Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Women's Voices: a sung celebration of six eloquent and confident voices

The voices of six women composers are celebrated by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and soprano Yunah Lee on this characteristically ambitious and valuable release by Lontano Records Ltd (Lorelt).

Rosa mystica: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

As Paul Spicer, conductor of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, observes, the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is as ‘old as Christianity itself’, and programmes devoted to settings of texts which venerate the Virgin Mary are commonplace.

The Prison: Ethel Smyth

Ethel Smyth’s last large-scale work, written in 1930 by the then 72-year-old composer who was increasingly afflicted and depressed by her worsening deafness, was The Prison – a ‘symphony’ for soprano and bass-baritone soloists, chorus and orchestra.

Songs by Sir Hamilton Harty: Kathryn Rudge and Christopher Glynn

‘Hamilton Harty is Irish to the core, but he is not a musical nationalist.’

After Silence: VOCES8

‘After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ Aldous Huxley’s words have inspired VOCES8’s new disc, After Silence, a ‘double album in four chapters’ which marks the ensemble’s 15th anniversary.

Beethoven's Songs and Folksongs: Bostridge and Pappano

A song-cycle is a narrative, a journey, not necessarily literal or linear, but one which carries performer and listener through time and across an emotional terrain. Through complement and contrast, poetry and music crystallise diverse sentiments and somehow cohere variability into an aesthetic unity.

Flax and Fire: a terrific debut recital-disc from tenor Stuart Jackson

One of the nicest things about being lucky enough to enjoy opera, music and theatre, week in week out, in London’s fringe theatres, music conservatoires, and international concert halls and opera houses, is the opportunity to encounter striking performances by young talented musicians and then watch with pleasure as they fulfil those sparks of promise.

Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players: a world premiere recording

“It’s forbidden, and where’s the art in that?”

John F. Larchet's Complete Songs and Airs: in conversation with Niall Kinsella

Dublin-born John F. Larchet (1884-1967) might well be described as the father of post-Independence Irish music, given the immense influenced that he had upon Irish musical life during the first half of the 20th century - as a composer, musician, administrator and teacher.

Haddon Hall: 'Sullivan sans Gilbert' does not disappoint thanks to the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Andrews

The English Civil War is raging. The daughter of a Puritan aristocrat has fallen in love with the son of a Royalist supporter of the House of Stuart. Will love triumph over political expediency and religious dogma?

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

Beethoven Symphony no 9 (the Choral Symphony) in D minor, Op. 125, and the Choral Fantasy in C minor, Op. 80 with soloist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester, new from Harmonia Mundi.

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

A Louise Brooks look-a-like, in bobbed black wig and floor-sweeping leather trench-coat, cheeks purple-rouged and eyes shadowed in black, Barbara Hannigan issues taut gestures which elicit fire-cracker punch from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Alfredo Piatti: The Operatic Fantasies (Vol.2) - in conversation with Adrian Bradbury

‘Signor Piatti in a fantasia on themes from Beatrice di Tenda had also his triumph. Difficulties, declared to be insuperable, were vanquished by him with consummate skill and precision. He certainly is amazing, his tone magnificent, and his style excellent. His resources appear to be inexhaustible; and altogether for variety, it is the greatest specimen of violoncello playing that has been heard in this country.’

Those Blue Remembered Hills: Roderick Williams sings Gurney and Howells

Baritone Roderick Williams seems to have been a pretty constant ‘companion’, on my laptop screen and through my stereo speakers, during the past few ‘lock-down’ months.

Bruno Ganz and Kirill Gerstein almost rescue Strauss’s Enoch Arden

Melodramas can be a difficult genre for composers. Before Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden the concept of the melodrama was its compact size – Weber’s Wolf’s Glen scene in Der Freischütz, Georg Benda’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea or even Leonore’s grave scene in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
08 Mar 2007

WAGNER: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Recorded between 18 and 29 June 1984 at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, this production of Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nűrnberg makes a classic presentation of the opera available in a two-DVD set issued in 2006 by Deutsche Grammophon.

