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

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.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Henri Rabaud: Marouf, savetier du Caire
27 Aug 2005

RABAUD: Marouf, Savetier du Caire

Like many of the nearly forgotten composers of his era, Henri Rabaud (1873-1949) had his day in the sun. A pupil of Massenet at the Paris Conservatoire, and later its director, Rabaud wrote eight operas, the most successful of which was Marouf, Savetier du Caire, which premiered in 1914 at the Opera-Comique in Paris and soon became a world wide hit. But today a mention of Rabaud's name will likely draw a blank stare, even from well versed opera aficionados.

Henri Rabaud: Marouf, savetier du Caire [Marouf, Cobbler of Cairo]

Michel Lecocq, Marouf; Anne-Marie Blanzat, The Princess Saamcheddine; Franz Petri, the Sultan. Choeurs de l'Opera de Nantes; Orchestra Philharmonique of Pays de la Loire; Jesus Etcheverry (dir.)

Accord ACRD472142-2 [CD]

 

How welcome, then, is the release of a fine recording of Rabaud's biggest claim to fame. The French label Accord, recently the source of a number of fine new recordings of rare romantic works has, in this case, brought to compact disc a 1976 performance from the Orchestre Philharmonique des Pays de la Loire under Jesus Etcheverry. As is usual with Accord sets, the packaging is attractive and the sound quality of the first rank. The notes and libretto are in both French and English.

Marouf is based on a tale from the Arabian Nights. The title character, as drawn by Rabaud and his librettist Lucien Nepoty, must certainly be one of the most passive protagonists in operatic literature! Our Cairene cobbler isn't ambitious, clever, or brave. Rather he trusts to luck, or perhaps the will of Allah. When his "Calamitous Spouse" drags him before the law for beating her, though innocent, he accepts his punishment without a word in his own defense. He does at last choose to flee the harpy, and takes to the high seas with a group of mariners. But shortly thereafter he finds himself beaten and robbed far from home.

Then fortune smiles. He meets Ali, a childhood friend who'd made good. With Ali's help, Marouf is passed off as the richest of all merchants, who's treasure-laden caravan is just a few days distant. Convinced, the Sultan offers Marouf his daughter, the princess Saamcheddine. Naturally his story begins to crumble as time passes. Marouf secretly confesses to his new bride that he's in fact no merchant at all, but a poor cobbler. The gracious and beautiful Saamcheddine hardly seems bothered that she's been married off to a poverty-stricken con man. She joyfully flees with Marouf to share his destitute life. But such a tale could hardly end in this fashion! A chance encounter with a genie resolves all, and Marouf's supernaturally created caravan arrives just in time to save them from the Sultan's pursuing henchmen.

It is a preposterous story that is meant to amuse, rather than to move the emotions. In fact Marouf's servile manner and vocal lines filled with endless sing-song arabesque started grating on me after a bit--that is, until I encountered his beguiling Saamcheddine! The couple's Act 3 love duet is perhaps the musical high point of the opera. For a moment, one can vicariously feel Marouf's infatuation indeed.

"Modernism is the enemy" was a favorite dictum of the Rabaud's, so it's no surprise that his opera has little in common with the works of such near contemporaries as Arnold Schoenberg or even his compatriot Maurice Ravel. There's hardly a hint of the desperate passions found in contemporary verist works either, such as Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini or Montemezzi's L'amore dei tre re. Rather the name which most often springs to mind while listening to Marouf is that of his professor, Massenet--especially in that composer's lighter and more fanciful moods, found in operas like Esclarmonde or Cendrillon.

Like Massenet, Rabaud's music is suave, melodious, and meticulously crafted. Everything is paced with an astute sense of proportion. But the observant ear will also detect many fascinating "twentieth centuryisms"--hints of Straussian and Debussian harmonies that delight the ear and set his music apart from that of his more famous teacher. He also boasts a formidable orchestral technique.

Rabaud's opera doesn't aim for the heavens, but it achieves its more modest goals with such ease and facility that one cannot help but feel a certain delight in it. But I'm curious to know how he treated weightier themes. A list of his operas suggest a broad range of subjects, including tragic ones, such as his 1923 opus L'appel de la mer, based on the same story as Vaughan Williams's Riders to the Sea. One can only hope that the appearance of recordings such as this Marouf will spur greater interest in Rabaud's entire oeuvre, and lead to more revivals and recordings.

As to the performances, the principal roles are well cast. Michael Lecocq sings Marouf with more of an eye towards emphasizing the character's idiosyncrasies, rather than trying to achieve emotional expressiveness. Whether this is a good thing or not may depend upon personal taste. Anne-Marie Blanzat's Saamcheddine is, by contrast, both poised and youthful sounding--the perfect aural picture of an eastern princess.

Despite the scarcity of Marouf on operatic stages, there is a competing recording on the Gala label at a bargain price. It also boasts a fine performance by the Orchestre de Radio-Televsione Francaise from 1964 under Pierre-Michel LeConte. It's Marouf, Henri Legay, takes the opposite tack from Lecocq's, and sings the role with great expressive intensity. There are a number of downsides though. The sound is good, but not as clear as the new Accord set. More importantly, perhaps, are the presence of some cuts, and, as with all Gala sets, no libretto.

For American collectors, Accord got American distribution only as of last February, and currently many of their titles, including Marouf, are not available from principal online outlets. They are available both directly from Premiere Music Distributors, and from Records International. I contacted Premiere, and they assured me that Marouf would soon be more generally available, as it is already in Europe.

Eric D. Anderson

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):