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Paul Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, first heard in 1907, once seemed important. Arturo Toscanini conducted the Met premiere in 1911 with Farrar and later arranged some of its music for a 1947 recording with his NBC Symphony.
The economics of the recording companies dictate much that is not ideal.
Wagner’s operas were not composed as they were in order to permit the
extraction of bleeding chunks, even on those occasions when strophic song forms
Among the recent recordings of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, Valery Gergiev’s release on the LSO Live label is an excellent addition to the discography of this work.
While not unknown, the songs of Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942) deserve to be heard more frequently.
Recorded on 5 and 6 May 2008 and 17 and 18 January 2009 at the Lisztzentrum (Raiding, Austria), this recent Bridge release makes available the piano-vocal versions of three song cycles by Gustav Mahler, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert-Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder performed by mezzo-soprano Hermine Haselböck, accompanied by Russell Ryan.
Contraltos rarely achieve the acclaim and renown of sopranos. Assigned few leading roles in opera, they are condemned to playing the villain or the grandmother, or to stealing the castrati’s trousers in en travesti roles.
Following their 2011 Decca recording of Striggio’s Mass in 40 Parts (1566), I Fagiolini continue their quest to unearth lost treasures of the High Renaissance and early Baroque, with this collection of world-premiere recordings, ‘reconstructions’ and ‘reconstitutions’ of music by Giovanni and Andrea Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Palestrina, and their less well-known compatriots Viadana, Barbarino and Soriano.
Eternal Echoes is an album of khazones [Jewish cantorial music] for cantorial soloist, solo violin and a blended instrumental ensemble comprising a small orchestra and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.
Michael Tilson Thomas’s recording of Mahler’s Third Symphony is an outstanding contribution to the composer’s discography.
Oliver Knussen burst into British music with an unprecedented flourish. In 1967, the London Symphony Orchestra premiered Knussen’s First Symphony, with István Kertész scheduled to conduct.
Based on performances given in Summer 2010 at the Lucerne Festival, this recording of Beethoven’s Fidelio is an admirable recording that captures the vitality of the work as conducted by Claudio Abbado.
Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) was one of the most popular composers of his day in Poland, and of the many works he wrote for the stage, two are performed from time to time, Halka (1848) and Strazny dwór [The Haunted Manor] (1865).
The Polish alto Jadwiga Rappé is a familiar voice in various stage and concert works, and the recent release of a selection of songs by Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) is an opportunity to hear her performing artsongs.
Originally released on multiple discs in 1981 this reissue on two CDs is a comprehensive collection of art songs by Italian and French composers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
An exciting contribution to the discography of this popular opera, the live performance of Richard Strauss’s Salome from the Festspielhaus at Baden-Baden is a compelling DVD.
Released in late 2011, Deutsche Grammophon’s DVD of the new staging of Berg’s Lulu at the Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona is an excellent contribution to the discography of this fascinating opera.
A recent release by the Metropolitan Opera, this two-disc set makes available on DVD the famous performance of Berg’s Lulu that was broadcast on 20 December 1980 as part of the PBS series “Live from the Met.”
The novels of Sinclair Lewis once shot across the American literary skies like comets, alarming and fascinating readers of that era, but their tails didn’t extend far behind them.
Once the province of only the most dedicated opera fanatics, mid-20th century recordings of privately taped live performances have become more widely available.
Flute players in opera orchestra around the world must look forward to the frequent appearances of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, knowing that while the stage spotlight in the mad scene will be on the soprano, the orchestral spotlight will be on their instrument.
21 Mar 2007
DONIZETTI: Roberto Devereux
Asked in an interview by Opera News on his opinion on updating, James Levine replied that it often intensified one or another aspect of the story but that in general it was not possible to update without distorting the story and the equilibrium in the whole opera.
I’m still searching
which small detail director Loy succeeded in highlighting in this modern production that
otherwise would have escaped me in a traditional one. It takes less than a minute to realize the
ridiculousness of it all. At the royal palace in London cleaners enter with Royal Cleaning Service
in bold letters on their uniforms; probably for fear we would otherwise not have caught the
originality of the concept. Soon after, all members of Parliament are looking into their own copy
of The Sun, England’s popular tabloid well-known for its coverage of royals. Loy had a special
edition of The Sun printed telling us on its front page: “Seducer returned” “Devereux is back”.
