Recently in Recordings
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.
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.
‘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’.
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.
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.
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.
Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara -
Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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.
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.
Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au
bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc
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.
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’.
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.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and
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.
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.
16 May 2006
PUCCINI: Madama Butterfly
All is right and good in the world of opera as long as the Arena di Verona puts on vivid productions, in questionable taste, with impassioned singers pouring out the volume, in questionable taste, and the audience roaring its approval - in questionable taste.
several vintage 1980s' stagings appeared on DVD; your reviewer heartily
recommends a viewing of the Tosca
with Eva Marton, Giacomo Aragall, and Ingvar Wixell. The energetic
scenery-chewing here has a reckless, dentist-be-damned quality, as
every scene is built into a rock face - including Scarpia's office!
Just to see Wixell fly flamboyantly into the chapel, wearing a purple
cape and pumps to match, makes the show a classic.
A Madama Butterfly from July
2004 becomes the latest to appear from this hallowed ground of
over-the-top spectacle. None other than Franco Zeffirelli supplies the
staging, with the innovation of an opening setting in the very busy
streets of Nagasaki, before a rock face splits in two and the future
home of the Pinkerton's slides into view. The pedestrians all seem to
be meeting each other, as they wave delightedly and scramble around.
Goro has the blueprints to the traditional Japanese house (?!?!)
to show Pinkerton before they get around to climbing the hill. In yet
another trademark Zeffirelli touch, quite a few handsome young men
stroll languidly through both the openings of both acts one and two
(this staging takes two intermissions). A younger male makes a
memorable appearance behind the Pinkerton of Marcello Giordani during
his first aria; the tyke not even trying to stifle a huge yawn.
Overall, perhaps a little less busy stage business might have
suited this intimate drama - but it is Verona!
For an ostensibly "traditional" staging, Zeffirelli makes the odd
decision to have Butterfly make her entrance to her future home from
its interior! Yes, she and her attendees appear behind the sliding
doors and advance toward the waiting Pinkerton and Sharpless. Our
Cho-cho-san (as the subtitles spell it, and as actually matches most
romanizations of that sound in Japanese), Fiorenza Cedolins, goes for
the high ending - it is Verona, after all - and holds it for such a
long time that the Verona audience breaks out into wild, noisy
approval. As recorded, the note could have used just a tiny boost
up into the pitch, but it makes an exciting impression anyway.
The sound throughout features a slight echo to the most strenuous
exertions of the singers, and one suspects an amplification system to
deal with the large Verona arena. Even so, none of the singers
(including the Sharpless of Juan Pons) provides much evidence of an
interest in softer singing, with Cedolins in particular becoming quite
wearing on the ears with her mostly unmodulated volume. She also lacks
fragility in her portrayal, though she really convinces in some of
Butterfly's outbursts at Suzuki in act two - the servant might well
have fled for her life at the next assault. Though she has some
impressive moments, ultimately Cedolins's Butterfly is more an assault
on the ears than on the heart.
Giordani makes a tall, attractive Pinkerton, although he appears to
have green highlights in his hair. Is that supposed to make him seem
blond, to explain the golden-haired tyke who appears as his son later?
Or is Zeffirelli suggesting that as a sailor, he has algae growing in
his hair? Only Franco knows. Most importantly, Giordani (who will sing
this role for the opening of the Met's 2007 season) offers some
handsome singing, although he gets a little dry at the end of the love
duet. Pons's stage deportment suggests that Sharpless is more peeved at
being drawn into this drama than anything else, but he is in good voice.
Zeffirelli's most amazing conception occurs during the Humming chorus,
when four ghostly wraiths appear in flowing, dark-colored shifts to
offer an interpretive dance. They then take their place on rock ledges
around Butterfly's house to watch the tragedy unfold. When Butterfly
finally takes out her father's sword, these spectral figures join her
in her fatal collapse. Perhaps the dramatic impact would be greater if
they didn't have what appear to be oversized chicken bones poking
through their messy gray hair. In fact, they seem to have wandered on
stage from a production of Macbeth.
Daniel Oren, not a conductor done any favors by the director's
predilection for close-ups, leads a reading of the score as exuberant,
and as unsubtle, as the production. He even allows a most grating break
in the music before the flower duet. But then again, fighting the
Verona audience's urge to reward loud singing at musical climaxes might
well be a losing battle.
Does the review sound negative? It shouldn't necessarily - if one knows
the Verona style, this DVD makes for a most entertaining diversion.
Puccini's masterpiece is indestructible, it seems - and this DVD, if
nothing else, offers ample proof of that.
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy