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Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara -
Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.
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.
This recording, made in the Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music in June 2014, is the fourth disc in SOMM’s series of recordings with Paul Spicer and the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir.
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.
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”
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.
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.
Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au
bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc
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.
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’.
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.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and
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.
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.
This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.
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 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’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.
Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.
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.
12 Jan 2007
ARBOS: El Centro de la Tierra
Most heroes in costume drama movies speak lines directly from our own time. I’ve yet to see a cinematic Roman general, being a serious hero, look at an animal’s liver and says: “ this smells bad; no battle today”.
Nevertheless people in the past often were far more superstitious than we are, and certainly were less cynical and naïve. Even then, one sympathizes with the bafflement of the Madrid public at the first (and probably last, one is not sure) performance of ‘El Centro de la Tierra’ at its première. Rarely has a more ridiculous libretto inspired a composer. Three Madrilenos fall into a crevice and arrive in the middle of the earth where they are considered to be gods by the gnomes, the minerals (living persons) and the natives of a hidden civilisation. They succeed in stealing a huge diamond and the few natives with doubts as to their godly descent are reassured by the tenor . . . playing an accordion. Though there are some comical scenes as in all zarzuelas, the central theme is treated seriously without satirizing a society as Paul Lincke did when he sent some heroes to the moon in his ‘Frau Luna,’ where they meet all the Greek and Roman gods.
Enrique Arbos’ music cannot really save the situation. The composer was the ‘Konzertmeister’ of the Berlin Philharmonic for several years and thus no mean musician. He knew his classics, especially Wagner, very well as is proven by the use of a Tristan chord and the triumphal march of the Gods in this zarzuela. But the composer had his roots firmly planted in his own country. When he was offered the conductorship of the newly formed Madrid Symphony, he returned home and conducted it for 35 years. Conducting meant the end of his composing years. The 100th anniversary of the orchestra was duly celebrated and the whole of Arbos’ output appeared on 3 boxed sets with his one zarzuela unexpectedly being unearthed. Arbos is not another Sorozabal, Morreno Torroba, Chapi, Luna or Vives and he probably couldn’t be after only one trial. Zarzuela lovers may regret the fact that more worthwhile zarzuelas are still awaiting a complete recording. On the other hand any zarzuela from the great century between 1840 and 1940 is welcome as the music always lies easily on the ear and is often very charming. The problem, if there is one, with Arbos is the fact that he is, as could be expected, an orchestral composer. The many dancing numbers in this long score are well worth listening too. But his vocal writing is marred by his being not accustomed to writing for the voice. The singers’ solos are not very distinguished and remain dancing numbers in disguise. All the singers are fine zarzuela performers, with good though not unexceptional voices to match their numbers and ensembles. Best of them all is baritone Javier Franco as the High Priest. José Luis Temes conducts the orchestra with a lot of conviction, not lingering on some awkward moments but making the best of the agreeable and indeed somewhat forgettable music.
One complaint: once again a Spanish recording label fails to give us a fine and exact translation of the sleeve notes. In the Spanish text the composer is born in 1863, in the English one in 1963. The biography of tenor Sanchez is deleted in the English version, etc. As a lot of visitors know the ‘mañana’ mentality has not completely died out in Spain and maybe some producers think the international market is not to be taken seriously. They forget that thanks to an outstanding generation of Spanish singers zarzuela is now to be found in many a collection of non-Spanish speaking people.