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Elsewhere

Il turco in Italia at the Aix Festival

Twenty years ago stage director Christopher Alden introduced Rossini’s then forgotten comedy to Southern California audiences in a production that is still remembered. In Aix Alden has revisited this complex work that many critics now consider Rossini’s greatest comedy.

First Night of the BBC Proms : Elgar The Kingdom

The BBC Proms 2014 season began with Sir Edward Elgars The Kingdom (1903-6). It was a good start to the season,which commemorates the start of the First World War. From that perspective Sir Andrew Davis's The Kingdom moved me deeply.

Le nozze di Figaro, Munich

One is unlikely to come across a cast of Figaro principals much better than this today, and the virtues of this performance indeed proved to be primarily vocal.

Winterreise and Trauernacht at the Aix Festival

That’s A Winter’s Journey and A Night of Mourning for metteurs-en-scène William Kentridge (South Africa) and Katie Mitchell (Great Britain), completing the clean sweep of English language stage directors for the Aix Festival productions this year.

James Gilchrist at Wigmore Hall

Assured elegance, care and thoughtfulness characterised tenor James Gilchrist’s performance of Schubert’s Schwanengesang at the Wigmore Hall, the cycles’ two poets framing a compelling interpretation of Beethoven’s An die ferne Geliebte.

Music for a While: Improvisations on Henry Purcell

‘Music for a while shall all your cares beguile.’ Dryden’s words have never seemed as apt as at the conclusion of this wonderful sequence of improvisations on Purcell’s songs and arias, interspersed with instrumental chaconnes and toccatas, by L’Arpeggiata.

Nabucco at Orange

The acoustic of the gigantic Théâtre Antique Romain at Orange cannot but astonish its nine thousand spectators, the nearly one hundred meter breadth of the its proscenium inspires awe. There was excited anticipation for this performance of Verdi’s first masterpiece.

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.

Saint Louis: A Hit is a Hit is a Hit

Opera Theatre of Saint Louis has once again staked claim to being the summer festival “of choice” in the US, not least of all for having mounted another superlative world premiere.

La Flûte Enchantée (2e Acte)
at the Aix Festival

In past years the operas of the Aix Festival that took place in the Grand Théâtre de Provence began at 8 pm. The Magic Flute began at 7 pm, or would have had not the infamous intermittents (seasonal theatrical employees) demanded to speak to the audience.

Ariodante at the Aix Festival

High drama in Aix. Three scenarios in conflict — those of G.F. Handel, Richard Jones and the intermittents (disgruntled seasonal theatrical employees). Make that four — mother nature.

Lucy Crowe, Wigmore Hall

The programme declared that ‘music, water and night’ was the connecting thread running through this diverse collection of songs, performed by soprano Lucy Crowe and pianist Anna Tilbrook, but in fact there was little need to seek a unifying element for these eclectic works allowed Crowe to demonstrate her expressive range — and offered the audience the opportunity to hear some interesting rarities.

The Turn of the Screw, Holland Park

‘Only make the reader’s general vision of evil intense enough … and his own experience, his own imagination, his own sympathy … will supply him quite sufficiently with all the particulars.

Plenty of Va-Va-Vroom: La Fille du Regiment, Iford

It is not often that concept, mood, music and place coincide perfectly. On the first night of Opera della Luna’s La Fille du Regiment at Iford Opera in Wiltshire, England we arrived with doubts (rather large doubts it should be admitted)as to whether Donizetti’s “naive and vulgar” romp of militarism and proto-feminism, peopled with hordes of gun-toting soldiers and praying peasants, could hardly be contained, surely, inside Iford’s tiny cloister?

La finta giardiniera, Glyndebourne

‘Lovers and madmen have such seething brains,/ Such shaping fantasies, that apprehend/ More than cool reason ever comprehends.’

Sophie Karthäuser, Wigmore Hall

Belgian soprano Sophie Karthäuser has a rich range of vocal resources upon which to draw: she has power and also precision; her top is bright and glinting and it is complemented by a surprisingly full and rich lower register; she can charm with a flowing lyrical line, but is also willing to take musical risks to convey emotion and embody character.

Ariadne auf Naxos, Royal Opera

‘When two men like us set out to produce a “trifle”, it has to become a very serious trifle’, wrote Hofmannsthal to Strauss during the gestation of their opera about opera.

Leoš Janáček : The Cunning Little Vixen, Garsington Opera at Wormsley

Janáček started The Cunning Little Vixen on the cusp of old age in 1922 and there is something deeply elegiac about it.

La Traviata in Marseille

It took only a couple of years for Il trovatore and Rigoletto to make it from Italy to the Opéra de Marseille, but it took La traviata (Venice, 1853) sixteen years (Marseille, 1869).

Madama Butterfly in San Francisco

Gesamtkunstwerk, synthesis of fable, sound, shape and color in art, may have been made famous by Richard Wagner, and perhaps never more perfectly realized than just now by San Francisco Opera.


OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Richard Strauss: <em>Notturno</em>
10 Jul 2014

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.  »

Recently in Recordings

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09 Jun 2014

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.  »

09 Sep 2013

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

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

27 Aug 2013

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.  »

27 Aug 2013

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.  »

22 Aug 2013

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.  »

19 Aug 2013

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.’   »

19 Aug 2013

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.  »

06 Aug 2013

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.  »

02 Aug 2013

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.   »

02 Aug 2013

Così fan tutte from DG

Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790.   »

31 Jul 2013

Heart’s Delight: The Songs of Richard Tauber

During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.  »

18 Jul 2013

Adriana Lecouvreur from Decca

Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.  »

08 Jul 2013

Lawrence Brownlee’s Spiritual Sketches

It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.  »

05 Jul 2013

Great Wagner Conductors from DG

As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive archives.  »

21 Jun 2013

Great Wagner Singers from DG

There could be no greater gift to the Wagnerian celebrating the Master’s Bicentennial than this compilation from Deutsche Grammophon, aptly entitled Great Wagner Singers.  »

16 Jun 2013

Adding Movie Magic to The Magic Flute

What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?  »

09 Jun 2013

L’Incoronazione di Poppea from Virgin Classics

Since its first performance at the Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo during Venice’s 1643 Carnevale, Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea has been one of the most important milestones in the genesis of modern opera despite its 250 years of unmerited obscurity.   »

04 Jun 2013

Saverio Mercadante: I due Figaro

Though 2013 is the bicentennial of the births of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, the releases of Cecilia Bartoli’s recording of Bellini’s Norma on DECCA, a new studio recording of Donizetti’s Caterina Cornaro from Opera Rara, and this première recording of Saverio Mercadante’s forgotten I due Figaro, suggest that this is the start of a summer of bel canto.  »

31 May 2013

Christian Thielemann’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Recording Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is for a record label equivalent to a climber reaching the summit of Mount Everest: it is the zenith from which a label surveys its position among its rivals and appreciates an achievement that can define its reputation for a generation.  »

30 May 2013

Cecilia Bartoli as Norma

Few people who love opera in general and bel canto in particular have never heard the comment made by Lilli Lehmann, veteran of the inaugural Ring at Bayreuth in 1876, that singing all three of Wagner’s Brünnhildes—in Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Götterdämmerung, respectively, all of which she sang to great acclaim—pales in comparison with singing the title rôle in Bellini’s Norma.   »

20 May 2013

Ariane et Barbe-Bleue on Blu-Ray

Paul Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, first heard in 1907, once seemed important. Arturo Toscanini conducted the Met premiere in 1911 with Farrar and later arranged some of its music for a 1947 recording with his NBC Symphony.  »

16 Apr 2013

Kaufmann Wagner

The economics of the recording companies dictate much that is not ideal. Wagner’s operas were not composed as they were in order to permit the extraction of bleeding chunks, even on those occasions when strophic song forms do occur.  »

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.  »

16 Nov 2012

Songs by Zemlinsky

While not unknown, the songs of Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942) deserve to be heard more frequently.  »

16 Nov 2012

Gustav Mahler: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert-Lieder, Kindertotenlieder.

Recorded on 5 and 6 May 2008 and 17 and 18 January 2009 at the Lisztzentrum (Raiding, Austria), this recent Bridge release makes available the piano-vocal versions of three song cycles by Gustav Mahler, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert-Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder performed by mezzo-soprano Hermine Haselböck, accompanied by Russell Ryan. »

10 Nov 2012

Kathleen Ferrier: A Film by Diane Perelsztejn

Contraltos rarely achieve the acclaim and renown of sopranos. Assigned few leading roles in opera, they are condemned to playing the villain or the grandmother, or to stealing the castrati’s trousers in en travesti roles.  »

10 Nov 2012

1612 Italian Vespers

Following their 2011 Decca recording of Striggio’s Mass in 40 Parts (1566), I Fagiolini continue their quest to unearth lost treasures of the High Renaissance and early Baroque, with this collection of world-premiere recordings, ‘reconstructions’ and ‘reconstitutions’ of music by Giovanni and Andrea Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Palestrina, and their less well-known compatriots Viadana, Barbarino and Soriano.  »

24 Aug 2012

Eternal Echoes: Songs and Dances for the Soul

Eternal Echoes is an album of khazones [Jewish cantorial music] for cantorial soloist, solo violin and a blended instrumental ensemble comprising a small orchestra and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.  »

14 Aug 2012

Mahler: Symphony no. 3 / Kindertotenlieder

Michael Tilson Thomas’s recording of Mahler’s Third Symphony is an outstanding contribution to the composer’s discography.  »

10 Aug 2012

Oliver Knussen’s Symphonies from NMC

Oliver Knussen burst into British music with an unprecedented flourish. In 1967, the London Symphony Orchestra premiered Knussen’s First Symphony, with István Kertész scheduled to conduct.  »

28 Jun 2012

Ludwig van Beethoven: Fidelio

Based on performances given in Summer 2010 at the Lucerne Festival, this recording of Beethoven’s Fidelio is an admirable recording that captures the vitality of the work as conducted by Claudio Abbado.  »

28 Jun 2012

Stanisław Moniuszko: Flis

Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) was one of the most popular composers of his day in Poland, and of the many works he wrote for the stage, two are performed from time to time, Halka (1848) and Strazny dwór [The Haunted Manor] (1865). »

28 Jun 2012

Stanisław Moniuszko: Pieśni Songs

The Polish alto Jadwiga Rappé is a familiar voice in various stage and concert works, and the recent release of a selection of songs by Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) is an opportunity to hear her performing artsongs.  »

25 May 2012

Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge: Serate Musicali

Originally released on multiple discs in 1981 this reissue on two CDs is a comprehensive collection of art songs by Italian and French composers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.  »

25 Apr 2012

Richard Strauss: Salome

An exciting contribution to the discography of this popular opera, the live performance of Richard Strauss’s Salome from the Festspielhaus at Baden-Baden is a compelling DVD.  »

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.  »

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.”  »

31 Mar 2012

Elmer Gantry the Opera

The novels of Sinclair Lewis once shot across the American literary skies like comets, alarming and fascinating readers of that era, but their tails didn’t extend far behind them.  »

28 Mar 2012

Historical Performances from Covent Garden: Barbiere, La traviata and Tosca

Once the province of only the most dedicated opera fanatics, mid-20th century recordings of privately taped live performances have become more widely available.  »

24 Mar 2012

Lucia and the glass harmonica

Flute players in opera orchestra around the world must look forward to the frequent appearances of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, knowing that while the stage spotlight in the mad scene will be on the soprano, the orchestral spotlight will be on their instrument.  »

19 Mar 2012

Levine conducts at the Metropolitan Opera: 1978 to 2006

Since his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1971, conductor James Levine has come to represent the house’s commitment to artistic excellence — reliable, professional, and immaculately presented.  »

12 Mar 2012

Netrebko and Garanča in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena

The cinema world has given us “star vehicle,” a term used to describe a movie that may not have the best script or direction but which suits a popular actor’s persona so well the film can fairly be called a successful entertainment.  »

04 Mar 2012

Previn conducts the LSO in the 1970s

André Previn’s leadership of the London Symphony Orchestra in the early 1970s resulted in some highly regarded recordings, including one of the classic accounts of Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony.  »

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.  »

27 Feb 2012

Mahler: Symphony No. 9

Based on performances given on 2 and 3 March 2011 (at the Barbican, London), Valery Gergiev’s recording of Mahler’s Ninth Symphony is an engaging and persuasive reading of the score.  »

24 Feb 2012

Fleming in Strauss’s Capriccio

Is there somewhere in Italian opera repertory where, as a comic interlude, the portentous clichés of German opera come in for a skewering amid the luscious sunshine of Italianate lyricism?  »

24 Feb 2012

Michael Spyres — A Fool for Love

Tenor Michael Spyres’ star is on the rise and his highly enjoyable debut recital disc offers ample proof as to why. »

16 Feb 2012

Pountney directs Verdi’s Forza for Vienna

One of the guiding principles of the revisionist (if not intervisionist) school of opera directing commonly called “regie-theater” is that certain outdated dramatic conventions in the librettos of many great operas can actually interfere with a contemporary audience’s ability to perceive the true artistic worth of the work of art.  »

08 Feb 2012

Gustav Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde

Recorded on 14 June 1964 at the Großer Saal of the Musikverein, Vienna, as part of the Wiener Festwochen, this legendary performance of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde was released in 2011 on Deutsche Grammophon.  »

08 Feb 2012

Gustav Mahler: Symphony No. 4

If Mahler’s Fourth Symphony is arguably one of his more familiar pieces, live performances of the work can vary depending on the abilities of the performers to meet the various challenges of the piece.  »

02 Feb 2012

Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde

Released in 2011, this disc reproduces a performance of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde that was recorded on 10 November 1989 at the Grzegorz Fitelberg Concert Hall, Katowice [Poland].  »

28 Dec 2011

Leoncavallo’s I Medici

Ruggero Leoncavallo’s name is forever tied to that of Pietro Mascagni.  »

28 Dec 2011

“‘I Heard a Voice’: the Music of the Golden Age”

In contrast to much music-making on the continent, English composers born in the last quarter of the sixteenth century seem to have embraced a notable degree of stylistic continuity.  »

28 Dec 2011

Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina e la Compagnia dei Musici di Roma, Messa di Santa Cecilia

Homage could take diverse forms in Counter-Reformation Rome, and this excellent recording by ensemble officium, Messa di Santa Cecilia, focuses on a particular instance that was interestingly polyvalent.  »

22 Dec 2011

Wilhelm Friedemann Bach Cantatas

In Wilhelm Weitsch’s well-known painting of Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, the eldest son of Johann Sebastian seems far distant from the cantorial world of his father.  »

19 Dec 2011

Operas of Jean-Philippe Rameau

Jean-Philippe Rameau, an organist and music theoretician, was active for much of his life in musical centers distant from the cultural juggernaut of Paris.  »

19 Dec 2011

San Marco in Hamburg: Motets by Hieronymus Praetorius

In the first part of the seventeenth century, the north German city of Hamburg spawned an unusually rich organ culture, with Jacob Praetorius, the younger, and Heinrich Scheidemann both pupils of the famous Dutch organist, Jan Pieterzoon Sweelinck, as leading figures.  »

18 Dec 2011

“A Year at King’s”

This recent recording of the men and boys from King’s College, Cambridge, is an anthology organized around the texts and themes of the liturgical year, a scheme that offers ample opportunity for diverse works—in that sense the recording feels something like a “sampler”—but a scheme that also reflects the real experience of the daily life of the choir which sings demanding choral services six days of the week in term time.  »

16 Dec 2011

Randal Turner Sings the Songs of Living American Composers

A self-published recording, baritone Randal Turner’s traversal of contemporary songs in English, Living American Composers, makes for a fine vocal calling card.  »

13 Dec 2011

Call Her Flott — Felicity Lott sings in English

Soprano Felicity Lott has concentrated her career in her UK homeland and in Europe, although she certainly has had her share of US appearances.  »

05 Dec 2011

Anne Sofie von Otter and Brad Mehldau: Love Songs

Brad Mehldau seems to be the “go to” jazz pianist for classically trained singers who want to venture into other musical territory than opera and lieder.  »

13 Nov 2011

Jonas Kaufmann as Werther and Cavaradossi

For some years now the opera world has reveled in the appearance of many fine lyric tenors, with Juan Diego Florez leading the charge.  »

09 Nov 2011

David Alden directs Cavalli’s Ercole Amante for Amsterdam, 2009

The operas of a composer born before the settlement of Jamestown face dim prospects of getting staged at the larger American houses.  »

05 Nov 2011

Lieberson’s Neruda Songs and Theofandis’s Symphony No. 1

In 2006 classical music lost one of its great singers — American mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, taken at the height of her career.  »

27 Oct 2011

Renée Fleming and Dmitri Hvorostovsky: A Musical Odyssey in St. Petersburg

Exactly what makes this entertaining, handsome video of Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Renée Fleming in concert an “odyssey”?  »

27 Oct 2011

Pavarotti at the Metropolitan Opera

Luciano Pavarotti died in September 2007, just short of his 72nd birthday and only a few years after his last performance at the Metropolitan Opera, in Tosca.  »

27 Oct 2011

Carmen returns to the Opéra Comique

“Historically Informed Performance” sure has a nice ring — not only does the acronym capture the trendiness of the movement (“HIP”), but one has to admire the subtle put-down the term encapsulates. »

12 Oct 2011

Simon Rattle’s Mahler 9

Recorded between 24 and 27 October 2008 at the Philhamonie in Berlin, this release offers the dynamism of a concert performance with the sound quality associated with EMI’s fine recordings.  »

12 Oct 2011

Sallinen’s The Red Line at Finnish National Opera, 2008

Some opera masterworks are admirable more than lovable — a distinction usually best revealed by the number of performances the work gets.  »

05 Oct 2011

Menotti in German

As long as one keeps in mind that historical value is not the same as aesthetic quality, this DVD of early 1960’s live German TV performances of two short Gian Carlo Menotti operas makes for fascinating viewing. »

30 Sep 2011

The music of Donnacha Dennehy

Love and Death is the name of one of Woody Allen’s earlier films, one built around parodies of Tolstoy and other Russian 19th century literary giants.  »

28 Sep 2011

Ioan Holender Farewell Concert

What better way for the long-reigning director of the Vienna State Opera, Ioan Holender, to celebrate the end of his time in the post than with a lengthy gala featuring such stars as Gergely Németi, Roxana Constantinescu, Krassimira Stoyanova, and Keith Ikaia-Purdy?  »

28 Sep 2011

Billy Budd at the Barbican

Among recent recordings of Britten’s opera Billy Budd, the recent release conducted by Daniel Harding has much to offer in terms of performance quality, interpretation, and also the quality of recording.  »

23 Sep 2011

Beecham conducts Delius

Frederick Delius counts among those many composers whose reputations rely on their orchestral efforts, but who dearly wanted to make a lasting contribution to the opera repertory.  »

21 Sep 2011

Willy Decker’s staging of Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron

As a rule the celebrated incomplete operas of the repertory eluded completion due to the untimely death of the composer.  »

15 Sep 2011

Bruckner: Symphony no. 9

Recorded on 31 October 2007 in the Großer Musikvereinssaal, Vienna, this performance of the Cleveland Orchestra offers a compelling interpretation of the three completed movements of Bruckner’s Ninth Symphony.  »

15 Sep 2011

L’Amour des trois oranges on CD and DVD

Opera companies around the world — though relatively few in the United States — cannot resist the temptation to stage Sergei Prokofiev’s first major opera.  »

12 Sep 2011

Munich’s Dialogues des Carmélites

Dialogues des Carmélites is a magnificently anti-operatic opera. »

09 Sep 2011

Les Troyens by La Fura dels Baus

When the opera opens, a chorus of Trojan is rejoicing that the Greeks have abandoned the war and gone home.  »

08 Sep 2011

Glyndebourne’s Billy Budd

Hermann Melville wrote a poem called “Fragments of a Lost Gnostic Poem of the Twelfth Century”: »

06 Sep 2011

Macbeth from Paris and Parma

Superstitions surround theatrical productions of Shakespeare’s Scottish tragedy.  »

30 Aug 2011

Carlos Kleiber — Traces to Nowhere

Film biographies of great musicians notoriously exhibit a preference for talking heads nattering on over any music passages.  »

27 Aug 2011

Nino Machaidze: Romantic Arias

The back cover of soprano Nino Machiadze’s debut solo recital from Sony Classical quotes her as describing the disc’s selection of arias as “my world, my successes to date and my hopes for the future.”  »

27 Aug 2011

Two one-act comic operas from New York Festival of Song

The New York Festival of Song, created and run by Steven Blier and Michael Barrett, dedicates itself to what one might call “American lieder” — art songs by top American composers, classic Broadway, and operatic numbers. »

25 Aug 2011

Rossini’s Armida from the Met HD Live

What is to be done about Armida?  »

20 Aug 2011

Donizetti’s Marino Faliero at the 2008 Bergamo Music Festival

Gaetano Donizetti is arguably the established opera composer with the highest ratio of failures to successes.  »

19 Aug 2011

Previn and Caird’s Brief Encounter

The chief classical music and opera critic for the Los Angeles Times often criticizes any new operas based on familiar films or classic novels, on the basis of artistic timidity and conservatism.  »

14 Aug 2011

Julia Lezhneva sings Rossini

It seems very appropriate that a record company called Naïve should elect to release a solo recital for a soprano in her very early 20s.  »

13 Aug 2011

Einojuhani Rautavaara’s Aleksis Kivi

Great characters are at the center of all operatic masterpieces, yet opera almost never treads into “operatic biography” territory.  »

13 Aug 2011

Théodore Gouvy’s Iphigénie en Tauride

Gounod you know, but how about Gouvy?  »

12 Aug 2011

Saint-Saëns’s Samson et Dalila in Antwerp

Bonus features on opera DVDs usually get generic names, such as “Interview” or “Backstage with…”  »

12 Aug 2011

Gergiev conducts Wagner’s Parsifal

A handsome black steed bows its head, eyes open, peering into the darkness around it. »

24 Jun 2011

Lehnhoff takes on Fanciulla for Netherlands Opera

It can be fascinating, although not necessarily pleasant, to see oneself through the eyes of others. »

16 Jun 2011

Wagner’s Rienzi in Berlin

The Voltaire maxim usually given in English as “The perfect is the enemy of the good” illuminates the artistic conflicts surrounding many a Wagner production.  »

03 Jun 2011

The Metropolitan Opera HD Live on DVD

Since 2006, movie cineplexes across the USA have attracted a somewhat unlikely crowd for Saturday matinees, from fall to spring.  »

31 May 2011

Bach Cantatas, volume 11

Pilgrimages, I suspect, derive a degree of their fruitfulness from the slowness of the journey, a pace born of desire or necessity, that removes the journey from the quotidian, brings the purpose into greater focus, and allows for a richer savoring of the experience. »

31 May 2011

Le Royaume Oublié: La Tragédie Cathare

Before a single track has been heard, Jordi Savall’s The Forgotten Kingdom impresses with its scale: a three-CD set packaged in a lavish, bound book that contains fifty dense pages of English commentary by nine different authors; adding the multiple translations, beautiful illustrations, and song texts, the book itself luxuriantly sprawls over 500 pages. »

21 May 2011

Benvenuto Cellini

Philipp Stölzl’s production of Benvenuto Cellini, from the 2007 Salzburg Festival, is weird almost beyond belief.  »

20 May 2011

Elizabeth Schwarzkopf in Der Rosenkavalier

Classic films often receive the honor of a full “restoration,” especially when a new viewing format appears. »

20 May 2011

John Adams: Nixon in China

A quarter century having passed since its premiere, Nixon in China appears to have secured a niche in the opera repertoire, at least of American opera houses.  »

23 Mar 2011

Philip Glass’s Orphée

With voices of doom predicting the end of the CD format — supposedly to be replaced by downloading — the ancillary art of CD packaging also faces a grim future.  »

18 Mar 2011

Bellini’s I Puritani in Bologna

Vincenzo Bellini’s operas are pure bel canto, with beautiful singing placed above all other considerations.  »

12 Mar 2011

Gheorghiu and Domingo in Giordano’s Fedora

A major label release of a new studio recording of a full opera — with the traditional booklet/libretto — wanders onto the scene almost like a lost and lonely unicorn.  »

10 Mar 2011

Cecilia Bartoli in Halévy’s Clari

A key measure of operatic star power is the ability to get an obscure work staged — think Joan Sutherland and her run in Massenet’s Esclarmonde, an outlandish wallow in orchestral excess ladled over a libretto of unfathomable goofiness.  »

09 Mar 2011

Déodat De Séverac: Le Coeur du Moulin

Interesting recordings continue to be produced in the classical music business by smaller labels with particular niche markets. For the label Timpani, their specialty tends to be rarer French repertoire.  »

21 Feb 2011

Der zerbrochene Krug / Der Zwerg

Der zerbrochene Krug is a very short opera by Viktor Ullmann, based on a comedy by Kleist, concerning the fall of man. »

02 Feb 2011

I Puritani, Glyndebourne 1960

It’s a joy to watch an athlete finding her legs, especially when you know she’ll achieve her feat superbly, matchlessly, with supreme grace. I first heard Sutherland sing I Puritani (three times) during the famous Met run of 1976. »

01 Feb 2011

Gustav Mahler: Symphonies nos. 1 & 9

Issued together, this set includes recordings from two different times, with Mahler’s First Symphony based on performances from 10, 11, and 23 March 2003, and the Ninth from performances between 1 and 3 June 2006.  »

31 Jan 2011

Mark Adamo, Little Women

Mark Adamo’s opera, based on the famous novel by Louisa May Alcott, contains one extraordinary scene, a model of how to adapt fiction into opera. »

28 Jan 2011

Mehta conducts Verdi’s La Forza del Destino on Blu-Ray

A recent news report on entertainment technology noted that sales of “regular” DVDs had plummeted in recent years, while the newer Blu-Ray format has seen substantial increases.  »

19 Jan 2011

Mahler: Symphony no. 7

Based on performances give between 3 and 5 November 2005 at Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool, the recent release of Mahler’s Seventh Symphony is an excellent addition to the discography of this work.  »

19 Jan 2011

La Bohème at Covent Garden, 2009

The Royal Opera at Covent Garden has hit on a way to revitalize a vintage production — hire a fresh cast of virtually unknown singers.  »

18 Jan 2011

Mahler: Symphony No. 3.

A recent addition to Valery Gergiev’s Mahler cycle with the London Symphony Orchestra, the SACD recording of the Third Symphony has much to recommend.  »

11 Jan 2011

Simon Boccanegra, Bologna 2007

This beautifully realized production of Verdi’s somber masterpiece of political intrigue and father/daughter reconciliation could be a complete success except for one missing element — memorable singing.  »

09 Jan 2011

King Roger at Bregenz Festival 2009

Long-dormant operas sometimes rise to meet a new dawn only to then slink away like the creatures of the night they were doomed to be — seductive but dangerous to approach.  »

07 Jan 2011

Rienzi on DVD

Wagner and Verdi were born within 6 months of each other. Rienzi, der letzte der Tribunen comes from 1840, and could in some ways be Wagner’s Simon Boccanegra. »

31 Dec 2010

Aida at Bregenz Festival 2009

Some years ago a witty soul coined the term “jumping the shark” to identify the point at which any long-running television program had exploited all its innate story/character development possibilities and had to resort to ridiculous plot contrivances and spectacle to keep the episodes — and paychecks — coming.  »

31 Dec 2010

Adriana Lecouvreur at Teatro Regio Torino 2009

The Royal Opera at Covent Garden just made something of a splash in international opera news with a star-encrusted revival of an opera once quite popular and yet in recent years — Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur.  »

28 Dec 2010

Mozart at Salzburg Festival: Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte

Once a preserve of opulent traditional productions, the summer Salzburg Festival has become a destination for viewing more cutting edge stagings.  »

27 Dec 2010

100 Best Verdi from EMI Classics

New recordings of classical music don’t appear from the “big labels” very often these days, but those companies have enormous libraries from which to extract selections for compilation discs.  »

12 Dec 2010

Johann Adolph Hasse: Antonio e Cleopatra

Johann Adolph Hasse (1699-1783) was arguably the most successful opera composer of the 18th century. Together with his favourite librettist, Pietro Metastasio, Hasse defined the genre of opera seria for an entire generation. »

01 Dec 2010

Philip Glass: Itaipu and Three Songs for choir a cappella

Philip Glass has achieved a level of success that places him in a very select group of composers of serious music.  »

18 Nov 2010

Karita Mattila: Helsinki Recital

Ondine provides a nice bonus for fans of Karita Mattila in its recent DVD release of a 2006 Helsinki recital with accompanist Martin Katz.  »

11 Nov 2010

El Nuevo Mundo: Folias Criollas

Our modern globalized perspective makes us alert to the cultural richness of difference, much as it ironically also seems to blur distinctions with ease of access.  »

10 Nov 2010

Mahler: The Complete Works

The commemorate the sesquicentennial of Mahler’s birth in 1860, EMI has released an exceptional set of its recordings in a single box.  »

08 Nov 2010

Jessye Norman — Roots: My Life, My Song

A career of the highest stature earns the professional the right to do as she or he pleases, after decades of dedicated achievement.  »

29 Oct 2010

Wagner: Wesendonck-Lieder, Preludes and Overtures

A great vintage Mercury album of Antal Dorati conducting Wagner overtures and preludes featured as a cover a close-up of a medieval chalice, undoubtedly meant to reference the Parsifal excerpt on the enclosed disc.  »

24 Oct 2010

The Metropolitan Opera Gala 1991

The 50th anniversary of the Metropolitan Opera at the Lincoln Center is just a few years away, so, with something less than dispatch, a DVD of the 25th anniversary Gala appears.  »

24 Oct 2010

Kirsten Flagstad sings Wagner & Strauss

Kirsten Flagstad’s voice remains connected to the music of Richard Wagner through the recordings that continue to bring her performances to new audiences.  »

17 Oct 2010

Haendel: Water Music; Music for The Royal Fireworks

The “popular” Handel is firmly entrenched in the collective culture with a handful of pieces: the Christmas portion of Messiah, the “Largo” from Serse (in fact, “Larghetto,” but collective culture is hard to convince), and instrumental suites of the Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks come immediately to mind.  »

10 Oct 2010

Anonymous 4: The Cherry Tree

In the popular view, the modern celebration of Christmas seems to have begun with Charles Dickens’s revivifying A Christmas Carol (1843). »

10 Oct 2010

Rossini’s Otello at Rossini in Wildbad Festival, 2008

As good a performance of Rossini’s opera as this disc provides, for some equal entertainment value may potentially arise from the booklet essay by one Bernd-Rüdiger Kern (as translated into English by David Stevens).  »

10 Oct 2010

Schumann: The Complete Symphonies, Mahler Edition

Mahler’s well-known revisions of music he conducted include the four symphonies by Robert Schumann, and while these Retuschen have been performed from time to time, a recording of all four of them is now available from Decca.  »

06 Oct 2010

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 5

Based on performances given on 18 and 21 October 2008 and 16 and 17 January 2009, this recording of the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra offers its latest release of Mahler’s Fifth Symphony, a work associated with the group since the composer’s lifetime.  »

19 Sep 2010

Gustav Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde

Vocally impressive, Michael Tilson Thomas’s new recording of Gustav Mahler’s symphonic song cycle Das Lied von der Erde merits attention for various reasons.  »

14 Sep 2010

The Rake’s Progress at Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie

At some point it became a matter of honor for elite composers to have at least one go at a full length opera.  »

12 Sep 2010

Julius Röntgen: Aus Goethes Faust.

