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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.
This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.
We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.
Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but
this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas
Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings
can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.
Bernarda Fink’s recording of Gustav Mahler’s Lieder is an important new release that includes outstanding performances of the composer’s well-known songs, along with compelling readings of some less-familiar ones.
Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.
This live performance of Laurent Pelly’s Glyndebourne staging of
Humperdinck’s affectionately regarded fairy tale opera, was recorded at
Glyndebourne Opera House in July and August 2010, and the handsomely produced
disc set — the discs are presented in a hard-backed, glossy-leaved book and
supplemented by numerous production photographs and an informative article by
Julian Johnson — is certainly stylish and unquestionably recommendable.
03 Jan 2006
Jonathan Lemalu: Love Blows as the Wind Blows
If one should believe British critics, especially English ones, Jonathan Lemalu is a major new bass; one of the greatest talents around whose qualities are widely proven by the fact this is already his third solo CD in a short time.
If one should believe British opera lovers, especially English ones, Jonathan Lemalu is a weak and uninteresting singer who has either paid himself for his CD’s or is otherwise the lucky recipient of EMI’s political-correctness as he is only recorded because he is a New Zealand-born Samoan.
In all probability both camps are somewhat right and somewhat wrong. English critics can be horribly biased and in the past they succeeded in having us believe for a short time that Peter Glossop, Geraint Evans, Joan Carlyle, Elisabeth Harwood and Rosalind Plowright would become stars of the first magnitude; and then we heard the results and we felt cheated. John Steane, the grand old man, of English singer’s critics is a little bit careful when discussing Lemalu’s operatic recital but of course heartily recommends it. A song recital as this one is even more difficult to judge as there are almost no opportunities for the singer to show his strength in either his low or high range. Most songs are smack in the middle of the voice and I cannot say I was stunned by it. Uninteresting, even bleak as his detractors wrote on some opera forum I won’t name. The voice doesn’t sound big (I never heard him in the flesh) but has a good focused core. He knows how to lighten it and has an agreeable piano like in “Come away” (track 18). But indeed, there are no myriad colours and it is not a very exciting timbre. In short, I’d say he is that kind of bass every opera house needs so that one can cast Jake Wallace or Ferrando from its own ranks. It’s possible his ethnicity helped him in getting engagements, but to me he greatly resembles, by the facelessness of his sound, some of his British predecessors such as Michael Langdon, Geraint Evans, Alistair Miles: singers who were not neglected by the major companies, singers one was happy to hear and see in the house though one quickly forgot them afterwards.
I’ll admit, too, that these songs do not stir me to ecstasy. Most of them are somewhat monotonous, without too much melodic inspiration, going along in a kind of Sprechgesang. I listened without looking at the sleeve notes and noticed that the Shakespearean songs sounded a little bit livelier, more interesting than the other ones. This may be because there one hears old-fashioned rhymes, which always make it easier for a composer to stir up some rhythm. But it can also mean that their composers were born before the days of dissonance. Some of the later songs are composed on excellent poems but I fail to hear any added value in the music of Barber, Britten and especially Bolcom (track 23 in particular). As a non-native speaker it struck me that Lemalu’s pronunciation when reciting or singing these songs is not always perfect and sometimes a little bit difficult to understand — a feeling I never have with another non-English bass, Bryn Terfel, who moreover has a more charming and rounded sound. In short, maybe those English opera lovers are a little nearer to the truth than the critics.