Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Recordings

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories are designed to occupy the final three days of Holy Week, and contemplate the themes of loss, betrayal and death that dominate the Easter week. As such, the Responsories demand a sense of darkness, reflection and depth that this new recording by Stile Antico - at least partially - captures.

Mahler Symphony no 9, Daniel Harding SRSO

Mahler Symphony no 9 in D major, with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, new from Harmonia Mundi. A rewarding performance on many levels, not least because it's thoughtfully sculpted, connecting structure to meaning.

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

Winterreise by Mark Padmore

Schubert's Winterreise is almost certainly the most performed Lieder cycle in the repertoire. Thousands of performances and hundreds of recordings ! But Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout's recording for Harmonia Mundi is proof of concept that the better the music the more it lends itself to re-discovery and endless revelation.

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 one from Stuttgart that I greatly enjoyed and reviewed here: 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,



Frederica von Stade sings Mozart and Rossini arias
06 Dec 2006

Frederica von Stade sings Mozart and Rossini arias

Frederica von Stade was just about 30 years old in 1975, when she recorded these Mozart and Rossini arias with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra under Edo de Waart.

Frederica von Stade sings Mozart and Rossini arias

Frederica von Stade, mezzo-soprano, Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, Edo de Waart (cond.)

Pentatone Classics PTC 5186 158 [SACD]

$19.99  Click to buy

At the same time, Philips was experimenting with quadraphonic recording techniques, which never really took off at the time, but enabled Pentatone to release the performances now on a multi-channel Super Audio CD, bringing the young Von Stade to our attention once again.

It is a great pleasure to hear the smooth line, the sensitive musicianship, and the intelligent artistry that she brings to this program of arias that are largely what one would expect to hear from a young lyric mezzo bel canto specialist (“Una voce poco fa” and “Non più mesta”, the Cherubino arias, “Vedrai carino”), although there are a few surprises: the Vitellia and Sesto arias from Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito might not be expected from such a young singer, and the lovely “Assisa a piè d’un salice” from Rossini’s Otello is something of a rarity, since the libretto has relegated the opera itself to relative obscurity.

The role of Cherubino was originally written for an actress rather than a trained opera singer, and Von Stade’s fine acting ability, evident in the expressive vulnerability she brings to his arias on this disc, no doubt accounts for the fact that she was in great demand for this role throughout her career, until she announced that it made no sense any longer for a 14-year-old boy to be played by a woman whose age was a approaching half a century. Her voice does not have the richness of some mezzos (particularly in the lower range), but she achieves a great deal of warmth, while the contrast between the exquisite legato in the main theme of “Voi, che sapete” and the paradoxical effect of breathless excitement in a well-supported phrase in the modulating section is not only emotionally affecting, but is a fine instructive model to voice students.

In the lengthier, more complex arias from La Clemenza di Tito, another paradox emerges in that the higher notes often have a more glorious impact than the lower ones. Thus we have a fabulous pianissimo at the conclusion of the recitative of “Non più di fiore,” and the climactic “che si dirà” in the aria, but her voice gets lost a bit in the low, chesty phrases of “Veggo la morte verme avanzar.” Nevertheless, I find her legato impressive in the huge skips in “Pietà di me”near the end. Since she made such an impact in the trousers roles for which her slim figure and consummate acting skills suited her so well, it is hard now to imagine her career without them, but listening to her voice at this age can lead to idle thoughts about the perhaps equally glorious career she might have had as a soprano.

The Rossini arias that begin the disc are examples of fine bel canto singing in which the ornamentation is sung with assurance but always in the service of the music itself. So there are fewer pyrotechnics than in the more recent performances of, say, Cecilia Bartoli or Vivica Genaux, but there is a delightful sense of playfulness in “Una voce poco fa” and joyfulness in “Non più mesta”. They are separated by the slow, sorrowful lyricism of the Otello aria, which is the “Willow Song” followed by a prayer, a sequence familiar from Verdi’s Otello¸ although the prayer in this case is for respite and the arrival of the beloved, crying for her in death if not able to console her in life. (Verdi’s prayer, an “Ave Maria,” seems a more profound recognition of approaching death, but it is interesting to note that, in the Shakespeare play, there is no prayer at all at this point). The arpeggiated harp introduction helps make this aria a particularly beautiful moment of peace between the more energetic and famous arias it separates. The lengthy and difficult “Non più mesta,” which closes the Rossini section, is beautifully sung and full of vitality; but once again her lower tones get lost occasionally, most sadly in the skips on the second syllables of the words “Un lampo, un sogno” down to a single E or F in the middle range, which are notes in the aria that I normally listen for with anticipation and was disappointed not to hear.

I should add a word or two about the SACD itself, as all these performances were available a few years ago, along with some Haydn arias, on a Philips CD with the straightforward but not terribly imaginative title “Haydn Mozart Rossini”. What is new here is the technology that makes use of the original quadraphonic recording from the 70’s to create multi-channel sound. Owners of the older CD may wonder whether it is worth buying this new one. My ears listening to these discs on my good, but not great, stereo sound system did not pick up a significant difference between the two. I took advantage of a visit to the Bay area to borrow the much more sensitive ears of my brother-in-law. We compared both CD’s on his excellent speakers attached to a mid-level system in a small room. While I didn’t hear a big difference myself, he reported hearing “absolutely no hiss” on the SACD Pentatone disc (I hadn’t heard it on the other one, myself), but he felt that there was also a certain liveliness of the performance that was lost (while her breaths were never heavy, he could hear them on the older Philips disc but not on the Pentatone one, which in his opinion detracted from the listening experience). I will also say that, when I then took the disc to another friend with a home theater and listened to it on that, the sound on the disc filled the room wonderfully (although my more technically-accomplished friend confessed that he was unable to get his theater system to decode the four channels in exactly the same way as they had been encoded, so the channels we were hearing were not necessarily the ones that the engineers had intended).

More mundane differences between this disc and the earlier one are the new notes in French, German and English, which discuss Von Stade’s career and the roles represented by the arias on this CD. (The notes describe them in the order in which they appeared on the earlier disc, however—there the Mozart preceded the Rossini, whereas on the SACD the Rossini comes first). Also included are the Italian texts of the arias, with French, German and English translations, and some notes about the recording technology.

Barbara Miller

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):