Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

James Gilchrist at Wigmore Hall

Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.

Music for a While: Improvisations on Henry Purcell

‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.

Nabucco at Orange

The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.

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.

Saint Louis: A Hit is a Hit is a Hit

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.

La Flûte Enchantée (2e Acte)
at the Aix Festival

In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.

Ariodante at the Aix Festival

High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.

Lucy Crowe, Wigmore Hall

The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.

The Turn of the Screw, Holland Park

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.

Plenty of Va-Va-Vroom: La Fille du Regiment, Iford

It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?

La finta giardiniera, Glyndebourne

‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’

Sophie Karthäuser, Wigmore Hall

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser has a rich range of vocal resources upon which to draw: she has power and also precision; her top is bright and glinting and it is complemented by a surprisingly full and rich lower register; she can charm with a flowing lyrical line, but is also willing to take musical risks to convey emotion and embody character.

Ariadne auf Naxos, Royal Opera

‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.

Leoš Janáček : The Cunning Little Vixen, Garsington Opera at Wormsley

Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.

La Traviata in Marseille

It took only a couple of years for Il trovatore and Rigoletto to make it from Italy to the Opéra de Marseille, but it took La traviata (Venice, 1853) sixteen years (Marseille, 1869).

Madama Butterfly in San Francisco

Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesis of fable, sound, shape and color in art, may have been made famous by Richard Wagner, and perhaps never more perfectly realized than just now by San Francisco Opera.

Luca Francesconi : Quartett, Linbury Studio Theatre, London

Luca Francesconi is well-respected in the avant garde. His music has been championed by the Arditti Quartett and features regularly in new music festivals. His opera Quartett has at last reached London after well-received performances in Milan and Amsterdam.

Puccini Manon Lescaut, Royal Opera House, London

Manon Lescaut at the Royal Opera House, London, brings out the humanity which lies beneath Puccini's music. The composer was drawn to what we'd now called "outsiders. In Manon Lescaut, Puccini describes his anti-heroine with unsentimental honesty. His lush harmonies describe the way she abandons herself to luxury, but he doesn't lose sight of the moral toughness at the heart of Abbé Prévost's story, Manon is sensual but, like her brother, fatally obssessed with material things. Only when she has lost everything else does she find true values through love..

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

Pavarotti: The EMI Recordings
15 Mar 2009

Luciano Pavarotti: The EMI Recordings

A Decca recording artist for most of his career, Luciano Pavarotti did do a very few items with EMI, probably as part of those “artist-swapping” arrangements recording labels sometime arrange.

Pavarotti: The EMI Recordings

Luciano Pavarotti, Tenor; et al.

EMI Classics 5099951393724 [7CDs, 2DVDs]

$46.98  Click to buy

This 9-disc set (seven audio CDs and two DVDs), sad to say, comes across less as a tribute to the late tenor and more as a way for EMI to move some product. The contents of the 9 discs can be conveyed quickly. Pavarotti’s recording of Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz, with Mirella Freni, last appeared for EMI in the company’s Great Recordings of the Century series. The 1992 LA Scala Don Carlo appears both on two DVD discs and as an audio-only version, spread over three discs. Muti conducts, as he does the 1987 Requiem, where Pavarotti is joined by Cheryl Studer, Dolora Zajick and Samuel Ramey. All told, if EMI had limited the package to the audio tracks where only Pavarotti sings, the set might barely require two discs.

Each disc comes in its own sleeve, with artwork identical to the set’s cover, making identification of any particular item difficult. The relatively skimpy booklet has an honest but otherwise routine essay by Michael Scott Rohan, and then track by track synopsis of the operas’ storylines in place of librettos. The only color photograph mislabels the Don Carlo’s Paolo Coni as Samuel Ramey’s Filippo II.

As a portrait of Pavarotti’s artistry, the set does offer the advantage of capturing him at different points in his career. The Mascagni comes from 1968, relatively early in his international stardom. Both he and Freni are in thrilling form, and along with the idiomatic conducting of Gianandrea Gavazzeni, they make L’amico Fritz entertaining enough. However, the music never blooms; as is so often the case with the opera world’s rarities, there is a reason this Mascagni opera inhabits the far outer reaches of the standard repertory. Don Carlo comes from 1992, and it is much more satisfying in its DVD incarnation. At the time, the almost requisite La Scala scandal originated in some reported booing of Pavarotti cracking. Needless to say, such an occurrence does not appear in the performance as presented here, and in fact, Pavarotti gives by far the set’s most satisfying performance. The juicy warmth of his youthful voice mellowed into a more substantial richness. His peerless enunciation allows him to be a musical actor, although his oversized physique limits his movement. Pavarotti’s face always told the story of the music, and even in 1992 he makes for a creditable, handsome prince. A young Andrea Silvestrelli sings a sonorous, imposing Monk, somewhat overshadowing the professionalism of Samuel Ramey’s unimaginative king. The middle of Daniella Dessi’s voice sounds fine, with just a hint of a vibrato that grows larger as the line rises. Her big fourth act scene starts unpromisingly, and even when she has steadied her voice it lacks beauty. Luciano d’Intino as Eboli and Paolo Coni’s Rodrigo, while adequate, give the kind of generic performances that unbalance the opera in favor of the more illustrious lead.

Franco Zeffirelli’s dark production does honor to the seriousness of the story, with only a final misstep at the very end, where an incomprehensible religious tableaux takes the place of the Monk’s ostensible rescue of the title character. Ricardo Muti glowers as expected, and also as expected leads a tightly-wound performance, exciting at times, relentless at others.

Thankfully, he relaxes - relatively speaking - for the Requiem. The music of repose comes across beautifully, with fine contributions from the La Scala chorus. Oddly, the “Dies irae,” taken at a fairly fast pace, comes across as more irritated that wrathful. This may not be the most famous of recorded Requiem’s, but all of the singers excel. Studer perhaps never sounded better, entirely feminine and secure. Zajick and Ramey can unleash their formidable instruments when needed, and also sing with subtlety. And Pavarotti sounds fine for 1987, his instantly recognizable timbre blending well with the other soloists’ voices.

EMI’s “special limited edition” might just be a marketing gambit, but any fans of the tenor who do not have these recordings should be glad to find them conveniently boxed, if they can hunt down the texts elsewhere.

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):