Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Jiří Bělohlávek : new editions of Janáček Glagolitic Mass, Sinfonietta

From Decca, Janáček classics with Jiří Bělohlávek conducting the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Given that Bělohlávek died in May 2017, all these recordings are relatively recent, not re-issues, and include performances of two new critical editions of the Glagolitic Mass and the Sinfonietta.

New Hans Zender Schubert Winterreise - Julian Prégardien

Hans Zender's Schuberts Winterreise is now established in the canon, but this recording with Julian Prégardien and the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie conducted by Robert Reimer is one of the most striking. Proof that new work, like good wine, needs to settle and mature to reveal its riches.

Magic Lantern Tales: darkness, disorientation and delight from Cheryl Frances-Hoad

“It produces Effects not only very delightful, but to such as know the contrivance, very wonderful; so that Spectators, not well versed in Opticks, that could see the various Apparitions and Disappearances, the Motions, Changes and Actions, that may this way be presented, would readily believe them super-natural and miraculous.”

Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony — Martyn Brabbins BBCSO

From Hyperion, an excellent new Ralph Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony with Martyn Brabbins conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus, Elizabeth Llewellyn and Marcus Farnsworth soloists. This follows on from Brabbins’s highly acclaimed Vaughan Williams Symphony no 2 "London" in the rarely heard 1920 version.

Superlative Lohengrin from Bayreuth, 1967

The names of Belfast-born soprano Heather Harper and Kansas-born tenor James King may not resonate for younger music lovers, but they sure do for folks my age. Harper was the glowing, nimble soprano in Colin Davis’s renowned 1966 recording of Handel’s Messiah and in Davis’s top-flight recording (ca. 1978) of Britten’s Peter Grimes, featuring Jon Vickers.

Classical Opera: Bastien und Bastienne on Signum Classics

Pride and Prejudice, North and South, Antony and Cleopatra, Much Ado About Nothing: literary fiction and drama are strewn with dissembling lovers who display differing degrees of Machiavellian sharpness in matters of amatory strategy. But, there is an artless ingenuousness about Bastien and Bastienne, the eponymous pastoral protagonists of Mozart’s 1768 opera, who pretend not to love in order to seal their shared romantic destiny, but who require a hefty dose of the ‘Magician’ Colas’s conjuring/charlatanry in order to avoid a future of lonely singledom.

A Stunning Semiramide from Opera Rara

In early October 1822, Gioachino Rossini summoned the librettist Gaetano Rossi to a villa (owned by his wife, the soprano Isabella Colbran) in Castenaso, just outside Bologna. Their project: to work on a new opera, which would be premiered during the Carnival in Venice on 3rd February the following year, based on the legend of Queen Semiramide.

Elgar Orchestral Songs - SOMM

Edward Elgar's Sea Pictures are extremely well-known, but many others are also worth hearing. From SOMM recordings, specialists in British repertoire, comes this interesting new collection of other Elgar orchestral songs, sponsored by the Elgar Society.

Beyond Gilbert and Sullivan: Edward Loder’s Raymond and Agnes and the Apotheosis of English Romantic Opera

Mention ‘nineteenth-century English opera’ to most people, and they will immediately think ‘Gilbert and Sullivan’. If they really know their Gilbert and Sullivan, they’ll probably remember that Sullivan always wanted to compose more serious operas, but that Gilbert resisted this, believing they should ‘stick to their last’: light, comic, tuneful satire.

Pan-European Orpheus : Julian Prégardien

"Orpheus I am!" - An unusual but very well chosen collection of songs, arias and madrigals from the 17th century, featuring Julian Prégardien and Teatro del mondo. Devised by Andreas Küppers, this collection crosses boundaries demonstrating how Italian, German, French and English contemporaries responded to the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Laci Boldemann’s Opera Black Is White, Said the Emperor

We normally think of operas as being serious or comical. But a number of operas-some familiar, others forgotten-are neither of these. Instead, they are fantastical, dealing with such things as the fairy world and sorcerers, or with the world of dreams.

