Recently in Recordings
The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.
Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.
‘Can great music be inspired by the throw of the dice?’ asks Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, in his liner notes to the ensemble’s new recording of Josquin’s Missa Di dadi (The Dice Mass). The fifteenth-century artist certainly had an abundant supply of devotional imagery. As one scholar has put it, during this age there was neither ‘an object nor an action, however trivial, that [was] not constantly correlated with Christ or salvation’.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the
Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement
violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his
ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.
Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara -
Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.
It is not often that a major work by a forgotten composer gets rediscovered
and makes an enormously favorable impression on today’s listeners. That has
happened, unexpectedly, with Herculanum, a four-act grand opera by
Félicien David, which in 2014 was recorded for the first time.
This recording, made in the Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music in June 2014, is the fourth disc in SOMM’s series of recordings with Paul Spicer and the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir.
Félicien David’s intriguing Le désert, for vocal and orchestral forces plus narrator, was widely performed in its own day, then disappeared from the performing repertory for nearly a century.
This well-packed disc is a delight and a revelation. Until now, even the
most assiduous record collector had access to only a few of the nearly 100
songs published by Félicien David (1810-76), in recordings by such notable
artists as Huguette Tourangeau, Ursula Mayer-Reinach, Udo Reinemann, and Joan
Sutherland (the last-mentioned singing the duet “Les Hirondelles”
This new release of John Taverner’s virtuosic and florid Missa
Corona spinea (produced by Gimell Records) comes two years after The
Tallis Scholars’ critically esteemed recording of the composer’s
Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, which topped the UK Specialist Classical
Album Chart for 6 weeks, and with which the ensemble celebrated their
40th anniversary. The recording also includes Taverner’s two
settings of Dum transisset Sabbatum.
Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according
to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.
Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au
bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc
Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.
Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.
As the editor of Opera magazine, John Allison, notes in his editorial in the June issue, Donizetti fans are currently spoilt for choice, enjoying a ‘Donizetti revival’ with productions of several of the composer’s lesser known works cropping up in houses around the world.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and
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.
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.
28 Nov 2005
Watching this DVD, your reviewer suddenly recalled a brief exchange from the film Reversal of Fortune, when the Ron Silver/Alan Dershowitz character says to the Jeremy Irons/Claus von Bulow one, “You are a very strange man, “ and Irons, in the moment that may have won him the Academy Award, replies with eerie blandness, “You have no idea.”
And until the gentle readers of Opera Today avail themselves of the experience of viewing Rued Langgaard’s Antikrist, they will have no idea how strange it is.
It is very, very strange. But more importantly — it fascinates on a deeper level than mere stunned incomprehension could ever effect.
The production comes from 2002, from the Royal Danish Opera and the Danish Broadcasting Corporation. An American citizen has the right to let his mind reel contemplating the Metropolitan Opera and PBS putting on a similar show…
Briefly, Langgaard created a “religious mystery opera,” an allegory of the Antikrist wreaking havoc in the despoiled realm of modern society. Many a singer has a Rodolfo or Mimi or Marcello on his/her resume. How many have “The Mouth Speaking Great Things” or “Spirit of Mystery.” Camilla Nylund takes on the demanding role of “The Great Whore.” Before this production perhaps no other soprano had ever ventured this role on stage. How many have assayed it offstage is a very different matter.
The accompanying booklet has two extensive, well-written essays. Bendt Vinholt Nielsen’s introduction gives the sources and inspiration for Langgaard’s work, and Jorgen I. Jensen offers a more analytical approach to the work and its meaning. Your reviewer read these AFTER viewing the DVD, and can vouch that they both clarify some matters, but that the opera as performed here works well on its own, on its own very, very odd terms.
Nielsen succinctly describes the opera’s form: “There are no recurrent characters, there is no plot in the traditional sense, and the opera consists to a great extent of monologues.” Almost an oratorio? But an oratorio, with a row of singers in tidy eveningwear, would belie the composer’s vision. This production, with a fine cast of actor/singers, lands us in his surreal landscape from the first moment and keeps us there, willing prisoners, until the end. At the very least, the repeated references to our modern world as “the church- ruin of noise” provides a useful epithet for flinging at the TV when watching the nightly news.
Not much set is required. The bare stage suggests the austere interior of a Protestant church, and the singers at first look dressed for Sunday service. Sten Bryiel’s wild-eyed Lucifer calls forth the antichrist, and off we go. No film director is listed, so perhaps stage director Staffan Valdemar Holm decided to include a roving on-stage cameraperson (unseen), who zooms in for close-ups and follows the stage action closely. This heightens the immediacy of the production, not to mention its oddness.
And the music? One might think the score would be some harsh, modernistic screech-and -scream affair. Not at all. Langgaard’s textures are thick and at times streaked through with bi- or polytonality. For the most part, however, the music is recognizably tonal, but driven and nervous, hardly starting off on one theme before scattering off onto another idea. It makes for brilliant, unsettling listening, and Thomas Dausgaard leads the Danish Symphony orchestra with confidence, as if this were another “Turandot” or possibly “Salome.” The hall might have been unfriendly to voices, or the orchestration; for one or both of those reasons, the singers have been provided with unobtrusive microphones. The sound suffers a bit, therefore, from a lack of real focus as to origin. But better to have heard the music than to have it swallowed up by the acoustics.
So who should seek out this DVD? Obviously, fans of twentieth century should consider this an essential purchase. But at only 95 minutes, the opera has something for even those usually averse to more progressive works. At the very least, they will be able to say they have seen “The Great Whore” on DVD.
But who hasn’t?
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy