Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Recordings

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

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.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

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.

Review: You Promised Me Everything

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’.

Donizetti: Les Martyrs

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.

Green: Mélodies françaises sur des poèmes de Verlaine

Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France

A worthy tribute for a vocal seductress of the ancient régime

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.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

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.

Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail @ Hangar-7

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: Notturno

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 Sings Mahler Lieder

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.

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Hänsel und Gretel

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.

Magdalena Kožená: Love and Longing

Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená.

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Amore e Tormento

Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’ 

Rivals—Arias for Farinelli & Co.

In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi. 

Verdi at the Old MET

With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s major opera houses today.

Italo Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre re

In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions. 



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):