Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.







Recently in Recordings

“Nessun Dorma — The Puccini Album”

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.

Honegger: Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher

Marion Cotillard and Marc Soustrot bring the drama to the sweeping score of Arthur Honegger’s Jeanne dArc au bûcher, an adaptation of the Trial of Joan of Arc

Far in the Heavens — Choral Music of Stephen Paulus

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.

Review: You Promised Me Everything

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’.

Donizetti: Les Martyrs

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.

Green: Mélodies françaises sur des poèmes de Verlaine

Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and twentieth-century France

A worthy tribute for a vocal seductress of the ancient régime

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.

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

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.

Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail @ Hangar-7

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: Notturno

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 Sings Mahler Lieder

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.

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Hänsel und Gretel

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.

Magdalena Kožená: Love and Longing

Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano Magdalena Kožená.

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at the Lyric Opera of Chicago.

Amore e Tormento

Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’ 

Rivals—Arias for Farinelli & Co.

In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi. 

Verdi at the Old MET

With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s major opera houses today.

Italo Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre re

In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions. 



LSO0669 [SACD]
01 Jan 2013

Mahler: Symphony No. 8

Among the recent recordings of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, Valery Gergiev’s release on the LSO Live label is an excellent addition to the discography of this work.

Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 8

Viktoria Yastrebov, soprano, Ailish Tynan, soprano, Liudmila Dudinova, soprano, Lilli Passikivi, mezzo-soprano, Zlata Bulycheva, mezzo soprano, Sergey Semishkur, tenor, Alexey Markov, baritone, Evgeny Kikitin bass, Choir of Elthan College, Choral Arts Society of Washington, London Symphony Chorus, London Symphony Orchestra, Valery Gergiev, conductor.

LSO0669 [SACD]

$18.99  Click to buy

Gergiev’s conception of the first part, the Latin hymn Veni creator spiritus (tracks 1-6) conceived symphonically, is convincing and well-thought. The balances between textures, tempos, and dynamic levels represent the score faithfully in a dynamic reading of this piece. The choruses are notable for their refined sound, and clear diction, as evident from the start. It is a convincing performance that warrants attention among other recordings of the piece issued in the last few years.

As to this performance, the sense of musical narrative emerges readily as the extroverted opening “Veni creator spiritus” section is followed by the contrasting sections, which Gergiev delineates incisively. The architecture of this large-scale work becomes audibly apparent in this performance, with the various and shifting forces required for the “Accende lumen sensibus” section (track 4 on this recording) coming together with exceptional clarity. From that point, the movement drives forward, with the resulting sound evoking the composer’s synaesthesic comment to Willem Mengelberg about worlds and planets in motion. This exciting performance has the momentum that makes it stand out among recent recordings as a powerful and authoritative presentation of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony.

The second part, Mahler’s setting of the concluding section from Goethe’s Faust (tracks 7-18) is equally powerful. In contrast to the broad gestures required for the concluding “Gloria patri” of Veni creator spiritus, Gergiev is effective in presenting the more intimate structure of the opening of the piece, with the Anchorites’ music highly evocative. The orchestral details are nicely shaped, with the textures almost palpable as the music emerges from the almost imperceptible sounds of the first measures to the rich orchestral textures later in the section. This sets up the aria of the Pater Ecstaticus, and the vocal exchanges that follow. Here Gergiev’s deft approach to the orchestral accompaniment is apparent, as it supports the vocal line and also brings forward motifs with a sense of their function in the score. The result has the refinement of a studio recording while also conveying the dynamic qualities of a live performance. The prominent miking of the soloists allows them to be heard clearly in this recording, without overbalancing the result, especially in the richly textured choral sections.

In this regard, Gergiev’s soloists are uniform in their delivery, with well-chosen voices covering all the parts. Among the soloists, Sergey Semishkur is especially appealing in the role of Doctor Marianus, with his ringing sound and good diction bringing out the important part of the text. He handles the higher sections of the solo passage with ease and vibrant tone in this passage and in the penultimate “Blikket auf,” Doctor Marianus’s response to the “Komm” of the Mater Gloriosa. The other soloists are also memorable, as the strong principals complement the chorus in Mahler’s musical setting of this important example of Romantic literature. The dramatic qualities in this performance serve as a reminder of the ways in which Goethe’s Faust was an important part of Mahler’s reading and his intellectual world. This recording preserves Gergiev’s effort for future audiences to appreciate, especially the warmly colored “Chorus Mysticus” with which the work concludes. In the matter passage, Gergiev’s attention to details allows the various sonorities, to be heard distinctly. This is partly due to the well-considered tempos Gergiev used in realizing the performance indications and other markings Mahler used in this score. The full sounds of the conclusion resound vibrantly and triumphantly in this convincing reading of the score.

Based on performances given 8-10 July 2008 in St. Paul’s Cathedral, London, this recording benefits from thoughtful sound engineering that offers both the elegant presentation of details and also spacious sound. In addition, the CD includes a concise booklet with the full text of the Eighth Symphony and English translation, along with a full track list. The booklet also includes photos and biographical sketches of the soloists, It is unfortunate, though, that some media players reflect the tracks correctly, but identify the recording with BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra conducted by Donald Runnicles, rather than the LSO with Gergiev. Despite these small problems, this recording of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony is a strong addition to the recorded legacy, and those interested in the work will find much to offer in it. It is a strong and impressive part of Gergiev’s recent Mahler cycle.

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):