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

Henry Purcell, Royal Welcome Songs for King Charles II Vol. III: The Sixteen/Harry Christophers

The Sixteen continues its exploration of Henry Purcell’s Welcome Songs for Charles II. As with Robert King’s pioneering Purcell series begun over thirty years ago for Hyperion, Harry Christophers is recording two Welcome Songs per disc.

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

In February this year, Albanian soprano Ermonela Jaho made a highly lauded debut recital at Wigmore Hall - a concert which both celebrated Opera Rara’s 50th anniversary and honoured the career of the Italian soprano Rosina Storchio (1872-1945), the star of verismo who created the title roles in Leoncavallo’s La bohème and Zazà, Mascagni’s Lodoletta and Puccini’s Madama Butterfly.

Requiem pour les temps futurs: An AI requiem for a post-modern society

Collapsology. Or, perhaps we should use the French word ‘Collapsologie’ because this is a transdisciplinary idea pretty much advocated by a series of French theorists - and apparently, mostly French theorists. It in essence focuses on the imminent collapse of modern society and all its layers - a series of escalating crises on a global scale: environmental, economic, geopolitical, governmental; the list is extensive.

Ádám Fischer’s 1991 MahlerFest Kassel ‘Resurrection’ issued for the first time

Amongst an avalanche of new Mahler recordings appearing at the moment (Das Lied von der Erde seems to be the most favoured, with three) this 1991 Mahler Second from the 2nd Kassel MahlerFest is one of the more interesting releases.

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

If there is one myth, it seems believed by some people today, that probably needs shattering it is that post-war recordings or performances of Wagner operas were always of exceptional quality. This 1949 Hamburg Tristan und Isolde is one of those recordings - though quite who is to blame for its many problems takes quite some unearthing.

Women's Voices: a sung celebration of six eloquent and confident voices

The voices of six women composers are celebrated by baritone Jeremy Huw Williams and soprano Yunah Lee on this characteristically ambitious and valuable release by Lontano Records Ltd (Lorelt).

Rosa mystica: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

As Paul Spicer, conductor of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir, observes, the worship of the Blessed Virgin Mary is as ‘old as Christianity itself’, and programmes devoted to settings of texts which venerate the Virgin Mary are commonplace.

The Prison: Ethel Smyth

Ethel Smyth’s last large-scale work, written in 1930 by the then 72-year-old composer who was increasingly afflicted and depressed by her worsening deafness, was The Prison – a ‘symphony’ for soprano and bass-baritone soloists, chorus and orchestra.

Songs by Sir Hamilton Harty: Kathryn Rudge and Christopher Glynn

‘Hamilton Harty is Irish to the core, but he is not a musical nationalist.’

After Silence: VOCES8

‘After silence, that which comes closest to expressing the inexpressible is music.’ Aldous Huxley’s words have inspired VOCES8’s new disc, After Silence, a ‘double album in four chapters’ which marks the ensemble’s 15th anniversary.

Beethoven's Songs and Folksongs: Bostridge and Pappano

A song-cycle is a narrative, a journey, not necessarily literal or linear, but one which carries performer and listener through time and across an emotional terrain. Through complement and contrast, poetry and music crystallise diverse sentiments and somehow cohere variability into an aesthetic unity.

Flax and Fire: a terrific debut recital-disc from tenor Stuart Jackson

One of the nicest things about being lucky enough to enjoy opera, music and theatre, week in week out, in London’s fringe theatres, music conservatoires, and international concert halls and opera houses, is the opportunity to encounter striking performances by young talented musicians and then watch with pleasure as they fulfil those sparks of promise.

Carlisle Floyd's Prince of Players: a world premiere recording

“It’s forbidden, and where’s the art in that?”

John F. Larchet's Complete Songs and Airs: in conversation with Niall Kinsella

Dublin-born John F. Larchet (1884-1967) might well be described as the father of post-Independence Irish music, given the immense influenced that he had upon Irish musical life during the first half of the 20th century - as a composer, musician, administrator and teacher.

Haddon Hall: 'Sullivan sans Gilbert' does not disappoint thanks to the BBC Concert Orchestra and John Andrews

The English Civil War is raging. The daughter of a Puritan aristocrat has fallen in love with the son of a Royalist supporter of the House of Stuart. Will love triumph over political expediency and religious dogma?

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

Beethoven Symphony no 9 (the Choral Symphony) in D minor, Op. 125, and the Choral Fantasy in C minor, Op. 80 with soloist Kristian Bezuidenhout, Pablo Heras-Casado conducting the Freiburger Barockorchester, new from Harmonia Mundi.

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

A Louise Brooks look-a-like, in bobbed black wig and floor-sweeping leather trench-coat, cheeks purple-rouged and eyes shadowed in black, Barbara Hannigan issues taut gestures which elicit fire-cracker punch from the Mahler Chamber Orchestra.

