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

A Baroque Christmas from Harmonia Mundi

A baroque Christmas from Harmonia Mundi, this year’s offering in their acclaimed Christmas series. Great value for money - four CDs of music so good that it shouldn’t be saved just for Christmas. The prize here, though is the Pastorale de Noël by Marc-Antoine Charpentier with Ensemble Correspondances, with Sébastien Daucé, highly acclaimed on its first release just a few years ago.

Christmas at St George’s Windsor

Christmas at St George’s Chapel, Windsor, with the Choir of St. George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, James Vivian, organist and conductor. New from Hyperion, this continues their series of previous recordings with this Choir. The College of St George, founded in 1348, is unusual in that it is a Royal Peculiar, a parish under the direct jurisdiction of the monarch, rather than the diocese.

From Darkness into Light: Antoine Brumel’s Complete Lamentations of Jeremiah for Good Friday

As a musicologist, particularly when working in the field of historical documents, one is always hoping to discover that unknown score, letter, household account book - even a shopping list or scribbled memo - which will reveal much about the composition, performance or context of a musical work which might otherwise remain embedded within or behind the inscrutable walls of the past.

Time and Space: Songs by Holst and Vaughan Williams

New from Albion, Time and Space: Songs by Holst and Vaughan Williams, with Mary Bevan, Roderick Williams, William Vann and Jack Liebeck, highlighting the close personal relationship between the two composers.

Puccini's Le Willis: a fine new recording from Opera Rara

The 23-year-old Giacomo Puccini was still three months from the end of his studies at the Conservatoire in Milan when, in April 1883, he spotted an announcement of a competition for a one-act opera in Il teatro illustrato, a journal was published by Edoardo Sonzogno, the Italian publisher of Bizet's Carmen.

Liszt: O lieb! – Lieder and Mélodie

O Lieb! presents the lieder of Franz Liszt with a distinctive spark from Cyrille Dubois and Tristan Raës, from Aparté. Though young, Dubois is very highly regarded. His voice has a luminous natural elegance, ideal for the Mélodie and French operatic repertoire he does so well. With these settings by Franz Liszt, Dubois brings out the refinement and sophistication of Liszt’s approach to song.

The Academy of Ancient Music's superb recording of Handel's Brockes-Passion

The Academy of Ancient Music’s new release of Handel’s Brockes-Passion - recorded around the AAM's live performance at the Barbican Hall on the 300th anniversary of the first performance in 1719 - combines serious musicological and historical scholarship with vibrant musicianship and artistry.

Vaughan Williams: The Song of Love

From Albion, The Song of Love featuring songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams, with Kitty Whately, Roderick Williams and pianist William Vann. Albion is unique, treasured by Vaughan Williams devotees for rarely heard repertoire from the composer’s vast output, so don’t expect mass market commercial product. Albion recordings often highlight new perspectives.

A new recording of Henze’s Das Floß der Medusa

Henze’s Das Floß der Medusa is in some ways a work with a troubled and turbulent history. It is defined by the time in which it was written – 1968 – a period of student protest throughout central Europe. Its first performance was abandoned because the Hamburg chorus refused to perform under the Red Flag which had been placed on stage; and Henze himself decided he wouldn’t conduct it at all after police stormed the concert hall to remove protesters, among them the librettist Ernst Schnabel.

Berthold Goldschmidt: Beatrice Cenci, Bregenzer Festspiele

Berthold Goldschmidt’s Beatrice Cenci at last on DVD, from the Bregenzer Festspiele in 2018, with Johannes Debus conducting the Wiener Symphoniker, directed by Johannes Erath, and sung in German translation.

Sandrine Piau: Si j’ai aimé

Sandrine Piau and Le Concert de la Loge (Julien Chauvin), Si j’ai aimé, an eclectic collection of mélodies demonstrating the riches of French orchestral song. Berlioz, Duparc and Massenet are included, but also Saint-Saëns, Charles Bordes, Gabriel Pierné, Théodore Dubois, Louis Vierne and Benjamin Godard.

The VOCES8 Foundation is launched at St Anne & St Agnes

Where might you hear medieval monophony by the late 12th-century French composer Pérotin, Renaissance polyphony by William Byrd, a vocal arrangement of the stirring theme from Sibelius’s tone poem Finlandia, alongside a newly commissioned work, ‘Vertue’ (2019) by Jonathan Dove, followed by an arrangement of the Irish folksong ‘Danny Boy’ and a snappy rendition of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ‘One Note Samba’ arr. for eight voices by Naomi Crellin, all within 90 minutes?

Gerald Finzi Choral Works

From Hyperion, Gerald Finzi choral works with the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, conducted by Stephen Layton. An impressive Magnificat (1952) sets the tone.

Herbert Howells: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has played a role in the evolution of British music. This recording honours this heritage and Stephen Cleobury’s contribution in particular by focusing on Herbert Howells, who transformed the British liturgical repertoire in the 20th century.

Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphony no. 21 (“Kaddish”)

Mieczysław Weinberg witnessed the Holocaust firsthand. He survived, though millions didn’t, including his family. His Symphony no. 21 “Kaddish” (Op. 152) is a deeply personal statement. Yet its musical qualities are such that they make it a milestone in modern repertoire.

