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

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.

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

With this recording of Mozart’s 1771 opera, Il sogno di Scipione (Sicpio’s Dream), Classical Opera continue their progress through the adolescent composer’s precocious achievements and take another step towards the fulfilment of their complete Mozart opera series for Signum Classics.

Mozart’s Requiem: Pierre-Henri Dutron Edition

The stories surrounding Mozart’s Requiem are well-known. Dominated by the work in the final days of his life, Mozart claimed that he composed the Requiem for himself (Landon, 153), rather than for the wealthy Count Walsegg’s wife, the man who had commissioned it in July 1791.

Schumann and Mahler Lieder : Florian Boesch

Schumann and Mahler Lieder with Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau, now out from Linn Records, following their recent Schubert Winterreise on Hyperion. From Boesch and Martineau, excellence is the norm. But their Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen takes excellence to even greater levels

Hans Werner Henze : Kammermusik 1958

"....In lieblicher Bläue". Landmark new recordings of Hans Werner Henze Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge and Kammermusik 1958 from the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, with Andrew Staples, Markus Weidmann, Jürgen Ruck and Daniel Harding.

Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

Premiere Recording: Mayr’s Telemaco nell’isola di Calipso (1797)

No sooner had I drafted my review of Simon Mayr’s Medea in Corinto,

A Verlaine Songbook

Back in the LP days, if a singer wanted to show some sophistication, s/he sometimes put out an album of songs by famous composers set to the poems of one poet: for example, Phyllis Curtin’s much-admired 1964 disc of Debussy and Fauré songs to poems by Verlaine, with pianist Ryan Edwards (available now as a CD from VAI).

Giovanni Simone Mayr: Medea in Corinto

The Bavarian-born Johann Simon Mayr (1763–1845) trained and made his career in Italy and thus ended up calling himself Giovanni Simone Mayr, or simply G. S. Mayr. He is best known for having been composition teacher to Giuseppe Donizetti.

Matthias Goerne: Bach Cantatas for Bass

In this new release for Harmonia Mundi, German baritone Matthias Goerne presents us with two gems of Bach’s cantata repertoire, with the texts of both BWV 56 and 82 exploring one’s sense of hope in death.  Goerne adeptly interprets the paradoxical combination of hope and despair that underpins these works, deploying a graceful lyricism alongside a richer, darker bass register.

Gramophone Award Winner — Matthias Goerne Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge

Winner of the 2017 Gramophone Awards, vocal category - Matthias Goerne and Christoph Eschenbach - Johannes Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge and other Brahms Lieder. Here is why ! An exceptional recording, probably a new benchmark.

Véronique Gens: Visions from Grand Opéra

Ravishing : Visions, Véronique Gens in a glorious new recording of French operatic gems, with Hervé Niquet conducting the Münchener Rundfunkorchester. This disc is a companion piece to Néère, where Gens sang familiar Duparc, Hahn, and Chausson mélodies.

John Joubert's Jane Eyre

Librettists have long mined the literature shelves for narratives that are ripe for musico-dramatic embodiment. On the whole, it’s the short stories and poems - The Turn of the Screw, Eugene Onegin or Death in Venice, for example - that best lend themselves to operatic adaptation.

Through Life and Love: Louise Alder sings Strauss

Soprano Louise Alder has had an eventful few months. Declared ‘Young Singer of the Year’ at the 2017 International Opera Awards in May, the following month she won the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

A Master Baritone in Recital: Sesto Bruscantini, 1981

This is the only disc ever devoted to the art of Sesto Bruscantini (1919–2003). Record collectors value his performance of major baritone roles, especially comic but also serious ones, on many complete opera recordings, such as Il barbiere di Siviglia (with Victoria de los Angeles). He continued to perform at major houses until at least 1985 and even recorded Mozart's Don Alfonso in 1991, when he was 72.

Emalie Savoy: A Portrait

Since 1952, the ARD—the organization of German radio stations—has run an annual competition for young musicians. Winners have included Jessye Norman, Maurice André, Heinz Holliger, and Mitsuko Uchida. Starting in 2015, the CD firm GENUIN has offered, as a separate award, the chance for one of the prize winners to make a CD that can serve as a kind of calling card to the larger musical and music-loving world. In 2016, the second such CD award was given to the Aris Quartett (second-prize winner in the “string quartet” category).

Detlev Glanert : Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch

Detlev Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch should be a huge hit. Just as Carl Orff's Carmina Burana appeals to audiences who don't listen to early music (or even to much classical music), Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch has all the elements for instant popular success.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Beverly Sills and Friends
25 Apr 2007

Beverly Sills & Placido Domingo

More than ever, compilations of previously released material fill the shelves of those stores still selling classical music.

