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

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.

Jonas Kaufmann : Mahler Das Lied von der Erde

Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.

The "Lost" Songs of Morfydd Owen

A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.

Early Swedish opera - Stenhammer world premiere

The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.

Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 2

Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.

The Tallis Scholars: Josquin's Missa Di dadi

‘Can great music be inspired by the throw of the dice?’ asks Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, in his liner notes to the ensemble’s new recording of Josquin’s Missa Di dadi (The Dice Mass). The fifteenth-century artist certainly had an abundant supply of devotional imagery. As one scholar has put it, during this age there was neither ‘an object nor an action, however trivial, that [was] not constantly correlated with Christ or salvation’.

A Venetian Double: English Touring Opera

Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s fifteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.

Walter Braunfels : Orchestral Songs Vol 1

New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.

Lalo: Complete Songs

Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.

New from Opera Rara : Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe

Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara - Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.

Félicien David: Herculanum

It is not often that a major work by a forgotten composer gets rediscovered and makes an enormously favorable impression on today’s listeners. That has happened, unexpectedly, with Herculanum, a four-act grand opera by Félicien David, which in 2014 was recorded for the first time.

Samuel Barber: Choral Music

This recording, made in the Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music in June 2014, is the fourth disc in SOMM’s series of recordings with Paul Spicer and the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir.

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.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Richard Wagner: Das Rheingold
27 Jul 2006

WAGNER: Das Rheingold

Was it so many years ago that lovers of Wagner's titanic multi-part opus, Der Ring Des Nibelung, focused their passion principally on audio versions?

Richard Wagner: Das Rheingold

John Bröcheler, Henk Smit, Graham Clark, Reinhild Runkel, Chris Merritt, Jurgen Freier, Residentie Orkest, Hartmut Haenchen (cond.)

Opus Arte OA0946D [2DVDs]

$35.99  Click to buy

Even when video tape and laser discs ventured into operatic fare, Ring cycles didn't exactly crowd the market. Not so today. The classic Boulez/Chereau set is in its second DVD incarnation, and lovers of the traditional have had the Metropolitan Opera's versions on silver disc for a while. The Barenboim cycle is emerging, and the last couple years have seen a controversial Stuttgart set and a recent Barcelona production. Now OpusArte offers on DVD a Pierre Audi-directed Ring, with sets by George Tsypin, which De Nederlandse Opera staged in 1999. At this rate, avid Wagner lovers will soon have so much of their master's work on DVD to contemplate that they may need social services to drop by and remind them to eat, bathe, change their diapers....

Das Rheingold, the so-called prologue to the three-opera Ring, can fit onto one DVD disc, but Opus Arte has included a worthy bonus feature of 50 minutes length, covering the production of the entire cycle, requiring an additional disc. Most remarkable for its candid interviews, this bonus has glowing remarks from the Wotan, John Bröcheler, on the rewards of participating in the production, and somewhat more ambivalent comments from Jeannine Altmeyer (who appears as Brunhilde, and therefore is otherwise not to be seen here). The soprano found one of the key features of some of the stagings - having the orchestra basically on stage with the performers - necessitated less detailed singing than she would like to have offered. That cannot be judged on the basis of this Rheingold, but she also suggests that the direction had her lost between very specific blocking and otherwise ambiguous, undefined instructions.

Perhaps that last attribute explains why the opera as filmed, while quite impressive in its individual elements, fails to achieve the grander, deeper impact that a fine production of Rheingold can. Some broader integral vision might have pulled together the striking moments into an impressive whole. Instead, this intermissionless opera feels episodic, rambling.

The staging is dominated by a huge platform of metallic scaffolding with a Plexiglass surface. This tilts at various angles, rising and lowering (sometimes alarmingly so, with respect to the singers' safety). A secondary structure intersects at times to suggests different planes, or locales. On the one hand, each different setting does have its own design, in a way. At the same time, the set never really looks all that different, just shifted around, and no real sense of "scene" develops - with the exception of Alberich's underworld, with its amazing explosions of fire and the slaves, looking like chubby versions of the aliens from Close Encounters, scurrying about.

Eiko Ishioka's costumes manage to be striking without assisting in developing character. The gods wear brightly colored robes of vaguely Greek design, and also rather silly looking rubber headpieces where hair should be. The giants appear to be made of stone, with something of an Aztec warrior look. Loge wears black, and Chris Merritt has been directed to strike vogue-ish poses, for no discernible reason. The trolls have misshapen, bald heads, and their gold-tinted clothing sprouts unruly hair. Of course, the various populations of Wagner's world must be differentiated, but whatever alchemy that makes them all part of a larger, coherent universe remains absent here.

The performers make valiant efforts. Graham Clark, a stellar Loge in the Barcelona cycle, offers his trademark energy as Mine. Henk Smit's Alberich lacks that edge of pathos which makes the character come alive. Merritt seems constricted by the odd directorial vision of Loge, but sings more than capably. Impressive vocally, Reinhild Runkel has no glamour as Fricka, but still manages to impress more than John Bröcheler does as Wotan. He lacks both the character's seedy grandeur and an attractive, powerful voice. Smaller roles are aptly done, and Hartmut Haenchen conducts with authority if not imagination.

Later releases of this cycle may offer more than the Rheingold. For many, the Boulez/Chereau staging will remain the benchmark for this "prologue."

Chris Mullins
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy

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):