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

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.

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

A Resplendent Régine Crespin in Tosca

There have to be special reasons to release a monophonic live recording of a much-recorded opera. Often it can give us the opportunity to hear a singer in a major role that he or she never recorded commercially—or did record on some later occasion, when the voice was no longer fresh. Often a live recording catches the dramatic flow better than certain studio recordings that may be more perfect technically.

Karine Deshayes’s Astonishing New Rossini Recording

Critic and scholar John Barker has several times complained, in the pages of American Record Guide, about Baroque vocal recitals that add instrumental works or movements as supposed relief or (as he nicely calls them) “spacers.”

Knappertsbusch’s Only Recording of Lohengrin Released for the First Time

Hans Knappertsbusch was one of the most renowned Wagner conductors who ever lived. His recordings of Parsifal, especially, are near-legendary among confirmed Wagnerians.

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered, from SOMM Recordings, makes available on CD archive broadcasts of British and German song. All come from BBC broadcasts made between 1947 and 1952. Of the 26 tracks in this collection, 19 are "new", not having been commercially released. The remaining seven have been remastered by sound restoration engineer Ted Kendall. Something here even for those who already own the complete recordings.

Color and Drama in Two Choral Requiems from Post-Napoleonic France

The Requiem text has brought out the best in many composers. Requiem settings by Mozart, Verdi, and Fauré are among the most beloved works among singers and listeners alike, and there are equally wondrous settings by Berlioz and Duruflé, as well as composers from before 1750, notably Jean Gilles.

Matthias Goerne - late Schumann songs, revealed

Matthias Goerne Schumann Lieder, with Markus Hinterhäuser, a new recording from Harmonia Mundi. Singers, especially baritones, often come into their prime as they approach 50, and Goerne, who has been a star since his 20's is now formidably impressive. The colours in his voice have matured, with even greater richness and depth than before.

LALO and COQUARD: La Jacquerie

La Jacquerie—here recorded for the first time—proves to be a wonderful opera, bringing delight upon delight.

Urania Remasters Marriage of Figaro

Good news for lovers of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro: the famous Living Stereo recording, a co-production of RCA Victor and English Decca, is now available again, well remastered, on Urania.

Opera Rara: new recording of Bellini's Adelson e Salvini

In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.

Jonas Kaufmann : Mahler Das Lied von der Erde

Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.

The "Lost" Songs of Morfydd Owen

A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.

Early Swedish opera - Stenhammer world premiere

The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.

Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 2

Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.

The Tallis Scholars: Josquin's Missa Di dadi

‘Can great music be inspired by the throw of the dice?’ asks Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, in his liner notes to the ensemble’s new recording of Josquin’s Missa Di dadi (The Dice Mass). The fifteenth-century artist certainly had an abundant supply of devotional imagery. As one scholar has put it, during this age there was neither ‘an object nor an action, however trivial, that [was] not constantly correlated with Christ or salvation’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

L’invitation au voyage: Mélodies from La belle époque
11 Apr 2007

L’invitation au voyage: Mélodies from La belle époque

“Linvitation au voyage” is an appropriate title for this collection of French song, which makes available a number of fine performances of both familiar and rare works.

L’invitation au voyage: Mélodies from La belle époque

John Mark Ainsley, tenor. Graham Johnson, piano

Hyperion CDA67523 [CD]

$18.99  Click to buy

Recorded on 2 to 4 June 2004, this collection of French mélodies from the end of the nineteenth century is a fine addition to Hyperion’s French Song Edition. John Mark Ainsley and Graham Johnson are well suited to the repertoire presented here, and this particular selection of pieces plays off a theme that was popular at the time, the prospect of journeying elsewhere. The responses in song are varied, and include a number of settings of the eponymous verse by Baudelaire that inspired a number of composers to embark on their own settings of his text. This is, in a sense, the French Belle Époque equivalent of the German Romantic “Kennst du das Land?” that intrigued generations of composers to fashion their own musical expressions of this well-known verse.

