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

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,

A Verlaine Songbook

Back in the LP days, if a singer wanted to show some sophistication, s/he sometimes put out an album of songs by famous composers set to the poems of one poet: for example, Phyllis Curtin’s much-admired 1964 disc of Debussy and Fauré songs to poems by Verlaine, with pianist Ryan Edwards (available now as a CD from VAI).

Giovanni Simone Mayr: Medea in Corinto

The Bavarian-born Johann Simon Mayr (1763–1845) trained and made his career in Italy and thus ended up calling himself Giovanni Simone Mayr, or simply G. S. Mayr. He is best known for having been composition teacher to Giuseppe Donizetti.

Matthias Goerne: Bach Cantatas for Bass

In this new release for Harmonia Mundi, German baritone Matthias Goerne presents us with two gems of Bach’s cantata repertoire, with the texts of both BWV 56 and 82 exploring one’s sense of hope in death.  Goerne adeptly interprets the paradoxical combination of hope and despair that underpins these works, deploying a graceful lyricism alongside a richer, darker bass register.

Gramophone Award Winner — Matthias Goerne Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge

Winner of the 2017 Gramophone Awards, vocal category - Matthias Goerne and Christoph Eschenbach - Johannes Brahms Vier ernste Gesänge and other Brahms Lieder. Here is why ! An exceptional recording, probably a new benchmark.

Véronique Gens: Visions from Grand Opéra

Ravishing : Visions, Véronique Gens in a glorious new recording of French operatic gems, with Hervé Niquet conducting the Münchener Rundfunkorchester. This disc is a companion piece to Néère, where Gens sang familiar Duparc, Hahn, and Chausson mélodies.

John Joubert's Jane Eyre

Librettists have long mined the literature shelves for narratives that are ripe for musico-dramatic embodiment. On the whole, it’s the short stories and poems - The Turn of the Screw, Eugene Onegin or Death in Venice, for example - that best lend themselves to operatic adaptation.

Through Life and Love: Louise Alder sings Strauss

Soprano Louise Alder has had an eventful few months. Declared ‘Young Singer of the Year’ at the 2017 International Opera Awards in May, the following month she won the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

A Master Baritone in Recital: Sesto Bruscantini, 1981

This is the only disc ever devoted to the art of Sesto Bruscantini (1919–2003). Record collectors value his performance of major baritone roles, especially comic but also serious ones, on many complete opera recordings, such as Il barbiere di Siviglia (with Victoria de los Angeles). He continued to perform at major houses until at least 1985 and even recorded Mozart's Don Alfonso in 1991, when he was 72.

Emalie Savoy: A Portrait

Since 1952, the ARD—the organization of German radio stations—has run an annual competition for young musicians. Winners have included Jessye Norman, Maurice André, Heinz Holliger, and Mitsuko Uchida. Starting in 2015, the CD firm GENUIN has offered, as a separate award, the chance for one of the prize winners to make a CD that can serve as a kind of calling card to the larger musical and music-loving world. In 2016, the second such CD award was given to the Aris Quartett (second-prize winner in the “string quartet” category).

Detlev Glanert : Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch

Detlev Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch should be a huge hit. Just as Carl Orff's Carmina Burana appeals to audiences who don't listen to early music (or even to much classical music), Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch has all the elements for instant popular success.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Great Operatic Arias with Gerald Finley
20 May 2010

Great Operatic Arias with Gerald Finley

Listeners who have appreciated Gerald Finley’s stylish and moving singing of baritone roles in operas by Mozart and other composers will be pleased with the recent CD release of Great Operatic Arias in English.

Great Operatic Arias with Gerald Finley

Gerald Finley baritone. London Philharmonic Orchestra. Edward Gardner, conducting.

Chandos CHAN 3167 [CD]

$14.68  Click to buy

In addition to Don Giovanni’s famous duet with Zerlina, several roles created by Finley on stage are featured in excerpt on this recording. Arias from Doctor Atomic by John Adams and The Silver Tassie by Mark-Anthony Turnage are performed here by Finley with great commitment, reminiscent indeed of his original live performances. One also has the opportunity to hear Finley in less accustomed repertoire by Weber, Donizetti, Puccini, and Wagner. Several of the excerpts performed are operatic ensembles or duets in which Finley is well supported by soloist colleagues and the Geoffrey Mitchell Choir. The London Philharmonic Orchestra provides accompaniment under the skillful direction of Edward Gardner.

