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

Jean Sibelius: Kullervo

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op. 7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn’t allow it to be heard after its initial performances, though he referred to it fondly in private. This new recording, from Hyperion with Thomas Dausgaard conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, soloists Helena Juntunen and Benjamin Appl and the Lund Male Chorus, is a good new addition to the ever-growing awareness of Kullervo, on recording and in live performance.

Mahler: Titan, Eine Tondichtung in Symphonieform – François-Xavier Roth, Les Siècles

Not the familiar version of Mahler's Symphony no 1, but the “real” Mahler Titan at last, as it might have sounded in Mahler's time! François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles present the symphony in its second version, based on the Hamburg/Weimar performances of 1893-94. This score is edited by Reinhold Kubik and Stephen E.Hefling for Universal Edition AG. Wien.

Verdi: Messa da Requiem - Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann (Profil)

It has often been the case that the destruction wrought by wars, especially the Second World War, has been treated unevenly by composers. Theodor Adorno’s often quoted remark, from his essay Prisms, that “to write poetry after Auschwitz would be barbaric” - if widely misinterpreted - is limited by its scope and in a somewhat profound way composers have looked on the events of World War II in the same way.

Matthias Goerne: Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 & Kernerlieder

New from Harmonia Mundi, Matthias Goerne and Lief Ove Andsnes: Robert Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 and Kernerlieder. Goerne and Andsnes have a partnership based on many years of working together, which makes this new release, originally recorded in late 2018, well worth hearing.

Leonard Bernstein: Tristan und Isolde in Munich on Blu-ray

Although Birgit Nilsson, one of the great Isolde’s, wrote with evident fondness – and some wit – of Leonard Bernstein in her autobiography – “unfortunately, he burned the candles at both ends” – their paths rarely crossed musically. There’s a live Fidelio from March 1970, done in Italy, but almost nothing else is preserved on disc.

Stéphanie D’Oustrac: Sirènes

After D’Oustrac’s striking success as Cassandre in Berlioz Les Troyens, this will reach audiences less familiar with her core repertoire in the baroque and grand opéra. Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été and La mort d’Ophélie, Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder and the Lieder of Franz Liszt are very well known, but the finesse of D’Oustrac’s timbre lends a lucid gloss which makes them feel fresh and pure.

Luminous Mahler Symphony no.3: François-Xavier Roth, Gürzenich-Orchester Köln

Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No.3 with François-Xavier Roth and the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln, now at last on CD, released by Harmonia Mundi, after the highly acclaimed live performance streamed a few months ago.

A First-Ever Recording: Benjamin Godard’s 1890 Opera on Dante and Beatrice

The composer Benjamin Godard (1849–95) is today largely unknown to most music lovers. Specialist collectors, though, have been enjoying his songs (described as “imaginative and delightful” by Robert Moore in American Record Guide), his Concerto Romantique for violin (either in its entirety or just the dancelike Canzonetta, which David Oistrakh recorded winningly decades ago), and some substantial chamber and orchestral works that have received first recordings in recent years.

Between Mendelssohn and Wagner: Max Bruch’s Die Loreley

Max Bruch Die Loreley recorded live in the Prinzregenstheater, Munich, in 2014, broadcast by BR Klassik and now released in a 3-CD set by CPO. Stefan Blunier conducts the Münchner Rundfunkorchester with Michaela Kaune, Magdalena Hinterdobler, Thomas Mohr and Jan-Hendrick Rootering heading the cast, with the Prager Philharmonischer Chor..

Gottfried von Einem’s The Visit of the Old Lady Now on CD

Gottfried von Einem was one of the most prominent Austrian composers in the 1950s–70s, actively producing operas, ballets, orchestral, chamber, choral works, and song cycles.

Britten: Hymn to St Cecilia – RIAS Kammerchor

Benjamin Britten Choral Songs from RIAS Kammerchor, from Harmonia mundi, in their first recording with new Chief Conductor Justin Doyle, featuring the Hymn to St. Cecilia, A Hymn to the Virgin, the Choral Dances from Gloriana, the Five Flower Songs op 47 and Ad majorem Dei gloriam op 17.

Si vous vouliez un jour – William Christie: Airs Sérieux et à boire vol 2

"Si vous vouliez un jour..." Volume 2 of the series Airs Sérieux et à boire, with Sir William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, from Harmonia Mundi, following on from the highly acclaimed "Bien que l'amour" Volume 1. Recorded live at the Philharmonie de Paris in April 2016, this new release is as vivacious and enchanting as the first.

Bohuslav Martinů – What Men Live By

World premiere recording from Supraphon of Bohuslav Martinů What Men Live By (H336,1952-3) with Jiří Bělohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra from a live performances in 2014, with Martinů's Symphony no 1 (H289, 1942) recorded in 2016. Bělohlávek did much to increase Martinů's profile, so this recording adds to the legacy, and reveals an extremely fine work.

Berlioz: Harold en Italie, Les Nuits d'été

Hector Berlioz Harold en Italie with François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles with Tabea Zimmermann, plus Stéphane Degout in Les Nuits d’été from Hamonia Mundi. This Harold en Italie, op. 16, H 68 (1834) captures the essence of Romantic yearning, expressed in Byron's Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage where the hero rejects convention to seek his destiny in uncharted territory.

Le Bal des Animaux : Works by Chabrier, Poulenc, Ravel, Satie et al.

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthaüser’s latest song recital is all about the animal kingdom. As in previous recordings of songs by Wolf, Debussy and Poulenc, pianist Eugene Asti is her accompanist in Le Bal des Animaux, a delightful collection of French songs about creatures of all sizes, from flea to elephant and from crayfish to dolphin.

