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

Pan-European Orpheus : Julian Prégardien

"Orpheus I am!" - An unusual but very well chosen collection of songs, arias and madrigals from the 17th century, featuring Julian Prégardien and Teatro del mondo. Devised by Andreas Küppers, this collection crosses boundaries demonstrating how Italian, German, French and English contemporaries responded to the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Laci Boldemann’s Opera Black Is White, Said the Emperor

We normally think of operas as being serious or comical. But a number of operas-some familiar, others forgotten-are neither of these. Instead, they are fantastical, dealing with such things as the fairy world and sorcerers, or with the world of dreams.

The Devil, Greed, War, and Simple Goodness: Ostrčil’s Jack’s Kingdom

Here is a little-known opera that, like an opera by the Swedish composer Laci Boldemann that I have reviewed here, and like Ravel’s amazing L’enfant et les sortilèges, utterly bypasses the usual categories of comic and grand/tragic by cultivating instead the rich realm of fantasy and folk tale.

Grands motets de Lalande

Majesté, a new recording by Le Poème Harmonique, led by Vincent Dumestre, of music by Michel-Richard de Lalande (1657-1726) new from Alpha Classics. Le Poème Harmonique are regular visitors to London, appreciated for the variety of their programes. On Friday this week, (11/5) they'll be at St John's Smith Square as part of the London Festival of Baroque, with a programme titled "At the World's Courts".

Perpetual Night - Early English Baroque, Ensemble Correspondances

New from Harmonia Mundi, Perpetual Night. a superb recording of ayres and songs from the 17th century, by Ensemble Correspondances with Sébastien Daucé and Lucile Richardot. Ensemble Correspondances are among the foremost exponents of the music of Versailles and the French royalty, so it's good to hear them turn to the music of the Stuart court.

Maria Callas: Tosca 1964: A film by Holger Preusse

When I reviewed Tosca at Covent Garden in January this year for Opera Today, Maria Callas’s 1964 Royal Opera House performance was still fresh in my mind. This is a recording I have grown up with and which, despite its flaws, is one of the greatest operatic statements - a glorious production which Zeffirelli finally agreed to staging, etched in gothic black and white film (albeit just Act II), with Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi, if not always as vocally commanding as they once were, acting out their roles like no one has before, or since.

Hubert Parry and the birth of English Song

British music would not be where it is today without the influence of Charles Hubert Parry. His large choral and orchestral works are well known, and his Jerusalem is almost the national anthem. But in the centenary of his death, we can re-appraise his role in the birth of modern British song.

Camille Saint-Saens: Mélodies avec orchestra

Saint-Saëns Mélodies avec orchestra with Yann Beuron and Tassis Christoyannis with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Markus Poschner.

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories are designed to occupy the final three days of Holy Week, and contemplate the themes of loss, betrayal and death that dominate the Easter week. As such, the Responsories demand a sense of darkness, reflection and depth that this new recording by Stile Antico - at least partially - captures.

Mahler Symphony no 9, Daniel Harding SRSO

Mahler Symphony no 9 in D major, with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, new from Harmonia Mundi. A rewarding performance on many levels, not least because it's thoughtfully sculpted, connecting structure to meaning.

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

Winterreise by Mark Padmore

Schubert's Winterreise is almost certainly the most performed Lieder cycle in the repertoire. Thousands of performances and hundreds of recordings ! But Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout's recording for Harmonia Mundi is proof of concept that the better the music the more it lends itself to re-discovery and endless revelation.

The Epic of Gilgamesh - Bohuslav Martinů

New recording of the English version of Bohuslav Martinů's The Epic of Gilgamesh, from Supraphon, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck. This is the world premiere recording of the text in English, the original language in which it was written.

Maybe the Best L’heure espagnole Yet

The new recording, from Munich, has features in common with one from Stuttgart that I greatly enjoyed and reviewed here: the singers are all native French-speakers, the orchestra is associated with a German radio channel, we are hearing an actual performance (or in this case an edited version from several performances, in April 2016), and the recording is released by the orchestra itself or its institutional parent.

