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

Pan-European Orpheus : Julian Prégardien

"Orpheus I am!" - An unusual but very well chosen collection of songs, arias and madrigals from the 17th century, featuring Julian Prégardien and Teatro del mondo. Devised by Andreas Küppers, this collection crosses boundaries demonstrating how Italian, German, French and English contemporaries responded to the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Laci Boldemann’s Opera Black Is White, Said the Emperor

We normally think of operas as being serious or comical. But a number of operas-some familiar, others forgotten-are neither of these. Instead, they are fantastical, dealing with such things as the fairy world and sorcerers, or with the world of dreams.

The Devil, Greed, War, and Simple Goodness: Ostrčil’s Jack’s Kingdom

Here is a little-known opera that, like an opera by the Swedish composer Laci Boldemann that I have reviewed here, and like Ravel’s amazing L’enfant et les sortilèges, utterly bypasses the usual categories of comic and grand/tragic by cultivating instead the rich realm of fantasy and folk tale.

Grands motets de Lalande

Majesté, a new recording by Le Poème Harmonique, led by Vincent Dumestre, of music by Michel-Richard de Lalande (1657-1726) new from Alpha Classics. Le Poème Harmonique are regular visitors to London, appreciated for the variety of their programes. On Friday this week, (11/5) they'll be at St John's Smith Square as part of the London Festival of Baroque, with a programme titled "At the World's Courts".

Perpetual Night - Early English Baroque, Ensemble Correspondances

New from Harmonia Mundi, Perpetual Night. a superb recording of ayres and songs from the 17th century, by Ensemble Correspondances with Sébastien Daucé and Lucile Richardot. Ensemble Correspondances are among the foremost exponents of the music of Versailles and the French royalty, so it's good to hear them turn to the music of the Stuart court.

Maria Callas: Tosca 1964: A film by Holger Preusse

When I reviewed Tosca at Covent Garden in January this year for Opera Today, Maria Callas’s 1964 Royal Opera House performance was still fresh in my mind. This is a recording I have grown up with and which, despite its flaws, is one of the greatest operatic statements - a glorious production which Zeffirelli finally agreed to staging, etched in gothic black and white film (albeit just Act II), with Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi, if not always as vocally commanding as they once were, acting out their roles like no one has before, or since.

Hubert Parry and the birth of English Song

British music would not be where it is today without the influence of Charles Hubert Parry. His large choral and orchestral works are well known, and his Jerusalem is almost the national anthem. But in the centenary of his death, we can re-appraise his role in the birth of modern British song.

Camille Saint-Saens: Mélodies avec orchestra

Saint-Saëns Mélodies avec orchestra with Yann Beuron and Tassis Christoyannis with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Markus Poschner.

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories are designed to occupy the final three days of Holy Week, and contemplate the themes of loss, betrayal and death that dominate the Easter week. As such, the Responsories demand a sense of darkness, reflection and depth that this new recording by Stile Antico - at least partially - captures.

Mahler Symphony no 9, Daniel Harding SRSO

Mahler Symphony no 9 in D major, with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, new from Harmonia Mundi. A rewarding performance on many levels, not least because it's thoughtfully sculpted, connecting structure to meaning.

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

Winterreise by Mark Padmore

Schubert's Winterreise is almost certainly the most performed Lieder cycle in the repertoire. Thousands of performances and hundreds of recordings ! But Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout's recording for Harmonia Mundi is proof of concept that the better the music the more it lends itself to re-discovery and endless revelation.

The Epic of Gilgamesh - Bohuslav Martinů

New recording of the English version of Bohuslav Martinů's The Epic of Gilgamesh, from Supraphon, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck. This is the world premiere recording of the text in English, the original language in which it was written.

Maybe the Best L’heure espagnole Yet

The new recording, from Munich, has features in common with one from Stuttgart that I greatly enjoyed and reviewed here: the singers are all native French-speakers, the orchestra is associated with a German radio channel, we are hearing an actual performance (or in this case an edited version from several performances, in April 2016), and the recording is released by the orchestra itself or its institutional parent.

Stéphanie d’Oustrac in Two Exotic Masterpieces by Maurice Ravel

The two works on this CD make an apt and welcome pair. First we have Ravel’s sumptuous three-song cycle about the mysteries of love and fantasies of exotic lands. Then we have his one-act opera that takes place in a land that, to French people at the time, was beckoningly exotic, and whose title might be freely translated “The Nutty and Delightful Things That Can Happen in Spain in Just One Hour”.

Stefano Secco: Crescendo

I had never heard of Stefano Secco before receiving this CD. But I see that, at age 34, he already has had a substantial career, singing major roles at important houses throughout Europe and, while I was not paying attention, occasionally in the US.

French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Gaetano Donizetti: Roberto Devereux
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.

Gaetano Donizetti: Roberto Devereux

Edita Gruberova (Elisabetta), Roberto Aronica (roberto), Albert Schagidullin (Nottingham), Jeanne Piland (Sara), Manolito Mario Franz (Cecil), Steven Humes (Gaultiero), Nikolay Borchev (Paggio), Johannes Klama (Giacomo). Bayerische Staatsorchester conducted by Friedrich Haider. Staged by Christof Loy – Video Direction by Brian Large.

Deutsche Grammophon 073 418-5 [DVD]

$27.98  Click to buy

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 correspond.

Jan Neckers

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):