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

Herbert Howells: Choir of King’s College, Cambridge

The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge has played a role in the evolution of British music. This recording honours this heritage and Stephen Cleobury’s contribution in particular by focusing on Herbert Howells, who transformed the British liturgical repertoire in the 20th century.

Mieczysław Weinberg: Symphony no. 21 (“Kaddish”)

Mieczysław Weinberg witnessed the Holocaust firsthand. He survived, though millions didn’t, including his family. His Symphony no. 21 “Kaddish” (Op. 152) is a deeply personal statement. Yet its musical qualities are such that they make it a milestone in modern repertoire.

Kenshiro Sakairi and the Tokyo Juventus Philharmonic in Mahler’s Eighth

Although some works by a number of composers have had to wait uncommonly lengthy periods of time to receive Japanese premieres - one thinks of both Mozart’s Jupiter and Beethoven’s Fifth (1918), Handel’s Messiah (1929), Wagner’s Parsifal (1967), Berlioz’s Roméo et Juliette (1966) and even Bruckner’s Eighth (1959, given its premiere by Herbert von Karajan) - Mahler might be considered to have fared somewhat better.

Lise Davidsen sings Wagner and Strauss

Superlatives to describe Lise Davidsen’s voice have been piling up since she won Placido Domingo’s 2015 Operalia competition, blowing everyone away. She has been called “a voice in a million” and “the new Kirsten Flagstad.”

Nicky Spence and Julius Drake record The Diary of One Who Disappeared

From Hyperion comes a particularly fine account of Leoš Janáček’s song cycle The Diary of One Who Disappeared. Handsome-voiced Nicky Spence is the young peasant who loses his head over an alluring gypsy and is never seen again.

Jean Sibelius: Kullervo

Why did Jean Sibelius suppress Kullervo (Op. 7, 1892)? There are many theories why he didn’t allow it to be heard after its initial performances, though he referred to it fondly in private. This new recording, from Hyperion with Thomas Dausgaard conducting the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, soloists Helena Juntunen and Benjamin Appl and the Lund Male Chorus, is a good new addition to the ever-growing awareness of Kullervo, on recording and in live performance.

Mahler: Titan, Eine Tondichtung in Symphonieform – François-Xavier Roth, Les Siècles

Not the familiar version of Mahler's Symphony no 1, but the “real” Mahler Titan at last, as it might have sounded in Mahler's time! François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles present the symphony in its second version, based on the Hamburg/Weimar performances of 1893-94. This score is edited by Reinhold Kubik and Stephen E.Hefling for Universal Edition AG. Wien.

Verdi: Messa da Requiem - Staatskapelle Dresden, Christian Thielemann (Profil)

It has often been the case that the destruction wrought by wars, especially the Second World War, has been treated unevenly by composers. Theodor Adorno’s often quoted remark, from his essay Prisms, that “to write poetry after Auschwitz would be barbaric” - if widely misinterpreted - is limited by its scope and in a somewhat profound way composers have looked on the events of World War II in the same way.

Matthias Goerne: Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 & Kernerlieder

New from Harmonia Mundi, Matthias Goerne and Lief Ove Andsnes: Robert Schumann – Liederkreis, op 24 and Kernerlieder. Goerne and Andsnes have a partnership based on many years of working together, which makes this new release, originally recorded in late 2018, well worth hearing.

Leonard Bernstein: Tristan und Isolde in Munich on Blu-ray

Although Birgit Nilsson, one of the great Isolde’s, wrote with evident fondness – and some wit – of Leonard Bernstein in her autobiography – “unfortunately, he burned the candles at both ends” – their paths rarely crossed musically. There’s a live Fidelio from March 1970, done in Italy, but almost nothing else is preserved on disc.

Stéphanie D’Oustrac: Sirènes

After D’Oustrac’s striking success as Cassandre in Berlioz Les Troyens, this will reach audiences less familiar with her core repertoire in the baroque and grand opéra. Berlioz’s Les nuits d’été and La mort d’Ophélie, Wagner’s Wesendonck Lieder and the Lieder of Franz Liszt are very well known, but the finesse of D’Oustrac’s timbre lends a lucid gloss which makes them feel fresh and pure.

Luminous Mahler Symphony no.3: François-Xavier Roth, Gürzenich-Orchester Köln

Gustav Mahler’s Symphony No.3 with François-Xavier Roth and the Gürzenich-Orchester Köln, now at last on CD, released by Harmonia Mundi, after the highly acclaimed live performance streamed a few months ago.

A First-Ever Recording: Benjamin Godard’s 1890 Opera on Dante and Beatrice

The composer Benjamin Godard (1849–95) is today largely unknown to most music lovers. Specialist collectors, though, have been enjoying his songs (described as “imaginative and delightful” by Robert Moore in American Record Guide), his Concerto Romantique for violin (either in its entirety or just the dancelike Canzonetta, which David Oistrakh recorded winningly decades ago), and some substantial chamber and orchestral works that have received first recordings in recent years.

Between Mendelssohn and Wagner: Max Bruch’s Die Loreley

Max Bruch Die Loreley recorded live in the Prinzregenstheater, Munich, in 2014, broadcast by BR Klassik and now released in a 3-CD set by CPO. Stefan Blunier conducts the Münchner Rundfunkorchester with Michaela Kaune, Magdalena Hinterdobler, Thomas Mohr and Jan-Hendrick Rootering heading the cast, with the Prager Philharmonischer Chor..

Gottfried von Einem’s The Visit of the Old Lady Now on CD

Gottfried von Einem was one of the most prominent Austrian composers in the 1950s–70s, actively producing operas, ballets, orchestral, chamber, choral works, and song cycles.

