Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

A Resplendent Régine Crespin in Tosca

There have to be special reasons to release a monophonic live recording of a much-recorded opera. Often it can give us the opportunity to hear a singer in a major role that he or she never recorded commercially—or did record on some later occasion, when the voice was no longer fresh. Often a live recording catches the dramatic flow better than certain studio recordings that may be more perfect technically.

Karine Deshayes’s Astonishing New Rossini Recording

Critic and scholar John Barker has several times complained, in the pages of American Record Guide, about Baroque vocal recitals that add instrumental works or movements as supposed relief or (as he nicely calls them) “spacers.”

Knappertsbusch’s Only Recording of Lohengrin Released for the First Time

Hans Knappertsbusch was one of the most renowned Wagner conductors who ever lived. His recordings of Parsifal, especially, are near-legendary among confirmed Wagnerians.

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered, from SOMM Recordings, makes available on CD archive broadcasts of British and German song. All come from BBC broadcasts made between 1947 and 1952. Of the 26 tracks in this collection, 19 are "new", not having been commercially released. The remaining seven have been remastered by sound restoration engineer Ted Kendall. Something here even for those who already own the complete recordings.

Color and Drama in Two Choral Requiems from Post-Napoleonic France

The Requiem text has brought out the best in many composers. Requiem settings by Mozart, Verdi, and Fauré are among the most beloved works among singers and listeners alike, and there are equally wondrous settings by Berlioz and Duruflé, as well as composers from before 1750, notably Jean Gilles.

Matthias Goerne - late Schumann songs, revealed

Matthias Goerne Schumann Lieder, with Markus Hinterhäuser, a new recording from Harmonia Mundi. Singers, especially baritones, often come into their prime as they approach 50, and Goerne, who has been a star since his 20's is now formidably impressive. The colours in his voice have matured, with even greater richness and depth than before.

LALO and COQUARD: La Jacquerie

La Jacquerie—here recorded for the first time—proves to be a wonderful opera, bringing delight upon delight.

Urania Remasters Marriage of Figaro

Good news for lovers of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro: the famous Living Stereo recording, a co-production of RCA Victor and English Decca, is now available again, well remastered, on Urania.

Opera Rara: new recording of Bellini's Adelson e Salvini

In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.

Jonas Kaufmann : Mahler Das Lied von der Erde

Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.

The "Lost" Songs of Morfydd Owen

A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.

Early Swedish opera - Stenhammer world premiere

The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.

Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 2

Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.

The Tallis Scholars: Josquin's Missa Di dadi

‘Can great music be inspired by the throw of the dice?’ asks Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, in his liner notes to the ensemble’s new recording of Josquin’s Missa Di dadi (The Dice Mass). The fifteenth-century artist certainly had an abundant supply of devotional imagery. As one scholar has put it, during this age there was neither ‘an object nor an action, however trivial, that [was] not constantly correlated with Christ or salvation’.

A Venetian Double: English Touring Opera

Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s fifteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.

Walter Braunfels : Orchestral Songs Vol 1

New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.

Lalo: Complete Songs

Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.

New from Opera Rara : Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe

Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara - Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.

Félicien David: Herculanum

It is not often that a major work by a forgotten composer gets rediscovered and makes an enormously favorable impression on today’s listeners. That has happened, unexpectedly, with Herculanum, a four-act grand opera by Félicien David, which in 2014 was recorded for the first time.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

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):