Richard Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Bernd Weikl, Siegfried Jerusalem, Hermann Prey, Mari Anne Häggander, Graham Clark, Chor und Orchester der Bayreuther Festspiele, Horst Stein (cond.). Directed by Wolfgang Wagner. Video Director: Brian Large

Deutsche Grammophon 073 416-0 [2DVDs]

$34.99  Click to buy

As a televised production, the overture lacks the usual audience shots or pans over the orchestra. Instead, the period line drawings of Nűrnberg, along with maps of the city, offer a departure that also maintains the visual interest. Unlike some other operas released by Deutsche Grammophon, this performance was made for television and, as such, represents a studio recording rather than the kind of live stage performance broadcast on "Live from the Met" or other, similar means. As such, the visual aspect of the performance is quite effective, with lighting and angles responsive to the studio used for the recording. That stated, the ambiance is not as full as can occur in a conventional opera house, where a level of resonance adds to the overall effect.

That aside, the staging is by Wolfgang Wagner, who also directed the production, which included an essentially all-star cast. The principals are, for the most part familiar names and voices, and there is no question about the talented musicians involved with this particular Meistersinger. Since this performance was recorded over two decades ago, some of the then-new singers have become familiar to many audiences, and the choices seem well-thought. One anomaly, though, occurs with the character of Hans Sachs. It is customary to encounter relatively young performers cast in the roles of David and Walther, but the choice of then-young Bernd Weikl as Hans Sachs contributed a new and effective dynamic to this recording.

Much can be said, though, for the attention to detail that emerges in a filmed production like this one. Conducted by the durable Horst Stein, it is a solid performance that delivers the score without any surprising or idiosyncratic interpretations. At the core of this production is Hans Sachs, whose humanity precipitates the resolution of the drama, and Weikl has created memorable interpretation. His rich, supple tone is consistently present, as he anchors the fine cast from the opening through the end. He clearly knows the role, both vocally and dramatically, with gestures and body language that are fully in character — his Sachs is worth knowing, and Weikl's performance stands well with that of other fine singers who have made him come alive on stage. Yet it is hard to appreciate the character of Sachs without a believable Beckmesser, and Hermann Prey rendered the thorny personage well. It seems all too easy to portray Beckmesser as a caricature, but that kind of depiction falls short of the needs of this libretto. Prey brings out the earnestness of Beckmesser from the start, with a fine delivery of the role.

With the rest of the cast, the performances are reliable, but undifferentiated. It seems that in the conception of this production, the various characters and their music merge into a more unified ensemble, just as the various themes coalesce in the overture and other instrumental portions of the opera. This approach is not without its interest, as it calls attention to the various musical elements of the work. Yet the concept of music drama that Wagner had delineated by the time he composed Die Meistersinger requires a balance between the dramatic elements with musical finesse, and some overt theatricality has its place in performances of this opera. With several other fine DVDs of Die Meistersinger von Nűrnberg currently available, it is difficult not to draw comparisons with other performances. The dynamic tension of the other Deutsche Grammophon DVD, the more recent one from the Met, stands in contrast to this more stagey one from Bayreuth, and a comparison of the two points to the differences that can occur when an audience is part of the recording. It is, perhaps, the lack of the live stage that affects the sense of drama that is critical to opera, and if the present Bayreuth DVD is lacking, the absence of such dramatic tension must be noted.

While the sound is a bit dry, it is nonetheless clear, without balance problems. As a DVD, rather than a CD, a choice of sound exists, to PCM Stereo or DTS sound, as is the case with other releases from Deutsche Grammophon. This particular DVD appears to be marketed to the English-speaking world, since information about the production, like rubrics for stage direction, costumes, etc., as well as the digital navigation, are in English. The booklet includes full track listings, plus a synopsis of the libretto for each of the tracks. All in all, this is a fine performance that preserves performances of excellent Wagnerians, and it is for their work that this recording has much to recommend.

James L. 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):