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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.’ 



Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Don Giovanni (Highlights)
24 Jul 2006

MOZART: Don Giovanni (Highlights)

Naxos reinforces its status as the classical recording world's bargain leader by releasing a single CD highlights disc from its complete Don Giovanni, recorded in 2000 and originally released in 2001.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Don Giovanni (Highlights)

Boaz Daniel, Renato Girolami, Torsten Kerl, Janusz Monarcha, Adrianne Pieczonka, Ildiko Raimondi, Ildiko, Regina Schorg, Bo Skovhus, Hungarian Radio Chorus, Nicolaus Esterhazy Sinfonia, Michael Halasz (cond.)

Naxos 8.557893 [CD]

$7.99  Click to buy

Now for a few dollars, buyers can acquire all the "hits" from both Prague and Vienna versions of Mozart's immortal score, performed by a fine cast of contemporary singers and the Nicolaus Esterhazy Sinfonia, led by Michael Halász..

Highlights discs probably have two markets - for neophytes who want to "dip their toes" into a work, and for the collector who has a complete set (or 2, 3, 4....) but would like to hear certain singers in certain roles. This disc should please both groups. For "toe-dippers," Naxos provides, in its slim booklet, a pithy note on the opera's composition and a scene by scene breakdown of the libretto, giving the context for each number. The complete libretto is also available online. With short bios of all the cast members included, Naxos really makes good use of limited space.

And the collector gets to hear some good voices. Bo Skovhus has settled into a successful career, possibly without quite reaching the star status he seemed aimed at a few years. His Don has a generic feel, in terms of characterization, but his is a handsome voice and he meets the role's requirements easily. The Don's servant Leporello gets an energetic run-through by Renato Girolami, and Boaz Daniel gives us a hearty Masetto without too much overplay of his "hickness."

At the far ends of the male vocal spectrum, Torsten Kerl's darker, more forceful Don Ottavio makes for an interesting contrast with the usual lighter tenor who takes on the role, and Janusz Monarcha thunders effectively as the Commendatore.

Recently the Calixto Bieito Don Giovanni came out on DVD, with Regina Schörg as Donna Anna; she takes on Donna Elvira here and the role seems a better fit. Her voice has an edge to it appropriate for the more troubled character. Adrianne Pieczonka sings Donna Anna with rich, substantial tone. Ildiko Raimondi at first strikes the ear as a little mature-sounding for Zerlina, but she manages to do well with her big solo, "Batti batti."

All in all, a well-sung, incisively played performance such as this one serves as more evidence that the classical recording industry can still make a profit on reasonably priced, quality product. Imagine that.

Chris Mullins
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy

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