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

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.

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

With this recording of Mozart’s 1771 opera, Il sogno di Scipione (Sicpio’s Dream), Classical Opera continue their progress through the adolescent composer’s precocious achievements and take another step towards the fulfilment of their complete Mozart opera series for Signum Classics.

Mozart’s Requiem: Pierre-Henri Dutron Edition

The stories surrounding Mozart’s Requiem are well-known. Dominated by the work in the final days of his life, Mozart claimed that he composed the Requiem for himself (Landon, 153), rather than for the wealthy Count Walsegg’s wife, the man who had commissioned it in July 1791.

Schumann and Mahler Lieder : Florian Boesch

Schumann and Mahler Lieder with Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau, now out from Linn Records, following their recent Schubert Winterreise on Hyperion. From Boesch and Martineau, excellence is the norm. But their Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen takes excellence to even greater levels

Hans Werner Henze : Kammermusik 1958

"....In lieblicher Bläue". Landmark new recordings of Hans Werner Henze Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge and Kammermusik 1958 from the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, with Andrew Staples, Markus Weidmann, Jürgen Ruck and Daniel Harding.

Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

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):