Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Bohuslav Martinů – What Men Live By

World premiere recording from Supraphon of Bohuslav Martinů What Men Live By (H336,1952-3) with Jiří Bělohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra from a live performances in 2014, with Martinů's Symphony no 1 (H289, 1942) recorded in 2016. Bělohlávek did much to increase Martinů's profile, so this recording adds to the legacy, and reveals an extremely fine work.

Berlioz: Harold en Italie, Les Nuits d'été

Hector Berlioz Harold en Italie with François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles with Tabea Zimmermann, plus Stéphane Degout in Les Nuits d’été from Hamonia Mundi. This Harold en Italie, op. 16, H 68 (1834) captures the essence of Romantic yearning, expressed in Byron's Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage where the hero rejects convention to seek his destiny in uncharted territory.

Le Bal des Animaux : Works by Chabrier, Poulenc, Ravel, Satie et al.

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthaüser’s latest song recital is all about the animal kingdom. As in previous recordings of songs by Wolf, Debussy and Poulenc, pianist Eugene Asti is her accompanist in Le Bal des Animaux, a delightful collection of French songs about creatures of all sizes, from flea to elephant and from crayfish to dolphin.

Wolfgang Rihm: Requiem-Strophen

The world premiere recording of Wolfgang Rihm's Requiem-Strophen (2015/2016) with Mariss Jansons conducting the Symphonieorchester des Bayerischen Rundfunks and the Chor des Bayerischen Rundfunks with Mojca Erdmann, Anna Prohaska and Hanno Müller-Brachmann, from BR Klassik NEOS.

Ravel’s Magical Glimpses into the World of Children

This is the fifth CD in a series devoted to Ravel’s orchestral works.

About an enfant: Ravel’s Opera about Childhood and Debussy’s Prodigal Son

This recording of Ravel’s second (and last) one-act opera was made during a concert, and -somewhat daringly - with rather close microphone placement. As it turns out, everything went smoothly.

Halévy’s Magnificent La reine de Chypre (1841) Gets Its Long-Awaited World Premiere Recording

Halévy’s La reine de Chypre (The Queen of Cyprus) is the 17th opera to be released in the impressively prolific “French Opera” series of recordings produced by the Center for French Romantic Music, a scholarly organization located at the Palazzetto Bru Zane in Venice. (Other recent offerings have included Saint-Saëns’s richly characterized Proserpine, Benjamin Godard’s fascinating Dante--which contains scenes set in Heaven and Hell--and Hérold’s Le pré aux clercs, an opéra-comique that had a particularly long life in the international operatic repertoire.)

Complementary Josquin masses from The Tallis Scholars

This recording on the Gimell label, the seventh of nine in a series by the Tallis Scholars which will document Josquin des Prés’ settings of the Mass (several of these and other settings are of disputed authorship), might be titled ‘Sacred and Profane’, or ‘Heaven and Earth’.

Leos Janacek: Missa Glagolitica

From Decca, Janáček classics with Jiří Bělohlávek conducting the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra. Given that Bělohlávek died in May 2017, all these recordings are relatively recent, not re-issues, and include performances of two new critical editions of the Glagolitic Mass and the Sinfonietta.

New Hans Zender Schubert Winterreise - Julian Prégardien

Hans Zender's Schuberts Winterreise is now established in the canon, but this recording with Julian Prégardien and the Deutsche Radio Philharmonie conducted by Robert Reimer is one of the most striking. Proof that new work, like good wine, needs to settle and mature to reveal its riches.

Magic Lantern Tales: darkness, disorientation and delight from Cheryl Frances-Hoad

“It produces Effects not only very delightful, but to such as know the contrivance, very wonderful; so that Spectators, not well versed in Opticks, that could see the various Apparitions and Disappearances, the Motions, Changes and Actions, that may this way be presented, would readily believe them super-natural and miraculous.”

Vaughan Williams: A Sea Symphony — Martyn Brabbins BBCSO

From Hyperion, an excellent new Ralph Vaughan Williams A Sea Symphony with Martyn Brabbins conducting the BBC Symphony Orchestra and BBC Symphony Chorus, Elizabeth Llewellyn and Marcus Farnsworth soloists. This follows on from Brabbins’s highly acclaimed Vaughan Williams Symphony no 2 "London" in the rarely heard 1920 version.

Superlative Lohengrin from Bayreuth, 1967

The names of Belfast-born soprano Heather Harper and Kansas-born tenor James King may not resonate for younger music lovers, but they sure do for folks my age. Harper was the glowing, nimble soprano in Colin Davis’s renowned 1966 recording of Handel’s Messiah and in Davis’s top-flight recording (ca. 1978) of Britten’s Peter Grimes, featuring Jon Vickers.

Classical Opera: Bastien und Bastienne on Signum Classics

Pride and Prejudice, North and South, Antony and Cleopatra, Much Ado About Nothing: literary fiction and drama are strewn with dissembling lovers who display differing degrees of Machiavellian sharpness in matters of amatory strategy. But, there is an artless ingenuousness about Bastien and Bastienne, the eponymous pastoral protagonists of Mozart’s 1768 opera, who pretend not to love in order to seal their shared romantic destiny, but who require a hefty dose of the ‘Magician’ Colas’s conjuring/charlatanry in order to avoid a future of lonely singledom.

