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

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 Simon 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.

A Resplendent Régine Crespin in Tosca

There have to be special reasons to release a monophonic live recording of a much-recorded opera. Often it can give us the opportunity to hear a singer in a major role that he or she never recorded commercially—or did record on some later occasion, when the voice was no longer fresh. Often a live recording catches the dramatic flow better than certain studio recordings that may be more perfect technically.

Karine Deshayes’s Astonishing New Rossini Recording

Critic and scholar John Barker has several times complained, in the pages of American Record Guide, about Baroque vocal recitals that add instrumental works or movements as supposed relief or (as he nicely calls them) “spacers.”

Knappertsbusch’s Only Recording of Lohengrin Released for the First Time

Hans Knappertsbusch was one of the most renowned Wagner conductors who ever lived. His recordings of Parsifal, especially, are near-legendary among confirmed Wagnerians.

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered, from SOMM Recordings, makes available on CD archive broadcasts of British and German song. All come from BBC broadcasts made between 1947 and 1952. Of the 26 tracks in this collection, 19 are "new", not having been commercially released. The remaining seven have been remastered by sound restoration engineer Ted Kendall. Something here even for those who already own the complete recordings.

Color and Drama in Two Choral Requiems from Post-Napoleonic France

The Requiem text has brought out the best in many composers. Requiem settings by Mozart, Verdi, and Fauré are among the most beloved works among singers and listeners alike, and there are equally wondrous settings by Berlioz and Duruflé, as well as composers from before 1750, notably Jean Gilles.

Matthias Goerne - late Schumann songs, revealed

Matthias Goerne Schumann Lieder, with Markus Hinterhäuser, a new recording from Harmonia Mundi. Singers, especially baritones, often come into their prime as they approach 50, and Goerne, who has been a star since his 20's is now formidably impressive. The colours in his voice have matured, with even greater richness and depth than before.

LALO and COQUARD: La Jacquerie

La Jacquerie—here recorded for the first time—proves to be a wonderful opera, bringing delight upon delight.

Urania Remasters Marriage of Figaro

Good news for lovers of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro: the famous Living Stereo recording, a co-production of RCA Victor and English Decca, is now available again, well remastered, on Urania.

Opera Rara: new recording of Bellini's Adelson e Salvini

In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Ernest Chausson: Le Roi Arthus
19 Jul 2006

CHAUSSON: Le Roi Arthus

I belong to the happy few (some would say ‘unhappy’ few) who ever witnessed a stage production of this rarely performed opera.

Ernest Chausson: Le Roi Arthus

Andrew Schroeder (Arthus), Susan Bullock (Genièvre), Simon O’Neill (Lancelot), François Le Roux (Merlin), Daniel Okulitch (Mordred), Garret Sorenson (Lyonnel), Donald McIntyre (Allan), Andrew Kennedy (Un Laboureur), Michael Bundy (Un Chevalier), Colin Campbell (Un Ecuyer), Apollo Voices and BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leon Botstein.

Telarc 80645 [3CDs]

$37.99  Click to buy

The work premièred at De Munt in Brussels in 1903 as no house in Paris wanted to perform it. A few years ago De Munt commemorated the première with a new production, a courtesy that was not given in 1984 to Massenet whose Hérodiade too had its première in Brussels. But Ernest Chausson is Art while with Massenet there is the lurking fear the public would actually enjoy the opera. I cannot say the experience was unforgettable but neither would I go as far as a colleague who defined Le Roi Arthus cynically as “Tristan und Isolde without the many hilarious jokes Wagner put in it”. Nor would I call it “sprawling, directionless” “singers drowning in orchestral waves” as The Gramophone does in its review.

In fact, and contrary to custom, I liked the recording better than the live performance, though the reasons have nothing to do with the quality of the performers. When playing the recording, one doesn’t have to digest the whole opera at once (this recording lasts 2 hours 47 minutes). One can replay a particularly fine part (the song of the labourer at the start of act 2) and one can even skip some of the indeed very loud and overlong scenes like the first scene of the first act that seems to last an eternity (in reality only 17 minutes). Chausson is not a very good tune smith: he never gets atonal but his melodies seem too laboured and, indeed, owe a lot in the duets of Lancelot-Guinevere to the master of Bayreuth. The composer worked for 7 years on and off to his score and it shows. Some parts like the prelude to act 1 and the impressive final scene are more in the mood of Chausson’s teacher, Jules Massenet, reminding us of the best parts of Le Cid. To me they seem far better suited to the story of Camelot than the many Wagnerian longueurs elsewhere.

The conductor, Leon Botstein, explains in a small essay why he loves the piece as he does. It is probably too much to ask of a conductor to restrain his orchestra a bit if the score allows him to wallow in big gorgeous sounds; but I wish Mr. Botstein would have restrained his forces a bit during the concertato of the first act. In the rest of the opera he is certainly admirable, not lingering in the duets and keeping an eye on the balance between orchestra and singers, which are definitely not drowned. As could be expected, he is handicapped by his performers. A young Alagna and a young Fleming would have been ideal but notwithstanding the generous contribution by a maecenas it is nowadays almost impossible to hire the few available top singers for a BBC-broadcast or even a recording, as the chances for further performances are almost non-existent and the rewards for studying far less difficult roles so much greater. Only baritone François Le Roux is ideal with his mellow voice as Merlin. Baritone Andrew Schroeder has the advantage of experience as he sang the title role in the Brussels performance but it is a serviceable sound of good size; English National Opera quality but nothing of beauty that would lead him to a major career. Even less beauty is to be found with Simon O’Neill. The voice is tight and not very appealing; and though he sings ardently one hears his is not the big lyric the role requires. In the many love duets, there is not much charm or sweetness that would explain the queen’s infatuation. Susan Bullock as Genièvre is a well-known English Wagnerian soprano in the Jane Eaglen-mould; that means quite a lot of volume, not too rich or unforgettable a timbre and definitely shrill in the upper register. All the main performers sing a very understandable French. In Brussels the only sinner against pronunciation was the one native French speaker. All small roles are excellently done with special praise for Arthur Kennedy as the ploughman.

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):