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

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

With this recording of Mozart’s 1771 opera, Il sogno di Scipione (Sicpio’s Dream), Classical Opera continue their progress through the adolescent composer’s precocious achievements and take another step towards the fulfilment of their complete Mozart opera series for Signum Classics.

Mozart’s Requiem: Pierre-Henri Dutron Edition

The stories surrounding Mozart’s Requiem are well-known. Dominated by the work in the final days of his life, Mozart claimed that he composed the Requiem for himself (Landon, 153), rather than for the wealthy Count Walsegg’s wife, the man who had commissioned it in July 1791.

Schumann and Mahler Lieder : Florian Boesch

Schumann and Mahler Lieder with Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau, now out from Linn Records, following their recent Schubert Winterreise on Hyperion. From Boesch and Martineau, excellence is the norm. But their Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen takes excellence to even greater levels

Hans Werner Henze : Kammermusik 1958

"....In lieblicher Bläue". Landmark new recordings of Hans Werner Henze Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge and Kammermusik 1958 from the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, with Andrew Staples, Markus Weidmann, Jürgen Ruck and Daniel Harding.

Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

Premiere Recording: Mayr’s Telemaco nell’isola di Calipso (1797)

No sooner had I drafted my review of Simon Mayr’s Medea in Corinto,

A Verlaine Songbook

Back in the LP days, if a singer wanted to show some sophistication, s/he sometimes put out an album of songs by famous composers set to the poems of one poet: for example, Phyllis Curtin’s much-admired 1964 disc of Debussy and Fauré songs to poems by Verlaine, with pianist Ryan Edwards (available now as a CD from VAI).

Giovanni Simone Mayr: Medea in Corinto

The Bavarian-born Johann Simon Mayr (1763–1845) trained and made his career in Italy and thus ended up calling himself Giovanni Simone Mayr, or simply G. S. Mayr. He is best known for having been composition teacher to Giuseppe Donizetti.

Matthias Goerne: Bach Cantatas for Bass

In this new release for Harmonia Mundi, German baritone Matthias Goerne presents us with two gems of Bach’s cantata repertoire, with the texts of both BWV 56 and 82 exploring one’s sense of hope in death.  Goerne adeptly interprets the paradoxical combination of hope and despair that underpins these works, deploying a graceful lyricism alongside a richer, darker bass register.

Gramophone Award Winner — Matthias Goerne Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge

Winner of the 2017 Gramophone Awards, vocal category - Matthias Goerne and Christoph Eschenbach - Johannes Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge and other Brahms Lieder. Here is why ! An exceptional recording, probably a new benchmark.

Véronique Gens: Visions from Grand Opéra

Ravishing : Visions, Véronique Gens in a glorious new recording of French operatic gems, with Hervé Niquet conducting the Münchener Rundfunkorchester. This disc is a companion piece to Néère, where Gens sang familiar Duparc, Hahn, and Chausson mélodies.

John Joubert's Jane Eyre

Librettists have long mined the literature shelves for narratives that are ripe for musico-dramatic embodiment. On the whole, it’s the short stories and poems - The Turn of the Screw, Eugene Onegin or Death in Venice, for example - that best lend themselves to operatic adaptation.

Through Life and Love: Louise Alder sings Strauss

Soprano Louise Alder has had an eventful few months. Declared ‘Young Singer of the Year’ at the 2017 International Opera Awards in May, the following month she won the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

A Master Baritone in Recital: Sesto Bruscantini, 1981

This is the only disc ever devoted to the art of Sesto Bruscantini (1919–2003). Record collectors value his performance of major baritone roles, especially comic but also serious ones, on many complete opera recordings, such as Il barbiere di Siviglia (with Victoria de los Angeles). He continued to perform at major houses until at least 1985 and even recorded Mozart's Don Alfonso in 1991, when he was 72.

Emalie Savoy: A Portrait

Since 1952, the ARD—the organization of German radio stations—has run an annual competition for young musicians. Winners have included Jessye Norman, Maurice André, Heinz Holliger, and Mitsuko Uchida. Starting in 2015, the CD firm GENUIN has offered, as a separate award, the chance for one of the prize winners to make a CD that can serve as a kind of calling card to the larger musical and music-loving world. In 2016, the second such CD award was given to the Aris Quartett (second-prize winner in the “string quartet” category).

Detlev Glanert : Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch

Detlev Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch should be a huge hit. Just as Carl Orff's Carmina Burana appeals to audiences who don't listen to early music (or even to much classical music), Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch has all the elements for instant popular success.

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

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 www.zarzuela.net 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):