20 May 2007
This recording is a souvenir in more than one sense.
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” with herself!).
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.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France
Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.
This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.
This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.
We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.
Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.
Bernarda Fink’s recording of Gustav Mahler’s Lieder is an important new release that includes outstanding performances of the composer’s well-known songs, along with compelling readings of some less-familiar ones.
Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.
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.
This recording is a souvenir in more than one sense.
The enthusiasm of the public, here still clearly audible, would wane only a few years later. This was one of the last years that Italians were still a majority in the arena. Soon after, tourists staying at Lago di Garda (the Garda lake) would take over. They didn’t know the repertoire, they didn’t know the singers and they didn’t know the applause codes; they just came for an evening out. And at the same time younger Italians were staying away because they preferred ‘il rock’. This was also one of the last years where a major cast would be completely composed of Italian singers.
Of course the opera may be called Aida but the real reason for this issue is the Radamès. By 1972 Corelli’s voice had started to dry up quite a bit as is clear from some of his Met performances. This is noticeable, too, in the first act. Though his high B is still very impressive in ‘Celeste Aida’, he nevertheless has to cut short the note. He also has a tendency to sing in big outbursts, mostly to cover up the fact that his once inexhaustible breath is now far shorter. I wonder if he took the pains to warm up properly, or if he did, did his voice need a very long time to regain its juicy quality? [The same thing happened when I heard him for the last time at the arena in 1975.] By the third act, the dryness has largely gone and we once more hear a lot of glorious sound and the breath is doing better as well. There are a few impressive and long pianissimi in the big duet, yet he clearly has reserves enough for an extremely long ‘ioooooo resta a te’ at the end of the act. And contrary to some of his performances at the Met, he knows this public will not accept just posing and not singing in the ensembles.
He has some worthy partners at his side. Luisa Maragliano is not a first class soprano; more of a cross between a poor man’s Tebaldi and the same man’s Stella. But she has the volume, too, for the arena. In her first aria she proves she has a lot of chest tones and some phrasing reminding us more of Santuzza than Aida but it is true we would be happy nowadays with such a strong Italian spinto. In her second aria she leaves verismo behind her though I have a feeling this has more to do with every soprano’s fear for that horribly exposed C. She almost creeps towards the note and still it goes flat.
I remember Luisa Bordin Nave as a fine Amneris on those evenings we had to do without the wonderful Fiorenza Cossotto. The voice very much resembled Cossotto’s though without the latter’s shattering power and silvery edge but still a sound to be treasured. Gian Piero Mastromei had some of his happiest moments in the arena. His big sound was a little bit rough and not apt for the more lyrical Verdi roles but as Amonasro (and as a splendid Scarpia one year later with Domingo and Santunione) this was more a quality than a liability.
The smaller roles could still be filled by major voices. Agostino Ferrin is a splendid Ramfis with a rounded and interesting bass; so much more beautiful than the ubiquitous Bonaldo Giaotti I often had to bear with. And someone with the interesting timbre and big voice of Giovanni Foiani (the only one on scene always a few inches taller than Corelli) wouldn’t sing comprimario parts these days. Veteran Oliviero de Fabritiis has his musicians well in hands in the difficult arena acoustics (for the orchestra only, not for the singers) but is clearly aware of the fact that the public has come for Corelli and therefore indulges him in his ways. The sound picture is not perfect but better than most arena recordings I have heard.