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

Otto Nicolai: Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor
25 May 2006

NICOLAI: Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor

Klaus-Edgar Wichmann, in the booklet essay to this Capriccio recording from 2002 of Otto Nicolai's Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor, describes the work as having "asserted itself in the opera repertoire for more than a hundred years."

Otto Nicolai: Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor

Juliane Banse, Regina Klepper, Franz Hawlata, Heinz Zednik, WDR Rundfundorchester Köln, Helmuth Froschauer (cond.)

Capriccio 60 094 [2CDs]

$16.99  Click to buy

Well, it needs to reassert itself. In the US, at least, and probably anywhere outside the German-speaking world, Nicolai's vibrant, tuneful score has taken a very distant backseat to Verdi's late masterpiece Falstaff, adapted from the same Shakespeare play (not one of his most admired, either).

By putting the focus on Sir John from the first scene, Verdi and Boito loosened an undercurrent of human frailty that deepens the sometimes rough comedy of Shakespeare's original. Nicolai worked with librettist Hermann Salomon Mosenthal, and they start and end with the merry wives, with Falstaff making a grand entrance late in act one. In its way, this makes the comedy palatable, as the sheer outsize humanity of Verdi and Boito's Falstaff can evoke — as it does in your reviewer — feelings of antipathy for the bougie hausfraus who dump a foolish old man in a river and conspire to assault him with sticks. The German rendition focuses on good-hearted hijinks, in a lighter comic vein.

Nicolai's score has met a  fate not unlike many of Rossini's early comedies — it is best known for its overture, which sparkles with the opera's most melodic material, tunes that reappear in act three, giving a nice balance to the composition. Falstaff gets a rousing drinking song, Fenton a most delightful romanza, and the whole opera is tastefully peppered with duets, trios, and other ensembles. In other words, the music elicits smiles as much as the story. This opera needs to be staged more often.

Capriccio's recording has a fine cast. Juliane Banse, Andrea Bönig, and Regina Klepper sing the title roles with good humor, and the fine bass Franz Hawlata does a lusty take on Sir John. Dietrich Henschel, a solid if unexciting baritone, sings Herr Fluth (Ford, in the Verdi opera). As the young lover of Herr Fluth's daughter Anna, Jörg Dürmüller makes no particular impression.

The problem for this worthy set? The existence of a 1963 recording on EMI, with a cast including Gottlob Frick, Edith Mathis, and most damaging to the Capriccio set in the field of comparison, Fritz Wunderlich as Fenton. Just to hear his exquisite "Horch, die Lerche singt im Hain!" makes this older set eternally fresh.

The EMI set also includes the spoken dialogue, separately tracked for easy skipping for the dialogue-phobic. Capriccio spares such souls the effort by omitting the dialogue altogether, shaving about 10 minutes from each disc's running time. Helmuth Froschauer leads the Cologne Radio orchestra on the Capriccio set, and ably, but not quite with the verve of Robert Heger and the Munich ensemble on the EMI.

So go for the EMI set if the opera appeals, but if can't be found, the Capriccio recording certainly offers a commendable version of this regrettably under-performed work.

Chris Mullins
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy

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):