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A Venetian Double: English Touring Opera

Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s fifteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.

Walter Braunfels : Orchestral Songs Vol 1

New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.

Lalo: Complete Songs

Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.

New from Opera Rara : Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe

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Félicien David: Herculanum

It is not often that a major work by a forgotten composer gets rediscovered and makes an enormously favorable impression on today’s listeners. That has happened, unexpectedly, with Herculanum, a four-act grand opera by Félicien David, which in 2014 was recorded for the first time.

Samuel Barber: Choral Music

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A Prize-Winning Rediscovery from 1840s Paris (and 1830s Egypt)

Félicien David’s intriguing Le désert, for vocal and orchestral forces plus narrator, was widely performed in its own day, then disappeared from the performing repertory for nearly a century.

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

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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

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A worthy tribute for a vocal seductress of the ancient régime

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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.



Modest Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov
28 Dec 2006

MUSSORGSKY: Boris Godunov

One of the best opera DVDs released in 2006 was the Salzburg La Traviata, with Rolando Villazon and Anna Netrebko able to make full use of their vocal charisma and acting skills in Willy Decker's sharp, sexy production.

Modest Mussorgsky: Boris Godunov

Matti Salminen, Brian Asawa, Stefania Toczyska, Albert Shagidullin, Philip Langridge, Eric Halvarson, Anatoli Kotcherga, Orquestra Simfonica i cor del Gran Teatre del Liceu, Sebastian Weigle (Cond.). Stage Director: Willy Decker



Now TDK has released another fine Decker effort, Boris Godunov, with sets and costumes designed by John MacFarlane. Recorded in October 2004 at the Liceu in Barcelona, the staging displays all of Decker's strengths, from the preference for contemporary costumes and a spare set with a few well-chosen props to, most importantly, a great talent for dramatic, involving stage movement.

In a short pantomime as the opera begins, the son of Tsar Ivan, Dmitri, plays with a crown as he sits on the frame of a huge, over-turned golden chair. Three sinister men approach him, surround him, and leave his murdered body on the ground, as the chorus streams in from the rear to call for Boris to take the throne. That huge chair dominates the action in most scenes, carried in and out, sometimes with Boris astride it. Decker also uses painted images of Dmitri as a constant reminder of the guilt secret behind Boris's rise to power. Decker manages to employ these devices without making overt, symbolic statements - the images truly highlight the action, rather than simply interpret it. The resulting effect makes the drama all the more involving, where a more plush, traditional approach can distance some audiences from the story.

Matti Salminen surely deserves a showcase performance opportunity such as this opera provides. A strong, commanding bass, he is also an imposing stage presence, never overplaying but always finding the heart of each moment. The roar of respect and affection at his solo curtain call shows that the Barcelona audience knew what a great singer had just performed for them.

Among the more well-known members of the strong supporting cast, special commendation must go to the wonderfully slimy Shuisky of Philip Langridge, Eric Halfvarson's conflicted Pimen, and Brian Asawa's amazingly effective Fyodor (Boris's adolescent son). Tenor Pär Lindskog makes an impressive contribution as the Pretender who claims to be Dmitri.

The production uses Mussorgsky's first version, with no intermission. Conductor Sebastian Weigle revels in the raw power of the composer's scoring, sometimes letting it ride over the singers.

Decker takes the work seriously, as a story that resonates with a contemporary audience, and that may be the greatest tribute that can be paid to Mussorgsky's masterwork. Visually entrancing and nobly sung, this Boris Godunov also ranks as one of the best of 2006. And those who want more of Matti Salminen after viewing this DVD are urged to view his devastating work in Einojuhani Rautavaara's Rasputin, also available on DVD.

Chris Mullins

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