Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Guillaume Tell, Covent Garden

It is twenty-three years since Rossini’s opera of cultural oppression, inspiring heroism and tender pathos was last seen on the Covent Garden stage, but this eagerly awaited new production of Guillaume Tell by Italian director Damiano Micheletto will be remembered more for the audience outrage and vociferous mid-performance booing that it provoked — the most persistent and strident that I have heard in this house — than for its dramatic, visual or musical impact.

Aida, Opera Holland Park

With its outrageous staging demands, you sometimes wonder why opera companies want to produce Verdi’s Aida. But the piece is about far more than pharaohs, pyramids and camels.

Death in Venice, Garsington Opera

Given the enduring resonance and impact of the magnificent visual aesthetic of Visconti’s 1971 film of Thomas Mann’s novella, opera directors might be forgiven for concluding that Britten’s Death in Venice does not warrant experimentation with period and design, and for playing safe with Edwardian elegance, sweeping Venetian vistas and stylised seascapes.

La Rondine Swoops Into St. Louis

If La Rondine (The Swallow) is a less-admired work than rest of the mature Puccini canon, you wouldn’t have known it by the lavish production now lovingly staged by Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Emmeline a Stunner in Saint Louis

Few companies have championed new or neglected works quite as fervently and consistently as the industrious Opera Theatre of Saint Louis.

Luminous Handel in Saint Louis

For Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, “everything old is new again.”

Two Women in San Francisco

Why would an American opera company devote its resources to the premiere of an opera by an Italian composer? Furthermore a parochially Italian story?

Les Troyens in San Francisco

Berlioz’ Les Troyens is in two massive parts — La prise de Troy and Troyens à Carthage.

Dog Days at REDCAT

On Saturday evening June 13, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Dog Days, a new opera with music by David T. Little and a text by Royce Vavrek. In the opera adopted from a story of the same name by Judy Budnitz, thirteen-year-old Lisa tells of her family’s mental and physical disintegration resulting from the ravages of a horrendous war.

Opera Las Vegas Presents Exquisite Madama Butterfly

Audiences at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan first saw Madama Butterfly on February 17, 1904. It was not the success it is these days, and Puccini revised it before its scheduled performances in Brescia.

Yardbird, Philadelphia

Opera Philadelphia is a very well-managed opera company with a great vision. Every year it presents a number of well-known “warhorse” operas, usually in the venerable Academy of Music, and a few more adventurous productions, usually in a chamber opera format suited to the smaller Pearlman Theater.

Giovanni Paisiello: Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Written in 1783, Giovanni Paisiello’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia reigned for three decades as one of Europe’s most popular operas, before being overshadowed forever by Rossini’s classic work.

Princeton Festival: Le Nozze di Figaro

The Princeton Festival has established a reputation for high-quality summer opera. In recent years works by Handel, Britten, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, Wagner and Gershwin have been performed at Matthews Theater on Princeton University campus: a 1100-seat auditorium with good sight-lines though a somewhat dry and uneven acoustic.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail,
Glyndebourne

Die Entführung aus dem Serail was Mozart’s first great public success in Vienna, and it became the composer’s most oft performed opera during his lifetime.

German Lieder Is Given a Dramatic Twist by The Ensemble for the Romantic Century

The Ensemble for the Romantic Century offered a thoughtful and well-curated evening in their production of The Sorrows of Young Werther, which is part theatrical performance and part art song concert.

Hans Werner Henze: Ein Landarzt and Phaedra

This was an adventurous double bill of two ‘quasi-operas’ by Hans Werner Henze, performed by young singers who are studying on the postgraduate Opera Course at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

Dido and Aeneas, Spitalfields Festival

High brick walls, a cavernous space, entered via a narrow passage just off a London thoroughfare: Village Underground in Shoreditch is probably not that far removed from the venue in which Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas was first performed — whether that was Josiah Priest’s girl’s school in Chelsea or the court of Charles II or James II.

