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

Pan-European Orpheus : Julian Prégardien

"Orpheus I am!" - An unusual but very well chosen collection of songs, arias and madrigals from the 17th century, featuring Julian Prégardien and Teatro del mondo. Devised by Andreas Küppers, this collection crosses boundaries demonstrating how Italian, German, French and English contemporaries responded to the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Laci Boldemann’s Opera Black Is White, Said the Emperor

We normally think of operas as being serious or comical. But a number of operas-some familiar, others forgotten-are neither of these. Instead, they are fantastical, dealing with such things as the fairy world and sorcerers, or with the world of dreams.

The Devil, Greed, War, and Simple Goodness: Ostrčil’s Jack’s Kingdom

Here is a little-known opera that, like an opera by the Swedish composer Laci Boldemann that I have reviewed here, and like Ravel’s amazing L’enfant et les sortilèges, utterly bypasses the usual categories of comic and grand/tragic by cultivating instead the rich realm of fantasy and folk tale.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Maria Callas as Norma
20 Mar 2006

Maria Callas — Three Remastered Releases from EMI

Of all opera singers of the last century, no one better dominated the genre’s star power than Maria Callas. During her thirty-four years onstage, she came to embody the essence of the term “diva,” both in her stormy personal life and her equally tempestuous stage career.

Maria Callas: Lyric & Coloratura Arias, EMI Classics 4 76843 2 [CD]
Maria Callas: The Platinum Collection, EMI Classics 3 32246 2 [3CDs]
Maria Callas Live, EMI Classics 3 31461 2 [8CDs]

 

There are those who can say they saw her perform live; then there are those, not even born when Callas died in 1977, who continue to idolize her through recordings. Either group will delight in three digitally-remastered releases by EMI. One is a single disc—a reissue of one of Callas’ first two albums. The other two are sets, one featuring three discs and the other a collection of eight, clearly enough Callas to keep young and old fans content.

Callas_Lyric.jpgThe single disc, issued as one of EMI’s Great Recordings of the Century series, is one of Callas’ first two solo albums, recorded with Tullio Serafin and the Philharmonia Orchestra (four additional tracks have been added to the original nine, these also conducted by Serafin but featuring the Orchestra of La Scala). All made in the mid-1950s, the tracks feature Callas at her prime. She performs (recording for the first but not the last time) arias for which she would become famous: “Io son l’umile ancella,” from Adriana Lecouvreur, “Ebben? Ne andrò lontana” from La Wally, and “Dov’è l’indiana bruna from Lakmé. The additional Scala tracks include areas from Medea, a role many felt (and still feel) she was born to sing, and from La vestale. If Callas ever performed with a conductor with whom she was in perfect sync, it was Serafin, who partnered her in these recordings with respect and care. Take, for example, the tempo Serafin sets for “Una voce poco fa,” allowing Callas all the time she wants for embellishing the vocal line. Listeners can compare a second example of Callas singing this piece on the eight-disc collection. Conducted by Nicola Rescigno, the tempo is quickened and it is Callas who must keep up, which she does ably, resulting in a far more exciting performance.

The three-disc set, Maria Callas: The Platinum Collection, includes a handful of the tracks that appear on Lyric & Coloratura Arias as well as arias from Callas’ second solo album recorded with Serafin and the Philharmonia: Puccini Arias (which EMI has re-released in its Great Artists of the Century series). These selections, recorded between the mid-1950s and 1960s, present Callas with a variety of conductors and fellow artists, including Giuseppe Di Stefano, the tenor with whom she would make her final tour during 1973-74. Her powerful and agile voice left memorable interpretations of characters like Norma, Manon (both Massenet’s and Puccini’s heroines), Donna Elvira, Gioconda, and Aida. Furthermore, following traditions started in late nineteenth and early twentieth-centuries, Callas appropriated repertory from both mezzo- and tenor roles. Her versions of arias for Eboli, Dalila, and Carmen demonstrate the rich colors of her lower range. Her rendition of Orphée’s “J’ai perdu mon Eurydice” is an exquisite treatment of Gluck’s lyricism.

Callas_Live.jpgThe eight discs in Maria Callas Live are fare for those who would hear the soprano in real-time performances on both the dramatic and concert stages. Complete with the applause and shouts of enthusiastic audiences, these recordings again come from the peak period of Callas’ career. The first six discs present excerpts from Norma (Covent Garden, 1952), Il pirata (Carnegie Hall, 1959), La sonnambula (La Scala, 1955), Lucia di Lammermoor (Berlin Opera, 1955), Medea (La Scala, 1953), Anna Bolena (La Scala, 1957), Ifigenia in Tauride (La Scala, 1957), Poliuto (La Scala, 1960), Un ballo in maschera (La Scala, 1957), La traviata (La Scala, 1955), Aida (Mexico City, 1951), Macbeth (La Scala, 1952), Tosca (Covent Garden, 1964), and Andrea Chenier (La Scala, 1955). The concerts were performed in Rome (1952), San Remo (1954), Milan (1956), Athens (1957), Stuttgart, Amsterdam, and London (all 1959), London (1962), and Paris (1963). Despite the digital remastering, these live performances, as one might expect, are less acoustically satisfying than the studio albums. Nevertheless, they offer wonderful examples to hear Callas at her dramatic best. Interesting in this collection is her concert version of the “Liebestod” in Italian.

As real fans will agree, one can never have enough Callas, but these three re-issues make a good start.

Denise Gallo*


*Author: Opera: The Basics (New York and London: Routledge, 2006)

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):