Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

John Joubert's Jane Eyre

Librettists have long mined the literature shelves for narratives that are ripe for musico-dramatic embodiment. On the whole, it’s the short stories and poems - The Turn of the Screw, Eugene Onegin or Death in Venice, for example - that best lend themselves to operatic adaptation.

Through Life and Love: Louise Alder sings Strauss

Soprano Louise Alder has had an eventful few months. Declared ‘Young Singer of the Year’ at the 2017 International Opera Awards in May, the following month she won the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

A Master Baritone in Recital: Sesto Bruscantini, 1981

This is the only disc ever devoted to the art of Sesto Bruscantini (1919–2003). Record collectors value his performance of major baritone roles, especially comic but also serious ones, on many complete opera recordings, such as Il barbiere di Siviglia (with Victoria de los Angeles). He continued to perform at major houses until at least 1985 and even recorded Mozart's Don Alfonso in 1991, when he was 72.

Emalie Savoy: A Portrait

Since 1952, the ARD—the organization of German radio stations—has run an annual competition for young musicians. Winners have included Jessye Norman, Maurice André, Heinz Holliger, and Mitsuko Uchida. Starting in 2015, the CD firm GENUIN has offered, as a separate award, the chance for one of the prize winners to make a CD that can serve as a kind of calling card to the larger musical and music-loving world. In 2016, the second such CD award was given to the Aris Quartett (second-prize winner in the “string quartet” category).

Detlev Glanert : Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch

Detlev Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch should be a huge hit. Just as Carl Orff's Carmina Burana appeals to audiences who don't listen to early music (or even to much classical music), Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch has all the elements for instant popular success.

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

A Resplendent Régine Crespin in Tosca

There have to be special reasons to release a monophonic live recording of a much-recorded opera. Often it can give us the opportunity to hear a singer in a major role that he or she never recorded commercially—or did record on some later occasion, when the voice was no longer fresh. Often a live recording catches the dramatic flow better than certain studio recordings that may be more perfect technically.

Karine Deshayes’s Astonishing New Rossini Recording

Critic and scholar John Barker has several times complained, in the pages of American Record Guide, about Baroque vocal recitals that add instrumental works or movements as supposed relief or (as he nicely calls them) “spacers.”

Knappertsbusch’s Only Recording of Lohengrin Released for the First Time

Hans Knappertsbusch was one of the most renowned Wagner conductors who ever lived. His recordings of Parsifal, especially, are near-legendary among confirmed Wagnerians.

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered, from SOMM Recordings, makes available on CD archive broadcasts of British and German song. All come from BBC broadcasts made between 1947 and 1952. Of the 26 tracks in this collection, 19 are "new", not having been commercially released. The remaining seven have been remastered by sound restoration engineer Ted Kendall. Something here even for those who already own the complete recordings.

Color and Drama in Two Choral Requiems from Post-Napoleonic France

The Requiem text has brought out the best in many composers. Requiem settings by Mozart, Verdi, and Fauré are among the most beloved works among singers and listeners alike, and there are equally wondrous settings by Berlioz and Duruflé, as well as composers from before 1750, notably Jean Gilles.

Matthias Goerne - late Schumann songs, revealed

Matthias Goerne Schumann Lieder, with Markus Hinterhäuser, a new recording from Harmonia Mundi. Singers, especially baritones, often come into their prime as they approach 50, and Goerne, who has been a star since his 20's is now formidably impressive. The colours in his voice have matured, with even greater richness and depth than before.

LALO and COQUARD: La Jacquerie

La Jacquerie—here recorded for the first time—proves to be a wonderful opera, bringing delight upon delight.

Urania Remasters Marriage of Figaro

Good news for lovers of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro: the famous Living Stereo recording, a co-production of RCA Victor and English Decca, is now available again, well remastered, on Urania.

Opera Rara: new recording of Bellini's Adelson e Salvini

In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.

Jonas Kaufmann : Mahler Das Lied von der Erde

Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.

The "Lost" Songs of Morfydd Owen

A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.

Early Swedish opera - Stenhammer world premiere

The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.

Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 2

Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.

The Tallis Scholars: Josquin's Missa Di dadi

‘Can great music be inspired by the throw of the dice?’ asks Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, in his liner notes to the ensemble’s new recording of Josquin’s Missa Di dadi (The Dice Mass). The fifteenth-century artist certainly had an abundant supply of devotional imagery. As one scholar has put it, during this age there was neither ‘an object nor an action, however trivial, that [was] not constantly correlated with Christ or salvation’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Aleksis Kivi
13 Aug 2011

Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Aleksis Kivi

Great characters are at the center of all operatic masterpieces, yet opera almost never treads into “operatic biography” territory.

Einojuhani Rautavvara: Aleksis Kivi

Aleksis Kivi: Jorma Hynninen; August Ahlqvist: Janne Reinikainen; Charlotta: Riikka Rantanen; Hilda: Paulina Linnosaari. Finnish National Opera Orchestra. Conductor: Mikko Franck.

Ondine ODV4009 [DVD]

$29.99  Click to buy

Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Aleksis Kivi, which premiered in 1997, ventures there, as it puts on stage the story of Finland’s 19th century literary hero. Kivi used the vernacular to tell stories of greater realism than the prevailing Romantic tradition, and while he found enough success to keep his works alive, he also encountered a great deal of derision and suppression from the literary establishment. He also had to struggle against his own demons, especially alcoholism fueled by mental illness, to which he succumbed at the early age of 38.

Although the composer’s booklet note (translated by Andrew Bentley) refers to Kivi’s “eventful life,” the 90-minute opera doesn’t concern itself with narrative in any conventional sense. There is a double for Kivi at a young age, and a key female figure, Charlotta, who may have been a romantic interest (although this is far from clear). The core of any dramatic impetus comes from the intractable hatred of Kivi’s nemesis, critic August Ahlqvist. In a daring move that pays big dividends, Rautavaara makes this a speaking role, with acerbic music underscoring the character’s venomous railings. However, no progression follows the establishment of Ahlqvist’s disdain in the opening scenes — he hates and ridicules Kivi until opera’s end, with only a brief comic respite when Ahlqvist brings out the legendary writer Runeberg, initially confined to a wheelchair. Soon this supposedly respectable literary master is scampering around the stage in a fit of dementia, with Ahlqvist in chase. The humorous respite precedes the touching climax, where the schizophrenic Kivi, in the final moments of his life, revisits Charlotta and even his younger self, finding solace in the conviction that what he created will live on.

This Ondine DVD of a 2010 staging is directed by Pekka Milonoff, although the true guiding hand of this film, caught by cameras without an audience, belongs to TV director Hannu Kamppila. A captivating cast holds the attention that otherwise might lose interest in set designer Eeva Ijäs’s sparse set. Dominating with both the conviction of his acting and the handsome colors of his voice is baritone Jorma Hynninen as Kivi. He looks older than the 38 Kivi was at death, but he captures the haunted appearance of a man caught between the ecstasy of his creative urge and the pain of the mental illness and abuse of alcohol that consumed him. There is little interaction between Kivi and Ahlqvist, as there is truly no ground for them to share. Janne Reinikainen gives a bold performance as the deluded Ahlqvist, who believes he is protecting Finland reputation. Both sinister and ridiculous, he is a fine villain.

A twenty-minute bonus feature on the making of the film features the composer’s thoughts, delivered in a somewhat scary hoarse whisper, as well as interviews with Hynninen and conductor Mikko Franck. Franck’s appearance — cherubic would be polite — and his relaxed interplay with his excellent musicians shows that the tradition of the frightening, dictatorial conductor is as dead as the literature of Runeberg.

Rautavaara’s score will please those who know and respect his music — a mixture of modernistic textures with tonal underpinnings that, though never conventionally melodic, has affecting strength. At 90 minutes, Aleksis Kivi makes a good introduction to Rautavaara’s operatic efforts, but a release from a couple of years ago of Rasputin, with the titanic Matti Salminen in the title role, would be your reviewer’s choice for the best place to start.

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):