The Devil, Greed, War, and Simple Goodness: Ostrčil’s Jack’s Kingdom

Here is a little-known opera that, like an opera by the Swedish composer Laci Boldemann that I have reviewed here, and like Ravel’s amazing L’enfant et les sortilèges, utterly bypasses the usual categories of comic and grand/tragic by cultivating instead the rich realm of fantasy and folk tale.

Grands motets de Lalande

Majesté, a new recording by Le Poème Harmonique, led by Vincent Dumestre, of music by Michel-Richard de Lalande (1657-1726) new from Alpha Classics. Le Poème Harmonique are regular visitors to London, appreciated for the variety of their programes. On Friday this week, (11/5) they'll be at St John's Smith Square as part of the London Festival of Baroque, with a programme titled "At the World's Courts".

Perpetual Night - Early English Baroque, Ensemble Correspondances

New from Harmonia Mundi, Perpetual Night. a superb recording of ayres and songs from the 17th century, by Ensemble Correspondances with Sébastien Daucé and Lucile Richardot. Ensemble Correspondances are among the foremost exponents of the music of Versailles and the French royalty, so it's good to hear them turn to the music of the Stuart court.

Maria Callas: Tosca 1964: A film by Holger Preusse

When I reviewed Tosca at Covent Garden in January this year for Opera Today, Maria Callas’s 1964 Royal Opera House performance was still fresh in my mind. This is a recording I have grown up with and which, despite its flaws, is one of the greatest operatic statements - a glorious production which Zeffirelli finally agreed to staging, etched in gothic black and white film (albeit just Act II), with Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi, if not always as vocally commanding as they once were, acting out their roles like no one has before, or since.

Hubert Parry and the birth of English Song

British music would not be where it is today without the influence of Charles Hubert Parry. His large choral and orchestral works are well known, and his Jerusalem is almost the national anthem. But in the centenary of his death, we can re-appraise his role in the birth of modern British song.

Camille Saint-Saens: Mélodies avec orchestra

Saint-Saëns Mélodies avec orchestra with Yann Beuron and Tassis Christoyannis with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Markus Poschner.

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories are designed to occupy the final three days of Holy Week, and contemplate the themes of loss, betrayal and death that dominate the Easter week. As such, the Responsories demand a sense of darkness, reflection and depth that this new recording by Stile Antico - at least partially - captures.

Mahler Symphony no 9, Daniel Harding SRSO

Mahler Symphony no 9 in D major, with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, new from Harmonia Mundi. A rewarding performance on many levels, not least because it's thoughtfully sculpted, connecting structure to meaning.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Siente Me: Popular Avenues
16 Nov 2007

Gruberova on Nightingale Classics

Edita Gruberova’s North American fans, who can only hold onto dim hopes that someday the European superstar will return to these shores, can always seek to sate their desire for her artistry by picking up the latest CD from Nightingale Classics.

Siente Me: Popular Avenues

Edita Gruberova, soprano, et al.

Nightingale Classics NC 8254162 [CD]

$14.99  Click to buy

This label focuses on Gruberova, and has now reached the stage of issuing the “Edita Gruberova Edition,” which seems to be themed collections of highlights from previous recordings.

Edition 3, Siente Me, bears the subtitle “popular avenues.” Some of the chestnuts here are pieces one would expect from Gruberova, including a flamboyant “Bell Song” from Delibes’s Lakme and the high-spirited “Ah! Je veux vivre” from Gounod’s Romeo et Juliette. Somewhat less expectedly, Gruberova does very well by two of Puccini’s greatest hits for soprano, “O mio babbino caro” and “Ch’il bel sogno di Doretta.” The latter, exquisite performance makes one wonder if Gruberova ever attempted La Rondine on stage.

