Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Richard Danielpour – The Passion of Yeshua

A contemporary telling of the Passion story which uses texts from both the Christian and the Jewish traditions to create a very different viewpoint.

Les Talens Lyriques: 18th-century Neapolitan sacred works

In 1770, during an extended tour of France and Italy to observe the ‘present state of music’ in those two countries, the English historian, critic and composer Charles Burney spent a month in Naples - a city which he noted (in The Present State of Music in France and Italy (1771)) ‘has so long been regarded as the centre of harmony, and the fountain from whence genius, taste, and learning, have flowed to every other part of Europe.’

Herbert Howells: Missa Sabrinensis revealed in its true glory

At last, Herbert Howells’s Missa Sabrinensis (1954) with David Hill conducting the Bach Choir, with whom David Willcocks performed the piece at the Royal Festival Hall in 1982. Willcocks commissioned this Mass for the Three Choirs Festival in Worcester in 1954, when Howells himself conducted the premiere.

Natalya Romaniw - Arion: Voyage of a Slavic Soul

Sailing home to Corinth, bearing treasures won in a music competition, the mythic Greek bard, Arion, found his golden prize coveted by pirates and his life in danger.

Le Banquet Céleste: Stradella's San Giovanni Battista

The life of Alessandro Stradella was characterised by turbulence, adventure and amorous escapades worthy of an opera libretto. Indeed, at least seven composers have turned episodes from the 17th-century Italian composer’s colourful life into operatic form, the best known being Flotow whose three-act comic opera based on the Lothario’s misadventures was first staged in Hamburg in 1844.

Purcell’s The Indian Queen from Lille

Among the few compensations opera lovers have had from the COVID crisis is the abundance – alas, plethora – of streamed opera productions we might never have seen or even known of without it.

Ethel Smyth: Songs and Ballads - a new recording from SOMM

In 1877, Ethel Smyth, aged just nineteen, travelled to Leipzig to begin her studies at the German town’s Music Conservatory, having finally worn down the resistance of her father, General J.H. Smyth.

Wagner: Excerpts from Der Ring des Niebelungen, NHK Symphony Orchestra, Paavo Järvi, RCA-Sony

This new recording of excerpts from Wagner’s Der Ring des Niebelungen is quite exceptional - and very unusual for this kind of disc. The words might be missing, but the fact they are proves to have rather the opposite effect. It is one of the most operatic of orchestral Wagner discs I have come across.

Wagner: Die Walküre, Symphonieorchester Des Bayerischen Rundfunks, Simon Rattle, BR Klassik

Simon Rattle has never particularly struck me as a complex conductor. He is not, for example, like Furtwängler, Maderna, Boulez or Sinopoli - all of whom brought a breadth of learning and a knowledge of composition to bear on what they conducted.

Dvořák Requiem, Jakub Hrůša in memoriam Jiří Bělohlávek

Antonín Dvořák Requiem op.89 (1890) with Jakub Hrůša conducting the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The Requiem was one of the last concerts Jiří Bělohlávek conducted before his death and he had been planning to record it as part of his outstanding series for Decca.

Philip Venables' Denis & Katya: teenage suicide and audience complicity

As an opera composer, Philip Venables writes works quite unlike those of many of his contemporaries. They may not even be operas at all, at least in the conventional sense - and Denis & Katya, the most recent of his two operas, moves even further away from this standard. But what Denis & Katya and his earlier work, 4.48 Psychosis, have in common is that they are both small, compact forces which spiral into extraordinarily powerful and explosive events.

A new, blank-canvas Figaro at English National Opera

Making his main stage debut at ENO with this new production of The Marriage of Figaro, theatre director Joe Hill-Gibbins professes to have found it difficult to ‘develop a conceptual framework for the production to inhabit’.

Massenet’s Chérubin charms at Royal Academy Opera

“Non so più cosa son, cosa faccio … Now I’m fire, now I’m ice, any woman makes me change colour, any woman makes me quiver.”

Bluebeard’s Castle, Munich

Last year the world’s opera companies presented only nine staged runs of Béla Bartòk’s Bluebeard’s Castle.

The Queen of Spades at Lyric Opera of Chicago

If obsession is key to understanding the dramatic and musical fabric of Tchaikovsky’s opera The Queen of Spades, the current production at Lyric Opera of Chicago succeeds admirably in portraying such aspects of the human psyche.

WNO revival of Carmen in Cardiff

Unveiled by Welsh National Opera last autumn, this Carmen is now in its first revival. Original director Jo Davies has abandoned picture postcard Spain and sun-drenched vistas for images of grey, urban squalor somewhere in modern-day Latin America.

Lise Davidsen 'rescues' Tobias Kratzer's Fidelio at the Royal Opera House

Making Fidelio - Beethoven’s paean to liberty, constancy and fidelity - an emblem of the republican spirit of the French Revolution is unproblematic, despite the opera's censor-driven ‘Spanish’ setting.

