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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.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and
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.
16 Sep 2007
WAGNER: Die Walküre
One of the glories of a well-executed performance of Richard Wagner's Ring cycle is the sonic dimension of the work, with the dramatic contrasts between the larger musical canvasses and the more intimate ensembles that occur between several voices and within the orchestra itself.
This recording of Die Walküre meets those challenges in a recording that is sonically responsive to Wagner's score. Celebrating the accomplishments of the State Opera of South Australia, this performance is led by Ascher Fisch, whose leadership and vision is apparent throughout the work. His tempos and pacing are convincing and allow the vocal line to emerge clearly throughout the work.
The first act is notable on various counts, with the telling opening having a fine sense of urgency that propels the drama forward. With the entrance of Siegmund, the tenor Stuart Skelton (who may be familiar from his performance on the recent CD of Albeniz's opera Merlin) offers a fine interpretation that stands out for the elegant phrasing and diction that brings together the text and the music. Skelton's scenes are compelling, and this recording shows his voice well. The well-known passages in the first act show a Siegmund who is attentive to the conventions of the role and also makes it personally expressive. Skelton's sustaining of certain syllables reinforces the text, while not distorting the rhythm, and it demonstrates his individual stamp on the role. Richard Green is necessarily assertive as Hunding, who creates his role admirably, and his scene with Siegmund at the end of the second act is quite solid.
Deborah Riedel is also fine in interpreting the role of Sieglinde in her spirited performance. The "Winterstürme" scene is well played, with the requisite emotion matched by their musical involvement that culminates with Sieglinde's "Siegmund, so nenn ich dich!" While there is nothing visual to suggest their demeanor on stage, the performance itself suggests that Skelton and Riedel work well together, a crucial element for this demanding act.
The second act involves the soprano Lisa Gasteen (a winner of the Cardiff Singer of the World competition) as Brünnhilde and John Bröcheler as Wotan, and their efforts are shaped by Ascher Fisch. The vocal line is always present and Fisch is careful to allow the orchestra to accompany and never dominate. Because of the attention given to this aspect of the work, the diction could be clearer and more pointed. Yet the interchanges between those two individuals, later joined by Elizabeth Campbell in the role of Fricka, is engaging and contributes to this recording.
The third act exhibits the dramatic tension that must occur in the opera. This is evident in the opening "Ride of the Valkyries," always a popular scene not matter how it may be staged, and yet the urgency among the singers in this production is evident. The resolve that Gasteen delivers as Brünnhilde is effective, and it intensifies when she is paired with Bröcheler. Moving between the more extroverted gestures of the opening scene to the intimacy of the ones that follow it, the fine sound quality of this hybrid SACD helps in delivering the nuances of the performances. As a live performance, though, the recording has minimal audience noise or other background sounds, with the sound quality chosen being full without sounding artificially enhanced. The stage sounds that occur from time to time serve to remind the listener that this CD is derived from live performances (between 16 November and 12 December 2004), rather than the result of studio performances, and that may account for the exciting that colors much of the recording.
This performance represents some fine Australian music-making, and the celebratory nature of the release is evident in various ways. For one, the packaging differs from conventional opera recordings in having the liner notes, libretto, and CDs bound together with a sewn signature that keeps the materials together neatly and unobtrusively. All in all, it resembles a small book, and in concept it prevents the various components from from becoming lost as they are used. Thus, the libretto is never far from the CDs, and the liner notes conveniently include detailed track listings that refer back to the pages of the text that follow.
This is an exciting peformance of Die Walküre with a young cast, whose enthusiasm is one of its assets. The direction that Ascher Fisch offers is notable, and those who may not have yet experienced his work in the opera house can gain a sense of it from this recording. This is a remarkable effort from the State Opera of South Australia, and the company deserves credit for mounting what must have been an exemplary production and bringing it to the wider public in such a laudable manner.
James L. Zychowicz