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

Leonard Bernstein: Tristan und Isolde in Munich on Blu-ray

Although Birgit Nilsson, one of the great Isolde’s, wrote with evident fondness – and some wit – of Leonard Bernstein in her autobiography – “unfortunately, he burned the candles at both ends” – their paths rarely crossed musically. There’s a live Fidelio from March 1970, done in Italy, but almost nothing else is preserved on disc.

Stéphanie D’Oustrac: Sirènes

After D’Oustrac’s striking success as Cassandre in Berlioz Les Troyens, this will reach audiences less familiar with her core repertoire in the baroque and grand opéra. Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été and La mort d’Ophélie, Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder and the Lieder of Franz Liszt are very well known, but the finesse of D’Oustrac’s timbre lends a lucid gloss which makes them feel fresh and pure.

Luminous Mahler Symphony no.3: François-Xavier Roth, Gürzenich-Orchester Köln

Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No.3 with François-Xavier Roth and the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln, now at last on CD, released by Harmonia Mundi, after the highly acclaimed live performance streamed a few months ago.

A First-Ever Recording: Benjamin Godard’s 1890 Opera on Dante and Beatrice

The composer Benjamin Godard (1849–95) is today largely unknown to most music lovers. Specialist collectors, though, have been enjoying his songs (described as “imaginative and delightful” by Robert Moore in American Record Guide), his Concerto Romantique for violin (either in its entirety or just the dancelike Canzonetta, which David Oistrakh recorded winningly decades ago), and some substantial chamber and orchestral works that have received first recordings in recent years.

Between Mendelssohn and Wagner: Max Bruch’s Die Loreley

Max Bruch Die Loreley recorded live in the Prinzregenstheater, Munich, in 2014, broadcast by BR Klassik and now released in a 3-CD set by CPO. Stefan Blunier conducts the Münchner Rundfunkorchester with Michaela Kaune, Magdalena Hinterdobler, Thomas Mohr and Jan-Hendrick Rootering heading the cast, with the Prager Philharmonischer Chor..

Gottfried von Einem’s The Visit of the Old Lady Now on CD

Gottfried von Einem was one of the most prominent Austrian composers in the 1950s–70s, actively producing operas, ballets, orchestral, chamber, choral works, and song cycles.

Britten: Hymn to St Cecilia – RIAS Kammerchor

Benjamin Britten Choral Songs from RIAS Kammerchor, from Harmonia mundi, in their first recording with new Chief Conductor Justin Doyle, featuring the Hymn to St. Cecilia, A Hymn to the Virgin, the Choral Dances from Gloriana, the Five Flower Songs op 47 and Ad majorem Dei gloriam op 17.

Si vous vouliez un jour – William Christie: Airs Sérieux et à boire vol 2

"Si vous vouliez un jour..." Volume 2 of the series Airs Sérieux et à boire, with Sir William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, from Harmonia Mundi, following on from the highly acclaimed "Bien que l'amour" Volume 1. Recorded live at the Philharmonie de Paris in April 2016, this new release is as vivacious and enchanting as the first.

Bohuslav Martinů – What Men Live By

World premiere recording from Supraphon of Bohuslav Martinů What Men Live By (H336,1952-3) with Jiří Bělohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra from a live performances in 2014, with Martinů's Symphony no 1 (H289, 1942) recorded in 2016. Bělohlávek did much to increase Martinů's profile, so this recording adds to the legacy, and reveals an extremely fine work.

Berlioz: Harold en Italie, Les Nuits d'été

Hector Berlioz Harold en Italie with François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles with Tabea Zimmermann, plus Stéphane Degout in Les Nuits d’été from Hamonia Mundi. This Harold en Italie, op. 16, H 68 (1834) captures the essence of Romantic yearning, expressed in Byron's Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage where the hero rejects convention to seek his destiny in uncharted territory.

Le Bal des Animaux : Works by Chabrier, Poulenc, Ravel, Satie et al.

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthaüser’s latest song recital is all about the animal kingdom. As in previous recordings of songs by Wolf, Debussy and Poulenc, pianist Eugene Asti is her accompanist in Le Bal des Animaux, a delightful collection of French songs about creatures of all sizes, from flea to elephant and from crayfish to dolphin.

Wolfgang Rihm: Requiem-Strophen

The world premiere recording of Wolfgang Rihm's Requiem-Strophen (2015/2016) with Mariss Jansons conducting the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks with Mojca Erdmann, Anna Prohaska and Hanno Müller-Brachmann, from BR Klassik NEOS.

Ravel’s Magical Glimpses into the World of Children

This is the fifth CD in a series devoted to Ravel’s orchestral works.

About an enfant: Ravel’s Opera about Childhood and Debussy’s Prodigal Son

This recording of Ravel’s second (and last) one-act opera was made during a concert, and -somewhat daringly - with rather close microphone placement. As it turns out, everything went smoothly.

Halévy’s Magnificent La reine de Chypre (1841) Gets Its Long-Awaited World Premiere Recording

Halévy’s La reine de Chypre (The Queen of Cyprus) is the 17th opera to be released in the impressively prolific “French Opera” series of recordings produced by the Center for French Romantic Music, a scholarly organization located at the Palazzetto Bru Zane in Venice. (Other recent offerings have included Saint-Saëns’s richly characterized Proserpine, Benjamin Godard’s fascinating Dante--which contains scenes set in Heaven and Hell--and Hérold’s Le pré aux clercs, an opéra-comique that had a particularly long life in the international operatic repertoire.)

Complementary Josquin masses from The Tallis Scholars

This recording on the Gimell label, the seventh of nine in a series by the Tallis Scholars which will document Josquin des Prés’ settings of the Mass (several of these and other settings are of disputed authorship), might be titled ‘Sacred and Profane’, or ‘Heaven and Earth’.

Leos Janacek: Missa Glagolitica

From Decca, Janáček classics with Jiří Bělohlávek conducting the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Given that Bělohlávek died in May 2017, all these recordings are relatively recent, not re-issues, and include performances of two new critical editions of the Glagolitic Mass and the Sinfonietta.

New Hans Zender Schubert Winterreise - Julian Prégardien

Hans Zender's Schuberts Winterreise is now established in the canon, but this recording with Julian Prégardien and the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie conducted by Robert Reimer is one of the most striking. Proof that new work, like good wine, needs to settle and mature to reveal its riches.

Magic Lantern Tales: darkness, disorientation and delight from Cheryl Frances-Hoad

“It produces Effects not only very delightful, but to such as know the contrivance, very wonderful; so that Spectators, not well versed in Opticks, that could see the various Apparitions and Disappearances, the Motions, Changes and Actions, that may this way be presented, would readily believe them super-natural and miraculous.”

Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony — Martyn Brabbins BBCSO

From Hyperion, an excellent new Ralph Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony with Martyn Brabbins conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus, Elizabeth Llewellyn and Marcus Farnsworth soloists. This follows on from Brabbins’s highly acclaimed Vaughan Williams Symphony no 2 "London" in the rarely heard 1920 version.

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):