The release of Röntgen’s Faust setting on CPO makes available a recording of yet another composer’s perspective on Goethe’s famous dramatic poem.  »

07 Sep 2010

Diana Damrau in Recital at Salzburg Festival

Recorded live on 13 August 2005, this recent release on the Orfeo label in its Festspiel Dokumente imprint makes available a recital given by soprano Diana Damrau and pianist Stephan Matthias Lademann during the 2005 Salzburg Festival and given at the Mozarteum.  »

30 Aug 2010

Puccini’s Edgar at the Teatro Regio Torino

A world premiere of a new opera holds the promise of an exciting new addition to the fairly calcified collection of masterpieces that comprise the standard repertory.  »

29 Aug 2010

Brahms: Lieder

Like her impressive recording of Lieder by Dvořák (Harmonia Mundi CD 901824), Bernarda Fink’s recording of a selection of Lieder by Brahms not only offers a fine representation of the music, but also demonstrate the singer’s command of this repertoire.  »

29 Aug 2010

David McVicar’s Salome

This high-concept Salome takes place in Nazi Germany.The set has two levels: on top, Herod revels with the banqueters; below, we see a dingy basement, full of kitchen workers, relaxed soldiers, and the prostitutes who help them relax.  »

24 Aug 2010

Jean Sibelius: Kullervo, Op. 7.

Sibelius’s 1892 symphonic poem for soloists, chorus, and orchestra is in the tradition of the cantata-like symphonies of the nineteenth century, as found in Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang or Mahler’s Second Symphony.  »

24 Aug 2010

Lulu at Covent Garden

One of the leading lights of Berg’s Vienna was the architect Adolf Loos, the great crusader against ornament.  »

24 Aug 2010

Un ballo in maschera at the Teatro Real

The greatest dramatic tenor and soprano roles have proven irresistible to Marcelo Alvarez, who started primarily as a lyric tenor, and Violeta Urmana, whose first career success came as a mezzo.  »

18 Aug 2010

Tristan und Isolde, Bayreuth 2009

As the prelude plays, we see circles of fluorescent light moving slowly in uncertain black space. Are we seeing flights of flying saucers, as in Close Encounters of the Third Kind?  »

18 Aug 2010

Schumann’s Genoveva

Robert Schumann’s only opera Genoveva (1850) is best known as a failure in its time and has since fallen into the list of succès d’estime, but with this new release, based on a production intended for television, conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt champions the work in his second recording of the score.  »

15 Aug 2010

Marco Polo at Het Muziektheater, Amsterdam

Does this Tan Dun opera prove or disprove that for East and West, the twain shall never meet?  »

22 Jul 2010

The Adventures of Pinocchio

The operas of British composer Jonathan Dove enjoy a fairly high level of both critical and popular support in the U.K., where his best known work, Flight, premiered at the prestigious Glyndebourne Festival.  »

15 Jul 2010

Dialogues des Carmélites from Hamburg

Poulenc’s only full-length opera is widely admired and not infrequently performed, but its claustral nature makes it tricky to stage. »

14 Jul 2010

The Fairy Queen at Glyndebourne on Blu-Ray

This Glyndebourne production is, as far as I know, the first recording of any semi-opera that manages to impart a strong sense of what this peculiar, and peculiarly British, genre is like.  »

13 Jul 2010

Parsifal on Blu-Ray

In 1881 Wagner and his wife were discussing the myth of Eros and Anteros, and Wagner remarked, “Anteros is Parsifal.” Wagner considered Parsifal a figure opposed to sexual love, Eros’s opposite.  »

27 Jun 2010

Massenet's Thaïs at Teatro Regio Torino

What sort of production would be optimal for an opera that with more style than content? »

18 Jun 2010

Valencia Ring: Götterdämmerung

Recorded in May and June 2008, this new Unitel Classica Blu-Ray disc of Götterdämmerung is the final opera in the staging of Richard Wagner’s Ring der Nibelungen staged at the Palau de les Arts “Reina Sofia”, Valencia, by La Fura dels Baus, Valencia, conducted by Zubin Mehta, and directed by Carlus Padrissa.  »

18 Jun 2010

Verdi's Falstaff at The Metropolitan Opera, 1992

A Franco Zeffirelli production for The Metropolitan Opera typically prompts the use of adjectives such as “grandiose,” or “gorgeous” on the positive end or “gaudy” and “gratuitous” on the negative.  »

09 Jun 2010

Valencia Ring: Siegfried.

Siegfried is a challenging opera to stage effectively, and the presentation by La Fura dels Baus in Zubin Mehta’s new Ring cycle merits attention on various counts.  »

27 May 2010

Valencia Ring: Die Walküre

The second of Zubin Mehta’s new Ring cycle on DVD, the staging of Die Walküre by La Fura dels Baus, is as engaging as the production of Das Rheingold in its innovative presentation and effective performance of one of Wagner’s most popular operas.  »

20 May 2010

Great Operatic Arias with Gerald Finley

Listeners who have appreciated Gerald Finley’s stylish and moving singing of baritone roles in operas by Mozart and other composers will be pleased with the recent CD release of Great Operatic Arias in English. »

18 May 2010

Bellini's Norma at Gran Teatre del Liceu

Some fortunate operas have any number of fine live versions available on DVD.  »

17 May 2010

Valencia Ring: Das Rheingold

Recorded live at the Palau de les Arts “Reina Sofia”, Valencia, this new video of Richard Wagner’s Das Rheingold is based on the staging of La Fura dels Baus, with Carlus Padrissa, stage director, and featuring an international cast conducted by Zubin Mehta.  »

20 Apr 2010

Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk on Blu-Ray

Previously released on DVD, the Netherlands Opera recording of Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk  »

20 Apr 2010

Aaron Copland's score for The City

This disc neatly captures a central dichotomy of the career of composer Aaron Copland.  »

19 Apr 2010

Tosca at Torre del Lago, 2007

Opera festival DVDs often seem to be produced as tempting advertisements meant to induce viewers to consider a trip to that festival for the next season.  »

11 Apr 2010

Covert resistance to Hitler — Hartmann’s Simplicius Simplicissimus

An anti-facist, anti-war opera written in Germany while the Nazis were in power? K A Hartmann’s Des Simplicius Simplicissimus Jugend was a brave act of conscience, even though the opera wasn't publicly performed until 1948. »

03 Apr 2010

Verdi’s Falstaff (Glyndebourne 2009) on Blu-Ray

Much of the fascination of the new DVD of Verdi’s Falstaff (Glyndebourne 2009) lies in the Richard Jones’s updating: the action takes place in 1946.  »

01 Apr 2010

Otello (Salzburg Festival 2008) on Blu-Ray

There are two reasons why you need to see the new Otello DVD (Salzburg Festival 2008).  »

29 Mar 2010

Madama Butterfly, NYCO

Once again, as in L’Etoile, Mark Lamos’s staging and Robert Wierzel’s lighting nearly steal the show in the City Opera’s revival of Madama Butterfly.  »

27 Mar 2010

Harrison Birtwistle: The Minotaur

Premiered on 15 April 2008, The Minotaur is Harrison Birtwistle’s latest opera, and it stands well with the composer’s other stage work.  »

25 Mar 2010

Eva Marton in Puccini and Strauss

At one point in her career, Eva Marton appeared poised to be the true inheritor of Birgit Nilsson’s legacy roles: Wagner and Strauss’s most dramatic heroines, as well as key Italian roles (Puccini in particular).  »

17 Mar 2010

Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande

Five years after the première of Pelléas et Mélisande, Wilhelm Worringer published the twentieth century’s first great treatise on abstraction in art: »

17 Mar 2010

Karl Böhm: In Rehearsal and Performance

For many, the fine recordings of Richard Strauss’s tone poem Don Juan by the late Karl Böhm seem to have emerged full-spring from the baton of Karl Böhm and the playing of the various orchestras he led.  »

08 Mar 2010

Puccini: La Rondine

Throughout his relatively long and decidedly successful career, Giacomo Puccini returned to those operas of his that had not, immediately or eventually, secured an important place in the standard repertory.  »

10 Feb 2010

Rossini: La Cenerentola

Michael Hampe seems to have been the director of choice in the 1980s for tastefully traditional Rossini productions.  »

28 Jan 2010

Simon Boccanegra, New York

The Times used to have a music critic who seemed to feel that singing, especially in costume, didn’t count as serious music, though he reviewed opera anyway.  »

25 Jan 2010

Dido and Aeneas by Les Arts Florissants

We all wish Henry Purcell had written a few more operas like Dido and Aeneas — simple to cast, simple to stage, offering endless possibilities for either reserved or outrageous treatment, attractive to every sort of audience.  »

22 Jan 2010

Respighi — Works for solo voice and orchestra

While Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) is best known to modern audiences for his colorful programmatic works associated with Italian locations, his vocal music is also engaging.  »

14 Jan 2010

Britten: Peter Grimes

Are you sitting comfortably?  »

11 Dec 2009

Puccini Romance

This disc faces a marketplace already crowded with similar compilations from major companies who can raid their archives to offer competitive interpretations at bargain prices.  »

11 Dec 2009

Emma Matthews in Monte Carlo

Emma Matthews is an English born soprano currently resident in Australia where she has sung with the state based opera companies as well as the national company Opera Australia where she is currently a soloist.  »

17 Nov 2009

Lorin Maazel conducts Verdi and Puccini at La Scala

In the mid-1980s (just before the Riccardo Muti era began), Lorin Maazel often ruled the conductor's roost at La Scala.  »

11 Nov 2009

Schubert: Fierrabras

The worlds of lieder and opera seem to share the same galaxy, while being countless light years apart.  »

11 Nov 2009

Muti conducts Domingo in Verdi's Otello

The December opening of the La Scala season requires a notable production, and in 2001 a gorgeous new production of Verdi's Otello fit the bill.  »

26 Oct 2009

Pascal Dusapin: Faustus, the Last Night

Pascal Dusapin (b. 1955) is an engaging composer, and his recent works includes a chamber opera entitled Faustus, the Last Night, a unique setting of the legend and a fine contribution to modern opera.  »

11 Oct 2009

Czech Opera Treasures on Supraphon

A note on the inside back cover of the booklets for these two releases announces that they are part of a new Supraphon series dedicated to “archive recordings of complete operas not yet available on CD.”  »

11 Oct 2009

Donizetti's Maria Stuarda at the Sferisterio Festival

A number of performances from the Sferisterio Opera Festival have been released in recent months.  »

11 Oct 2009

Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Videos from the Bayreuth Festspiele typically feature the highest quality audio and video of any live performance documents.  »

11 Oct 2009

Toscanini: In His Own Words

The back cover description of this Medici Arts DVD can fairly be called misleading, though not dishonest.  »

11 Oct 2009

Giordano: Marcella

Although this DVD comes on the Naxos label, an earlier CD version of the same performance went under the Dynamic label, specialists in rare repertory.  »

11 Oct 2009

Johann Strauss: Das Spitzentuch der Königin

Dear non-German speaking Opera Today reader — what's your first guess as to the meaning of the biggest word in the title of this obscure Johann Strauss operetta?  »

11 Oct 2009

Siegfried Wagner: Der Schmeid von Marienburg

Will the 22nd century still see the opera-loving world as fascinated by the ongoing saga of the Wagner family as the 20th did and the 21st does?  »

04 Oct 2009

John Gay: The Beggar's Opera

The only thing truly operatic in this work is the use of the word “opera” in the title.  »

04 Oct 2009

Zandonai: Francesca Da Rimini

Besotted admirers of certain lesser-known operas of debatable merit sometimes include conductors, singers and opera house managers with the power to get their cherished rarity on stage.  »

20 Sep 2009

Cecilia Bartoli: Maria

While the cover of this Decca two-DVD set mirrors that of Cecilia Bartoli's 2007 CD, Maria, the contents are not identical.  »

20 Sep 2009

Anna Karenina: An Opera by David Carlson, Libretto by Colin Graham

Reading the articles in the booklet for this set, it becomes clear that librettist Colin Graham was the driving force behind this opera's creation.  »

15 Sep 2009

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 4 in G major

The legacy of the late conductor Giuseppe Sinopoli includes a number of fine recordings of Mahler’s music, and among them is his Deutsche Grammophon recording of the composer’s Fourth Symphony with the Philharmonia Orchestra and the soprano Edita Gruberova.  »

15 Sep 2009

Handel/arranged by Mendelssohn: Israel in Egypt

If, dear reader, a desire has ever swept over you (a desire such as a pregnant woman's craving for vanilla ice cream with pickles) to hear music reminiscent of both Messiah and the Fingal's Cave overture, CPO is just the musical ice cream parlor/deli for you.  »

10 Sep 2009

Verdi: La battaglia di Legnano

The true opera fan devotes almost as much time, if not more, to the "what might have been" careers as to those of the superstars.  »

10 Sep 2009

Richard Strauss: Elektra

Archival radio recordings of complete operas seldom have ideal sound, but the audio is usually sharper than that of a live performance while still carrying a comparable dramatic immediacy.  »

09 Sep 2009

Mahler: Symphony no. 1

Among the important recent cycles of Mahler’s symphonies is the one underway by Valery Gergiev with the London Symphony Orchestra.  »

09 Sep 2009

Fidelio from Glyndebourne and Medici Arts

Beethoven’s Fidelio is actually several works combined — a rescue opera in the grand style of the French revolution, a sentimental comedy focusing on mistaken identity, and a tragédie bourgeoise involving a husband, a wife, and their efforts to re-unite despite the actions of a relentless and implacable foe.  »

09 Sep 2009

Danielle de Niese: The Mozart Album

After thoroughly enjoying Daneille de Niese’s recording Handel Arias, I jumped at the chance to review her new recording, The Mozart Album. Her Handel interpretation was full of coloratura, clarity and virtuosity, along with an organic fusion of music serving drama. So I was eager to hear her perform Mozart.  »

09 Sep 2009

Franco Corelli: The Tenor as Hero

This 4-CD set gathers together solo recital material and extracts from complete opera sets that Franco Corelli recorded between 1959 and 1968, the prime of his career.  »

30 Aug 2009

Gustav Mahler: Songs from Des Knaben Wunderhorn

Following from the fine collaboration between Stephan Genz and Roger Vignoles on an ambitious collection of various sets of Mahler’s Lieder (Hyperion CD 67392), which includes some of the composer’s early settings of poetry from the anthology Des Knaben Wunderhorn, the present recording contains thirteen later settings from that source.  »

30 Aug 2009

Bellini: Il Pirata

This 1958 RAI broadcast of Bellini's early masterpiece requires the accustomed aural compromise for maximum enjoyment.  »

30 Aug 2009

Verdi's Macbeth at the Sferisterio Opera Festival

The opera venue at Macerata shares some features with its famous counterpart in Verona: both are outdoors, with huge stages that can accommodate spectacular productions.  »

30 Aug 2009

Lehär: Die Blaue Mazur

As the detail-filled booklet essay to this CPO set reminds its readers, Franz Lehär's operettas enjoyed widespread, though rarely lasting, success, with the music theater world of the time eager for each successive work.  »

30 Aug 2009

Franz Schreker : Die Gezeichneten, Salzburg

Franz Schreker’s Die Gezeichneten isn't the easiest opera to produce, with its grand effects, but this production comes close to being a perfect union between stage and music.  »

23 Aug 2009

Boito: Mefistofele

The bravura performance by Ferruccio Furlanetto in the title role is spoiled by the kitschy and incoherent staging of this production. Mefistofele is unique among operas based on the Faust legend in that it rather closely adheres to Goethe’s version.  »

23 Aug 2009

Paul Hindemith: Die junge Magd, Op. 23, no. 2; Ernst Toch: Die chinesische Flöte, Op. 29.

Gustav Mahler was not alone in setting verses from Hans Bethge’s collection of Chinese-inspired poetry entitled Die chinesische Flöte, as he did in his symphonic song cycle Das Lied von der Erde.  »

23 Aug 2009

The Full Monteverdi: A Film by John la Bouchardière

Although the cutesy title sounds like something conjured up by a community college marketing intern working for a mid-sized city orchestra’s ticket office—where every concert featuring Wagner and Brahms gets the sobriquet “Teutonic Titans”—don’t be put off by the moniker. This film is a brilliant adaptation of Monteverdi’s Fourth Book of Madrigals that is totally faithful to the composer’s music. »

23 Aug 2009

Wagner's Tannhaüser at the Festspielhaus Baden-Baden

Good directors don't always create good productions.  »

23 Aug 2009

Maconchy: The Sofa & The Departure

The two one-act operas - operettes? - on this disc play something like mediocre episodes of The Twilight Zone set to music, though without the quirky memorability of that show's opening theme.  »

17 Aug 2009

Verdi: Luisa Miller

On a good night an opera performance can come across with visceral excitement without a classy production, top-name singers, or the benefit of being of one of the more familiar titles.  »

17 Aug 2009

Verdi: Falstaff

Those opera lovers prone to rage at the perceived dominance of the director in their beloved art form today may collapse in apoplexy at this first release from the company called SignumVision.  »

17 Aug 2009

And If The Song Be Worth A Smile — Songs by American Composers

The word "living" would be a fitting addition to the subtitle of this collection of "Songs by American Composers."  »

17 Aug 2009

Bellini: Norma

"An all-American Norma," Roger Pines calls this release in his entertaining booklet essay.  »

09 Aug 2009

Monteverdi: L’incoronozione di Poppea

This excellent production of Monteverdi’s final (premiered in 1643) and most problematic opera features first-rate singing and a very effective (and restrained) staging.  »

07 Aug 2009

Discovering Masterpieces of Classical Music — Béla Bartók: Concerto for Orchestra

In the Euroarts series Discovering Masterpieces of Classical Music: Documentary & Performance, the volume devoted to Béla Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra stands out as a particularly accessible and well-executed release.  »

07 Aug 2009

Donizetti: L'Elisir d'amore

For adherents of the prima voce school of opera appreciation, this Laurent Pelly production of Donizetti's comic masterpiece may not hold that much appeal.  »

03 Aug 2009

Vivaldi: La fida ninfa

Although Antonio Vivaldi’s instrumental compositions were highly popular in his lifetime, and have been held in high regard throughout the centuries, most of his operas have been — until recently — relegated to obscurity.  »

03 Aug 2009

Puccini: Madama Butterfly

EMI's publicity for this studio recording focuses on soprano Angela Gheorghiu and her portrayal of Cio-Cio-San.  »

02 Aug 2009

Donizetti: Lucrezia Borgia

Of Donizetti's 55 operas, four to five hold on to secure places in the repertory, a much greater number are all but unknown, and in the middle come the titles that see occasional revivals, as flawed but fascinating rarities.  »

02 Aug 2009

Verdi: La Forza del Destino

This looks like a winner, with an esteemed conductor (Zubin Mehta), top-rank cast (Violeta Urmana, Marcello Giordani, Carlo Guelfi), and a production directed by Nicholas Joël that originated at the Opernhaus Zürich, a house that takes some chances and scores some successes.  »

29 Jul 2009

Busoni: Doktor Faust

The legacy of Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924) includes some notable compositions, and among them is his unique setting of the Faust story.  »

22 Jul 2009

Mozart: Die Entführung aus dem Serail

The strategies of non-traditional opera directors are becoming as predictable and formulaic as the stuffy, static traditional productions that they work so hard not to emulate.  »

20 Jul 2009

Rossini: Il Turco in Italia

If the economic downturn has canceled some opera lovers plans to attend any of the appealing European summer festivals, perhaps a trip online will find a DVD of a production from a recent year.  »

09 Jul 2009

DONIZETTI: Don Gregorio

Like a baseball player with a low batting average but a propensity for home runs, Gaetano Donizetti composed dozens of operas, among which only a very few get frequent performances today.  »

09 Jul 2009

DVOŘÁK: Král a uhlíř (The King and the Charcoal Burner)

Years before Antonin Dvořák composed his most famous opera Rusalka (1900), he completed a series of works in the genre which contributed to his reputation and skill in this genre.  »

07 Jul 2009

Benjamin Britten: A Time There Was. . .

With its’ title taken from the composer’s Suite of English Folk Tunes, Op. 90, Tony Palmer’s film Benjamin Britten: A Time There Was… is a solid documentary assembled from interviews, rehearsal clips, photographs and other audio-visual materials to create a vivid portrait of the composer.  »

25 Jun 2009

SCHUBERT: Alfonso und Estrella

What is the worst opera with the best music?  »

24 Jun 2009

MAHLER: Symphony no. 8

The Gala release of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony from Hamburg performances on 29 and 30 November 1954 serves to document further the composer’s presence in the concerto hall prior to the well-known Mahler-renewal in 1960.  »

17 Jun 2009

Mozart: Idomeneo

“Mozart's first mature masterpiece,” Sophie Becker calls Idomeneo in the booklet essay of this DVD set of a June 2008 Bayerische Staatsoper staging.  »

15 Jun 2009

La Scala at the Movies: Donizetti's Maria Stuarda and Wagner's Tristan und Isolde

From the La Scala series of filmed productions come two excellent DVDs, one an incisive and contemporary staging by Patrice Chereau of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde, and the other a rip-roaring, old-fashioned (in the best sense) performance of Donizetti's flawed but entertaining Maria Stuarda.  »

12 Jun 2009

Otto Nicolai: Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor

Otto Nicolai's Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor belongs to that somewhat purgatorial group of operas best remembered only for their overtures.  »

21 May 2009

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Lieder, Salzburg 1958-1984.

In its recent collection Mozart Lieder, Salzburg 1958-1984 in its series entitled “Festspiel Dokumente,” Orfeo pays homage to the tradition of Liederabend at the Salzburg Festival with selections from a quarter century of performances.  »

14 May 2009

Weber’s Der Freischütz at Zurich Opera House

On any list of great but seldom-performed operas, Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz must rank high.  »

14 May 2009

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 3

Recorded live in concert on 19 August 2007, this performance of Gustav Mahler's Third Symphony by Claudio Abbado is part of the conductor's cycle involving the Lucerne Festival.  »

12 May 2009

Janáček: Jenůfa and Kátya Kabanová

Recorded four years apart, these two classic recordings of Leos Janáček's dramatic masterpieces now reappear in Decca's The Originals series, thankfully still with full librettos and excellent booklet essays.  »

07 May 2009

Franz Lehár: Das Land des Lächelns

Doris Sennefelder's booklet essay for this CPO recording of Lehar's Das Land des Lächelns details how close the composer was to Puccini.  »

26 Apr 2009

Wolf-Ferrari: La vedova scaltra (“The Cunning Widow”).

One of the five operas Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari (1876-1948) based on plays by Carlo Goldoni, La vedova scaltra (1748) is a comedy about a widow’s decision to use deception to choose among her suitors.  »

26 Apr 2009

Barbers in Baghdad and Seville

Razor-wielding rascals involve themselves in romantic complications in the two sets considered here, with a fine performance of a rarity and an even finer performance of a classic.  »

26 Apr 2009

Gounod's Roméo et Juliette at Salzburg, 2008

In 2008 the Salzburg Festival intended to bring back the two stars of their triumphant 2005 La Traviata, Rolando Villazón and Anna Netrebko, for Gounod's Roméo et Juliette. »

19 Apr 2009

Pfitzner and Strauss by Staatskapelle Dresden

In the continuing series of releases to document the recorded legacy of the Staatskapelle Dresden, vol. 13 collects music by Hans Pfitzner and Richard Strauss with performances from 1939 through 1944.  »

08 Apr 2009

Domingo sings Wagner

This two-CD budget series collection brings together two Placido Domingo Wagner recitals, the first from 2000, with Deborah Voigt receiving co-billing, and the second from 2002. »

07 Apr 2009

Humperdinck: Hänsel und Gretel

Originally directed by Brooks Riley for German television, this updated staging of Engelbert Humperdinck’s familiar opera Hänsel und Gretel is based on a production created by Johannes Felsenstein, the son of the well-known director of the Komische Oper Berlin, Walter Felsenstein.  »

06 Apr 2009

Benjamin Britten: Owen Wingrave

In the parlance of a Hollywood film pitch, Britten's penultimate opera might be described as "War Requiem" meets "Turn of the Screw."  »

06 Apr 2009

Nadja Michael as Salome and Tosca

Like Violetta Urmana, Nadja Michael had a substantial career as a mezzo before deciding to venture into soprano territory.  »

31 Mar 2009

Rolando Villazón — Handel

When considering his next recording project, notes Rolando Villazón, the idea of working on a set of Handel arias with Paul McCreesh was “not an obvious choice.”  »

29 Mar 2009

Farinelli — Il Castrato

Naïve re-releases the soundtrack to the film Farinelli here in a handsome “book” casing, appending a second disc of highlights from the discography of Christophe Rousset’s recordings with Les Talens Lyriques, the artists also responsible for the soundtrack. »

25 Mar 2009

Paul Robeson: The Complete EMI Sessions 1928-1939

Seven discs, of 170 tracks, amounting to over eight hours of music - this EMI set somehow manages to be both voluminous and narrow in its portrait of Paul Robeson. »

22 Mar 2009

Songs by Samuel Barber

Among the impressive contributions to the American song literature of the twentieth century are works by Samuel Barber (1910-81), whose efforts in this genre reflect his own musical training as a singer, as well as the influence of his aunt, Louise Homer, whose professional relationships put her nephew in contact with other vocalists of the day.  »

19 Mar 2009

TELEMANN: Brockes-Passion

Heinrich Brockes’s famous poetic setting of the Passion, Der für die Sünden der Welt gemarterte und sterbende Jesus (1712), was one of the most significant devotional texts of its day in Germany.  »

15 Mar 2009

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Soprano

This DVD contains the contents of four televised recitals of Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, with no way of telling from the information provided whether the recitals are presented complete or not.  »

15 Mar 2009

Henze: Der junge Lord

Hey man, you wanna take a trip? Groovy!  »

15 Mar 2009

Domenico Sarro: Achille in Sciro

The birth and death dates of Domenico Sarro (1679 and 1744) are very close to those of his more illustrious contemporary, Antonio Vivaldi.  »

15 Mar 2009

Mayr Rediscovered

Apparently Opera Rara “discovered” Giovanni Simone Mayr some years ago when it included several excerpts from his operas in their multi-volume series, “A Hundred Years of Italian Opera.” »

15 Mar 2009

Tippett: A Child of Our Time

Although an ineffable aura of the 1960s emanates from Michael Tippett’s oratorio A Child of Our Time, its composition came at the start of WWII in Europe.  »

15 Mar 2009

Luciano Pavarotti: The EMI Recordings

A Decca recording artist for most of his career, Luciano Pavarotti did do a very few items with EMI, probably as part of those “artist-swapping” arrangements recording labels sometime arrange.  »

08 Mar 2009

Siegfried Wagner: Rainulf und Adelasia

A medieval tale of ill-starred love, in three very long acts, with questions of loyalty to a king and one title character urging another to drink from a cup of poison... »

05 Mar 2009

Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde (The Song of the Earth)

Recorded on 9 November 1959 at Symphony Hall (now Symphony Center), this recent issue of a classic performed of Gustav Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde translates the then state-of-the-art RCA “Living Stereo” sound for the LP vinyl medium to the enhanced sound currently available in SACD format.  »

25 Feb 2009

Lehár's Die Lustige Witwe from Semperoper Dresden

Jérôme Savary, director of this December 2007 Semperoper Dresden production of Lehár's Die Lustige Witwe, expresses a view in the booklet essay that many others will probably share: "What I like most of all about The Merry Widow is its music, which is literally bursting with colours, gyrating movements and sensuality..." »

15 Feb 2009

Kurt Weill’s Der Kuhhandel at Volks Oper Wien

The Kurt Weill-composed operetta Arms and the Cow premiered in 1935 under the title A Kingdom for a Cow, according to Erwin Berger’s booklet essay for this DVD of a 2007 VolksOper Vien staging of David Pountney’s production. »

13 Feb 2009

Fritz Wunderlich — The Legend

Some opera aficionados who take a look at the contents of this two-CD Fritz Wunderlich collection from Profil might shake their heads in bemused wonder: the German lyric tenor as Turridu, let alone Pinkerton and Rodolfo? »

13 Feb 2009

Donizetti's Don Pasquale from the Ravenna Festival

The CEO of the Ravenna Festival, one Cristina Mazzavillano Muti, understandably takes top billing at the top of this DVD booklet's three - count 'em, 3! - pages of credits for the Festival, not counting the single page of credits for the production of Donizetti's Don Pasquale itself. »

08 Feb 2009

The Beggar’s Opera at Covent Garden

Entering the Linbury Studio for this production of The Beggar’s Opera, one might have been forgiven for thinking that one had wandered into the main house by mistake.  »

08 Feb 2009

Liber Evangeliorum: Verse and Music From the Age of Charlemagne

The emergence of a standardized western liturgy with a uniform chant repertory, while to a significant degree realized, neither completely silenced regional liturgies nor extinguished the additions to liturgical practice that comprise much medieval creativity.  »

27 Jan 2009

Jessye Norman — A Portrait

A sticker on the cover of the Decca DVD Jessye Norman a portrait describes the contents as "An intimate new film portrait of the great soprano."  »

26 Jan 2009

Orfeo ed Euridice at the MET

I am an ardent fan of Stephanie Blythe, and if you revel in sheer sound, she will delight you, too.  »

26 Jan 2009

René Pape: Gods, Kings & Demons

The first solo operatic recital from the great German bass René Pape bears a title that serves as an homage to an esteemed predecessor, George London. »

26 Jan 2009

Die Zauberflöte from Opernhaus Zürich

A traditional production of Mozart and Schikaneder's singspiel Die Zauberflöte can go for charm, fantasy, and enjoyable camp. It can also turn trite and cloying. »

26 Jan 2009

Anna Netrebko: Souvenirs

The title of Anna Netrebko's most recent recital disc apparently springs from the musical selections' ability to prompt memories in the singer. »

26 Jan 2009

Dvořák: Kate and the Devil

On this 1955 recording of Dvořák's folk-tale based comic romp Kate and the Devil, conductor Zdenĕk Chalaba offers a lighter, faster approach than that heard on the modern studio version Supraphon released in 1981, under conductor Jiří Pinkas.  »

14 Jan 2009

MASCAGNI: Zanetto

More than just three letters distinguishes "rarity" from "oddity." In opera, a rarity would be an admired work seldom performed. »

14 Jan 2009

Who Was Mary Lewis?

“Mary Lewis, the golden haired soprano” — does that name mean much to today’s lovers of singing and good music?  »

14 Jan 2009

Walter Felsenstein Edition

Some of the more ingenious opera productions of the twentieth century are the work of Walter Felsenstein, who renowned internationally for his efforts in the genre.  »

14 Jan 2009

DVORÁK: Lieder

Unjustly neglected, Dvorák’s Lieder are among his most engaging works, and this selection of some of his most important contributions to the genre demonstrate the range of emotions and the breadth of expression the composer used in these works.  »

07 Jan 2009

Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro

This performance of Le Nozze di Figaro, recorded live at the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in June 2004, prompts much admiration for René Jacobs, its conductor. »

22 Dec 2008

PAISIELLO: I Giuochi d'Agrigento

Dynamic offers devotees of classical era opera a rare and quite rewarding opportunity to hear I Giuochi d'Agrigento, a little-known opera by Giovanni Paisiello, best known as the man who composed a popular Barbiere di Siviglia before Rossini came along and eclipsed his predecessor.  »

22 Dec 2008

Best of Neujahrskonzert

An annual event televised around the world, the Vienna Philharmonic's Neujahrskonzert has become a classical music institution, and as such is impervious to criticism. But not beyond it. »

22 Dec 2008

Karita Mattila — Fever

Ondine provides a treasure of a booklet for Fever, Karita Mattila's traversal of some standards from the so-called "Great American Songbook," plus two Brazilian numbers. »

18 Dec 2008

I mori di Valenza — Ponchielli’s Unfinished Opera

It almost seems as if every composer was entitled to have at least one unfinished work.  »

05 Dec 2008

London Philharmonic Orchestra — 75th Anniversary, Vol. 3: 1983-2007.

