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Paul Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, first heard in 1907, once seemed important. Arturo Toscanini conducted the Met premiere in 1911 with Farrar and later arranged some of its music for a 1947 recording with his NBC Symphony.
The economics of the recording companies dictate much that is not ideal.
Wagner’s operas were not composed as they were in order to permit the
extraction of bleeding chunks, even on those occasions when strophic song forms
Among the recent recordings of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, Valery Gergiev’s release on the LSO Live label is an excellent addition to the discography of this work.
While not unknown, the songs of Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942) deserve to be heard more frequently.
Recorded on 5 and 6 May 2008 and 17 and 18 January 2009 at the Lisztzentrum (Raiding, Austria), this recent Bridge release makes available the piano-vocal versions of three song cycles by Gustav Mahler, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert-Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder performed by mezzo-soprano Hermine Haselböck, accompanied by Russell Ryan.
Contraltos rarely achieve the acclaim and renown of sopranos. Assigned few leading roles in opera, they are condemned to playing the villain or the grandmother, or to stealing the castrati’s trousers in en travesti roles.
Following their 2011 Decca recording of Striggio’s Mass in 40 Parts (1566), I Fagiolini continue their quest to unearth lost treasures of the High Renaissance and early Baroque, with this collection of world-premiere recordings, ‘reconstructions’ and ‘reconstitutions’ of music by Giovanni and Andrea Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Palestrina, and their less well-known compatriots Viadana, Barbarino and Soriano.
Eternal Echoes is an album of khazones [Jewish cantorial music] for cantorial soloist, solo violin and a blended instrumental ensemble comprising a small orchestra and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.
Michael Tilson Thomas’s recording of Mahler’s Third Symphony is an outstanding contribution to the composer’s discography.
Oliver Knussen burst into British music with an unprecedented flourish. In 1967, the London Symphony Orchestra premiered Knussen’s First Symphony, with István Kertész scheduled to conduct.
Based on performances given in Summer 2010 at the Lucerne Festival, this recording of Beethoven’s Fidelio is an admirable recording that captures the vitality of the work as conducted by Claudio Abbado.
Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) was one of the most popular composers of his day in Poland, and of the many works he wrote for the stage, two are performed from time to time, Halka (1848) and Strazny dwór [The Haunted Manor] (1865).
The Polish alto Jadwiga Rappé is a familiar voice in various stage and concert works, and the recent release of a selection of songs by Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) is an opportunity to hear her performing artsongs.
Originally released on multiple discs in 1981 this reissue on two CDs is a comprehensive collection of art songs by Italian and French composers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
An exciting contribution to the discography of this popular opera, the live performance of Richard Strauss’s Salome from the Festspielhaus at Baden-Baden is a compelling DVD.
Released in late 2011, Deutsche Grammophon’s DVD of the new staging of Berg’s Lulu at the Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona is an excellent contribution to the discography of this fascinating opera.
A recent release by the Metropolitan Opera, this two-disc set makes available on DVD the famous performance of Berg’s Lulu that was broadcast on 20 December 1980 as part of the PBS series “Live from the Met.”
The novels of Sinclair Lewis once shot across the American literary skies like comets, alarming and fascinating readers of that era, but their tails didn’t extend far behind them.
Once the province of only the most dedicated opera fanatics, mid-20th century recordings of privately taped live performances have become more widely available.
Flute players in opera orchestra around the world must look forward to the frequent appearances of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, knowing that while the stage spotlight in the mad scene will be on the soprano, the orchestral spotlight will be on their instrument.
20 Jan 2008
Deutsche Grammophon budget opera sets
Repackaging older recordings having become the primary focus of a classical recording company's business, Deutsche Grammophon budgeted some funds for art direction for its budget series called "Opera House" (although that appellation only appears in a link found on the back inside cover of the sets' booklets).
The theme seems to be iconic imagery in realistic photographs. For the fine Claudio Abbado-led La Cenerentola, the cover features a young washerwoman with wooden bucket and straw broom. She looks sad - hasn't anyone noticed her short skirt and cleavage-exposing blouse? Thankfully no model had to risk her life by posing amid the flaming pile of sticks for the Il Trovatore set.
Well, if such artwork catches the eyes of potential customers, their ears will be further rewarded with the performances contained in these sets. Abbado's elegant Cenerentola stars Teresa Berganza, who can sing sadly with great sweetness. When her big moment comes at the end of the opera, Berganza marries solid technique to refined joy. The bravura excitement of Cecilia Bartoli may be missed by some, but the Bartoli set, to the extent it is still available, remains at full price. Neither Bartoli nor Berganza have star tenors for the role of Don Ramiro, which has been sung with such beauty by Juan-Diego Florez, among current tenors. Luigi Alva on this 1971 DG set, while displaying command of the idiom, lacks tonal beauty. Paolo Montarsolo blusters as Don Magnifico, a character not easy to take on a recording. Renato Capecchi's Dandini slithers in and out of ensembles with appropriate slickness. The London Symphony orchestra and Scottish Opera Chorus make up for any perceived lack of Italian warmth with precision and style.
More than Italian warmth, fire burns through the Tullio Serafin Trovatore set. The cast listing in the booklet puts Ettore Bastianini's Conte di Luna first, and why not? His portrayal rages and aches with a passion that makes him much more than just the baritone villain. The "Il balen" alone makes this set precious, with gorgeous tone and supple, long-breathed lines. Sparks to light more than a few pyres fly when Bastianini meets the Azucena of Fiorenza Cossotto, near the start of her international career (the recording dates from 1962). Demonic in her low notes and fierce when she reaches high, she dominates the performance as only a truly great Azucena can.
The ostensible leads both give worthy performances, if ultimately outshone by both the stars mentioned above in this recording, and by other singers in their roles on other versions. Antonietta Stella's lovely soprano sometimes threatens to spread at the end of long lines or high-flying passages. Ultimately her very feminine sound carries her through. Carlo Bergonzi gives a more bel canto reading of Manrico than is typical. The character is a troubadour, after all, and Bergonzi makes it clear that Manrico can sing quite beautifully. He does fire up the engines for "Di quella pira," with an understandable if amusing delay before firing off the climatic high note at the aria's end.
Serafin proves again his mastery of Verdi, and the chorus and orchestra of La Scala perform with their expected conviction. The overly bright recording, however, lacks any sense of dramatic space.
Both sets come with detailed track listings that include plot summaries of the action at key moments, in English, French and German. Your reviewer could find no word of a link to an online libretto in the booklet. So these sets can be best recommended to opera fans who already own sets with more complete packaging. Both offer ample musical reasons for adding them to any collection.