Kenshiro Sakairi and the Tokyo Juventus Philharmonic in Mahler’s Eighth

Although some works by a number of composers have had to wait uncommonly lengthy periods of time to receive Japanese premieres - one thinks of both Mozart’s Jupiter and Beethoven’s Fifth (1918), Handel’s Messiah (1929), Wagner’s Parsifal (1967), Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette (1966) and even Bruckner’s Eighth (1959, given its premiere by Herbert von Karajan) - Mahler might be considered to have fared somewhat better.

Lise Davidsen sings Wagner and Strauss

Superlatives to describe Lise Davidsen’s voice have been piling up since she won Placido Domingo’s 2015 Operalia competition, blowing everyone away. She has been called “a voice in a million” and “the new Kirsten Flagstad.”

Nicky Spence and Julius Drake record The Diary of One Who Disappeared

From Hyperion comes a particularly fine account of Leoš Janáček’s song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared. Handsome-voiced Nicky Spence is the young peasant who loses his head over an alluring gypsy and is never seen again.

Jean Sibelius: Kullervo

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op. 7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn’t allow it to be heard after its initial performances, though he referred to it fondly in private. This new recording, from Hyperion with Thomas Dausgaard conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, soloists Helena Juntunen and Benjamin Appl and the Lund Male Chorus, is a good new addition to the ever-growing awareness of Kullervo, on recording and in live performance.

Mahler: Titan, Eine Tondichtung in Symphonieform – François-Xavier Roth, Les Siècles

Not the familiar version of Mahler's Symphony no 1, but the “real” Mahler Titan at last, as it might have sounded in Mahler's time! François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles present the symphony in its second version, based on the Hamburg/Weimar performances of 1893-94. This score is edited by Reinhold Kubik and Stephen E.Hefling for Universal Edition AG. Wien.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Gaetano Donizetti: Maria Stuarda
25 May 2006

DONIZETTI: Maria Stuarda

By sheer coincidence I attended a concert performance of this opera at the Vlaamse Opera in Antwerp at the same moment I received these CD’s.

Gaetano Donizetti: Maria Stuarda

Carmela Remigio (Maria Stuarda), Sonia Ganassi (Elisabetta), Joseph Calleja (Leicester), Riccardo Zanellato (Talbot), Marzio Giossi (Lord Cecil), Cinzia Rizzone (Anna Kennedy). Orchestra Stabile di Bergamo “G. Donizetti”, Fabrizio Maria Carminati (cond.).

Dynamic CDS 510/1-2 [2CDs]

$13.99  Click to buy

The performance finally succeeded in convincing me the opera has its moments. I yield to no one in my admiration for the master of Bergamo (one of the most beautiful cities of Italy) but I had difficulty in “getting” it. The melodic inspiration seemed somewhat thin to me and it didn’t come as a surprise that the opera was not very successful at its birth. Yes, the Neapolitan and later Milan censure made some drastic changes necessary as they refused to have a queen ordering the beheading of another queen; but this cannot be the main reason for the failure. After all, king François I had to become the Duke of Mantova and King Gustavus to become Governor Riccardo; and this didn’t prevent Rigoletto or Ballo each to become a staple of the repertory.

Luckily the Donizetti Renaissance and the advent of Gencer, Sutherland, Caballé and Sills made us aware of many a beauty in the Donizetti canon. In Antwerp, Maria Stuarda was sung by the Bulgarian soprano Darina Takova. She had been ill for some days, was replaced by Majella Cullagh (of Opera Rara fame as every true Donizettian knows) but was fully in command of her voice on the night I attended. Takova has a dark, creamy voice with a good strong top she was not shy to show off as if to prove to the audience she had really been ill and now was once more the moment to prove her worth. And, I admit she somewhat spoiled this set for me. Stuarda is a sombre drama of state and love and without the usual party music that lightens up the stage for a few moments. And I fear soprano Carmela Remigio is not in the same class as Takova or Sutherland or Caballé—ladies who were mistresses of some Wagner or Strauss at almost the same time they sang Donizetti. The voice of Remigio is clear and pure but too light for the role (which is a long and heavy one). There is little colour in the voice and she cannot dominate as she ought to. In the one scene where Donizetti’s melodic genius shines, the fine concertato with chorus in the third act, she has not the vocal strength to ride over all and everything. Worse, in the heart of the opera where the two rivals meet, Remigio is just bland at the denunciation of Elisabeth. Remigio is a more a lyric than a coloratura and she treads very carefully in an opera that needs to have all reins loosened. Only once does she take the higher option in an opera that cries for a few long held high C’s at the end of a cabaletta or ensemble.

Mezzo Sonia Ganassi’s sound belongs to the lighter variety, too, but has a bit more colour in it. Still, I cannot say I am really convinced by her interpretation. Here as well there is not much drama in the voice. Of course this CD is the sound track of a DVD which I have not seen. Some photographs in the set prove that both ladies (especially Ganassi) have the right look and thus could make an extra-musical impression on the audience.

Vocally there is but one real star in the set and that’s Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja. He has all the required goods—an exciting and very sweet timbre, a good top (though he too avoids too strenuous a top note) and some fine diminuendi. The voice sounds maybe a little bit too slender. But the recording was made in 2001; and since that time, I have personally witnessed the volume of the voice grow ( so has the body of the singer) without impairing the fine timbre.

Riccardo Zanellato and Marmzio Giossi are just right though not too exciting in their smaller roles.

Chorus and orchestra are ably conducted by Fabrizio Maria Carminati who succeeds well in keeping the forces together during the many ensembles but one has to admit that he has not the best of orchestras at his disposal and the chorus sounds somewhat thin.

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):