20 Feb 2007
MOZART: Die Hochzeit des Figaro
Yes, the German title must be employed for this filmed Nozze en Deutsch from 1967.
In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.
Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.
A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.
The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.
Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.
‘Can great music be inspired by the throw of the dice?’ asks Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, in his liner notes to the ensemble’s new recording of Josquin’s Missa Di dadi (The Dice Mass). The fifteenth-century artist certainly had an abundant supply of devotional imagery. As one scholar has put it, during this age there was neither ‘an object nor an action, however trivial, that [was] not constantly correlated with Christ or salvation’.
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.
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.
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.
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” with herself!).
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.
Yes, the German title must be employed for this filmed Nozze en Deutsch from 1967.
That was the year of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Bonnie and Clyde, but the boisterous, iconoclastic mood of those times remains far, far away inside the Hamburg opera house. The cameras capture — in unsubtle color reminiscent of the “coloring” of b&w films by Ted Turner — a handsome, well-directed traditional production. As a snapshot of a typical, but classy, performance of a standard work at a German opera house in a time now long, long ago, this restored DVD makes for a charming treasure.
The charm begins with a “backstage” perspective as a prompter calls for the conductor, Hans Schmidt-Isserstedt, who offers an avuncular smile as he enters the pit and cues the overture. Cameras then go into the dressing room, briefly catching sight of most of the principals finishing their make-up or tidying their costume. Eventually our Figaro, Heinz Blankenburg (an American, by the way) passes by, and the camera follows him onto the stage, where the curtain rises at the end of the overture and we see a full house ready for the show.
But that is just a director's trick; this is not a performance filmed before a live audience, as the obviously canned applause at the end of each act indicates. The lip-syncing quickly becomes apparent, as well as a “studio echo” heard in forte passages. However, the film director (Joachim Hess) stays true to the essence of a stage performance, with many wide shots that wisely capture the stage action. Because of the opening sequence, the cast and credits roll after the first act.
The cast's winning verve and comfort in their roles trump any regrets about the dated nature of the presentation. While Blankenburg may play up Figaro's hearty good nature a bit much, he makes for a creditable foil to the excellent Count of Tom Krause. This is a classic portrayal, capturing the Count's lust, temper, frustration, awareness of his own bad behavior — and sung impeccably. Cute but not cutesy, Edith Mathis presents an adorable Susanna. Arlene Saunders doesn't quite have the richness of voice to really score in the Countess's big arias, but she acts well. Though Elisabeth Steiner never looks for a moment like a boy as Cherubino, her high spirits carry her through, along with her attractive voice.
Why has Arthaus provided such a hideous graphic design for the cover? A disgusting greenish wallpaper, thankfully unseen in the production, makes a backdrop for b&w photos of the cast, giving an incorrect impression of the film's content. The booklet essay, however, is a model of its kind, with a fine note on the opera, this production, and cast biographies. The subtitles have only one unfortunate misstep, when a character says of the Count that it is “not his wife who wets his appetite.” Kinky.
As the critical cliche goes, this should not be anyone's only DVD of the Mozart-da Ponte masterpiece. For the many, many lovers of this work, however, a lot of enjoyment awaits them inside that unfortunate cover.