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

Giovanni Simon 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.

Gramophone Award Winner — Matthias Goerne Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge

Winner of the 2017 Gramophone Awards, vocal category - Matthias Goerne and Christoph Eschenbach - Johannes Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge and other Brahms Lieder. Here is why ! An exceptional recording, probably a new benchmark.

Véronique Gens: Visions from Grand Opéra

Ravishing : Visions, Véronique Gens in a glorious new recording of French operatic gems, with Hervé Niquet conducting the Münchener Rundfunkorchester. This disc is a companion piece to Néère, where Gens sang familiar Duparc, Hahn, and Chausson mélodies.

John Joubert's Jane Eyre

Librettists have long mined the literature shelves for narratives that are ripe for musico-dramatic embodiment. On the whole, it’s the short stories and poems - The Turn of the Screw, Eugene Onegin or Death in Venice, for example - that best lend themselves to operatic adaptation.

Through Life and Love: Louise Alder sings Strauss

Soprano Louise Alder has had an eventful few months. Declared ‘Young Singer of the Year’ at the 2017 International Opera Awards in May, the following month she won the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

A Master Baritone in Recital: Sesto Bruscantini, 1981

This is the only disc ever devoted to the art of Sesto Bruscantini (1919–2003). Record collectors value his performance of major baritone roles, especially comic but also serious ones, on many complete opera recordings, such as Il barbiere di Siviglia (with Victoria de los Angeles). He continued to perform at major houses until at least 1985 and even recorded Mozart's Don Alfonso in 1991, when he was 72.

Emalie Savoy: A Portrait

Since 1952, the ARD—the organization of German radio stations—has run an annual competition for young musicians. Winners have included Jessye Norman, Maurice André, Heinz Holliger, and Mitsuko Uchida. Starting in 2015, the CD firm GENUIN has offered, as a separate award, the chance for one of the prize winners to make a CD that can serve as a kind of calling card to the larger musical and music-loving world. In 2016, the second such CD award was given to the Aris Quartett (second-prize winner in the “string quartet” category).

Detlev Glanert : Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch

Detlev Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch should be a huge hit. Just as Carl Orff's Carmina Burana appeals to audiences who don't listen to early music (or even to much classical music), Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch has all the elements for instant popular success.

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

A Resplendent Régine Crespin in Tosca

There have to be special reasons to release a monophonic live recording of a much-recorded opera. Often it can give us the opportunity to hear a singer in a major role that he or she never recorded commercially—or did record on some later occasion, when the voice was no longer fresh. Often a live recording catches the dramatic flow better than certain studio recordings that may be more perfect technically.

Karine Deshayes’s Astonishing New Rossini Recording

Critic and scholar John Barker has several times complained, in the pages of American Record Guide, about Baroque vocal recitals that add instrumental works or movements as supposed relief or (as he nicely calls them) “spacers.”

Knappertsbusch’s Only Recording of Lohengrin Released for the First Time

Hans Knappertsbusch was one of the most renowned Wagner conductors who ever lived. His recordings of Parsifal, especially, are near-legendary among confirmed Wagnerians.

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered, from SOMM Recordings, makes available on CD archive broadcasts of British and German song. All come from BBC broadcasts made between 1947 and 1952. Of the 26 tracks in this collection, 19 are "new", not having been commercially released. The remaining seven have been remastered by sound restoration engineer Ted Kendall. Something here even for those who already own the complete recordings.

Color and Drama in Two Choral Requiems from Post-Napoleonic France

The Requiem text has brought out the best in many composers. Requiem settings by Mozart, Verdi, and Fauré are among the most beloved works among singers and listeners alike, and there are equally wondrous settings by Berlioz and Duruflé, as well as composers from before 1750, notably Jean Gilles.

Matthias Goerne - late Schumann songs, revealed

Matthias Goerne Schumann Lieder, with Markus Hinterhäuser, a new recording from Harmonia Mundi. Singers, especially baritones, often come into their prime as they approach 50, and Goerne, who has been a star since his 20's is now formidably impressive. The colours in his voice have matured, with even greater richness and depth than before.

LALO and COQUARD: La Jacquerie

La Jacquerie—here recorded for the first time—proves to be a wonderful opera, bringing delight upon delight.

Urania Remasters Marriage of Figaro

Good news for lovers of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro: the famous Living Stereo recording, a co-production of RCA Victor and English Decca, is now available again, well remastered, on Urania.

Opera Rara: new recording of Bellini's Adelson e Salvini

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

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Richard Wagner: Parsifal
20 Feb 2007

WAGNER: Parsifal

Recorded on 28 March 1970 in Rome, this recording of Parsifal makes available a live performance conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch, one of the foremost interpreters of Wagner’s works in his day.

