Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Recordings

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.

Review: You Promised Me Everything

Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.

Donizetti: Les Martyrs

As the editor of Opera magazine, John Allison, notes in his editorial in the June issue, Donizetti fans are currently spoilt for choice, enjoying a ‘Donizetti revival’ with productions of several of the composer’s lesser known works cropping up in houses around the world.

Green: Mélodies françaises sur des poèmes de Verlaine

Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France

A worthy tribute for a vocal seductress of the ancient régime

Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.

Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail @ Hangar-7

We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.

Richard Strauss: Notturno

Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.

Bernarda Fink Sings Mahler Lieder

Bernarda Fink’s recording of Gustav Mahler’s Lieder is an important new release that includes outstanding performances of the composer’s well-known songs, along with compelling readings of some less-familiar ones.

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Hänsel und Gretel

This live performance of Laurent Pelly’s Glyndebourne staging of Humperdinck’s affectionately regarded fairy tale opera, was recorded at Glyndebourne Opera House in July and August 2010, and the handsomely produced disc set — the discs are presented in a hard-backed, glossy-leaved book and supplemented by numerous production photographs and an informative article by Julian Johnson — is certainly stylish and unquestionably recommendable.

Magdalena Kožená: Love and Longing

Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená.

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Amore e Tormento

Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’ 

Rivals—Arias for Farinelli & Co.

In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi. 

Verdi at the Old MET

With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s major opera houses today.

Italo Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre re

In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions. 



Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Le Malade imaginaire
29 Nov 2006

CHARPENTIER: Le Malade Imaginaire

On the 10th February 1673, only a few months after their first collaboration, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known as Molière (1622-1673), and Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704) presented at the Palais Royal’s theater Le Malade Imaginaire, a comédie ballet (a comedy with incidental music in the form of interludes built around a secondary plot).

Marc-Antoine Charpentier: Le Malade imaginaire

Les Arts Florissants, dir. William Christie

Harmonia Mundi HMX 2901887.88 [2CDs]

$21.98  Click to buy

At the request of Molière, who expected the first performance to take place at court in Versailles, Charpentier composed a very developed prologue entitled the «Eglogue en musique et en danse» («Eglogue in music and dance»), similar to the prologues which were to precede the lyrical tragedies of Lully, combining solo recitative and choruses, in praise of the king (Louis XIV). The Malade imaginaire is the last play by Molière, who died after its fourth performance, on the 17th February 1673.

As a genre, the comédie-ballet was invented by Molière and Lully in the 1660s and reached a climax with Le Bourgeois gentilhomme, in 1670. But the dispute between Lully and Molière (at the end of 1671), following the king’s musician being granted a monopoly for all dramatic productions with music in Paris — including those of Moliere — led the playwright to approch another composer, recently returned from Italy, who had not yet written any music for the stage: Charpentier.

The composer must have revised the music for the comedie-ballet at least twice, between 1673 and 1685, to meet the constraints imposed by the royal monopoly accorded to Lully and the Academie royale de musique, which after April 1673 held exclusive rights for all dramatic perfomances with music at the Palais Royal. These restrictions meant that Charpentier had to limit the number of singers and instrumentalists involved in each performance.

The recording presented by the Arts Florissants in 1990 and reissued here, has well stood the test of time. William Christie and his famous ensemble offer us a sparkling and dynamic interpretation. The group appears in its best form, giving the impression of freedom and exuberance — qualities which are lacking in another very good version recorded by Marc Minkowski and the Musiciens du Louvre also in 1990. Despite the homogénéity of the whole production, certain passages are particularly memorable; for example the opening Eglogue, where the orchestra and singers (Monique Zanetti, Noémi Rime, Howard Crook) are most impressive; the first interlude, includes an Italian aria «Zerbinetti», sung by an old woman (admirably depicted by the countertenor Dominique Visse) and dialogues between Polichinelle and the string orchestra, then another between Polichinelle and the ‘Archers’ which display all the skill and imagination of the musicians and actors. The latter include Alain Trétout and Jean Dautremay, who are dazzling. In brief, Le Malade imaginaire by the Arts florissants represents one of the best recordings of Charpentier’s music, which justifiably has attracted much attention during recent years. A pleasure that should not be missed.

Marie-Alexis Colin
Université de Montréal

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):