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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.
24 Jan 2006
Violeta Urmana — Lieder
“Carmen, un bon conseil” warns Frasquita in the last act of the opera. So friends, heed my advice and don’t play this CD in your car when you are accompanied by someone who likes opera but is not crazy on lieder.
Urmana is no whisperer like Schwarzkopf or Dieskau and the results of a discreetly played CD will not convince you. But the moment you are safe at home (with or without headphones), turn up the volume and you will be rewarded. Urmana is a big- voiced opera singer and she makes no secret of the reasons why she gives a lot of lieder recitals. In recent interviews in the German press she emphasised that up to now she had taken care to avoid most madmen who think themselves a director; but, nevertheless, she is fed up with the pretensions of the lesser fools in that profession who think of a singer as just another prop on the scene and don’t even talk with their singers. They just order them around. And she hates the 6- to 8-week rehearsal time, as most directors waste everybody’s time concentrating on a few details. (As I write reviews for magazines and not newspapers, I usually visit the third or fourth performance when singers give in to ill-health once the première is over. I get a more than usual number of “just arrived by plane” replacements and I’ve never noticed any accident or even clumsiness with singers who have rehearsed a new production for one hour instead of 2 months). Ideally Urmana would be a great catch for an operatic concert but these are very rare nowadays in Europe. Orchestra unions are always asking for extra rehearsal and overpay for arias they can play blindfolded and one single pianist is cheaper for the management. Moreover, in the heavily subsidized European houses audience revenue is not very important. General managers favour lieder recitals because lieder are “art” and “operatic arias” are just fun. You could hear the public relax in the Brussels Paleis voor Schone Kunsten (Fleming) or the Ghent Opera (Studer) when the encores appeared and the pianist played the first measures of Adriana Lecouvreur or Rusalka. I think it no coincidence that Richard Strauss is so popular with opera singers giving lieder recitals.
Take “Fruhlingsfeier” (track 14) with its massive ascending cries of “Adonis, Adonis”. Most people, even knowledgeable opera lovers, will immediately believe you if you told them this is an alternative aria from Daphne or Friedenstag or whatever lesser known Strauss opera you care to mention. It is also an aria, pardon a lied, that proves that Urmana is a full-fledged dramatic soprano and not a singer with a mezzo tessitura and good top notes à la Bumbry or Verrett. After all, Urmana studied for several years as a soprano until a teacher convinced her she was a mezzo, as she has a good and warm voiced lower register. But the central part of the voice is indeed that of a soprano; and when I first heard her a few years ago in the Verdi Requiem, Michéle Crider sounded more a mezzo than the Latvian. A song like “Die Georgine” (track 4) is ideal for her as she can show the velvet in the middle register, the rich tone while at the same time she can open up and show the tremendous volume as well. Mind you she is not unsubtle. She can lighten up the voice and use a slender tone like she does in the amusing “Schlechtes Wetter” (Bad weather). She masterfully dominates the leaps in Berg’s Frühen Lieder and she shows her true mettle as a singer with an astonishing messa di voce in his “Traumgekrönt” (track 18). I can understand why some British critics are so severe as, according to them, the rapture of an Urmana concert derives “from the beauty of tone and not from understanding”. Nevertheless, anyone who has suffered and survived a Bostridge recital will cry out for some beauty of tone after such an overwhelming amount of understanding.
My only complaint is with the programme. If nobody wanted to take the plunge and introduce the soprano with an operatic recital, then an all-Strauss one would have been a better substitute. The Liszt lieder are not very inspired—dull is the correct word; and the Berg lieder are an anti-climax after the beauties of Strauss. So when is that operatic recital coming?