Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Recordings

A Prize-Winning Rediscovery from 1840s Paris (and 1830s Egypt)

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. In recent days,

Félicien David: Songs for voice and piano

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” with herself!).

John Taverner: Missa Corona spinea

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.

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

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.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

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.

Review: You Promised Me Everything

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’.

Donizetti: Les Martyrs

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.

Green: Mélodies françaises sur des poèmes de Verlaine

Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France

A worthy tribute for a vocal seductress of the ancient régime

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.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

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.

Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail @ Hangar-7

We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.

Richard Strauss: Notturno

Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.

Bernarda Fink Sings Mahler Lieder

Bernarda Fink’s recording of Gustav Mahler’s Lieder is an important new release that includes outstanding performances of the composer’s well-known songs, along with compelling readings of some less-familiar ones.

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Hänsel und Gretel

This live performance of Laurent Pelly’s Glyndebourne staging of Humperdinck’s affectionately regarded fairy tale opera, was recorded at Glyndebourne Opera House in July and August 2010, and the handsomely produced disc set — the discs are presented in a hard-backed, glossy-leaved book and supplemented by numerous production photographs and an informative article by Julian Johnson — is certainly stylish and unquestionably recommendable.

Magdalena Kožená: Love and Longing

Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená.

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Amore e Tormento

Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’ 



Ruperto Chapi: Margarita la tornera
24 Jul 2006

CHAPI: Margarita la tornera

Is this the application of Peter’s Principle on Ruperto Chapi’s music as Chris Webber, editor of preaches, or is this proof of Chapi being “undoubtedly the most important Spanish composer of stage music of all time” as the sleeve notes tell us?

Ruperto Chapi: Margarita la tornera

Placido Domingo (Don Juan de Alarcon), Elisabete Matos (Margarita), Angeles Blancas (Sirena), Stefano Palatchi (Gavilan), Angel Odena (Don Lope de Aguilera), Maria Rey-Joly (La tornera). Orquesta Sinfonica de Madrid conducted by Garcia Navarro.
Recorded live at the Teatro Real de Madrid on the 16th and 19th of December 1999

RTVE Classics 65169 [2CDs]

$33.49  Click to buy

As so often, truth lies somewhere in the middle. Chapi was a pupil of Emilio Arrieta, the successful composer of the zarzuela Marina which he later reworked into a three-act opera (try the first Kraus recording from 1960). Like so many aspiring youngsters, Chapi went for eternal glory in opera and orchestral music. So did Leo Fall, Imre Kalman and Franz Lehar. And after less than rousing success they opted for a genre which suited their talents best. Fall, Kalman and Lehar became masters of operetta and Chapi wrote some good zarzuelas like La Bruja, La Tempestad and maybe his finest and surely his most popular work, the one act La Revoltosa. But contrary to his Central-European colleagues, Chapi never gave up on his operatic dreams. He died, almost 58, a few days after the première of this Margerita which he had conducted. It is the one of his many operas that is from time to time resurrected and it is based on a legend that with some variations was told in most catholic countries. A nun is seduced by a nobleman and leaves her cloister. Two years later, she returns utterly disillusioned and discovers that nobody has missed her absence as a doorkeeper ( = la tornera). All the time the Virgin Mary had taken her place.

The last revival of Margarita la tornera was a series of performances at the Madrid Opera seven years ago. The sleeve notes state that “numerous reasons led to extensive cuts . . . affecting various choral passages and some vocal numbers”. So one has to be careful with one’s judgment. This certainly is no zarzuela. The music has a slower, more earnest tone. Exciting rhythms, love choruses etc. are conspicuously lacking but so is the easy tunefulness of Chapi’s best works. The orchestration is brilliant but doesn’t quite compensate for the fact that the emotional moments don’t strike deep as the composer did find the orchestral colours but not the thematic material to go with it. Neither the love scenes, the quarrels and especially the apotheosis of the story are particularly memorable. I’m sure this can be a pleasant evening in the theatre though not one that results in humming the leitmotivs for days to come. The sleeve writer emphasizes the influence of Puccini but I think he underestimates the influence of the “giovane scuola” as a whole. Some ensembles remind me more of Leoncavallo’s Bohème than Puccini’s. And there are hints of Mascagni and Giordano as well. In short, not a very original score but still worthwhile investing in if you are tired of the old warhorses and are exploring Siberia, Amica, Zanetto, Germania etc.

Contrary to many recordings of the lesser known verismo works, this Margarita is cast from strength. Though Placido Domingo doesn’t sing the title role, his name and photograph on the cover stand first; an acceptable marketing ruse. The tenor is in amazingly fresh voice; his rich middle voice ringing out and maybe deleting some high notes nobody knows are in the score due to a lack of performance tradition. Of course it is well possible that Chapi like all zarzuela composers gave some leeway to his singers: according to the available singers one could either use a tenor or a baritone or even a mixed version. That was probably the version chosen in Madrid as it suits soprano Elisabete Matos, too. The Portuguese lady has a vibrant, passionate voice, full of colours in the best Mediterranean tradition and she is a worthy partner of the tenor. Her shrill shriek at the end of the opera where a fine high C is needed proves that she is not too sure above the stave as well. Good top notes, therefore, come from Angeles Blancas, daughter of baritone Antonio Blancas and the late lamented dramatic soprano Angeles Gulin. She has probably the finest scene of the opera in a rousing theatre scene where as Sirena she dances, sings and seduces and she has the voice and the sense of rhythm the music asks for. Angel Odena is a convincing Don Lope, the rival of the tenor for the temptress. Only Stefano Palatchi in his Leporello-role sings with a dry and boring sound and is not up to the level of the other singers. The late Garcia Navarro clearly believes in the score and leads the orchestra with conviction, revealing the many beauties of the orchestral parts. Due to the cuts the second CD gives short value, lasting only 36 minutes. Notes and summary are both in Spanish and English but it is a pity that the libretto itself is in Spanish only.

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):