Intermezzo, Garsington Opera

Hats off to Garsington for championing once again some criminally neglected Strauss. I overheard someone there opine, ‘Of course, you can understand why it isn’t done very often.’

Cosi fan tutte, Garsington Opera

Mozart and Da Ponte’s Cosi fan tutte provides little in the way of background or back story for the plot, thus allowing directors to set the piece in a variety settings.

The Queen of Spades, ENO

Based on a play, Chrysomania (The Passion for Money), by the Russian playwright Prince Alexander Shokhovskoy, Pushkin’s short story The Queen of Spades is, in the words of one literary critic, ‘a sardonic commentary on the human condition’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf
15 Mar 2009

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Soprano

This DVD contains the contents of four televised recitals of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, with no way of telling from the information provided whether the recitals are presented complete or not.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Gerald Moore

Medici Arts 3085268 [DVD]

$19.99  Click to buy

As the last section on this disc, from Brussels in 1969, only features two selections (two pleasant but negligible Menotti songs), making assumptions on the completeness of the others wouldn’t be advised.

The best part of the disc comes in the first half of its 90 minutes, with two television studio recitals filmed in London; the first from 1961 in black and white, the second from 1970, in color. With famed accompanist Gerald Moore (who throws in a sly bit of self-promotion at one point by asking, “Am I too loud?”), placing these two recitals back to back gives a point of reference for relating to Schwarzkopf’s late career. In 1961, the voice and manner combine seamlessly in a professional, disciplined performance. In place of spontaneity comes a poised, well-rehearsed artistry. The selections tend to the lighter side here, opening with a slight Mozart number (“Die kleine Spinnerin”), through Schubert’s “An die Musik,” and closing with two Hugo Wolf selections. Nine years later, Schwarzkopf opens up, braving some English spoken interludes, and moving about the studio, making sure to shift her chiffon-type dress with every change of stance. She begins again with Mozart, but initially the passing years can be heard in some slight intonation lapses and warbliness. As the recital proceeds, the voice settles. However, the affectations that non-admirers of Schwarzkopf complain about interfere at times, with too-knowing a wink here, too downcast a glance there. Taken together, both recitals still serve as a classic portrait of how to present and sing lieder, in a way that respects the tradition and manages to connect to an audience.

The next recital, from Paris in 1967, finds Schwarzkopf with the Orchestre National de l’ORTF, conducted by one Berislav Klobucar. If it weren’t for the date and grainy black and white footage, some viewers might suppose this recital came after the 1970 London one. Schwarzkopf is simply not in good voice. Whatever slips in intonation appeared in those London recitals are minor compared to some very painful notes here, and often the voice lacks support. Again, Mozart begins the recital, with two numbers also sung in the 1970 recital (“Männer suchen sets zu naschen” and “Ich möchte wohl der kaiser sein”). Schwarzkopf can manage these numbers well enough, relying on charm and the folksy simplicity of the melodies. She then moves to challenge of Verdi’s scene for Desdemona from Otello. Here Schwarzkopf over-emotes, as if to cover for the breathy line and attenuated top notes. Six Richard Strauss orchestral songs follow, but the glow and security of the voice does not return. Perhaps the effort required to project over the orchestral background exacerbates the compromised state of her voice, but Klobucar seems to be keeping the orchestra in balance (though the playing isn’t much to be admired, especially in the Verdi).

Medici Arts chose a portrait of the singer from her younger years for the cover of the DVD. Confusingly, the contents listing on the back cover is arranged by composer rather than in the order actually presented. Then the booklet track listing doesn’t link the selections to track numbers, to facilitate quick location. On the positive side, subtitles are provided.

Fans will want this, of course, but anyone who appreciates fine lieder singing will appreciate the 1961 recital, surely, as well as the chance to compare it to the 1970 one for an understanding of how an established artist can maintain control late into the career. Think of the regrettable Paris concert and two songs from Brussels as insubstantial addenda.

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):