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

Giovanni Simon Mayr: Medea in Corinto

The Bavarian-born Johann Simon Mayr (1763–1845) trained and made his career in Italy and thus ended up calling himself Giovanni Simone Mayr, or simply G. S. Mayr. He is best known for having been composition teacher to Giuseppe Donizetti.

Matthias Goerne: Bach Cantatas for Bass

In this new release for Harmonia Mundi, German baritone Matthias Goerne presents us with two gems of Bach’s cantata repertoire, with the texts of both BWV 56 and 82 exploring one’s sense of hope in death.  Goerne adeptly interprets the paradoxical combination of hope and despair that underpins these works, deploying a graceful lyricism alongside a richer, darker bass register.

Gramophone Award Winner — Matthias Goerne Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge

Winner of the 2017 Gramophone Awards, vocal category - Matthias Goerne and Christoph Eschenbach - Johannes Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge and other Brahms Lieder. Here is why ! An exceptional recording, probably a new benchmark.

Véronique Gens: Visions from Grand Opéra

Ravishing : Visions, Véronique Gens in a glorious new recording of French operatic gems, with Hervé Niquet conducting the Münchener Rundfunkorchester. This disc is a companion piece to Néère, where Gens sang familiar Duparc, Hahn, and Chausson mélodies.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Gasparo Spontini: La Vestale
29 Oct 2006

SPONTINI: La Vestale

Though this La Vestale is sung in its original French, it strikes me as rather odd that the contents in the sleeve notes nevertheless still employs the Italian names Licinio and Giulia.

Gasparo Spontini: La Vestale

Michèle Le Bris (Julia), Nasine Denize (Grande Vestale), Robert Dumét (Licinius), Claude Méloni (Cinna), Jacques Mars (Grand Pontife), Chef des Aruspices (N.N.), Consul (N.N.). Orchestre Radio-Lyrique et Choeurs de la RTF conducted by Roger Norrington. Recorded in Paris 1976.

Ponto PO-1038 [2CDs]

$11.98  Click to buy

And another oddity is the fact that nobody at Ponto took the pains to look around and give us the names of the singers in two small parts.

And now that’s out of the way, I immediately admit I was very much surprised by the performance. Nowadays we are so used to listening to the famous Italian version, be it complete with Callas and Corelli in the live La Scala recording or Rosa Ponselle in the big aria, we take the Italian version for granted. The original French however makes for quite a musical difference. Julian Budden succinctly summed them up while discussing the Italian translation of Verdi’s Vêpres Siciliennes: “The fact is that when faced with the new metres and more flexible prosody of French verse the Italian translator of that time still tended to reach for the nearest of the standard Italian metres. ‘Comble de misère’ is a six-syllable line with a strong accent at the beginning; the translator renders it as ‘Parola fatale’, orthodox Italian with the accent firmly on the second syllable. As a result it sits very awkwardly on the musical phrase. Examples of this fault can be found in all translations of Italian opera up till the time when the Italians themselves extended their system of metres (Zanardini’s translations in Don Carlos are on the whole much better).”

A comparison of the best known piece of La Vestale indeed leads to the same conclusion : ‘Toi, que j’implore’ sounds far more as heart-felt begging than the harsher sounds of ‘Tu che invoco’. As a result I found this performance to be more restrained, lighter, more classical than the Italian version which always reminds me as a lesser version of Fanciulla del West where everybody marks time for a deus-ex-machina (be it Minnie or a flash from the sky as in La Vestale) to save the situation and send everybody home satisfied with the bliss of the new couple.

Of course much depends on the kind of voices and, though the singers are not of the powerhouse variety we know from some Italian versions, they are an attractive lot indeed. Michèle Le Bris sings the title role. She was one of the last generation of French singers who rarely left France and was used to singing all her Italian roles in her own language. Some will know her from her Barcelona performances of La Juive with Tucker. She made very fine highlight recordings of Le Trouvère and Un Bal Masqué with Tony Poncet. The voice is agreeable, agile and individually coloured and one is struck by her impeccable legato and by the sureness of attack on all notes. Of course this can be expected from a singer who was a fine Marguerite in Faust and a wonderful Sylva Varescu in Kalman’s Gypsy Princess as well. She may not be Callas but her ‘Toi, que j’implore’ gives a wonderful sense of young almost innocent teenage love which is probably nearer to a young vestal virgin than the American soprano’s far riper and tragic sound.

Le Bris is very ably partnered by Nadine Denize. She too restricted most of her performances to La France and her rich high mezzo is a delight.

With my customary modesty I was sure I knew every tenor singing in France from the fifties till the seventies; especially as I belong to that kind of opera lovers who delight in cast reading in obscure old magazines. Well, I have to admit I never heard of Robert Dumét whose only appearance I could trace was in a French Moïse. His is a baritonal tenor very well suited to the role.

Bass Jacques Mars was a stalwart of many fine radio performances. He sings an impressive High Priest.

Roger Norrington conducts in the same vein the singers use: keeping his orchestra light and getting right the flow of the music. His tempi are marginally slower and more relaxed than Votto’s in the La Scala version and that’s for the better. Spontini is often conducted too fast and the music sounds rushed, so that one tires quickly. With Norrington’s marginally slower beat one misses nothing of the excitement and gains a lot in depth. The sound is fine as this was probably a radio performance.

The bonus is an interesting one as recordings of Maria Casula are rather rare. Her's is the more traditional Italian spinto: warm, well rounded, with a nice Leontyne Price-sound to it, while it is clear from the first syllable she has no idea what French pronunciation is about.

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):