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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.
29 Aug 2010
David McVicar’s Salome
This high-concept Salome takes place in Nazi Germany.The set has two levels: on top, Herod revels with the banqueters; below, we see a dingy basement, full of kitchen workers, relaxed soldiers, and the prostitutes who help them relax.
To the left is a large manhole cover, under which Jochanaan
fulminates; to the right is a spiral staircase, lit by a harsh moon.
It is easy to see why the director, David McVicar, would be attracted to
this rehistoricizing. Suddenly the little ghost-waltz that accompanies Salome
near her entrance (“Ich will nicht hineingehn”) becomes something
like diegetic music; the extreme cruelty of much of the action becomes
institutionalized as state policy; and we may recall, with a slight shiver,
that Strauss’s only recordings as a opera conductor are of fragments from
two 1942 performances of Salome. On the other hand, the opera’s
treatment of the disputatious Jews is unsympathetic, and the Nietzschean
Strauss said that he regarded Jochanaan in particular as a clown; so McVicar
skirts a dangerous area of interpretation, in which the Jews of the Third Reich
might seem to deserve what they get. Possibly McVicar tried to avoid this by
playing down the comedy of the disputation-fugue: the Jews look at one another
like mildly peeved intellectuals.
Wilde regarded Salome and John the Baptist as occult twins, and even
contemplated a sequel in which Salome, still alive after being crushed by the
soldiers’ shields, put on a hair-shirt and started to preach the gospel
of Jesus in the wilderness; eventually she would make her way to France and
fall through the frozen Rhône—the ice would refreeze leaving only her
head visible. Nadja Michael’s Salome is hectoring, brutal,
unseductive—she is a sexual being only through sadism. She doesn’t
cajole Narraboth into opening the cistern: she browbeats him, and even pushes
him to the floor when he capitulates. Michael raves powerfully throughout the
opera, and sings powerfully too, though she doesn’t always hit the
correct notes, and there’s a distracting warble in her voice, almost the
warble of 1940s pop singers.
Michael Volle’s Jochanaan is everything you could want: shirtless,
dressed in a long drab Jewish coat with a phallic belt-dangle, he is a potent
lunatic, uncontrolled in his gestures as he reels across the stage, but
superbly controlled in his voice. When he sings of Herodias’
lovers—the young Egyptians in their delicate linen and hyacinth stones
and golden shields and gigantic bodies—he writhes on the floor, as if he
were caught up in some sexual trance at the thought of these beautiful young
foreigners. This is how the production emphasizes the way in which Jochanaan
and Salome are doubles: they are both obsessive-compulsives,
obsessive-convulsives, mad with lust.
The unhappy aspect of this production is the Herod of Thomas Moser. Moser
can make a handsome sound, but he’s a somewhat listless presence, loud
but bland. Philippe Jordan, the brilliant conductor, makes the opera move like
the wind (as all Strauss opera, particularly the schmaltzy ones, should move)
except when Moser sings: then momentum is lost, perhaps owing to Moser’s
flaccid, rhythmically inexact phrasing. His one impressive scene is a silent
one, during Salome’s dance, here staged as a black-out scene in which
Herod and Salome play together with a Salome-shaped doll, a dress-maker’s
dummy, a large dressing-mirror, and a long rack of dresses—it’s a
lovely conceit, as Salome enters Herod’s fantasy-world of fetishes and
idols, deflections of sexuality onto dead images. Wilde’s Salome was
never anything much more than an image in a mirror: “She is like the
shadow of a white rose in a mirror of silver,” Narraboth says, and in her
dance she dances her way right into the glass that she, in some sense, never