A Stunning Semiramide from Opera Rara

In early October 1822, Gioachino Rossini summoned the librettist Gaetano Rossi to a villa (owned by his wife, the soprano Isabella Colbran) in Castenaso, just outside Bologna. Their project: to work on a new opera, which would be premiered during the Carnival in Venice on 3rd February the following year, based on the legend of Queen Semiramide.

Elgar Orchestral Songs - SOMM

Edward Elgar's Sea Pictures are extremely well-known, but many others are also worth hearing. From SOMM recordings, specialists in British repertoire, comes this interesting new collection of other Elgar orchestral songs, sponsored by the Elgar Society.

Beyond Gilbert and Sullivan: Edward Loder’s Raymond and Agnes and the Apotheosis of English Romantic Opera

Mention ‘nineteenth-century English opera’ to most people, and they will immediately think ‘Gilbert and Sullivan’. If they really know their Gilbert and Sullivan, they’ll probably remember that Sullivan always wanted to compose more serious operas, but that Gilbert resisted this, believing they should ‘stick to their last’: light, comic, tuneful satire.

Pan-European Orpheus : Julian Prégardien

"Orpheus I am!" - An unusual but very well chosen collection of songs, arias and madrigals from the 17th century, featuring Julian Prégardien and Teatro del mondo. Devised by Andreas Küppers, this collection crosses boundaries demonstrating how Italian, German, French and English contemporaries responded to the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Laci Boldemann’s Opera Black Is White, Said the Emperor

We normally think of operas as being serious or comical. But a number of operas-some familiar, others forgotten-are neither of these. Instead, they are fantastical, dealing with such things as the fairy world and sorcerers, or with the world of dreams.

The Devil, Greed, War, and Simple Goodness: Ostrčil’s Jack’s Kingdom

Here is a little-known opera that, like an opera by the Swedish composer Laci Boldemann that I have reviewed here, and like Ravel’s amazing L’enfant et les sortilèges, utterly bypasses the usual categories of comic and grand/tragic by cultivating instead the rich realm of fantasy and folk tale.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Opus Arte OABD7063D
13 Jul 2010

Parsifal on Blu-Ray

In 1881 Wagner and his wife were discussing the myth of Eros and Anteros, and Wagner remarked, “Anteros is Parsifal.” Wagner considered Parsifal a figure opposed to sexual love, Eros’s opposite.

Richard Wagner: Parsifal

Parsifal: Christopher Ventris; Kundry: Waltraud Meier; Gurnemanz: Matti Salminen; Amfortas: Thomas Hampson; Klingsor: Tom Fox; Titurel: Bjarni Thor Kristinsson. Baden-Baden Festival Chorus. Berlin Deutsches Symphony Orchestra. Kent Nagano, conductor. Nikolaus Lehnhoff, stage director. Recorded live at the Festspielhaus, Baden-Baden, Germany, August 2004.

Opus Arte OABD7063D [2 Blu-Ray DVDs]

$45.49  Click to buy

But maybe he didn’t imagine a staging of his opera quite as anti-erotic as the Badener Lehrstück version found on this DVD.

This is an impressive performance. Nikolaus Lehnhoff places the opera at the burnt-out end of the road: a railroad track breaks off in the middle of nothing; the floor of the Grail castle curves up steeply at the back, until the chairs shoot out directly from the wall—it’s a castle in a different dimension, unavailable to human beings. The Grail knights look cadaverous in Act 1, and in Act 3 are dusty remnants of cadavers. Amfortas is a single big wound, wrapped in mummy bandages; Titurel is a figure from nightmare, a skeleton in chain mail, his hands mere phalanx-bones tipped with long claws. The inspiration for the whole production seems to be T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, a poem in which elements from the story of the Fisher King and the Grail Knight are perched uncomfortably on a ruined industrial landscape, where the river sweats oil and tar, and the taxi throbs and waits.

If Klingsor’s magic garden is magical, it is a sour sort of magic. The Kabuki Klingsor inhabits a sphere, as if he were in a subspace of his own, yet another orthogonal from the plane of reality; his castle is a magnified female pelvis-bone, a sort of Bowel of Bliss. The flower-maidens wear unadorned shifts, flowery only in that the sleeves crescendo out into great bell; Kundry herself is almost immobile, encased in a carnation-ball of petals; slowly she divests herself of her costume, unburdens herself of the director’s system of metaphor, becomes an urgent, furiously sexy presence. When the castle collapses, some bits of rubble fall on the stage, but since the stage has been basically rubble from the opera’s beginning, the presence of yet more dreck is not strongly felt.

This is Nietzsche’s dream production of Parsifal, stripped of most of the Christian elements that he loathed. When Parsifal enters in Act 3, he stalks in all in black, wearing a harness of arrows arranged in a fan, and a helmet of raven feathers, as if he were both St. Sebastian and hell’s own Papageno (that pure fool of another age). Wagner asks him to transfigure and be transfigured; but Lehnhoff offers him little of either, though he allows Parsifal to assist the death-eager in the process of dying.

The singing is good, especially Waltraud Meier’s alert, beautifully felt Kundry, and Christopher Ventris’ smartly foolish Parsifal. Thomas Hampson’s voice is a little soft-grained for Amfortas, but he is, as usual, good to hear; Matti Salminen is authoritatively irritable as Gurnemanz; Bjarni Thor Kristinsson—strong, not at all aged, with a kind of beyond-the-grave heartiness—makes more of Titurel than I would have thought possible. The Blu-Ray image is sharp—seeing the production with such clarity seems to intensify the intelligence of Lehnhoff’s extremely intelligent design.

Daniel Albright

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):