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Two new recordings from highly acclaimed specialists Opera Rara -
Gounod La Colombe and Donizetti Le Duc d'Albe.
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.
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.
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.
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”
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.
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.
Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au
bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc
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.
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’.
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.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and
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.
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.
This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.
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 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’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.
Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.