Released to commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, the three multi-disc sets of recordings makes available recordings that document the triumphs of the ensemble since its founding in 1932 by Sir Thomas Beecham.  »

01 Dec 2008

Verdi's Aida at La Scala

Can this truly be the production of Verdi's Aida that earned world-wide headlines in December 2007? »

01 Dec 2008

GIORDANO: Marcella

Alberto Cantù's booklet essay for the Dynamic release of Umberto Giordano's rare one-act opera Marcella quotes a review from the day after the 1907 premiere, which indicates that the premiere's audience's expectations of "greater originality of melodic invention" went unmet. »

21 Nov 2008

Il Barbiere di Siviglia at Opera House Zürich

This 2001 Zürich performance of Rossini's masterpiece Il Barbiere di Siviglia boasts one of the final performances of the great bass Nicolai Ghiaurov, who passed away in 2004. »

20 Nov 2008

MAYR: L’amor coniugale

Naxos, in conjunction with SWR, has been releasing recordings from the Rossini in Wildbad Festival, which focuses not just on the titular composer but also on his contemporaries. »

16 Nov 2008

Great Operatic Arias with Sir Thomas Allen 2

The "2" in this disc's title indicates that this is the second Chandos recital for Sir Thomas Allen.  »

13 Nov 2008

Jean Baptiste Lully's Persée

At a time when it is the fashion for stage direction, sets, and costumes to have little, if anything to do with the ouvre presented on stage, this production of Jean-Baptiste Lully's Persée (1682) is candy for the eyes and ears, with adherence to what is known of the French Baroque operatic standards.1 »

09 Nov 2008

Muti's La Traviata

EMI owns this recording, so if pride dictates they repackage it in the "Great Recordings of the Century" series, a dissenter shouldn't moralize. »

09 Nov 2008

Ernani and I Capuletti e I Montecchi on Dynamic DVD

Both these performances come from mid-2005. Teatro Regio di Parma presented the Ernani in May of that year; August saw I Capuletti e I Montecchi on stage at the Festival della Valle d'Itria di Martina Franca.  »

09 Nov 2008

Andrew Lloyd Webber — A Classical Tribute

Countless must be the number of true opera fans who have heard well-meaning acquaintances say, "Oh I just love opera! Especially Phantom of the Opera." »

02 Nov 2008

Wagner Duets: Nilsson and Hotter, Polaski and Botha

A few years ago EMI released a recording of Wagner duets with Placido Domingo and Deborah Voigt. »

30 Oct 2008

Portraits of Domingo and Pavarotti

While the tributes and retrospectives continue to appear for the late Luciano Pavarotti, his sometime-colleague (if not rival) Plácido Domingo maintains a top-rank career, even including a contract with Deutsche Grammophon for new studio work.  »

30 Oct 2008

STRAUSS: Die Liebe der Danae

Gala may be a budget label, but more opera sets of vintage live performances deserve a booklet essay as concise yet comprehensive, critically honest and yet fair, as Andrew Palmer's for this set, which preserves a 1980 performance of Richard Strauss and Joseph Grigor's Die Liebe der Danae. »

24 Oct 2008

BACH: Mass in B minor

Bach’s monumental Mass in b minor exists in an abundant quantity of period performances to the point where one might ponder the wisdom of adding yet another to the shelf.  »

20 Oct 2008

BACH: St. Matthew Passion (excerpts)

There is much to admire in Masaaki Suzuki’s Bach performances with the Bach Collegium Japan, and this recording of excerpts from the St. Matthew Passion will remind the listener of the diverse ways in which this is so.  »

20 Oct 2008

BEETHOVEN: Fidelio

Among the recent releases on DVD of Rolf Liebermann's productions of operas from the Hamburg Opera conceived for television in the late 1960s, Beethoven's Fidelio is impressive for the use of the medium of film to bring out the personal aspects of this intensive opera.  »

06 Oct 2008

VERDI: Requiem / Quattro pezzi sacri

Presented in its fine line of “Originals,” Decca’s reissue of Solti’s famous 1967 recording of Verdi’s Requiem is actually offered with another fine recording, the same conductor’s 1977/78 performance of the Quattro pezzi sacri. »

06 Oct 2008

MONTEVERDI: Combattimento

In recent years, Emmanuelle Haïm has achieved prominence at the helm of several baroque operas, including Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo and Handel’s Rodelinda and Giulio Cesare. »

22 Sep 2008

Music for the Court of Maximilian II

Although Jacobus Vaet, Antonius Galli and Pieter Maessens are little-known composers today, this impressive recording featuring their music, the debut recording by the ensemble Cinquecento, may serve as a cautionary reminder that modern familiarity is often the fruit of circumstance and not necessarily a reliable measure of artistic achievement. »

19 Sep 2008

Souvenir of a Golden Era: The Sisters Garcia

Last year saw Cecilia Bartoli’s recording dedicated to the memory, and repertoire, of the early 19th century singer Maria Malibran, “Maria.” »

14 Sep 2008

Film Music Classics on Naxos: Herrmann and Perry

There may be no name more famous in the world of film music than that of Bernard Herrmann. William Perry, however, is a name unlikely to set off many bells. »

14 Sep 2008

Mozart, Rossini and Verdi at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino

Of these three productions staged for the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, the beautifully dressed Entführung and refined Tancredi present the company as a theater for tasteful, stylish productions, just a tad on the dull side. »

07 Sep 2008

WAGNER: Tristan und Isolde

I’ve rarely seen a performance of Tristan und Isolde where I was quite so conscious of the singers’ teeth. »

17 Aug 2008

SZYMANOWSKI: Songs, Op. 31 and Op. 49.

The lyricism characteristic of the instrumental music of Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) is at the core of his songs, and the two collections found on this recording represent his vocal music well. »

17 Aug 2008

Karajan on DG, EMI

The 100th anniversary of his birth inevitably produces a flood of releases from the catalog of conductor Herbert von Karajan. »

17 Aug 2008

SMETANA: Dvě vdovy (The Two Widows)

Bedrich Smetana (1824-1884) is, perhaps known best for his opera The Bartered Bride (1863, rev. 1870), a touchstone of comic opera fused with eastern-European nationalism and, as much as that work has much to offer, his other efforts deserve attention. »

17 Aug 2008

HINDEMITH: Mathis der Mahler

Premiered in 1938 in Zurich, Mathis der Maler was then the most recent of Paul Hindemith’s provocative operas. »

17 Aug 2008

Medieval Christmas

The festal days of Christmas, New Year’s, St. Stephen and St. Thomas Becket are rich in musical celebration, and this recording from the Orlando Consort brings together a wide range of organa, motets, chansons, and carols to remind us of that fact. »

29 Jul 2008

Donizetti on Dynamic DVD

Dynamic now offers most of its product in CD and DVD formats, the latter in High Definition, no less. »

29 Jul 2008

Verdi on Classics for Pleasure, Opera Highlights

With these three CDs of highlights from three Verdi operas - Nabucco, Il Trovatore, and Aida — Classics for Pleasure gives a snapshot of the arc of his career. »

20 Jul 2008

Villazón on Deutsche Grammophon

The opera world, always ravenous for talented, charismatic tenors, felt desperate hunger pains last summer, when Rolando Villazón canceled dates with an explanation that a health crisis necessitated a sabbatical from singing. »

20 Jul 2008

Mozart’s La Finta Giardiniera x2

With a composer as widely beloved as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, for an opera to be all but forgotten suggests the work has problems beyond redemption. »

20 Jul 2008

Der Rosenkavalier highlights on Classics for Pleasure

For the opera of average length, a decent highlights disc can feature as much as half the score. »

13 Jul 2008

Rossini Opera Festival on Dynamic

At the Rossini Festival held in Pesaro, Italy, Dynamic recorded two Rossini rarities in August 2006. »

13 Jul 2008

Gustav Mahler: Symphony no. 9; Richard Strauss: Tod und Verklärung

The late Guiseppe Sinopoli (1946-2001) became established as an estimable conductor of nineteenth-century music, and his legacy includes a number of fine recordings. »

06 Jul 2008

BELLINI: Norma

The best thing about this set, a Norma recorded live at the Teatro delle Muse di Ancona in late 2004, is the booklet essay by Marco Beghelli, offered in both English and Italian (no credit to any translator). »

06 Jul 2008

Two Aida’s from TDK

At one time, Verdi’s Aida figured as the most performed opera. »

22 Jun 2008

MEYERBEER: Semiramide

This Dynamic recording of Meyerbeer's Semiramide, an opera title more familiar with Rossini's name appended, mixes the pleasure of a modestly appealing surprise with regret at key aspects of the performance. »

22 Jun 2008

Choral Music by Dvořák and Brahms

Among the choral music of Anton [Antonin] Dvorak, the familiar Stabat Mater, Op. 58, is known to modern audiences through various live performances and recordings. »

19 Jun 2008

Mozart and Lortzing from Hamburg Opera on film

A nostalgic charm permeates these filmed productions from the early 1970s of Lortzing's Zar und Zimmerman and Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, collaborations between the Hamburg State Opera and German TV director Joachim Hess. »

19 Jun 2008

Karajan opera highlights on Classics for Pleasure

The opera highlights series from Classics for Pleasure continues its recycling of the EMI catalogue with selections from two of Herbert von Karajan's recordings. »

09 Jun 2008

Songs by Henry & William Lawes

With this recording of songs by Henry & William Lawes, musical brothers who flourished in Caroline England, countertenor Robin Blaze with lutenist Elizabeth Kenny continue their exploration of early English song for Hyperion, and the results are stunning. »

04 Jun 2008

Joye: Les plaintes de Gilles de Bins dit Binchois

The title of this recording “Joy: the Laments of Gilles Binchois” introduces a seeming contradiction, one that plays on a contemporaneous description of the composer as "pére de joyeusetè"—the father of joy—in tension with an affinity for melancholy in his works. »

04 Jun 2008

SCHOENBERG: Moses und Aron

Even though it is one of the important operas of the twentieth century, Arnold Schoenberg’s Moses und Aron is, perhaps, more esteemed than performed. »

25 May 2008

HINDEMITH: Cardillac

Premiered in 1926, Paul Hindemith’s opera Cardillac is a three-act work based on E. T. A. Hoffmann’s short story Das Fräulein von Scuderi. »

25 May 2008

WAGNER: Tristan und Isolde

In the 1983 production designed, staged, and directed by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, this recording of Richard Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde is a solid and well-thought performance that has much to offer. »

15 May 2008

STRAUSS: Opernszenen | Scenes of Operas.

Recorded between 1938 and 1942, the excerpts from performances of Der Rosenkavalier, Die Frau ohne Schatten, Arabella, and Daphne at the Dresden Staatsoper are all conducted by Karl Böhm. »

06 May 2008

Karajan: The Music, the Legend.

At the centenary of the birth of the conductor Herbert von Karajan various commemorations are occurring, an among them is the concise CD and DVD release by Deutsche Grammophon, with both discs bound into a booklet that includes a short prose tribute to the man illustrated with some well-chosen photographs from various parts of his career. »

06 May 2008

French Opera highlights on Classics for Pleasure

Consumers might opt for a highlights set instead of a full recording of an opera for many reasons. »

06 May 2008

THOMSON: The Plow that Broke the Plains

Naxos's DVD division has already released the performances on this disc of Virgil Thomson's scores for The Plow that Broke the Plains and The River, as soundtracks for a re-release of the original films. That DVD (Naxos 2.110521) contained, as... »

27 Apr 2008

Bruckner: Symphony no. 8 in C minor, WAB 108 (1890 [Second Version])

As difficult as it is to identify a single score as representative of its composer, Symphony no. 8 in C minor by Anton Bruckner is an essential work that may be regarded as the quintessence of his accomplishments in the form. »

21 Apr 2008

BELLINI: Norma

This production offers a different view of Norma. As Stage Director Guy Joosten explains in the introduction on the first of a 2-disc set, he wanted to give the audience “more” of what he believes the modern audience expects. »

08 Apr 2008

KUMMER: Cello Duets

If Friedrich August Kummer is not a household word in your home, no reason for concern — he is one of the prolific Kleinmeistern of the post-Beethoven generation, a generation for which the cost of printing had dropped so much that it was financially possible for a composer to produce hundreds of published opuses. »

06 Apr 2008

Johann Sebastian Bach Cantatas [BWV 64, 151, 57 and 133]

This installment of John Eliot Gardiner’s impressive Bach Cantata Pilgrimage comes from close to the end of his millennial Wanderjahr, presenting cantatas for Christmas week. »

06 Apr 2008

Serafin: Overtures and Preludes

Timeless values of great opera conducting fill this disc of overtures and preludes, all conducted by Tullio Serafin. »

30 Mar 2008

William Byrd. Laudibus in sanctis.

William Byrd’s affinity for the Latin motet found various outlets. »

30 Mar 2008

HANSON: Merry Mount

A frequent complaint about contemporary operas — or most any after Puccini's Turandot — is the lack of that memorable lyricism found in the standard repertory. »

30 Mar 2008

Verdi: La Forza del Destino

From a relatively obscure label — Osteria — comes this 1962 live recording of Verdi's La Forza del Destino, featuring a relatively obscure soprano, Gré Brouwenstijn. »

30 Mar 2008

Classics for Pleasure opera highlights: Puccini

With single CD versions of full-length operas, isn't the term "highlights" presumptuous? »

16 Mar 2008

MOZART: Don Giovanni

This an intriguing two-disc DVD set. The primary disc is the opera itself, while the other disc is a film called “Adieu Mozart” that tells us about the unique relationship Mozart had with the City of Prague. »

16 Mar 2008

Zarzuelas — Arrieta: Marina; Bretón: La verbena de la paloma; Vives: Bohemios and Doña Francisquita

The Spanish comical lyric genre of the zarzuela has long been considered the stepchild of opera. »

16 Mar 2008

Best of British from the BBC Proms 2007

The BBC Proms webcasts all of its performances, and many are available for extended periods through BBC Radio's archives. »

16 Mar 2008

The Opera Gala — Live from Baden-Baden

As evidence of Deutsche Grammophon's proud status as a classical record label of the "old school," there appears this CD document of a typical opera gala affair, from July of 2007 in Baden-Baden. »

16 Mar 2008

MAHLER: Symphony no. 8.

While a number of fine recordings of Gustav Mahler’s Eighth Symphony have been released in recent years, the prospect of a performance conducted by Pierre Boulez is attractive for many reasons. »

02 Mar 2008

Johann Sebastian Bach. H-moll-Messe, BWV 232.

The large number of recordings of Bach’s Mass in B minor predispose one to look for distinctions between them. »

02 Mar 2008

The Sea Hawk and Deception

A typical film soundtrack today might not fill the length of a CD, while being padded with any pop music hits for which the producers would cough up the money for the rights. As often as not the scoring would... »

02 Mar 2008

Juan Diego Florez: Voce D'Italia - Arias for Rubini

The handsome face of tenor Juan Diego Florez naturally gets the cover of his latest CD, and his arguably unusually slim physique is on view too: on the inside cover of the booklet, on both the interior and rear of the jewel case, and on the back of the booklet. »

25 Feb 2008

Puccini Gold

Many an anthology of Puccini's "greatest hits" has found its way to market, and many more will follow this latest from Decca, Puccini Gold. »

22 Feb 2008

Leonie Rysanek Live Recordings 1955-1991

With the tenth anniversary of her death approaching, Orfeo has released a double-CD box set tribute to Leonie Rysanek in their Wiener Staatsoper Live series. »

18 Feb 2008

Jonas Kaufmann—Romantic Arias

Jonas Kaufmann’s debut album is a treat to the ears of opera lovers. »

10 Feb 2008

Italian Opera at the Liceu

The Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, after suffering a calamitous fire in the early 1990s, reopened in 1999, lovingly restored. TDK has released a series of DVDs from the Liceu since that date, providing ample evidence of the world... »

06 Feb 2008

MAHLER: Das Lied von der Erde

Premiered posthumously, the symphonic song-cycle Das Lied von der Erde by Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) remains one of his defining works because of its synthesis of song and symphony, two genres he pursued throughout his career. »

03 Feb 2008

J. S. Bach, arr. Robert Schumann. Johannes Passion.

In 1851 during his first season as music director in Düsseldorf, Robert Schumann presented a performance of Bach’s St. John Passion, and unsurprisingly adapted the score both to nineteenth-century taste and nineteenth-century practicalities. »

03 Feb 2008

DE LALANDE: Les Folies de Cardenio.

The centrality of dance at the French court helped bring grace, order, and political allegory into the characteristic prominence they enjoyed during the reigns of Louis XIV and Louis XV; theatre presentations of all stripes were infused with choreographic diversions. »

03 Feb 2008

SIBELIUS: Symphonies 1-7

In tandem with the recently released set of Sir Simon Rattle’s recordings of Mahler’s symphonies on EMI Classics, the set of the complete symphonies by Jean Sibelius merits attention. »

24 Jan 2008

Wagner: Orchestral Hightlights from the Operas

As much as Richard Wagner espoused opera reform in his theoretical writings by bringing to his works for the stage a closer unity between music and text, his actual means of doing so at times involved the use of orchestral forces that sometimes overwhelmed the sung word. »

24 Jan 2008

Italian opera on Gala

The budget label Gala purveys live performances both historic and relatively recent; of the three discussed here, the La Scala Fedora dates back to 1931, while the Attila comes from a 1987 La Fenice performance. »

22 Jan 2008

Echo de Paris: Parisian Love Songs 1610-1660

National styles of music in the seventeenth century were often distinctive, and in the case of French and Italian music, famously so. »

21 Jan 2008

MAHLER: Symphonies 1-10

With its recent release of Mahler’s symphonies conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, EMI Classics makes available in a single place an outstanding contribution to the composer’s discography. »

21 Jan 2008

WAGNER: Parsifal

This DVD records and commemorates a 1981 production of Parsifal in its Bayreuth lair, and the singers of 1981 are as fine as recollection might paint them. »

20 Jan 2008

Historic opera performances in Russian on Gala

Once the custom of the world's opera houses was to translate great operas into the language of each respective country. »

20 Jan 2008

Deutsche Grammophon budget opera sets

Repackaging older recordings having become the primary focus of a classical recording company's business, Deutsche Grammophon budgeted some funds for art direction for its budget series called "Opera House" (although that appellation only appears in a link found on the back inside cover of the sets' booklets). »

20 Jan 2008

STRAUSS: Der Rosenkavalier

Of Rosenkavaliers on DVD, the classics tend to be lovingly detailed productions, going back to the film of Herbert von Karajan leading an exemplary cast, with Elizabeth Schwarzkopf's iconic Marschallin. »

20 Jan 2008

Lamentazioni per la Settimana Santa

Despite an unsurprising degree of conservatism in liturgical music, devotional life in Rome often found ways of taking advantage of modern musical style. »

16 Jan 2008

Castradiva

“Her fioritura is priceless, breathtaking, and effortless.” »

13 Jan 2008

“One Foot in Eden Still, I Stand”: Choral Music by Nicholas Maw.

The English composer Nicholas Maw has been a major voice since the 1960's, with a wide range of works that include the 2002 opera, "Sophie’s Choice," a violin concerto for Joshua Bell (1993), and the monumentally-scaled orchestral work, "Odyssey" (1972-87). »

13 Jan 2008

MOZART: Requiem (Neukomm ed.)

As is often the case, last works that remain incomplete at the time of a composer’s death, are quick to invoke controversy and conspiracy theories. »

07 Jan 2008

ROUSSEAU: Le Devin du Village

This is a valuable new recording of a work that is only rarely heard, but was widely influential and wildly popular during the eighteenth century. Philosophe Jean-Jacques Rousseau wrote both the libretto and the music, with mixed success. »

07 Jan 2008

Les Élémens

This disc is well worth the price for the first track alone: the opening measures of Jean-Féry Rebel’s “Cahos,” (Chaos), written in 1737 or 1738, may cause you to wonder if you accidentally left a Stockhausen or Ligeti disc in the changer. »

30 Dec 2007

Jan Neckers on Recently Reissued Historicals: December 2007

This recording made half a century ago will not be anyone’s first choice unless one is a die-hard fan of one of the principal singers; neither of them belonging to the absolute top in their profession. »

27 Dec 2007

MOZART: Don Giovanni

The glorious universe of the Baroque has been receiving tribute from the wonderful talent of countertenor and early music guru René Jacobs for more than thirty years now. »

27 Dec 2007

RAVEL: Daphnis et Chloé

Although considered among Ravel’s finest works, Daphnis et Chloé may be known best through excerpts, particularly the second suite that the composer derived from his score. »

26 Dec 2007

SCHOENBERG: Gurrelieder

A 1979 recording originally released on LP in 1985, the CD reissue of this classic performance of Schoenberg’s 1913 cantata Gurrelieder as part of its series entitled Originals makes this fine account of this magnificent work available to another generation of listeners. »

14 Dec 2007

WAGNER: Götterdämmerung

You will wonder what designer Rosalie could have been thinking when she put Brunnhilde in trousers twice as wide at the waist as the soprano wearing them, with a nippled plastic bustier above. »

04 Dec 2007

KINKEL: An Imaginary Voyage through Europe. 32 Songs

Johanna Kinkel (1810-1858) was a talented contemporary of Fanny Hensel, and other fine musicians of the first half of the nineteenth century. Her legacy includes some fine Lieder, which are collected as An Imaginary Voyage through Europe in an arrangement that represents the various themes she explored in her music. »

28 Nov 2007

DONIZETTI: Adelia

The little heard “Adelia, o la figlia dell’arciere” (Adelia, or the Archer’s Daughter) stands between Donizetti’s Parisian successes “La fille du regiment” and “La favorite” in the prolific composer’s oeuvre. »

27 Nov 2007

Johann Pachelbel. Arien & Concerti

Although few composers have been so closely associated with a single work, Johann Pachelbel, whose canon for three violins has achieved canonical ubiquity, was a prolific composer with a number of vocal works to his credit. »

18 Nov 2007

BRUCKNER: Symphonie no. 7

Released as part of Orfeo’s series entitled Festspiel Dokumente, this recording makes available on CD the concert performance at the Salzburg Festival of Anton Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony by the Vienna Philharmonic that Hans Knappertsbusch conducted on 30 August 1949. »

18 Nov 2007

Jan Neckers on Recently Released Reissues and Historicals

The first opera performance I consciously attended while being definitely hooked to the genre due to records, was Guillaume Tell more than 40 years ago. »

18 Nov 2007

Bryn Terfel: Tutto Mozart!

Released in celebration of the recent Mozart year, Tutto Mozart! is a collection of nineteen arias, duets and other ensembles from the composer’s operas that feature the baritone Bryn Terfel. »

18 Nov 2007

The Oxford Psalms

Founded in Oxford in the early 1990’s, the ensemble Charivari Agréable looks to seventeenth-century composers with Oxford connections as the basis for their recent recording, “The Oxford Psalms.” »

16 Nov 2007

Gruberova on Nightingale Classics

Edita Gruberova’s North American fans, who can only hold onto dim hopes that someday the European superstar will return to these shores, can always seek to sate their desire for her artistry by picking up the latest CD from Nightingale Classics. »

14 Nov 2007

Libera — Angel Voices

"They are boys, and they sing, but don't call them choirboys. 'Libera' prefer to be called a vocal group — a real boy band, if you like." »

14 Nov 2007

ROSSINI: Torvaldo e Dorliska

Between the efforts of recording companies Naxos and Opera Rara, Rossini-philes have been living in a golden age. »

14 Nov 2007

Portraits of Dmitri Hvorostovsky and Olga Borodina

Philips decided some time ago that it no longer needed to be the audio representative for two fine contemporary singers of Russian origin, mezzo Olga Borodina and baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky. »

12 Nov 2007

Armida

As its name suggests, the selections on this wonderful new CD are all excerpted from five different versions of the tale of the beautiful enchantress “Armida.” »

11 Nov 2007

BEETHOVEN: Fidelio

Recorded on 29 January 1978, this performance preserves a classic production of Beethoven’s Fidelio, which involved a gifted cast. »

30 Oct 2007

MAHLER: Symphony no. 3

When performances remain in the aural memory of the audience long after the final wave of applause, the event merits attention. »

29 Oct 2007

Jean Sibelius: A Film in Two Parts

The two short films about the composer Jean Sibelius (1865-1957), The Early Years and Maturity & Silence comprise a video biography of Finnish artist. »

28 Oct 2007

DONIZETTI: La Figlia del Reggimento

For the final HD moviecast of the 2007-08 season, the Metropolitan Opera will present two stars in a production that has already earned rave reviews at Covent Garden: Natalie Dessay and Juan Diego Florez starring in Donizetti’s La Fille du Regiment. »

28 Oct 2007

SHOSTAKOVICH: Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

Among the signal operas of the twentieth century, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk (1934) by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) is a powerful transformation of Shakespeare’s tragedy Macbeth, based on the 1865 short story by Nicolai Leskov. »

24 Oct 2007

Jan Neckers on Recently Reissued Historicals

I doubt many admirers of Leontyne Price will be tempted to buy this issue. »

22 Oct 2007

MAZZOCCHI: Madrigali e Dialoghi

The Roman composer Mazzocchi is one of those figures known only to musicologists, and it is a pity, for this disc contains first-rate music. »

16 Oct 2007

GIORDANO: Fedora

Mirella Freni’s 1993 triumph in the lead of Umberto Giordani’s Fedora at La Scala has made it to DVD. In his booklet essay, Werner Pfister (translated by Stewart Spencer) admits the opera “does not enjoy the best of reputations.” »

16 Oct 2007

“Dein ist mein ganzes Herz”

Okay, okay, I freely admit this up front: I am not inordinately fond of operetta. Just thought you should know. All the more remarkable then that I found myself listening to this new recording several times over. »

15 Oct 2007

STRAUSS : Elektra

Whatever you do, don't give this DVD as a gift to people you don't want to alienate. »

09 Oct 2007

I Hear American Singing

Recorded in August 2001 at the Salzburg Festival, less than a month before the tragic events of 11 September, the presentation of songs and readings of music by American composers and texts by American authors seems aimed at a different world. Without venturing into political or social dimensions of the event, the concept of America in August 2001 suggested at times a sense of being impermeable, if not invincible. »

09 Oct 2007

Thomas Stoltzer. Psalm Motets.

Thomas Stoltzer represents German composition in the wake of the Reformation yet still immersed in the contrapuntal richness of the Josquin tradition. »

09 Oct 2007

MAHLER: Symphony no. 6 / Piano Quartet

With its fine engineering, the rich score of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony and the superb playing of the Philadelpha Orchestra conducted by Christoph Eschenbach emerge well in this recently released recording. »

09 Oct 2007

The Yves Becko Collection

This must be one of the most interesting collectors’ collections to have appeared in many a year. Personally I’ve always liked any singer from Fernando De Lucia to Rolando Villazon but I never was tempted to collect shellac and therefore didn’t have to contact Yves Becko. »

08 Oct 2007

CAVALLI: La Calisto

René Jacobs’s beautiful 1996 production of Francesco Cavalli’s Calisto has garnered many enthusiastic fans over the years. »

28 Sep 2007

Allegri “Miserere”; Palestrina “Missa Papae Marcelli”

This is a recording that glories in iconicity. »

23 Sep 2007

Hear the Voice and Prayer

There are a number of signs of the popularity of the King’s Singers—their longevity as an ensemble, the huge success of their public concerts, and their sizable discography all come immediately to mind. »

23 Sep 2007

The Feast of St. Edward, King and Confessor at Westminster Abbey.

Westminster Abbey is surely many things to many people. »

23 Sep 2007

Playing Elizabeth’s Tune

The 2004 DVD "Playing Elizabeth’s Tune," originating in a BBC television production, features concert performances of Byrd’s sacred music sung by the Tallis Scholars along with documentary material treating the composer and his time. »

23 Sep 2007

Brewer at her best in live “Fidelio”

It is not surprising that it was Beethoven’s Fidelio that was chosen to reconsecrate rebuilt opera houses in Vienna and Berlin in the years after World War Two. »

23 Sep 2007

PENDERECKI: Die Teufel von Loudon

Of the operas composed in the latter half of the twentieth century, Krzysztof Penderecki’s Die Teufel von Loudon is a significant contribution to the repertoire. »

19 Sep 2007

Music for Compline

The liturgy of Compline marks the end of the monastic day, as the community seeks peaceful repose for the night ahead. »

19 Sep 2007

Psalms for the Spirit

Psalmody, be it in the form of chanted recitations or anthem settings, lies close to the heart of liturgical singing, and this collection, “Psalms for the Spirit” brings together an engaging variety of both long familiar and recent psalms that celebrates the traditions and explores new directions. »

19 Sep 2007

WAGNER : Lohengrin

What’s outstanding about this Lohengrin is the orchestral playing. »

18 Sep 2007

PUCCINI: La Bohème

Before the age of computers, CDs. DVDs and Apple i-Phones, there was television. »

16 Sep 2007

WAGNER: Die Walküre

One of the glories of a well-executed performance of Richard Wagner's Ring cycle is the sonic dimension of the work, with the dramatic contrasts between the larger musical canvasses and the more intimate ensembles that occur between several voices and within the orchestra itself. »

16 Sep 2007

Hector Berlioz: Te Deum, op. 22

Often overshadowed by its composer's Requiem, the Te Deum, Op. 22 (1849) by Hector Berlioz deserves attention for its own merits, and this recent release by Hänssler in its series of live recordings of the Staatskapelle Dresden is a solid reading of this work. »

16 Sep 2007

SCHEIDT: Ludi Musici

The courtly instrumental music of the Halle composer, Samuel Scheidt, is preserved in the printed collection "Ludi musici" (1620), giving congenial suggestion of both the richness of the court practice and the virtuosic abilities of the ensemble players there, including the cornettist, Zacharias Härtel. »

16 Sep 2007

Le Chant des Templiers

The quarter century of work by the French medieval ensemble, Ensemble Organum, and their director, Marcel Pérès has positioned them as leading interpreters of early liturgical repertories; among interpreters, their renditions assert a high degree of distinctiveness and character. »

12 Sep 2007

La Bohème x3

On stages all over the world, most any night of the year, poor Parisian Mimi hacks her way into oblivion, while her sometime lover cries out her name in hysterical despair. »

11 Sep 2007

VIVALDI: Dixit Dominus

In 2005 the Australian musicologist Janice Stockigt made the case that several works attributed to Baldassare Galuppi in the Saxon State and University Library (Dresden) were really the works of Antonio Vivaldi. »

10 Sep 2007

MONTEVERDI: Madrigals (Book 5)

This installment in the ongoing series of Monteverdi madrigal recordings from Marco Longhini and Naxos presents distinctive performances of works that lie close to the heart of the early baroque style. »

10 Sep 2007

BACH: St. Matthew Passion (Excerpts)

There is much to admire in Masaaki Suzuki’s Bach performances with the Bach Collegium Japan, and this recording of excerpts from the St. Matthew Passion will remind the listener of the diverse ways in which this is so. »

07 Sep 2007

SMETANA: The Bartered Bride

As an audio-recording, Supraphon's set of Bedrich Smetana's The Bartered Bride conducted by Zdeněk Košler deserves the highest recommendation. »

07 Sep 2007

JANÁČEK: Katja Kabanowa

A series of historic recordings comes from Profil/Edition: Günter Hänssler, and from those a subset of Staatskapelle Dresden performances brings opera fans a remarkable document. »

07 Sep 2007

Teresa Berganza Live in Concert

Here's another in a series of televised recitals from Lugano, Switzerland to have appeared on DVD. »

07 Sep 2007

Kiri Sings Karl: Songs of Mystery & Enchantment

Alban Berg's Wozzeck takes almost two hours to induce a sense of soul-crushing nausea and despondency. Kiri Sings Karl achieved that for your reviewer in a couple minutes, and then went on with terrifying, torturous efficiency for almost another hour. »

07 Sep 2007

VERDI: Otello

Director Willy Decker's outstanding Traviata from Salzburg, with Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon, is one of the great contemporary opera DVDs. »

06 Sep 2007

STRAUSS: Elektra

Among the available videos of Richard Strauss’s Elektra, the recently released DVD of the live broadcast from 16 February 1980 stands out for capturing the exciting of an all-star international cast that included the famous Birgit Nilsson in the title role. »

28 Aug 2007

DONIZETTI: Anna Bolena

A career-making smash for Donizetti at its 1830 premiere, Anna Bolena eventually faded from the standard repertory. »

28 Aug 2007

BRUCKNER: Symphony no. 5

Recorded live at the Stiftsbasilika, St. Florian (Austrian) on 12 and 13 September 2006, this DVD offers a special performance of the famous Cleveland Orchestra outside its home at Severance Hall. »

28 Aug 2007

BERG: Wozzeck

Among the available DVDs of Alban Berg's opera Wozzeck, the recent release of the production Rolf Liebermann made into a film i the late 1960s stands out for various reasons. »

28 Aug 2007

Faustina Bordoni: Faces of a prima donna

Opera singers today have become almost as famous and publicly worshipped as movie-stars; yet this has always been the case in operatic history. »

27 Aug 2007

Carlos Cogul: Introduction

Carlos Cogul is a London vocal coach and an appreciated baritone giving many a recital ……in the London Tube while commuters hastily pass by to catch their trains. Judging from the photo on this CD he is not a young man any more. »

27 Aug 2007

ROSSINI: Bianca e Falliero

The choice between this recording made at the Pesaro Festival in August 2005 and the Opera Rara recording of 2000 will partly be made for non-musical reasons. »

27 Aug 2007

Jan Neckers on Recently Reissued Historicals

Almost thirty years ago a century old tradition ended with the last performance of I Maestri Cantatori. »

04 Jul 2007

DONIZETTI: Don Pasquale

An ingenious and handsome staging, in the proper period and full of delicious color, fashion and furnishings, a production that honors the compatibility of tradition with good fun, and four singers who look their parts, play the farce, and are as easy on the ears as on the eyes — what more could you want from a Don Pasquale? »

04 Jul 2007

SZYMANOWSKI: Songs of a Fairy-tale Princess; Harnasie; Love Songs of Hafiz

The Polish composer Karol Szymanowski (1882-1937) is one of more engaging composers of the early twentieth century. »

04 Jul 2007

DONIZETTI: Dom Sébastien, roi de Portugal

When hearing the final work of a composer whose life was cut short, one can not help but wonder, “What if?” »

27 Jun 2007

BRUCKNER: Symphony no. 8 (rev. version, Nowak ed.)

