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

Giacchino Rossini: Bianca e Falliero
01 May 2007

ROSSINI: Bianca e Falliero

Dynamic brought its cameras to the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, Italy, in August 2005 to record Bianca e Falliero, one of Rossini's so-called “serious” operas, and one that had only been rescued from many decades of neglect by the festival itself, in 1986.

Giacchino Rossini: Bianca e Falliero

María Bayo, Daniela Barcellona, Francesco Meli, Carlo Lepore, Orquesta Sinfónica de Galicia, Prague Chamber Choir, Renato Palumbo (conductor), Jean-Louis Martinoty (director)

Dynamic 33501 [2DVDs]

$33.49  Click to buy

The very long first act takes it time to set up a basic situation. Contareno, a Venetian noble, wants his daughter to marry Capellio, a sometime enemy. Bianca, the daughter, however, is in love with a military hero, Falliero. Contareno threatens Bianca, forcing her to submit to the marriage, but Falliero breaks up the ceremony. In act two he manages to meet Bianca alone, only to have to flee. When caught at the Spanish Embassy, he is arrested. In the prolonged climax, Falliero faces execution as a traitor to Venice, but Bianca’s protestations of love convince Capellio to release her from the marriage to him, and eventually Contareno relents as well.

Characters in such a scenario do not have “arcs” — they tend to veer with manic speed from exulting in triumph, through declarations of love, to cries of despair. The prolonged exposition of the first act makes for slow-going, but Rossini composed some wonderful music for the second act, with its greater variety of situation.

As with the better-known Tancredi, Rossini wrote the heroic lead for a mezzo, and Daniella Barcellona would surely have delighted the composer. Almost twice as tall as her soprano, Maria Bayo, Barcellona can use her size to effect a masculine pose. More importantly, her strong yet flexible instrument delivers the music with style. And it takes some formidable singing to make a viewer overlook the hideous costume forced upon Barcellona, a bizarre mish-mash of fur apron, silky ruffled sleeves and leather. Perhaps her wild mane of hair is meant to evoke that of a lion, since a huge representation of that animal, symbolic of the city, also dominates the staging of some scenes.

Although close-ups reveal that Bayo is not truly of ingenue-age, in this performance her light soprano sounds fresh. The duets with Barcellona have electricity, and her final scenes come off especially well. The tenor lead here is the bad guy, Contareno, and the able Francesco Meli sings him from a wheel-chair. At first your reviewer wondered if this was a director’s conceit, but the Meli’s crutches at curtain indicate otherwise. The explanation for the painter and easel throughout much of act one remains elusive.

Director Jean-Louis Martinoty tries to keep the action comprehensible and fresh, with the effort being rather more evident than any success. The rear of the stage is often an enclosed space, and occasionally Martinoty stages tableaux, such as Bianca asleep on a bed when Falliero reminisces about her from his holding cell, and a fantasy wedding for the two lovers. A libretto like this probably would be too nakedly archaic in a truly traditional production, while some updating or director’s conceit would crush its fragile structure. Martinoty hasn’t found the solution, but he hasn’t mangled the opera either.

The handsome sets are by Hans Schavernioch, and Daniel Ogier designed the attractive costumes, apart from the misbegotten one for Falliero.

And since singing is what it’s all about in such an opera, special mention must be made of the cameo by tenor Karel Pajer, actually double cast as Officer/Usher. His pungent, high-lying voice melds beautifully with Barcellona in a short prison scene.

Rossinians will need no urging, but other opera fans should consider this set for the singing of Barcellona and Bayo, especially in the strong second act.

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):