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

Early Swedish opera - Stenhammer world premiere

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.

Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 2

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.

The Tallis Scholars: Josquin's Missa Di dadi

‘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’.

A Venetian Double: English Touring Opera

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.

Walter Braunfels : Orchestral Songs Vol 1

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.

Lalo: Complete Songs

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.

New from Opera Rara : Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe

Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara - Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.

Félicien David: Herculanum

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.

Samuel Barber: Choral Music

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.

A Prize-Winning Rediscovery from 1840s Paris (and 1830s Egypt)

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.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Richard Wagner: Tannhäuser
27 Feb 2007

WAGNER: Tannhäuser

As familiar Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser is, the opera benefits from solid performances that bring together fine singing, exquisite orchestral playing, and effective staging, and the Metropolitan Opera’s 1982 production conducted by James Levine gave audiences an exemplary performance that remains a touchstone for this work.

Richard Wagner: Tannhäuser

Richard Cassilly, Eva Marton, Tatiana Troyanos, Bernd Weikl, John Macurdy, The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Chorus and Ballet, James Levine, conductor.

Deutsche Grammophon DVD (2-DVD set, Region 1 coding). B0006580-09

$34.99  Click to buy

At the time this production was staged, reviews called attention to the quality of this particular effort on the part of the Metropolitan Opera and the leadership of James Levine. Based on performances given on 22 November and 20 December 1982 for a broadcast of “Live from the Met,” this 2006 DVD release demonstrates the lasting power of this production of the Paris version of Wagner’s opera.

A tradition staging, akin to the Met’s famous broadcast and, later, DVD release of Wagner’s Ring der Nibelungen, this production is faithful to the conventional treatment of the text as a fully medieval tale, albeit, the medievalism that Wagner brought to the public. Eschewing avant-garde theatrics and abstract imagery, the qualities of this production reside in the faithfulness to the traditional settings associated with the opera, including the colors and shading that bring the work to life on stage and in the imagination of the audience. The famous opening scene in Venusberg benefits from the choreography that points to the sensuality the composer intended, without necessarily indulging in excessive display. With the orchestral playing underscoring the scene, it serves as a fitting introduction to the opening exchange between Tannhäuser, as portrayed by the American tenor Richard Cassilly, and Venus, sung here by the late Tatiana Troyanos. The reviews of the time praised Cassily for his fine sense of drama, and this video preserves his nuanced performance, as well as Troyanos’s elegant and compelling depiction of Venus. The two performers clearly worked well together, both vocally and dramatically, with body language that reinforces the meaning of the text of the emotion of the music in this Otto Schenk production.

After immersing the audience and performers in the seductive world of Venusberg in the opening of the first act, the transformation to a stark countryside demonstrates the gulf between those world. The chorale-lilke hymn of pilgrims awakens Tannhäuser in the real work, with the choral textures flawlessly underscoring the scene. As traditional as this staging is, the flawless execution demonstrates how effective such a setting can be.

The staging gives way in the second act to the German court, the staging recreates in tableau the kinds of images found in illustrations from the period, and it is this sense of an authentic setting that conveys the artistic space for the performers to make the work come alive. Playing off the greeting of Venus at the beginning of the opera, Wagner’s overt parallelism is having the Christian Elizabeth welcome everyone to the German court, and Eva Marton conveys an elegant presence that stands alongside her other opera roles (notably a stunning Turandot from the Met, also available on DVD). Marton’s vocal coloring helps to delineate her character. The overt welcoming of “Dich, teure Halle” shifts to a more personal tone as Elizabeth interacts with Tannhäuser and defends him. Yet her interpretation of the extended prayer scene in the third act is even more impassioned in its parallel of the intensity that Troyanos brings to her sensual interpretation of Venus.

As Wolfram von Eschenbach, Bernd Weikl is quite effective, with a ringing baritone sound that plays off Cassily’s tenor. Yet the extended “Blick’ ich umher” shows Weikl’s commanding vocality that anticipates his fine work in the third act. John Macurdy is a solid Landgraf, with proper stage presence, and the other men fit well the court that Wagner created in what becomes essentially a morality play in the final act. While the third act maintains the traditional staging of the opera in its medieval trappings, the interpretation diverges a bit. Levine focuses on the more recitative-like exchanges in the third act, which contrast pointedly the more isolated lyricism “Song to the Evening Star” of Wolfram and Elizabeth’s “Allmächt’ge Jungfrau.” The dramaturgy verges, at times, to expressionist images, as the closeups on Cassilly point to a Tannhäuser on the edge of reality. This sets up the dénouement, which resolves the conflict implicit in the story, as pure and sacred love redeem the more self-directed hedonism that attracted Tannhäuser almost to the end. Wolfram is an agent of salvation, and Weikl acts well with Cassilly in bring out the inner struggle that essentially involves both of them.

It is a triumphant presentation that is captured well on for television and preserved here on DVD. The limitations that exist with filming opera on stage are mitigated by varying camera angles and a careful selection of long shots and close ups. At times the production captures the intimacy of the stage in ways that would be difficult to see from the audience’s perspective. A quarter century after its presentation on stage and subsequent broadcast, this Met performance remains compelling for musical, dramatic, and scenic qualities that coalesce here. The final bows seem all to swift for such an impressive production, and it calls to mind the late evenings that typified many productions of “Live from the Met.”

The two-DVD set is accompanied by a useful booklet that includes a detailed listing of the tracks, along with a synopsis of the scenes. It does not include a full libretto, but the text is readily available. In terms of presentation, the DVD is appropriate to an international audience with subtitles available in German, French, English, Castillian Spanish, and Chinese. The sound allows for DTS and Dolby Digital. Not listed in the booklet are the bonuses found on the DVD, which include a photo gallery that documents the continuing presence of Tannhäuser in the repertoire of the Met. (The other bonus is an extensive set of excerpts from Deutsche Grammophon’s DVD of the Patrice Chereau’s Ring for Bayreuth, and it is unfortunate that space was not devoted to the Met’s Ring, also available on the same label.) As a whole, this DVD presents a solid production of Tannhäuser that bears repeated viewings.

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):