Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Recordings

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

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

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

Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France

A worthy tribute for a vocal seductress of the ancient régime

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.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

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.

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.

Bernarda Fink Sings Mahler Lieder

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.

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Hänsel und Gretel

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.

Magdalena Kožená: Love and Longing

Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená.

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Amore e Tormento

Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’ 

Rivals—Arias for Farinelli & Co.

In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi. 



Le Donne di Puccini
12 Jan 2007

Le Donne di Puccini

The recording date is given as November the 12th 1994. Since recording sessions usually last more than one day, and as a radio orchestra is playing, we may safely assume this CD to be derived from a public broadcasted concert by the ‘4 sopranos’ capitalizing on the concept made popular by Domingo, Carreras, and Pavarotti.

Le Donne di Puccini

Gabriela Benacková, Edita Gruberova, Dame Gwyneth Jones, Eva Marton, Münchner Rundfunkorchester,

Nightingale Classics NC 000010-2 [CD]

$19.99  Click to buy

Though no mention is made of an anniversary tribute, it can be no coincidence the concert almost exactly takes place 70 years after the composer’s death in Elsene (one of the separate municipalities which make up the Brussels metropolis).

The trouble with this kind of collection is the harsh reality that most opera lovers nowadays admire and recognize Puccini’s genius while at the same time feeling slightly bored by the umpteenth recorded version of “Vissi d’arte”. After having listened 130 times to “Nessun dorma” for an article on the aria, I experienced a myriad of responses, as I had forgotten this one or that one, and together with new acquisitions there must be more than 160 tenors who have recorded the aria. I’ve never wanted to repeat that experience but most collectors will inevitably compare Gruberova and company with all the legendary recordings to be found in most opera lovers’ collections. I readily believe a live audience still can have fun with such a Puccini concert but on CD, the challenges are so much bigger as a recording is theoretically meant for eternity.

Gabriela Benackova opens the show and after having listened to the whole CD it can firmly be stated that she is the best suited to this kind of music, as she has the warm enveloping sound necessary. She has the good idea to open with the less hackneyed “Addio, addio mio dolce amor” from Edgar; the one aria sung at the composer’s burial by the formidable Hina Spani. Benackova is a match for Scotto and Varady and a lot of other Puccinians who have recorded the piece. In Manon Lescaut, however, she cannot hide her frayed top which becomes a yell at the high C. Her vocal means nevertheless outdistance Eva Marton’s efforts. By 1994 the Hungarian soprano was still the possessor of a very large voice though the amount of decibels was no longer marked by beauty of sound. In “Vissi d’arte” she is clearly short of breath; in “Tu, tu, piccolo iddio” she flattens and sings shrilly. Strangely enough, she is at her disciplined best in Angelica’s “Senza mamma,” a role one doesn’t associate with Marton. The other big voice, Gwyneth Jones, carefully husbands her voice in “Laggiù nel Soledad”, singing light on the breath and with the infamous wobble not very obtrusive. “In questa reggia” is even steady though she never had a very distinct vocal personality. It’s only in the ‘tre enigmi’ part of the aria she goes wrong and finishes the aria with a painfully flat note, honestly recorded and not smoothed away but maybe not the best way to conclude a CD.

I’ve left discussion of Gruberova for the last (as this is her own label) and Puccini isn’t the repertoire she is known for. I was quite surprised as she is excellent in every aria she sings. The sound has more vibrato and colour than usual (the voice was often not kissed by the mike as her volume is far bigger than one assumes from some recordings). Moreover she can easily float her voice in such pieces as Doretta’s dream or Liu’s request to Kalaf. She is not a real rival for young Price’s ‘blue’ recital but she is a good contender. Of course she gets the “Babbino caro” in this concert and here she is very convincing as well though on record she must give place to De los Angeles or Te Kanawa. The late Garcia Navarro is a good accompanist though it is clear (very clear indeed with Gruberova) that on such a night the sopranos decide the tempi and the conductor courteously indulges them.

Jan Neckers

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):