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

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’.

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.

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):