Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

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. 

Così fan tutte from DG

Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790. 

Heart’s Delight: The Songs of Richard Tauber

During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.

Adriana Lecouvreur from Decca

Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.

Lawrence Brownlee’s Spiritual Sketches

It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.

Great Wagner Conductors from DG

As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive archives.

Great Wagner Singers from DG

There could be no greater gift to the Wagnerian celebrating the Master’s Bicentennial than this compilation from Deutsche Grammophon, aptly entitled Great Wagner Singers.

Adding Movie Magic to The Magic Flute

What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?

L’Incoronazione di Poppea from Virgin Classics

Since its first performance at the Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo during Venice’s 1643 Carnevale, Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea has been one of the most important milestones in the genesis of modern opera despite its 250 years of unmerited obscurity. 

Saverio Mercadante: I due Figaro

Though 2013 is the bicentennial of the births of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, the releases of Cecilia Bartoli’s recording of Bellini’s Norma on DECCA, a new studio recording of Donizetti’s Caterina Cornaro from Opera Rara, and this première recording of Saverio Mercadante’s forgotten I due Figaro, suggest that this is the start of a summer of bel canto.

Christian Thielemann’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Recording Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is for a record label equivalent to a climber reaching the summit of Mount Everest: it is the zenith from which a label surveys its position among its rivals and appreciates an achievement that can define its reputation for a generation. 

Cecilia Bartoli as Norma

Few people who love opera in general and bel canto in particular have never heard the comment made by Lilli Lehmann, veteran of the inaugural Ring at Bayreuth in 1876, that singing all three of Wagner’s Brünnhildes—in Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung, respectively, all of which she sang to great acclaim—pales in comparison with singing the title rôle in Bellini’s Norma

Ariane et Barbe-Bleue on Blu-Ray

Paul Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, first heard in 1907, once seemed important. Arturo Toscanini conducted the Met premiere in 1911 with Farrar and later arranged some of its music for a 1947 recording with his NBC Symphony.

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):