Stéphanie d’Oustrac in Two Exotic Masterpieces by Maurice Ravel

The two works on this CD make an apt and welcome pair. First we have Ravel’s sumptuous three-song cycle about the mysteries of love and fantasies of exotic lands. Then we have his one-act opera that takes place in a land that, to French people at the time, was beckoningly exotic, and whose title might be freely translated “The Nutty and Delightful Things That Can Happen in Spain in Just One Hour”.

Stefano Secco: Crescendo

I had never heard of Stefano Secco before receiving this CD. But I see that, at age 34, he already has had a substantial career, singing major roles at important houses throughout Europe and, while I was not paying attention, occasionally in the US.

French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Domenico Cimarosa: Cleopatra
20 Sep 2006

CIMAROSA: Cleopatra

The first thing I noticed in the liner notes was the bold print claiming Cimarosa was born in 1797 and died in 1848, which correspond exactly with Donizetti’s lifespan.

Domenico Cimarosa: Cleopatra

Luisa Giannini (Cleopatra), Patrizia Morandini (Antonio), Luca Favaron (Domizio), Maria Pia Moriyon (Arsinoe). Orchestra e Cora Città di Adria conducted by Franco Piva.

Bongiovanni GB2395/96-2 [2CDs]

$35.99  Click to buy

However, my encyclopaedia confirmed that Cimarosa was an 18th century composer, born in 1749 and dying in 1801. The notes themselves are always of interest in a Bongiovanni issue, though one better understand some Italian as the English translation is often ridiculous. We are told that soprano Giannini sang a lot with the ‘conduction’ M. Boemi, ‘the conduction’ Sangiorgi etc. probably all ‘conductioners’ instead of just plain conductors. Small roles are called ‘side roles’. The tenor in Zauberflöte is a certain Taminus, etc.

The opera itself (called more exactly azione teatrale) is brief, just two acts lasting barely 100 minutes. It premièred in St. Petersburg, where Catherine II tried to raise the cultural standard of her court. But to appease the court, it couldn’t be too long or too difficult, and the plot cannot be complicated. Certainly in this plot nothing really happens. Marc Antony prepares himself to do battle to Octavius and to his agreeable surprise Cleopatra arrives. Thus ends act one. He wants to leave and she wants to accompany him. He at first refuses and then consents. End of opera.

The opera is just one big sequence of aria’s, a few duets, one quartet, and of course the inevitable ballet and march. The music is pleasant, not very original and could be the work of any composer of the time, be it Mosca, Nicolini, Righini, Portogallo or Cimarosa himself. Better than run-of-the-mill are the ballet and the fine duet at the end of the first act. Yet there is one piece of genius: a very beautiful and melodious quartet at the end which if one didn’t know better, it could almost come from Cosi fan tutte. A simple story and pleasant music do not necessarily mean cantabile. The arias are pitched very high indeed and are full of much florid singing, which is where the main problem of this issue lies.

It is the curse of many an interesting Bongiovanni issue that the firm has to accept soloists engaged by the theatres, which perform these rarities. But gone are the days that small provincial Italian houses like Adria (20.000 inhabitants) could get good or even acceptable singers for an unknown opera. The title role is sung by Luisa Giannini, no longer a youthful lady though the possessor of a lot of diplomas according to her biography with only one lacking in my opinion: raw vocal talent. The sound is thin and shrill above the staff and completely undistinguished. She simply cannot take the many vocal hurdles asked for by Cimarosa. The coloratura is especially sketchy. Sung by a young Kathy Battle or a Lucia Popp the music would probably have made a far deeper impression. Dramatic soprano Patrizia Morandini, too, has a long career in minor houses behind her but the sound is still warm and firm and her Antonio is very convincing. Tenor Luca Favaron has mostly sung small roles and a few major ones and his fine Italian voice proves in his one aria he could go far. Conductor Franco Piva, a composer himself, has made a critical version of the original score as a lot of important markings were erased. He clearly relishes the music and succeeds in getting a very full sound from a small orchestra and chorus.

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):