Recently in Recordings
Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara -
Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.
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.
This recording, made in the Adrian Boult Hall at the Birmingham Conservatoire of Music in June 2014, is the fourth disc in SOMM’s series of recordings with Paul Spicer and the Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir.
Félicien David’s intriguing Le désert, for vocal and orchestral forces plus narrator, was widely performed in its own day, then disappeared from the performing repertory for nearly a century.
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”
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.
Sounds swirl with an urgent emotionality and meandering virtuosity on Jonas Kaufmann’s new Puccini album—the “real one”, according
to Kaufmann, whose works were also released earlier this year on Decca records, allegedly without his approval.
Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au
bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc
Stephen Paulus provided the musical world, and particularly the choral world, with music both provocative and pleasing through a combination of lyricism and a modern-Romantic tonal palette.
Richard Taruskin entitled his 1988 polemical critique of the notion of ‘authenticity’ in the context of historically informed performance, ‘The Pastness of the Present and the Presence of the Past’.
As the editor of Opera magazine, John Allison, notes in his editorial in the June issue, Donizetti fans are currently spoilt for choice, enjoying a ‘Donizetti revival’ with productions of several of the composer’s lesser known works cropping up in houses around the world.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and
Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.
This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.
This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.
We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.
Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but
this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas
Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings
can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.
Bernarda Fink’s recording of Gustav Mahler’s Lieder is an important new release that includes outstanding performances of the composer’s well-known songs, along with compelling readings of some less-familiar ones.
Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.
This live performance of Laurent Pelly’s Glyndebourne staging of
Humperdinck’s affectionately regarded fairy tale opera, was recorded at
Glyndebourne Opera House in July and August 2010, and the handsomely produced
disc set — the discs are presented in a hard-backed, glossy-leaved book and
supplemented by numerous production photographs and an informative article by
Julian Johnson — is certainly stylish and unquestionably recommendable.
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.
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
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.