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

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.

Samuel Barber: Choral Music

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.

A Prize-Winning Rediscovery from 1840s Paris (and 1830s Egypt)

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.

Félicien David: Songs for voice and piano

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” with herself!).

John Taverner: Missa Corona spinea

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.

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

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.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

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.

Review: You Promised Me Everything

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’.

Donizetti: Les Martyrs

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.

Green: Mélodies françaises sur des poèmes de Verlaine

Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France

A worthy tribute for a vocal seductress of the ancient régime

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.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Benjamin Britten: Death in Venice
20 Apr 2006

BRITTEN: Death in Venice

Even if this recording were a failure (which it isn't), it is indispensable on account of its inclusion of about 90 seconds of music not present in the only other studio recording.

Benjamin Britten: Death in Venice

Philip Langridge (tenor), Alan Opie (baritone), Michael Chance (counter tenor), BBC Singers, City of London Sinfonietta. Richard Hickox, conductor.

Chandos 10280(2) [2CDs]

$35.99  Click to buy

The tenor lead, Gustav von Aschenbach, sings a series of recitatives reflecting on the events as they unfold around him. The first of these, “I have always kept a close watch over my development as a writer..,” occurring in the opening scene in which he makes the first of his many wrong decisions, was cut at the premiere and the recording on Decca/London. The broadcast tape from the second ever performance on 22 June 1973 (available on Opera D'Oro OPD-1418) omits the passage as well. This new recording conducted by Richard Hickox is welcome in that it includes the passage as well providing the first re-examination of the opera in thirty years.

Britten's last major work, Death in Venice is an intense opera but more intellectually than dramatically so. As drama it plays awkwardly. The appearance of Apollo in the first act, for example, is an unexplained fantasy unlike his reappearance with Dionysus in act two as part of Aschenbach's dream, which makes more sense. Death in Venice is also a drama of inaction. Aschenbach never speaks to the boy Tadzio who so obsesses him. In fact the only thing that seems to do something is the cholera epidemic that infects and kills Aschenbach. But musically, Britten's score is alive with drama; and this recording captures the musical characterizations of people, places and events that, as Aschenbach learns, mere words cannot express. Chandos also offers sharper and more detailed sound, the individual instruments clearly defined and adding character to the storytelling. One example is the percussion (brushes scraped across the timpani) that ingeniously create the sound of the steamer transporting Aschenbach and the Elderly Fop across the water into Venice. Another is the Venetian overture in scene 2 [track 5] that begins with a watery barcarolle leading into fanfares echoing Venice's golden age. Other themes, which are allocated to specific instruments that signify characters and events (like the vibraphone for the non-singing Tadzio or the sinister tuba theme depicting the spreading epidemic), are highlighted.

Vocally, the opera must be dominated by the tenor singing Aschenbach and by the virtuoso baritone who undertakes the seven roles that figure in Aschenbach's intellectual, moral and physical death. As Aschenbach, Philip Langridge (who at 66 was actually 2 years older than the role's creator Peter Pears was when he recorded his interpretation in 1974) has a fresher and freer voice than his recorded predecessor. His interpretation is also more involved. Right from the start, Langridge sounds as though he feels his various predicaments. Slightly stressing the word 'on' in the opera's opening words “My mind beats on,” he similarly colours each phrase to suggest a confused, distressed and eventually pain-wracked man. This naturally makes his Aschenbach more passionate such that the few moments when he nearly addresses Tadzio throb with intensity. Alan Opie's Fop is less caricatured than John Shirley Quirk on the previous recordings; but the percussion, as mentioned, almost doubles for the Fop's wheezing and sneering innuendo during this scene. Opie's is a dark voice and he sings the various characters Aschenbach meets with equal restraint. All less grotesque but no less sinister than is customary.

The most obvious difference is the advance in recording technology since 1974. Hickox is emerging as the new champion Britten conductor and the Chandos recording shows up the stunning orchestral clarity he ensures in performances and recordings allowing the listener to appreciate Britten's musical scene painting even more.

Michael Magnusson

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):