Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Two song cycles by Sir Arthur Somervell: Roderick Williams and Susie Allan

Robert Browning, Lord Alfred Tennyson, Charles Kingsley, Dante Gabriel Rossetti, A.E. Housman … the list of those whose work Sir Arthur Somervell (1863-1937) set to music, in his five song-cycles, reads like a roll call of Victorian poetry - excepting the Edwardian Housman.

Roger Quilter: The Complete Quilter Songbook, Vol. 3

Mark Stone and Stephen Barlow present Volume 3 in their series The Complete Roger Quilter Songbook, on Stone Records.

Richard Danielpour – The Passion of Yeshua

A contemporary telling of the Passion story which uses texts from both the Christian and the Jewish traditions to create a very different viewpoint.

Les Talens Lyriques: 18th-century Neapolitan sacred works

In 1770, during an extended tour of France and Italy to observe the ‘present state of music’ in those two countries, the English historian, critic and composer Charles Burney spent a month in Naples - a city which he noted (in The Present State of Music in France and Italy (1771)) ‘has so long been regarded as the centre of harmony, and the fountain from whence genius, taste, and learning, have flowed to every other part of Europe.’

Herbert Howells: Missa Sabrinensis revealed in its true glory

At last, Herbert Howells’s Missa Sabrinensis (1954) with David Hill conducting the Bach Choir, with whom David Willcocks performed the piece at the Royal Festival Hall in 1982. Willcocks commissioned this Mass for the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester in 1954, when Howells himself conducted the premiere.

Le Banquet Céleste: Stradella's San Giovanni Battista

The life of Alessandro Stradella was characterised by turbulence, adventure and amorous escapades worthy of an opera libretto. Indeed, at least seven composers have turned episodes from the 17th-century Italian composer’s colourful life into operatic form, the best known being Flotow whose three-act comic opera based on the Lothario’s misadventures was first staged in Hamburg in 1844.

Ethel Smyth: Songs and Ballads - a new recording from SOMM

In 1877, Ethel Smyth, aged just nineteen, travelled to Leipzig to begin her studies at the German town’s Music Conservatory, having finally worn down the resistance of her father, General J.H. Smyth.

Wagner: Excerpts from Der Ring des Niebelungen, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi, RCA-Sony

This new recording of excerpts from Wagner’s Der Ring des Niebelungen is quite exceptional - and very unusual for this kind of disc. The words might be missing, but the fact they are proves to have rather the opposite effect. It is one of the most operatic of orchestral Wagner discs I have come across.

Wagner: Die Walküre, Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Simon Rattle, BR Klassik

Simon Rattle has never particularly struck me as a complex conductor. He is not, for example, like Furtwängler, Maderna, Boulez or Sinopoli - all of whom brought a breadth of learning and a knowledge of composition to bear on what they conducted.

Dvořák Requiem, Jakub Hrůša in memoriam Jiří Bělohlávek

Antonín Dvořák Requiem op.89 (1890) with Jakub Hrůša conducting the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The Requiem was one of the last concerts Jiří Bělohlávek conducted before his death and he had been planning to record it as part of his outstanding series for Decca.

Schumann Symphonies, influenced by song

John Eliot Gardiner's Schumann series with the London Symphony Orchestra, demonstrate the how Schumann’s Lieder and piano music influenced his approach to symphonic form and his interests in music drama.

Unusual and beautiful: Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts the music of Raminta Šerkšnytė

Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla conducts the music of Raminta Šerkšnytė with the Kremerata Baltica, in this new release from Deutsche Grammophon.

Diana Damrau sings Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder on Erato

“How weary we are of wandering/Is this perhaps death?” These closing words of ‘Im Abendrot’, the last of Richard Strauss’s Vier letzte Lieder, and the composer’s own valedictory work, now seem unusually poignant since they stand as an epitaph to Mariss Jansons’s final Strauss recording.

Vaughan Williams Symphonies 3 & 4 from Hyperion

Latest in the highly acclaimed Hyperion series of Ralph Vaughan Williams symphonies, Symphonies no 3 and 4, with Martyn Brabbins and the BBC Symphony Orchestra, recorded in late 2018 after a series of live performances.

Bach’s Christmas Oratorio with the Thomanerchor and Gewandhausorchester Leipzig

This Accentus release of J.S. Bach’s Christmas Oratorio, recorded live on 15/16th December 2018 at St. Thomas’s Church Leipzig, takes the listener ‘back to Bach’, so to speak.

Retrospect Opera's new recording of Ethel Smyth's Fête Galante

Writing in April 1923 in The Bookman, of which he was editor, about Ethel Smyth’s The Boatswain’s Mate (1913-14) - the most frequently performed of the composer’s own operas during her lifetime - Rodney Bennett reflected on the principal reasons for the general neglect of Smyth’s music in her native land.

A compelling new recording of Bruckner's early Requiem

The death of his friend and mentor Franz Seiler, notary at the St Florian monastery to which he had returned as a teaching assistant in 1845, was the immediate circumstance which led the 24-year-old Anton Bruckner to compose his first large-scale sacred work: the Requiem in D minor for soloists, choir, organ continuo and orchestra, which he completed on 14th March 1849.