Established in 1985 by the United Nations, the World Philharmonic Orchestra gave its inaugural concert on 12 December 1985 under the auspices of UNICEF and the Konserthus, Sweden. »

27 Jun 2007

ROSSINI: La Scala di Seta

La Scala di Seta, composed in Venice in 1812 (Rossini was 20; Tancredi and fame were a year off; Barbiere and immortality were four years down the road), shares the fortune of La Gazza Ladra: that is, until recently, the public knew the overture quite well but nothing else from the opera which, indeed, lacks the spectacular arias and hilarious ensembles that might have kept it on the boards. »

25 Jun 2007

WEBER: Der Freischütz

Produced by Rolf Lieberman and directed for television by Joachim Hess, this 1968 studio recording of Carl Maria von Weber’s Der Freischütz has much to recommend as a traditional production of the opera. »

24 Jun 2007

ROSSINI: Il Viaggio a Reims

Il Viaggio a Reims was a pièce d’occasion, part of the official tributes to Charles X of France on his coronation in 1825, but unlike most such creations – which tend to dreary platitudes of the Oscar speech variety – Viaggio has a cheeky personality and delicious music from Rossini at the top of his game, music he planned to recycle in subsequent operas – which he did. »

24 Jun 2007

STRAVINSKY: Histoire du soldat (Suite); Renard

As indicated in the copy on the CD, itself this is indeed a “unique collection of mostly short works” by Igor Stravinsky. »

24 Jun 2007

Sacred Music from Notre-Dame Cathedral

In charting the history of music in the West, the twelfth and thirteenth centuries in Paris loom large as a golden age of innovative polyphony, a golden age that is much the fruits of two composers, Leoninus and Perotinus. »

22 Jun 2007

Concilium musicum Wien on authentic instruments

This live concert recording assembles a trio of late eighteenth-century Viennese composers; the program is strong in evocation of time and place, but admittedly less so in substance. »

17 Jun 2007

LASSUS: Psalmi Davidis pœnitentiales

Among Lasso’s vast output there are few works more imposing than his collected settings of the seven penitential psalms. »

17 Jun 2007

WAXMAN: Joshua

Franz Waxman was working with librettist James Forsyth on an opera, Dr. Jekyll, when the composer’s wife died. »

17 Jun 2007

MAHLER: Urlicht

Mahler: Urlicht is a recording of selected songs for voice and piano from various collections of the composer’s Lieder, including his early settings from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, the later Wunderhorn Lieder that Mahler set in the 1890s in versions with both orchestral and keyboard accompaniment, and also his Rűckert-Lieder, performed by the young mezzo soprano Christianne Stotijn accompanied by Julius Drake. »

11 Jun 2007

VIVALDI: Arie per basso

In 2001 the recording company Naïve and the Istituto per beni musicali in Piemonte began a large-scale undertaking of recording the vast holdings of Vivaldi’s musical library. »

05 Jun 2007

BUSONI : Songs

Doktor Faust eclipses most of Ferrucio’s Busoni’s other work in terms of popularity. Surprisingly, though, he wrote little song. Only 40 pieces remain, many written in his youth. »

04 Jun 2007

The Jussi Björling Series: rare opera recordings from Stockholm

“We’ll discuss the greatest tenor in history, Jussi Björling, and his astounding voice.” »

04 Jun 2007

RUBINSTEIN: Il Demone

I was never much impressed by the Russian performances of this most famous of Rubinstein’s many operas. »

31 May 2007

THOMSON: The Plow that Broke the Plains; The River

Naxos’s DVD venture has produced a fascinating document, the original documentary shorts The Plow that Broke the Plains and The River, filmed by Pare Lorentz, with the Virgil Thomson scores re-recorded by the post-Classical Ensemble, led by Angel Gil-Ordóñez. »

31 May 2007

MAHLER: Symphony no. 2

Given the fine recent recordings of Mahler’s Second Symphony on both CD and DVD, the release of Pierre Boulez’s performances from 26 and 27 March 2005 at the Philharmonie, Berlin, is a further contribution to the interpretations of this important work. »

30 May 2007

MASSENET: Esclarmonde

Just as sausage can be best enjoyed without any extensive knowledge of its preparation and contents, one should slide slowly into the luxuriant bath that is Massenet’s Esclarmonde and leave the libretto far to the side. »

30 May 2007

ORFF: Carmina Burana

Released in early 2007, Marin Alsop’s performance of Carl Orff’s Carmina Burana is an exciting, new recording of this familiar and durable scenic cantata, based on medieval lyrics in Latin and German. »

30 May 2007

Verboten und verbannt: Mendelssohn, Meyerbeer, Zemlinsky, Zeisl, Schönberg, Berg, Mahler.

Verboten und verbannt — forbidden and banned — a phrase used with Jewish composers whose music was proscribed by the Nazis brings to mind more than musical censorship, but also the atrocities that culminated in the Holocaust. »

30 May 2007

Angel Dances

Curmudgeons and aesthetes may have to fight their gag reflex to enjoy some luscious music-making on the latest disc, Angel Dances, from that hot studio band, The Twelve Berlin Philharmonic Cellists. »

29 May 2007

BRITTEN : Gloriana

Towards the end of his life Britten became interested in the idea of developing the opera experience beyond the technical confines of the stage. He would have, I think, loved this film because it’s so intelligently sensitive to his fundamental ideas. It is, no less, a work of art built around a work of art. »

20 May 2007

VERDI: Aida

This recording is a souvenir in more than one sense. »

20 May 2007

Anonymous 4: Gloryland

The quality packaging of Anonymous 4’s latest recording indicates the group’s importance to their label, Harmonia Mundi. »

09 May 2007

LEONCAVALLO: Pagliacci

In the countless performances of Leoncavallo’s masterpiece Pagliacci since its 1892 premiere, there must have been times when the light tenor singing Beppe watched the other tenor, of heavier voice, in the lead role of Canio and wondered if someday he (the Beppe) would take on the dramatic role of the homicidal clown. »

09 May 2007

Audrey Stottler Sings Wagner

Audrey Stottler’s Wagner recital provides ample evidence of a voice with the range and heft for the challenging roles of Brünnhilde and Isolde, as well as Sieglinde, a role often sung by a vocalist with less firepower. »

09 May 2007

Alison Balsom: Caprice

Dare one assume that with this disc, Alison Balsom becomes the first artist to bring her lung power to both Norma’s “Casta Diva” and Die Zauberflöte’s “Der hölle rache” in the same recital? »

03 May 2007

Franco Corelli: His Early Cetra Records

I often wonder who decides what records will be used to produce historical vocal issues. »

03 May 2007

Cesare Siepi: The Salzburg Recital of 1956; Arias from Norma, Faust, Don Carlo

For those who didn’t long ago purchased or exchanged this Salzburg recital via the pirate connections, this is a fine opportunity to get maybe the best testimonial of this artist. »

03 May 2007

American Choral Music

The commitment of Naxos to American music is substantial and admirable. »

02 May 2007

OFFENBACH: Orpheus in der Unterwelt (Orphée aux enfers)

Filmed for television in 1971, this performance of the German translation of Orphée aux enfers (1858) as Orpheus in der Unterwelt breaks the conventional wisdom that some espouse about the weaknesses of opera or opera when conceived for the small screen. »

02 May 2007

BACH: Cantatas, Vol. 26 (Whit Sunday and Whit Monday)

Among the virtues of hearing Bach cantatas performed in liturgical order—one of the hallmarks of John Eliot Gardiner’s stunning Cantata Pilgrimage of 2000—is the chance to savor Bach’s range of approach to unified text themes. »

01 May 2007

ROSSINI: Bianca e Falliero

Dynamic brought its cameras to the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, Italy, in August 2005 to record Bianca e Falliero, one of Rossini's so-called “serious” operas, and one that had only been rescued from many decades of neglect by the festival itself, in 1986. »

25 Apr 2007

MAHLER: Symphony no. 2

Over a century after its premiere, Mahler's Second Symphony continues to be a compelling work and is as relevant now as it was when the work was conceived. »

25 Apr 2007

Beverly Sills & Placido Domingo

More than ever, compilations of previously released material fill the shelves of those stores still selling classical music. »

19 Apr 2007

PENDERECKI: Symphony no. 7

Krzyzstof Penderecki (b. 1933) has contributed a body of works to the modern repertoire, and his Symphony no. 7, which he composed 1996 (premiere 1997 in Jerusalem), is an impressive composition. »

16 Apr 2007

MAHLER: Des Knaben Wunderhorn

The orchestral songs of Gustav Mahler remain an important contribution to the genre, and stand well alongside similar works by Berlioz, Wolf, and Strauss. »

15 Apr 2007

RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Sadko

This sumptuous 2006 release was recorded live in the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg in late 1993 for European TV broadcast the following year. »

11 Apr 2007

L’invitation au voyage: Mélodies from La belle époque

“Linvitation au voyage” is an appropriate title for this collection of French song, which makes available a number of fine performances of both familiar and rare works. »

11 Apr 2007

WAGNER: Lohengrin

With a label such as Gala, a purveyor of live recordings of various provenance, some adjustment to compromised sound quality can be expected. »

07 Apr 2007

BERNSTEIN: Fancy Free; Dybbuk

This excellent disc brings together two ballet scores from the far ends of Leonard Bernstein’s compositional career. »

06 Apr 2007

Kurt Weill on Broadway: Songs and Orchestrations by Kurt Weill

Kurt Weill’s perennial appeal can be attributed to various factors, not the least of which is the genuine craft of his stage works. »

06 Apr 2007

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer

Film music has become a sort of refuge for some music lovers turned off by the work of those serious music composers who have turned increasingly away from attempting an encounter with a broader public, retreating into an insular word of academic composition. »

04 Apr 2007

The Metropolitan Opera on DVD: Elektra, Luisa Miller and Tosca

With some deliberation the Metropolitan Opera releases DVD versions of live television broadcasts from its heyday as a PBS mainstay. »

30 Mar 2007

José Carreras Collection

A classic Seinfeld episode revolved around a brush with the “third” of the Three Tenors - the one whom no one could quite put a name to. »

27 Mar 2007

BRUCKNER: Lateinische Motetten — Latin Motets

Known almost iconically for his symphonies, Anton Bruckner devoted a great deal of his compositional output to vocal music, including choral works in both German and Latin. »

26 Mar 2007

RAMEAU: Platée, Pigmalion, Dardanus Ballet Suites

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, French instrumental music was closely identified with dance and dance suites. »

26 Mar 2007

GRÉTRY: Pierre le Grand

Although milestones in the history of opéra-comique, Grétry’s operas are infrequently revived and rarely recorded. »

25 Mar 2007

MOZART: Don Giovanni

This 2005 production of the Mozart-Da Ponte masterpiece Don Giovanni makes for a frustrating experience. »

21 Mar 2007

ROSSINI: Matilde di Shabran

When Matilde di Shabran was premiered in Rome on Feb. 24, 1821, it was billed as a “melodrama giocoso” (which is the equivalent of an opera semiseria), somewhere between an opera buffa and an opera seria in character. »

21 Mar 2007

DONIZETTI: Roberto Devereux

Asked in an interview by Opera News on his opinion on updating, James Levine replied that it often intensified one or another aspect of the story but that in general it was not possible to update without distorting the story and the equilibrium in the whole opera. »

21 Mar 2007

TELEMANN: Komm Geist des Herrn — Late Cantatas

Our modern sense of the eighteenth-century Lutheran cantata derives in large part from the works of J. S. Bach—works that have been foundational in the early music movement, works that have much shaped our understanding of Bach, and works that we now know in an impressive array of different recordings. »

21 Mar 2007

DONIZETTI: Linda di Chamounix

I am surely not the only one who doesn’t understand why this sparkling score is not performed more often. »

21 Mar 2007

Große Opernchöre — Great Opera Choirs

In setting the scene or furthering the action on stage, the opera chorus often provides some memorable aural scenery in works by composers from Claudio Monteverdi to Arnold Schoenberg, and this collection offers a representative selection of examples from both those composers, and well as a number of others. Recorded on 14 January 2004, this concert of the Stuttgart Staatsopernchor and Staatsorchester offered a program devoted to memorable choruses. »

21 Mar 2007

MAHLER: Symphony no. 6

Based from concerts given on 22 August, 7 September, and 8 September 2005, this recording of Mahler’s Sixth Symphony is the latest release of the Concertgebouw’s own RCO Live label. »

20 Mar 2007

Das Gänsebuch (The Geesebook): German Medieval Chant

In their attempt to recreate a combination of musical styles typical of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Nürnberg, Schola Hungarica and its directors László Dobszay & Janka Szendrei have chosen selections from the Gänsebuch, described as the “only complete extant source for the pre-Reformation liturgy of the mass in Nürnberg.” [CD liner-notes, p. 3] »

20 Mar 2007

PAISIELLO: Gli Astrologi immaginari

I never heard the 1966 live recording with Margherita Rinaldi and Paolo Montarsolo and I don’t have a clue what the sound picture is like. »

13 Mar 2007

WAGNER: Die Walküre; Götterdämmerung

Two weeks before viewing these DVD’s, I attended a performance of the same opera at De Vlaamse Opera in a new production by Ivo van Hove; Flemish boss of the most important Amsterdam theatre company. »

08 Mar 2007

PUCCINI: La Bohème

With the distance of time, is it allowable to feel affection for Herbert von Karajan, beyond any respect — grudging or otherwise — for his long, starry career? »

08 Mar 2007

WAGNER: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Recorded between 18 and 29 June 1984 at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, this production of Richard Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nűrnberg makes a classic presentation of the opera available in a two-DVD set issued in 2006 by Deutsche Grammophon. »

08 Mar 2007

Verdi Gala from Berlin

This concert was given on New Year’s eve in the year 2000, and the frail Claudio Abbado who comes out to conduct makes for an alarming sight. »

28 Feb 2007

KÁLMÁN : Die Csárdásfürstin

The booklet essay writer effuses passionately about this filmed Kalman operetta, Die Csárdásfürstin. Jürgen Otten gushes over the "immortal melodies," Anna Moffo's "precious jewel" of a voice, and Rene Kollo's "innate nobility." »

27 Feb 2007

Rachmaninov and Glinka: Lieder • Songs • Chants

Originally released by Deutsche Grammophon in 1976, this recording of selected songs by Sergei Rachmaninov (1873-1943) and Mikhail Glinka (1804-57) make available some fine examples of Russian art song to Western audiences. »

27 Feb 2007

ADAM: Le Postillon de Longjumeau

Why should anyone buy a German language broadcast of a delicious French opéra-comique? »

27 Feb 2007

Bach Cantatas, Volume 21

John Eliot Gardiner’s Bach Cantata Pilgrimage continues to echo with the release of concert recordings of this historic millennial tour. »

27 Feb 2007

WAGNER: Tannhäuser

As familiar Richard Wagner’s Tannhäuser is, the opera benefits from solid performances that bring together fine singing, exquisite orchestral playing, and effective staging, and the Metropolitan Opera’s 1982 production conducted by James Levine gave audiences an exemplary performance that remains a touchstone for this work. »

26 Feb 2007

Cori Spezzati: Venetian Polychoral Music

If there ever was a moment where architecture and music became passionately tied to one another, it would be when the polychoral music of the 16th century was tied to St. Mark’s cathedral in Venice. »

21 Feb 2007

Victoria de los Angeles performs Ravel, Debussy & Duparc

Carmen was one of Victoria de los Angeles’ favorite roles and she brought to it much that we hear on this recording of French songs: a winsome voice without heavy vibrato, a close attention to musical detail, and an evident understanding of the French words that she conveys, if not with an impeccable accent, at least with a convincingly understandable pronunciation. »

20 Feb 2007

MOZART: Die Hochzeit des Figaro

Yes, the German title must be employed for this filmed Nozze en Deutsch from 1967. »

20 Feb 2007

WAGNER: Parsifal

Recorded on 28 March 1970 in Rome, this recording of Parsifal makes available a live performance conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch, one of the foremost interpreters of Wagner’s works in his day. »

18 Feb 2007

HAYDN: Les Sept Dernières Paroles du Christ

Franz Joseph Haydn’s Seven Last Words is well known, both as a familiar part of modern Lenten devotions and also as something of a stylistic oddity, I suspect. »

18 Feb 2007

WAGNER: Parsifal

From the 2005 season of the “reborn” La Fenice comes this Dynamic DVD of Wagner’s Parsifal. »

16 Feb 2007

BRAHMS: Ein deutsches Requiem

In dedicating much of his creative life to the Thomaskirche, the German musician Günther Ramin left his mark on the musical life of Leipzig, and his legacy includes a fine recording of Johannes Brahms’ Ein deutsches Requiem, op. 45. »

16 Feb 2007

BRUCKNER: Symphony no. 4

Perhaps the best-known of Anton Bruckner’s symphonies, the Fourth also benefits from a number of fine recordings. »

14 Feb 2007

SAMMARTINI: Della Passione di Gesú Cristo; L'addolorata Divina Madre.

Giovanni Battista Sammartini (c.1700-1775) belongs to that shadowy generation of Italian composers who no longer composed in the high Baroque style, but had adopted the clarity, simplicity and regularity that would serve as the building blocks for the Viennese masters of the late eighteenth century, and thus were tagged with the rather pejorative label “pre-classic” (a plague on all those music historians who can only see musical style in terms of progress leading to their particular figure of veneration!). »

09 Feb 2007

The Devil’s Dream

The duo of gambist Vittorio Ghielmi and lutenist Luca Pianca even has its own domain name (www.pianca-ghielmi.com), as well as several previous releases, of which the first has perhaps my favorite CD title ever (Bagpipes from Hell). »

09 Feb 2007

ARNE: Six cantatas for a voice and instruments; Advice to Cloe

The English, though fundamental to the early music revival of the last half-century, have been rather remiss in exploring their native music dating from after the death of Purcell, and particularly that produced after the death of Handel. »

08 Feb 2007

VERDI: Rigoletto

Sorry my friends, but this rich-looking DVD has a feature that disqualifies it for me. »

07 Feb 2007

Jaume Aragall en Vivo

During any recital by an aging divo there comes a moment of truth when he sings an operatic aria (usually E lucevan le stelle , as the highest note is an A). That is the defining moment when he no longer can hide behind idiosyncratic interpretation, expressive breathing and a lot of clever transpositions. »

07 Feb 2007

PURCELL: Dido and Aeneas

This disc is a reissue of a 1993 recording made at Skywalker Sound in Marin County, California, but new to me. »

06 Feb 2007

PROKOFIEV: Peter and the Wolf

I suppose you will find this quite an addition to the Melchior legacy if you are a collector of every sound Melchior ever uttered. »

06 Feb 2007

CHARPENTIER: Judicium Salomonis, H. 422; Motet pour une longue offrande, H. 434

Neither of these late works (the Judicium Salomonis is from 1702) is new to disc – the former has two recent recordings, from ten and from twenty years ago, and the latter one, by Herreweghe, released in 1985. »

06 Feb 2007

Walewska i przjaciele: Najpiękniejsze pieśnie, arie i. piosenki

The title Walewska i przjaciele, “Walewska and friends,” reflects the intention of the mezzo soprano Małgorzata Walewska, one of the foremost contemporary Polish singers to present herself and some of her colleagues in recording of various kinds of music. »

05 Feb 2007

BERLIOZ: La damnation de Faust

Why do some conductors make it and others don’t? »

28 Jan 2007

EDER: Musik für die Felsenreitschule

While many associate it with traditional music, the Salzburg Festival is also a venue for new productions and, to a degree, new compositions. »

28 Jan 2007

ROSSINI: Semiramide

The reason for being of this set is Gruberova’s wish to record as much as possible of her repertory (on her own label as most of the majors were either not interested in recording belcanto operas or had their own stars like Decca’s Joan Sutherland). »

28 Jan 2007

VERDI: Aida

Who is the potential consumer for this DVD release of a 1953 Italian film version of Verdi's Aida, featuring Sophia Loren's stunning physical presence and Renata Tebaldi's stunning vocalism in the title role? »

24 Jan 2007

RAMEAU: In Convertendo Dominus

Let it be said at the outset that, at least to my eyes, the packaging and marketing of this DVD is somewhat misleading. »

24 Jan 2007

MAHLER: Songs of a Wayfarer; Symphony no. 1 in D

A welcome addition to the London Philharmonic Orchestra’s own line of releases, this CD is a compilation of two works by Gustav Mahler that the late Klaus Tennstedt performed with the ensemble and which have not been issued previously. »

24 Jan 2007

JANACEK: Káťa Kabanová

I saw my first Káťa 37 years ago during the Flanders Festival. At the time it was still an almost complete novelty on the scene and the Czech company performed it according to the composer’s intentions. »

23 Jan 2007

BROSSARD: Grands Motets

Sébastien de Brossard (1655-1730) was, until recently, known to the musical world (if he was known at all) as a lexicographer (he prepared the first French musical dictionary, published in 1703) and collector, whose collection went entire, together with a catalogue he prepared, to the National Library in Paris, something which must have been almost unheard of in early eighteenth-century Europe, though commonplace today (imagine if Bach had managed to do the same with his scores!). »

21 Jan 2007

CUYÁS: La Fattucchiera

The sleeve notes of this interesting issue state that “ any comparison between La Fattucchiera and Italian bel canto models by Bellini or Donizetti would be too easy though it became commonplace to describe him (= Cuyàs) as the continuator of the school of Bellini. »

21 Jan 2007

MARTIN Y SOLER: La Madrilena

Although the name of Vicente Martin y Soler is no longer obscure, most opera lovers still know him best due to Mozart quoting his opera ‘Una cosa rara’ during the Don’s last meal in Don Giovanni. »

21 Jan 2007

DEBUSSY: Pelléas et Melissande

I was impressed by Karajan’s intense conducting, which seems so right in the wake of the unavoidable tragedy that is going to happen. »

21 Jan 2007

STRAUSS: Die Fledermaus

Record companies are dominated by accountants and short term cost structure seems to be more important than artistic results or even sale figures. This is a prime example. »

21 Jan 2007

DITTERSDORF: Il barone di rocca antica

For those OperaToday readers prone to fantasies about being a member of royalty with one's own cozy opera house tucked away on the hereditary estate, this Hungaroton DVD will enable that desire. Filmed in August 2005 at the royal palace at Gödölló, Il barone di rocca antica, an operetta giocosa from Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf, requires only four singers. »

21 Jan 2007

Montserrat Caballé: Französische Opernarien

There is a (no doubt apocryphal) story that if one listens carefully to Caballé’s recordings there is a slight sshhh-sound in the background; the sound of the knife she uses to cut open her scores while recording. »

21 Jan 2007

Giuseppe di Stefano: Opera Recital

This issue from DG’s own classic recital series is a copy of the 1963 LP. »

21 Jan 2007

Die Göttliche Liturgie

Serge Jaroff and his Don Cossacks Choir were for many decades legendary performers of Russian choral music, ranging from the liturgical works of Orthodoxy to beloved regional folk melodies. »

21 Jan 2007

HANDEL: Giulio Cesare

This Sellars production had its origins at the 1985 Pepsico Summerfare Festival in Purchase NY. »

19 Jan 2007

WAGNER: Lohengrin

These recordings prove decisively a well-known thesis: more or less realistic productions always age better than so called innovative modern productions which often only aggrandize the clichés of the time of their conception if one views them a few decades after their première. »

17 Jan 2007

SILVER: The Thief of Love

If the audience for new American art music seems small and is (supposedly) shrinking, then the audience for new American operas is even more exclusive. »

17 Jan 2007

Opera Night

Some interesting repertory choices and the participation of some of today's most attractive singers make this particular "gala" evening of "walk on-sing-walk off" entertainment more consistently enjoyable than these affairs often are. »

16 Jan 2007

WAGNER: Tannhäuser

The ever-busy Brian Large directed the 1989 filming (for TV) of a Wolfgang Wagner Tannhäuser production which had debuted at Bayreuth in 1985. »

16 Jan 2007

SHOSTAKOVICH: The Complete Symphonies

Recording a Shostakovich cycle has become de rigueur in recent years — a conductor’s mandatory right of passage, like recording a Beethoven or a Mahler cycle. »

15 Jan 2007

Era La Notte

“Era la notte” presents four highly emotional, seventeenth-century Italian works, sung with commanding theatricality by Anna Caterina Antonacci. »

12 Jan 2007

ARBOS: El Centro de la Tierra

Most heroes in costume drama movies speak lines directly from our own time. I’ve yet to see a cinematic Roman general, being a serious hero, look at an animal’s liver and says: “ this smells bad; no battle today”. »

12 Jan 2007

Le Donne di Puccini

The recording date is given as November the 12th 1994. Since recording sessions usually last more than one day, and as a radio orchestra is playing, we may safely assume this CD to be derived from a public broadcasted concert by the ‘4 sopranos’ capitalizing on the concept made popular by Domingo, Carreras, and Pavarotti. »

10 Jan 2007

MOZART: Così fan tutte

The booklet essay by Gottfried Kraus (translated from the German by Stewart Spencer) for this TDK release of the 1983 Salzburg Così fan tutte presents an intriguing history of the opera, with the Austrian festival taking in a central role in the work’s return to the standard repertory. »

10 Jan 2007

MARTINŮ: Peach Blossom; The Orphan and Other Songs

The artsong in the twentieth century benefits from the efforts of national composers, like Bohuslav Martinů (1890–1959), who stimulated the genre by incorporating regional folk elements into their music. »

07 Jan 2007

PUCCINI: Tosca

Decca loves to repackage this set. Your reviewer first acquired it as a low-price "Double Decca" release, with no libretto. Just a couple years ago saw another incarnation, with a great cover pic of Price and Karajan locked in an embrace - Karajan as Scarpia? Or Cavaradossi - take one's pick. »

07 Jan 2007

WAGNER: Siegfried

The cover art for the Opus Arts DVD of Wagner's Siegfried, from the Nederlandse Opera in 1999, features Mime, as impersonated by Graham Clark, in amazing make-up and costume: a bald, bulging head almost split down the middle by a furrow of anxiety, and clad in a ghastly green insect-like carapace, including wire-like hair and a bobbing tail-sack. »

07 Jan 2007

NIELSEN: Complete Symphonies

Notable among recent releases, the set of the Complete Symphonies by Carl Nielsen (1865-1931) on DVD makes available some fine performances of the composer’s important contributions to the genre. »

29 Dec 2006

VERDI: Aida

A luminous blue backdrop, sliding columns, a solitary iconic prop (an over-sized falcon head in the opening scene, for example), singers frozen in stiff, awkward poses — yes, it's a Robert Wilson spectacular! »

28 Dec 2006

MOZART: The Glyndebourne Collection

What kind of opera lovers will appreciate this big DVD box the most? »

28 Dec 2006

MUSSORGSKY: Boris Godunov

One of the best opera DVDs released in 2006 was the Salzburg La Traviata, with Rolando Villazon and Anna Netrebko able to make full use of their vocal charisma and acting skills in Willy Decker's sharp, sexy production. »

23 Dec 2006

ROSSINI: Il barbeire di Siviglia

Rossini’s comic masterpiece premiered in 1816, which means a big anniversary lies just a few years ahead. »

22 Dec 2006

VIVALDI: Dixit Dominus, RV 807
GALUPPI: Laetatus Sum; Nisi Domine; Lauda Jerusalem

This disc presents the first recording of a work newly ascribed to the Red Priest (by musicologist Janice Stockigt), the Dixit Dominus held at the State Library of Saxony in Dresden, where it was ascribed to Vivaldi’s younger Venetian colleague, Baldassare Galuppi (who is experiencing a renaissance of late, with various new discs of operas and sacred works). »

21 Dec 2006

MONTEVERDI: Vespers

The collection of sacred compositions published by Claudio Monteverdi in Venice in 1610 with a Latin title of jaw-breaking length (in which vesperae is only the tenth word) has attained the sort of elevated status granted to but a few works, which stand so high that the rest of the landscape is almost invisible from their peaks, or to put it in plainer language, a music-lover may have heard or heard of the Vespers without knowing any of the composer’s other works, nor those of his contemporaries (rather like the Four Seasons, or The Sorcerer’s Apprentice). There are over two dozen recordings of the work on the market at this writing. »

16 Dec 2006

HANDEL: Messiah

Undoubtedly the appearance of Handel’s Messiah in late December means different things to different people. »

13 Dec 2006

George London: Spirituals

Previously unreleased, this collection of Spirituals never received the approval of the Canadian-born bass-baritone George London (1920-85) for release when it was prepared in 1963. »

13 Dec 2006

LOEWE: Lieder and Balladen

Of the nineteenth-century composers of music for solo voice, Carl Loewe (1796-1869) is one of the most voluminous, with his songs, with his works in this genre filling seventeen volumes in the uniform edition. »

08 Dec 2006

The Deepest Desire

“In choosing the program for a debut recital disc, perhaps an artist should be overwhelmed by the enormity of the task: how in the world do I begin to sort through the wealth of masterpieces at my fingertips, daring to stamp a select few with my voice?” »

06 Dec 2006

MASSENET: Werther

Who is the most annoying character in opera? Preziosilla from Verdi’s Forza del Destino drives some to distraction, while others wish the conspirators in Ballo would assassinate Oscar in act one. »

06 Dec 2006

ENNA: Lille pige med svovlstikkerne
ZEMLINSKY: Die Seejungfrau

Walt Disney has colored our perception of fairy tales, turning them, whatever their source, into egalitarian morality plays: »

