Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Recordings

A Venetian Double: English Touring Opera

Francesco Cavalli’s La Calisto was the composer’s fifteenth opera, and the ninth to a libretto by Giovanni Faustini (1615-1651). First performed at the Teatro Sant’Apollinaire in Venice on 28th November 1651, the opera by might have been sub-titled ‘Gods Behaving Badly’, so debauched are the deities’ dalliances and deviations, so egotistical their deceptions.

Walter Braunfels : Orchestral Songs Vol 1

New from Oehms Classics, Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 1. Luxury singers - Valentina Farcas, Klaus Florian Vogt and Michael Volle, with the Staatskapelle Weimar, conducted by Hansjörg Albrecht.

Lalo: Complete Songs

Edouard Lalo (1823-92) is best known today for his instrumental works: the Symphonie espagnole (which is, despite the title, a five-movement violin concerto), the Symphony in G Minor, and perhaps some movements from his ballet Namouna, a scintillating work that the young Debussy adored.

New from Opera Rara : Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe

Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara - Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.

Félicien David: Herculanum

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.

Samuel Barber: Choral Music

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.

A Prize-Winning Rediscovery from 1840s Paris (and 1830s Egypt)

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.

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.



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.


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):