Alfredo Piatti: The Operatic Fantasies (Vol.2) - in conversation with Adrian Bradbury

‘Signor Piatti in a fantasia on themes from Beatrice di Tenda had also his triumph. Difficulties, declared to be insuperable, were vanquished by him with consummate skill and precision. He certainly is amazing, his tone magnificent, and his style excellent. His resources appear to be inexhaustible; and altogether for variety, it is the greatest specimen of violoncello playing that has been heard in this country.’

Those Blue Remembered Hills: Roderick Williams sings Gurney and Howells

Baritone Roderick Williams seems to have been a pretty constant ‘companion’, on my laptop screen and through my stereo speakers, during the past few ‘lock-down’ months.

Bruno Ganz and Kirill Gerstein almost rescue Strauss’s Enoch Arden

Melodramas can be a difficult genre for composers. Before Richard Strauss’s Enoch Arden the concept of the melodrama was its compact size – Weber’s Wolf’s Glen scene in Der Freischütz, Georg Benda’s Ariadne auf Naxos and Medea or even Leonore’s grave scene in Beethoven’s Fidelio.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Sony Masterworks 791009
13 Apr 2012

Lulu by the Metropolitan Opera

A recent release by the Metropolitan Opera, this two-disc set makes available on DVD the famous performance of Berg’s Lulu that was broadcast on 20 December 1980 as part of the PBS series “Live from the Met.”

Alban Berg: Lulu

Julia Migenes, Evelyn Lear, Kenneth Riegel, Franz Mazura Andrew Foldi, The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, The Metropolitan Opera, New York. James Levine, conductor.

Sony Masterworks 791009 [2DVDs]

$18.49  Click to buy

Based on the production that received its Met premiere in 1977, this video makes available John Dexter’s classic presentation of Berg’s opera that James Levine conductor over three decades ago. The Met’s production was a major event because the three-act version of Berg’s score was still new, with houses vying to program it. Even though the opera received a number of fine productions since then, this production of the Met’s Lulu remains a strong and insightful performance, which Levine led masterfully.

Dexter’s staging offers a conventional approach to this unconventional opera, with wonderfully detailed interiors that give a sense of realism to this extraordinary score. While various obvious places in the video do not disclose the fact that this is a filmed opera rather than an opera conceived as a film, the direction gives a sense of intimacy which allows the viewers to observe the work from a closer perspective than if they were in the audience. It is a credit to the sensitivity of the production staff involved with the film that they were able to convey the interactions well, as in the finale scene of Act 2. Yet the film also gives a sense of this specific production with its closeups of Levine conducting from the pit, especially in the orchestral numbers that are part of Berg’s score.

One element unique to this production is the setting of the film music ingeniously. With its use of stills which resemble Manga, the section has a timeless quality which fits well into the live action used for the rest of the film. The sepia-tone images and art-deco are entirely appropriate to the production, with a good sense of cinematic continuity.

The cast was outstanding in its days and their efforts remain laudable. Julia Migenes, perhaps known best for her depiction of Carmen in the film of the opera, is a solid, convincing Lulu. In this role Migenes combines her strong acting abilities with her command of the role. Her coquettish behavior in the first act gives way to an increasingly manipulative persona, which Migenes also expresses well vocally. The penultimate scene in the third act gives a fine sense of how Migenes handles this complex role.

As Countess Geschwitz, Evelyn Lear gives a classic performance which merits attention for the details she brings to its performance. Lear’s Geschwitz is appealing for the dimensions it offers, as both a foil for some aspects of Lulu and as an individual with a compelling presence. Lear offers a Geschwitz with consummate style, which fits well into the production, especially in her impassioned final scene. Likewise, Kenneth Riegel’s Alwa is memorable for the musical and dramatic depth it offers. Riegel’s supple voice works well in this production, where his voice is neither lost in the full orchestral sound nor harsh in the more dramatic passages of the role.

The casting is evenly strong, with both the solo passages and ensembles well executed. The opening scene of the third act offers a brilliant rendering of the cocktail party depicted in the libretto, with the solo voices intersecting the ensemble and orchestra with appropriate style. Frank Mazura gives a strong performance in the dual role of Dr. Schön and Jack the Ripper, as does Andrew Foldi as Schigolch. These and the entire cast work well under Levine’s leadership, which shaped this performance from start to finish.

It is difficult to fault this classic performance of Lulu, except for some aspects that are out of the control of the Met. The color was fine for television in 1980, but it seems faded, even in this well-produced DVD. The sound is rendered well, but suffers at times from the necessary placement of microphones for the broadcast. While not a major obstacle, such details serve as reminders that this is a television broadcast, not a studio recording of the opera. Thus, the subtitles are entirely in English, as would occur in a broadcast. Yet it would be useful to have the original German text as an option for the subtitles.

With several productions of Lulu available on DVD, this one is a solid choice. Dramatically and musically compelling, this performance has much to recommend. The sensuality implicit in the score is not overtly depicted, and so the parental warnings that occur with other releases of this opera are absent from this video. More than that, this performance has historic significance for being part of the production that introduced the Met’s audiences to Berg’s famous 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):