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

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.

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’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Giuseppe Verdi: La Forza del Destino
29 Aug 2006

VERDI: La Forza del Destino

This cast looks quite promising on paper. However, I cannot honestly say these big names keep their promise, except for the comprimario-singers.

Giuseppe Verdi: La Forza del Destino

Renata Tebaldi (Leonaora), Giuseppe Di Stefano (Alvaro), Gian Giacomo Guelfi (Carlo), Giulio Neri (Padre Guardiano), Fedora Barbieri (Preziosilla), Melchiore Luise (Melitone), Paolo Washington (Marchese), Sergio Tedesco (Trabucco), Mario Frosini (Chirurgo), Giorgio Giorgetti (Alcade), Luciana Boni ( Curra). Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Communale di Firenze conducted by Gabriele Santini.

Myto Historical Line 062H114 [3CDs]

$31.49  Click to buy

The worst sinner is Gian Giacomo Guelfi, caught on a bad day. The voice is dry and without resonance, and Guelfi’s one solution is to force the voice and increase the volume as much as possible, eventually shouting in the cabaletta ‘Urna fatale’. By the last act there is some juice left in the voice, but he still gets away more easily with barking. His ‘Son Pereda’ and ‘Urna fatale’ are prime examples of mal canto, breaking the line and leaving legato aside. Guelfi was always a rough diamond that didn’t succeed in harnessing his huge voice and refining the musical style. Later that year he recorded an LP of the same opera with young Franco Corelli where at least the sound is exciting (Myto CD 953.132). The high notes, too, are better than in this live recording as he rather tentatively takes them but without the thickness and volume he has in the middle register.

Another disappointment is Padre Guardiano, sung by Giulio Neri. I had to look twice at the sleeve notes to make sure that this hollow sound, devoid of beauty and power, really belonged to Neri. Granted he only had one year and a half to live at the time of this performance, but he was only 47 in 1956, which is not at all old for a bass. Fedora Barbieri, another big name losing her voice before her 40th birthday, sings Preziosilla. In her first act aria, her high register is intact, but the bottom and middle are sung in a sort of growling, vile sound. By ‘Rataplan’ she has more or less recuperated to a more homogeneous sound from top to bottom.

We all know too well that Di Stefano’s lyric sound is totally unsuited for the role of Alvaro. By 1956 the voice is coarser, but the exciting timbre still has one spellbound. He starts out well with some incisive singing, but it soon becomes clear that the voice above the staff is foggy and that he has not warmed up. In Di Stefano’s vocabulary, the use of a first act of Forza is the warming up, so that by his big aria in the third act, he can give his all and something more as well. He doesn’t spare himself, sings too open as always and still makes a tremendous impression, alternating some fine pianissimo with some big forte’s. He’s fine too in ‘Solenne in quest’ora’ though he cannot match Guelfi in decibels. In the fourth act he simply gives up on stylish singing, trying to make as much sound as possible to match Guelfi so that the duet really becomes a shouting contest, won with one second by the baritone.

Not surprisingly, the best singing in this performance comes from Renata Tebaldi, with her use of a wonderful timbre for which the word ‘morbidezza’ was created. Leonora was always one of her best roles as she can float the voice in her two big arias and her convent scene, yet she has power to spare without having to shout herself hoarse. Indeed we hear the problems nearing that will mar her future. In ‘Me pellegrini’ she carefully takes a breath before tackling the high note. In the convent scene she is far less cautious but “the steam whistle” makes its entrance, and at the end of ‘Pace, pace’ she is flat. But, in this issue too, the better is the enemy of the good. Myto has included almost all of her well known 1953 performance as a bonus, and the listener can only be sad at the steadfast decline of her high register. Maybe the biggest surprise lies in the comparison between the middle voices. Though the sound is still very fine in 1956, it pales compared to the stupendous beauty three years earlier.

The experienced conductor, Gabrielle Santini, succeeds in sailing without problems through a performance, though many of these singers probably knew all too well that this was not their evening of glory and were therefore tempted to use some tricks. As was the custom in Italy of those days, the second Alvaro-Carlo duet was cut. Myto almost never gives an exact date of the performance. This one dates from the 8th of June, and some years ago was also released on the label Di Stefano lent his name to.

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):