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

Paul Hindemith: Cardillac
25 May 2008

HINDEMITH: Cardillac

Premiered in 1926, Paul Hindemith’s opera Cardillac is a three-act work based on E. T. A. Hoffmann’s short story Das Fräulein von Scuderi.

Paul Hindemith: Cardillac

Donald McIntyre, Robert Schunk, Maria de Francesca-Cavazza, Hans Günther Nöcker, Der Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper, Das Bayerische Staatsorchester, Wolfgang Sawallisch (cond.). Staged and designed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle.

Deutsche Grammophon 073 4324 [DVD]

$27.98  Click to buy

Unlike Hindemith’s other operas from the 1920s, like Mörder, Hoffnung der Frauen or Hin und Zurück, Cardillac on the surface seems to be more traditional than those others, which reflect the Zeitoper-style that was popular at the time. After all, Cardillac is a story that takes place in a quasi-historic setting, rather than a libretto that derives from contemporary events. Yet the cynicism and irony at the core of Hoffmann’s famous tale is a potent foil for issues that had a certain relevance for Hindemith’s time. Cardillac is the famous goldsmith of Paris, who fabricates wonderful things and also retrieves them by theft and murder, and the plot revolves around the dilemma of revealing to the public that the beloved fabricant is also the criminal who made an entire city fearful. Surrounded by sympathetic characters, Cardillac neither recants nor confesses; rather, when his deception is revealed, Cardillac receives the murderous judgment of the crowd.

In such a violent story Hindemith found a means of exploring situations that Romantic composers chose not to pursue, and this allowed him to use a dissonant harmonic idiom to bring Hoffmann’s story to the stage. Dissonant, but not atonal, Hindemith’s musical idiom makes the doomed Cavalier’s aria, at the end of the first scene, effective. Likewise, Cardillac’s monologue at the opening of the second act establishes his character, which Hindemith could only suggest through various hints earlier in the work. As the work plays out, Hindemith used a combination of vocal and instrumental pieces to support the libretto, which is a faithful transformation of Hoffmann’s famous story. Like some of the made creators of fiction, the famous Rappacini of the nineteenth-century American author Nathaniel Hawthorne, the daughter is the positive counterpart of the father, and this character allows Hindemith to use some of his more effective music to underscore her image in sound. The more tonal and less dissonant sonorities associated with Cardillac’s daughter stands apart from some of the more frenetic music of her father.

In 1985 Jean-Pierre Ponnelle created a new production of the original 1926 version of Cardillac for the Bavarian Opera, and this DVD makes his inspired staging available to a new generation. Rooted in eighteenth-century costume and design, the staging sometimes distorts convention to reflect Hindemith’s modern idiom. At the same time, lighting effects sometimes suggest film techniques of the 1920s to intensify such scenes as the murder of the Cavalier. In fact, the shuttering light underscores the violent act through the discontinuous images that the audience must connect in perceiving the action. Other images, like Cardillac’s shop are fanciful enough to merit the kind of repeated viewing possible on DVD, an aspect of the production that is more ephemeral when viewed on stage in live performances.

This production benefits from the fine leadership of Wolfgang Sawallisch, whose direction gave shape to this infrequently performed score. His tempos serve Hindemith’s score well by allowing both the music and text to emerge clearly. He brings out details, but never lets any single element overbalance the others. A case in point is jazz idiom that Hindemith uses in a stylized manner near the end of the opera, and it intersects well with the dissonant counterpoint of the duet that follows.

Over all Sawallisch has created in this performance an idiom in which Donald McIntyre could make Cardillac’s complex character audible, as found in his monologue at the end of the second act, “Mag Mondlicht Leuchten!” McIntyre is, indeed the focus of Hindemith’s opera, a detail that sets it apart from Hoffmann’s short story in its reference to Madame Scuderi. Thus, the daughter, as sung by Maria de Francesca-Cavazza, is critical to the narrative through her relationship with the Officer, which Robert Schunk delivers admirably. Not simply determined to resolve the identity of the murderer, the Officer‘s duty is complicated by his familiarity with Cardillac’s daughter, and this is related well in the duet “Meine Lippen auf die Wunde,” which sets up the dénouement in the scene that follows. Schunk does well to counterpoise Cardillac, both dramatically and musically.

The other roles are also cast well, with Doris Soffel making the character of the lady (“Die Dame) in the first act, quite memorable. Josef Hopferwieser is her Cavalier, a brief, but crucial figure in the opening scenes of Cardillac. Yet beyond the solo performers, the chorus stands out a critical element that sets the tone at the opening of the opera and executes the resolution of the drama at the end. The ensemble is tight and clear – a model for the kind of clear and effective choral performance that must occur in this score.

While Hindemith’s opera Mathis der Maler may be nominally more familiar because of the well-known symphony its composer derived from it, Cardillac deserves attention as a powerful stage work. With such a convincing performance available on DVD, it raises the question about the place of this opera among Hindemith’s works and within the context of twentieth-century operas. A relatively short work of about ninety minutes, its concision is admirable, and it could benefit from more performances both in Europe and elsewhere. In fact, another performance of this work is also available on DVD, a recent production of Cardillac by the Paris National Opera, conducted by Kent Nagano, with a cast that includes such performers as Angela Denoke and Charles Workman. Yet those interested in Cardillac may wish to view this earlier performance released by Deutsche Grammophon because of both the fine execution of the score under Sawallisch’s direction and also the remarkable staging that Ponnelle contributed to the opera as a whole. .

James L. Zychowicz

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):