Although by no means a native speaker of English, Gruberova does a decent job with Bernstein’s “Glitter and be gay.” The listener won’t catch very word, but she seems to get the humor and certainly has the technique to deal easily with the challenges the music poses. This disc ends with two pieces of Euro-pop composed by one Gunnar Graewert. On one hand, for many people these synth-heavy but lightweight songs will seem out of place for Gruberova. On the other hand, she doesn’t sound so nearly out of her element as, for example, Kiri te Kanawa does on the “Kiri and Karl” CD. In fact, Gruberova’s ethereal tone is well used by the producer, especially in “Ecco la primevera.” Think of it as high-class, up-tempo Enya. The booklet has no texts, and only a scanty note in German or English, only slightly more comprehensible in the latter than in the former to this non-German speaker.

Gruberova_Adagio.pngThe booklet for edition 2, “Adagio: Between heaven and earth,” has no notes at all, just track listings, photos of album covers, and production details on the original recordings. It’s a beautiful collection, however, although the point of the title (let alone the tacky cover art) proves elusive. Anything with a vaguely “spiritual” bent seems to have qualified, including an absolutely luscious run-through of Lakme’s duet with Mallika (sung by Natela Nicoli). The opening track is a rare vocalise from Saint-Saens, “Le Rossignol et la rose,” allowing Gruberova to put on a master class in sustained breath control and floating notes. A series of lieder duets with Vesselina Kasarova makes one want to hunt down the complete recording they came from. All in all, the collection is much more heavenly than earthy.

Gruberova_Hymnus.pngPerhaps on some other disc of the “Edita Gruberova Edition” we will find tracks from Hymnus, a collection of pieces from Bach, Handel, and Mozart. Strangely, Gruberova does not seem at home in this repertory, although it provides some opportunity for her skill at quick runs. Here the light color of her instrument blanches, the high notes pop out a bit too ostentatiously. There are fine moments, to be sure, but even in Mozart’s “Exsultate Jubilate,” Gruberova sings as if disconnected, even disinterested.

Gruberova_Beatrice.pngShe is much more at home in Bellini, and Nightingale has released many a complete set of her in his operas. The Beatrice di Tenda comes from 1992, recorded live for Österreichen Rundfunks. This time Nightingale provides a full booklet, with a libretto in German and English. Niel Rishoi’s fine essay argues for a reconsideration of the opera’s merits, and the music is indeed as impassioned as in the more performed Norma or I Puritani. However, even those operas appear less often than they deserve, probably due to the difficulty in gathering casts adequate to the demands of true bel canto style. So the chances that Beatrice Di Tenda will be staged more often in the world’s opera houses seems slight.

The story is a romantic rectangle, if the reader will allow. Count Filippo would like to be rid of his wife Beatrice, so he can be with his beloved Agnese. However, Agnese actually loves Orombello more, but he has his heart set on...Beatrice! When the Count finds Orombello and Beatrice together, he accuses them of treason, and the opera ends with Beatrice’s noble ascent of the scaffold. Actually, the story is less incredible than that of the more frequently performed La Sonnambula. If the score, though of uniform quality, had a couple of arias with more distinctive melodic profiles, perhaps the opera would be better known.

Nightingale’s cast is capable, with a young Vesselina Kasarova as Agnese, Igor Morosow growling away as the bitter Filippo, and Don Bernardini coping well with the usual stringent demands of Bellini’s writing for tenor. Gruberova, the star, is not in the very best of voice, with high notes in particular sounding more effortful than usual, and not always perfectly on pitch. Pinchas Steinberg’s leadership of the ORF-Symphonieorchester provides fine support. Her fans at the live recording, it should be noted, reward her with vociferous enthusiasm.

A DVD of the opera, also with Gruberova, was available at one time; it may be difficult to track down at this time. A diligent hunt may also produce a copy of the studio recording Richard Bonynge and Joan Sutherland brought forth.

Gruberova fans will want all of her releases, surely. For those with favorable impressions of the singer but less devotion, the Adagio compilation earns a strong recommendation.

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):