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

Giuseppe Verdi: Nabucco
16 May 2006

VERDI: Nabucco

The booklet somewhat proudly tells us that “a modern Italian opera-going public would likely walk out in horror if confronted with the avant-garde productions of many German opera houses.

Giuseppe Verdi: Nabucco

Ambrogio Maestri (Nabucco), Andrea Gruber (Abigaille), Paata Burchuladze (Zaccaria), Nazzareno Antinori (Ismaele), Nino Surguladze (Fenena), Carlo Striuli (Il Gran Sacerdote), Paola Cigna (Anna), Enzo Peroni (Abdallo). Chorus Teatro Municipale di Piancenza. Orchestra Fondazione Arturo Toscanini conducted by Daniel Oren. Stage direction by Paolo Panizza.

Arthaus Musik 101241 [DVD]

$32.98  Click to buy

Italian audiences lack the patience to tackle the maverick inventions of modern experimental directors. Here the director shows scant regard for any such post-modern interpretation of the dramatic action.”

So true, but I’m still not sure I myself wouldn’t walk out of this hotchpotch production that, moreover, is so badly sung.

To quote another sentence from the book, “Panizza’s production is a veritable feast for the eye and firmly in the Italian mould”. Colourful it definitely is but I don’t believe that “Italian mould” is a synonym for ridiculous costumes and ugly make-up. The moment Maestri appears, one simply has to laugh. Due to his huge frame, he is already not a snappy dresser; but the blue costume with some wings and a most ridiculous giant headgear only make him look like a surreal Aztec wizard. His big arms are painted in red all along (a blood-thirsty tyrant? even during his powerless days?). Andrea Gruber looks like a demented Medusa, her hair entirely in long dreadlocks while her face is painted yellow. When she appears in the last act to ask for pardon and to die, the yellow is gone. This has probably a very profound reason which however escapes me. Nazzareno Antinore looks not too comfortable in his Roman toga, a few hundred years before the costume came in vogue. The armies of the conqueror mostly resemble science fiction soldiers out of Flash Gordon. The loveliest moment comes at the start of act 3 when for several minutes one thinks one has stumbled in a performance of “Cirque du soleil.” A quick look at the box reveals one isn’t wrong very much as the ‘participation of Sonics acrobatic dance group” is duly noted. Mr. Panizza’s sets are stylized realism though a big plastic (or metallic) horse for Nabucco’s entrance once more is not my idea of the Italian mould.

I hoped the singing would be the redeeming feature but alas that too is not the case. The best of the lot (the most beautifully costumed too) is Nino Surguladze who has a rich darkly coloured voice (at least on DVD); but Fenena is hardly a role that shows us a soprano’s true mettle. Tenor Nazzareno Antinori is painful to watch and even more painful to hear. Antinori was never a refined singer but now he is a very old looking bawler without a sense of style or without breath to show some style. The High Priest has a short role too but that’s no reason bass Carlo Striuli rambles along with a most vile sound. Paata Burchuladze sings with the well-known hollow sound, forceful delivery and the lack of a real supple legato that have been his trade marks for at least ten years. With Ambrogio Maestri things at first somewhat clear up. He seems to have a big lyric baritone somewhat reminiscent of Mario Sereni. Still the timbre is not always homogenous and he really doesn’t dominate the crowds, not withstanding his big frame. There is no incisiveness in his singing the way Gobbi used to show though the elder baritone maybe had half the voice of Maestri. The opera may be called Nabucco but it’s of course Abigaille who runs the show. Gruber is handicapped by her ugly make-up and probably by the stage director’s orders. She pulls faces and acts like a small child imitating Snow White’s bad stepmother. She probably produces a lot of noise but her main weapon is just snarling. There is no beauty or even expression in the singing, just shrillness.

Conductor Daniel Oren is somewhat too conscious of the camera and thinks he has to deliver as well. Dancing on the roster seems to be a specialty and he already takes a bow after the overture. He belongs to the faster the better school and this doesn’t always work out very well: especially in the concertati the singing is not always concerted.

Colour, sound and TV registration are fine.

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):