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. 



Gounod: Faust (highlights)
06 May 2008

French Opera highlights on Classics for Pleasure

Consumers might opt for a highlights set instead of a full recording of an opera for many reasons.

Gounod: Faust (highlights)

Gedda, de los Angeles, Blanc, Christoff, Berton, Gorr, Autran, Paris Opera Chorus & Orchestra, André Cluytens

EMI Classics for Pleasure 393 3762 [CD]

£6.99  Click to buy

Perhaps they own too many copies of the entire opera already but are attracted to one or two members of the cast on yet another set. Perhaps in a busy life, they really only ever have time or the desire to hear their favorite selections from an opera. And just maybe, in today's market, the complete set is no longer readily available.

Whatever the reason, lovers of French opera would do well to consider either or both of two sets from Classics for Pleasure's opera highlights series. The Gounod Faust, with Victoria De Los Angeles, Boris Christoff, and Nicolai Gedda conducted by André Cluytens, already enjoys a deservedly high reputation. CFP offers a generous 75 minutes of music, whereas the Puccini sets from this series recently reviewed here on operatoday had well under 60. Still, not that much is heard of Gedda in the title role until his big third act aria. In fact, nothing from the first act appears at all. As strong as Gedda is, having more of De Los Angeles's truly angelic Marguerite prompts no complaints. Some may regret an arguable lack of elegance in Christoff's Mephistopheles, but he certainly captures the character's demonic side. Ernest Blanc makes the most of Valentin's affecting music. The climatic trio loses some power when so abruptly excerpted, but all in all, this highlights set has ample evidence of why this recording has been so highly esteemed for so long.

Delibes_Lakme.pngThe Delibes Lakme set manages to be even more "French," with Alain Lombard leading the Paris Opéra-Comique forces and a cast of Mady Mesplé in the title role, Danielle Millet as her maid, and Charles Burles as Gerald, Lakme's English love interest. After Delibes's wonderful prelude, as enchanting as the best of his ballet music, this set takes the listener directly to the famous female duet. Mesple's sweet, high-set tone helps make the Indian princess a believable, not to mention attractive, character. She also manages the pyrotechnics of the "Bell Song" with a relaxed flair that benefits the music. The rest of the cast is able, but to be blunt, the score of Lakme, other than its just referenced well-known parts, tends to a generic craftsmanship. All the more reason to be grateful for this highlights set, then.

CFP provides track and cast listings, and a story synopsis tied to the tracks. Without any other notes of any kind, however, the booklet has to be called slim. But for a budget price, both of these sets can claim to be very fair value.

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):