label surveys its position among its rivals and appreciates an achievement that can define its reputation for a generation.
Few people who love opera in general and bel canto in particular have never heard the comment made by Lilli Lehmann, veteran of the inaugural Ring at Bayreuth in 1876, that singing all three of Wagner’s Brünnhildes—in Die Walküre, Siegfried, and
Götterdämmerung, respectively, all of which she sang to great acclaim—pales in comparison with singing the title rôle in Bellini’s Norma.
16 Aug 2005
Collectors have known this piece for more than a quarter of a century due to the MRF-pirate recording. Some have probably transferred these LP's unto CD-R and don't see a reason why they should buy this issue. Well, there is one and it's a compelling one. The MRF-sound was good mono, obviously culled from a radio broadcast. This Bongiovanni-issue however gives us the original brilliant stereo sound and it makes for a world of difference. I always liked the opera though I thought the first act somewhat lacking in inspiration; the performance only taking fire by Labo's first appearance. This set cured me of that impression while the choruses and brilliant orchestration (even somewhat too showy to prove Cilea had mastered his craft after Adriana where the violins are mostly doubling the vocal line) are now crystal clear and one quickly recognizes the inspired melodious ideas of the maestro.
Of course Cilea had moved on after the initial impact of Adriana which strangely enough disappeared after two years of initial successes on the boards only to re-emerge in the twenties, this time to stay forever. He too suffered under the attacks that he could only write a few tunes which he then consequently repeated endlessly. Therefore in Gloria he went for the uninterrupted flow of the music Puccini would use three years later in his Fanciulla. Nevertheless though the arias and duets are well hidden by orchestral postludes they still are clearly discernable and though they don't fall so easily on one's ears like " Poveri fiore " or " La dolcissima " they are still memorable after a few hearings; the final duet being especially worthwhile.
The recording has two exceptional singers in the title role. The American soprano Margherita Roberti shone ten years in dramatic coloratura roles in Italy and she is here caught at her very best : a supple rich sound which easily overcomes the many vocal hurdles. Labo (" probably one of the biggest voices in one of the smallest frames I ever saw ", was the definition a friend gave me who heard him frequently at the Met) is one of the tenors who are often talked about on opera forums with the epitaph " if he would be singing now etc ". This may be nostalgia but it nevertheless is true: the voice with the fine burnished sound is big, easily recognizable and even from bottom to the easy high notes. Maybe Villazon's sound comes nearest though the Mexican tenor has not quite the splendid top Labo had His role is not overlong (indeed the whole opera only lasts less than an hour and twenty minutes) but heavy with a lot of difficult intervals which he makes sound so easy. Baritone Lorenzo Testi is not completely in the same class as the two title main singers but he still brings with him a good and gruff voice well suited to the villain of the piece. Ferruccio Mazzoli on the other hand sings with splendid richness his few lines. In short this cast has nothing to fear from comparison with the 1907-creators Zenatello, Amato and Kruszelnicka; none of whom ever recorded a single note from this opera.
Personally I'd dearly wish to see a production of this opera (one of the many offspring's of the Romeo and Julia-theme, this time set in medieval Siena) but I fear neither the singers nor the right spirit to revive Gloria are available at this time. The bonus is an interesting one: some Cilea's songs sung by tenor Leonardo De Lisi (nice timbre; too much thickening of the tone above the staff) and soprano Anastasia Tomaszewska Schepis (a little too shrill under pressure). The songs are not particularly distinguished and sound a little bit too laboured; Francesco Tosti obviously had nothing to fear from Cilea who reserved his best tunes for his operas So I cannot say these songs are a warm recommendation for the CD with the complete chamber songs by these same artists (GB 2336-2) Still, the set is a must in every collector's cupboard.