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

Grands motets de Lalande

Majesté, a new recording by Le Poème Harmonique, led by Vincent Dumestre, of music by Michel-Richard de Lalande (1657-1726) new from Alpha Classics. Le Poème Harmonique are regular visitors to London, appreciated for the variety of their programes. On Friday this week, (11/5) they'll be at St John's Smith Square as part of the London Festival of Baroque, with a programme titled "At the World's Courts".

Perpetual Night - Early English Baroque, Ensemble Correspondances

New from Harmonia Mundi, Perpetual Night. a superb recording of ayres and songs from the 17th century, by Ensemble Correspondances with Sébastien Daucé and Lucile Richardot. Ensemble Correspondances are among the foremost exponents of the music of Versailles and the French royalty, so it's good to hear them turn to the music of the Stuart court.

Maria Callas: Tosca 1964: A film by Holger Preusse

When I reviewed Tosca at Covent Garden in January this year for Opera Today, Maria Callas’s 1964 Royal Opera House performance was still fresh in my mind. This is a recording I have grown up with and which, despite its flaws, is one of the greatest operatic statements - a glorious production which Zeffirelli finally agreed to staging, etched in gothic black and white film (albeit just Act II), with Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi, if not always as vocally commanding as they once were, acting out their roles like no one has before, or since.

Hubert Parry and the birth of English Song

British music would not be where it is today without the influence of Charles Hubert Parry. His large choral and orchestral works are well known, and his Jerusalem is almost the national anthem. But in the centenary of his death, we can re-appraise his role in the birth of modern British song.

Camille Saint-Saens: Mélodies avec orchestra

Saint-Saëns Mélodies avec orchestra with Yann Beuron and Tassis Christoyannis with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Markus Poschner.

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories are designed to occupy the final three days of Holy Week, and contemplate the themes of loss, betrayal and death that dominate the Easter week. As such, the Responsories demand a sense of darkness, reflection and depth that this new recording by Stile Antico - at least partially - captures.

Mahler Symphony no 9, Daniel Harding SRSO

Mahler Symphony no 9 in D major, with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, new from Harmonia Mundi. A rewarding performance on many levels, not least because it's thoughtfully sculpted, connecting structure to meaning.

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

Winterreise by Mark Padmore

Schubert's Winterreise is almost certainly the most performed Lieder cycle in the repertoire. Thousands of performances and hundreds of recordings ! But Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout's recording for Harmonia Mundi is proof of concept that the better the music the more it lends itself to re-discovery and endless revelation.

The Epic of Gilgamesh - Bohuslav Martinů

New recording of the English version of Bohuslav Martinů's The Epic of Gilgamesh, from Supraphon, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck. This is the world premiere recording of the text in English, the original language in which it was written.

Maybe the Best L’heure espagnole Yet

The new recording, from Munich, has features in common with one from Stuttgart that I greatly enjoyed and reviewed here: the singers are all native French-speakers, the orchestra is associated with a German radio channel, we are hearing an actual performance (or in this case an edited version from several performances, in April 2016), and the recording is released by the orchestra itself or its institutional parent.

Stéphanie d’Oustrac in Two Exotic Masterpieces by Maurice Ravel

The two works on this CD make an apt and welcome pair. First we have Ravel’s sumptuous three-song cycle about the mysteries of love and fantasies of exotic lands. Then we have his one-act opera that takes place in a land that, to French people at the time, was beckoningly exotic, and whose title might be freely translated “The Nutty and Delightful Things That Can Happen in Spain in Just One Hour”.

Stefano Secco: Crescendo

I had never heard of Stefano Secco before receiving this CD. But I see that, at age 34, he already has had a substantial career, singing major roles at important houses throughout Europe and, while I was not paying attention, occasionally in the US.

French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Mario Del Monaco at the Bolshoi
29 Dec 2005

Mario Del Monaco at the Bolshoi

Myto has the good sense to call a spade a spade. This is an issue exclusively meant for the Del Monaco-crowd and not for people wanting a Carmen or a Pagliacci. The set has one enormous quality: a brilliant natural sound that hides nothing and doesn’t change the balance of the voices.

Mario Del Monaco at the Bolshoi
(1) Georges Bizet: Carmen
(2) Ruggero Leoncavallo: Pagliacci

(1) Mario del Monaco; Irina Archipova; Irina Maslennicova; Pavel Lisitian, Orchestra e Coro dell’Opera Bolshoi di Mosca, Alexandr Melik Pashayev (cond.) Live recording: Moscow, June 13, 1959.
(2) Mario del Monaco; Leocadia Maslennicova; Alex Ivanov; Orchestra e Coro dell’Opera Bolshoi di Moscow, Basiliev Tieskovini (cond.). Live recording: Moscow, June 20, 1959.