06 Dec 2006

Frederica von Stade sings Mozart and Rossini arias

Frederica von Stade was just about 30 years old in 1975, when she recorded these Mozart and Rossini arias with the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra under Edo de Waart. »

01 Dec 2006

Sweet was the Song

I doubt that this recital disc, recorded in 2004, could have been intended as a memorial to Arne Dorumsgaard, who died in March of 2006, but the composer’s centrality to the program, and the poetic themes of death, sleep, and mortality that recur in the Elizabethan texts, enable such an interpretation. »

29 Nov 2006

CHARPENTIER: Le Malade Imaginaire

On the 10th February 1673, only a few months after their first collaboration, Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, better known as Molière (1622-1673), and Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704) presented at the Palais Royal’s theater Le Malade Imaginaire, a comédie ballet (a comedy with incidental music in the form of interludes built around a secondary plot). »

29 Nov 2006

All the Ends of the Earth: Contemporary & Medieval Vocal Music

There is an often compelling relationship between early and contemporary music. The relationship grows out of many different things. »

29 Nov 2006

CHARPENTIER: Andromède; Ballet de Polyeucte

Conceived by Marc-Antoine Charpentier (1643-1704) to serve as musical interludes for a revival at the Jesuit college of Harcourt in 1680 of Pierre Corneille’s play, Polyeucte Martyr (originally written in 1642), the ballet Le combat de l'amour divin was composed for string orchestra with trumpets, kettledrums and continuo. »

20 Nov 2006

Songs of Amy Beach

I can remember a time when Amy Beach was primarily known as a favorite among performers (largely female) whose mission was to present the work of neglected women composers. »

20 Nov 2006

LASSUS: Lamentationes Jeremiæ Prophetæ; Requiem

Lassus’s long tenure in Munich in the employ of Duke Albrecht V resulted in an unusually prolific and diverse output. »

20 Nov 2006

MAHLER: Symphony no. 3

Originally recorded in Carnegie Hall on 15 April 1956, Dimitri Mitropoulos’s performance of Mahler’s Third Symphony dates from a time when this particular score was rarely heard in concert. »

19 Nov 2006

BEETHOVEN: Fidelio

While undated, this performance of Beethoven’s Fidelio is a solid performance of the opera that has all the earmarks of a radio broadcast. »

16 Nov 2006

MOZART: Idomeneo

After an apparently successful premiere in 1781, Mozart’s Idomeneo fell out of favor, not being revived in the composer’s lifetime and staying dormant in the 19th century and first half of the 20th. »

15 Nov 2006

GIORDANO: Andrea Chénier

A socially conscious artist, caught in the violent gyrations of a country in revolution and war, awaits execution. »

14 Nov 2006

BELLINI: I Capuleti e i Montecchi

It only takes a few moments for the overture to Vincenzo Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi to establish that this opera takes a very different approach to the classic story than does Shakespeare's play. »

12 Nov 2006

PUCCINI: Manon Lescaut

This beautiful production premièred in 1980 and was the first live-telecast from the Met internationally relayed. »

12 Nov 2006

MERCURIO: Many Voices

Conductor Steven Mercurio appears to have made a highly favorable impression on singers in his career so far (some of the following info comes from his website, http://stevenmercurio.com/). »

12 Nov 2006

PUCCINI: Edgar

I’m surprised that such an eminent musicologist as Julian Budden, in his interesting essay accompanying the recording, still lays the blame for the relative failure of Edgar at the librettist’s feet. »

12 Nov 2006

ROSSINI: La Cenerentola

Putting the “grim” into a classic fairy tale (whether the Brothers Grimm's or not), this Glyndebourne La Cenerentola from the 2005 festival season establishes a drab, dark mood in its first scenes. »

10 Nov 2006

VIVALDI: Sacred Music 2

A recording of the complete sacred music of Antonio Vivaldi is a welcome prospect, not least because it offers an opportunity to go beyond the fame and familiarity of Vivaldi’s concertos and the ubiquitous “Gloria.” »

09 Nov 2006

Franco Corelli: The 1971 Tokyo Concert

A friend who bought this issue grumbled that Dynamic had swindled him out off his money as the whitewashed, less than sharp picture quality is not much better than the pirate issue he once received from a correspondent. »

09 Nov 2006

MOZART: Die Zauberflöte

The back of this DG set relates that the company made the recording "in Modena in conjunction with a series of performances in Italy and Germany." »

29 Oct 2006

Placido Domingo — Be My Love

Decca/London was somewhat earlier with their series ‘Classic Recitals’ and now Deutsche Gramophon is following without that title. »

29 Oct 2006

SPONTINI: La Vestale

Though this La Vestale is sung in its original French, it strikes me as rather odd that the contents in the sleeve notes nevertheless still employs the Italian names Licinio and Giulia. »

29 Oct 2006

GOUNOD: Faust

As rare as it may be to hear Gounod’s Faust in Bulgarian, the language differences soon pass in a good performance, especially one that includes a live performance of the bass Nicolai Ghiaurov from the prime of his performing career. »

28 Oct 2006

LEHAR: Eva

My father was a small bit player in an amateur operetta company from 1947 till 1963 when the company folded. »

26 Oct 2006

Opera Arias - Wojciech Drabowicz

Those familiar with Antoni Wit’s fine recording of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony will have encountered some Polish singers in the solo parts, and among them is the baritone Wojtek Drabowicz. »

26 Oct 2006

Hans Hotter & Birgit Nilsson sing Wagner & Schubert

Two of the most famous Wagner interpreters of the twentieth century, Hans Hotter and Birgit Nilsson, are always worth hearing in their studio recordings, and the live recordings capture the spontaneity of an actual performance with such accomplished singers. »

26 Oct 2006

WEBER: Der Freischütz; Oberon

The demise of Tower Records adds another hurdle to the collector's challenge in acquiring rare performances on obscure labels. »

22 Oct 2006

HANDEL: An Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day

“Cecilia, cast a glance upon the land of Britain, and you will see that in sonorous strains it renews on this day the pleasing memory of your name so dear. . . .” »

21 Oct 2006

Salvatore Licitra — Forbidden Love

As the careers of the “three tenors” drew to a close, it became more and more obvious that replacements would have to be found, if not for all of them, then certainly for one or two. »

19 Oct 2006

DONIZETTI: Alahor in Granata

A yellow banner in the lower right hand corner of the slip case cover (identical to that of the jewel box and booklet) proclaims this CD as the "first world recording" of Gaetano Donizetti's Alahor in Granata. »

17 Oct 2006

STRAUSS: Lieder

Virtuosic, expressive, subtle evocative – these words can be used to describe various aspects of the Lieder of Richard Strauss. »

16 Oct 2006

HANDEL: Hercules

From the 2004 Aix en Provence Festival comes this Luc Bondy staging of Handel's oratorio Hercules, an achingly serious and sober portrayal of Olympian rage and jealousy. »

16 Oct 2006

Homage — The Age of the Diva

In the 1890s, the term “diva” was first used in print to refer to an opera singer or stage star. »

08 Oct 2006

KILAR: Piano Concerto

Among the exciting new releases in Naxos’s series of 21st Century Classics is a compilation of four works by Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932), which include two symphonic compositions and two vocal pieces. »

08 Oct 2006

The Art of Elaine Bonazzi

This is a recital disc notable for the compelling presence and intimacy of the vocal performance. »

05 Oct 2006

MAHLER: Symphonie no. 2

Among the outstanding interpreters of Mahler’s music, Pierre Boulez stands out for his recent recordings of the composer’s symphonies. Having worked with various international orchestras, Boulez has been preserving on CD some finely shaped performances, and if he intends to create a cycle akin to those of other conductors, he is wisely recording the works one by one and not necessarily in the order in which they were composed. »

02 Oct 2006

The Psalms of David

The daily Anglican liturgies of Morning and Evening Prayer feature the recitation of the complete Psalter (apportioned in a monthly cycle), and in cathedrals and collegiate chapels, the chanting of the psalms has been cultivated to a degree of great refinement and beauty. »

29 Sep 2006

VERDI: Un ballo in maschera

Of late opera stagings often seem to be slotted into one of two categories: the "traditional," with sets as the original libretto detailed and singers in period costumes; and "non-traditional," "regie theater," or "Eurotrash," what you will. »

29 Sep 2006

STRAUSS: Salome

Having spent the better part of its life at full-price, the Solti/Nilsson Salome now appears as a mid-priced re-issue. »

29 Sep 2006

CHERUBINI: Le Sposo di tre marito di nessuna

This 250th anniversary year of Mozart's birth must be heaven not only Amadeus lovers but also for those with a general inclination toward classical era music. »

29 Sep 2006

ZEISL: Lieder

While most of the familiar Lieder repertoire stems from the nineteenth century, the powerful attraction the artform spurred composition in this genre through the mid-twentieth century. »

28 Sep 2006

That's Amore

Vanity publishing is not for the print world only, as a release from a company called Jeremiah Productions, called "That's Amore," proves. »

27 Sep 2006

Flaviano Labo – Vol III

According to Giancarlo Landini, author of the very interesting and detailed sleeve notes, Labo “has been sorely neglected, if not totally forgotten”. »

26 Sep 2006

LEHAR: Schön is die Welt

CPO has recently given us a lot of wonderful Lehar recordings like Eva, Der Rastelbinder or Der Sterngucker (admired by Hofmannsthal who exclaimed after a performance: ‘I wish, Lehar had composed Rosenkavalier’). »

25 Sep 2006

POULENC: Gloria and Stabat Mater

In the 1930s, Poulenc’s turn to writing sacred choral music such as the Litanies à la vierge noire and the Mass in G was closely linked to his new embrace of Roman Catholicism following the death of a close friend, the composer Pierre-Octave Ferroud. »

25 Sep 2006

BACH: St. John Passion

The Bach Passions combine drama, sublimity of expression, and deeply devotional reflection in such a powerful way that we invariably tend to set them apart from other liturgical works. »

25 Sep 2006

Pilar Lorengar: Prima Donna in Vienna

Maybe a looking glass will help you to decipher the reprint in this CD’s inside cover of a small article on the soprano by Terry McEwen, who was Manager of the Classical Divison of London Records at the time of recording. »

25 Sep 2006

Birgit Nilsson — "Or sai chi l'onore"

Deutsche Grammophon was one of the many labels for which Nilsson recorded and the company decided to commemorate her passing by offering us most of her not so very large catalogue. »

25 Sep 2006

BACH: Mass in B Minor

We are reasonably sensitive, I suspect, to the number of ways in which venue can shape the nature and success of musical performance. »

24 Sep 2006

BELLINI: Norma

The best Norma on DVD treats the viewer to a blurry picture of washed-out colors and remote, compressed sound. »

24 Sep 2006

VERDI: La Forza del Destino

The better can be the enemy of the good and this recording proves it. »

24 Sep 2006

Katarina Jovanovic — Songs by Brahms, Strauss, Schubert

In her debut recording the young Roumanian soprano Katarina Jovanic demonstrates her talent in performing an intriguing selection of Lieder by Schubert, Brahms, and Strauss. »

24 Sep 2006

ROSSINI: Moïse

Myto does many an opera-lover a service by offering this enjoyable recording of Rossini's French grand opera, here called Moïse. »

24 Sep 2006

HALÉVY: La Juive

For a period of close to half a century, French grand opera, as exemplified by the works of Giacomo Meyerbeer and his school, was the preferred form of music for the theatre (i.e. opera) in most of the civilized world. »

22 Sep 2006

MONTEVERDI: Il Sesto Libro de Madrigali

It is somewhat ironic that until recent years Italy has generally been slow to take a leading role in the historical performance movement: ironic in that historically Italy both dominates and defines the early baroque style and ironic in that that style enshrines the primacy of text— the Italian text. »

20 Sep 2006

CIMAROSA: Cleopatra

The first thing I noticed in the liner notes was the bold print claiming Cimarosa was born in 1797 and died in 1848, which correspond exactly with Donizetti’s lifespan. »

12 Sep 2006

ASHLEY: Perfect Lives; Celestial Excursions; Foreign Experiences

Robert Ashley has the uncanny ability to sprinkle diamonds amidst great swaths of apparently trivial and quotidian detritus–diamonds that trigger the nervous system in an intensely stimulating fashion. »

12 Sep 2006

BEETHOVEN: Overtures
BRUCKNER: Symphony no. 4

The later Günter Wand was a remarkable interpreter of Bruckner’s music, as is demonstrated in this live recording from the Schleswig-Holstein Music Festival. »

09 Sep 2006

Joshua Bell’s Good Taste

Sony Records occasionally still sends the odd CD to reviewers hoping they will give it notice. »

08 Sep 2006

VERDI: La Traviata

Callas fans better skip this review, as they won’t like the tone, the words, or whatever slights real or imagined they may perceive. »

08 Sep 2006

MAHLER: Symphony no. 7

At the expense of stating a truism, the music of Gustav Mahler, like that of other composers, is best experienced live in the concert hall. »

08 Sep 2006

PUCCINI: La Fanciulla del West

This Fanciulla is such a wonderful issue because, for once, none of the three protagonists ever recorded their role commercially, so that one is spared the many doublings often met in live recordings. »

07 Sep 2006

MAHLER: Symphony no. 8

During the last few years Antoni Wit has recorded Mahler’s symphonies one by one, such that he is building a fine cycle for the Naxos label. »

31 Aug 2006

BRAHMS: Missa Canonica
RHEINBERGER: Mass

The program for this recent recording from the choir of Westminster Cathedral presents sacred choral works by Brahms and Rheinberger, anchored at one end by Brahms’s youthful Missa Canonica and at the other by Rheinberger’s Mass for Double Choir in E-flat, Op. 109. with a handful of motets by Brahms in between. »

29 Aug 2006

VERDI: La Forza del Destino

This cast looks quite promising on paper. However, I cannot honestly say these big names keep their promise, except for the comprimario-singers. »

29 Aug 2006

WAGNER: Rienzi

I can readily understand why Bayreuth refuses to perform Richard Wagner’s third opera. »

29 Aug 2006

VERDI: Missa da Requiem

Verdi responded to the death of Rossini in 1868 by planning a collaborative Requiem Mass, drawing on the contributions of thirteen “distinguished” composers. »

28 Aug 2006

POULENC: Figure Humaine and Dialogues des Carmelites

Francis Poulenc is well known for the religious works that comprise much of his oeuvre after he was traumatized by the accidental and premature death of his friend Pierre-Octave Ferroud in 1936. »

28 Aug 2006

DUNSTABLE: Sweet Harmony — Masses and Motets

The music of John Dunstable embodies many of the characteristics that so dramatically set the music of the emerging Renaissance apart from its Medieval forebears. »

28 Aug 2006

HANDEL: Giulio Cesare in Egitto

Sometimes an invidious comparison cannot be avoided, and such is the case with two recent DVD versions of Georg Frederic Handel's masterpiece, Giulio Cesare. »

25 Aug 2006

MENDELSSOHN: Sacred Choral Music

The English “Oxbridge” choral tradition tends to be a cohesive one, most often with choirs of men and boys receiving similar training, singing a largely shared repertory in similar venues and in similar contexts. »

25 Aug 2006

Ikon

Harry Christophers and The Sixteen have a particular affinity for pre-modern polyphony, as their long discography, teeming with the music of the Eton Choirbook, assorted Renaissance masters, Handel, Bach, and others, amply shows. »

25 Aug 2006

WAGNER: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

Some argue that Bayreuth ushered in the modern era of regietheatre in opera productions with its now-legendary centennial Der Ring des Nibelungen, directed by Patrice Chereau. »

25 Aug 2006

Children’s Songs of the World

In Turkey recently, we visited a second-grade classroom, where our guide invited the children to sing songs for us. »

25 Aug 2006

Mozart — Airs Sacrés

It seems only natural that the quality of radiance should quickly come to mind in contemplating the twelfth-century Basilica of Saint Denis, where luminous stained glass creates colored walls of mystical light. »

25 Aug 2006

Bolshoi Russian opera highlights

Pentatone Classics joins some smaller recording companies staking out niche markets as the biggest labels continue their enforced retreat from the classical marketplace. »

25 Aug 2006

Verdi Gala 2004 Teatro Regio di Parma

In recent European reviews, Teatro Regio di Parma’s DVD of their 2004 Verdi Gala was generally labeled as worthless. »

25 Aug 2006

VERDI: La Traviata x 2

Tower Records online DVD page shows eleven available incarnations of Verdi's classic La Traviata, four of which have appeared in the last year, including one filmed at the reopening of La Fenice in Venice, and a Zurich production reviewed recently for Opera Today by yours truly. »

25 Aug 2006

BACH: Cantatas, Vol. 19

This installment of the estimable Bach Cantata Pilgrimage recordings brings together cantatas from the middle of the Epiphany season, along with a “refugee” from Trinity XXIV), and the well-known motet, “Jesu, meine Freude.” »

25 Aug 2006

RIMSKY-KORSAKOV: Snegurochka

This is a most sympathetic performance, though perhaps being a Fleming helps. In my small country on the frontier of Northern and Southern European influences, many musical styles made their entrance and became popular. »

25 Aug 2006

Erwartung — Lieder by Schoenberg, Wagner, Strauss et al.

Internationally acclaimed soprano, Solveig Kringelborn, now has recorded a delightful selection of late nineteenth-century German Lieder on the NMA label. »

25 Aug 2006

REIMANN: Lieder

In making words sing, to use a phrase from a recent study of the poetics of vocal composition, Aribert Reimann (b. 1936) does not emulate another composer as much as he makes fashions his own lines and punctuates them with accompaniments that serve as a means of accentuating the text. »

25 Aug 2006

BACH: Musical Offering

We can easily imagine the pleasure that Bach must have taken in presiding over a household that was both large and talented enough to form its own complete ensemble. »

25 Aug 2006

VERDI: Don Carlos and Don Carlo

Had Plato been a 19th century opera fan, would the philosopher have been so sure that there exists an ideal version of each and every opera, in the way that all chairs come from one immutable concept of "chair"? »

13 Aug 2006

VERDI: Don Carlo

Myto is always generous with its timings, usually producing very full CD’s and thus of necessity offering a bonus if a performance doesn’t fill the whole of the record. »

13 Aug 2006

SCHUBERT: Der Graf von Gleichen

Most of us who listen to opera often chose a work to relax us on a quiet evening; perhaps lighting some candles, and opening that bottle of good vino you’ve been saving for a special occasion. »

10 Aug 2006

OFFENBACH: Les Contes d'Hoffmann

When the Ring theater burned in Vienna, on December 8, 1881,1 Richard Wagner commented that it left him “cold” to know that a number of patrons should die while at a performance of Jacques Offenbach’s music. »

03 Aug 2006

A Night of Rhythm and Dance

The Waldbühne in Berlin is a large copy of ancient Greek theatres. Originally it was the ‘Reichssportfeld’, built for the Olympic Games of 1936. »

02 Aug 2006

Mirella Freni and Cesare Siepi Live in Concert

In summer doldrums? Spend a delightful hour with two great artists in a rare joint appearance, as Fabula Classics has resurrected for DVD a 1985 Cesare Siepi and Mirelle Freni televised recital. »

02 Aug 2006

Haitink conducts Elgar and Britten

Commemorating some of its outstanding concerts of the 1980s and Bernard Haitink, its principal conductor (from 1967-1979), the London Philharmonic Orchestra has released on its own label a single CD that includes several pieces that brought notice to the ensemble. »

02 Aug 2006

Ann Murray and Malcolm Martineau: Schumann, Mahler, Britten

Recorded in early May 2005 at Crear, an artists’ community in Argyll, Scotland, this CD contains selections of Lieder and songs that fit well the supple voice of the mezzo-soprano Ann Murray, who is accompanied facilely by the Scottish pianist Malcolm Martineau. »

01 Aug 2006

Morricone Conducts Morricone

Connoisseurs of pretentious booklet essay verbiage will delight in the prose style of  Matthias Kellerin his musings for this EuroArts DVD of Ennio Morricone conducting his film scores with the Munich radio orchestra. »

27 Jul 2006

BUXTEHUDE: Membra Jesu nostri

Dietrich Buxtehude’s Membra Jesu nostri is a large-scale Passion work dedicated to the Swedish chapelmaster, Gustav Dübin, in whose notable collection, now at Uppsala, it holds a prominent place. »

27 Jul 2006

WAGNER: Das Rheingold

Was it so many years ago that lovers of Wagner's titanic multi-part opus, Der Ring Des Nibelung, focused their passion principally on audio versions? »

24 Jul 2006

WAGNER: Siegfried, The 100th Covent Garden performance

“These probably unique documents may well owe their existence to the presence of Joan Sutherland in the cast and represent the earliest recordings of the great diva. »

24 Jul 2006

MOZART: Don Giovanni (Highlights)

Naxos reinforces its status as the classical recording world's bargain leader by releasing a single CD highlights disc from its complete Don Giovanni, recorded in 2000 and originally released in 2001. »

24 Jul 2006

SHOSTAKOVICH: The Execution of Stepan Razin

This new Naxos recording offers a rare opportunity to hear three little-known works by one of the 20th century's greatest composers - The Execution of Stepan Razin op. 119, October op. 131, and Five Fragments for orchestra op. 42, by Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-75). »

24 Jul 2006

CHAPI: Margarita la tornera

Is this the application of Peter’s Principle on Ruperto Chapi’s music as Chris Webber, editor of www.zarzuela.net preaches, or is this proof of Chapi being “undoubtedly the most important Spanish composer of stage music of all time” as the sleeve notes tell us? »

24 Jul 2006

The Italian Dramatic Lament

Its foundational interest in affective response made the early Baroque era a time rich in the nurture of highly impassioned music and text. Little surprise then that laments, with their characteristic emotional intensity, were particularly at home on the early seventeenth-century stage and in the chambers of the nobility. »

24 Jul 2006

DEBUSSY: Pélleas et Mélisande

Whatever its flaws - and it has them - this Zurich Opera production of Debussy's Pelléas and Mélisande boasts qualities that carry it very far from the standard view of those opera goers who considers the work dry, dull, and depressingly long. »

24 Jul 2006

MAHLER: Symphony no. 8

Recorded approximately 35 years ago in September 1971, Bernard Haitink’s performance of Gustav Mahler’s Eighth Symphony remains a classic account of the composer’s demanding score. »

24 Jul 2006

BURKHARD: Lieder

Refreshingly modern and familiar at the same time, the Lieder of Willy Burkhard (1900-55) are better known in his native Switzerland than anywhere else. »

23 Jul 2006

MENOTTI : Concerto for Violin and Orchestra / Cantilena e Scherzo / Canti Della Lontanza / Five Songs

Most Opera Today readers are probably familiar with Gian Carlo Menotti largely through his operas (The Medium, The Consul, Amahl and the Night Visitors, The Telephone, and others), and, if they teach or coach voice, may be more familiar than they’d like to be with pieces like “This is my box” and “Monica’s Waltz”, which have long been mainstays of the “American aria” branch of repertoire for young singers. »

19 Jul 2006

Leyla Gencer in Concert

There are lieder-recitals and there are lieder-recitals. In my experience Lucia Popp, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Margaret Price stuck to their Lieder-guns till the last item, sometimes offering Strauss’ Zueignung as an encore. »

19 Jul 2006

BEETHOVEN: Missa Solemnis

This excellent performance of Beethoven's mammoth sacred work, Missa Solemnis, served as part of the celebration of the reopening (after reconstruction) of the Dresden Frauenkirche, which suffered devastating damage in the same bombing raid that destroyed much of the city and so many of its inhabitants near the end of WWII. »

19 Jul 2006

GUERRERO: Missa Surge Propera

The composers Morales, Guerrero, and Victoria form a holy trinity of sorts, dominating Spanish church music in what we have come to see as a “Golden Age,” a time in which sixteenth-century liturgical polyphony assumed a classical perfection. »

19 Jul 2006

CHAUSSON: Le Roi Arthus

I belong to the happy few (some would say ‘unhappy’ few) who ever witnessed a stage production of this rarely performed opera. »

19 Jul 2006

MOZART: Die Entführung aus dem Serail

Glyndebourne’s recent DVD release of it’s 1980 production of Die Entführung aus dem Serail is quite an exceptional performance of this particular work. »

10 Jul 2006

HAYDN: Arias & Cantatas

In a room filled with music scholars, conversations surrounding the name Franz Joseph Haydn would be synonymous with symphonic music, keyboard works, operas, string quartets, and vocal music. »

08 Jul 2006

Dmitri Shostakovich: A Portrait

2006 is a centenary year of Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) - a great Russian composer of the 20th century, and a complicated and tortured soul whose posthumous legacy has been a subject of heated ideological debates in recent years. »

05 Jul 2006

GESUALDO DA VENOSA: Quarto Libro di Madrigali
MONTEVERDI: Madrigals Book 4

Two sets of madrigals, each the fourth book published by its composer, give complementary views of the state of madrigal composition in Italy in the years either side of 1600. »

05 Jul 2006

Ana María Sánchez: Zarzuela

During the fifties and sixties, it was almost impossible (or horrendously expensive) to collect the hundreds of recordings of zarzuela outside Spain and some Latin American countries. »

05 Jul 2006

PUCCINI: Il Tabarro
LEONCAVALLO: I Pagliacci

The recent Deutsche Grammaphone release of an insightful Metropolitan Opera double bill from 1994 provides a fascinating comparison of contrasting verismo worlds. »

05 Jul 2006

Three Sopranos: Elena Obraztsova, Ileana Cotrubas, Renata Scotto

Even with a magnifying glass you won’t be able to find a date of this concert on either the DVD itself or in the sleeve notes. »

27 Jun 2006

Belcanto: The Tenors of the 78 Era, vols. 1 and 2

Second only to soprano divas, history’s great tenors have received the most retrospective scrutiny. »

26 Jun 2006

Puccini: Sogno d’or

Anyone who knows Giacomo Puccini only for his operas is in for a treat. Puccini: Sogno d’or presents Puccini the songwriter, and what is fascinating about this little-known repertory is that it prefigures many of the delightful melodies that later appeared in his works for the stage. »

23 Jun 2006

GLUCK: Orfeo ed Euridice

All the excitement and activity in the classical recording company world now seems to be in the budget area. »

23 Jun 2006

Gypsy Melodies

“Gypsies! Filthy, dirty, thieving gypsies!” cried Amy Sedaris as Jerri Blank from one delightful Strangers With Candy episode years back. For those who have experienced a forced ‘chance’ meeting with one of these colorful characters in say, Granada, Spain, they may have espoused a similar belief in recent years. »

23 Jun 2006

Renato Bruson — Live in Concert

One sign that a media market has really come into its own, economically speaking, is the appearance of items previously released in other formats, items that one struggles to imagine a wide market for. DVDs must be doing fairly well, then, in the classical market. »

15 Jun 2006

BACH: Cantatas, vol. 14

This installment in the remarkable Bach Cantata Pilgrimage series presents four Christmas cantatas: “Gelobet seist du, Jesus Christ,” BWV 91; “Unser Mund sei voll Lachens,” BWV 110; “Dazu ist erschienen,” BWV 40; and “Christum wir sollen loben schon,” BWV 121, all recorded live in St. Bartholomew’s Church, New York City. »

14 Jun 2006

Piero Cappuccilli: Recital

Can you believe it? With all the profound knowledge of my 24 years, I first visited the Verona Arena in 1968. On was Trovatore with Bergonzi, Gencer and, as Luna, Piero Cappuccilli. »

14 Jun 2006

PUCCINI: Gianni Schicchi

Glyndebourne’s 2004 live recording of Gianni Schicchi, produced by Opus Arte, is quite possibly the most electric and riveting performance of this Puccini one-act opera. »

12 Jun 2006

WOLF: Prometheus — Orchesterlieder

Like other nineteenth-century composers, Hugo Wolf (1860-1903) orchestrated some of his Lieder, and his contributions to the genre of Orchesterlieder are impressive. »

01 Jun 2006

MAHLER: Lieder

Among the interpreters of Mahler’s music in the late twentieth century, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Daniel Barenboim stand out for their various contributions. »

01 Jun 2006

BERNHARD: Geistliche Harmonien

The composer Christoph Bernhard (born Kolberg, Pomerania, 1628, died, Dresden 1692) embodies the problematic nature of German musical culture in the seventeenth century. »

01 Jun 2006

MONTEVERDI: Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria

This Opus Arte set not only captures a mostly satisfying performance of Monteverdi's opera based on the last books of Homer's Odyssey, but features something even rarer: a booklet essay by the musical director (Glen Wilson) of remarkable lucidity. »

01 Jun 2006

LE JEUNE: Autant en emporte le vent — French Chansons

In spite of the religious warfare that consumed France during the second half of the sixteenth century (which claimed the life of one eminent Catholic composer, Antoine de Bertrand, who was murdered by Protestants)*, musical life continued unabated. »

31 May 2006

PFITZNER: Das Christelflein

Dubbed a “spieloper,” Hans Pfitzner’s Das Christelflein (“The Christmas Elf”) casts a magical, yet appropriately cool, spell, even in the warm days of late May, the time of this review. »

31 May 2006

Delectatio angeli — Music of love, longing & lament

Catherine Bott is an English soprano in her fifties with decades of career and an extensive discography, but even in the world of early music, where she has spent most of her time, one could not say she is a marquee name. »

31 May 2006

BÖHM: Cantatas

“A little learning is a dangerous thing; drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring”, quoth the great poet Alexander Pope in 1709. »

31 May 2006

JONES: The Geisha

Should Opera Today readers want to test where they would place themselves on a spectrum ranging from “completely politically incorrect” to “utterly politically correct,” the Hyperion Helios re-release of Sidney Jones “Japanese musical play” The Geisha surely will do the trick. »

31 May 2006

MANFREDINI: 12 Concerti op. 3

The general aversion of the listening public to vocal music can nowhere be more easily seen than in the comparative success of the operatic and instrumental works of the Italian baroque. »

31 May 2006

DONIZETTI: Marino Faliero

There was a great northward swing of composers from Italy to Paris and London in the 1820s and 1830s. Actually, this has been going on for a long time, but was temporarily halted by the Napoleonic wars. »

31 May 2006

BACH: Cantatas, vol. 10

Few works seem more seminal to our understanding of J. S. Bach than the church cantatas, written over a wide chronological swath of his career, sometimes as part of occasional duties, other times in what was clearly a frenzy of steady prolificity. »

31 May 2006

MASSENET: Le Roi de Lahore

Sergio Seggalini, former editor of Opéra International (now Opéra Magazine), is the artistic director of both La Fenice and the Festival of Martina Franca. »

30 May 2006

BOITO: Nerone

“What a difference a sound makes” goes the song (or something like that). »

25 May 2006

DONIZETTI: Maria Stuarda

By sheer coincidence I attended a concert performance of this opera at the Vlaamse Opera in Antwerp at the same moment I received these CD’s. »

25 May 2006

DONIZETTI: Roberto Devereux

When asked whether he believed Rossini had composed Il Barbiere di Siviglia in thirteen days, nineteen-year-old Donizetti is supposed to have replied, »

25 May 2006

NICOLAI: Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor

Klaus-Edgar Wichmann, in the booklet essay to this Capriccio recording from 2002 of Otto Nicolai's Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor, describes the work as having "asserted itself in the opera repertoire for more than a hundred years." »

24 May 2006

BACH: Alles mit Gott

A little over a year ago Bach scholar Michael Maul found himself in the exceedingly unusual position of having discovered a hitherto unknown Bach composition, a birthday ode for Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar, entitled “Alles mit Gott und nichts ohn’ ihn. »

24 May 2006

SCHUBERT: Die schöne Müllerin

Franz Schubert's song cycle Die schöne Müllerin has received, in recent years, frequent attention with several fine recordings having been issued during this period. »

24 May 2006

Orchestral Excerpts from Wagner Operas

Among the plentiful selections of orchestral music from the operas of Richard Wagner, it is rare to find recordings that truly stand out, and this recent release of performances conducted by the late Klaus Tennstedt merits distinction. »

24 May 2006

Rolando Villazón — Opera Recital

I’ve carefully listened several times to this new solo album (his third) by Rolando Villazón and it grows on you, though there are a few weaknesses. »

24 May 2006

PUCCINI: Turandot

This must be the first Turandot that has in the sleeve notes three photographs of the soprano who sings Liu compared to two of the lady in the title role. »

19 May 2006

Placido Domingo — Great Scenes

Domingo-fans probably have all complete performances from which these scenes were culled, as they were widely broadcast in Europe during the eighties. »

19 May 2006

HALFFTER: Don Quijote

I can’t imagine a more utopian enterprise for a composer than writing an opera at the end of the twentieth century. »

19 May 2006

VERDI: Don Carlo

For a time this Don Carlo was a return to times people thought long gone. As always, Dutch papers covered beforehand this new Decker production in depth, as the theme of liberty is an important one. »

17 May 2006

PETRELLA: Jone

Jone is the only Italian opera from the 1850s by a composer other than Giuseppe Verdi to make it into the standard repertory for a period of well over 50 years, lasting until the onset of World War I before eventually disappearing. »

17 May 2006

CHARPENTIER: Te Deum and Grand Office des Morts

In the modern performance of seventeenth-century French music, the ensemble Les Arts Florissants holds a special place, both for its longevity and the striking stylistic fluency it brings to performances — performances that have come to define our very sense of French Baroque style. »

16 May 2006

FAURÉ: The Complete Songs 4

Dans un parfum de roses (“Within the scent of roses”), is the fourth and final volume of the Complete Songs of Gabriel Fauré issued by Hyperion. »

16 May 2006

PUCCINI: Madama Butterfly

All is right and good in the world of opera as long as the Arena di Verona puts on vivid productions, in questionable taste, with impassioned singers pouring out the volume, in questionable taste, and the audience roaring its approval - in questionable taste. »

16 May 2006

ROSSINI: La Scala Di Seta

Here is another handsome production of an early Rossini one-act comedy from the Schwetzingen festival, held at the charming and tiny Rokoko theater in May 1990. »

16 May 2006

MAHLER: Symphony no. 6

In recent years the Sixth Symphony of Gustav Mahler has gained some prominence with the declaration by the internationale Gustav Mahler Gesellschaft about the only correct order of the internal movements, a position that has inspired some discussion among enthusiasts. »

16 May 2006

VERDI: Nabucco

The booklet somewhat proudly tells us that “a modern Italian opera-going public would likely walk out in horror if confronted with the avant-garde productions of many German opera houses. »

15 May 2006

Three Releases from Nightingale Classics

Frank Sinatra had Reprise. The Beatles had Apple. Madonna has Maverick. And Edita Gruberova has Nightingale. »

11 May 2006

The Music of Joseph Dubiel

Joe Dubiel is a well known and accomplished music theorist, affable, pleasant in demeanor, learned and astute, and above all friendly in a field that has its thorns and brambles. »

02 May 2006

Three Mozart Collections from Universal

A recent newspaper report — the sort of item conveyed in a short paragraph and relegated to a column of such brief pieces — summarized a study that argues that Mozart did not die a pauper, but actually had a fairly steady stream of income. »

02 May 2006

ATTRAZIONE D'AMORE / VOYAGE TO CYTHERA

Passion for music is hardly rare, but it is welcome to hear it espoused in public, especially by some of the art’s strongest proponents. »

29 Apr 2006

Music for the Virgin Mary—Celebrating 300 Years of Charpentier

This wonderful CD was recorded in the magnificent church of Notre Dame, Rozay-en-Brie, which is 30 miles east of Paris, and contains one of the better-preserved French organs of the seventeenth century, actually played by Francois Couperin during his lifetime. »

29 Apr 2006

Conducting Mahler / I Have Lost Touch with the World

In recent years a number of the number of recordings of Mahler’s works have become available on DVD. »

29 Apr 2006

PONCHIELLI: I Lituani

Why would anyone want to replace his LP-version on MRF? Because his records are scratched and it is too much trouble to put everything on CD. »

27 Apr 2006

AUBER: Fra Diavolo
DONIZETTI: La Figlia del Reggimento

When these recordings first appeared during the mid-sixties, there was some eye batting. Why did Deutsche Grammophon bring these recordings on the market? »

22 Apr 2006

Tönet, ihr Pauken!

