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

Pan-European Orpheus : Julian Prégardien

"Orpheus I am!" - An unusual but very well chosen collection of songs, arias and madrigals from the 17th century, featuring Julian Prégardien and Teatro del mondo. Devised by Andreas Küppers, this collection crosses boundaries demonstrating how Italian, German, French and English contemporaries responded to the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice.

Laci Boldemann’s Opera Black Is White, Said the Emperor

We normally think of operas as being serious or comical. But a number of operas-some familiar, others forgotten-are neither of these. Instead, they are fantastical, dealing with such things as the fairy world and sorcerers, or with the world of dreams.

The Devil, Greed, War, and Simple Goodness: Ostrčil’s Jack’s Kingdom

Here is a little-known opera that, like an opera by the Swedish composer Laci Boldemann that I have reviewed here, and like Ravel’s amazing L’enfant et les sortilèges, utterly bypasses the usual categories of comic and grand/tragic by cultivating instead the rich realm of fantasy and folk tale.

Grands motets de Lalande

Majesté, a new recording by Le Poème Harmonique, led by Vincent Dumestre, of music by Michel-Richard de Lalande (1657-1726) new from Alpha Classics. Le Poème Harmonique are regular visitors to London, appreciated for the variety of their programes. On Friday this week, (11/5) they'll be at St John's Smith Square as part of the London Festival of Baroque, with a programme titled "At the World's Courts".

Perpetual Night - Early English Baroque, Ensemble Correspondances

New from Harmonia Mundi, Perpetual Night. a superb recording of ayres and songs from the 17th century, by Ensemble Correspondances with Sébastien Daucé and Lucile Richardot. Ensemble Correspondances are among the foremost exponents of the music of Versailles and the French royalty, so it's good to hear them turn to the music of the Stuart court.

Maria Callas: Tosca 1964: A film by Holger Preusse

When I reviewed Tosca at Covent Garden in January this year for Opera Today, Maria Callas’s 1964 Royal Opera House performance was still fresh in my mind. This is a recording I have grown up with and which, despite its flaws, is one of the greatest operatic statements - a glorious production which Zeffirelli finally agreed to staging, etched in gothic black and white film (albeit just Act II), with Maria Callas and Tito Gobbi, if not always as vocally commanding as they once were, acting out their roles like no one has before, or since.

Hubert Parry and the birth of English Song

British music would not be where it is today without the influence of Charles Hubert Parry. His large choral and orchestral works are well known, and his Jerusalem is almost the national anthem. But in the centenary of his death, we can re-appraise his role in the birth of modern British song.

Camille Saint-Saens: Mélodies avec orchestra

Saint-Saëns Mélodies avec orchestra with Yann Beuron and Tassis Christoyannis with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Markus Poschner.

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories are designed to occupy the final three days of Holy Week, and contemplate the themes of loss, betrayal and death that dominate the Easter week. As such, the Responsories demand a sense of darkness, reflection and depth that this new recording by Stile Antico - at least partially - captures.

Mahler Symphony no 9, Daniel Harding SRSO

Mahler Symphony no 9 in D major, with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, new from Harmonia Mundi. A rewarding performance on many levels, not least because it's thoughtfully sculpted, connecting structure to meaning.

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

Winterreise by Mark Padmore

Schubert's Winterreise is almost certainly the most performed Lieder cycle in the repertoire. Thousands of performances and hundreds of recordings ! But Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout's recording for Harmonia Mundi is proof of concept that the better the music the more it lends itself to re-discovery and endless revelation.

The Epic of Gilgamesh - Bohuslav Martinů

New recording of the English version of Bohuslav Martinů's The Epic of Gilgamesh, from Supraphon, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck. This is the world premiere recording of the text in English, the original language in which it was written.

Maybe the Best L’heure espagnole Yet

The new recording, from Munich, has features in common with one from Stuttgart that I greatly enjoyed and reviewed here: the singers are all native French-speakers, the orchestra is associated with a German radio channel, we are hearing an actual performance (or in this case an edited version from several performances, in April 2016), and the recording is released by the orchestra itself or its institutional parent.

Stéphanie d’Oustrac in Two Exotic Masterpieces by Maurice Ravel

The two works on this CD make an apt and welcome pair. First we have Ravel’s sumptuous three-song cycle about the mysteries of love and fantasies of exotic lands. Then we have his one-act opera that takes place in a land that, to French people at the time, was beckoningly exotic, and whose title might be freely translated “The Nutty and Delightful Things That Can Happen in Spain in Just One Hour”.

Stefano Secco: Crescendo

I had never heard of Stefano Secco before receiving this CD. But I see that, at age 34, he already has had a substantial career, singing major roles at important houses throughout Europe and, while I was not paying attention, occasionally in the US.

