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

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.

A Resplendent Régine Crespin in Tosca

There have to be special reasons to release a monophonic live recording of a much-recorded opera. Often it can give us the opportunity to hear a singer in a major role that he or she never recorded commercially—or did record on some later occasion, when the voice was no longer fresh. Often a live recording catches the dramatic flow better than certain studio recordings that may be more perfect technically.

Karine Deshayes’s Astonishing New Rossini Recording

Critic and scholar John Barker has several times complained, in the pages of American Record Guide, about Baroque vocal recitals that add instrumental works or movements as supposed relief or (as he nicely calls them) “spacers.”

Knappertsbusch’s Only Recording of Lohengrin Released for the First Time

Hans Knappertsbusch was one of the most renowned Wagner conductors who ever lived. His recordings of Parsifal, especially, are near-legendary among confirmed Wagnerians.

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered, from SOMM Recordings, makes available on CD archive broadcasts of British and German song. All come from BBC broadcasts made between 1947 and 1952. Of the 26 tracks in this collection, 19 are "new", not having been commercially released. The remaining seven have been remastered by sound restoration engineer Ted Kendall. Something here even for those who already own the complete recordings.

Color and Drama in Two Choral Requiems from Post-Napoleonic France

The Requiem text has brought out the best in many composers. Requiem settings by Mozart, Verdi, and Fauré are among the most beloved works among singers and listeners alike, and there are equally wondrous settings by Berlioz and Duruflé, as well as composers from before 1750, notably Jean Gilles.

Matthias Goerne - late Schumann songs, revealed

Matthias Goerne Schumann Lieder, with Markus Hinterhäuser, a new recording from Harmonia Mundi. Singers, especially baritones, often come into their prime as they approach 50, and Goerne, who has been a star since his 20's is now formidably impressive. The colours in his voice have matured, with even greater richness and depth than before.

LALO and COQUARD: La Jacquerie

La Jacquerie—here recorded for the first time—proves to be a wonderful opera, bringing delight upon delight.

Urania Remasters Marriage of Figaro

Good news for lovers of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro: the famous Living Stereo recording, a co-production of RCA Victor and English Decca, is now available again, well remastered, on Urania.

Opera Rara: new recording of Bellini's Adelson e Salvini

In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.

Jonas Kaufmann : Mahler Das Lied von der Erde

Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.

The "Lost" Songs of Morfydd Owen

A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.

Early Swedish opera - Stenhammer world premiere

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.

Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 2

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.

The Tallis Scholars: Josquin's Missa Di dadi

‘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’.

A Venetian Double: English Touring Opera

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.

Walter Braunfels : Orchestral Songs Vol 1

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.

Lalo: Complete Songs

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.

New from Opera Rara : Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe

Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara - Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.

Félicien David: Herculanum

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Sergei Rachmaninov: The Miserly Knight
21 Dec 2005

RACHMANINOV: The Miserly Knight

In its 2004 season Glyndebourne put on a double bill celebrating avarice — Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and the much-lesser known The Miserly Knight.

Sergei Rachmaninov: The Miserly Knight

Sergei Leiferkus, Richard Berkeley-Steele, Maxim Mikhailov, Viacheslav Voynarovskiy, Albert Schagidullin, London Philharmonic Orchestra, Vladimir Jurowski (cond.), Annabel Arden (stage dir.).

Opus Arte OA 0919 D [DVD]

 

Each of these productions has been released separately on DVD; though the operas themselves are less than 70 minutes long, each DVD also features bonus material, including interviews with conductor, director, and stars. Even at less than full price, the 95-minute long The Miserly Knight DVD may not seem like a bargain, but for an outstanding performance of a rare repertory piece, it offers good value indeed.

In the first of three short scenes, all apparently only slightly adapted from the original source material by Rachmaninov, we meet a young knight plagued by debts. A moneylender suggests that he arrange for the murder of his father, a baron (the eponymous character) who hoards his fortune and keeps his profligate son on a tight budget. The young knight refuses, and decides to protest his case to the Duke. The second scene, a long dramatic monologue for the father, has no action whatsoever. Then, in the confrontation before the Duke, the father accuses the son of desiring his death. The son denies it (and is carted away by the Duke’s men in this production), and then the father collapses and dies.

Not exactly a narrative arc of Puccinian drama and characterization. Undoubtedly the challenges of staging the work have contributed to its neglect. Rachmaninov would go on to write one more one-act opera, Francesca di Rimini, and along with the earlier Aleko, all three works reflect his mastery of orchestral texture and drama, and give some evidence of his melodic genius. And yet none really quite makes a case for itself as a total success. Recordings led by Neeme Jarvi of all three have recently been released on the DG “Trio’ series, and they make for fascinating listening.

But seeing The Miserly Knight in this Glyndebourne production, directed by Annabel Arden, makes one wish more opera companies would search out interesting one-act operas to be paired with the more successful ones, as Glyndebourne did by presenting the Rachmaninov with Puccini’s classic. Director Arden has fully bought into the tormented drama of Rachmaninov’s score, and the dark, monochromatic sets effectively partner the excellent acting of the cast.

Arden’s riskiest move, and a brilliant success, involves an "aerialist” (Matilda Leyser), who dangles from ropes and clambers around the multi-level sets. An androgynous figure, with the skin and hair of an old man but the youthful, impish face of a youth, this figure appears briefly at the start and then throughout scene two, managing to enhance the long monologue, so brilliantly delivered by Leiferkus, without distracting from the focus on the knight. A booklet explaining the links between the two productions describes the aerialist as “the spirit of greed, the Baron’s conscience and death itself…” One can experience this supernatural figure on that level, or one can simply revel in the eerie effect created by Leyser’s amazing physical dexterity and truly astounding facial expressions.

Richard Berkeley-Steele, a fairly good Siegmund in the recent Barcelona Ring DVD set, does even better here, sounding comfortable with both the language and tessitura of the role. As the Duke, Albert Schagidullin creates a character in a few short lines, a self-satisfied, cold-hearted ruler who adopts a pose of fairness to cover his own avaricious nature (Arden has him claiming the Baron’s wealth after his death). Viacheslav Voynarovskiy sings with appropriate unctuousness as the Moneylender, a role that in the unexpurgated original apparently veers into anti-Semitic characterization (this according to a recent Gramophone review of a Chandos recording of the opera). Here, he is just one more loathsome figure in a misanthrope’s daydream…or nightmare.

Vladimir Jurowski, clearly relishing both the score and his own youthful, handsome self (those tresses are something else), leads the LPO in a riveting performance.

Glyndebourne by reputation is seldom an easy ticket to acquire, even if one happens to be taking the summer in the UK. To have a new production from last year available on DVD is wonderful in itself, and when it is the quality of this particular one, then generosity can be said to be at the heart of this Miserly Knight.

Chris Mullins
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy

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):