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

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.

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

A Resplendent Régine Crespin in Tosca

There have to be special reasons to release a monophonic live recording of a much-recorded opera. Often it can give us the opportunity to hear a singer in a major role that he or she never recorded commercially—or did record on some later occasion, when the voice was no longer fresh. Often a live recording catches the dramatic flow better than certain studio recordings that may be more perfect technically.

Karine Deshayes’s Astonishing New Rossini Recording

Critic and scholar John Barker has several times complained, in the pages of American Record Guide, about Baroque vocal recitals that add instrumental works or movements as supposed relief or (as he nicely calls them) “spacers.”

Knappertsbusch’s Only Recording of Lohengrin Released for the First Time

Hans Knappertsbusch was one of the most renowned Wagner conductors who ever lived. His recordings of Parsifal, especially, are near-legendary among confirmed Wagnerians.

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered, from SOMM Recordings, makes available on CD archive broadcasts of British and German song. All come from BBC broadcasts made between 1947 and 1952. Of the 26 tracks in this collection, 19 are "new", not having been commercially released. The remaining seven have been remastered by sound restoration engineer Ted Kendall. Something here even for those who already own the complete recordings.

Color and Drama in Two Choral Requiems from Post-Napoleonic France

The Requiem text has brought out the best in many composers. Requiem settings by Mozart, Verdi, and Fauré are among the most beloved works among singers and listeners alike, and there are equally wondrous settings by Berlioz and Duruflé, as well as composers from before 1750, notably Jean Gilles.

Matthias Goerne - late Schumann songs, revealed

Matthias Goerne Schumann Lieder, with Markus Hinterhäuser, a new recording from Harmonia Mundi. Singers, especially baritones, often come into their prime as they approach 50, and Goerne, who has been a star since his 20's is now formidably impressive. The colours in his voice have matured, with even greater richness and depth than before.

LALO and COQUARD: La Jacquerie

La Jacquerie—here recorded for the first time—proves to be a wonderful opera, bringing delight upon delight.

Urania Remasters Marriage of Figaro

Good news for lovers of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro: the famous Living Stereo recording, a co-production of RCA Victor and English Decca, is now available again, well remastered, on Urania.

Opera Rara: new recording of Bellini's Adelson e Salvini

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

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.

The "Lost" Songs of Morfydd Owen

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.

Early Swedish opera - Stenhammer world premiere

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.

Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 2

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.

The Tallis Scholars: Josquin's Missa Di dadi

‘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’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Carl Maria von Weber: Der Freischütz
25 Jun 2007

WEBER: Der Freischütz

Produced by Rolf Lieberman and directed for television by Joachim Hess, this 1968 studio recording of Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz has much to recommend as a traditional production of the opera.

Carl Maria von Weber: Der Freischütz.

Edith Mathis (Ännchen), Tom Krause (Ottokar), Hans Sotin (Hermit), Franz Grundheber (Killian), Toni Blankenheim (Kuno), Gottlob Frick (Kaspar), Ernst Kozub (Max), Arlene Saunders (Agathe), Bernhard Minetti (Samiel), Hamburg Philharmonic Orchestra, Hamburg State Opera Chorus: Leopold Ludwig, conductor.

Arthaus 101271 [DVD]

$29.98  Click to buy

Performed perhaps less often in North America than in Europe, such a solid presentation of this seminal German opera is welcome on DVD, since it allows audiences not just to hear the work as is possible on CD, but also to view the interaction of the characters on stage. This particular production includes some find singers who are well-known internationally, notably Hans Sotin, Franz Grundheber, and Edith Mathis, who have participated in classic recordings of Romantic repertoire. At the same time, the inclusion of the German actor Berhard Minetti in the speaking role of Samiel allows modern audiences to view one way this role has been effectively rendered on a European stage.

As a television production, the famous overture is not presented with shots from the opera house with images of the conductor, performers, and audience members, but rather, the production makes use of iconography associated with Der Freischütz. The transitions are typical of the time and lack the more nuanced shifts that have become expected of modern productions, yet they help to establish the context for this production. At the beginning of the first act, the details of the production offer a typical German production of the work, with peasant costumes, hunting garb and other accouterments that reinforce the connection of this opera with the vernacular, that is, with the German culture Weber’s day. At the same time, the acting conveys the suspenseful mood of this modern-day transformation of the story of Faust.

Since the source of this video is film and not derived from digital media, the images contain some flicker and, at least once, the dot on the upper right-hand side of the screen that preceded a break for commercials in American television. This is a relatively minor concern, but those accustomed to more recent opera DVDs may notice the character of the reproduction as different in this release, which is one of thirteen operas that Rolf Lieberman produced for television. The color of this film stands out, though, since it resembles the almost glossy tone that was used in commercial films of the 1960s. With the connotation of mainstream cinema for opera, an artform that is often film from the stage and not produced in the studio, the initial impression is somewhat jarring. As with other modes of visual display, it is possible to see past these details and into the fine production captured in this film.

Within this conventional production of Der Freischütz the performances are uniformly fine and even. Predictably, such familiar voices as Sotin, Grundheber, and Mathis give fine and articulate performances. Gottlob Frick offers a fine interpretation of Kaspar that is sinister enough without venturing toward caricature, and even though his pitches tend toward the flat side, his tone is nicely even. With the crucial role of Max, the German singer Ernst Kozub gives a fine performance that matches the lyricism with the inner struggle of his character. His performance at the end of the first act is introspective enough, and with the second act’s Wolf’s Glen scene, he sustains the mood. It releases only with this making the sign of the cross, a gesture that foreshadows the ultimate resolution of Max’s pursuit of the diabolical and his eventual redemption.

With the women, the roles of Agathe and Ännchen are executed well by Arlene Saunders and Edith Mathis. Both of the singers deliver equally fine performances that bring out the lyricism necessary for their roles. There is a hint a bel canto in their approaches to the music, and this stylistic choice is effective. Decades after this production was filmed, Mathis may be a more familiar voice, but Saunders gave a convincing performance as Max’s lover Agathe.

The choice of Hans Sotin as the Hermit is excellent in giving the final scene to such a fine singer. Sotin’s commanding presence is essential to the final scene, which must resolve the drama by meeting justice with mercy and eliminating any doubt about the disposition of the situation. This is an exemplary execution of the role that contributes to the overall success of this production.

Among the various DVDs of Der Freischütz that are currently available, this one conducted by Leopold Ludwig is an excellent one. Not only does this DVD release preserve a classic production, but it also brings to new audiences an outstanding interpretation of the work. Various details contribute to its quality, such as the options for subtitles in German, English, French, Italian, and Spanish. In addition, the accompanying booklet includes a summary of the libretto and a detailed listing of the tracks. Those who have seen a performance of this important nineteenth-century opera will find this to be a fine production of Weber’s Der Freischütz.

James L. Zychowicz

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):