Bach’s famed career as an organist, his prolific output of church cantatas, and his personal piety, all conspire to keep the image of the churchly Bach front and center in the modern mind, despite the enduring familiarity and popularity of Brandenburg concertos, sonatas, and suites. »

22 Apr 2006

Victoria de los Angeles—Profile in Music

For those without much time to read reviews, I can be extremely brief: hurry and buy this DVD. For all the others: the same advise though maybe they want to know the reasons for such a purchase. »

22 Apr 2006

MOZART: Don Giovanni

Calixto Bieito has made his name as an opera director with productions of unrelenting violence and sex, perhaps exemplified by last year's Abduction from the Seraglio in Berlin with its full nudity and graphic mutilations. »

20 Apr 2006

Enescu: Oedipe

Enescu's Oedipe has always been a rarity outside his native Romania. »

20 Apr 2006

MASCAGNI: In Filanda

Last year was the 60th anniversary of Mascagni’s death. When I wrote a big commemoration article for a Dutch operatic magazine, I wondered if we would ever hear a full version of the 18-year old Mascagni’s first work: a cantata called “in the weaving mill.” »

20 Apr 2006

BRITTEN: Death in Venice

Even if this recording were a failure (which it isn't), it is indispensable on account of its inclusion of about 90 seconds of music not present in the only other studio recording. »

20 Apr 2006

“l’heure exquise”

After happily scanning the rarity-filled repertoire on this disc, and considering the unusual program order, with sets of songs by Enescu, Chausson, and Debussy alternating with sets by saloniste Reynaldo Hahn, I visualize this recital as an exquisite hour in Hahn’s salon, with three guest composers present, exchanging ideas with their host. »

20 Apr 2006

LORTZING: Undine

Albert Lortzing has suffered much lately. Artistically speaking, he is somewhat moribund. In a recent article in the German operatic magazine, Orpheus, one writer rightfully complained that the once so popular composer has almost disappeared from the German theatres. »

19 Apr 2006

A Night to Remember: Placido Domingo & Mstislav Rostropovich

Only a few seconds after watching this DVD I was reminded of one of the great marketing failures in records. More than forty years ago, RCA brought out several glorious LP’s of young Gigli’s records and they put photographs of the sixty-five year old tenor on the sleeve. »

19 Apr 2006

Song of America: Music from the Library of Congress

In connection with the joint project by Thomas Hampson and the U.S. Library of Congress to present events about American song and other creativity at venues as varied as Kansas City, Fort Worth, and Carnegie Hall, EMI Classics has released this CD containing tracks from three earlier discs featuring Thomas Hampson. »

18 Apr 2006

Alfredo Kraus and Renata Scotto: Villancicos

I fear this is a CD strictly reserved for fans of both singers or for collectors of Christmas albums by classical singers. »

18 Apr 2006

Lawrence Brownlee: Lieder & Song Recital

A few years ago I picked up a buzz among those close to the Seattle Opera Young Artists’ Program that there would be a truly remarkable young tenor in the program’s production of La Cenerentola that year. »

10 Apr 2006

The Rose, the Lily & the Whortleberry: Medieval Gardens

Holding “The Rose, the Lily & the Whortleberry” in my hands, I pondered for a moment whether it belonged on my bookshelf or in the CD cabinet. »

10 Apr 2006

VERDI: Nabucco

This 2001 Vienna State Opera production of Verdi’s first smash hit, Nabucco, serves as a textbook example of the “modern dress” production style, for better or worse – and probably, for both. »

07 Apr 2006

LEONCAVALLO: Pagliacci

No exact date is given for this performance and there is good reason for it. The sleeve notes clearly state that baritone Enzo Sordello (of the 15 minutes of world fame when the Met fired him for clinging to a high note longer than Callas) sings the role of Silvio. »

04 Apr 2006

ROSSINI: Il signor Bruschino

“A jewel box of a theater”: that great cliché of the opera world comes to mind when viewing a production from the Schwetzinger Festspiele held at the Rokokotheater Schwetzingen. »

03 Apr 2006

Nine German Arias—An Urban Baroque Film

It’s always interesting when one’s own opinion about a work varies violently from others’ views, even if they are to date minimal in number. In this case, it is not the music per se that is under discussion but the way it is represented, or in my opinion, mis-represented by this film. »

01 Apr 2006

Gala Concert—50th Anniversary of the Reopening of the Vienna State Opera

Tuxes and gowns, a marathon of trotting on and offstage by renowned singers, a ritzy audience abusing their palms with ritual clapping—yes, EuroArts has another opera gala event available on DVD in this two-disc Vienna State Opera Gala concert. »

31 Mar 2006

RACHMANINOV: Piano concerti nos. 1 and 2

This is a wonderful, recent recording of these popular piano concertos by Rachmaninov. The Piano concerto no. 1 is a studio recording, while the Piano concerto no. 2 is a live version. »

31 Mar 2006

STRAUSS: Daphne

New recordings of complete operas lumber into view these days as the dinosaurs trod painfully into a dying sun in an animated depiction of their extinction. »

30 Mar 2006

OFFENBACH: La Grande-Duchesse de Gerolstein

Los Angeles Opera opened the 2005-6 season with a staging of Offenbach’s La Grande-Duchesse de Gerolstein, directed by Hollywood’s Garry Marshall. »

30 Mar 2006

Jumalaa kiittää sieluni—Hymns in Finnish

In 2001, Finland observed the 300th anniversary of the Finnish Hymnal. As a part of the celebration, YLE (the Finnish public broadcasting company) launched a project to record a substantial portion of the hymnal in performance by soloists or ensembles. »

29 Mar 2006

Franz Schubert: The Trout • The Greatest Love and The Greatest Sorrow

In this compelling documentary, Christopher Nupen has captured rare and wondrous collaborations by some of the greatest twentieth century performers as they pay tribute to an early nineteenth century musical treasure, Franz Schubert. »

29 Mar 2006

The Jessye Norman Collection from Philips

Jessye Norman’s long-time label, Philips, celebrates the artist’s sizeable recorded heritage with an expansive series of double CDs of re-releases, under the sobriquet The Jessye Norman Collection. »

24 Mar 2006

PUCCINI: Turandot

Here is a Turandot to watch with the sound off—not because the singers misfire so badly, although no one really impresses. »

23 Mar 2006

FAURÉ: The Complete Songs 3 — Chanson d’amour.

The theme of the third volume of Hyperion’s set of the Complete Songs of Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) is Chanson d’amour, which takes its name from a piece in the composer’s opus 27 set – a compilation devoted to the love song. »

22 Mar 2006

WHITACRE: Cloudburst and other choral works

There is little doubt about the popularity of Eric Whitacre’s music among North American choral ensembles. With the release of this Hyperion disc, the international choral scene may soon become enamored as well. »

21 Mar 2006

ROSSINI: Maometto Secondo

Before you watch this DVD, the best thing you can do is read the sleeve notes. They are brief but to the point; and they succinctly tell you the differences between this Venice version and the traditional one. »

21 Mar 2006

VERDI: La forza del destino

After issuing recordings of Les Vêpres Siciliennes, Simon Boccanegra, and Macbeth, Opera Rara continues it series of Verdi Originals—first versions of operas the composer later revised—with La forza del destino. »

21 Mar 2006

MOZART: Don Giovanni and Cosi fan tutte

This is an absolutely wonderful, live performance recording of two of Mozart’s best operas, Don Giovanni and Cosi fan tutte. »

20 Mar 2006

SCHUBERT: Symphony no. 9

This is an absolutely fabulous recording of Schubert’s final symphony, which is often compared as his closest composition to the style of Beethoven. »

20 Mar 2006

MONTEVERDI: L'Orfeo

In the 1990’s Pierre Audi staged productions of Monteverdi’s three surviving operas (L’Orfeo, Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, and L’incoronazione di Poppea) with De Nederlandse Opera in Amsterdam. »

20 Mar 2006

Maria Callas — Three Remastered Releases from EMI

Of all opera singers of the last century, no one better dominated the genre’s star power than Maria Callas. During her thirty-four years onstage, she came to embody the essence of the term “diva,” both in her stormy personal life and her equally tempestuous stage career. »

17 Mar 2006

My Name is Barbara

Barbara Bonney’s discography is extensive and wide-ranging, including opera and oratorio, as well as lieder recitals from Mozart and Mendelssohn through the major Romantics to Zemlinsky. »

16 Mar 2006

Songs for Ariel

Of the countertenors coming to the fore in the generation following Alfred Deller, few, if any, have achieved the prominence or performance longevity of James Bowman. »

16 Mar 2006

TCHAIKOVSKY: The Nutcracker

The Nutcracker is one of the most popular ballets. Tchaikovsky’s score alone is synonymous with Christmas—one can even say that it is what keeps this ballet alive. »

16 Mar 2006

MAHLER: Symphony no. 4
BERG: Sieben Frühe Lieder

A critical aspect of Mahler’s music is the way the composer often juxtaposed the familiar and the new, and this dichotomy is reflected strongly in his Fourth Symphony. »

13 Mar 2006

MEYERBEER: Dinorah

Some opera sets are meant to be an introduction to the work presented. They contain a booklet which tells you about the life of the composer, the history of the work, some analysis, a synopsis of the story, and maybe (if you're lucky) the libretto translated into your language. »

10 Mar 2006

Gabriela Montero — Piano Recital

This recording features piano works by the pillars of nineteenth-century Romantic piano composition (Chopin and Liszt), the Spanish-speaking musical nationalists (Granados, Ginastera, and de Falla), and the Russian composer-pianists (Scriabin and Rachmaninov) who reinterpreted the Romantic spirit in new and innovative ways for the piano. »

10 Mar 2006

MOZART: Requiem

Mozart’s Requiem has become widely-known and popular since the 1984 movie Amadeus. Left incomplete at his death, his student and assistant Franz Xaver Sussmayr (1766-1803) completed the work from Mozart’s notes. »

10 Mar 2006

VERDI: La Traviata

Could La Traviata be the opera with the most versions available on DVD? The appetite for the doomed heroine never wavers. »

09 Mar 2006

Wagnerian Songs

If Richard Wagner’s music may be seen to pervade the late nineteenth century, an area that is rarely discussed is his influence on song. »

08 Mar 2006

Karajan Performs Strauss Waltzes and Polkas

Everyone is familiar with the waltzes and polkas of the “Waltz King,” Johan Strauss II, along with his father Johann I and his brother Josef. »

08 Mar 2006

VERDI: Ernani

Verdi’s smash hit of 1844 is a relative rarity these days. As Stefano Olcese notes in his booklet essay for a new Dynamic recording, the opera calls for daunting vocal display from tenor, soprano, baritone, and bass. »

05 Mar 2006

HILLIARD ENSEMBLE: Thy Kiss of a Divine Nature — The Contemporary Perotin

The richness of the Ars Antiqua flourishing in Paris in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries marks the time as one of high cultural achievement, drawing nurture from the contemporaneous rise of the Cathedral of Notre Dame and the University of Paris. »

05 Mar 2006

MOZART: The Magic Flute

It would be presumptuous of me to go through the entire plot of The Magic Flute, given its historical and popular significance with all classical music devotees. »

28 Feb 2006

BACH: Works for Trumpet

This recording is a grouping of various compositions by J.S. Bach, which are not solely dedicated to the trumpet, but provide some of the most demanding repertoire for the instrument prior to the nineteenth century. »

22 Feb 2006

VIVALDI: Concerti con molti strumenti, vol. 2

Vivaldi was very impressed with the sound and performances of the Dresden court orchestra when they visited Venice in 1716. »

22 Feb 2006

SCHÜTZ: Symphoniae Sacrae III

The tragic ravages of the Thirty Years’ War explicitly shaped the musical output of Heinrich Schütz. »

21 Feb 2006

ARIOSTI: “The Flowering and Fading of Love”

Musicologists should be eager to welcome the “first modern recordings” of any work; surely having the opportunity to hear a long-lost musical treasure, rather than having it stare off the page in black-and-white, is something to be celebrated. »

21 Feb 2006

VIVALDI: Concerti e Cantate da Camera III

As the Vivaldi edition continues, Opus 111 is releasing a series of individual volumes dedicated to cantatas interspersed with other chamber works. »

17 Feb 2006

VIVALDI: Arie d’Opera

This recording is another gem from the Complete Vivaldi Edition, a collaboration of Naïve (opus 111) and various Piedmontese institutions [see this author’s review of Vivaldi’s Orlando in that series]. »

15 Feb 2006

BARRY: The Intelligence Park

Irish composer Gerald Barry insists that “Really, my music is very straightforward. »

13 Feb 2006

WAGNER: Parsifal

Nikolaus Lehnhoff’s Parsifal, first staged by English National Opera in 1999, is given on this Opus Arte DVD in a 2004 performance led by Kent Nagano at the Baden-Baden summer festival. »

11 Feb 2006

GÓRECKI: Symphony no. 3

Henryk Górecki’s Symphony no. 3 (1976), his “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs,” as it is called, is one of the most popular recordings of late twentieth-century music. »

11 Feb 2006

CIMAROSA: Il Matrimonio Segreto

Premiered in 1792 (just months after the death of Mozart), Il Matrimonio Segreto won over Vienna from the start, and Domenico Cimarosa’s opera would remain his most popular work. »

09 Feb 2006

BYRD: The Great Service

The religious turmoil of sixteenth-century England was characterized not only by factionalism and polarity, but also famously by the charting of a via media, a middle path, through opposing views. »

05 Feb 2006

MAHLER: Symphonies 1-10 • Das Lied von der Erde

The late Gary Bertini (1927-2005) was noted for his fine interpretations of Mahler’s work, and his cycle with EMI was esteemed highly. An accomplished musician, Bertini founded the Israeli Chamber Orchestra in 1965, and later become chief conductor of the Jerusalem Symphony. »

04 Feb 2006

TCHAIKOVSKY: Swan Lake

This 2005 release was filmed at a performance in La Scala’s temporary home, Milan’s Teatro degli Arcimboldi, in April 2004. It is based on the Burmeister version of the ballet of some 50 years ago, first introduced in the West by the Paris Opera. »

03 Feb 2006

WAGNER: Der Ring des Nibelungen

It has been nearly thirty years since the centenary production of the Ring at Bayreuth, and the controversy and even scandal that it generated have long since faded into memory. »

02 Feb 2006

BRUCKNER: Symphonie no. 6

The symphonies of Anton Bruckner deserve excellent performances to convey the intensity that the composer intended for them, and sometimes an individual performance can offer the opportunity to understand them more clearly. »

01 Feb 2006

HANDEL: Radamisto

Handel went to London as a free-lance musician – i.e., “on his own bottom” – in autumn 1710. His Rinaldo of February 1711, with its dazzling arias and scenic spectacles, was resoundingly successful. »

29 Jan 2006

DEBUSSY: La Mer

Inspired by the elitist poets of late nineteenth century Paris, Debussy was eager to join their ranks by developing musical ideas that evoked the same emotional response as the poetry he admired. Originally, Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune was a collaborative project between Debussy and Stéphane Mallarmé, a poet highly regarded by the composer. »

29 Jan 2006

PETITGIRARD: The Elephant Man

Perhaps instead of waiting for the next great new opera, focus should be on finding the next great opera composer. »

27 Jan 2006

ROSSINI: Il Turco in Italia

Clearly someone at Naxos loves Rossini. The label only recently released a good Cenerentola with the most excellent Joyce Di Donato, and the back catalog contains many titles, including highly praised sets of Barbieri (with Ramon Vargas) and Tancredi (featuring Ewa Podles). »

26 Jan 2006

KÁLMÁN: Lieder

I wonder if a record company, any record company, would have taken the trouble of recording these songs if the composer had been Zoltan Kocsis or Deszö Ranki instead of Imre (his real first name) Kálmán? »

26 Jan 2006

PADEREWSKI: Manru

Known for his virtuosity as a pianist, Ignacy Paderewski (1860-1941) is also known as a composer. While most of his works involve piano, he left a single opera, Manru, a three-act work that he composed between 1892 and 1901. »

26 Jan 2006

SALLINEN: Barabbas Dialogues

Two of Finland’s greatest artistic luminaries—composer Aulis Sallinen (b. 1935) and poet Lassi Nummi (b. 1928)—came together to produce a fine new work, The Barabbas Dialogues (2004), which has been recently recorded and released on CD on the CPO label. »

25 Jan 2006

BRITTEN: Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings etc.

In an era where new studio recordings by major orchestras have dwindled to a pathetic dribble, leaving many fine institutions to start their own in-house labels, the Berlin Philharmonic still has an active contract with a major company (its conductor’s label of many years, EMI) and releases come on a regular basis. A recent one features some of Benjamin Britten’s great work for instruments and tenor. »

24 Jan 2006

Violeta Urmana — Lieder

“Carmen, un bon conseil” warns Frasquita in the last act of the opera. So friends, heed my advice and don’t play this CD in your car when you are accompanied by someone who likes opera but is not crazy on lieder. »

24 Jan 2006

MERCADANTE: La vestale

It is now slightly over 40 years since the first recording of a complete opera by Saverio Mercadante (an Il Giuramento with Maria Vitale and Amedeo Berdini) was released on LP. I quickly fell in love with his music, and realized that, while not necessarily on the same level as Bellini and Donizetti, he was not far behind, and that more of his works would be extremely welcome. »

22 Jan 2006

BIZET: Carmen

On June 3, 1875, thirty-six year old Bizet died after having one, some say two, heart attacks preceded by other complications. Legend has it that the composer's death was hastened by the failure of his latest work, Carmen. »

19 Jan 2006

The Diva Live — Wilhelmenia Fernandez & Bruno Fontaine

In 1981 Wilhelminia Fernandez became somewhat of a cult figure when the French thriller “Diva” appeared on the screens. For a time her “Ebben, ne andro lontano” from La Wally almost became a hit and several commercials used a small part of the aria. »

18 Jan 2006

GERSHWIN: Porgy and Bess

So EMI has declared this 1988 Porgy and Bess to be one of the “Great Recordings of the Century.” That may settle the issue for many – but not all. »

17 Jan 2006

IT MUST NOT HAVE BEEN EASY BEING MOZART

It must not have been an easy life, being Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791). Perhaps even more so after the fact when scholars began to do their research and “wanna bes” began their intimations and psychoanalyzing. In the more seventy-five years of Mozart scholarship and its coming of age, one must ask: How much more is there to learn, to research? »

16 Jan 2006

STRAUSS: Capriccio

It is not uncommon for opera on DVD to have credits for two directors. In the case of this Paris Capriccio, a new production from June 2004, the credits list Robert Carsen as the stage director and Francois Roussillon as directing for TV and video. »

16 Jan 2006

Trinity Sunday at Westminster Abbey

Under the direction of James O’Donnell since January 2000, the Choir of Westminster Abbey has cultivated a robust singing style that well serves the music of this new recording and continues the Abbey’s position as one of the obvious standard bearers of the English cathedral tradition. »

14 Jan 2006

Berlin Opera Night

At 73 minutes, this DVD of the typical gala affair – various soloists trot on, sing an aria, then trot off – can’t be called generous, but it does have variety. »

14 Jan 2006

MASSENET: Werther

When you and I were young Maggie, there was only the fine Werther with Thill and Vallin and the Cetra recording with Tagliavini and his first wife, Pia Tassinari. »

14 Jan 2006

SCHEIDT: Ludi musici I, II, III & IV

I suspect that when we survey the musical landscape of the early seventeenth century, it is opera, monody, and madrigal that come most quickly and lastingly into view, and given the contemporaneous attention given to the relationship between music and word, it is unsurprising that this would be the case. »

14 Jan 2006

CACCINI: Nuove musiche

When Giulio Caccini entitled his landmark 1601/02 publication Le nuove musiche, he confidently laid claim both to the novelty of the emerging baroque style and his formidable role in bringing it to blossom. »

11 Jan 2006

VERDI: Macbeth

This Macbeth, originally conceived by Phyllida Lloyd for a co-production of the Paris Opéra and Covent Garden, is an excellent example of what nowadays is to be seen on most opera stages in Europe (and probably the States as well). »

11 Jan 2006

BELLINI: I Puritani

Through Rossini's influence Bellini and his rival Donizetti were each invited to compose an opera for the Théâtre des Italiens in Paris. Bellini who, paranoid and delusional, thought he was the object of a sinister plan headed by Rossini to benefit Donizetti, went out of his way to ingratiate himself with the "Great Master" long before Donizetti's arrival in the French capital. After a year of idle life in Paris, where he survived off the kindness of his hosts and friends, the Sicilian composer set to work on what would regretfully become his last opera: I Puritani di Scozia. »

08 Jan 2006

CILEA: L’Arlesiana

For a work that is known as a one-aria-opera, four official (this one included) recordings is not a bad record. And of course most opera-lovers have not only “E la solita storia” in their many tenor recitals but know the baritone aria “Come due tizzi” and the mezzo’s “Esser madre è un inferno” as well. »

08 Jan 2006

Operatunity Winners — Denise Leigh and Jane Gilchrist

When asked if I had any interest in reviewing the discs of “the Operatunity finalists,” I admit I was so ignorant of what Operatunity was that I had to make a quick web search to find out. »

06 Jan 2006

Dvořák und seine Zeit

Dvořák und seine Zeit – Dvořák and his Time – immediately conveys a singular perspective on some of the vocal music of Antonín Dvořák (1841-1904) in the context of his generation. Recorded on 17 August 2004, the music on this two-CD set is from the second of two programs that were given at the 2004 Salzburg Festspiel under the rubric of “Dvořák und seine Zeit.” »

06 Jan 2006

Natalie Dessay: Mozart Concert Arias

I wonder how Natalie Dessay would comment on this CD made more than 10 years ago when she was barely thirty? The lady is a dream for every interviewer. »

06 Jan 2006

BELLINI: La Sonnambula

What to do, what to do, with Bellini and Romani’s bel canto masterpiece, La Sonnambula? The exquisite music demands to be performed, so the opera continues to have an existence on the fringes of the standard repertory. »

04 Jan 2006

Régine Crespin: Wagner and Berlioz Opera Arias

For those who want to possess every single TV appearance of Régine Crespin, this issue will not suffice. Only four items of the EMI DVD devoted to the soprano are to be found on the short DVD that is included with this CD. »

04 Jan 2006

CATALANI: La Falce

Although nothing is mentioned on the cover of the CD, I think this is the first official recording of the opera even if there are some pirates doing the rounds of the collectors (my copy is a Buenos Aires pirate). So this is not an unimportant issue of Catalani’s first opera. »

03 Jan 2006

Jonathan Lemalu: Love Blows as the Wind Blows

If one should believe British critics, especially English ones, Jonathan Lemalu is a major new bass; one of the greatest talents around whose qualities are widely proven by the fact this is already his third solo CD in a short time. »

02 Jan 2006

BRUCH: Das Lied von der Glocke

A century or so past, those simpler times without the internet, Desperate Housewives, and back-to-back sports and other activities that desperate parents feel they have to chauffeur their children to so they’ll be able to get into the higher levels of student loan debt, Americans joined choral societies and regularly presented well-known oratorios and cantatas: Elijah, The Seasons, maybe Christ on the Mount of Olives if they were really adventurous. »

02 Jan 2006

WEBER: Der Freischütz

This 1959 recording is one where the whole is bigger and better than the separate parts. It is the German equivalent to the Cetra recordings of the fifties. Those were maybe not the greatest recording of an opera but one felt that everybody was steeped in the Italian tradition. The same is happening here. »

02 Jan 2006

VERDI: La Traviata

One takes a look at the sleeve and one realizes the wheel has finally turned a full circle. It started to move with the Decca La Traviata (Gheorgiu as Violetta, conducted by Solti) in 1994. Downloading and pc-copies were still in the future but nevertheless sales of complete opera recordings were spectacularly falling off since the eighties. »

29 Dec 2005

Mario Del Monaco at the Bolshoi

Myto has the good sense to call a spade a spade. This is an issue exclusively meant for the Del Monaco-crowd and not for people wanting a Carmen or a Pagliacci. The set has one enormous quality: a brilliant natural sound that hides nothing and doesn’t change the balance of the voices. »

29 Dec 2005

SCHREKER: Christophorus oder “Die Vision einer Oper”

How easy it might be to overlook this lesser-known Schreker opera, composed in 1928 and dedicated to Schreker’s good friend Arnold Schoenberg, here in its recorded debut. It has a quite curious libretto, complex and multilayered, and Schreker moves between what are at times quite disparate styles. »

27 Dec 2005

SCHUBERT: Winterreise

Franz Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise has been performed by many fine singers, who keep the work alive in the repertoire and in the imagination of audiences. In recent years the work has been subject to a variety of interpretations, and with this recording, the well-known tenor René Kollo offers his perspective on the work, accompanied by the young pianist Oliver Pohl. »

27 Dec 2005

A Trio of New Year's Concerts

The first thing I saw when I opened the La Scala DVD was a notice on the back that track 5 plays “Va! Pensiero da: I vespri siciliani (1855).” One wonders if there is nobody at the La Scala Bookshop who has at least a bit of knowledge of one of the most popular pieces in the operatic repertoire that served Italy for more than hundred years as an unofficial anthem — the Venice DVD has it right, of course. »

22 Dec 2005

LUTOSLAWSKI: Twenty Polish Christmas Carols

Witold Lutosławski (1913-94) composed vocal works throughout his career, and recording collects several pieces that involve female voices. His set of Twenty Polish Christmas Carols for soprano, women’s choir and orchestra is a late composition compiled between 1985 and 1989 and given its premiere in 1990. »

21 Dec 2005

Christmas with Renée and Bryn

Though singers have always recorded some of these arias and songs, it was young Leontyne Price who first started a trend by devoting a whole LP to the genre more than 45 years ago. »

21 Dec 2005

RACHMANINOV: The Miserly Knight

In its 2004 season Glyndebourne put on a double bill celebrating avarice — Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and the much-lesser known The Miserly Knight. »

21 Dec 2005

Giulini Conducts Mozart and Mahler

With the passing of Carl Maria Giulini (1913-2005) in June 2005, the music world lost one of its finest conductors. Among his legacy are some critical recordings, which represent the literature that Giulini chose to preserve. »

21 Dec 2005

Two Super Audio CD re-releases of Elly Ameling performances for Philips

I admit I jumped at the chance to review these SACD re-releases of performances that were on the very first classical vocal LP’s that I owned and overplayed on under-maintained equipment, to the point where I frankly shudder to even try to compare my vinyl versions with the digital. »

18 Dec 2005

WAGNER, S.: Der Heidenkönig

What an unjust fate for an aspiring opera composer to be born the son of Richard Wagner! Imagine a child of Albert Einstein who dreams of greatness in science, or the son of William Shakespeare sitting down to sketch out his first sonnet. Doubtless you would have a nagging suspicion that you would likely never better your father’s titanic accomplishments. »

18 Dec 2005

The legendary Magda Olivero

What is the difference between a lady who becomes a prima-donna and a prima-donna who becomes a lady? The last one has to be begged as she thinks she has to behave according to her rank. The first one is sure of herself and doesn’t need, well let’s call it to behave somewhat capriciously. »

18 Dec 2005

RAUTAVAARA: Rasputin

In fall 2003, Los Angeles Opera opened its season with Deborah Dratell’s Nicholas and Alexandra, with libretto by Nicholas von Hoffman. At that time, company director Placido Domingo, who took on the juicy role of Rasputin, announced that the production would be filmed and prepared for eventual DVD release. »

14 Dec 2005

Sherrill Milnes - An All Star Gala

The former TV-producer in me tells me the following conversation took place between producer and director (in German as this is a GDR (East-Germany) product). »

