Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Women's Voices: a sung celebration of six eloquent and confident voices

The voices of six women composers are celebrated by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and soprano Yunah Lee on this characteristically ambitious and valuable release by Lontano Records Ltd (Lorelt).

Rosa mystica: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

As Paul Spicer, conductor of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, observes, the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is as ‘old as Christianity itself’, and programmes devoted to settings of texts which venerate the Virgin Mary are commonplace.

The Prison: Ethel Smyth

Ethel Smyth’s last large-scale work, written in 1930 by the then 72-year-old composer who was increasingly afflicted and depressed by her worsening deafness, was The Prison – a ‘symphony’ for soprano and bass-baritone soloists, chorus and orchestra.

Songs by Sir Hamilton Harty: Kathryn Rudge and Christopher Glynn

‘Hamilton Harty is Irish to the core, but he is not a musical nationalist.’

After Silence: VOCES8

‘After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ Aldous Huxley’s words have inspired VOCES8’s new disc, After Silence, a ‘double album in four chapters’ which marks the ensemble’s 15th anniversary.

Beethoven's Songs and Folksongs: Bostridge and Pappano

A song-cycle is a narrative, a journey, not necessarily literal or linear, but one which carries performer and listener through time and across an emotional terrain. Through complement and contrast, poetry and music crystallise diverse sentiments and somehow cohere variability into an aesthetic unity.

Flax and Fire: a terrific debut recital-disc from tenor Stuart Jackson

One of the nicest things about being lucky enough to enjoy opera, music and theatre, week in week out, in London’s fringe theatres, music conservatoires, and international concert halls and opera houses, is the opportunity to encounter striking performances by young talented musicians and then watch with pleasure as they fulfil those sparks of promise.

Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players: a world premiere recording

“It’s forbidden, and where’s the art in that?”

John F. Larchet's Complete Songs and Airs: in conversation with Niall Kinsella

Dublin-born John F. Larchet (1884-1967) might well be described as the father of post-Independence Irish music, given the immense influenced that he had upon Irish musical life during the first half of the 20th century - as a composer, musician, administrator and teacher.

Haddon Hall: 'Sullivan sans Gilbert' does not disappoint thanks to the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Andrews

The English Civil War is raging. The daughter of a Puritan aristocrat has fallen in love with the son of a Royalist supporter of the House of Stuart. Will love triumph over political expediency and religious dogma?

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

Beethoven Symphony no 9 (the Choral Symphony) in D minor, Op. 125, and the Choral Fantasy in C minor, Op. 80 with soloist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester, new from Harmonia Mundi.

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

A Louise Brooks look-a-like, in bobbed black wig and floor-sweeping leather trench-coat, cheeks purple-rouged and eyes shadowed in black, Barbara Hannigan issues taut gestures which elicit fire-cracker punch from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Alfredo Piatti: The Operatic Fantasies (Vol.2) - in conversation with Adrian Bradbury

‘Signor Piatti in a fantasia on themes from Beatrice di Tenda had also his triumph. Difficulties, declared to be insuperable, were vanquished by him with consummate skill and precision. He certainly is amazing, his tone magnificent, and his style excellent. His resources appear to be inexhaustible; and altogether for variety, it is the greatest specimen of violoncello playing that has been heard in this country.’

Those Blue Remembered Hills: Roderick Williams sings Gurney and Howells

Baritone Roderick Williams seems to have been a pretty constant ‘companion’, on my laptop screen and through my stereo speakers, during the past few ‘lock-down’ months.

Bruno Ganz and Kirill Gerstein almost rescue Strauss’s Enoch Arden

Melodramas can be a difficult genre for composers. Before Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden the concept of the melodrama was its compact size – Weber’s Wolf’s Glen scene in Der Freischütz, Georg Benda’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea or even Leonore’s grave scene in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Gaetano Donizetti: Anna Bolena
29 Jul 2008

Donizetti on Dynamic DVD

Dynamic now offers most of its product in CD and DVD formats, the latter in High Definition, no less.

Gaetano Donizetti: Anna Bolena

Dimitra Theodossiou, Gian Luca Pasolini, Riccardo Zanellato, Sofia Soloviy, Orchestra and Chorus of Bergamo Musica Festival Gaetano Donizetti, Fabrizio Maria Carminati (cond.)

Dynamic 33534 [2CDs]

$44.99  Click to buy

The label has always done well by bel canto operas, especially rarities. When the company ventures into the standard repertory, they put themselves up against the work of the world's major opera houses. Sadly, their Lucia di Lammermoor doesn't offer much competition to other versions of the opera on the market. But the Anna Bolena is another matter; though not attractively designed, the staging doesn't interfere with an impassioned performance of the opera, a smash in its today but seldom performed of late.

Dynamic_Lucia.pngBoth productions were filmed at the Teatro Donizetti di Bologna in October, 2006. Francesca Espositio directed and designed the costumes for both, with Italo Grassi in charge of the sets. Esposiito's costumes are rich and traditional for both operas, though the Lucia males could use more variety - the tartan "shawl" thrown over the shoulders of the leads and chorus makes a monotonous picture. Grassi's sets contrast with the familiar costumes by being stark. Most of Anna Bolena plays out in front of unadorned bleachers, with the odd touch of an oversized suit of armor, which looks like a miniature airplane hangar when lying flat. For Lucia, Grassi's use of huge blow-ups of the plot's letters and wedding contracts carries some dramatic weight, but the mad scene is woefully understaged. Désirée Rancatore , the Lucia, appears at the top of a roll-on white staircase, as from some cheap TV variety show. Instead of blood, she wears over her white nightgown a lengthy crimson robe. Apparently the budget didn't stretch to giving the Edgardo his own setting; he sings the opera's final scenes against that same staircase.

The cast simply doesn't possess either the charisma or vocal authority to make this Lucia special. Rancatore sings decently, with clean attack and some color. The lack of glaring flaws doesn't compensate much for the lack of individual phrasing or characterization. The audience roars for the Edgardo, Roberto DeBiasio, at the final curtain. A relatively slight man (for a tenor), he resembles a better-looking relative of the actor William Dafoe . He cuts a credibly romantic figure as Edgardo, vocally as well as visually. The audience's enthusiasm seems excessive, nevertheless. Luca Grassi, the Enrico, has a thin, haunted look (and and De Biasio slightly resemble each other). The voice is substantial enough, but his acting tends to the unsubtle. Conductor Fogliani gets, perhaps unsurprisingly, an idiomatic performance from the Bergamo Musica Festival Gaetano Donizetti forces.

Fabrizio Maria Carminati conducts the same musicians for the Anna Bolena, which spreads over two discs. In the title role, Dimitra Theodossiou furthers her growing reputation with a fierce, technically secure performance. She is not a natural actress, and she looks a bit dowdy. But that works dramatically, as Anna realizes she is being replaced in the affections of Henry (or, Enrico) by Jane Seymour, a beautifully dressed Sofia Soloviy . The opera's first act plays like exposition for the dramatic second act, when Anna realizes she must die to allow her husband to marry his new love. Riccardo Zanellato as Enrico has no opportunity to demonstrate the royal charisma; he's more the villain of the piece. Tenor Gian Luca Pasolini doesn't cut the dashing figure of the tenor in the Lucia, but his voice is much more appealing - a highly placed, very secure sound.

For lovers of bel canto, this Anna Bolena should be an enjoyable addition to any collection. The Lucia? Not so much.

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):