Myto 3MCD053311 [3CDs]

 

More than official Decca sets, where voices often were somewhat equalized, it shows the power of the tenor’s voice which often overwhelms most of the others on the scene. Pavel Lisitsian, who is a bit of a cult figure among Western collectors as he was so rarely allowed to leave the Soviet Union — one Met-performance in an untypical Amonasro-role — shows a fine though very idiosyncratically coloured voice; but it is clear from this recording that the voice is less powerful than on records. And one notes too that though the top is brilliant there are almost no low notes and his voice is simply not at ease in this role which better suits a bass-baritone. Irina Maslennikova as Micaëla has a rather small shrill lower middle voice and is dwarfed by Del Monaco but gets stronger the higher she sings. The only person on the scene who could give Del Monaco tit for tat is the formidable Irina Archipova, though as a result she sometimes forces the voice and becomes rather vulgar.

By 1960 decades of isolation resulted in Soviet singers more and more going for noise than for musicality. Lemeshev, Kozlovsky, Obukova all studied before the war; often with teachers who themselves had lived through extensive contacts in the West. By the time Archipova studied most of those teachers were deceased and almost no Western records were available. An exception to that rule were the movies by Mario Lanza and Mario Del Monaco, as Soviet censure considered them to be completely harmless. And a lot of Soviet singers took their clues from these examples.

And it was not the La Scala visit of 1964 with Carlo Bergonzi that changed Russian perception on Western singing. After all only members of the party’s nomenclatura got tickets for those much heralded performances; but ordinary Russians didn’t go crazy for Bergonzi, as he was just another tenor and not a star like Mario Del Monaco who had played the title role in Italy’s answer to Lanza’s The Great Caruso (in reality he only lent his voice) and in those popular movies on Verdi , Mascagni and that German pot boiler “Schlussakkord”. Therefore the coming of Del Monaco to Moscow was a major event in 1959 and the tenor met all expectations as he gave them what they thought was the one essential element of tenor singing: strong top notes, kept on as long as possible.

Del Monaco must have felt he was returning to his early days. At that time every high note in the Italian province theatre was still roundly applauded, if necessary in the middle of an aria or a duet and the Muscovites can easily compete with many an Italian theatre. As a result Del Monaco, who even at his best behaviour was always milking for applause, feels no restraint at all. There is of course no denying the richness of the sound, the formidable beauty when he remembers to sing like he did in some of his best moments with strong conductors. But time and again the coarseness takes over and he often uses an ugly glottal stop. In the second act he really has a field day, changing from Italian to French and vice versa whatever part of the role he remembers best in one of these languages. And that fine conductor Melik Pashaev has the great honour to accompany the tenor and keep the orchestra in check so that it patiently waits for the moment Del Monaco has finished his note and it can proceed further. Anyway, the Russians at the time were wildly happy as proven by the well-known video-recording of this performance (2nd and 4th act only).

The Pagliacci of a week later is stylistically better as he can sing in his own language in a role that will accept some sobs. And sob he does whenever he has the opportunity. And once again he is above all showing off his volume and his top notes. “Vesti la giubba” starts off really well, showing the intrinsic beauty of the voice in his last year of grace as all real Del Monacistis will agree with. But then, just after his “Ridi Pagliaccio” he breaks the line in “sul tua amore infranto” by taking a deep breath between “amore” and “infranto” just to score an extra-decibel on that last word. His “No, Pagliaccio non son” starts well and even a little bit restrained; but in the middle section of “Sperai, tanto il delirio” he simply reverts to shouting. The end of the opera is well worth hearing. Del Monaco has decided to improve the score and correct Leoncavallo’s forgetfulness. After “La commedia è finite” his shouts of Nedda followed by magnificent sobs repeated for half a minute probably led to her resurrection. This time Leocadia (and not Irina) Maslennikova has the honour of assisting the tenor and she has a metallic strong voice. The Tonio, Alex Ivanov, was probably a KGB-informer as I see no other reason why he got this role. He is wretchedly bad, more speaking in a dry tone, than singing.

The bonus is spread over two CD’s and is a recital Del Monaco recorded for Melodia on a ten-inch record. The arias from Otello, Tosca and Pagliacci are fine though he has sung them better for Decca; especially the Pagliacci-prologue but I’m sure Del Monaco-lovers will definitely enjoy the Moscow-version with a big “hahahaha” in the middle of the aria. And I’m surprised that Myto, always looking for the best sound possible, couldn’t find a better copy of that record as there is a giant tick in the middle of the recording that makes you sit up.

Jan Neckers

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):