Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

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. 

Verdi at the Old MET

With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s major opera houses today.

Italo Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre re

In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions. 

Così fan tutte from DG

Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790. 

Heart’s Delight: The Songs of Richard Tauber

During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.

Adriana Lecouvreur from Decca

Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.

Lawrence Brownlee’s Spiritual Sketches

It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.

Great Wagner Conductors from DG

As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive archives.

Great Wagner Singers from DG

There could be no greater gift to the Wagnerian celebrating the Master’s Bicentennial than this compilation from Deutsche Grammophon, aptly entitled Great Wagner Singers.

Adding Movie Magic to The Magic Flute

What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?

L’Incoronazione di Poppea from Virgin Classics

Since its first performance at the Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo during Venice’s 1643 Carnevale, Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea has been one of the most important milestones in the genesis of modern opera despite its 250 years of unmerited obscurity. 

Saverio Mercadante: I due Figaro

Though 2013 is the bicentennial of the births of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, the releases of Cecilia Bartoli’s recording of Bellini’s Norma on DECCA, a new studio recording of Donizetti’s Caterina Cornaro from Opera Rara, and this première recording of Saverio Mercadante’s forgotten I due Figaro, suggest that this is the start of a summer of bel canto.

Christian Thielemann’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Recording Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is for a record label equivalent to a climber reaching the summit of Mount Everest: it is the zenith from which a label surveys its position among its rivals and appreciates an achievement that can define its reputation for a generation. 

Cecilia Bartoli as Norma

Few people who love opera in general and bel canto in particular have never heard the comment made by Lilli Lehmann, veteran of the inaugural Ring at Bayreuth in 1876, that singing all three of Wagner’s Brünnhildes—in Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung, respectively, all of which she sang to great acclaim—pales in comparison with singing the title rôle in Bellini’s Norma

Ariane et Barbe-Bleue on Blu-Ray

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Giuseppe Verdi: Attila
24 Jan 2008

Italian opera on Gala

The budget label Gala purveys live performances both historic and relatively recent; of the three discussed here, the La Scala Fedora dates back to 1931, while the Attila comes from a 1987 La Fenice performance.

Giuseppe Verdi: Attila

Samuel Ramey; William Stone; Linda Roark Strummer; Veriano Luchetti; Aldo Bottion; Giovanni Antonini, Orchestra e Coro del Teatro ‘La Fenice’, Gabriele Ferro (cond.)
Live recording: Venice, January 23, 1987.

Gala 779 [2CDs]

$12.99  Click to buy

As with most of their sets, for the 1972 Turandot Gala offers the complete performance and then fills the second disc up with extracts from performances by one of the key singers from the title performance.

But Gala doesn’t follow this practice for the Attila, oddly enough, since it preserves a great performance from Samuel Ramey. The bonus cuts here go to well-known artists from the same era as those of the Attila. From performances under Claudio Abbado at La Scala in 1979, we hear Placido Domingo in Luisa Miller, and a trio of Don Carlos arias, featuring Yevgeny Nestrenko, Leo Nucci, and Katia Ricciarelli. Piero Cappucilli closes the CD with an elegant “Eri tu” from Un ballo en Maschera.

However, after hearing this rough but exciting Attila, closing the set with some more Ramey, or at least excerpts from other early or rare Verdi, would have been wonderful. Be that as it may, the opera has the benefit here of a fiery live performance, recorded in clean if not expansive sound. Ramey has the audience on his nasty Hun side from the beginning, and a raucous crowd demands a bis of “Oltre a quel limite t’attendo.” Some may regret the current state of the singer’s voice, but here the enveloping darkness of his bass is firm and yet flexible. Another American sings Odabella — Linda Roark Strummer. She has a wild, apparently huge voice. While not exactly refined, her lunging high notes and aggressive approach suit the character. Veriano Luchetti, as Foresto, brings a reliably vivid Italian tenor sound to the mix. William Stone is a capable if somewhat bland Ezio. The chorus and orchestra know the idiom and perform it with exuberant professionalism, under the baton of Gabriele Ferro.

Turandot_Gala.pngThe 1972 Turandot, recorded at the Teatro Petruzzelli, suffers from poor sound, with the source apparently being an audience member (if the occasional chatter is any clue). Often the singers seem to be caught in a stage position that allows the orchestra to cover their voices. In a few places the tapes seem to have deteriorated, leading to sudden jumps. At any rate, the performance, while decent, hardly suggests that the unsatisfactory sound is any tragedy. Gala gives star billing to Marion Lippert, a German soprano whose career eventually took her to a couple dozen performances at the Metropolitan Opera. The booklet essay quotes some reviews that praise her stage demeanor in the role, which obviously cannot be evaluated in this recording. Although not uncomfortable with the role’s challenges, she brings little that is individual. Flaviano Labó ducks a couple of optional high notes, but he sings a handsome, manly Calaf. Lydia Marimpietri earns the usual happy applause for Liu’s melodic, sad arias. She is fine, but the applause really should go to the composer. With the sound in its lamentable state, making judgments about Napoleone Annovazzi and the theater orchestra would be unfair.

Fedora_Gala.pngSurprisingly, the audio on the 1931 La Scala Fedora prompts no complaints, especially after that Turandot. This is not a live recording, but the notes do not establish a provenance. Within a few seconds of the opera’s beginning, the ears adjust to the limited spectrum, although at places greater orchestral detail would be desired. That is due to the naturalness and devotion conductor Lorenzo Molajoli brings to Giordano’s score. Fedora at this date seems unlikely to ever attain a firm place in the repertory, but heard here, it is possible to understand that at one time, it seemed to have earned that distinction. A short opera with a confusing, unconvincing libretto, it needs performers who truly believe in it. There is true “golden age” glamour in the singing of Gilda dalla Rizza, the Fedora whose revenge for her fiance’s death leads to her own suicide when she realizes she has destroyed the loved ones of the killer she has come to love. A tight vibrato and crisp enunciation give her performance a conversational quality, although she certainly lets fly with some passionate outbursts. The heart of the opera, a long duet in act two, finds her well-matched with the Loris of Antonio Melandri. He gives out almost as many sobs as he does ringing high notes, but in the red-blooded context of this opera, his handsome voice can be excused some excess.

The conclusion of Fedora takes up fewer that 15 minutes of the second disc. Once again, in filling out the side Gala wanders away from the stars of the main opera. Here the star becomes Lina Brusa-Rasa (although she gets no mention in the booklet, which does contain an admirably dense and detailed synopsis of Fedora, by Andrew Palmer). Lengthy highlights from an Andrea Chenier, also from La Scala in 1931, have the unfortunate effect of making the preceding Fedora seem even slighter. Bruna-Rasa is authoritative and affecting, and well-partnered by Luigi Marini as Chénier and Carlo Galeffi as Gérard. The lovers’ final duet might be worth the price of the set for some — urgently paced and thrillingly sung. After that, Gala still has room for arias from Mefistofele, Aida (actually the third act duet with the Amonasro of Galeffi), Cavalleria Rusticana, Manon Lescaut, and Tosca. Bruna-Rasa sings them all with both passion and taste, her very womanly tone mature only in the sense of ripeness and security.

So the Attila and Fedora earn recommendations to anyone interested in the operas or the singers. The Turandot would only find favor with any fans of Marion Lippert.

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):