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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”
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
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.
21 Mar 2007
Große Opernchöre — Great Opera Choirs
In setting the scene or furthering the action on stage, the opera chorus often provides some
memorable aural scenery in works by composers from Claudio Monteverdi to Arnold
Schoenberg, and this collection offers a representative selection of examples from both those
composers, and well as a number of others. Recorded on 14 January 2004, this concert of the
Stuttgart Staatsopernchor and Staatsorchester offered a program devoted to memorable choruses.
The selection offered here is as diverse as the function of the chorus in the works represented,
and this points to the demanding role the chorus has in this genre.
Audiences may be familiar with the version of Borodin’s “Polevtsian Dances” from Prince Igor
in its orchestral form, but the music properly belongs to the chorus, who commands the stage for
the quarter hour of this scene. As an opening number in this compilation, it is impressive for the
stylistic demands placed on the ensemble, and the skill of the Stuttgart group offers a convincing
reading of this work. Full of the exoticism found in modal passages, spare and unusual scorings,
percussive interludes, and other sound effects. To these sounds the choral forces contribute their
own particular colors as Borodin juxtaposed men’s and women’s voices, contrasted smaller
ensembles with larger ones, and otherwise manipulated the chorus just as he deftly scored the
Some of the choruses are well known enough to have taken on a life of their own, as is the case
with the “Triumphal March” from Verdi’s Aida, and its performance here conveys majesty
without ostentation. Schrottner offers a crisp reading and avoids indulging the cliches that can
mar the piece. As with the excerpt from Prince Igor, Verdi scored the chorus with a variety of
colors to suggest the various groups enslaved by the Egyptian pharaoh, and the vocal timbres that
the Staatsopernchor brings to the piece are varied sufficiently to create such a sonic tableau.
Other choruses can be more atmospheric, as with the one from Pagliacci, “Andiam, andiam,”
which often blends into the staging of Leoncavallo’s opera. Performed apart from Pagliacci, this
chorus is effective by itself, and resembles in some ways the famous chorus from Mascagni’s
Cavalleria Rusticana with its nuanced choral scene-painting. It is an excellent choice for a
concert of opera choruses because of the rare occasions when this excerpt from Pagliacci is
heard on its own. Likewise, it is a pleasure to encounter the chorus “Wo ist Moses?” from
Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron on this recording. A satisfying excerpt on its own merits, its
presence here calls attention to the role the chorus has in that opera. Similarly, the chorus of
nymphs and shepherds from Monteverdi’s Orfeo is a fine choice, which represents some of the
earliest efforts to include the chorus in the genre. Balancing some of the more familiar choral
excerpts, these latter two are worth hearing separately, so that audiences can appreciate their
character and which, in turn, adds to the depth of the operas to which each belongs.
Such ensembles can function as characters in their own rite, as with the chorus of exiles from
Verdi’s Macbeth or the Russian people in Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov. With the latter, the
Stuttgart chorus is highly effective in creating the dramatic tension required in the prologue. The
famous “Coronation Scene” requires a strong chorus to set the scene, and this performance offers
a fine reading of Mussorgsky’s score. Its dark colors reflect the Russian populace well, just as the
lower female voices needed in the first-act “Witches’ Chorus” from Verdi’s Macbeth is
appropriately dark in its execution. A well-known excerpt, it is a fine example that uses
exclusively women’s voices.
The performance is exemplary, and the recording suggests studio quality, with audience and
stages sounds virtually imperceptible. Yet after the last track, the enthusiastic applause shows
that this was recorded live and benefitted from the dynamism that arises when an audience is
present. The chorus involved certainly would know how to react to the situation, and they carry
themselves with elan and intensity. As much as recordings of opera choruses can sometimes,
blur, this particular recording contains some fine choices that are not often encountered.
James L. Zychowicz