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

The Epic of Gilgamesh - Bohuslav Martinů

New recording of the English version of Bohuslav Martinů's The Epic of Gilgamesh, from Supraphon, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck. This is the world premiere recording of the text in English, the original language in which it was written.

Maybe the Best L’heure espagnole Yet

The new recording, from Munich, has features in common with the Stuttgart one: the singers are all native French-speakers, the orchestra is associated with a German radio channel, we are hearing an actual performance (or in this case an edited version from several performances, in April 2016), and the recording is released by the orchestra itself or its institutional parent.

Stéphanie d’Oustrac in Two Exotic Masterpieces by Maurice Ravel

The two works on this CD make an apt and welcome pair. First we have Ravel’s sumptuous three-song cycle about the mysteries of love and fantasies of exotic lands. Then we have his one-act opera that takes place in a land that, to French people at the time, was beckoningly exotic, and whose title might be freely translated “The Nutty and Delightful Things That Can Happen in Spain in Just One Hour”.

Stefano Secco: Crescendo

I had never heard of Stefano Secco before receiving this CD. But I see that, at age 34, he already has had a substantial career, singing major roles at important houses throughout Europe and, while I was not paying attention, occasionally in the US.

French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

With this recording of Mozart’s 1771 opera, Il sogno di Scipione (Sicpio’s Dream), Classical Opera continue their progress through the adolescent composer’s precocious achievements and take another step towards the fulfilment of their complete Mozart opera series for Signum Classics.

Mozart’s Requiem: Pierre-Henri Dutron Edition

The stories surrounding Mozart’s Requiem are well-known. Dominated by the work in the final days of his life, Mozart claimed that he composed the Requiem for himself (Landon, 153), rather than for the wealthy Count Walsegg’s wife, the man who had commissioned it in July 1791.

Schumann and Mahler Lieder : Florian Boesch

Schumann and Mahler Lieder with Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau, now out from Linn Records, following their recent Schubert Winterreise on Hyperion. From Boesch and Martineau, excellence is the norm. But their Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen takes excellence to even greater levels

Hans Werner Henze : Kammermusik 1958

"....In lieblicher Bläue". Landmark new recordings of Hans Werner Henze Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge and Kammermusik 1958 from the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, with Andrew Staples, Markus Weidmann, Jürgen Ruck and Daniel Harding.

Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

Premiere Recording: Mayr’s Telemaco nell’isola di Calipso (1797)

No sooner had I drafted my review of Simon Mayr’s Medea in Corinto,

A Verlaine Songbook

Back in the LP days, if a singer wanted to show some sophistication, s/he sometimes put out an album of songs by famous composers set to the poems of one poet: for example, Phyllis Curtin’s much-admired 1964 disc of Debussy and Fauré songs to poems by Verlaine, with pianist Ryan Edwards (available now as a CD from VAI).

Giovanni Simone 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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

ENNA: Lille pige med svovlstikkerne<br/>ZEMLINSKY: Die Seejungfrau
06 Dec 2006

ENNA: Lille pige med svovlstikkerne
ZEMLINSKY: Die Seejungfrau

Walt Disney has colored our perception of fairy tales, turning them, whatever their source, into egalitarian morality plays:

ENNA: Lille pige med svovlstikkerne
ZEMLINSKY: Die Seejungfrau

Inger Dam-Jensen, Ylva Kihlberg, Danish National Children's Choir, Danish National Choir, Danish National Symphony Orchestra, Thomas Dausgaard (cond.)

Dacapo 8.226048 [CD]

$16.98  Click to buy

"When you wish upon a star,
Makes no difference who you are.
Anything your heart desires
Will come to you."
In the past couple of decades both The Little Match Girl and The Little Mermaid, fairytales by the legendary Danish author Hans Christian Andersen, have been transformed by Hollywood from tales of the thwarted hope of innocent souls into heartwarming tales of hope rewarded. The two late-romantic works presented in a new release on the Dacapo label place these beloved stories back into the crueler world that Andersen was most often wont to describe.