French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Deutsche Grammophon 0440 073 4637 2
13 Apr 2012

Lulu by Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona

Released in late 2011, Deutsche Grammophon’s DVD of the new staging of Berg’s Lulu at the Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona is an excellent contribution to the discography of this fascinating opera.

Alban Berg: Lulu

Patricia Petibon, Julia Juon, Ashley Holland, Paul Groves, Symphony Orchestra of the Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona. Michael Boder, conductor.

Deutsche Grammophon 0440 073 4637 2 [2DVDs]

$34.99  Click to buy

The production was designed by Pierre André Weitz, with stage direction by Olivier Py, and its post-modern approach supports Berg’s score through its vivid settings and facile staging. Unlike the conventional staging of Lulu, as found in another recent DVD which preserves the 1977 Metropolitan Opera premiere of the opera (filmed in 1980), this Barcelona staging plays upon the surrealistic elements of the work to powerful effect. With excellent sound and intense visuals, this recent DG release is a compelling presentation of Lulu.

The casting is impressive, with Lulu played by Patricia Petibon, and Alwa by Paul Groves. Both singers are fully engaged in their characters both dramatically and vocally. Petibon brings out the vulnerability of Lulu along with her ruthlessness. As the narrative takes the Lulu into increasingly complex situations, Petibon expresses her character’s desperation in her acting and vocal tone, with a sense of timing that serves the music and the dram. Yet at the end, when Lulu becomes a prostitute in London, Petibon brings a sense of detachment to the climax, which allows the action to focus on the actions of Ashley Holland as Jack the Ripper and reactions of Julia Juon as Countess Geschwitz. Petibon’s subtlety allows the staging to emphasize the tragedy, and also brings out the lyrical emphases in various numbers, as with Lulu’s Lied (“Wenn sich die Menschen” in the first scene of act two.

As Alwa Paul Groves is appealing for performative reasons. The role is well within Groves’ abilities, which receives fine voice in this video. His delivery of the passage “Über die ließe sich freilich eine interessante Oper schreiben” is memorable for the way it works well in the scene yet seems like commentary on the work itself. His clear enunciation of the text and sense of line supports both the part of Alwa and also his strangely intense relationship with Lulu.

Ashley Holland brings a similar command to the dual role of Dr. Schön and Jack the Ripper, a quality which allows him to build the dramatic and musical tension in the first part of the opera and then, at the end, to bring it to its tragic ending. Holland’s Dr. Schön interacts well with Petibon’s Lulu, as well as the other characters. The complex relationship between Dr. Schön as father and Alwa as his son emerges with appropriate edginess in this production. At the same time the final scene hinges on Holland’s intensity as Jack the Ripper.

With the role of Countess Geschwitz, Julia Juon creates a sympathetic persona as Lulu’s erstwhile lover and dramatic Doppelgänger. Introduced only in the second act, it is important for anyone taking on the role of Geschwitz to create a solid impression, and Juon does so from the start. Her obsession with Lulu emerges without overstatement, with her final lines haunting. Juon’s performance stands well with Petibon’s, as the two women create strong impressions throughout the performance.

Supporting all of this is the fine leadership of Michael Boder, who brings a fine sense of timing and balance to excellent sound of the DVD. Boder’s interpretation is strong, as it reflects his sense of interactions of instrumental and vocal music in this complex score. The orchestral outbursts have their place in the drama, and are nicely integrated into the polished whole of the production.

Yet throughout the performance, the staging stands out for the bold approach to this landmark twentieth-century opera. The carefully considered and and well-thought details make support work. While this results in some provocative images, the results does not seem gratuitous Labeled with a parental advisory for adult content, this DVD makes a provocative staging available to a wide audience. The sensuality of the work emerges in overt elements, like the suggestion of sexual intimacy and the alluring sense of bodies in depicting the lust that is part of the libretto. As strong as this aspect of the production may be, it is never out of place or sensationalist. Rather, this staging makes use of those elements to bring out the narrative elements in ways that sometimes fall short in other productions. At the same time the vivid use of animal images in the prologue and first act make Wedekind’s text come to life memorably. In addition Brechtian elements emerge in the placards with slogans in various languages that punctuate some of the scenes. “Meine Seele” or “I hate sex” seen to be non-sequiturs on their own, but contribute to the entire experience when viewed within the mise-en-scène of this Lulu. As these and other elements work together well in this production, they bring a powerful focus on the dramatic aspects of Berg’s opera in a performance that includes some of the finest interpreters of the work in the first decade of the twenty-first century. A modern conception of the opera, this Lulu is simultaneously accessible for its solid conception of this seminal twentieth-century opera.

Jim 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):