Beverly Sills and Friends
Works by Adam, Arne, Bellini, Bishop, Caldara, Donizetti, Handel, Lehár, Massenet, Moore, Offenbach, Schubert

Beverly Sills and others

Deutsche Grammophon 477 6304 [2CDs]

$14.99  Click to buy

For vocal artists, this often means a career retrospective. Deutsche Grammophon has the “Portrait of the Artist” series, double-CD sets promoting mostly its current roster of artists — including a relatively new star, such as Magdalena Kozena. Each set has its own title, possibly leading the unwary to think the release contains new material. Kozena’s, for example, is called “Enchantment.” For tenor Placido Domingo, the marketers promise his fans “Truly Domingo.” DG has also brought forth a set of Beverly Sills excerpts, though not designated as part of the “Portrait” series, with the number of other fine artists featured acknowledged in the title: “Beverly Sills and Friends.”

Domingo’s career started around the same time as Sills’, but he still commands a top-rank position in the opera world, while she has been retired for some years. The cover of Domingo’s set features his handsome face, with the silver hair more than any lines on his face identifying his age. The Sills cover photo looks to come from the 1970s, with a blouse as full of ruffles as her hair is brilliant and towering. The freshness of the performances inside the two sets, however, prompts a different response.

Domingo.pngDomingo has always been praised, and rightly so, for his impeccable musicianship and handsome tone. He is not a tenor to sob, stretch out climaxes, or glory in the top notes (seldom easy for him). The booklet essay maintains that his greatest contributions came in Verdi, and each of the two discs starts with several selections from that composer. Though always tasteful and committed, in none of the more familiar selections does Domingo offer a strong individual reading. His Duke in “La donna è mobile” has little swagger. His Alfredo in the act two Traviata aria lacks an impetuous edge to the passion expressed. The “Di quella pira” feels tame, and much too slow (under Carlo Maria Giulini’s baton). Only in the Otello selections, from the Myung-When Chung set, does Domingo bring forth a solid interpretation. The two Puccini selections, “Donna non vidi mai” and “Nessun dorma,” boast the rewards of Domingo’s warm middle voice, but the tight top compromises the effect. Domingo would have been better served with selections from the Mehta La Fanciulla del West set, one of the tenor’s stronger performances.

Disc one ends, after an ardent “flower aria” from Carmen and a slice of the Kubelik Oberon, with Wagner, where Domingo’s handsome tone can pour out and his top is less often called upon.

Disc two starts with some rarer Verdi, from the large DG set of a few years back covering all the major Verdi tenor roles. In this lesser-known material, Domingo’s firm grasp of the melodic line is much appreciated. Regrettably, the dramatic introduction to Luisa Miller’s “Quando la sere al placido” is not included. Ending the set are some rather bland selections from a disc of “spiritual”-themed music of a few years ago, and some much more enjoyable and idiomatic singing of songs and zarzuela selections.

The Sills set features large sections from her complete opera recordings, and ends with a wonderful potpourri of numbers with Charles Wadsworth accompanying her, from Schubert and Handel to Arne and Adam. By the end of the second disc, a more through and detailed “Portrait of the Artist” has been drawn than the Domingo set provides. In Manon and Lucia, Sills’s soprano has a wonderfully brilliant lightness, yet the dark edges of each character also come through . Then, in selections from her three Donizetti queens, she takes on a more dramatic thrust, while maintaining her control of florid passages. These longer excerpts, featuring such fine other singers as Shirley Verrett and Eileen Ferrell, provide time for a fuller view of the dimensions of Sills’ s art than Domingo can convey in his aria-intensive overview.

Disc two opens with Ms. Sills’s sensual Giulietta from Les Contes d’Hoffman and then offers her Baby Doe from Douglas Moore’s opera. Your reviewer is among those who find the music, and especially the libretto, unfortunately dated and old-fashioned, but Ms. Sills does sound impressively lovely in the “Willow song.”

The last half of the second disc is an uninterrupted stream of delights, with rare material, from baroque to early classical era. The style pre-dates the onset so-called “historically-informed performances,” but anyone who can resist the charm of Ms. Sills’s singing here is, well, over-informed. A lively aria from Lehar’s Der Zarewitsch closes the set.

Domingo might have been better served by a different set of selections, but DG has done wonderfully by Ms. Sills. For those who have had limited exposure to her achievements, Beverly Sills and Friends deserves a strong recommendation.

Chris Mullins

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):