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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.
20 Jul 2008
Villazón on Deutsche Grammophon
The opera world, always ravenous for talented, charismatic tenors, felt desperate hunger pains last summer, when Rolando Villazón canceled dates with an explanation that a health crisis necessitated a sabbatical from singing.
Only recently he returned to the opera stage, earning cautiously positive notices at Covent Garden in the title role of Verdi's Don Carlos.
One signpost of his career's advancement before the crisis had been his signing with Deutsche Grammophon, often considered (rightly or wrongly) the premiere label for classical artists. So it was in March of 2007 that the tenor recorded the Italian recital disc, Cielo e Mar, and participated in live performances of La Bohème with Anna Netrebko in Munich the following month, which DG recorded.
The recital disc covers a wide range of 19th century Italian opera composers, including the Brazilian-born Antônio Carlos Gomes. The pieces reflect Villazón's questing intelligence, with the more well-known arias, such as the title "Cielo e mar," and two arias from Saverio Mercadante, as well as one from the afore-mentioned Gomes. Giuseppe Pietri's romanza from Maristella may not seem like a known item, but its warm melody struck your reviewer's ears as familiar. Some may claim to hear evidence of the tenor's coming crisis, but where exactly? The studio recording captures the tenor's instrument in strong, handsome form. The occasional resemblance to Domingo remains (including some tightness of high notes), yet Villazón's personality shines through - warmer, more romantic than Domingo's pained heroism. Daniele Callegari supports the singer well, with the increasingly busy Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi.
The live recording of Bohème does find Villazon's instrument a tad raspy, and the tightness a bit more worrying on the highest notes. It was a NYCO television broadcast of the tenor as Rodolfo that first brought him renown in the USA, and he still has the youthful, poetic soul for the role. Arguably the true star of this performance, however, is Anna Netrebko's Mimi. From start to finish, she is in fine form, full-bodied, sensitive, unapologetically gorgeous. Despite the fullness of her delivery, she still manages to characterize Mimi's growing fragility. DG assembled a cast of younger singers of note for the other Bohemians; the refreshingly smaller-scaled Musetta of Nicole Cabell, paired with Boaz Daniel as Marcello, alongside Stéphane Degout and Vitalij Kowaljow, doing excellent work as Schaunard and Colline.
Conducting the Bayerischen Rundfunk forces, Bertrand de Billy enforces some odd pauses, perhaps to facilitate aspects of the live performance. Whether to accommodate the singers or simply his own interpretation, he pushes the tempo a bit at times, possibly to effect greater excitement, then slows down to highlight the drama. It's not an erratic performance, and certainly the musicians play well. A listen to Beecham on his classic set might make some listeners wish for the same confidence from de Billy in Puccini's music.
The booklet note claims that this CD will also serve as a soundtrack to a film version. Your reviewer has no other information, but the photo stills in the booklet, if from such a film, suggest a very handsome production.
Many an opera fan may feel that his/her collection has enough sets of the Puccini classic. The recital disc contains enough that is rare, and is of such high quality overall, that any fan of fine tenor singing needs to give it a listen. As well as to wish Mr. Villazón continued good health.