Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Recordings

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories are designed to occupy the final three days of Holy Week, and contemplate the themes of loss, betrayal and death that dominate the Easter week. As such, the Responsories demand a sense of darkness, reflection and depth that this new recording by Stile Antico - at least partially - captures.

Mahler Symphony no 9, Daniel Harding SRSO

Mahler Symphony no 9 in D major, with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, new from Harmonia Mundi. A rewarding performance on many levels, not least because it's thoughtfully sculpted, connecting structure to meaning.

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

Winterreise by Mark Padmore

Schubert's Winterreise is almost certainly the most performed Lieder cycle in the repertoire. Thousands of performances and hundreds of recordings ! But Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout's recording for Harmonia Mundi is proof of concept that the better the music the more it lends itself to re-discovery and endless revelation.

The Epic of Gilgamesh - Bohuslav Martinů

New recording of the English version of Bohuslav Martinů's The Epic of Gilgamesh, from Supraphon, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck. This is the world premiere recording of the text in English, the original language in which it was written.

Maybe the Best L’heure espagnole Yet

The new recording, from Munich, has features in common with one from Stuttgart that I greatly enjoyed and reviewed here: the singers are all native French-speakers, the orchestra is associated with a German radio channel, we are hearing an actual performance (or in this case an edited version from several performances, in April 2016), and the recording is released by the orchestra itself or its institutional parent.

Stéphanie d’Oustrac in Two Exotic Masterpieces by Maurice Ravel

The two works on this CD make an apt and welcome pair. First we have Ravel’s sumptuous three-song cycle about the mysteries of love and fantasies of exotic lands. Then we have his one-act opera that takes place in a land that, to French people at the time, was beckoningly exotic, and whose title might be freely translated “The Nutty and Delightful Things That Can Happen in Spain in Just One Hour”.

Stefano Secco: Crescendo

I had never heard of Stefano Secco before receiving this CD. But I see that, at age 34, he already has had a substantial career, singing major roles at important houses throughout Europe and, while I was not paying attention, occasionally in the US.

French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

With this recording of Mozart’s 1771 opera, Il sogno di Scipione (Sicpio’s Dream), Classical Opera continue their progress through the adolescent composer’s precocious achievements and take another step towards the fulfilment of their complete Mozart opera series for Signum Classics.

Mozart’s Requiem: Pierre-Henri Dutron Edition

The stories surrounding Mozart’s Requiem are well-known. Dominated by the work in the final days of his life, Mozart claimed that he composed the Requiem for himself (Landon, 153), rather than for the wealthy Count Walsegg’s wife, the man who had commissioned it in July 1791.

Schumann and Mahler Lieder : Florian Boesch

Schumann and Mahler Lieder with Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau, now out from Linn Records, following their recent Schubert Winterreise on Hyperion. From Boesch and Martineau, excellence is the norm. But their Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen takes excellence to even greater levels

Hans Werner Henze : Kammermusik 1958

"....In lieblicher Bläue". Landmark new recordings of Hans Werner Henze Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge and Kammermusik 1958 from the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, with Andrew Staples, Markus Weidmann, Jürgen Ruck and Daniel Harding.

Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

Premiere Recording: Mayr’s Telemaco nell’isola di Calipso (1797)

No sooner had I drafted my review of Simon Mayr’s Medea in Corinto,



Vincenzo Bellini: Norma
18 May 2010

Bellini's Norma at Gran Teatre del Liceu

Some fortunate operas have any number of fine live versions available on DVD.

Vincenzo Bellini: Norma

Pollione: Vincenzo la Scola; Oroveso: Andrea Papi; Norma: Fiorenza Cedolins; Adalgisa: Sonia Ganassi; Clotilde: Begoña Alberdi; Flavio: Jon Plazaola. Liceu Grand Theatre Chorus and Symphony Orchestra. Giuliano Carella, conductor. Francisco Negrín, stage director. Anthony Baker, set design. Jonathan Morrell, costume design. Recorded live from the Gran Teatre del Liceu, Barcelona 2007.

ArtHaus Musik 101465 [2 DVDs]

$35.99  Click to buy

Vincenzo Bellini’s Norma, however, is not one such. Many would agree with your reviewer that the best choice is the famed recording made one windy night in Orange, with Montserrat Caballe and Jon Vickers. Neither sound and video for that version can be called excellent, but such is the power of the performance that allowances are easily made. Over three decades later, there is no real rival. And this latest recorded staging, from Barcelona’s Gran Teatre del Liceu in 2007, poses no real challenge.

Stage director Francisco Negrin does conventional work with the singers, who are trapped in the monolithic and monochromatic sets of Anthony Baker. Tradiotionalists will bemoan the lack of greenery for this story of the Druids under Roman control; indeed, Negrin and Baker see the Druid’s world as blue-tinged. After an opening chorus which seems to be taking place in some turquoise-tiled Turkish bath, the stage picture settles in as two or three intersecting stone walls sections of towering height. With almost no props — so that sleeping characters, as is becoming almost a cliche, repose on the stage floor — Negrin needs a cast of physical singing actors to bring the drama to life. He doesn’t have one.

Fiorenze Cedolins as Norma has the regal bearing, but both her vocalism and her characterization are one-dimensional. In her singing she offers a steady emission of sound, and for acting she lifts her head and peers down at the lesser beings around her. She evokes no sympathy. Sonia Ganassi makes for an attractive Adalgisa, and the famous act-two duet with Norma earns both leading ladies a happy Barcelona audience’s fervid applause at final curtain. Their rivalry and reconciliation might be more powerful if the man at the heart of the triangle were performed more charismatically than Vincenzo La Scola can manage. Negrin can’t do much more than let him grimace and stride purposefully, and the tenor’s instrument sounds dry, if powerful enough. Andrea Papi’s Oroveso barks at the moon like an old Druid dog.

The Liceu forces play beautifully for conductor Giuliano Carella, who does try to produce musically the dramatic force missing from the stage action, even getting a bit manic in the overture. Arthaus Musik spreads the performance onto two discs, but there are no special features. Caballe and Vickers in Orange remain the artists to go to for a powerful Norma on DVD.

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):