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

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.

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

ICA Classics ICAC 5046
28 Mar 2012

Historical Performances from Covent Garden: Barbiere, La traviata and Tosca

Once the province of only the most dedicated opera fanatics, mid-20th century recordings of privately taped live performances have become more widely available.

Gioachino Rossini: Il barbiere di Siviglia

Figaro: Rolando Panerai; Rosina: Teresa Berganza; Count Almaviva: Luigi Alva; Dr Bartolo: Fernando Corena; Don Basilio: Ivo Vinco; Fiorello: Ronald Lewis; Berta: Josephine Veasey; Un Ufficiale: Robert Bowman. The Covent Garden Chorus (Chorus Master: Douglas Robinson). The Covent Garden Orchestra. Conductor: Carlo Maria Giulini. Royal Opera House, London, 21 May 1960.

ICA Classics ICAC 5046 [2CDs]

$22.99  Click to buy

ICA Classics appears to be a label dedicated to in-house tapes of live Covent Garden performances of the mid-to-late Fifties. Of the three sets reviewed here, all share constricted audio that mutes the orchestra but gives voices — at least the stronger ones — satisfactory prominence. Tape hiss, while audible, will not bother any but the most sensitive after a short period of adjustment. The question becomes then — how many “carats” can be ascribed for these nuggets from one of opera’s supposed Golden Ages?

ICAC-5022.jpg

The most fun comes with the 1960 Il Barbiere di Siviglia, with conductor Carlo Maria Giulini leading a tastefully raucous performance. The audience takes longer than the singers to warm up, by the time act one concludes, the stage action has broken through any stereotypical British reserve, and the extended bouts of laughter will make most any listener impatient to know what was happening on stage. Rolando Panerai sings a youthful, confident Figaro, but most of the laughter seems centered around the Bartolo of Fernando Corena. Luigi Alva offers a stylish Conte d’Almaviva, and for some of us, it’s nice to end this opera without the extended aria Rossini cut and later used in Cenerentola. Juan Diego Florez fires up standing ovations with this piece when he takes on the role, but it is narratively redundant and shifts the focus away from what should be an ensemble finale. Teresa Berganza made Rosina a specialty. There is much evidence here of the special quality she brought to the role — feminine and feisty — but either the stage action placed her further from the source microphone or the quality of her voice was not as susceptible to off-stage miking. Her vocal effect is dimmed by a recessed quality.

A couple of years before that 1960 performance Maria Callas made a notable appearance as Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata. Although still in her mid-30s, 1958 finds Callas in variable voice. The middle still has warmth and agility, but the top is awkwardly approached and often unpleasant, although Callas holds onto high notes as if hoping the quality will improve through sheer determination. Act three comes off best, as she doesn’t have to extend upwards as much. Then again, it may have been an off-night for everyone. The stylish light tenor Cesare Valletti starts off “Un di felice” as if unsure of the key, and then seems to struggle with conductor Nicola Rescigno over tempo. He improves as the night progresses, but this is probably not a performance he would have wanted a permanent record of. Mario Zanasi is a competent Germont, not much more. This is a document for Callas-philes.

ICA_5006.jpg

And for those still adhering to a supposed “Callas vs. Tebaldi” fan feud, the 1955 Tosca finds Tebaldi in glorious voice. Although the great soprano tends to let the sheer beauty and size of her voice carry much of the characterization, she does offer some moments of personal insight, including a spookily whispered repetition of “Mori!” at Scarpia’s death, and a sudden scream as her own final leap. For Cavaradossi Ferruccio Tagliavini pushes his voice forward, perhaps to match Tebaldi. While retaining his individual sound, Tagliavini stays at one emotional pitch, even in his act three showpiece. The biggest and saddest surprise is the Scarpia of Tito Gobbi. This is a role with which he will forever be identified, but as recorded here, he sounds dry all night, shouting for effect. One grows eager for Tosca to get her revenge. Conductor Franceso Molinari-Pradelli supports Puccini and the singers well, including a soprano “boy shepherd” in act three who sounds exactly like a mature soprano.

ICA Classics provides a brief booklet note that gives some basic details about the run of performances from which the recordings are drawn. Unsurprisingly, those commentators find each performance to be a long-lost gem. At budget price, there’s not much risk for the curious fan who would like to close his or her eyes, hop in an imaginary time machine and imagine themselves in London for these performances. Of the three, only the Barbiere gets a recommendation here.

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):