While Duparc’s setting of “L’Invitation au voyage” is probably the most famous, the others presented here merit attention for the nuances they bring to the poem. The one by Jules Cressonnois that opens the recording is engaging because of the combination of dramatic lines with more lyric ones, suggesting the tension present in voyaging away form the familiar. Other settings of the same text are included here, namely those by Benjamin Godard, Paul and Lucien Hillemacher and, naturally, Henri Duparc, and each presents an individual interpretation of the text. If a voyage entails a return, though, the placement of Duparc’s familiar “L’invitation au voyage” at the end provides a musical anchor in having a familiar mélodie at the conclusion of a set of otherwise unfamiliar, yet equally engaging music.

Beyond the composers listed above, there are songs by Léo Delibes, Charles Lecocq, Émile Pesard, Paul Puget, and Émile Paladilhe, and the poets outside of Baudelaire include Émile Augier, Alfred de Musset, Armand Silvestre, Jean de La Fontaine, Théophile Gautier, Victor Hugo, Sully Prodhomme, Pierre Corneille, Jean Aicard, and Jean Lahor. Of the familiar figures like Corneille, Hugo, and Musset, their names may not y draw associations with vocal music as readily as they do other genres. Yet their poetry inspired composers of this generation, and the music retains a freshness that resembles some of the art and architecture of the period in which it was written.

“Bonjour, Suzon” by Delibes is a case in point, with its extroverted address to Suzon — Suzanne — who remains absent to the traveler who is addressing her in the song. In the three strophes of unrequited entreaty, the repeated greeting of “bonjourn” becomes at the end “adieu” as the speaker makes in case in repeated efforts to speak to her. His voyages are met with a different situation at home, but the music suggests that it is not entirely tragic. It is hardly a sentimental piece, but the song that follows, “Regrets” by the same composer offers such poignancy. Here the accompaniment complements the vocal line by reinforcing the implied mood with some finely place chromatic inflections.

A similarly notable accompaniment occurs in “Guitare,” Godard’s setting of a poem by Hugo, and a charming piece. While the harmonic and melodic idiom is conservative, the song is crafted artfully to suit a gifted singer with the sense of nuance that Ainsley brings to this and other pieces in the collection. It is, perhaps, more rhythmically inventive than some of the other songs on this recording. While the rhythmic play is unmistakably intended to suggest the guitar, the syncopations play against the more regular accents in the text. A popular text at the time, the simply stated text implies a dramatic moment that attracted other composers to this poem, like Puget. In fact, the latter setting differs dramatically from Godard’s in its elegiac character and fervent tone.

Some of the pieces are simply exuberant, as with Lecocq’s “La cigale et la fourmi,” an encapsulation in verse of the story about the grasshopper and the ant. It is, as the comments in the accompanying booklet, a sophisticated piece that takes inspiration from the fables of La Fontaine, as “La chauve-souris et les deux belettes” (“The bat the two weasels”) that follows it in the recording and suggests the range of topics — and literature — that could be encompassed in this repertoire and which inspired composers’ musical imaginations.

This is a fine collection of French song from the Belle Époque, and those unfamiliar with the range of composers who worked at the time will find a solid introduction in this recording. The notes that accompany the recording are intelligent and perceptive and point to the deep know of the music that Graham Johnson has already shown in the material he has contributed to other Hyperion recordings. His accompanying is masterful, with thoughtful phrasing and careful dynamics. His interpretations remain solid and convincing. Moreover, John Mark Ainsley is in his element in these songs, and he brings to the repertoire a vibrant deliver that demonstrates his own immersion in the repertoire. Those who know his voice from other Hyperion collections have the privilege of hearing an entire album by this accomplished tenor. His approach is always well thought, with clear diction and apt expression. Ainsley and Graham Johnson have made a fine contribution to the discography of French song with this collection of melodies from a fascinating period in French music.

James 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):