Emmerich Kálmán: Ein Herbstmanöver

Brilliant Emmerich Kálmán’s Ein Herbstmanöver from the Stadttheater, Giessen in 2018, conducted by Michael Hofstetter now on Oehms Classics, in a performing version by Balázs Kovalik.

Liszt Petrarca Sonnets complete – Andrè Schuen, Daniel Heide

An ambitious new series focusing on the songs of Franz Liszt, starting with all three versions of the Tre Sonetti del Petrarca, (Petrarca Sonnets), S.270a, S.270b and S.161 with Andrè Schuen and Daniel Heide for Avi-music.de.

Une soirée chez Berlioz – lyrical rarities, on Berlioz’s own guitar

Une soirée chez Berlioz – an evening with Berlioz, songs for voice, piano and guitar, with Stéphanie D’Oustrac, Thibaut Roussel (guitar), and Tanguy de Williencourt (piano).

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Ruggero Leoncavallo: Pagliacci
07 Apr 2006

LEONCAVALLO: Pagliacci

No exact date is given for this performance and there is good reason for it. The sleeve notes clearly state that baritone Enzo Sordello (of the 15 minutes of world fame when the Met fired him for clinging to a high note longer than Callas) sings the role of Silvio.

Ruggero Leoncavallo: Pagliacci

Giuseppe Di Stefano, Clara Petrella, Aldo Protti, Luigi Alva, Enzo Sordello, Orchestra e Coro del Teatro alla Scala, Nino Sanzogno (cond.)
Live Registration 1956 Milano.

Myto Historical 061H108 [CD]

$10.99  Click to buy

While listening, I noted that the voice doesn’t resemble much the far throatier sound of Sordello in his best known official recording, the Decca/London Butterfly with Tebaldi, Bergonzi, Cossotto of one year later. The catalogue of Myto and the print on the CD, however, state that Sardinero was Silvio. If so, this must be one of the world records as the Spanish baritone was only 19 at the time. The La Scala site isn’t much help either. The very detailed and helpful archives are no longer to be found on the net. Still, I know that Pagliacci had a run of 6 performances and that Walter Monachesi also sang Silvio. So for the moment my money is on him and I’d appreciate any reader’s help in pinpointing an exact date on this live recording.

The sound is not always perfect. Sometimes it is a little bit murky and a few times it wavers. Luckily, it’s mostly the chorus that suffers, though that still is a pity as the La Scala chorus of that time sounded as if every singer could have a solo career. Such a CD’s (and the whole performance is on one) interest is concentrated on Giuseppe Di Stefano, though his admirers maybe possess this performance already as it was published previously on GDS and Movimento Musica. For those without this recording, I can only say the tenor is in terrific voice. Yes, the weaknesses of the time are there and they are well-known. He doesn’t cover enough and his open-throated singing sometimes results in squeezing the sound out. Above the staff, the voice starts thickening and is sometimes flat. But for most of the time, he sounds very fresh-voiced with that beautiful, unequalled timbre very much intact. Indeed, he sounds better than on his official recording of 1954. Maybe his is not the voice to sing Canio; but one wouldn’t be without this beautiful, lyric interpretation. And sometimes the experienced singer knows how to have the listener sit up when he unexpectedly introduces a beautiful diminuendo, where other tenors just bawl on as in his “tu sei Pagliacco” in a magnificent Vesti la giubba where he doesn’t use the “Gigli-improvement-sob” of “Infamia, infamia” during the postlude, as so many other tenors did (Del Monaco, Corelli). Yet, I admit I was quite surprised when he didn’t sing or sob the final “La commedia è finita” but prefers roaring it.

There is more to be enjoyed than the tenor, too. Clara Petrella is a magnificent Nedda. She was one of the three great veristas of the age (the other two being Olivero and Gavazzi) and maybe she had the best instrument of them all. A big, rich and luscious soprano with the small quivering of emotion in it that endears those singers to us. Though she never breaks the line, the emphasis and the voluntary pressure on the voice make her unforgettable. Yes, she can snarl but she snarls musically.

Baritone Aldo Protti probably was the favoured black beast of English critics at the time; but, Decca/London soon dropped him. He was considered to be dull and uninspiring. True he doesn’t have Gobbi’s inflexions and colouring; and he phrases far less imaginatively than his great contemporary, though he had far more voice at his disposal. Out comes a wonderful big stream of a voice, though almost always at the same level. In the house, one marvelled at the voice (and at the small size of the man); but on records, indeed, one could use something more.

Walter Monachesi is a good solid Silvio though he sings the role more like a Rigoletto than a young lover. And Luigi Alva as Peppe is casting from strength of course. No theatre nowadays would probably think of asking Juan Diego Flórez for this important second tenor role. A comprimario would do.

Nino Sanzogno has some original thoughts on tempi. Quick is better with him and already during the first measures of Canio’s entrance he is at loggerheads with Di Stefano for a few seconds. He soon slows down as he well knows that, in the pecking order of La Scala, he clearly comes behind the tenor; but, the moment Di Stefano is gone, he hurries up. This must be the fastest Ding Dong Chorus I know; and I marvelled at Petrella’s breath control when he rushed her through her aria. The moment Di Stefano appears, things once more revert to normal. All in all, a performance that surely must be heard. They don’t make them like that any more.

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):