From that moment on the story turns from ridiculous to risible. If one uses telling and realistic
details, one asks the audience to accept the rest of the story as really possible as well. Therefore
one is asked to believe that modern Parliament can condemn anyone to death and that the actual
Queen Elizabeth is able to act without a single member of Her Majesty’s Government to be noted
within hundreds of miles — a problem not existing in a traditional production as the real queen
Elizabeth I not only reigned but governed as well.
To muddy the waters somewhat more Loy asks his prima donna to remove her red wig at the end
revealing a few tufts of grey hair (a wig as well) which is quite compatible with the last days of
the real Tudor Queen. This reviewer doesn’t like traditional productions per definition. Update if
you want and if it is possible; but do it consequently and put some work in it. That means more
than just putting singers in modern dress and having them read The Sun. That means replacing
the historical names and even changing the words in the libretto. No modern Sarah, Duchess of
Nottingham would dream of referring to Rosamunde (mistress of King Henry II and incidentally
another opera by Donizetti) as most members of parliament wouldn’t know whom she was
singing about. In a traditional production this is of course wholly acceptable as every nobleman
in the 16th Century, and even every Italian opera lover of Donizetti’s time, knew who fair
Rosamunde was. But this means new and unfashionably hard work and maybe madame
Gruberova would refuse to sing a wholly new text.
Updating means too that one knows how to handle a chorus but the only solution Loy finds
during most scenes consists of chorus members and soloists shaking hands and clapping each
other on the back in the most dreadful old-fashioned way possible. And when the Duchess hands
over the ring which can save Devereux’ life to the queen, this cannot be done standing but has
the two ladies crawling as worms on the floor.
As could be expected one of the main Munich papers hailed the production as “an overwhelming
chamber play with precise gestures and unflagging dramatic conviction”. Their reviewer
probably has the necessary hamburger-mentality this writer lacks. Opera according to one of its
modern prophets, one Robert Wilson, has to be savoured as a hamburger; layer for layer and not
as a whole. So there needn’t be a straight relation between music, text, surtitles, costumes and
sets as long as each element is fine on its own. Mr. Loy is fine apostle of this creed. Moreover, I
admit freely he is a great entrepreneur. His productions of Zemlinsky’s Der Zwerg and Hänsel
und Gretel which I saw at De Munt and De Vlaamse opera were almost identical. Now that’s the
right spirit, cashing in twice for the same idea.
Such a production cannot but diminish the musical aspects which is a sorry thing indeed .
Gruberova was 59 at the time of recording (almost the exact age of queen Elizabeth when she
had her fling with Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex and stepson of the great love of her life,
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester) and thus she has, probably involuntary, ‘le fysique du role’.
She is less than a minute on the scene and she already sings a stunningly beautiful trill.
Throughout she is in very good voice — lashing out when necessary and proving her technical
mastery with a series of examples of ‘messa di voce’, trills and pearly coloratura. There is no hint
of a wobble or breathiness. She, as the saying goes, sings better than most coloraturas twenty
years younger. She only betrays her age by the one weakness she always gives in to: no one is
clearly able to convince her to renounce a difficult not to be found in the score C or D at the end
of a cabaletta, as nowadays these notes are mostly flat and, as a consequence, she somewhat
spoils her magnificent arias in the first act and during the final scene.
Tenor Roberto Aronica sings better than I remember from his live performances. His is not the
most sensuous sound, but it is a real Italian voice with a good metal core. He sings sensitively
with fine diminuendi and good and strong high notes.
Albert Schagidullin has a strong and beautiful bass-baritone, reminding me of the noble sound of
young Ettore Bastianini. He too knows how to phrase and it’s probably not his fault his Duke of
Nottingham looks rather comic with his modern horse tail hair.
Jeanne Piland has a clear fine mezzo but looks as old as the Queen herself. It’s difficult to
believe in Devereux’ passion.
Conductor Friedrich Haider proves his reputation as a singer’s conductor to be true. Everybody is
clearly at ease though there is vitality in his reading. He also gives us the full score and that
means two verses of the many cabalettas.
The picture quality is very high but there is a problem with synchronizing. No actual date of
performance is given. We only learn there were performances on four days in May 2005. This
DVD therefore was probably culled from several performances but in the editing things went
wrong from time to time as there are several moments where singing and mouth positions do not