In the earliest pieces composed and featured in this collection, the duet from Mozart’s Don Giovanni and an aria from Weber’s Euryanthe, Finley shows his characteristic ability to inhabit a role, so that he sings and acts with his voice as one. In both excerpts Finley communicates urgency and emotions that suggest a complexity of character. Lysiart’s aria from Euryanthe begins with a declamatory style at which Finley excels, his diction matching the soul-searching questions of the character. As the piece increases in melodic interest Finley’s approach gains intensity with full decorative force layered onto phrases such as “death and vengeance.” At the close of this scene, the longest in the collection, one has gazed via Finley’s interpretive singing into the conflicting sides of Lysiart’s character, the forces of destruction ultimately winning the upper hand. The duet from Don Giovanni, “Là ci darem la mano,” shared here with Lucy Crowe and performed as “There will my arms enfold you,” illustrates well the rich legato, which is a hallmark of Finley’s singing in such roles where it is appropriate. One can sense the voice performing the act of a seductive embrace as he allows the lines to flow with baritonal resonance.

In yet other styles Finley makes an equally strong impression, such as Robert’s aria “My only beloved Matilde I claim” from Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta. In this piece, requiring a strong lyrical approach punctuated by dramatic accents Finley builds gradually in his contemplation of the mutual passion with his beloved. During the initial recitation the singer emphasizes Matilde’s name and its effect on Robert; here Finley intones the word “overpower” in order to give musical expression to his ardor. As often, it is refreshing to listen to Finley sing such words or phrases forte and in upper registers without giving the least sign of strain. Further accents on “her face” and “her eyes” lead to the acceptance of Matilde’s physical “perfection” — and its communication of emotion — with a carefully modulated coloration of the voice. In the repeat of the text’s first half the dramatic result is underlined by Finley’s sustained pitches on “like flame or like wine,” with which the aria effectively concludes.

In those contemporary operatic selections here included, which were originally composed to English texts, Finley’s performances set a standard for the repertoire. The aria sung by Harry from Turnage’s opera The Silver Tassie is performed just before the lead character must return to the trenches of World War I after having spent leave-time in his native Dublin. After a dissonant orchestral beginning each verse accompanied by a simple, repeating line serves as an understated reflection on service and the toll it takes on individual feelings or private loyalties. Finley approaches the overtly song-like nature of the piece as an exercise in variation. He sings the first four verses softly, nearly piano, in a melancholy yet determined resolve to fulfill his military duty while not forgetting the calls of the homeland. Although each line follows essentially the same pattern, the vocal decorations are varied subtly just before or at the point of the end-rhymes. The omnipresent mood of war is suggested by an orchestral intrusion starting at the mid-point of the aria and returning intermittently until the end. Finley responds to these reminders of conflict by inflecting his statements with controlled yet rising pitches, which essentially yield a disciplined variation of the opening lines. The old is confronted by the new, as inevitable change caused by the War is registered in the spirit of Harry and his generation. The second piece from this group is the aria “Batter my heart” from John Adams’s opera Doctor Atomic. Finley’s performance as Oppenheimer in this work has been celebrated in various productions throughout the operatic world, e.g. at Lyric Opera of Chicago. Here the justly chosen aria, based on a poem by John Donne, showcases both the music and Finley’s association with it. The dilemma of Oppenheimer in his work on the horrific weapon causes him to turn to God and to appeal for renewal in his feelings for humanity. Finley negotiates convincingly the undulating intonations in the first four verses and their repetition, as exemplified in the lyrics “three person’d God” and “break, blow, burn, and make me new.” These verses are surrounded by intricate orchestral colorings functioning almost as an interlude of contemplation for the main character. As Finley’s voice rises with intense expression on individual words (“never shall be free,” “except you ravish me”), the listener senses the inner struggles which continue beyond the moment of appeal.

As an example of Finley’s versatility in other repertoire we may look to Antonio’s scena from Linda di Chamounix — composed as an aria and duet sung together with the figure of Maddalena — during which the father’s fears for Linda are expressed. In the introductory aria Finley demonstrates a mastery of bel canto singing in his ideal combination of broad legato and carefully placed decorative melismas on key words such as “altar” and “father.” The accompanying duet shared with Anne Marie Gibbons illustrates Finley’s skill at participating in a vocal line with an emphasis on expressive ensemble singing. The remaining selections in this cd are well chosen and give indication of Finley’s potential future projects for both operatic stage and recording. Several of the translations used in this cd were recently commissioned or produced at the time of the recording.

Salvatore Calomino

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):