12 Dec 2005

GAY: The Beggar’s Opera

Benjamin Britten’s identity as a decidedly “national” composer is formed in part by his well-known engagement of pre-existent English music, old English texts, and subjects rich in the English legacy, as a glance at works like the Purcellian The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, the Chester mystery play, Noyes Fludde, or the Elizabethan opera, Gloriana, all confirm. »

11 Dec 2005

Gwyneth Jones - In Concert

Sorry my friends, but since I retired as a TV-reporter I forgot a lot of technical know-how, which to be fair never interested me very much. »

11 Dec 2005

Edita Gruberová — The Queen of Belcanto Volume I

There are countless artists whose legend survives on their supposed fame, others leave a substantial legacy of their achievements. »

11 Dec 2005

On Christmas Day

Tastes in music for Christmas are quite personal. One individual’s beloved tradition may be another’s annoying jangling that just won’t go away. »

11 Dec 2005

STRAVINSKY: The Rite of Spring; The Nightingale

So much has been written about the notorious scandal of May 29, 1913, the scandal of the reception of the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s ballet Le Sacre du Printemps, that it is easy to forget that the music itself was less the cause of the riotous activities than the subject, the décor, and the dancing. »

11 Dec 2005

The Art of Gérard Souzay

If anyone had played the soundtrack of those first numbers of the 1955 telecast, I would have looked up in surprise at first and would have wondered if an electronic wizard had cleaned up the acoustic recordings of that giant of French singing: Jean-Emile Vanni-Marcoux. »

11 Dec 2005

DONIZETTI: Il Diluvio Universale

Originally issued in LP by Voce (100), this unfairly neglected work by Gaetano Donizetti is now available on the Bongiovanni (GB2386/87-2) label. »

11 Dec 2005

LEHÁR: Das Land des Lächelns

This version of Lehár’s second most popular operetta is not one for purists. By the mid-seventies, it was already clear that one of the biggest tragedies of Western classical music was taking place — the disappearance of operetta with its tons of wonderful music. »

10 Dec 2005

A Time of Tristans

We live in a time of Tristan & Isolde — recordings of the great Wagner opera, that is. »

06 Dec 2005

ROSSINI: Moise et Pharaon

Rossini's original Italian opera, Mose In Egitto, was re-adapted as Moise et Pharaon for Paris. A new libretto, the renaming of certain characters, some new music, a ballet and reordering of the original music make up the newer version. »

04 Dec 2005

DONIZETTI: Lucia di Lammermoor

A superstar in Europe, Edita Gruberova can rest assured that future generations have the opportunity to appreciate her artistry: the record label Nightingale Classics exists primarily, it seems, to record her in her greatest roles. »

02 Dec 2005

FAURÉ: The Complete Songs, Vol. 2

As the second of four of the thematically organized recording of the Complete Songs of Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924), Un paysage choisi is an excellent offering of chansons that concern selected natural places, that is to say, the “chosen landscape” indicated in the title of this volume. »

02 Dec 2005

PROKOFIEV: Ivan the Terrible

Sergei Prokofiev’s Ivan the Terrible? Which one? Prokofiev composed music for Sergei Eisenstein’s film (part 1, 1942-44; part 2, 1945) about the sixteenth-century ruler, and the score is catalogued as op. 116. After the composer’s death, music for the film was arranged first into an oratorio (with speaker, soloists, chorus, and orchestra) by Alexander Stasevich (1961) and later into a concert scenario by Christopher Palmer (1990). »

02 Dec 2005

Songs of Vaughan Williams and Ives

Ralph Vaughan Williams and Charles Ives; both known more for their symphonic music than anything else, receive superb tributes in these recordings of some of their early songs. Only two years separate the birth dates of these composers; but the musical language each speaks seems to put far more distance than that between them. »

29 Nov 2005

BIZET: Carmen

Two recent releases document performances of Georges Bizet’s Carmen that took place within just a few months of each other. The casts share many of the same performers, most notably the conductor and the interpreter of the opera’s title role. »

29 Nov 2005

Michele Pertusi - Recital

Bass-baritone Michele Pertusi’s voice is captured in this recital disc after only two years of formal studies. Taking this into account one can forgive what he calls “imperfections: a few, slight musical errors, some invented or switched words, a Neapolitan pronunciation that is not quite perfect, an English one which could be improved on, a few marred notes.” »

28 Nov 2005

ROSSINI: Guillaume Tell

On 24 October 1998, the Vienna State Opera presented the opening night of its staging of Gioachino Rosssini’s Guillaume Tell. It was the first Staatsoper production in 91 years of Rossini’s final opera and masterpiece, as well as the Vienna premiere of the 1829 opera’s original French-language version. »

28 Nov 2005

MACMILLAN: Seven Last Words from the Cross

The compositions of John Tavener, Arvo Pärt, and Henryk Górecki have accustomed us to the degree that religious spirituality has found serious musical voice in the late twentieth century. In their works, a profound language of musical mysticism is wed to various liturgical evocations, creating compositions that seem both authentic in their expression and unusually personal in their genesis. »

28 Nov 2005

LANGGAARD: Antikrist

Watching this DVD, your reviewer suddenly recalled a brief exchange from the film Reversal of Fortune, when the Ron Silver/Alan Dershowitz character says to the Jeremy Irons/Claus von Bulow one, “You are a very strange man, “ and Irons, in the moment that may have won him the Academy Award, replies with eerie blandness, “You have no idea.” »

26 Nov 2005

GINASTERA: Musica de camera y Canciones

Orfeo has joined the ranks of CD companies adding artwork to the inner casing beneath the disc. For this recording of Argentinean composer Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983), a series of photographs of gauchos riding horses on the pampas receives a modified Andy Warhol treatment. »

25 Nov 2005

VERDI: La Traviata

Eight long and dark years later, La Fenice rose, once again, from the ashes following a devastating fire which destroyed the theater in 1996. For the “formal” re-opening of the refurbished Venetian landmark, its management wisely chose Verdi’s original score for his 1853 opera for La Fenice: La Traviata—another survivor that rose from the ashes. »

22 Nov 2005

Lamento — Arias, Cantatas and Scenes by the Bach Family

Dorothea Schroder, as translated by Stewart Spencer, begins her booklet essay for Magdalena Kozena’s recent CD by quoting a review of an earlier disc of the mezzo: “…Kozena is simply marvelous.” Brazen record company self-promotion? »

21 Nov 2005

RAMEAU: Les Indes galantes

Jean-Philippe Rameau is usually remembered today (when he is remembered at all) as an important musical theorist. This limited reputation is unfortunate, because Rameau was a masterful composer known for his sumptuous melodies and colorful harmonies. »

20 Nov 2005

Verdi Songs

I’m told that, if an auditioning singer’s repertoire includes a Verdi piece, the auditors will very likely choose to hear it, because singing Verdi well requires the full catalogue of skills: musical exactness, dynamic range, breath control, sensitive phrasing, the ability to provide a variety of colors in the voice, and, if possible, a large enough personality to truly fill out whichever character is being portrayed. »

19 Nov 2005

DELIBES: Lakmé

I have to admit it: this is the first time I ever listened to the complete version of this early Decca-issue of 1952 (though some sources say it was recorded one year earlier). »

19 Nov 2005

KRENEK: Lieder

While I was listening to this recording of Krenek’s song cycles Durch die Nacht (op. 67) and Gesänge des späten Jahres (op. 71), I started to think about art and memory. »

19 Nov 2005

GLASS: Orion

I first became acquainted with Glass’s music when Lyric Opera of Chicago staged his Satyagraha in the 1980s. Having grown up on a small-town Midwestern diet of Beethoven sonatas and Broadway musicals, I was blown away by his vision of Mahatma Gandhi. »

19 Nov 2005

Heroic Tenors

A happy feature of the King CD is the booklet in German and English: at least 7 pages full of information on the tenor. Then there is the pristine sound of the recordings. Though there is no mention of a concert source I’m fairly sure all the pieces (always followed by generous applause), are derived from the famous Münchner Sonntag Konzerte. »

18 Nov 2005

SULLIVAN: The Rose of Persia

Sir Arthur Sullivan’s legacy suffers from that common malaise that, once a good or bad reputation is made, it is very difficult to be remembered for anything else—be it better or worse. »

17 Nov 2005

An Introduction to... MASSENET Werther

For anyone who is remotely familiar with opera, the first question would be, “What is the need for a recording like this?” Of course, not being familiar with the CD justifies the question, but once it has been played, the realization sets in that the answer was there all along. »

17 Nov 2005

Soprano Songs and Arias

For those who frequent the Santa Fe Opera and Houston Grand Opera, Ana María Martínez is well-known as a superb lyric soprano on her way to a stellar career. With the release of this collection of songs and arias for soprano, the rest of the world will come to know this as well. »

16 Nov 2005

Decca Classic Recitals

The first thought one has is « how nice to have those recitals back like they were issued ». One remembers too well the first days of the CD when historical vocal recitals appeared more or less mutilated, often culled from two or more LP’s so that some tracks were sorely missed. »

15 Nov 2005

STRAUSS: Lieder

The Lieder of Richard Strauss lend themselves well to various interpretations that bring out different aspects of the music. »

13 Nov 2005

STRAVINSKY : The Rake’s Progress

This production, from Glyndebourne in 1975, is a treasure of literate, artistically informed stagecraft. Opera is meant to be seen as much as heard, and productions like this prove that good staging brings a score alive. »

13 Nov 2005

VERDI: Stiffelio

This is the third re-issue (in Europe anyway) on CD of the only existing studio recording of Stiffelio. Luckily it is a rather good one as its live competitors are not recordings for eternity. Neither Limarilli in 1968 nor Del Monaco (at his coarsest in 1972) have much sense of style, let alone a knack for true Verdi-phrasing. Not that José Carreras is flawless. »

09 Nov 2005

TCHAIKOVSKY: Sleeping Beauty

Tchaikovsky counted Sleeping Beauty as one of his best works. The idea came from Ivan Vsevolozhsky (1835-1909), director of the Russian Imperial Theatres from 1881 onward. He had staged several of Tchaikovsky’s operas, and he wanted Tchaikovsky to produce a ballet score with him. »

09 Nov 2005

STRAUSS: Daphne

The formidable Straussian Sir Georg Solti wrote that after the 1929 death of Strauss’s long-time librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal, “Strauss lived for another twenty years, but he never again wrote a great work.” »

09 Nov 2005

KHACHATURIAN: Spartacus

Khachaturian was one of the few Soviet composers of the Stalin regime to overcome his public demotion in 1948. Even though he was removed from his job and his works disappeared from the theatres, Khachaturian moved to the world of film music and waited for the storm to blow over. »

08 Nov 2005

Hear My Prayer

This anthology, a twentieth-anniversary commemoration of Aled Jones’ first recording for the Welsh company, Sain, is a re-issue of that 1983 recording, “Diolch â Chân,” along with several other tracks from the mid-1980’s. Jones stepped out of the choir stalls at Bangor Cathedral to become a highly marketed treble, and his relative celebrity, as attested here, was well deserved. »

06 Nov 2005

RIGHINI: Il Convitato di Pietra (The Stone Guest)

Born in Bologna on January 22, 1756, Righini’s musical career started early when he was a choirboy at San Petronio. When he was nineteen, Righini made his professional singing debut as a tenor in Parma, and one year later he joined the Bustelli Opera in Prague. »

02 Nov 2005

ROSSINI: Der Barbier von Sevilla (Barbiere di Siviglia)

Rossini’s masterpiece is based on Beaumarchais’ first of three plays—Le Barbier de Séville, La folle journée ou Le Mariage de Figaro, and La Mère Coupable—detailing the adventures of Figaro, a barber from Seville, Spain. Rossini was not the first, nor the last composer to set the story to music: Giovanni Maria Pagliardi, Friedrich Ludwig Benda, Johann André, Francesco Morlacchi, Miguel Nieto and Gerónimo Jiménez, Nicolo Isouard, and H. R. Bishop are some of the names that come to mind. »

01 Nov 2005

BORODIN: Prince Igor (Highlights)

Not long ago the record label Delos announced that they would embark on a series of studio recordings of highlights from operas. This intriguing idea seemed to address the recording crisis spawned by the shrinking market for full studio sets, with their high cost for both producer and purchaser. »

01 Nov 2005

BIBER: Missa Christi resurgentis

In 1682 the Archbishopric of Salzburg celebrated its 1100th anniversary with an appropriately festal service in the Cathedral, depicted in an engraving by Melchior Küsel. Küsel’s engraving is a striking image, bringing into harmony the grand scale of the building (not yet one hundred years old), the ornamental richness of the interior, and the strong subdivisions of its space. »

30 Oct 2005

SAINT-SAËNS: Samson et Dalila

French composer Camille Saint-Saëns was a child prodigy, musicologist, astronomer, archeologist, poet, writer, teacher, and one of the most important and prolific composers of his generation. Yet, Saint-Saëns’ reputation has, for some time, mainly rested on his instrumental works the “Organ” Symphony, the overture Carnival of the Animals and his oratorio turned opera, Samson et Dalila. »

30 Oct 2005

PUCCINI: Manon Lescaut

Manon Lescaut was Puccini’s first big success, and his first contribution to the repertory. Yet it’s popularity has always lagged behind that of the composer’s following three mega-hits La Boheme, Tosca, and Madama Butterfly, as well as some later successes such as Turandot and even Gianni Schicchi. »

30 Oct 2005

Ewa Podleś — Rossini Gala

If Rossini could set a laundry list to music, then Ewa Podleś is one of the few candidates available to sing it. In this CD, recorded live at the Polish Radio Hall in Wroclaw (Wratislavia), during the thirty third International Festival Wratislavia Cantans Music and Fine Arts, the Polish contralto gives ample proof of her status as one of the great singers of her generation. »

27 Oct 2005

ROSSINI: La Cenerentola

Naxos is perhaps the only significant major label regularly releasing complete opera sets. A few have won widespread praise, and certainly the prices, at super-budget level, make them attractive to both first-time buyers and those whose collections scarcely justify an additional set. »

26 Oct 2005

Great Operatic Arias, Vol. 17 — Christine Brewer

Beethoven Shines Thru the Mix In the best of all possible worlds this recording of arias and show tunes would have been done in the original languages, the language of composition, with the vocal sounds intended by Gluck, Mozart, Weber, Wagner and others who defined great singing. »

26 Oct 2005

BACH: Cantatas, vol. 18

Here we have another part of John Eliot Gardiner’s remarkable Bach Cantata Pilgrimage, undertaken to perform—and record live—all of Bach’s surviving church cantatas at many different churches in a single year. »

26 Oct 2005

SZYMANOWSKI: Piano Music

Piotr Anderszewski is a talented young pianist, who makes Szymanowski’s music come alive in his recent recording of three of the composer’s major pieces. »

24 Oct 2005

The Karajan Collection—Wagner Orchestral Music

“Das Wunder Karajan” – “the miracle of Karajan” – is a phrase associated with the conductor since he was thirty years old, and that phrase holds true in his recorded legacy. In addition to recent DVD releases, EMI has issued a series of CDs in its “The Karajan Collection,” which preserves many fine studio recordings. »

24 Oct 2005

The Karajan Collection—Philharmonia Promenade Concert

The rich legacy of Herbert von Karajan includes a number of recordings with various orchestras around the world, and among them is the Philharmonia Orchestra, which is documented in the CD entitled Philharmonia Promenade Concert. As Richard Osborne recounts in the notes that accompany this release, Herbert von Karajan made a number of recordings with the Philharmonia Orchestra between 1948 and 1960. »

24 Oct 2005

DVOŘÁK: Tone Poems

In a richly Bohemian folk-style, the Czech poet Karel Jaromír Erben produced a collection of enchanted poetry that inspired Antonín Dvořák to compose his expressive array of hauntingly dark tone poems. Ultimately, the main character of each poem suffers a tragic consequence for their transgressions, ranging from the thoughtless utterances of a frustrated mother, to disobeying a parent, to murder. »

21 Oct 2005

BRUCKNER: Symphony No. 8

In recent years orchestras like the London Symphony have begun to release their own CDs, in lieu of pursing contracts recording firms. While the implications of this are best left to another discussion, it is significant to see that Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra now has its own label, and among its recordings is a fine live performance of Anton Bruckner’s Symphony no. 8 in C minor, led by its conductor laureate, Bernard Haitink. This recording is actually made from performances given on 18 and 20 February 2005, and preserves an outstanding recent interpretation of this enduring work by Bruckner. »

21 Oct 2005

Walisische Lieder sind eine Entdeckung wert

Das walisische Label SAIN (das walisische Wort für "Sound"), gegründet 1969 von Dafydd Iwan, Huw Jones und Brian Morgan Edwards, hat einen starken sozialen und politischen Anspruch und ist darauf spezialisiert, CD's mit jungen Sängern und Liedern aus Wales und in walisischer Sprache herauszubringen. »

21 Oct 2005

Welsh songs worth discovering

SAIN (the Welsh word for 'sound', and pronounced like the English word 'sign') is Wales' leading recording company, founded in 1969 in Cardiff by Dafydd Iwan, Huw Jones and Brian Morgan Edwards. The label has a strong social and political message, and for the first few years, SAIN specialised in songs by young singers, many of them concerning the national and linguistic resurgence of Wales, which had begun in the 60's. »

18 Oct 2005

BERKELEY: Ruth

You may never have heard of Lennox Berkeley. But his music was admired by many of the most notable composers of the mid-20th century—Britten and Poulenc were close personal friends, and he has a dedicated band of admirers today (there is a Lennox Berkeley Society). Yet, for one reason or another, Berkeley has never become a household name. »

18 Oct 2005

XL—Œuvres pour grand chœur

The “XL” of the title of this recording is, as the program book notes, a double reference. First, read as Roman numerals, it points to the extraordinary number of voice parts in Thomas Tallis’ famous “Spem in alium” and its modern analogue here, Antony Pitts’ “XL,” a forty-voice setting of text from Psalm 40. »

14 Oct 2005

MARSCHNER: Hans Heiling

This Dynamic set spills over with rewards for opera lovers, especially those looking for something a little (or a lot) off the beaten path. »

13 Oct 2005

HAYDN: Missa Cellensis
MOZART: Credo Messe
PARADISI GLORIA: Psalms
PARADISI GLORIA: Stabat Mater

One can divide these recordings into two groups of two compact discs each. Much of the music of the two Mass settings offered here was composed in the mid 1770s. We have a young Mozart—twenty years old and in the employ of Archbishop Colloredo of Salzburg when he composed this Credo Mass—and the veteran Franz Joseph Haydn, twice Mozart’s age and firmly settled at the Esterhazy court, when he completed the Credo, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei movements of the Missa Cellensis, a work he had begun in 1766 with the Kyrie and Gloria movements. »

11 Oct 2005

OFFENBACH: Les Fées du Rhin (Die Rheinnixen)

The genre of grand opera is not traditionally associated with Jacques Offenbach’s posthumous reputation. Yet as demonstrated by the performances documented in the present recording and essays in the accompanying notes, a revision of our assessment of Offenbach’s strengths is long overdue. »

10 Oct 2005

HANDEL: Teseo

“Teseo” is one of those “might have been” Handel operas that for one reason or another has never quite made the big time in a high profile, major house performance during our current period of baroque revival. However, this is not something that worries the enterprising likes of the Lautten Compagney Berlin and its Music Director Wolfgang Katschner nor the countertenor-turned-stage director Axel Kohler: for them this rather rare oddity of Handel’s genius is simply too good a chance to miss. »

08 Oct 2005

MAHLER: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen; Fünf Rückert-Lieder

In recent years the few recordings of Mahler’s Lieder with piano accompaniment demonstrate the delicacy of the music in this format and its connections traditional Romantic Lieder. To such fine examples as those by Stephan Genz (on Hyperion) and Thomas E. Bauer (on Ars Musici), Konrad Jarnot is a fine addition. »

06 Oct 2005

ORFF: Carmina Burana

Once hailed by the Nazis as a symbol of Aryan supremacy, Carmina Burana has come to be recognized as a powerful expression of the gluttony and depravity present in a medieval, pagan society. An effective performance of Orff’s musical adventure must allow audiences to envision the “imagines magicae,” or magical images conveyed through the convergence of music and choreography. »

04 Oct 2005

RAVEL: Shéhérezade
DUPARC: Mélodies

Konrad Jarnot is a young baritone who brings a wonderful vitality to the music he has recorded. He also has another Oehms release, a selection of Lieder by Gustav Mahler, which is engaging for the strong sense of line he brings to that repertoire, which is precisely what he brings to this collection of French vocal music. »

04 Oct 2005

PROKOFIEV: Romeo and Juliet
RESPHIGHI: Pini di Roma

The biographies of the two composers whose works are represented on this disc, Sergei Prokofiev and Ottorino Respighi, share many common threads. In addition to moving in similar circles early in their lives (for example, both studied with Rimsky-Korsakov and both were later connected with Diaghilev), they similarly composed in totalitarian regimes at the end of their careers. »

03 Oct 2005

CONRADI: Die schöne und getreue Ariadne

Since its inception in 1980, the biennial Boston Early Music Festival has grown to international stature of the first rank, and while its programming is diverse in scale and repertory, its focus in recent years has been on full-scale productions of baroque opera, including Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, Rossi’s Orfeo, Cavalli’s Ercole Amante, Lully’s Thésée, and this past summer, Mattheson’s Boris Goudenouw. »

30 Sep 2005

MENDELSSOHN BARTHOLDY: Der Onkel aus Boston

For the most part, the posthumous reputation of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-43) resides on the composer’s instrumental works and of all his vocal music, his two oratorios, Elias and Paulus are familiar to the general public. »

29 Sep 2005

Brigitte Fassbaender: Lieder — Mahler, Berg, Ogermann

Since 1995 the mezzo-soprano Brigitte Fassbaender no longer performs as a singer, but has devoted her recent career to directing. »

29 Sep 2005

FALLA: El amor brujo; El sombrero de tres picos; La vida breve

With this CD, Naxos continues its well deserved reputation for producing recordings at affordable prices, and more often than not, but not limited to, music that is rarely performed, or with a limited audience. »

28 Sep 2005

The Very Best of Thomas Hampson

The Very Best of Thomas Hampson is an excellent selection on CD of Hampson’s recordings from various points in his career. The American baritone is one of the international stars of classical music for both his roles on the opera stage and his work as a recitalist. »

28 Sep 2005

SCHNEITZHOEFFER: La Sylphide

This is one of the most enchanting and lovely ballet performances that I have ever seen, and believe me I have seen quite a few! First performed in Paris on May 12, 1832, La Sylphide marks the advent of Romanticism in ballet. »

28 Sep 2005

BACH: Cantatas, Vol. 8

On Christmas 1999, the Monteverdi Choir and English Baroque Soloists with conductor Sir John Eliot Gardiner set out on one of the most unusual musical tours ever undertaken. »

28 Sep 2005

BACH: Cantatas, Vol. 6

J. S. Bach’s large output of church cantatas and their prominence in his duties as Kantor at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig have made them central to our modern understanding of Bach. »

27 Sep 2005

MAHLER: Symphony No. 5

Gustav Mahler’s Fifth Symphony is a tour de force that can tax a conductor and orchestra in live performances. While it often takes several sessions in the studio for performers to match the required intensity of playing with exuberance that is also part of the work, some live performances convey that fine balance immediately. »

26 Sep 2005

On Wings of Jewish Songs — Music from the New Jewish School

Yiddish is a language based on medieval German that developed separately from modern German. It spread throughout Eastern Europe, where it acquired words from Hebrew, as well as Russian, Polish, and other Slavic languages. »

26 Sep 2005

SCHUMANN: Liederkreis, op. 24; Dichterliebe, op. 48

In addition to some notable, recent recordings of selected Lieder by Robert Schumann (1810-56), two comprehensive editions of the composer’s works in this genre are underway, one by Hyperion, which is almost complete and another that is just starting on the Naxos label. Performed by Thomas E. Bauer, baritone and his wife, the pianist Uta Hielscher, the first volume is as promising as it is ambitious. »

26 Sep 2005

Arvo Pärt: A Tribute

Paul Hillier has written the book on Arvo Pärt, quite literally. He has spent significant time with the Estonian composer interviewing him, working with him, and studying his music. He has not only authored the only text researching Pärt's music and background, but Hillier also seems to one of the first to perform and record his music, thereby exposing it to the general public. »

26 Sep 2005

LIDERMAN: The Song of Songs

Now this is one beautiful piece of music, a setting of the text of the “Song of Songs,” taken from the Hebrew Bible by the composer Jorge Liderman. Liderman is Argentinian by birth, now on the composition faculty of the Department of Music at the University of California at Berkeley. His work shows a distinct ability at the craft of composition: this is a very attractively put together work. »

25 Sep 2005

BENNETT: The Mines of Sulphur

Glimmerglass Opera has been doing innovative and often remarkable work for a number of years. Thankfully, many of their productions have been shared with the New York City Opera and, thus, with a large opera-going public. »

25 Sep 2005

GLINKA: Ruslan and Lyudmila

Based on a tongue-in-cheek poem by young Alexander Pushkin, Mikhail Glinka’s second opera Ruslan and Lyudmila (1842) is an epic adventure tale, in which three rival Russian knights roam the land in search of a Kievan princess kidnapped by a sorcerer. »

24 Sep 2005

ROSSINI: L’Italiana in Algieri

This newly re-mastered recording was originally released in 1954 by Columbia (Qcx 10111/12), later reprinted by EMI (C163-00981/2), and it includes, besides Giulieta Simionato in the title role, three other members of the original 1953 production at La Scala: tenor Cesare Valleti, and bass Mario Petri in their respective roles of Lindoro and Mustafà and Conductor Carlo Maria Giulini. »

24 Sep 2005

SHOSTAKOVICH: Symphony No. 13 ("Babi Yar")

Audiences accustomed to hearing the grandeur of Shostakovich’s early symphonies may initially be disillusioned when listening to his Thirteenth Symphony for the first time. »

22 Sep 2005

TALLIS: Spem in alium – Missa Salve intemerata

With a career spanning the monarchies of Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary Tudor, and Elizabeth I, Thomas Tallis’s musical pragmatism became both a necessary and distinctive trait. »

22 Sep 2005

DONIZETTI: Francesca di Foix

Among Gaetano Donizetti’s compositions are just over a dozen one-act operas. Save for his one (Venice 1818), a genre that many twentieth-century historians considered respectable primarily because of contributions made to it by Gioachino Rossini, the Donizetti’s other single-act works generally have been brushed aside as less important than the larger operas. »

22 Sep 2005

STOCKMANN: Musica Nuptialis

This recording of Musica Nuptialis celebrates occasional music and does so in a fittingly occasional manner. »

22 Sep 2005

Lado Ataneli — Opera Arias

Baritone Lado Ataneli’s self-titled debut CD contains an impressive selection of arias intended to showcase the singer’s style, range, and versatility. »

22 Sep 2005

Penny Merriments: Street Songs of 17th Century England

In 1728 John Gay’s Beggar’s Opera was produced in London as a sardonic response to the ongoing craze for Italian opera seria. »

22 Sep 2005

MAHLER: Symphony no. 2 “Resurrection”

Among recent recordings of music by Gustav Mahler, the 2004 release of the composer’s Second Symphony conducted by Claudio Abbado stands out as an intense and highly charged performance. »

22 Sep 2005

SCHOENBERG: Accentus | Ensemble intercontemporain

Schoenberg, born in Vienna in 1874, is remembered as a composer and a music theorist. He held strong attitudes toward the craft of composition and its pedagogy, which have been received as the beginnings of a theory of music, though Schoenberg denied ever attempting to create a systematic theory. »

21 Sep 2005

WEILL: The Firebrand of Florence

When I was a young child, my mother purchased a blouse and brought it home to the acclaim of my aunts and older sisters. "Oh, that's smart!" they pronounced, cooing and stepping back to admire the thing. Not a little bit jealous, I was taken aback. »

19 Sep 2005

All My Heart — Deborah Voigt sings American Songs

“I send my heart up to thee, all my heart in this, my singing” Robert Browning. The title of this CD is taken from the text of one of Amy Beach’s Three Browning Songs, which close the program. Given Deborah Voigt’s ability to sing this program with completely natural expression and crystal clear diction while maintaining a consistently high standard of vocal production and musicianship, it is easy to believe that in her singing she shares with us something of what is most dear to her own heart. Fortunately for us, in doing this she is also giving us a fine recording of American art songs, some of which will be quite familiar to many listeners, others of which will be wonderful new discoveries. »

19 Sep 2005

HANDEL: L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato, HWV 55

Joachim Carlos Martini is well represented in the Naxos catalog with recordings of Handel oratorios, including Athalia, Saul, Il Trionfo del Tempo . . ., Deborah, the “pasticcio” oratorios, Gideon and Nabal, and this recent release of L’Allegro, il Penseroso ed il Moderato. Narrowly traditional views of what an oratorio ought to be—a Biblical narrative in a dramatic frame—are stretched here, and this is a good reminder that the term “oratorio” was used flexibly in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. »

19 Sep 2005

GOUNOD: Musica Sacra

The 19th Century French composer Charles Gounod is best known for his lyric dramas / operas Faust (1859) and Roméo et Juliette (1867), and the very popular Méditation sur le 1er prélude de piano de J. S. Bach (1852), arranged as an Ave Maria in 1859. Yet the dominant portion of Gounod’s creative output was church music, the amount of which surpassed that of any other composer of the 19th Century. In spite of this, the church music of Gounod remains an obscure portion of his oeuvre. »

16 Sep 2005

RACHMANINOV: All Night Vigil, op. 37

Sergei Rachmaninov established his reputation early in his career as one of the twentieth- century’s foremost pianists and conductors. Critical assessment of his abilities as composer, however, was harsh. In the fifth edition of Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians, Eric Blom wrote dismissively: “…as a composer [Rachmaninov] can hardly be said to have belonged to his time at all,…His music is well constructed and effective, but monotonous in texture, which consists in essence mainly of artificial and gushing tunes….[His] enormous popular success…is not likely to last,…” In general, critics dismissed his musical language as outmoded, as being far from the mainstream of twentieth-century musical styles--indeed, most considered his works as anachronisms, composed by a man whose style had not left the late nineteenth century. Even Rachmaninov acknowledged feeling lost amid the music of most other twentieth-century composers. In a 1939 interview he gave for the Musical Courier, Rachmaninov said, “I felt like a ghost wandering in a world grown alien. I cannot cast out the old way of writing and I cannot acquire the new.” »

16 Sep 2005

ADÈS: Piano Quintet

Despite his relative youth (b.1971), Thomas Adès is well-known among today’s serious opera connoisseurs for his 1995 opera hit, Powder Her Face, as well as his more recent opera, The Tempest, which opened in February 2004 to rave reviews. The success of these imaginative, ground-breaking compositions has led him to be recognized as one of Britain’s most promising young composers. As such, Adès has enjoyed the privilege of having his music performed by only the highest caliber of musicians. The featured performers in the 2005 EMI Classics release of his Piano Quintet (2001) are no exception. »

15 Sep 2005

WEBBER: Phantasia; The Woman in White

Probably the best thing that can be said about Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber, Richard Stilgoe, and Charles Hart’s The Phantom of the Opera becoming the longest running Broadway musical, which it almost certainly will, is that it will take that honor away from Cats. (I am reminded of David Letterman’s comment, made with mock horror, “What if it really is ‘now and forever’?”) Phantom, as it is known both with and without affection, is perhaps Lloyd Webber’s most “traditional” show: it has far more book scenes than his earlier, concept-album-as-musical shows, although the latter, including Jesus Christ Superstar and Evita, are tremendously and, arguably, more effective; it recalls operetta despite its pop-heavy score; and it is based on a novel that is already known through incarnations on stage and screen. Its unabashed romanticism, despite its occasional descent into bathos, has endeared it to millions, many of who see it again and again and continue to be moved by it. So I suppose it was only a matter of time until an arranger came up with an orchestral version of the score to satisfy pop concert audiences and other aficionados of the score. »

