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

Lisbon under ashes - rediscovered Portuguese Baroque

In 1755, Lisbon was destroyed, first by a massive earthquake, then by a tsunami pouring in from the Atlantic, then by fire and civil unrest. The scale of the disaster is almost unimaginable today. The centre of the Portuguese Empire, with treasures from India, Africa, Brazil and beyond, was never to recover. The royal palaces, with their libraries and priceless collections, were annihilated.

Beyond Gilbert and Sullivan: Edward Loder’s Raymond and Agnes and the Apotheosis of English Romantic Opera

Mention ‘nineteenth-century English opera’ to most people, and they will immediately think ‘Gilbert and Sullivan’. If they really know their Gilbert and Sullivan, they’ll probably remember that Sullivan always wanted to compose more serious operas, but that Gilbert resisted this, believing they should ‘stick to their last’: light, comic, tuneful satire.

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

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Daniel François Esprit Auber : Fra Diavolo
27 Apr 2006

AUBER: Fra Diavolo
DONIZETTI: La Figlia del Reggimento

When these recordings first appeared during the mid-sixties, there was some eye batting. Why did Deutsche Grammophon bring these recordings on the market?

Daniel François Esprit Auber : Fra Diavolo

Gaetano Donizetti: La Figlia del Reggimento

Giuseppe Campora (Fra Diavolo), Cecilia Fusco (Zerline),Romolo Grigolo ( Lorenzo), Vito Susca (Mathéo), Alfredo Mariotti (Giacomo), Marco Stecchi (Lord Kokbourg), Margaret Simoncini (Lady Paméla)

Ugo Benelli (Tonio), Anna Maccianti (Marie), Alfredo Mariotti (Sulpice), Flora Raffanelli (Marquise de Berkenfield)

Orchestra Filarmonico en Coro del Teatro Communale Giuseppe Verdi, Trieste. Conducted by Arturo Basile.

DG 477 562-8 [2CDs]

$11.48  Click to buy

The company had built itself a solid reputation with its collaboration with La Scala and some of the best singers and musicians around (Bergonzi, Cossotto, Stella, Bastianini, Serafin, Karajan) and now it went for a provincial house and provincial singers as well. Moreover, by that time, unless one worked strictly for a specific home market, operas were recorded in their original language and here all at once one reverted to Italian translations. But worst of all were the scores used by Basile, which clearly came from the deepest Italian provinces. Decca and Bonynge had accustomed record buyers to full versions and other companies had followed. DG itself for instance was the first company to give us the five act Don Carlos. And now that same company reverted to editions one no longer knew were still in existence.

Fra Diavolo suffers worse: 66 minutes and the recording is over. This is less than half the music that the real Italian version contains (142 minutes), which was recorded at the Festival di Martina Franca and conducted by Alberto Zedda (available on Cetra). La Fille du Régiment fares somewhat better as it has only lost half an hour of music. Originally these recordings were offered as a 3-LP album and there was no talk at all of highlights, which indeed they are not—truncated versions may be a better definition as some arias and concertati are simply cut in half. Forty years ago these versions disappeared almost the moment they were available as if someone realized at DG what a travesty this was. The mystery remains why these recordings were ever issued. There was talk of a big coup for DG by alluring Renata Tebaldi away from Decca. And, as a confidence building measure her lover got to conduct a few recordings; but this story was never substantiated. Therefore I still fail to see why DG has decided to bring these versions once more on the market. And yet, and yet there may be a reason some opera lovers would want to buy these budget sets (though I’m sure nobody at DG has ever thought of that reason). At the time together with the rise of consumer society and as one of its consequences, a magnificent opera tradition was slowly dying in Italy. Very few young people were still interested or thought of making a career in opera, even if they were talented. There were other well paid and far safer jobs to be found and it is no coincidence Decca would advertise Pavarotti’s records with the slogan “the one great tenor to come out of Italy for a whole generation”.

But in the sixties there were still a lot of singers who had made their début just after the war and who earned a living in small houses, grateful for some engagements abroad. Those are the ones well-known with all collectors by the proverbial saying: “if signor X or signora Y had sung nowadays, etc..” I heard a lot of them as at Flemish Public Radio, where I started my career, there were often opera and belcanto concerts. No real stars were engaged—too expensive; but the provincial Italians came and went several times a year. Indeed, with the exception of Giuseppe Campora who had a well-publicized Met and Scala career, all singers on these recordings often performed at the legendary Studio 4 in the Radio Building in the city of Elsene. Some of these singers even are above the epithet “provincial,” the foremost among them being Ugo Benelli. He was simply born too early. Everybody who heard him in his prime (like in this recording) will attest to the fact that they rarely heard a better “tenore di grazia,” all sweetness, charm and technically proficient but with a hint of steel in his fine top notes. In short and I have heard both of them in the flesh, I’m not sure at all Juan Diego Florez is the superior singer. A pity, therefore, that Benelli’s role in one of his rare recordings was butchered. This is the aria with 3 instead of 9 high C’s. And his “Pour me rapprocher de Marie” is cut entirely. Another better than common singer is bass-baritone Alfredo Mariotti with his beautiful rounded sound and fine coloratura facility. Speaking of coloratura, both Cecilia Fusco (Zerline) and Anna Maccianti (Marie) do well. They are both still deeply steeped in tradition; and they never skip a high note when there is a possibility at the horizon. Both have a somewhat sharp sound with a hard edge whenever they sail upwards; but they plunge with abandon into their roles. Maccianti especially may not have the beauty of Joan Sutherland in her classic assumption; but there is a lot to be said for the “joie de vivre,” the spontaneity and the lightness of touch the Italian soprano brings to her role. But I doubt that will be enough to sell this recording.

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):