Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Reviews

Fedora in Genoa

It is not an everyday opera. It is an opera that illuminates a larger verismo history.

The Marriage of Figaro, LA Opera

On March 26, 2015, Los Angeles Opera presented Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). The Ian Judge production featured jewel-colored box sets by Tim Goodchild that threw the voices out into the hall. Only for the finale did the set open up on to a garden that filled the whole stage and at the very end featured actual fireworks.

The Tempest Songbook, Gotham Chamber Opera

Gotham Chamber Opera’s latest project, The Tempest Songbook, continues to explore the possibilities of unconventional spaces and unconventional programs that the company has made its hallmark. The results were musically and theatrically thought-provoking, and left me wanting more.

San Diego Opera presents Adams’ Riveting Nixon in China

Nixon in China is a three-act opera with a libretto by Alice Goodman and music by John Adams that was first seen at the Houston Grand Opera on October 22, 1987. It was the first of a notable line of operas by the composer.

Ars Minerva presents Castrovillari’s La Cleopatra in San Francisco

It is thanks to Céline Ricci, mezzo-soprano and director of Ars Minerva, that we have been able to again hear Daniele Castrovillari’s exquisite melodies because she is the musician who has brought his 1662 opera La Cleopatra to life.

An Ideal Cast in Chicago’s Tannhäuser

Lyric Opera of Chicago, in association with the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, has staged a production of Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser with an estimable cast.

Madame Butterfly, Royal Opera

Puccini and his fellow verismo-ists are commonly associated with explosions of unbridled human passion and raw, violent pain, but in this revival (by Justin Way) of Moshe Leiser’s and Patrice Caurier’s 2003 production of Madame Butterfly, directorial understatement together with ravishing scenic beauty are shown to be more potent ways of enabling the sung voice to reveal the emotional depths of human tragedy.

Tosca in Marseille

Rarely, very rarely does a Tosca come around that you can get excited about. Sure, sometimes there is good singing, less often good conducting but rarely is there a mise en scène that goes beyond stock opera vocabulary.

Poetry beyond words — Nash Ensemble, Wigmore Hall

The Nash Ensemble’s 50th Anniversary Celebrations at the Wigmore Hall were crowned by a recital that typifies the Nash’s visionary mission. Above, the dearly-loved founder, Amelia Freeman, a quietly revolutionary figure in her own way, who has immeasurably enriched the cultural life of this country.

Arizona Opera Presents Magritte Style Magic Flute

On March 7, 2015, Arizona Opera presented Dan Rigazzi’s production of Die Zauberflöte in Tucson. Inspired by the works of René Magritte, designer John Pollard filled the stage with various sizes of picture frames, windows, and portals from which he leads us into Mozart and Schikaneder’s dream world.

Henry Purcell: A Retrospective

There are some concert programmes which are not just wonderful in their execution but also delight and satisfy because of the ‘rightness’ of their composition. This Wigmore Hall recital by soprano Carolyn Sampson and three period-instrument experts of arias and instrumental pieces by Henry Purcell was one such occasion.

Die Meistersinger and The Indian Queen
at the ENO

It has been a cold and gray winter in the south of France (where I live) made splendid by some really good opera, followed just now by splendid sunshine at Trafalgar Square and two exquisite productions at English National Opera.

Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Royal Opera

At long last, Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny has come to the Royal Opera House. Kurt Weill’s teacher, Busoni, remains scandalously ignored, but a season which includes house firsts both of this opera and Szymanowsi’s King Roger, cannot be all bad.

How to Write About Music: The RILM Manual of Style

RILM Abstracts of Music Literature is an international database for musicological and ethnomusicological research, providing abstracts and indexing for users all over the world. As such, RILM’s style guide (How to Write About Music: The RILM Manual of Style) differs fairly significantly from those of more generalized style guides such as MLA or APA.

Unsuk Chin: Alice in Wonderland, Barbican, London

Unsuk Chin’s Alice in Wonderland returned to the Barbican, London, shape-shifted like one of Alice’s adventures. The BBC Symphony Orchestra was assembled en masse, almost teetering off stage, creating a sense of tension. “Eat me, Drink me”. Was Lewis Carroll on hallucinogens or just good at channeling the crazy world of the subconscious?