Britten: Hymn to St Cecilia – RIAS Kammerchor

Benjamin Britten Choral Songs from RIAS Kammerchor, from Harmonia mundi, in their first recording with new Chief Conductor Justin Doyle, featuring the Hymn to St. Cecilia, A Hymn to the Virgin, the Choral Dances from Gloriana, the Five Flower Songs op 47 and Ad majorem Dei gloriam op 17.

Si vous vouliez un jour – William Christie: Airs Sérieux et à boire vol 2

"Si vous vouliez un jour..." Volume 2 of the series Airs Sérieux et à boire, with Sir William Christie and Les Arts Florissants, from Harmonia Mundi, following on from the highly acclaimed "Bien que l'amour" Volume 1. Recorded live at the Philharmonie de Paris in April 2016, this new release is as vivacious and enchanting as the first.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Decca 0440 074 3410 9 DH [DVD]
27 Oct 2011

Pavarotti at the Metropolitan Opera

Luciano Pavarotti died in September 2007, just short of his 72nd birthday and only a few years after his last performance at the Metropolitan Opera, in Tosca.

Giacomo Puccini: Tosca

Tosca: Shirley Verrett; Cavaradossi: Luciano Pavarotti; Scarpia: Cornell MacNeil. The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Conductor: James Conlon. Director: Tito Gobbi. Metropolitan Opera, December 1978.

Decca 0440 074 3410 9 DH [DVD]

$24.99  Click to buy

The Metropolitan has recently re-released on DVD the 1978 telecast of Pavarotti’s first Cavaradossi at the Metropolitan. The greater testimony to the ongoing fame of this tenor is a separate Decca release, in tandem with the Metropolitan Opera, called “Bravo Pavarotti.” Only a singer who has reached a very rare level of popularity gets the distinction (if that’s the word) of an entire DVD devoted to clips of aria performances from various telecasts, with absolutely no other content. Decca and the Metropolitan clearly believe there is a market out there, an audience that wants a disc they can put on whenever they just want to bathe in the warm beautify of Pavarotti’s tone and his joyful stage presence.

The DVD consists of 14 excerpts from Pavarotti’s repertoire at the Metropolitan — entirely Italian: Verdi, Donizetti, Puccini and Leoncavallo, with the interesting addition of his restrained but effective appearance in Mozart’s Idomeneo. The video quality varies, with some of the older clips lacking vibrancy, but Pavarotti’s connection to the audience can be felt at almost every moment. Indeed, part of the length of this relatively short DVD (about 90 minutes) comes from extended shots of the tenor, arms wide, eyes initially closed, basking in the extended ovations he came to expect. Are these performances flawless? Of course not. The high notes of both Che gelida manina and La donna è mobile both show his technical skill, as in both cases the note is initially not there for him. Pavarotti adjusts and holds on, where a lesser sing might have cut the note short.

0743349.png

Although not the most convincing actor, these clips do show him as an engaged performer — but then most of these are from his golden middle period, before he began to earn himself a reputation for carelessness and indifference. The close-ups are fascinating, however, for that face, so joyful and alive during the ovations, is a true singer’s mask when vocalizing. Pavarotti’s eyes focus on some distant spot, as he produces his sound and prepares for whatever musical challenge the next phrase may bring. The most illustrative — and amusing — example of this is the Rigoletto quartet, which Pavarotti sings with the Maddelena of Isola Jones, a strikingly beautiful woman with ample — and exposed — cleavage. While singing, Pavarotti is entirely professional, but when he has the chance, he can’t help but very realistically portray the Duke’s leering enjoyment of his evening’s conquest.

So is “Bravo Pavarotti” for anyone but the most diehard Pavarotti fan? Probably not. The brief booklet essay merely runs through some basic information on each performance, and otherwise there is nothing in the package that one couldn’t put together for oneself fairly easily.

That complete 1978 Tosca is a different matter. Conducted with fervor by a very young James Conlon, this Tosca is a handsome example of the Met at its tasteful, traditional best. This is the Tito Gobbi production, and among the three excellent bonus features is a conversation between this performance’s Scarpia, Cornell MacNeil, and Gobbi. We also get a chance to watch James Levine and Conlon try to outdo each other in insightful comments about Puccini’s score. The best of the three is a short rehearsal sequence with Conlon and a pianist leading Shirley Verrett, the Tosca, and Pavarotti through the act three duet. Conlon proves himself to be calm and psychologically astute, as he supports a somewhat needy Verrett and keeps Pavarotti from getting bored.

Pavarotti is in glorious voice throughout (the two big arias are part of the Bravo Pavarotti set), and MacNeil, though late in his career, has the experience and craftsmanship to keep mostly disguised the voice’s tendency to sag in pitch. Verrett, in unappealing light make-up, offers little that is original in her Tosca, but she inhabits the role with grace and passion. Extended passages start to show some stress on her voice (she was known primarily for mezzo repertory), but she has enough of a success to earn a shower of torn program confetti at curtain call.

Tosca was always planned to be the opera Pavarotti would perform in for his final complete performance at the Metropolitan. A year or two before that happened, Pavarotti had to cancel a run. He was replaced in one performance at the last moment by a very young Salvatore Licitra, who earned glowing reviews that suggested he might be the “next Pavarotti.” Alas, Licitra’s career, while substantial, did not support that characterization, and even more sadly, Licitra died this year in an accident. Other singers may come along and be alarmed to find themselves declared “the next Pavarotti,” but everyone knows there will be no such singer. And with Decca holding onto its legacy of recorded Pavarotti performances, we won’t be without the real Pavarotti anyway.

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):