Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Recordings

Félicien David: Songs for voice and piano

This well-packed disc is a delight and a revelation. Until now, even the most assiduous record collector had access to only a few of the nearly 100 songs published by Félicien David (1810-76), in recordings by such notable artists as Huguette Tourangeau, Ursula Mayer-Reinach, Udo Reinemann, and Joan Sutherland (the last-mentioned singing the duet “Les Hirondelles” with herself!).

John Taverner: Missa Corona spinea

This new release of John Taverner’s virtuosic and florid Missa Corona spinea (produced by Gimell Records) comes two years after The Tallis Scholars’ critically esteemed recording of the composer’s Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, which topped the UK Specialist Classical Album Chart for 6 weeks, and with which the ensemble celebrated their 40th anniversary. The recording also includes Taverner’s two settings of Dum transisset Sabbatum.

“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. 



Franco Corelli: The 1971 Tokyo Concert
09 Nov 2006

Franco Corelli: The 1971 Tokyo Concert

A friend who bought this issue grumbled that Dynamic had swindled him out off his money as the whitewashed, less than sharp picture quality is not much better than the pirate issue he once received from a correspondent.

Franco Corelli: The 1971 Tokyo Concert

Franco Corelli, tenor; NHK Orchestra; Alberto Ventura, conductor

Dynamic 33515 [DVD]

$30.99  Click to buy

He didn’t believe for a moment that Dynamic had used the original Japanese NHK tapes though the sleeve mentions ‘licensed by NHK’. I’m not sure this less than pristine quality is Dynamic’s fault. By the early seventies filming a broadcast (kinescope) was replaced by early video taping. I remember one old pro at my own company (Flemish Public TV) saying that such a video needed to be recopied each year or otherwise it would lose its quality. Of course no TV-station had the money and the people necessary for such an operation and ten years later the results were clearly there for everybody to see or, more exactly, not to see.

I yield to no one in my admiration of Franco Corelli. After all, he clinched my musical future on that day of April the 20th 1958 when, together with Sarah Vaughan and Vico Torriani (a Swiss pop singer), ‘a young promising Italian tenor’ as Flemish Public Radio announced, would end the Opening Concert of the Brussels World Exhibition. I was 14 and liked Lanza and Schmidt; but I was still susceptible enough to listen to popular singers like Vera Lynn, Edith Piaf and especially Freddy Quin (a fine German popular singer). That went all out of the window with Corelli’s ‘E lucevan le stelle’, ‘Una vergin’,’Nessun dorma’ and ‘Granada’ as an encore. That ‘young promising tenor’ already proved to have the most exciting tenor sound of the last fifty years. That doesn’t mean I'm blind or deaf. Corelli often attacked a high note from below; he was not always a paragon of style; and, during his later years, the conductor had two choices: either indulging the tenor in everything (as does Alberto Ventura on this tape) or lay down his baton.

The Corelli voice evolved a lot during his twenty years at the top. The pronounced vibrato disappeared completely by the second decade of his career. When he disappeared after his Verona performances in 1975 to emerge only for two last Bohèmes one year later, there was (and there still is) talk of a singer who couldn’t stand the heat any more, whose nerves had melted down and who disappeared at the height of his career. This is simply not true. Loretta Di Lelio recorded every performance of her husband and Corelli clearly knew that his voice was going down the drain. There were still some good days (my Verona Carmen in August 1975 was one) but the bad days were far more numerous. There seem to be two important dates. In 1969 he stopped singing for six months altogether due to the Metropolitan strike and I wonder if he kept up his daily exercises. In his live recordings dating from the end of 1969 there are some dry patches. But the real watershed came three years later. His Werthers of 1971 still give us a lot of Franco Corelli of yore. The live recordings of 1972 give us a voice in difficulties: the big sound is still there but the tenor sings in short guffaws of explosive sound and there is no longer beauty on the voice which has dried out remarkably.

This is quite an introduction to discuss the well-known Tokyo concert of 1971; recorded (lucky for us) during the last months of his better though not of his great days. By that time he had a lot of experience in resting his voice: at the Met he often lipped instead of singing during ensembles. In a concert like this Tokyo one he prefers very short arias like ‘Questa o quella’ or ‘Ch’ella mi creda’; he cuts the recitative to ‘Un di all’azurro’ and his four encores of famous Neapolitan songs are extremely shortened versions. Though he is in excellent voice, he cuts notes short and makes grating noises in his lower register due to his lowered larynx technique. ‘Che gelida manina’ is transposed one full tone and ‘O Paradiso’ needs an extra breath here and there. On the other hand, there is still the incomparable power of the voice. The sheen is still there. He is at his best in the Chénier piece and he makes some magnificent noises in some of the Italian songs. The well-known nervousness is there too and it lasts some arias before he relaxes and smiles. Remarkable is his use of ‘stolen breath’ or ‘fiato rubato’. For someone with a shattering volume, Corelli almost imperceptibly catches his breath. Apart from the tremendous live Forza of 1958 there are almost no live recordings of the great tenor (most are synchronized ones) and therefore this is still an important issue.

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):