Welsh National Opera: The Magic Flute and Hansel and Gretel

Dominic Cooke’s 2005 staging of The Magic Flute and Richard Jones’s 1998 production of Hansel and Gretel have been brought together for Welsh National Opera’s spring tour under the unifying moniker, Spellbound.

A worthy tribute for a vocal seductress of the ancient régime

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.

Double bill at Guildhall

Gaetano Donizetti and Malcolm Arnold might seem odd operatic bedfellows, but this double bill by the Guildhall School of Music and Drama offered a pair of works characterised by ‘madness, misunderstandings and mistaken identity’ which proved witty, sparkling and imaginatively realised.

LA Opera: Barber of Seville

Saturday, February 28, 2015, was the first night for Los Angeles Opera’s revival of its 2009 presentation of The Barber of Seville, a production by Emilio Sagi, which comes originally from Teatro Real in Madrid in cooperation with Lisbon’s Teatro San Carlos. Sagi and onsite director, Trevor Ross, made comedy the focus of their production and provided myriad sight gags which kept the audience laughing.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Wigmore Hall

Commenting on her recent, highly acclaimed CD release of late-nineteenth-century song, Chansons Perpétuelles (Naive: V5355), Canadian contralto Marie-Nicole Lemieux remarked ‘it’s that intimate side that interests me … I wanted to emphasise the genuinely embodied, physical side of the sensuality [in Fauré]’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Reviews

100 Best Verdi
27 Dec 2010

100 Best Verdi from EMI Classics

New recordings of classical music don’t appear from the “big labels” very often these days, but those companies have enormous libraries from which to extract selections for compilation discs.

100 Best Verdi

Click here for tracklisting

EMI Classics 50999 6 40878 2 5 [6CDs]

$19.99  Click to buy

Rather like an enormous body builder flexing his muscles before a crowd of scrawnier types, EMI Classics lords it over other “skinny boy” labels that might put out a double-disc set, producing a line of multi-disc compilations called “Best 100.” Now it is Verdi’s turn for this disputable honor. From a back catalog rather heavy on Riccardo Muti conducting and Placido Domingo singing, it takes 6 very full discs to reach the 100 track goal, which includes some single scenes broken into 2 separate tracks. But why be pedantic. This is a lot of Verdi.

Each disc highlights a vocal genre: Tenors and Baritones, Sopranos and Mezzo-Sopranos, Duets, Ensembles, Choruses, and finally, on the instrumental side, Overtures and Ballet Music. Listened to continuously, each disc tends to reach a saturation point several tracks in, with either male or female voices dominating. Almost any of Verdi’s operas shows a sure command of laying out the narrative through a variety of musical approaches and vocal types. Almost 80 minutes of “ensembles,” for example, can become too much of a good thing, like a one-pound box of chocolates which turns out to be all “Cherry Jubilee.” Anyone with no audio-purist objections to MP3 players would do well to take the discs, upload them to a computer music library, and listen to the compilation in a more random fashion.

As suggested above, certain names pop up fairly often - Placido Domingo gets three tracks on disc one and pops up a few more times on other discs. He opens the set with “Celeste Aida,” from the Aida set conducted by Riccardo Muti, whose extensive catalog gets quite the showcase throughout. Your reviewer would have chosen Franco Corelli’s verison of that aria and then later on the disc, when Corelli fairly mauls “Quando le sere al placido,” put Domingo’s version in that place. While an enjoyable diversion, picking apart the selections is a vain endeavor. Anyone with the broad knowledge of the catalog for such a game probably owns all the sets needed to make one’s own compilation. For the audience this set is made for, all the choices are at least decent (depending on one’s taste) and many more are better than that. Some of the juxtapositions are fascinating - with Maria Callas’s vehement “Ritorna Vincitor!,” sung by an Aida seemingly on the edge of a nervous breakdown, followed immediately by Montserrat Caballe’s exquisite, tastefully mournful “O Patria mia.” By the end of disc 6, the listener emerges from 7 hours of Verdi stunned by the immensity of the man’s genius - and probably needing a break of some duration before returning to it.

EMI Classics provides absolutely nothing other than a booklet of track listings and credits. For the beginner who has happened upon this set, surely a brief biographical note and possibly some suggested reference texts would have been helpful.

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):