Recently in Recordings
In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.
Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.
A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.
The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.
Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.
‘Can great music be inspired by the throw of the dice?’ asks Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, in his liner notes to the ensemble’s new recording of Josquin’s Missa Di dadi (The Dice Mass). The fifteenth-century artist certainly had an abundant supply of devotional imagery. As one scholar has put it, during this age there was neither ‘an object nor an action, however trivial, that [was] not constantly correlated with Christ or salvation’.
Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s ﬁfteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.
New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.
Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the
Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement
violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his
ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.
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.
14 Sep 2008
Mozart, Rossini and Verdi at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino
Of these three productions staged for the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the beautifully dressed Entführung and refined Tancredi present the company as a theater for tasteful, stylish productions, just a tad on the dull side.
Not the Falstaff. Luca Ronconi's staging moves the action up to 20th century Britain, with the housewives thoroughly middle-class, in costumes suggesting a 1950s' time frame. However, Falstaff's henchmen sport punk hair stylings and accouterments, and the Fat Knight himself is a rouged, bleached sleazebag, just another glass of potted wine away from total dissolution.
Christoph Wagenknecht's handsome sets for Die Entführung aus dem Serail have a kaleidoscope effect, with a mix of ornate Arabic designs adorning screens and lattices. The costumes of Catherine Voeffray have the imagination and detail of the best film costumes. But their work is let down by the pedestrian direction of Eike Gramss. Dialogue scenes stop time, with leaden pauses and perfunctory movement. The key casting of Entführung, oddly enough, is the non-singing role of the pasha Selim. If he does not have the power and charisma needed, the drama falls flat, and though Markus John is not wholly inadequate, his scenes never come to life. Rainer Trost's Belmonte makes for a very bland hero, both as actor and singer. Eva Mei sings wonderfully as Konstanze, her technique more than capable in this very difficult role. But she seems so reserved, or self-possessed, that the drama never engages. Patrizia Ciofi and Mehrzad Montazeri outshine their co-stars as the other couple, and Kurt Rydl hams it up amusingly enough as Osmin. Zubin Mehta gives the star performance here, leading the Florentine forces in a dynamic, exciting reading of this great score.
Besides directing, Pier Luigi Pizzi designed the sets and costumes for Tancredi. His impeccable taste means that the production pleases the eye, with the off-white marble flooring and columns contrasting well with the red, black, and white spectrum of the costumes. The challenge of staging any dramatic Rossini comes with deciding how seriously to take the largely preposterous goings-on. Pizzi's decorous approach mostly skirts the risible without taking itself too seriously, although one silhouette effect of the hero (a pants role for mezzo) as he enters on a sailboat goes on a bit long and may prompt a giggle or two. An excellent cast delivers the bel canto goods, with Daniella Barcellona physically and artistically imposing in the title role, experienced tenor Raúl Giménez handling expertly the high line of his role, and Darina Takova moving her large voice around fairly nimbly. Riccardo Frizza and the Florentine forces keep the music moving without rushing.
The decorous and tasteful don't play a large role in Luca Ronconi's Falstaff, with sets by Margherita Palli and costumes from Carlo Maria Diappi. Some fans of Verdi's autumnal comedy will take offense at the updating (to a time-warp mix of late 20th century UK society, with the housewives in floral jersey dresses of the 1950s and Falstaff's henchmen in the studded leather and dyed Mohawks of the '80s and '90s). Ruggero Raimondi's portrayal will dismay some as well. Instead of the usual tubby charmer who may indulge a bit too much in ale and mead, Raimondi's Falstaff has luridly bleached hair, rouged cheeks, and the bulbous belly of an alcoholic. In other words, this is a Falstaff who truly deserves a comeuppance at the hands of the wives, even if they strut and scheme with a self-confidence that borders on the arrogant.
For those open to Ronconi's approach, this Falstaff will succeed in many ways. The set design enables a constant flow of fresh perspectives on the action, with the transformation to the forest in the final act a particular delight. The comedy now has the same edge and sharp pace of Verdi's miraculous score, and with that wonderful veteran Zubin Mehta back in charge, not a delightful moment is wasted. It's Raimondi's show, and he owns every moment, but his supporting cast is right there with him. Barbara Frittoli has never been more beautiful or vocally appealing as Mrs. Ford, and Manual Lanza makes for a properly stuffy and smug husband. Daniil Shtoda and Mariola Cantarero don't wear out their welcome as the lovers, and Elena Zilio's spinsterish Mrs. Quickly, clinging to her handbag, brings a fresh look to the role. Note must be made of the hilarious Gianluca Floris and Luigi Roni as Bardolfo and Pistola.
All three of these DVDs have deserving qualities. However, if the Opera Today reader has a dislike for the more risky stagings, the Falstaff may not be advised, no matter how much it pleased your reviewer. The Mozart and Rossini are safe choices for lovers of those two operas.