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

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):