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. 



Medieval Christmas
17 Aug 2008

Medieval Christmas

The festal days of Christmas, New Year’s, St. Stephen and St. Thomas Becket are rich in musical celebration, and this recording from the Orlando Consort brings together a wide range of organa, motets, chansons, and carols to remind us of that fact.

Medieval Christmas

The Orlando Consort

Harmonia Mundi HMU 907418

$19.99  Click to buy

Their program is varied, perhaps to the point of straining the coherency of theme. Secular and sacred texts sit side by side, while the music’s chronology spans the Winchester Troper (c. 1000) and the sixteenth-century motets of Clemens non Papa, with visits to the 15-c English carol, a Dufay chanson, and music of the late 14-c Ars subtilior along the way. Additionally, the text theme itself is diverse—apart from proximity in the calendar, what do the Feasts of Becket and the proto-martyr Stephen have to do with Christmas, medieval or otherwise?

The varied repertory here also seems to underscore that the ensemble—naturally enough—is more at home in some styles than others; generally speaking, it is the earlier pieces that fare the best. The full and vibrant singing is well matched to the expansiveness of the Acquitanian polyphony (“O primus homo corruit,” and “Lux refulget”), and rhythmic panache engagingly enlivens both the robust conductus, “Annus renascitur” and the melismatic passages of Dufay’s “Ce jour de l’an,” where lombardic syncopations invite and receive appropriate verve. Equally impressive is the consort’s mastery of the complex, anonymous “De quan qu’on peut,” a subtilior work whose signature rhythmic density is handled with convincing ease. Additionally, in works like Arnold de Lantins’ “De quan qu’on peut,” the consort is much at home with courtly grace, and the distinctive timbres of the individual singers allow one to savor the richness of the counterpoint.

However, the sixteenth-century pieces are perhaps less successful, at least to ears drawn to a leaner purity of tone. The fullness and individuality of tone is at times attractive here, as in the duet sections of Clemens’ lengthy “Nato canunt omnia,” but in tutti contexts, these characteristics seem to constrain other expressive elements that might have come to the fore.

One of the riches of the recording is the consort’s impressive facility with historical, regional pronunciations, a facility that adds much color to the performance and helps to punctuate the variety of the program itself. Medieval Christmas is devoted to that variety, offering aural glimpses of late-December festivities in an array of contexts. The earlier glimpses are the best of the lot, though all will surely gratify.

Steven Plank

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):