Recently in Recordings
In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.
Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.
A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.
The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.
Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.
‘Can great music be inspired by the throw of the dice?’ asks Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, in his liner notes to the ensemble’s new recording of Josquin’s Missa Di dadi (The Dice Mass). The fifteenth-century artist certainly had an abundant supply of devotional imagery. As one scholar has put it, during this age there was neither ‘an object nor an action, however trivial, that [was] not constantly correlated with Christ or salvation’.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the
Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement
violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his
ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.
Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara -
Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.
It is not often that a major work by a forgotten composer gets rediscovered
and makes an enormously favorable impression on today’s listeners. That has
happened, unexpectedly, with Herculanum, a four-act grand opera by
Félicien David, which in 2014 was recorded for the first time.
This recording, made in the Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music in June 2014, is the fourth disc in SOMM’s series of recordings with Paul Spicer and the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir.
Félicien David’s intriguing Le désert, for vocal and orchestral forces plus narrator, was widely performed in its own day, then disappeared from the performing repertory for nearly a century.
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”
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.
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.
Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au
bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc
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.
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’.
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.
21 Apr 2008
This production offers a different view of Norma. As Stage Director Guy Joosten explains in the introduction on the first of a 2-disc set, he wanted to give the audience “more” of what he believes the modern audience expects.
The video opens with an Italian tenor arriving at the opera house to sing
Pollione. He is dressed in mid-20th century garb. When he turns on the
speaker in his “dressing room,” we hear the familiar opening notes of
Norma. Our tenor proceeds to unpack his makeup bag and to gaze
happily at an opera fan magazine on which his face graces the cover. His
female dresser comes in leaving the armor that he will wear on the stage as
Pollione, along with some red roses that apparently have been sent to him.
Others arrive and chat with him as well and, of course, they all get to see
the magazine cover picture.
A large fallen tree dominates the stage, with its tall root structure
resting on a shiny black floor. The older soprano arrives in all her Diva
glory…..dark glasses, a fur wrap over her silver trench coat. She poses for
pictures and signs autographs for her adoring fans.
Our younger singer comes in and begins to prepare to sing Adalgisa only to
find a bouquet of red roses on her dressing table. It is the same bunch of
flowers that our tenor had received which he left for her after removing the
card. Do we begin to get the picture ….. our Italian tenor is a bit of a
But this is a production of Norma and little by little our
principals don at least partial period costumes as they begin to take their
places in the opera. With the trappings of the modern day story always
present in things like the ultra-modern looking dressing tables and racks of
street clothes visible, the traditional opera unfolds.
As Pollione’s problems—his affairs with two women—inevitably come to
light, we finally see Hugh Smith as Pollione and not as the Italian tenor. It
took him awhile to warm up, which resulted in a strained top. But his sound
improved as the performance proceeded.
Romanian-born Nelly Miricioui was cast to perform the role of Norma;
however, for a variety of reasons, Hasmik Papian assumed the part on short
notice. Her Casta Diva is not a show-stopper; but it nicely sets the
stage for what is to come. Norma is a demanding role, which Papian performed
with aplomb. She clearly understood Norma (the traditional Norma). She could
be angry, remorseful, sad and regal when it was called for and seemed to move
through the moods of this complicated woman with grace both vocally and as an
Irini Tsirakidis, Adalgisa, was a nice surprise. New to me, Tsirakidis
brought this character to life. Adalgisa is in the most impossible position,
with her challenging role being both musically and dramatically interesting.
It is important to me that this role work well for this opera to achieve its
full dramatic impact.
Giorgio Giuseppini as Orovesco was a bit woolly and wobbly. Nevertheless,
this fit his character as an elderly gentleman. And, of course, he does not
have much to do other than stand around and sing.
Carol Bosi as Flavio performed well, although the part is little more than
window dressing. His presence is only necessary so Pollione can talk about
his women problems but not much else. Bosi possesses a pretty sounding
So the tale moves on to its sad ending when Norma and Pollione are to die
together by mutual consent. The scene is beautifully sung by all. As Norma
and Pollione are about to walk into the fire, they are back in their Italian
tenor and aging soprano clothes. Why? Who knows. Instead of going off with
Norma, Pollione takes one last step back toward Adalgisa. But Norma proceeds
to walk off stage to her plight and the curtain comes down. Strange….yes.
Are we supposed to think that he might not follow Norma?
If you are interested in this DVD I suggest viewing the introduction on
Disc 1 first. The discussion by the stage director and conductor Julian
Reynolds makes all the difference in attempting to understand what they were
trying to do with this bel canto masterpiece.
Norma stands alone for me. It does not need updating or additions to
sustain it. But this is not an uninteresting reading of Bellini’s work. I
wonder how he might have felt about such a production.