Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

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,

A Verlaine Songbook

Back in the LP days, if a singer wanted to show some sophistication, s/he sometimes put out an album of songs by famous composers set to the poems of one poet: for example, Phyllis Curtin’s much-admired 1964 disc of Debussy and Fauré songs to poems by Verlaine, with pianist Ryan Edwards (available now as a CD from VAI).

Giovanni Simone Mayr: Medea in Corinto

The Bavarian-born Johann Simon Mayr (1763–1845) trained and made his career in Italy and thus ended up calling himself Giovanni Simone Mayr, or simply G. S. Mayr. He is best known for having been composition teacher to Giuseppe Donizetti.

Matthias Goerne: Bach Cantatas for Bass

In this new release for Harmonia Mundi, German baritone Matthias Goerne presents us with two gems of Bach’s cantata repertoire, with the texts of both BWV 56 and 82 exploring one’s sense of hope in death.  Goerne adeptly interprets the paradoxical combination of hope and despair that underpins these works, deploying a graceful lyricism alongside a richer, darker bass register.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Hector Berlioz: La damnation de Faust
05 Feb 2007

BERLIOZ: La damnation de Faust

Why do some conductors make it and others don’t?

Hector Berlioz: La damnation de Faust

Marie-Ange Todorovitch (Marguerite), Michael Myers (Faust), Alain Vernhes (Méphistophélès), René Schirrer (Brander). Orchestre de Lille/Région Nord-Pas de Calais conducted by Jean-Claude Casadesus.

Naxos 8.660116-17 [2CDs]

$15.98  Click to buy

Often luck and relationships play a more important role than talent. Lille (Rijssel in Dutch) is a magnificent city in the North of France and its architecture betrays the fact that for almost 800 years it was one of the four big cities of the county of Flanders till Louis XIV conquered it. The city had a fine opera house though until recently the company was in a bad patch and there was no season for several years. It is now slowly on its way back. In 1976 Jean-Claude Casadesus became the principal conductor of the newly formed Orchestre National de Lille to which ensemble he devoted a big part of his career. Of course he took conducting assignments elsewhere and I heard him conduct at the Flanders and the Walloon Opera. He struck me as exceptionally able in the French repertoire; having a lightness of touch without becoming superficial and I always thought he never got the career he deserved. He once more proves his mastering of such a score on this recording and one almost forgets that his orchestra is only second rate. The song of the flea gets the appropriate lightness while ‘L’amour, d’ardente flamme’ receives its portion of tragedy. Casadesus leads orchestra and singers in a way that makes ‘Damnation’ an opera, inevitably leading up to its redeeming end, instead of the somewhat unequal collection of arias, marches and ballet it can be in a lesser maestro’s hands.

It is a joy to finally meet Alain Vernhes in a big part on records. The French bass-baritone (and not a baritone as noted on the sleeve) had an unusual career. He became an opera singer but left the profession due to lack of engagements (not unusual in France for many years where ‘imports’ by definition were almost always considered to be better singers and where good French singers were often literally on the dole). After several years Vernhes tried again and this time he succeeded though as with Casadesus he didn’t get the big career. Although he is no longer young his rolling voice and tremendous acting capacities can still make quite an impression as I gladly noted last year when I heard him as Gounod’s Méphistophèles. Granted, the voice is somewhat rougher than José van Dam’s and his lower notes are, as proven on this recording, not his best ones. But he has the French style in his blood and masterfully characterizes each of his solos (sardonic in his flea song; threatening in his ‘devant la maison’) and he easily surpasses such exotic birds as Fischer-Dieskau, Lloyd or Pertusi. Moreover the voice is fuller than Cachemaille’s or Bastin’s and for those who don’t know him his interpretation will come as a nice surprise.

Michael Myers’ Faust is well-known as he already recorded the role in 1987 for Philips. The voice has become more manly and for a moment one confuses him with Gedda but the chinks in the vocal armour ( the voice becoming smaller above the stave; not always a firm line) soon tell the listener that Myers is somewhat of a poor man’s Gedda; especially if one compares with the early sixties highlights recording with Gedda and Rita Gorr.

Marie-Ange Todorovitch didn’t convince me. Yes, she is French and maybe a dugazon (a high mezzo like Von Stade or Von Otter) suits Marguerite better than a powerhouse like Gorr or Crespin but the voice has not enough beauty in it and sounds often somewhat slack. Her ‘Autrefois un roi de Thulé’ is unremarkable though she is more convincing in ‘D’amour l’ardente flamme’. Nevertheless I regret Naxos didn’t engage the formidable Béatrice Uria-Monzon whose performance in the house some years ago led me to believe here was Gorr’s successor. Sadly the lady is not much interested in recording as she told me herself.

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):