Richard Wagner: Parsifal

Timo Callio (Parsifal); Ursula Schröder-Feinen (Kundry); Franz Crass (Gurnemanz); Theo Adam (Amfortas); Gerd Nienstedt (Klingsor); Kurt Moll (Titurel); Orchestra

Myto 3 MCD 063.328 [3CDs]

$54.98  Click to buy

While he was a prominent figure at Bayreuth, Sawallisch is conspicuous for the lack of a recording of Parsifal from that venue. Yet this release addresses such a need with a cast that includes some of the finest Wagnerian singers of the time. Most importantly, this Myto recording features Ursula Schröder-Feinen, a remarkable singer whose accomplishments are best-known by those who saw her perform. While some recent CDs, like this one, preserve live performances of this singer, the discography is lacking when it comes to studio recordings that include Schröder-Feinen.

As Kundry, Schröder-Feinen is remarkable in her ability not only to perform the role well, but to imbue it with a vocal characterization that emerges on a recording and not just on stage. Her voice is suited to the role, not only for the demands that the role poses, but in the intensity with which she approaches the entirety of the second act. This performance benefits from a freshness and spontaneity often hoped for a Kundry to embody. Schröder-Feinen’s tenuous sounds as Klingsor awakens her give way to the conscious and dynamic vocal presence of Kundry as she attempts to seduce Parsifal, but inevitably fails. Such failure is only on the part of the character in the opera, as it is otherwise for the singer in this performance. Vocally, Schröder-Feinen triumphs in her execution of the act with elan.

Those familiar with Schröder-Feinen will find this performance to represent her well. With a performance like this one of Parsifal, the aural documentation concurs with the usual judgments about the quality of this singer’s voice and interpretive facility. With a freshness some associate with the character of Sieglinde in Die Walkűre, Schröder-Feinen is enticing, and, more importantly, convincing Kundry. As many know, Sawallisch worked Schröder-Feinen, and it is clear from this recording that he elicited some fine singing from her. While her career was relatively short, her quality is evident in performances like this one.

The other members of the cast also effective, with such well-know singers as Theo Adam and Kurt Moll giving the kinds of performances that helped to establish their reputations. Nienstedt’s portrayal of Klingsor is vivid throughout his appearances in the second act, with the Finnish tenor Timo Callio captured in this live performance. Known in the 1970s for roles like Parsifal, Callio is not often found on recordings, and this particular release captures him just before he became more widely known in Europe. Callio was known in the US, but is not a familiar voice, and those interested in hearing him have the opportunity to do so in this recording. In fact, the second act is worth hearing for his approach to that part of the opera.

The liner notes contain some reference to the secondary roles, and as well as they are handled in this performance, the choral forces are notable for their precision and intonation. The chorus at the end of the first act is not only precise in the ritualistic scene, but the intonation rings wonderfully as the scene comes to its close. Likewise, the flower maidens in the second act are extroverted and suitably aggressive in their vocal seduction of the troubled Parsifal. They offer the kind of precision associated with the trio of Rhinemaidens in Das Rheingold, creating an intimacy in the scene that can be lacking in some performances. It is this level of detail that makes Sawallisch’s performance compelling, with the nuances essential to a solid interpretation of Wagner’s music fully in place.

In terms of conducting, Sawallisch contributes a fine breadth to the performance, with tempos the tempos flowing naturally. His treatment of the notationally four-square rhythms demonstrates a fluidity of pulse that allows the text to be heard clearly and the orchestral interjections and interludes to contribute to the drama. The Grail procession is not only part of the musical scenery, but also a moment for the audience to reflect on the drama, with the ardent solemnity emerging easily in this notable performance.

On the whole, the CD itself is remarkably clean. Recorded near the stage, the recording presents the voices vividly, if not, perhaps overly prominent. While the orchestra is still audible, the balance with the solo voices and choral forces is not always event, and dynamic levels take their cue from the performers on stage more than the efforts of the conductor in the pit. This is not entirely unwelcome, as it gives listeners the chance to hear some of the famous voices directly, without being obscured by an orchestral passage or lost within an accompanying figure.

A live performance, not a studio recording, the ambiance and balance is not always ideal, but it is possible to become accustomed to it and focus on the recording. Unlike some other CD releases of live performances, this Myto recording also benefits from judicious banding, such that it is possible to find specific sections of each act easily, as reflected in the track listings in the accompanying booklet. The recording does not include the libretto, but this should not pose problems with a work as familiar as Parsifal. Those who wish to have a copy of the libretto might consult some of the resources on the Internet for this text and those of Wagner’s other operas. All in all, this is another fine release by Myto, which makes available some worthy performances in its line of recordings.

James Zychowicz

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):