Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Recordings

Félicien David: Songs for voice and piano

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!).

John Taverner: Missa Corona spinea

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.

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

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.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

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.

Review: You Promised Me Everything

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’.

Donizetti: Les Martyrs

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.

Green: Mélodies françaises sur des poèmes de Verlaine

Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France

A worthy tribute for a vocal seductress of the ancient régime

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.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

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.

Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail @ Hangar-7

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: Notturno

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 Sings Mahler Lieder

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.

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. 



Angel Voices
14 Nov 2007

Libera — Angel Voices

"They are boys, and they sing, but don't call them choirboys. 'Libera' prefer to be called a vocal group — a real boy band, if you like."

Angel Voices


EMI Classics 0946 70523 2 7 [CD]

$13.99  Click to buy

So begins the short note on the inside of the booklet from Angel Voices, a new release on EMI Classics in the endlessly replicating lifeform called "classical crossover." if the emphasis on Libera being a band of boys doesn't produce a slight grimace of distaste, perhaps the page after page of photographs of the "lads," if you will, will begin to make one wonder to what particular demographic EMI Classics has aimed its marketing expertise. Their shining, smiling faces are caught in a blur of white, as they are posed before a white background and all war identical white jerseys. Is this in Michael Jackson's collection yet?

The CD booklet credits a Robert Prizeman as having directed and conducted the proceedings. He wrote some of the selections himself, with either title or some of the lyrics in Latin: "Salva me," for example. Prizeman has also arranged familiar melodies such as Sibelius's "Finlandia" ("Be Still, My Soul") and Gustav Holst's "Jupiter" theme from The Planets ("I Vow to Thee, My Country). In the end, everything sounds pretty much the same. Keyboards dominate, especially a bland synthesizer supplying an all-purpose harmonic haze. Occasionally a solo instrument, such as violin or recorder, will toot a few notes.

Shamefully, your reviewer must admit that despite all his reservations regarding the genre of classical crossover and this particular enterprise, Angel Voices actually does a decent job of fulfilling its own mandate (boydate?): presenting a suitable background for some lovely boys' voices in light, unchallenging fare. An hour is a bit much, but in small doses the singing of Libera has a purity of tone and sweetness in delivery that insists on pleasing the ears. Strangely, one of the least satisfactory tracks is repeated. There is a "radio edit" of Prizeman's adaptation of Dvorak's "Going Home" theme from the New World Symphony, and at the end of the disc comes the same performance except with the moody opening chords from the symphony movement included, all of about 20 additional seconds of music. The boys' aural loveliness here gilds the lily of Dvorak's melody, and a listener hearing this tune for the first time would likely never guess that it was long mistaken as a folk tune Dvorak appropriated from African-Americans.

Of course, any number of CDs are available of actual choirboys singing great music of authentic scores. Libera, as declared in the booklet note quoted above, make no claims to such status. This is a "boy band," and if unlikely to reproduce the success of NSYNC, at least Robert Prizeman's little legion of lads makes some appealing sounds.

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):