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

Puccini's Le Willis: a fine new recording from Opera Rara

The 23-year-old Giacomo Puccini was still three months from the end of his studies at the Conservatoire in Milan when, in April 1883, he spotted an announcement of a competition for a one-act opera in Il teatro illustrato, a journal was published by Edoardo Sonzogno, the Italian publisher of Bizet's Carmen.

Liszt: O lieb! – Lieder and Mélodie

O Lieb! presents the lieder of Franz Liszt with a distinctive spark from Cyrille Dubois and Tristan Raës, from Aparté. Though young, Dubois is very highly regarded. His voice has a luminous natural elegance, ideal for the Mélodie and French operatic repertoire he does so well. With these settings by Franz Liszt, Dubois brings out the refinement and sophistication of Liszt’s approach to song.

The Academy of Ancient Music's superb recording of Handel's Brockes-Passion

The Academy of Ancient Music’s new release of Handel’s Brockes-Passion - recorded around the AAM's live performance at the Barbican Hall on the 300th anniversary of the first performance in 1719 - combines serious musicological and historical scholarship with vibrant musicianship and artistry.

Vaughan Williams: The Song of Love

From Albion, The Song of Love featuring songs by Ralph Vaughan Williams, with Kitty Whately, Roderick Williams and pianist William Vann. Albion is unique, treasured by Vaughan Williams devotees for rarely heard repertoire from the composer’s vast output, so don’t expect mass market commercial product. Albion recordings often highlight new perspectives.

A new recording of Henze’s Das Floß der Medusa

Henze’s Das Floß der Medusa is in some ways a work with a troubled and turbulent history. It is defined by the time in which it was written – 1968 – a period of student protest throughout central Europe. Its first performance was abandoned because the Hamburg chorus refused to perform under the Red Flag which had been placed on stage; and Henze himself decided he wouldn’t conduct it at all after police stormed the concert hall to remove protesters, among them the librettist Ernst Schnabel.

Berthold Goldschmidt: Beatrice Cenci, Bregenzer Festspiele

Berthold Goldschmidt’s Beatrice Cenci at last on DVD, from the Bregenzer Festspiele in 2018, with Johannes Debus conducting the Wiener Symphoniker, directed by Johannes Erath, and sung in German translation.

Sandrine Piau: Si j’ai aimé

Sandrine Piau and Le Concert de la Loge (Julien Chauvin), Si j’ai aimé, an eclectic collection of mélodies demonstrating the riches of French orchestral song. Berlioz, Duparc and Massenet are included, but also Saint-Saëns, Charles Bordes, Gabriel Pierné, Théodore Dubois, Louis Vierne and Benjamin Godard.

The VOCES8 Foundation is launched at St Anne & St Agnes

Where might you hear medieval monophony by the late 12th-century French composer Pérotin, Renaissance polyphony by William Byrd, a vocal arrangement of the stirring theme from Sibelius’s tone poem Finlandia, alongside a newly commissioned work, ‘Vertue’ (2019) by Jonathan Dove, followed by an arrangement of the Irish folksong ‘Danny Boy’ and a snappy rendition of Antonio Carlos Jobim’s ‘One Note Samba’ arr. for eight voices by Naomi Crellin, all within 90 minutes?

Gerald Finzi Choral Works

From Hyperion, Gerald Finzi choral works with the Choir of Trinity College, Cambridge, conducted by Stephen Layton. An impressive Magnificat (1952) sets the tone.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Richard Strauss: Capriccio
24 Feb 2012

Fleming in Strauss’s Capriccio

Is there somewhere in Italian opera repertory where, as a comic interlude, the portentous clichés of German opera come in for a skewering amid the luscious sunshine of Italianate lyricism?

Richard Strauss: Capriccio

Die Gräfin: Renée Fleming; Flamand: Joseph Kaiser; Olivier: Russell Braun; La Roche: Peter Rose; Clairon: Sarah Connolly. The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Conductor: Andrew Davis.

Decca 0440 074 3454 3 DH [2DVDs]

$37.99  Click to buy

None come to mind. But Richard Strauss twice stopped the progress of heavily scored recitative in his own operas to bring on caricatures of Italian opera singers for light-hearted relief. In Der Rosenkavalier the Marschallin is entertained in her boudoir by the “Italian singer,” a tenor who belts out what, ironically, is probably the best known aria from any Strauss opera, “Di rigori armato.” Then in Capriccio, Die Grafin, as elegant and aristocratic as her operatic predecessor, also finds such amusement, this time with the “Italian Singers,” a tenor and a soprano whose music mocks the “high note” obsession of Italian opera. It’s almost as if Strauss might have wondered if audiences might grow restless in the middle of an intermission-less two and a half hours of a barely dramatic debate over whether music or literature is the highest art. The buffo treatment afforded the Italian Singers might make such audiences recoil from wishing they could slip out of a Capriccio performance for some time with Il Trovatore.

Capriccio is a late work of Strauss, and as with the Vier Letzte Lieder and Metamorphosen, the score’s greatest music, in the final scene, is duskily lit with the glowing colors of a dying sunset. In the preceding two hours, Strauss weaves parodies of 18th century music along with his own craftsman-like ability to keep the musical motor running without ever seeming to arrive anywhere. The characters have no history or interior life to propel the action, such as it is. A musician, Flamand, and a poet, Olivier, compete for the patronage and romantic attention of Die Grafin. La Roche, a theater director, is putting on an entertainment for her, which will feature a self-infatuated actress (Clarion) as well as the two Italian Singers. As the theatrical endeavor proceeds, a rhetorical argument takes the place of any narrative drive — is it music or literature that is man’s highest artistic achievement? In her long closing soliloquy, Die Grafin evades a final answer, but the dominance of Strauss’s score seems to complete the response for her.

Capriccio will never be a mainstay of the operatic repertory, but it is the most frequently performed of any of the operas from the latter stage of Strauss’s career. It offers a great leading role for a soprano, who gets to be the focus of attention for most of the evening and who, at its close, has the stage to herself. In this Metropolitan Live HD performance from April 2011, Renée Fleming meets every vocal requirement of the role; not unexpectedly, as her credentials in Strauss have long been validated. What she can’t quite do is to suggest the depths of intelligence or sensuality that the other characters claim to see in Die Grafin. Peter Rose, a notable Baron Ochs, makes the most of his big scene as La Roche. Sarah Connolly gives the outrageous Clarion a good try, without quite seeming comfortable in the role. Joseph Kaiser as Flamand and Russell Braun as Olivier can’t escape the bland confines of their under-characterized roles. Barry Banks and Olga Makarina are very funny as the Italian Singers and also notably un-Italian.

Conducting Capriccio must be a treat, with its small ensembles built into the framework of larger orchestral set-pieces. Andrew Davis leads the Metropolitan Opera forces in a detailed, buffed performance. The John Cox production harmlessly updates the action, which is hardly historically relevant to begin with. Robert Perdziola’s costumes and Mauro Pagano’s sets complement the elegance and handsomeness of the work.

As strong as this performance is, anyone who loves this opera must also seek out a San Francisco Opera performance with Kiri te Kanawa and Tatiana Troyanos, both of whom simply outclass their talented peers in the more recent production.

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):