This recording grew from the Danish celebration of Andersen's bicentennial birthday, and features the Danish National Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Thomas Dausgaard. The first composer on the menu is also Danish, and this was my first exposure to his music. August Enna was a largely self-taught composer who wrote 17 operas—some of which achieved considerable success during his lifetime. Enna's operas were inspired by his admiration for Richard Wagner, yet Enna was the more practical composer. While he wrote large scale works for the major theaters, he also penned more modest efforts aimed at provincial houses with limited resources, and it was in this mold that The Little Match Girl was conceived. History has a mind of its own, and though I suppose Enna might have guessed that he would be remembered for one of his grander efforts, it is by this modestly scaled work, written for two soloists and chorus, that he is best known today.

Enna’s score is melodic, skillfully woven, and easily accessible. The drama, brief as it is, grips the listener, and well evokes our sympathy for the little blond-haired orphan girl trying to sell matches to oblivious passers-by as she freezes to death on Christmas Eve, eventually hallucinating visions of happy children celebrating the holiday with toys and games. It is a bitter tale, only somewhat ameliorated by a final vision of the girl's white-robed mother descending from the sky on a marble staircase to take her child to heaven.

With the exception of a brief monologue sung by a happy mother who appears in one of the match-girl's hallucinations, the show is dominated by the girl herself, and Inger Dam-Jensen sings with the right note of earnestness and simplicity. The Little Match-Girl piqued my interest to hear other operas by Enna--maybe one of those larger scaled efforts. Sadly, there are no others commercially available, except for a competing account of The Little Match-Girl on the CPO label.

While Enna's opera is efficient and modest in its demands, Alexander Zemlinsky was a composer who never failed to write the word “art” with a capital "A"! From the first measures of his three movement 1903 "fantasy for orchestra" Die Seejungfrau (The Mermaid) the composer's ambition and gift for pictorial expression are fully in evidence. As the massive waves of orchestral sound roll over the ear, it's hard not to see, in the mind's eye, shafts of sunlight filtering down through the deep ultramarine and illuminating an endless forest of brilliant corals, fishes, and maybe an occasional mermaid or sea-witch!

Die Seejungfrau is the first of several Zemlinsky compositions to express the composer's agony at the loss of his love Alma Schindler, who dropped him abruptly shortly after meeting Gustav Mahler, whom she married a few months later. Zemlinsky would return to this experience for inspiration over the following two decades, with a final, more explicit expression of the tragic love affair in his 1922 opera Der Zwerg.

Die Seejungfrau was initially conceived as material for "a great symphony of death" in the aftermath of his rejection. Eventually it took form as a symphonic telling of Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale, in which The Little Mermaid, as Zemlinsky had, reaches out for something wonderful but ultimately out of her reach. Unlike Disney’s animated version, here the mermaid does not marry the Prince, but rather, as the final bars so richly describe, throws herself back into the sea, where her body is united with the sea-foam.

Zemlinsky's symphonic fantasy premiered in 1905, paired with best friend Arnold Schoenberg's symphonic poem Pelleas und Melisande. The concert was meant to be the first by a new musical society dedicated to the performance of new music, and founded by Zemlinsky and Schoenberg, with Mahler as honorary president. But the huge forces called for by both composers ended up bankrupting the society, which shortly thereafter disbanded. Die Seejungfrau was well received, but after a couple more performances in other cities, it fell from the repertory, and the score was eventually separated into two parts. It was assumed for many years that part of the score was lost, but, fortunately for us, it eventually resurfaced, and Zemlinsky's early masterwork was heard again for the first time in many decades in 1984. Since then, it has gone on to become the most performed of the composer’s compositions. As such, it has now been commercially recorded numerous times, and this new release will be competing with recorded accounts by James Conlon, Riccardo Chailly, Anthony Beaumont, and even an earlier account by Dausgaard himself with the Danish Radio Symphony. But the new recording holds its own, even with such big-time competition. The sound is vibrant and detailed, and Dausgaard well captures the emotional power of the score. Attractively packaged with multi-lingual notes and libretto, this new Dacapo release is well worth owning. My only complaint about the booklet is that the translations of the opera's libretto were placed on separate pages of the booklet, rather than being printed together in parallel, thus making it harder to follow the Danish text in detail.

Eric D. Anderson

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):