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Florilegium, 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). The work of these three composers may be less familiar to listeners, but Florilegium revealed the musical sophistication - under the increasing influence of the Italian style - and emotional range of this music which was composed during the second half of the seventeenth century.

Leoncavallo: Zazà - 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. Ruggero Leoncavallo’s eponymous opera lives by its heroine. Tackling this exhausting, and perilous, role at the Barbican Hall, The soprano Ermonela Jaho gave an absolutely fabulous performance, her range, warmth and total commitment ensuring that the hooker’s heart of gold shone winningly.

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 : Beidermann 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.

Great Scott at the Dallas Opera

Great Scott is a combination of a parody of bel canto opera and an operatic version of All About Eve. Beloved American diva Arden Scott (Joyce DiDonato), has discovered the score to a long-lost opera “Rosa Dolorosa, Figlia di Pompeii” and has become committed to getting the work revived as a vehicle for her. “Rosa Dolorosa” has grand musical moments and a hilariously absurd plot.

Schubert and Debussy at Wigmore Hall

The most recent instalment of the Wigmore Hall’s ambitious series, ‘Schubert: The Complete Songs’, was presented by soprano Lucy Crowe, pianist Malcolm Martineau and harpist Lucy Wakeford.

John Taverner: Missa Corona spinea

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.

A Bright and Accomplished Cenerentola at Lyric Opera of Chicago

Gioachino Rossini’s La Cenerentola has returned to Lyric Opera of Chicago in a production new to this venue and one notable for several significant debuts along with roles taken by accomplished, familiar performers.

La Bohème, ENO

Back in 2000, Glyndebourne Touring Opera dragged Puccini’s sentimental tale of suffering bohemian artists into the ‘modern urban age’, when director David McVicar ditched the Parisian garrets and nineteenth-century frock coats in favour of a squalid bedsit in which Rodolfo and painter Marcello shared a line of cocaine under the grim glare of naked light bulbs and the clientele at Café Momus included a couple of gaudily attired transvestites.

Luigi Rossi: Orpheus

Just as Orpheus embarks on a quest for his beloved Eurydice, so the Royal Opera House seems to be in pursuit of the mythical music-maker himself: this year the house has presented Monteverdi’s Orfeo at the Camden Roundhouse (with the Early Opera Company in January), Gluck’s Orphée et Eurydice on the main stage (September), and, in the Linbury Studio Theatre, both Birtwistle’s The Corridor (June) and the Paris-music-hall style Little Lightbulb Theatre/Battersea Arts Centre co-production, Orpheus (September).

64th Wexford Festival Opera

Wexford Festival Opera has served up another thought-provoking and musically rewarding trio of opera rarities — neglected, forgotten or seldom performed — in 2015.



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

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