Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Women's Voices: a sung celebration of six eloquent and confident voices

The voices of six women composers are celebrated by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and soprano Yunah Lee on this characteristically ambitious and valuable release by Lontano Records Ltd (Lorelt).

Rosa mystica: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

As Paul Spicer, conductor of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, observes, the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is as ‘old as Christianity itself’, and programmes devoted to settings of texts which venerate the Virgin Mary are commonplace.

The Prison: Ethel Smyth

Ethel Smyth’s last large-scale work, written in 1930 by the then 72-year-old composer who was increasingly afflicted and depressed by her worsening deafness, was The Prison – a ‘symphony’ for soprano and bass-baritone soloists, chorus and orchestra.

Songs by Sir Hamilton Harty: Kathryn Rudge and Christopher Glynn

‘Hamilton Harty is Irish to the core, but he is not a musical nationalist.’

After Silence: VOCES8

‘After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ Aldous Huxley’s words have inspired VOCES8’s new disc, After Silence, a ‘double album in four chapters’ which marks the ensemble’s 15th anniversary.

Beethoven's Songs and Folksongs: Bostridge and Pappano

A song-cycle is a narrative, a journey, not necessarily literal or linear, but one which carries performer and listener through time and across an emotional terrain. Through complement and contrast, poetry and music crystallise diverse sentiments and somehow cohere variability into an aesthetic unity.

Flax and Fire: a terrific debut recital-disc from tenor Stuart Jackson

One of the nicest things about being lucky enough to enjoy opera, music and theatre, week in week out, in London’s fringe theatres, music conservatoires, and international concert halls and opera houses, is the opportunity to encounter striking performances by young talented musicians and then watch with pleasure as they fulfil those sparks of promise.

Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players: a world premiere recording

“It’s forbidden, and where’s the art in that?”

John F. Larchet's Complete Songs and Airs: in conversation with Niall Kinsella

Dublin-born John F. Larchet (1884-1967) might well be described as the father of post-Independence Irish music, given the immense influenced that he had upon Irish musical life during the first half of the 20th century - as a composer, musician, administrator and teacher.

Haddon Hall: 'Sullivan sans Gilbert' does not disappoint thanks to the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Andrews

The English Civil War is raging. The daughter of a Puritan aristocrat has fallen in love with the son of a Royalist supporter of the House of Stuart. Will love triumph over political expediency and religious dogma?

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

Beethoven Symphony no 9 (the Choral Symphony) in D minor, Op. 125, and the Choral Fantasy in C minor, Op. 80 with soloist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester, new from Harmonia Mundi.

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

A Louise Brooks look-a-like, in bobbed black wig and floor-sweeping leather trench-coat, cheeks purple-rouged and eyes shadowed in black, Barbara Hannigan issues taut gestures which elicit fire-cracker punch from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Alfredo Piatti: The Operatic Fantasies (Vol.2) - in conversation with Adrian Bradbury

‘Signor Piatti in a fantasia on themes from Beatrice di Tenda had also his triumph. Difficulties, declared to be insuperable, were vanquished by him with consummate skill and precision. He certainly is amazing, his tone magnificent, and his style excellent. His resources appear to be inexhaustible; and altogether for variety, it is the greatest specimen of violoncello playing that has been heard in this country.’

Those Blue Remembered Hills: Roderick Williams sings Gurney and Howells

Baritone Roderick Williams seems to have been a pretty constant ‘companion’, on my laptop screen and through my stereo speakers, during the past few ‘lock-down’ months.

Bruno Ganz and Kirill Gerstein almost rescue Strauss’s Enoch Arden

Melodramas can be a difficult genre for composers. Before Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden the concept of the melodrama was its compact size – Weber’s Wolf’s Glen scene in Der Freischütz, Georg Benda’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea or even Leonore’s grave scene in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Giuseppe Verdi:  Missa da Requiem
29 Aug 2006

VERDI: Missa da Requiem

Verdi responded to the death of Rossini in 1868 by planning a collaborative Requiem Mass, drawing on the contributions of thirteen “distinguished” composers.

Giuseppe Verdi: Missa da Requiem

Melba Ramos, soprano; Gabriele May, mezzo-soprano; Michael Ende, tenor; Martin Blasius, bass. Vocapella; Aachen Symphony Orchestra; Marcus Bosch, conductor

Coviello Classics COV30512 [SACD]

$20.49  Click to buy

He, himself, would have the last word with the setting of “Libera me.” Although the Rossini Requiem was completed, it was not brought to performance, and a few years later, Verdi’s “Libera me” finds a new home in his own Requiem of 1874, a work honoring the death of the writer, Alessandro Manzoni, best known for his novel, I promessi sposi.

The nature of Verdi’s Requiem is, unsurprisingly, operatic. And though this may complicate its reception in ecclesiastical contexts, it is piously operatic; the innate drama of life’s passing is engaged in theatrical terms, but the theatre would be one where the flicker of votive candles and the sweet waft of incense linger in the mind, a stage on which one can see from time to time the dance of colored light from distant stained glass. The Viennese critic, Eduard Hanslick, wrote that “the study of old Roman church music shines through [the Requiem], but only as a glimmer, not as a model.” The glimmer is significant however, for there are, to be sure, certain things that set the work apart from the operas, especially the chant-like falsobordone recitations in “Libera me,” the quantity of choruses, and more particularly, their contrapuntal proclivities, proclivities that were in tune with Verdi’s contemporary views on conservatory education.

This present recording by Marcus Bosch offers an interesting mix of attributes. At the top of the list would be the brilliant singing of mezzo, Gabriele May. May harnesses her rich vibrancy to a mature and commanding sense of line. Her sound captivates, both with its beauty of tone and its flair. And in these qualities, soprano Melba Ramos can also share in large measure. Ramos also renders the beautiful octave leap in the final “Libera me” with memorable grace, ease, and control, a well-known moment transformed into something unusually fine. The bass soloist, Martin Blasius, fares less well. His thick sound seems “just big,” and his execution seems awkwardly to be of the lumbering variety. Tenor Michael Ende bridges the gap with some strong moments, but rarely rising to memorability.

The chorus, “Vocapella,” is unusually well blended and clear of tone, with carefully formed articulation. Opera choruses, acceding to the demands of the stage for power and volume, will often forgo these qualities for solistically strong singing, en masse. Thus, the chance to hear Verdi’s choruses here in a more decidedly “choral” rendition is welcome—especially in the richly contrapuntal sections—though admittedly, to some ears, a bit more Italianate warmth would be welcome, too.

There is much to admire in the orchestral playing, especially the expressive solo wind passages and the very satisfying, organ-like brass plenum. The acoustic, however is dry, and in some sections the ambience seems to constrain rather than enhance.

This recording then is not problem free, but at the same time gratifying in a number of ways. The ability to hear the details of Verdi’s writing with remarkable clarity is striking and welcome, and the beautiful singing of Melba Ramos and Gabriele May will reward repeated hearings.

Steven Plank
Oberlin College





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):