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

Herbert Howells: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has played a role in the evolution of British music. This recording honours this heritage and Stephen Cleobury’s contribution in particular by focusing on Herbert Howells, who transformed the British liturgical repertoire in the 20th century.

Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphony no. 21 (“Kaddish”)

Mieczysław Weinberg witnessed the Holocaust firsthand. He survived, though millions didn’t, including his family. His Symphony no. 21 “Kaddish” (Op. 152) is a deeply personal statement. Yet its musical qualities are such that they make it a milestone in modern repertoire.

Kenshiro Sakairi and the Tokyo Juventus Philharmonic in Mahler’s Eighth

Although some works by a number of composers have had to wait uncommonly lengthy periods of time to receive Japanese premieres - one thinks of both Mozart’s Jupiter and Beethoven’s Fifth (1918), Handel’s Messiah (1929), Wagner’s Parsifal (1967), Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette (1966) and even Bruckner’s Eighth (1959, given its premiere by Herbert von Karajan) - Mahler might be considered to have fared somewhat better.

Lise Davidsen sings Wagner and Strauss

Superlatives to describe Lise Davidsen’s voice have been piling up since she won Placido Domingo’s 2015 Operalia competition, blowing everyone away. She has been called “a voice in a million” and “the new Kirsten Flagstad.”

Nicky Spence and Julius Drake record The Diary of One Who Disappeared

From Hyperion comes a particularly fine account of Leoš Janáček’s song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared. Handsome-voiced Nicky Spence is the young peasant who loses his head over an alluring gypsy and is never seen again.

Jean Sibelius: Kullervo

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op. 7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn’t allow it to be heard after its initial performances, though he referred to it fondly in private. This new recording, from Hyperion with Thomas Dausgaard conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, soloists Helena Juntunen and Benjamin Appl and the Lund Male Chorus, is a good new addition to the ever-growing awareness of Kullervo, on recording and in live performance.

Mahler: Titan, Eine Tondichtung in Symphonieform – François-Xavier Roth, Les Siècles

Not the familiar version of Mahler's Symphony no 1, but the “real” Mahler Titan at last, as it might have sounded in Mahler's time! François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles present the symphony in its second version, based on the Hamburg/Weimar performances of 1893-94. This score is edited by Reinhold Kubik and Stephen E.Hefling for Universal Edition AG. Wien.

Verdi: Messa da Requiem - Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann (Profil)

It has often been the case that the destruction wrought by wars, especially the Second World War, has been treated unevenly by composers. Theodor Adorno’s often quoted remark, from his essay Prisms, that “to write poetry after Auschwitz would be barbaric” - if widely misinterpreted - is limited by its scope and in a somewhat profound way composers have looked on the events of World War II in the same way.

Matthias Goerne: Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 & Kernerlieder

New from Harmonia Mundi, Matthias Goerne and Lief Ove Andsnes: Robert Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 and Kernerlieder. Goerne and Andsnes have a partnership based on many years of working together, which makes this new release, originally recorded in late 2018, well worth hearing.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Giacomo Puccini: Edgar
12 Nov 2006

PUCCINI: Edgar

I’m surprised that such an eminent musicologist as Julian Budden, in his interesting essay accompanying the recording, still lays the blame for the relative failure of Edgar at the librettist’s feet.

Giacomo Puccini: Edgar

Plácido Domingo, Adriana Damato, Marianne Cornetti, Juan Pons, Rafael Siwek, Coro e Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi (cond.)

DG 00289 477 6102 [2CDs]

$30.58  Click to buy

And as critics like to copy sleeve notes, one finds this same opinion in Opera News’ review. I don’t buy this argument. Too often libretti are thought to be ridiculous — Trovatore is an outstanding example — because people don’t take the pains to read them line by line (and then Trovatore makes perfect sense). As long as a libretto is able to inspire its composer, it may ramble along.

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut is a prime example. At the end of Act I, René des Grieux and Manon elope from the clutches of Geronte. At the beginning of Act II, Manon is firmly established as the mistress of the same Geronte. Newbie’s seeing the opera for the first time probably wonder if by coincidence the two acts are not erroneously switched. Still Manon Lescaut was a success and Edgar was not. The fault, if there was one, lies with Puccini. The Tuscan was a very slow starter and in his first two operas he still had not found the inspiration to write those short, catchy tunes that would make him the most popular composer of his time. In Edgar, his melodies sound a little laboured (e.g. the tenor’s ‘O soave vision’) though after a few hearings they are clearly recognizable and enjoyable.

A real performance of Edgar always is a pleasure as I can witness. It is one of three ‘Flemish’ operas which were all performed some years ago in Antwerp as the story plays out itself in Flanders (the two others being Lohengrin and Tote Stadt) and Sharon Sweet as Fidelia was exemplary.

On record, as in the theatre, Edgar didn’t have much of a career. We had to wait until 1976 when CBS finally brought forth an official recording made during an OONY performance (Bergonzi, Scotto, Killebrew, Sardinero, Queler). And then it took another 29 years when Varady and Tanner recorded a far less impressive performance. The issue under review is superior in all aspects to its predecessors except one: the title role. Domingo is no match for Bergonzi. Though the Italian tenor already flattened every note from high A on by the time of his recording, his sense of phrasing in his arias and duets is vastly superior. Bergonzi’s middle voice at the time sounds far more beautiful and sweeter than Domingo nowadays can master. At 64 and after a career of 45 years, the shimmering beauty of Domingo’s voice is slowly deteriorating and he sounds nasal a lot of the time. His top notes are more firmly sung than Bergonzi’s though one wonders how much is still Domingo’s and how much came out of DG’s vaults. Adriana Damato is a wonderful Fidelia, equalling Scotto’s expressiveness without the shrillness that was often there with the older soprano. Her ‘Addio, , mio dolce amor’ is a calling card that should open many an opera house’s door as she combines the strength and the morbidezza needed of every Puccini soprano. I never felt Juan Pons was just a creation of the Caballé clan (sister and brother/impressario) whose career was bigger than his accomplishments. Maybe he didn’t have the necessary snarl for some of his roles like Rigoletto but once more he brings his well-rounded always musical voice to the role of Frank and the warmth of his voice is ideal for a sympathetic character. Pons is vastly superior to Sardinero. So is Marianne Cornetti in the all-bad role of Tigrana where she brings more metal than Killebrew had.

It’s good to hear the Orchestra and Chorus of the Roman Academia Sancta Cecilia, an orchestra whose ancestors were so intimately connected with the glorious London/Decca recordings of the fifties and sixties. The orchestra still has the luscious Puccini-sound and is conducted by Alberto Veronesi who doesn’t over sentimentalize the score but still brings out the glowing melodies clearly and incisively. Orchestra and chorus are splendid in the famous funeral music, which would be the first track one would play as a proof of Puccini’s coming genius.

I wish to digress one moment on the historical setting of the opera. It originated with a poem by Alfred de Musset who set the action in Tyrol (like La Wally). For some obscure reason librettist Fontana reset it in medieval Flanders, before and after the battle of the Golden Spurs (11th of July 1302, still Flanders national holiday) which ended the French king’s attempts to incorporate the county into his own domains. Should you ever visit Flanders, you would look in vain on maps or at road signs for a place called ‘Courtray’. The real name of this magnificent medieval city is Kortrijk and it is and always has been Dutch-speaking. As during the 19th century, a lot of inspiration was derived from French plays by libretto and other writers (though by now Mr. Budden should know better) who used French translations of place names. One is still confronted with ridiculous names like Courtray or Aix-la-Chapelle and Cologne (Aachen and Köln in Germany) that nobody uses in reality.

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):