Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Reviews

Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg in San Francisco

Falstaff and Die Meistersinger are among the pinnacles if not the pinnacles of nineteenth century opera. Both operas are atypical of the composer and both operas are based on a Shakespeare play.

Le Nozze di Figaro, Manitoba Opera

To borrow from the great Bard himself: “the course of true love never did run smooth.”

Arizona Opera Presents Florencia in el Amazonas

Florencia in el Amazonas was the first Spanish-language opera to be commissioned by major United States opera houses.

Viva la Mamma!: A Fun Evening at POP

Gaetano Donizetti wrote a comedy or dramma giocoso called Le convenienze ed inconvenienze teatrali (The Conventions and Inconveniences of the Theater), which is also known by the shorter title, Viva La Mamma!.

LA Opera Norma: A Feast for the Ears

Vincenzo Bellini composed Norma to a libretto that Felice Romani had fashioned after Alexandre Soumet’s French play, Norma, ossia L'infanticidio (Norma, or The Infanticide).

Alban Berg’s Wozzeck at Lyric Opera of Chicago

In order to mount a successful production of Alban Berg’s opera Wozzeck, first performed in 1925, the dramatic intensity and lyrical beauty of the score must become the focal point for participants.

A Prize-Winning Rediscovery from 1840s Paris (and 1830s Egypt)

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. In recent days,

Florilegium at Wigmore Hall

During this exploration of music from the Austro-German Baroque, Florilegium were joined by the baritone Roderick Williams in a programme of music which placed the music and career of J.S. Bach in the context of three older contemporaries: Franz Tunder (1614-67), Dietrich Buxtehude (1637-1701) and Heinrich Biber (1644-1704).

Leoncavallo’s Zazà by Opera Rara

Charismatic charm, vivacious insouciance, fervent passion, dejected self-pity, blazing anger and stoic selflessness: Zazà — a chanteuse raised from the backstreets to the bright lights — is a walking compendium of emotions.

L'ospedale - an anonymous opera rediscovered

‘Stay away from doctors; they are bad for your health.’ This seems to be the central message of L’Ospedale - a one-hour opera by an unknown seventeenth-century composer, with a libretto by Antonio Abati which presents a satirical critique of the medical profession of the day and those who had the misfortune to need curative treatment for their physical and mental ills.

Šimon Voseček : Biedermann and the Arsonists

‘In these times of heightened security … we are listening, watching …’

René Pape, Joseph Calleja, Kristine Opolais, Boito Mefistofele, Munich

Arrigo Boito Mefistofele was broadcast livestream from the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich last night. What a spectacle !

Calixto Bieito’s The Force of Destiny

The monochrome palette of Picasso’s Guernica and the mural’s anti-war images of suffering dominate Calixto Bieito’s new production of Verdi’s The Force of Destiny for English National Opera.

Morgen und Abend — World Premiere, Royal Opera House

The world premiere of Morgen und Abend by Georg Friedrich Haas at the Royal Opera House, London — so conceptually unique and so unusual that its originality will confound many.

Company XIV Combines Classic and Chic in an Exquisite Cinderella

Company XIV’s production of Cinderella is New York City theater at its finest. With a nod to the court of Louis the XIV and the grandiosity of Lully’s opera theater, Company XIV manages to preserve elements of the French Baroque while remaining totally innovative, and never—in fact, not once for the entire two and a half hour show—falls prey to the predictable. Not one detail is left to chance in this finely manicured yet earthily raw production of Cinderella.

Monteverdi by The Sixteen at Wigmore Hall

This was a concert where immense satisfaction was derived equally from the quality of musicianship displayed and the coherence and resourcefulness of the programme presented. In 1610, Claudio Monteverdi published his Vespro della Beata Vergine for soloists, chorus, and orchestra.

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!).

Dialogues des Carmélites Revival at Dutch National Opera

If not timeless, Robert Carsen’s production of Francis Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites is highly age-resistant.

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari: Le donne curiose

Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari was one of the Italian composers of the post-Puccini generation (which included Licinio Refice, Riccardo Zandonai, Umberto Giordano and Franco Leoni) who struggled to prolong the verismo tradition in the early years of the twentieth century.

Moby-Dick Surfaces in the City of Angels

On Saturday evening October 31, 2015, the Nantucket whaling ship Pequod journeyed to Los Angeles Opera and began its sixth voyage in the attempt to kill the elusive whale called Moby-Dick.



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):