Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Recordings

Félicien David: Songs for voice and piano

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” with herself!).

John Taverner: Missa Corona spinea

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.

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

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.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

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.

Review: You Promised Me Everything

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’.

Donizetti: Les Martyrs

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.

Green: Mélodies françaises sur des poèmes de Verlaine

Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France

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.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

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.

Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail @ Hangar-7

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: Notturno

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 Sings Mahler Lieder

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.

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Hänsel und Gretel

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.

Magdalena Kožená: Love and Longing

Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená.

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Amore e Tormento

Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’ 

Rivals—Arias for Farinelli & Co.

In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi. 



Carlos Kleiber — Traces to Nowhere
30 Aug 2011

Carlos Kleiber — Traces to Nowhere

Film biographies of great musicians notoriously exhibit a preference for talking heads nattering on over any music passages.

Carlos Kleiber — Traces to Nowhere

A film by Eric Schulz with Placido Domingo, Brigitte Fassbaender, Michael Gielen, Manfred Honeck, Veronika Kleiber, Otto Schenk and others.

ArtHaus Musik 101553 [DVD]

$22.99  Click to buy

No matter how original or astute the spoken observation may be, usually one is left wishing to hear the music without the voice-over. This is particularity frustrating if the selections or repertory are otherwise fairly obscure or rare. If the film biography is of a famous enough subject, opportunities to hear the music unimpeded by spoken commentary should be plentiful. The thoughts expressed by the various “talking heads” might even prompt one to explore, at one’s leisure, recordings that one may not have heard recently, if ever.

Eric Schulz’s film about the career of conductor Carlos Kleiber should fall into that latter camp for most viewers. During the course of a running time just over 70 minutes, many a viewer may tire of the unrelenting format of commentators speaking over archival footage of rehearsals or recordings played over photograph montages. Without too much effort, however, anyone can obtain recordings of Kleiber conducting the Fledermaus overture, Tristan und Isolde, or Brahms’s Symphony no. 4. Schulz omits the questions that prompt the reminiscences of those interviewed, which include the conductor’s sister as well as colleagues obscure and famous. The film is lightly organized, with a vaguely chronological format. As the 70 minutes proceed, therefore, some viewers may grow impatient with the repetitiveness of worshipful comments about Kleiber’s almost mystical ability to communicate his musical intentions to orchestras.

Schulz is also fond of capturing the interviewees simply listening to Kleiber recordings, their eyes aglow with wonder, and sometimes their hands waving lightly, as if conducting the music themselves. But the film doesn’t restrict itself to panegyrics, as Kleiber’s human failings also receive acknowledgement, from his infidelities to his growing self-doubt that caused him to almost withdraw from conducting entirely in the last years of his life.

Probably copyrights prevented Arthaus Musik from providing bonus features such as some of the remarkable rehearsal footage seen in the film in its entirety, without commentary, or even better, a live performance or two. Even so, not only will fans of Kleiber’s art find this documentary fascinating, but anyone who has ever simply wondered, “What is it that conductors really do?” will probably find this film extremely enlightening, without being overly technical about the conductor’s art. The film’s subtitle, “Traces to Nowhere,” gives a rather deceptive sense of the film’s contents. Although the last years of Kleiber’s life and career were sad, the sheer joy he emanated as seen in the Fledermaus overture rehearsal footage show that at his best, Carlos Kleiber conducted in a way that left more than just traces of joy and passion, fortunately forever caught in recordings and at least partly, in Schulz’s film.

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):