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

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.

Bohuslav Martinů – What Men Live By

World premiere recording from Supraphon of Bohuslav Martinů What Men Live By (H336,1952-3) with Jiří Bělohlávek and the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra from a live performances in 2014, with Martinů's Symphony no 1 (H289, 1942) recorded in 2016. Bělohlávek did much to increase Martinů's profile, so this recording adds to the legacy, and reveals an extremely fine work.

Berlioz: Harold en Italie, Les Nuits d'été

Hector Berlioz Harold en Italie with François-Xavier Roth and Les Siècles with Tabea Zimmermann, plus Stéphane Degout in Les Nuits d’été from Hamonia Mundi. This Harold en Italie, op. 16, H 68 (1834) captures the essence of Romantic yearning, expressed in Byron's Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage where the hero rejects convention to seek his destiny in uncharted territory.

Le Bal des Animaux : Works by Chabrier, Poulenc, Ravel, Satie et al.

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthaüser’s latest song recital is all about the animal kingdom. As in previous recordings of songs by Wolf, Debussy and Poulenc, pianist Eugene Asti is her accompanist in Le Bal des Animaux, a delightful collection of French songs about creatures of all sizes, from flea to elephant and from crayfish to dolphin.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Giuseppe Verdi: Aida
01 Mar 2012

Giuseppe Verdi: Aida

A perennial favorite among opera enthusiasts since its 1871 premiere in Cairo, Aida remains a popular work, and its strengths are apparent in the recent Decca DVD from the Metropolitan Opera, New York.

Roberto Scandiuzzi, Violeta Urmana, Johan Botha, Dolora Zajick, Metropolitan Opera Chorus, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, Daniele Gatti, conductor.

Decca 001573609 [2DVDs] | 001601559 [Blu-ray]

$37.99 (DVD)  Click to buy

This video is based on the HD broadcast on 24 October 2009, which was released in this format in late 2011. With a cast including some of the finest performers currently available, this production of Aida merits attention.

At the core of this cast is Dolora Zajick as Amneris, the Egyptian princess at the center of the love triangle that includes Aida and Radames. Zajick makes her character memorable, with the unrequited passion motivating both her acting and, more importantly, the musical qualities. This is evident from the opening scene, with the exchange between Amneris and Radames effective (disc 1, band 5). Yet the scene in Amneris’s chambers in act two (disc 1, bands 13-16) offers a more intensive portrait of the Egyptian princess, which Zajick delivers with élan. Here Violetta Urmana allows the conflicts in her character's situation to emerge, as the love for Radames betrays the loyalty to her homeland, and any disobedience to her mistress Amneris intensifies the risks she faces. As impressive as Urmana is in the first part of the opera, her scena in Act 3 (disc 2, bands 1-6), particularly “O patria mia” (disc 2 band 2), where Aida's dilemma reaches its climax. The intensity that Urmana offers is captured well in this video, with the sound quality reflecting the live performance and acoustics of the Met.

Johan Botha brings his polished tenor voice to the role of Radames, and his opening aria “Celeste Aida” (disc 1, band 4) offers a solid performance of the famous aria. The dynamic and expressive nuances of Botha’s performance merit rehearing in this video, which offers a fine representation of the ringing sound and rounded tone. The range and depth of the voice is even throughout, especially the final duet with Urmana in the tomb scene of Act four (disc 2, bands 11-12). The polished sound and stage experience allow Botha to give the touching music Verdi created for the final scene to emerge convincingly.

Of the other roles, the performance offers solid casting, with Roberto Scandiuzzi as Ramfis, and Stefan Kocán as the king. Kocán has since taken on other roles at the Met and elsewhere, and this video is a rare chance to hear the bass in the early part of what promises to be a fine career. The estimable Carlo Guelphi brings a sense of nobility to the role of Amonasro. The duet with Urmana as Aida in the third act, “Ciel! mio padre” (disc 2, band 3) gives a fine sense of Gulephi’s expressive qualities in this role.

Beyond the overt gestures that Aida requires, the intimacy of the final scene is a strong part of this video. As large as the Met staging is in the other acts, the production serves the score well in creating a milieu for Botha and Urmana to interact in this final duet, “O terra, adio.” As the lovers Aida and Radames face death by being buried alive, Urmana and Botha are both expressively powerful, with each singer bringing out fine tone and touching expression. In the hands of these talented performers Verdi’s vocalism comes to life in this performance. Botha is impressive for his supple tone and impressive delivery, and Urmana performs with the same powerful musicianship. Zajick’s presence is notable for the solace she brings to the stage in praying for Radames as the drama comes to its tragic conclusion.

Along with these principals, the Metropolitan Opera Chorus is outstanding in this production, particularly in the “triumphal scene” of Act 2 (disc 1, bands 17-23). In delivering the spectacle of legendary dimension, the Met makes full use of the stage in this colorful production, which Gianni Quaranta designed, along with costumes by Dada Saligeri. The stage direction of Stephen Pickover makes this familiar set piece attractive, with the splendor attributed to ancient Egypt echoed in the generous staging of the Met.

The aspect of movement is important in this work, with the stage of the matter a fitting canvas for the effective blocking to underscore the drama in the work. With the camera angles set up at various points around the stage, including above it, viewers can enter more deeply into the performance than possible inside the Met. This is useful for the ballet sequences, where dance becomes part of the milieu for this work. In this regard the choreography of Alexei Ratmansky is a strong asset of the production for its creative use of movement to fit the libretto and the production as a whole.

In addition to the visual dimensions of the opera, which this DVD captures well, the sound is notable for its full and resonant sense of the house. With minimal audience sounds, the recording levels captures nuances from the stage that are not always possible to hear in all parts of the house, a dimension that the Met brings effectively the HD transmissions, like the one for this particular broadcast. The extras in this release include Renee Fleming’s interviews with the principals (included at the end of the disc 1), as well as choreographer Ratmansky. As whole, the release preserves a fine recent performance of Verdi’s Aida with impeccable quality. It has much to recommend as it brings this work to audiences beyond New York and the HD transmission in 2009.

James L. Zychowicz

   

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):