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

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.

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

Winterreise by Mark Padmore

Schubert's Winterreise is almost certainly the most performed Lieder cycle in the repertoire. Thousands of performances and hundreds of recordings ! But Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout's recording for Harmonia Mundi is proof of concept that the better the music the more it lends itself to re-discovery and endless revelation.

The Epic of Gilgamesh - Bohuslav Martinů

New recording of the English version of Bohuslav Martinů's The Epic of Gilgamesh, from Supraphon, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck. This is the world premiere recording of the text in English, the original language in which it was written.

Maybe the Best L’heure espagnole Yet

The new recording, from Munich, has features in common with one from Stuttgart that I greatly enjoyed and reviewed here: the singers are all native French-speakers, the orchestra is associated with a German radio channel, we are hearing an actual performance (or in this case an edited version from several performances, in April 2016), and the recording is released by the orchestra itself or its institutional parent.

Stéphanie d’Oustrac in Two Exotic Masterpieces by Maurice Ravel

The two works on this CD make an apt and welcome pair. First we have Ravel’s sumptuous three-song cycle about the mysteries of love and fantasies of exotic lands. Then we have his one-act opera that takes place in a land that, to French people at the time, was beckoningly exotic, and whose title might be freely translated “The Nutty and Delightful Things That Can Happen in Spain in Just One Hour”.

Stefano Secco: Crescendo

I had never heard of Stefano Secco before receiving this CD. But I see that, at age 34, he already has had a substantial career, singing major roles at important houses throughout Europe and, while I was not paying attention, occasionally in the US.

French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

With this recording of Mozart’s 1771 opera, Il sogno di Scipione (Sicpio’s Dream), Classical Opera continue their progress through the adolescent composer’s precocious achievements and take another step towards the fulfilment of their complete Mozart opera series for Signum Classics.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Dmitri Hvorostovsky / Portrait
14 Nov 2007

Portraits of Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Olga Borodina

Philips decided some time ago that it no longer needed to be the audio representative for two fine contemporary singers of Russian origin, mezzo Olga Borodina and baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky.

Dmitri Hvorostovsky / Portrait

Dmitri Hvorostovsky, baritone, et al.

Decca 00289 475 7643 [2CDs]

$14.99  Click to buy

But the company is more than happy to recycle selections from the recordings the two artists made for the label and issue them in two-CD sets in their "Portrait" series.

The slim booklets for each set feature a cover photograph of the artist, with both clutching themselves and turning an enigmatic, suggestive smile to the camera. After the track listing comes a short bio in three languages, and then a page of all the producers, engineers, and recording locales of the original releases. No texts, of course.

As a retrospective of each singer's early maturity, the Hvorostovsky Portrait has an edge over Borodina's. CD 1 of the baritone's set has three Verdi arias from a recording with Valery Gergiev, and then 5 bel canto selections with Ion Marin. Then Gergiev returns, leading the Rotterdam Philharmonic in providing Hvorostovsky's support for the big Tchaikovsky baritone arias from Eugene Onegin and Pique Dame. The Kirov plays for Gergiev in the final 5 tracks of more Russian repertory (Tchaikovsky, Rubinstein, and Rimsky-Korsakov).

This gives the listener an excellent taste of Hvorostovsky's operatic skills, his gorgeous tone and enviable breath control on display in every selection. Some find the voice almost too pretty for Verdi, but surely the baritone's Rodrigo from Don Carlo is without peer on the contemporary opera scene. The Largo al factotum is high-spirited, even without that traditional last falsetto cry of "Feeee-ga-ro." In the Russian pieces, the years have only added to the artist's depth of characterization, though these early 1990's recordings certainly satisfy on the sheer basis of vocal splendour.

Borodina_Portrait.png

Disc two begins with some "antiche arien," including Handel's Ombra mai fu. As Borodina also sings this on her set, this allows for a point of comparison. The mezzo lets her gorgeous voice fill out the melodic line, lusciously but ostentatiously. Hvorostovsky somehow seems to let his voice support the melody's innate loveliness, rather than compete with it, and his version is the lovelier for it. Some Tchaikovsky and Rachmaninoff songs follow, with piano accompaniment. An excellent recitalist, Hvorostovsky manages the tricky feat of making a recording feel like an intimate encounter. The dramatic conclusion of the set comes with Gergiev again leading the Kirov as the baritone sings the Shostakovich orchestration of Moussorgsky's "Songs and Dances of Death." Hvorostovsky's is not the darkest of voices, and he doesn't try to force an ugly edge. Instead, the very silkiness of his delivery plays against the text in a way that presents a sinister effect. There are more potent versions, but the music is very well served.

Borodina's set does more skipping around in musical eras. It starts with Dalila's big aria, then two from Rossini's Rosina. The Ombra mai fu is followed by Preziosilla's numbers from the Gergiev La Forza del Destino set. Instead of showing off the singer's versatility, unfortunately, this arrangement tends to emphasize the sameness of her artistic approach, which basically amounts to a reliance on the beauty of her instrument over characterization. Yes, she can sing Ponchielli, and Berlioz, and Purcell - but the singing doesn't reflect much of an awareness that these are very different composers.

The second disc, thankfully, is dedicated to Russian repertory (except for three quite charming songs from Falla's Siete canciones populares españolas. Whether in song or opera, Borodina in her native tongue has a life and a sensitivity in her singing less apparent in other languages. Here the undeniable lusciousness of her instrument is partnered with a detailed interpretative stance, and the greatness of her artistry is undeniable. The disc ends with a luscious performance of a Psalm from Rachmaninoff's Vespers. Even the famously glum Rachmaninoff would have smiled at the beauty here.

The many original releases that both these compilations came from would be very hard to track down these days, so fans of either singer who missed out on those discs should look for these "Portrait" CDs.

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):