Recently in Recordings
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.
21 Jan 2007
CUYÁS: La Fattucchiera
The sleeve notes of this interesting issue state that “ any comparison between La Fattucchiera and Italian bel canto models by Bellini or Donizetti would be too easy though it became commonplace to describe him (= Cuyàs) as the continuator of the school of Bellini.
It would be an error nowadays tot try to equate the two.”
Well, I invite every opera collector to listen to the few bars of orchestral
accompaniment in the first act. I’m fairly sure every one of them will tell me that
this is Norma and I’ve rarely heard such blatant copying of the Sicilian’s score. I
agree willingly that some of the arias and duets seem to have more of a
Donizettean whiff than a Bellinian one but this only proves that Cuyàs’
contemporaries recognized what they heard. This is not to say that the opera is just
uninspired piracy. But a first opera by a 22-year old composer will naturally
follow the examples of his elders. Cuyàs honours all true and tried forms of his
time. Conjuring up evil spirits is done with a nice and lilting waltz which makes
one smile (the witches in Verdi’s Macbeth are truly impressive in comparison).
Some of the joints between musical numbers are often clumsy. On the other hand
the composer succeeds very well in the often long dialogues between singers and
a chorus which has a far bigger role than usual at the time. And I’m glad to say
that Cunyàs knows how to write a tune. It struck me after repeated hearings that
while some of Donizetti’s works on Opera Rara don’t get under your skin,
Cunyàs’ labour does. As he died of tuberculosis at only 22, nobody can be sure he
would have kept his promise but promise it definitely was.
The recording is boosted tremendously by the strong cast though some of the
names will mean next to nothing to a lot of collectors. The best known singer is
tenor José Sempere, a lyric tenor with quite a lot of steel in the voice; not unlike
Alfredro Kraus. Sempere’s sound is a little bit fuller and less nasal. Often he
doesn’t have the older tenor’s sense of style but here he is on his best behaviour
and sings with restraint and power when necessary and his high notes ring out.
Ofèlia Sala is a splendid sure-footed Ismalia, technically astute in her coloratura
with only an acid hint at the top of the voice. Claudia Marchi as the witch shows
off a high and rich mezzo while Simon Orfila offers a full bass-baritone. Even
Javier Franco as the second baritone has the necessary volume and voice needed
for the role; often rare in such almost world premières where record companies
(witness Bongiovanni) have to accept less talented singers willing to learn a role
for just one or two performances. Josep Pons conducts the able orchestra of the
Barcelona Liceu and he is rhythmically alert and gives a nice flow to the music,
nicely skating over some of the crudities of some entries and exits.
It’s a pity that the recording, magnificently presented as a small book, is marred by
carelessness in the sleeve notes which are so important for a completely unknown
opera. I know of more than one collector who buys every Opera Rara issue just for
the wonderful notes. Cunyàs is not helped by just 20 lines of biography which
moreover are mistakenly printed twice in Spanish instead of English. The libretto
is in Italian only and one sorely misses a page with track information (nor is there
a hint in the libretto to tell one where a new track starts). And there should at least
have been a small line for non-Italian speakers telling them that La Fattucchiera
means fortune-teller. A pity, as every lover of the bel canto age will enjoy the