08 Feb 2007
Sorry my friends, but this rich-looking DVD has a feature that disqualifies it for me.
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.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France
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.
Sorry my friends, but this rich-looking DVD has a feature that disqualifies it for me.
It is synchronized and though the singers do very well and open their mouths at the appropriate moment you still pay attention to it and you are unable to forget it during the whole performance as you see the physical challenge of singing is absent. It’s not that I throw away all and everything operatic that is synchronized. I regret it but I’ve still looked spell-bound at Franco Corelli’s Canio of 1954 or Moffo’s Butterfly of a few years later but in those days it was actually quite impossible to broadcast a big opera from small cramped TV studio — though a RAI colleague once told me the real reason for synchronizing was the fact nobody in an Italian TV studio could ever keep his/her mouth shut. By 1982 when this Rigoletto was filmed, camera sensitivity and lighting had proceeded so much that synchronizing was no longer necessary and house broadcasting was the rule. Therefore the real reason of this outmoded operatic TV-movie is the intricate and opulent production by Ponelle. If one didn’t know better one would swear it was by Zeffirelli due to the number of courtiers and the orgy taking place in the first act. Ponelle preferred to take his Piave/Verdi libretto literally. He uses the Gonzaga palace and the city of Mantova as a real life set and designs a very realistic production. It makes for some magnificent sights at first but in the end it is somewhat unsatisfactory as this is the Gonzaga place I and million of tourists know it nowadays; stripped of its pictures by young Pieter Paul Rubens, its tapestries and its murals. The contrast between the fine costumes and the bare walls doesn’t make the sets believable. As always Ponelle had some brilliant ideas like the duke paying off the maid. Photography and camera handling is exemplary and rarely I have watched such a judicious mix of close-ups, medium and panoramic shots. Realism however has a price; one has to do it consequently as otherwise everything results in make-believe and this is what one gets here. During the abduction there is more than light enough for Rigoletto to read a book, even blind-folded. Gualtier Maldé, Gilda’s poor student, looks exactly what he is: the rich duke in one of his less exuberant outfits but still the duke. And Sparafucile succeeds in stabbing Gilda without spilling a drop of blood.
The singers too are not always very believable as actors. Not Pavarotti, who acts very convincingly and whose clothes are a masterpiece of camouflage. But Gruberova doesn’t look very virginal (rather difficult when one has twice the age of an 18-year old girl) or sexy. In a live broadcast in the house every opera fan has no problems when the soprano is a bit too ripe but in a grandiose film one has other expectations and the conventions are different. The vocalizing too has some ripeness problems. Here Gruberova is the best with an exemplary sung Gilda, displaying her formidable technique. Ingvar Wixell however is not suited to the role. The voice lies too high and has no heft in the big outbursts. His is a very lyric baritone, apt for introspection in ‘Pari siamo’ or the first act duet but in ‘Cortigiani, vil razza’ and in the vendetta duet his voice lacks power and rage.
The ‘raison d’être’ of the movie can be deduced from the sleeve portrait: no Rigoletto or Gilda but the duke as the opera is regarded as a vehicle for the star tenor. I think this is for Pavarotti-die-hards only who want to see their hero. He had a career of twenty years behind him when he recorded the sound track and the mellifluousness was slowly going away, leaving us with the rather monochromatic sound of his later days. He is often straining and his top note in ‘Possente amor’ is no longer a thing of beauty and strengt. For the great Pavarotti one has to purchase his famous RAI performance of 1966 (Scotto, Paskalis) or the official Decca recording of 1971. Of course, one would be happy with such a vocal display in any performance one goes to; but Pavarotti here is his own biggest competitor and he loses out to his younger self. Riccardo Chailly and his Vienna Philharmonic assist the singers (recorded prominently) ably though I cannot say he throws a new or very revealing light on the score.