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. 



Decca 0440 074 3383 6 GH [DVD]
27 Oct 2011

Renée Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky: A Musical Odyssey in St. Petersburg

Exactly what makes this entertaining, handsome video of Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Renée Fleming in concert an “odyssey”?

Renée Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky: A Musical Odyssey in St. Petersburg

Renée Fleming, soprano. Dmitri Hvorostovsky, baritone. State Hermitage Orchestra. Conductor: Constantine Orbelian. Directed for video by Brian Large.

Decca 0440 074 3383 6 GH [DVD]

$27.99  Click to buy

Would it really have been unacceptable to call the program “A Musical Travelogue in St. Petersburg”? There are no adventures with sirens or one-eyed giants, nor is there any sense of homecoming and redemption. Instead, soprano Fleming (Hvorostovsky apparently otherwise engaged) walks through some of the more appealing tourist locations of the city, in three segments that take up about 20 minutes of the main program’s 90-minute running time. At least Decca provides an additional four musical selections for the DVD release.

Putting aside persnickety complaints about language, the DVD is very enjoyable. It gets off to a great start by skipping introductions and immediately joining Renée and Dmitri in front of the State Hermitage orchestra and conductor Constantine Orbelian. Credits roll as the singers launch into the fourth act duet of Il Trovatore’s Leonora and Di Luna. Other than Violetta and Desdemona, Verdi hasn’t played a big part in Ms. Fleming’s career, so it’s fairly surprising how well she does in this scene. Hvorostovsky has sung the Count many times, and in this smaller hall, he is able to bring all of his skill to the performance without having to push as he would in a larger venue. Next, after 10 minutes of Renée guiding us through the Winter Palace, we return to the concert and an extended scene from Simon Boccanegra. A briefer travelogue is followed by several Russian songs, with Olga Kern at the piano. This is Hvorostovsky’s home territory, of course, and he shines; Ms. Fleming looks and sounds ravishing.

Another travelogue section precedes the return of the orchestra for selections from three Tchaikovsky operas, listed in the booklet as Pique Dame, Oprichnik, and the reliable Eugene Onegin. Hvorostovsky sings Yeletzki’s aria handsomely as expected, and the rare opera’s aria for Renée is quite beautiful. Then the pair performs the final scene of Onegin with a potent mixture of elegance and dramatic force.

The bonus tracks are all worthy and undoubtedly only edited out of the main program only for reasons of timing (the main program was offered on PBS in the Great Performances series). Dmitri sings Hamlet’s drinking song from the Ambroise Thomas opera and a rare and very entertaining Anton Rubinstein number. Ms. Fleming gives us her creamy “Casta Diva” and Lisa’s first act aria from Pique Dame.

The Decca set has rudimentary packaging, but the performance itself is classy, and as the travelogue sections are separately tracked, they can easily be skipped on repeat viewings. If one doesn't expect the rollicking adventure of a true odyssey, this set should prove to be high-quality musical entertainment.

Chris Mullins

Click here for a track list.

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):