Wolfgang Rihm: Requiem-Strophen

The world premiere recording of Wolfgang Rihm's Requiem-Strophen (2015/2016) with Mariss Jansons conducting the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks with Mojca Erdmann, Anna Prohaska and Hanno Müller-Brachmann, from BR Klassik NEOS.

Ravel’s Magical Glimpses into the World of Children

This is the fifth CD in a series devoted to Ravel’s orchestral works.

About an enfant: Ravel’s Opera about Childhood and Debussy’s Prodigal Son

This recording of Ravel’s second (and last) one-act opera was made during a concert, and -somewhat daringly - with rather close microphone placement. As it turns out, everything went smoothly.

Halévy’s Magnificent La reine de Chypre (1841) Gets Its Long-Awaited World Premiere Recording

Halévy’s La reine de Chypre (The Queen of Cyprus) is the 17th opera to be released in the impressively prolific “French Opera” series of recordings produced by the Center for French Romantic Music, a scholarly organization located at the Palazzetto Bru Zane in Venice. (Other recent offerings have included Saint-Saëns’s richly characterized Proserpine, Benjamin Godard’s fascinating Dante--which contains scenes set in Heaven and Hell--and Hérold’s Le pré aux clercs, an opéra-comique that had a particularly long life in the international operatic repertoire.)

Complementary Josquin masses from The Tallis Scholars

This recording on the Gimell label, the seventh of nine in a series by the Tallis Scholars which will document Josquin des Prés’ settings of the Mass (several of these and other settings are of disputed authorship), might be titled ‘Sacred and Profane’, or ‘Heaven and Earth’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Benjamin Britten: Gloriana
29 May 2007

BRITTEN : Gloriana

Towards the end of his life Britten became interested in the idea of developing the opera experience beyond the technical confines of the stage. He would have, I think, loved this film because it’s so intelligently sensitive to his fundamental ideas. It is, no less, a work of art built around a work of art.

Benjamin Britten: Gloriana

Queen Elizabeth : Josephine Barstow, Earl of Essex : Tom Randle, Lady Essex : Emer McGilloway, Lord Mountjoy : David Ellis, Lady Rich : Susannah Glanville, Sir Robert Cecil : Eric Roberts, Sir Walter Raleigh : Clive Bayley, Chorus of Opera North, English Northern

Opus Arte OA 0955 D [DVD]

$39.98  Click to buy

Britten’s opera focuses primarily on the character of the aging Queen Elizabeth I. The plot may revolve around her feelings for the Earl of Essex, but Britten knew that most audiences would know the story already : his aim was to explore why Elisabeth needed to keep up her image of invulnerability. In the first scene, the Earl of Essex sings about a “chess game” in which the goal is to win the queen. This Queen has to keep ahead of the game, constantly, through stratagem and the illusion of invulnerability. Thus the stage action is woven with scenes from “behind the scenes”, creating the effect of illusion within illusion.

Like the Queen herself, Barstow the actress is under pressure to perform. In the opening scene, where she looks wearily into the mirror in her dressing room, while listening to the overture. It’s very moving. Not all singers make good actresses. Barstow, though, is exceptionally good. She’s so convincing that you forget, for a moment, that this, too, is illusion and stagecraft. Her whole performance is a masterclass in opera characterisation, and worth studying for its own sake. This Elizabeth is no fool, but watchful and tense, like a coiled spring. Hence the sharp delivery and attack, and the bristling, sharp edge to the voice. When the Queen steals her rival’s dress and dances in it, Barstow spits out her lines savagely, bringing out the menace that underpins the elaborate party games at Court. When Essex breaks into the Queens room and finds her unadorned and bald, Barstow’s very silence is moving. When she dismisses him, her voice wobbles, “Go, Robin, go” in an intense mixture of conflicted emotion, before she crumbles, the camera mercifully switching to long shot. It makes the “dressing scene” which follows all the more poignant. Her white makeup is lit so her face looks like a death mask. Later, when she assures Lady Essex that her children will be spared, her voice trembles with tenderness, “Frances, a woman speaks”. Seconds later, her voice becomes shrill with anger as she scolds Lady Rich, but when she’s signed the death warrant, her face contorts into a terrifying, wordless expression.

Film creates special new opportunities. For example, in the “Mortua”, when the Queen finally faces her mortality, there are long silences which would not work on stage or recording. Here though, the camera dwells on Barstow’s face which registers intense emotion. Sound, as such, is unnecessary. When she does sing, weakly, the song she and Essex had playfully sung long ago, she sing so quietly and tenderly that the impact would otherwise be lost. Similarly when she’d earlier explained her love for her nation, the camera pans the balconies in the opera house, backstage attendants and so on, as if all the world were listening to those noble, ringing words.

Just as the film draws out the effort the Queen makes to remain in control, the film shows how much work goes on behind the scenes of a production. Recordings alone can sometimes break the link between listener and performer, so sometimes people focus on recording values rather than on artistic creation. This film is an excellent reminder that it is people who make opera and that it isn’t easy work !

Musically, of course, this is very good, for Opera North has very high standards indeed. Britten’s score itself adapts early English music forms, weaving them into the whole, just as the film itself expands the basic opera. Early English music and poetry meant a great deal to the composer and this is one of the longest works in which he explores it. Therefore Daniels delineates these aspects of the score very clearly, because they, too, are an integral part of the multi-layered, shape-shifting whole. If the courtly dances are somewhat on the fast side, that relates to the narrative — the Queen deliberately tests the courtiers to their limits by making them dance and sing at a furious pace ! Daniels also has the measure of Britten’s acerbic dissonances which, throughout the opera add to the edgy tension in the drama. This opera has never been “popular” because its uncomfortable idiom seems at odds with the opulent setting, but that was Britten’s point. This is a powerful film, and completely unique.

Anne Ozorio

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):