Recently in Recordings
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
‘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’.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the
Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement
violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his
ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.
Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara -
Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.
It is not often that a major work by a forgotten composer gets rediscovered
and makes an enormously favorable impression on today’s listeners. That has
happened, unexpectedly, with Herculanum, a four-act grand opera by
Félicien David, which in 2014 was recorded for the first time.
This recording, made in the Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music in June 2014, is the fourth disc in SOMM’s series of recordings with Paul Spicer and the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir.
Félicien David’s intriguing Le désert, for vocal and orchestral forces plus narrator, was widely performed in its own day, then disappeared from the performing repertory for nearly a century.
This well-packed disc is a delight and a revelation. Until now, even the
most assiduous record collector had access to only a few of the nearly 100
songs published by Félicien David (1810-76), in recordings by such notable
artists as Huguette Tourangeau, Ursula Mayer-Reinach, Udo Reinemann, and Joan
Sutherland (the last-mentioned singing the duet “Les Hirondelles”
This new release of John Taverner’s virtuosic and florid Missa
Corona spinea (produced by Gimell Records) comes two years after The
Tallis Scholars’ critically esteemed recording of the composer’s
Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, which topped the UK Specialist Classical
Album Chart for 6 weeks, and with which the ensemble celebrated their
40th anniversary. The recording also includes Taverner’s two
settings of Dum transisset Sabbatum.
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.
Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au
bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc
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.
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’.
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.
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.
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
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.