A sunny, insouciant Così from English Touring Opera

Beach balls and parasols. Strolls along the strand. Cocktails on the terrace. Laura Attridge’s new production of Così fan tutte which opened English Touring Opera’s 2020 spring tour at the Hackney Empire, is a sunny, insouciant and often downright silly affair.

A wonderful role debut for Natalya Romaniw in ENO's revival of Minghella's Madama Butterfly

The visual beauty of Anthony Minghella’s 2005 production of Madama Butterfly, now returning to the Coliseum stage for its seventh revival, still takes one’s breath away.

Charlie Parker’s Yardbird at Seattle

It appears that Charlie Parker’s Yardbird has reached the end of its road in Seattle. Since it opened in 2015 at Opera Philadelphia it has played Arizona, Atlanta, Chicago, New York, and the English National Opera.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

G. Rossini: Il Barbiere di Siviglia
26 Apr 2009

Barbers in Baghdad and Seville

Razor-wielding rascals involve themselves in romantic complications in the two sets considered here, with a fine performance of a rarity and an even finer performance of a classic.

G. Rossini: Il Barbiere di Siviglia

Alceo Galliera, Tito Gobbi, Luigi Alva, Nicola Zaccaria, Philharmonia Orchestra & Chorus, Philharmonia Orchestra, Philharmonia Chorus, Tito Gobbi, Gabriella Carturan, Mario Carlin, Maria Callas, Fritz Ollendorff.

EMI Classics 0094639204151 [2CDs]

$25.99  Click to buy

From the archives of the Cologne Radio — aka, Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln — Profil has rescued a 1974 performance of Peter Cornelius’s Der Barbier von Bagdad. A protégé of Franz Liszt, Cornelius both benefited and suffered from the great man’s influence. Liszt promoted Cornelius’s work and conducted the premiere of his comic opera in 1858. However, by that point Liszt had already made a fair number of enemies, and they came to hiss down both the conductor and the opera of Cornelius. Only long after Cornelius’s death did his opera find some audiences, although it has never really threatened to enter the standard repertory.

Cornelius_Barbier.gifLothar Brandt, the author of the German program note which J & M Berridge translated into English, takes the interesting tack of arguing that the very old-fashionedness of both Cornelius’s music and the libretto makes Der Barbier von Bagdad “cool.” Cornelius barely makes any effort to introduce any “Oriental” aspects to his pleasant, very conservative score, and the story is a harmless bauble, adapted from The Arabian Nights. Apparently Brandt sees the opera as so “uncool,” it is “cool.” Maybe. It would take a ripping tune or two to make the score more memorable. With no texts provided, judging the success of the work dramatically will elude the non-German speaker. However, most of the scenes seem to have relatively little character interaction, and the comic energy that percolates throughout Rossini’s masterpiece on the “barber” theme raises not a crackle here.

Ferdinand Leitner, seemingly motivated by a sincere love for the music, gives it first-class treatment, along with an excellent cast. Hans Sotin brings comic flair to the title role, and as the requisite young lovers, Helen Donath and Horst R. Laubenthal make a sweet pair. The sound is clean. Profil needs to stop providing track listings only on the back of the jewel cases, a user-unfriendly arrangement.

EMI Classics, meanwhile, reissues in its Great Recordings of the Century series the Callas/Gobbi Il barbiere di Siviglia, conducted by Alceo Galliera. The opera has a rich recording history, but this set is special, mostly thanks to its two stars. Not everyone appreciates Gobbi’s vocal gifts, which can tend to the dry side, but his ability to characterize as he sings is unparalleled. This Figaro works his wiles with cunning charm.

And not everyone always appreciates Maria Callas, either, but here she is everything her besotted admirers claim her to be. The voice is steady, alluring, distinctive. She has full technical control of every aspect of the score. Even her somewhat calculated effects, like the ostentatiously delayed delivery of that “ma” in “Una voce poco fa,” can be tied to the character of Rosina, a young lady far smarter and in control that is sometimes portrayed. Callas easily posses center stage when her solo turns come, and just as importantly, she easily rejoins the ensemble as necessary too. For her alone, the recording earns its “GROTC” label.

Luigi Alva sings sweetly enough, although the arias don’t quite pull together. The tone eerily brings to mind at times today’s leading exponent of Almaviva, Juan Diego Florez.

Conductor Galliera supports the singers to the point of indulgence. The end of act one brings the best of his efforts, with a very theatrical, vivacious reading. Some other spots feel more studio-bound. The remastering is excellent, and EMI provides a very nice booklet, slim and yet with a bilingual text.

So the Cornelius makes for an amiable byway, and the Callas/Gobbi makes a well-trod path fresh again. Go which way you please, reader.

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):