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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.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and
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.
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.
This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.
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 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’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.
Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.
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.
19 Jun 2008
Mozart and Lortzing from Hamburg Opera on film
A nostalgic charm permeates these filmed productions from the early 1970s of Lortzing's Zar und Zimmerman and Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, collaborations between the Hamburg State Opera and German TV director Joachim Hess.
Cinematography, hair, costumes: all are redolent of a proud stage tradition adapted - not always with subtlety - to the needs of the camera, circa 1970. In 2008, what might have seemed hopelessly dated, even musty, actually carries a sort of "toy world" appeal.
The chief drawback of most filmed opera, especially from this era, is that the intimacy and varied perspective of the camera cannot mitigate the artificiality of the sound, which not only relies on lip syncing but also maintains a consistently flat audio stage, belying the naturalistic movements of the both camera and actors. To the credit of both the Lortzing and Mozart sets, excellent conductors lead energetic performances from the Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra. Charles Mackerras deals with Lortzing's perky - perhaps excessively perky - score to the comic Zar und Zimmerman with flair and good spirits. An entire opera based on a series of mistaken identities (Peter the Great has gone "undercover" to learn more about the world), Zar und Zimmerman has never really established itself outside of its home country. This video doesn't exactly make one regret that fact, but it does offer an extremely attractive cast doing their best to make the time pass pleasantly. Lucia Popp's absolutely sweet Marie stands out, with Raymond Wolansky as Peter the Great right behind her. In the tenor role of Peter Ivanov, Peter Haage's chubby male ingenue may annoy some as much as he did your reviewer.
Hans Sotin has the comic villain role in the Lortzing, and he reappears in Die Zauberflöte as Sarastro. Veteran Horst Stein leads an old-fashioned performance, appropriately enough for this production, directed with a disappointingly scant amount of invention by Sir Peter Ustinov. The illustrious cast included Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as the Speaker, Nicolai Gedda as Tamino, Edith Mathis as Pamina, Cristina Deutekom as the Queen of the night, and William Workman as Papageno. Their vocal contributions are all solid, but Ustinov fails to inspire them to offer more than perfunctory acting. Deutekom sings a fearsome Queen while her face remains entirely impassive. No one lip syncs all that well, but Workman in particular barely seems to be trying. The three boys compete to find pitch, with no winner. Monostatos appears in blackface. All in all, despite the camera, the opera remains stagebound and rarely shows sign of life.
The Lortzing DVD preserves a charming performance of an opera little known in the US, so it is worth a look. Fine DVDs of Die Zauberflöte, however, can easily be acquired, so anyone thinking of this set should either be a fan of the cast or a devotee of mediocre TV direction.