15 Sep 2005

THEILE: Arias; Canzonettas

Johann Theile is best known for his significant body of church music and his reputation as “the father of contrapuntists.” It is easy to summon the image of a learned graybeard, well-practiced in contrapuntal art (especially invertible counterpoint, it would seem). This recent recording from Ludger Rémy, however, shows us a less well-known and very congenial side of Theile: the composer of student love songs. »

15 Sep 2005

MONTSALVATGE: Integral de canto

It is unfortunate that audiences tend to pigeonhole Xavier Montsalvatge (1912-2002) as a one-work composer. There is no doubt, however, that the popularity of his Canciones negras has overshadowed the rest of his output. »

14 Sep 2005

SULLIVAN: Cox and Box; Trial by Jury

This new recording of two somewhat early works with music by Sir Arthur Sullivan provides a taste of Sullivan just before and just after the beginning of his famed collaboration with W. S. Gilbert. Cox and Box was produced in 1866. Trial by Jury debuted in 1875, four years after Thespis, Gilbert and Sullivan’s first work as a team. The difference is apparent if not glaring. It is mostly noticeable in Sullivan’s more nuanced response to Gilbert’s libretto, which is far more sophisticated and clever than Burnand’s nonetheless amusing effort. The transition from the end of the earlier work to the opening chorus of Trial by Jury, which immediately places us in the identifiable musical world of G&S, is remarkable. With Burnand, Sullivan is broader in his parodic musical pastiche; with Gilbert, he lets the words take over most of the satire and composes in a subtler, and even more delightful, vein. »

14 Sep 2005

PROKOFIEV: Ivan the Terrible

Prokofiev was one of a number of twentieth-century composers of art music who also devoted a significant amount of time to composing for the cinema. The eight films for which he composed scores were met with varying degrees of success, from the celebrated fame of Aleksandr Nevsky to the frustrated productions of lesser-known films such as The Queen of Spades and Tonya. Sergei Eisenstein’s colossal trilogy Ivan the Terrible, for which Prokofiev composed his final film score, was met with both extremes: Although part one of the film was released in January of 1945 to great critical acclaim, the second part was attacked during production for political reasons, even to the extreme of attracting criticism from Stalin himself. Part two would not appear in theaters until 1958, long after Prokofiev and Eisenstein were gone, and part three was never produced. »

14 Sep 2005

Ouvertüren: Music for the Hamburg Opera

The composers of these overtures — what today we would call suites — range from the world-famous George Frideric Handel to the moderately well-known Reinhard Keiser to the virtually unknown Johann Christian Schieferdecker. The works represented here also cover a range of dates: 1693 for the Ouverture no. 4 by Philipp Heinrich Erlebach to 1726 for the Suite “Ludovicus Pius” by Georg Caspar Schürmann (1672/3-1751), neither of whom have made a noticeable dent in the performance repertoire of today’s early-music groups. »

13 Sep 2005

DONIZETTI: Pietro il Grande

Pietro il Grande ossia Il falegname di Livonia was premiered to open the 1819-20 Carnival season at the Teatro San Samuele in Venice, a city that saw the birth of many of the light operas of the decade, including quite a few by Rossini. The premiere took place on Dec. 26, 1819. »

11 Sep 2005

Das Rheingold

Experienced listeners gain nothing but lose very little when a mediocre, even bad performance of Wagner’s stage works is released on DVD.  »

11 Sep 2005

BITTOVÁ: Elida

First impressions are important. For instance, one expects certain things from Bang on a Can and their four-year-old record label Cantaloupe – there are graphics, ideas, names, and especially musical styles that have become predictably associated with the New York... »

27 Aug 2005

AUDRAN: La Mascotte

Chances are the world of opera bouffe is somewhat foreign to most listeners. Many may know one or two operettas by Offenbach - La Perichole, perhaps, or La belle Helene and a large number of melodies from various of his works collected for the ballet Gaite parisienne. But this extensive body of works from the last quarter of the nineteenth-century is infrequently performed, and, apart from the occasional aria heard on an inventively programmed recital, the repertory today is heard about more than it is heard. The names Audran or Lecoq are largely unknown, despite their having been very popular in this country at the end of the nineteenth century. (Maurice Grau brought many French productions to New York during the 1870s and 1880s, and the operettas, sung in French, were quite popular. Productions in the original language allowed the retention of the racy dialogue and numerous double entendres - most of which would have been unacceptable in English -- so typical of these works.) »

27 Aug 2005

RABAUD: Marouf, Savetier du Caire

Like many of the nearly forgotten composers of his era, Henri Rabaud (1873-1949) had his day in the sun. A pupil of Massenet at the Paris Conservatoire, and later its director, Rabaud wrote eight operas, the most successful of which was Marouf, Savetier du Caire, which premiered in 1914 at the Opera-Comique in Paris and soon became a world wide hit. But today a mention of Rabaud's name will likely draw a blank stare, even from well versed opera aficionados. »

27 Aug 2005

ALALEONA: Mirra

I had never heard of the Italian composer Domenico Alaleona (1891-1928) when a recording of his opera Mirra arrived in the mail. Baker's gives him a respectable 22 lines, but says "his importance lies in his theoretical writings," not this opera or various collections of songs, instrumental works, and a Requiem. If you've ever come across the term "dodecaphony," well, Alaleona coined it (in Italian, of course). »

26 Aug 2005

MESSIAEN: Orchestral Works

As part of their "Gemini--the EMI Treasures" series, EMI has re-released recordings of some of Olivier Messiaen's greatest hits: the Turangalila-Symphonie (1946 - 48), Quatour pour la fin du temp (1940 - 41), and Le Merle Noir (1951, for flute and piano). This two-disc release features the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra conducted by Sir Simon Rattle, with Tristan Murail playing ondes martenot and Peter Donohoe on solo piano in the 1986 recording of Turangalila-Symphonie. Quatour pour la fin du temps was recorded in 1968 by Erich Gruenberg (violin), Gervase de Peyer (clarinet), William Pleeth (cello), and Michel Beroff (piano); Le Merle Noir was taken from a 1971 Abbey Road session with flutist Karlheinz Zoller accompanied by Aloys Kontarsky. These performances in their various manifestations on earlier albums have consistently received rave reviews, and with good reason. The performances are exceptional in their interpretation and the recordings have been beautifully remastered. »

26 Aug 2005

Marco Polo Film Classics, Part I

Between the 1930s and the 1950s, Hollywood composers pumped out tens of thousands of scores for what we now call "classical Hollywood films." These films often contained an hour or more of music, but few viewers would have realized this. Certainly, many of these scores included themes that became very well known--Casablanca and Gone with the Wind come immediately to mind; however, much of the music was played quietly and inconspicuously. In classical Hollywood films, music is subservient to the narrative, and generally played two main roles. First, it served the film's central narrative by heightening the emotional content of important scenes (e.g., ominous music when characters approach an abandoned castle) and revealing characters' hidden feelings (e.g., love music while two characters are fighting). Second, music gave the film a greater sense of continuity by smoothing over cuts and moving slower scenes along. »

25 Aug 2005

BONONCINI: La nemica d’Amore fatta amante

Giovanni Bononcini (Modena, 1670 - Vienna, 1747) is best known today for his dozen years in London, which began when he was 50 and Handel was 35. Five years later, a well-known epigram likened them to Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee . Londoners then had to decide whether Handel, compared to Bononcini, was "but a Ninny," or whether Bononcini, when matched with Handel, was "scarcely fit to hold a Candle." For many Londoners, the more luminous composer was Bononcini, since he had served munificent patrons for four decades before his arrival in England: duke Francesco II of Modena (1680s); two immensely wealthy noblemen - Filippo Colonna and Luigi de la Cerda, the Spanish ambassador - in Rome (1690s); two emperors - Leopold I and Joseph I - in Vienna (1700s); and an immensely wealthy Viennese ambassador in Rome (1710s). »

23 Aug 2005

GIORDANO: Andrea Chénier

Carlo Bergonzi never recorded the role commercially and he is obviously the " raison d'etre " of this set. Among collectors there are quite a lot of Met-performances circulating but none is in very good sound. These performances date from around 1960 during the tenor's heyday but even they prove that the role is not completely his best: part of the score lays a little too high for his tessitura and he misses the sheer power to overwhelm us in some of the arias. This Venice-performance is in good sound and as the theatre is so much smaller than the Met maybe better suited for a role a shade too heavy for the voice. By 1972 too he knew much better where his strong points were and he fully exploits them. Time and again he makes a point by a diminuendo or a piano where Del Monaco and Corelli hector along. While the voice is slightly less beautiful than in the famous 1970-concert performance in London he succeeds in giving us a truly fine " Come un bel di di maggio "; the only piece Luigi Illica culled from the poems of Andre Chenier himself. In London Bergonzi has to switch in a lower gear when he realizes he is not going to make it but in Venice the voice is at its best in the fourth act. There are some fascinating glimpses of the tenor's experienced singing. When in his second act monologue he gets before the beat, he simply introduces a little sob and stage and pit are once on the same wave length. In that terrible first act monologue " Colpito qui m'avete " he has given so much breath in getting to the top in the first verse, that during the second verse he starts declaiming instead of singing though he does that with such skill and conviction that most people in the audience probably thought of it as an interpretative trick. A live audience probably didn't notice the appearance of the weak link in late Bergonzi's vocal armour: a gliding towards a fortissimo note from high A onwards that would almost always result in flat singing above the staff from 1975 onwards. »

16 Aug 2005

CILEA: Gloria

Collectors have known this piece for more than a quarter of a century due to the MRF-pirate recording. Some have probably transferred these LP's unto CD-R and don't see a reason why they should buy this issue. Well, there is one and it's a compelling one. The MRF-sound was good mono, obviously culled from a radio broadcast. This Bongiovanni-issue however gives us the original brilliant stereo sound and it makes for a world of difference. I always liked the opera though I thought the first act somewhat lacking in inspiration; the performance only taking fire by Labo's first appearance. This set cured me of that impression while the choruses and brilliant orchestration (even somewhat too showy to prove Cilea had mastered his craft after Adriana where the violins are mostly doubling the vocal line) are now crystal clear and one quickly recognizes the inspired melodious ideas of the maestro. »

07 Aug 2005

LORTZING: Der Waffenschmied

Nineteenth-century German opera before Wagner is rarely performed in the United States, although it is still quite popular in Germany. While works by Spohr, Marschner, and Lortzing, among others, are very much a part of the repertory in many German houses, they are virtually unknown in America, and none of the above-mentioned composers is even mentioned in the index of the new seventh edition of the Burkholder-Grout-Palisca A History of Western Music. This new recording of Lortzing's Der Waffenschmied (The Armorer [of Worms]) suggests not only why this work is still performed. It also suggests that American audiences are missing out on a delightful body of work for the lyric stage. From Lortzing's relatively better-known works, such as Zar und Zimmermann or Der Wildschuetz, to works by Marschner, such as Der Vampyr, nineteenth-century German opera with spoken dialogue is often highly entertaining and musically satisfying, if one is not anticipating work of great gravitas. And who is always in the mood for Tristan und Isolde, masterpiece that it is? »

07 Aug 2005

VERDI: Aida

The director of this production, Robert Herzl, composed an impressively thoughtful and serious essay for the DVD booklet. He considers the historical context of both the opera-story and the opera's premiere, taking into consideration Verdi's staging demands as well as the composer's willingness to compromise for the greater benefit of the production. »

07 Aug 2005

Renata Tebaldi: A Portrait

For those without videos or DVD's by the Italian soprano, this is a must. For all the others, better to read attentively the sleeve notes as there is nothing new to be found on these two DVD's. The Concerto Italiano can be purchased separately with the same firm. The Bell Telephone Hour selections are still available on the several Great Stars of Opera-DVD's brought out by VAI or on the video exclusively devoted to the soprano. And the selections from Tosca (Stuttgart 1961) are culled from a complete performance, also put on DVD by VAI and somewhat misleadingly called "The only available video of Renata Tebaldi in her signature role" on the firm's web; for convenience's sake forgetting the words "at this moment" as VAI once published another complete Tosca (with Poggi, Guelfi and the late soprano's lover at the time, conductor Arturo Basile). »

05 Aug 2005

BIZET: Les Pecheurs de Perles

Bizet's youthful masterpiece is notoriously difficult to stage. Up to now I have not seen a production which is not slightly ridiculous. So it is an ideal opera for a concert performance or a listening experience. If you are looking for an authentic performance this is not the one to go for. »

05 Aug 2005

BERNSTEIN: Peter Pan

Alexander Frey, upon learning that a song Leonard Bernstein had written for the 1950 production of Peter Pan had been cut before the show opened, wondered if there was other music originally intended for the production that went by the wayside. »

05 Aug 2005

NIELSEN: Maskarade

From the start of its lively and distinctive overture Carl Nielsen's 1906 comic masterpiece Maskarade calls for a light and ironic approach, yet one which brings the ensemble forward with sufficient directorial force. »

03 Aug 2005

ROSSINI: Equivoco Stravagante

A DVD performance of an opera may deserve recommendation for a single memorable performance, or because a rare work has finally been recorded, or simply for nostalgia's sake. How many DVDs primarily offer the pleasures of a witty, imaginative staging, done on a minimal budget? »

16 Jul 2005

FAURÉ: Requiem and Other Works

The Requiem mass of Gabriel Fauré is often unfairly overshadowed by other 19th century settings of the mass. The monumental works of Giuseppe Verdi and Hector Berlioz achieve moments of extreme drama by stretching the limits of soloists, chorus, and orchestra. Fauré’s Requiem, in contrast, is an intimate vision of heavenly peace in the afterlife. The soaring melodic lines and compact harmonic progressions evoke profundity through beauty and simplicity. »

16 Jul 2005

MENDELSSOHN: Athalia

In addition, to his popular score to A Midsummer Night's Dream Felix Mendelssohn wrote incidental music to several other plays. Commissioned by the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, the incidental music to Athalia was intended for a private performance of the play by Jean Racine.  »

15 Jul 2005

MOZART: Don Giovanni

This staging of the Mozart/da Ponte masterpiece took place in 1977, at the Glyndebourne Festival. Although the conductor is Dutch, and members of the cast come from Eastern Europe and the States, a more British performance would be hard to imagine. »

15 Jul 2005

MAHLER: Symphony No.8 in E-Flat

Every so often there appears a recording so good, so almost revelatory, that we find ourselves re-examining the work recorded and our relationship to it, no matter how well we thought we already knew it. Ian Bostridge and Julius Drake’s recording of Schumann’s Dichterliebe was one of the more recent recordings to do this. Now we have Kent Nagano’s amazing reading of (and Harmonia Mundi’s equally amazing engineering of) Mahler’s massive Symphony No. 8. Many excellent recordings of this work already exist, and all of them bring a number of insights and extraordinary performances to the work. None of them, however, quite equals Nagano’s overall vision of the work, and no recording of the symphony can match the impressive acoustic accomplishments found here. »

15 Jul 2005

RACHMANINOV: Symphony No. 1 in D minor, Op.13; The Isle of the Dead, Op.29.

The initial reception of Rachmaninov's Symphony No. 1 marked an unhappy yet decisive moment in the composer's life, one that propelled his stylistic development and the trajectory of his career in new directions. »

09 Jul 2005

ALFANO: Cyrano de Bergerac

Franco Alfano is best known for having composed the standard ending to Puccini’s Turandot. But he wrote some 12-13 operas under his own name as well. A few of these are revisions of earlier operas. The most familiar of his works have long been La resurrezione (1904), Sakuntala (1922, revised 1952) and Cyrano de Bergerac (1936). Cyrano seems to be coming into its own in the last few years, what with a performance in Kiel and a revival planned for Montpellier in 2003. The latter was cancelled due to strikes (although it was filmed anyway). This was followed by a few performances at the end of the 2004-5 Metropolitan Opera season, with more performances planned at Covent Garden in 2005 and the Met for the 2005-06 season. It is very much the tenor’s opera, with the revival (that never really happened as far as the general public is concerned) in Montpellier featuring Roberto Alagna, and that at the Met featuring Placido Domingo, now approaching the end of a fantastic career. He is also scheduled to sing it at Covent Garden, and again at the Met next year. It is my understanding that Alagna will also sing some additional performances. »

08 Jul 2005

STRAUSS: The Complete Songs, Vol. 1

Among the best-known works of Richard Strauss is his set of Vier letzte Lieder, the so-called four “last” songs. These are just a fraction of the music he composed in this genre, with over 200 songs for voice and piano, and around fifty of them arranged with orchestral accompaniment. The prospect of a new series of complete songs is promising, and it should augment the various recorded selections of his Lieder that are currently available. »

07 Jul 2005

BRITTEN: Folk Song Arrangements

Britten’s folksong arrangements, which span much of his career from 1943 to 1976, provide unique insights into the composer’s oeuvre. Having been strongly encouraged by his teacher, Frank Bridge, to at all times be true to himself and to develop his own voice, one might expect Britten to eschew the folksong tradition, which had been so used (and misused?) by the generation before him. But Britten, following more in the line of Grainger than Vaughan Williams, voiced his distinctive style in these arrangements with appealing results. Sometimes making merely subtle changes and the simplest of accompaniments, Britten’s arrangements display artistic grace and sensitivity that has made them some of the most beloved choices of singers and audiences alike. »

06 Jul 2005

HÄNDEL: Admetus, King of Thessaly

Handel's Admeto premiered in London in 1727 at the King's Theater and was an unambiguous critical and popular success. It had an initial run of nineteen performances between January 31 and April 18 of 1727, each of which was attended by King George I.  »

06 Jul 2005

ZELENKA: Die Responsorien zum Karfreitag
TUMA: Sonatas in A minor & E minor; Sinfornia in B major

In the Baroque era, the liturgical intensity of Holy Week and the affective richness of its themes would find a powerful echo in the music of various European chapels. Old-fashioned counterpoint on antique models would solemnify the sound, while the expressive harmonic freedoms of the day would bring the affective sense of words and themes into sharp focus. This dual path is much in evidence in the Responsories for Good Friday by Jan Dismas Zelenka, recorded here by the Czech ensembles, Boni pueri and Musica Florea. »

03 Jul 2005

FLECHA: Ensaladas

This is a recording that makes a full meal of various salads: in this case, several ensaladas by the Spanish composer most associated with the form, Mateo Flecha, the elder (?1481-1553). Ensaladas toss together different languages and verbal quotations (sometimes musical quotation, as well) in a quodlibet that promotes an appealing sense of variety within the unified frame of their textual themes. »

03 Jul 2005

Claudio Abbado: Hearing the Silence — Sketches for a Portrait

Five minutes into this DVD there has been a lot of talk on Abbado’s aura, his aristocratic reserve and the fact that he is a private thinker. With a deep sigh I was reminded of some of those dreadful documentaries on Arte (a German-French arts channel which I have on cable) that have promising titles and then soon lose themselves in a lot of philosophical treatises without any real content. And what was almost the last image of this documentary?: “In collaboration with Arte” »

03 Jul 2005

Gerhard Hüsch Sings Die schöne Müllerin & An die ferne Geliebte

With a masterpiece like Schubert’s Die schöne Müllerin, each generation of singers seems to rediscover the music and make the work its own. The nature of music almost demands that performers arrive at their own approaches, and the resulting differences offer insights into the way the music works and, perhaps, on how perception functions. With something as familiar as Die schöne Müllerin, it is possible to gain some perspective by listening to the way a singers of earlier generations performed the work to sample it, just as aficionados appreciate wine at vertical tastings. By approaching the music in this manner, it is possible to put the differences in perspective by using the nuances as points of reference where interpretations diverge. »

02 Jul 2005

SCHUBERT: Die Schöne Müllerin

An important thing to realize about this DVD is that it is not so much about Die Schöne Müllerin as about the performers, pianist András Schiff and especially baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. There are no liner notes about the song cycle itself, and if you want to see texts or translations you watch them go by as subtitles during the performance (you may choose German, English, French, Spanish, Italian, or none.). But, since the cycle is quite well-known, largely through the earlier recordings by Fischer-Dieskau with other collaborators, this omission is not grave enough to detract from the real focus of the DVD: to make publicly available a 1991 performance at the Feldkirch Schubertiade, in which two Schubertiade regulars, Fischer-Dieskau and Schiff, performed together for the first time. The record of the performance is doubly significant because, while Fischer-Dieskau earlier in his career had been one of the preeminent performers of Die Schöne Müllerin, he had not performed it since 1971, and he was to retire from public performance two years later. »

29 Jun 2005

VERDI: Il Corsaro

The CD incarnation of this performance, reviewed earlier on Opera Today, faces the formidable competition of an earlier Philips set conducted by Lamberto Gardelli, with Jose Carreras, Montserrat Caballé, and Jessye Norman in the cast. As a recording, that set remains the best recommendation for this neglected (fairly or not) Verdi score. »

29 Jun 2005

Teatro La Fenice: Gala Reopening

The liner notes dryly state that “This was a stringent programme for an opening-concert audience used to lighter fare at such events.” In the past this would surely have been true but together with “Das Regietheater,” there is now a firm tradition in European houses that the reason for their very existence is art, and preferably in its purest form. Audiences are not there to amuse themselves or even to enjoy the music but to ponder on whatever life’s questions may be at that exact moment. They are mightily helped in their endeavours by conductor Riccardo Muti who cannot be caught with a single smile on his face during more than an hour of music making. Therefore a house where five operas by Giuseppe Verdi were premièred cannot be expected to open with such banalaties as Ernani, Attila, Rigoletto, La Traviata or Simon Boccanegra. Even worse would have been a concert with some prominent singers performing well-known arias and duets from these operas. The danger of enjoyment would have been too great. A conductor who reopened La Scala one year later with that immortal masterpiece L’Europa riconosciuta can be expected to make more original choices. Muti preferred lesser known music by maestros who had some ties with the city itself, even with the opera house. »

28 Jun 2005

HENZE: L’Upupa oder Der Triumph der Sohnesliebe

Henze’s magical opera L’Upupa oder Der Triumph der Sohnesliebe (L’Upupa or the Triumph of Filial Love) bears the subtitle, “a German comedy in eleven tableaux based on the Arabic.” The “Arabic” here refers to a traditional dream-tale from Syria, around which Henze crafted his libretto (his first such effort as a librettist). Like dreams, which condense from memory several images (of people, objects, actions) that share underlying characteristics into single composite dream figures, L’Upupa condenses many stories and characters into its over determined images. Far from pastiche, however, Henze’s condensations cohere in a compelling tale. »

26 Jun 2005

BARBER: Orchestral Works

EMI has re-released a 2-disc set of some of Samuel Barber’s most compelling orchestral and chambers works on the Gemini — The EMI Treasures label. An album of the same recordings was released in 2001, itself a remastering of original recordings dating from the mid-1980s through the mid-1990s. Disc 1 from both these sets contains music recorded in 1986 and 1988 with the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Leonard Slatkin and released in 1990 as a single disc. The second disc of the set contains chamber music of Barber, recorded in 1995. Each time this music has been released it has received positive reviews. See for example, Jon Yungkans’s review on the The Flying Inkpot; the reviews on Amazon.com; or Victor Carr’s review on Classics Today. »

26 Jun 2005

RESPIGHI: Gli uccelli; Il tramonto; Trittico botticelliano

Ottorino Respighi’s reputation as an arranger of early music sometimes obscures the contributions he made in assembling those works into what are essentially new compositions. The carefully planned suite of music from the Baroque era entitled “Gli uccelli” – “The Birds” – is an excellent example of his ability to adapt older compositions into a new context, and in this case juxtapose music by various composers into a cohesive whole. Respighi completed this suite in 1927, and the orchestrations remain effective, over a half a century later. The idiomatic use of the orchestra makes “Gli uccelli” a fine piece for an orchestra to show its ability to perform as a tightly rehearsed ensemble, and this is borne out in the festival performance preserved in this recording. »

24 Jun 2005

LEHÁR: Zigeunerliebe

One of my oldest memorabilia is a programme of a performance of Zigeunerliebe by my father’s operetta company just after the war. It was one of the many amateur companies in Flanders though the title roles were sung by good singers who earned extra money by combining a few companies. I was too young to assist at this performance but a few years later I would be a regular spectator. The moment I could read I was put into service rehearsing my father’s lines. Every time the company put on a new piece I eagerly read the libretto. Most people nowadays think that an operetta is something like a Carmen with a few dialogues but that’s definitely not true. A Lehár operetta always had a lot of spoken dialogue and often had a 50% spoken 50% sung lines balance. Many an operetta lasted 3 hours without including pauses. »

23 Jun 2005

KRENEK: Three One Act Operas

Ernst Krenek is remembered primarily for one work, his jazz opera Jonny spielt auf, which irritated the cultural conservatives in Germany and Austria in the years between the wars and helped ensure his exile to America during the Nazi era. If an opera strewn with jazzy tunes and a romantic black hero wasn’t enough to tick off the right wing, he turned to serialism for his magnum opus, the anti-Nazi, pro-Austrian Karl V (Charles V, whom you’ll remember from Verdi’s Don Carlo). »

23 Jun 2005

CARISSIMI: Oratorios

Two recent CDs of Carissimi oratorios provide the listener the opportunity to compare very different “takes” on the composer’s remarkable works, which exemplify the sophisticated and exclusive style cultivated by the cardinalate nobility in mid-seventeenth-century Rome. Carissimi’s oratorios survive in manuscript only, and with relatively sparse indications concerning instrumentation; it has long been a challenge for contemporary performers to balance the need for dramatic clarity with the desirability of sonic variety, and the two groups featured on these CDs take different approaches to that challenge, each with fruitful results. »

21 Jun 2005

COUPERIN: Les Concerts Royaux

If you’ve recently browsed the shelves in a bookstore or Blockbuster, you would have to be oblivious not to notice titles such as The DaVinci Code, the Romanov Prophecy, or films like National Treasure and Kingdom of Heaven. Responses to these titles suggest an increased interest in historical topics and journeys that provoke us to unravel clues that, in the end, will reveal an ultimate truth. Works that exude knowledge and mystery have always been popular in music, because it is by the dissemination of clues and their eventual interpretation that lead to the re-creation of a musical moment in history. One might even call it one of the earliest forms of a “treasure hunt.” In this high quality CD, the Concert des Nations directed by Jordi Savall, has successfully disseminated the few details left by Couperin and re-created what are perhaps the most important works of the French royal court: the Concert Royaux. Having already recorded Couperin’s Pièces de Voile, Les Nations, and Les Apothéoses, the Concert Royaux would comprise the second category of chamber works written by Couperin for the Court of King Louis XIV. To gain a better understanding of the general purpose of these concerts, you might think of them as relative to Handel’s Music for the Royal Fireworks, but only in their sense of purpose. Their stylistic elements couldn’t be more diverse. »

18 Jun 2005

A Scottish Lady Mass: Sacred Music from Medieval St. Andrews

Despite theoretical beginnings several centuries earlier, we have come to think of early polyphony as having its first “golden age” in twelfth- and thirteenth-century Paris, an environment teeming with things new: the University of Paris, the Cathedral of Notre Dame, and the large-scale organa by Leoninus and Perotinus. If our attention is drawn to Paris, it is with good reason. But significantly, the musically innovative style of the Parisians had a geographic dissemination that took it to places like St. Andrews in Scotland, home to a cathedral roughly contemporary with Notre Dame and, to continue the symmetry further, in the fifteenth century, also home to Scotland’s oldest university. A run of Norman bishops in St. Andrews secured a degree of continentalism in the local ecclesiastical culture, and one of the most important manifestations of this is the Scottish manuscript of Parisian repertory that we today know as “W1.” W1 is a copy, in all likelihood one made at St. Andrews, of the Parisian Magnus liber organi — the “great book of organum” by Leoninus, as well as other works, some of them local. And it is from this local Scottish repertory contained within W1 that Red Byrd has fashioned their “Scottish Lady Mass.” »

16 Jun 2005

SCHÜTZ: Historia der Auferstehung Jesu Christi

In the seventeenth century Germany did not move quickly to embrace the new oratorio genre, despite its mainstream cultivation in Italy. Arguably, in fact, the Italianism of the genre may have made it suspect in some Protestant circles, and contributed to its slow cultivation. However, German interest in musical settings of sacred narrative is clear, given the examples of historiae composed by Heinrich Schütz and his contemporaries. These historiae present Biblical stories without modern poetic interpolations, and Schütz’s “Resurrection History” of 1623 is one of the most compelling. Music historians have rightly seen in the historia an antecedent of the German oratorio, but in its own right — and especially in Schütz’s compositions — it is a rich form, liturgically functional and compositionally sophisticated, that need not be harnessed to the more prominent oratorio to warrant our attention. With this recent recording of the “Resurrection History,” Manfred Cordes and Weser-Renaissance Bremen add a fifth installment to their series of Schütz recordings for Classic Production Osnabrück and with it a welcome new performance of this significant work. »

15 Jun 2005

Immortal Fire: Music for Female Saints

The recording “Immortal Fire” presents a varied anthology of music for female saints, excellently sung by the Girl Choristers and Lay Clerks of Winchester Cathedral under the direction of Sarah Baldock. Much of the music is Marian, with additional pieces in honor of St. Cecilia, St. Margaret of Scotland, and St. Ursula. Some of the works are highly familiar — Britten’s youthful “A Hymn to the Virgin,” and his popular setting of Auden’s “A Hymn to St. Cecilia” for instance — and the performances seem familiar, as well. As the pieces are canonical within the cathedral repertory, so too are the interpretations, sung with polish and high accomplishment, but few surprises. However, other works are new or less familiar. For example, Judith Bingham’s “Margaret, Forsaken,” a work commemorating Margaret of Scotland, was commissioned for this recording. The composer’s imaginative use of patterned repetition and ornamental organ effects are evocative of a North Sea moodiness, and the choir responds with an impressive reading that is both intense and dramatic. Herbert Howells — never far from the cathedral choir folder—is represented by two works, a “Hymn for St. Cecilia” and a “Salve Regina.” The former is an expansive hymn tune with a wonderfully uplifting descant to its final verse. The “Salve” is an early work whose chordal gestures are reminiscent of Vaughan Williams, but in the main it is a work showing the developing harmonic fingerprints of Howells’ musical signature, with sweet dissonant propensities and chromatic inflection. Howells graces the concluding acclamations with a memorable treble solo — the embodiment of the text’s “dulcis” — gracefully sung by Tempe Nell. »

14 Jun 2005

Dame Gwyneth Jones sings Wagner

This CD is a digital remastering of an original 1991 recording of Gwyneth Jones in selections from Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Tristan und Isolde and Götterdämmerung. Jones was (and is) one of the great interpreters of Wagner, and the release of this CD is a welcome event, not only to her many friends, but all of us who are fascinated by the interpretation of Wagner’s works. The recording is clearly meant to serve as a recorded monument to her artistry. Unfortunately, the CD is marred by many problems that make it less than satisfactory. »

14 Jun 2005

RESPIGHI: La Campana sommersa

Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936) is known best in the United States for his tone poems, including the Pines of Rome, the Fountains of Rome, and Roman Festivals, and, perhaps for some of his suites of early music, like the sets of Ancient Airs and Dances that reflect his detailed orchestrations. During his lifetime, however, his operas were known, and they include Re Enzo (1905); Semirama (1910); Belfagor (1921-22); La bella dormente nel bosco (1916-21); La campana sommersa (The Sunken Bell) (1923-27); Maria Egiziaca (1929-31); La Fiamma (1931-33); Lucrezia (1935). It is unfortunate that recordings of these works are somewhat rare, but that is quickly remedied by the recent issue of La campana sommersa on the Accord label. »

14 Jun 2005

DONIZETTI: Elvida

It is an unfortunate fact that operas outside of the common repertory have in the past been deemed less worthy than those included in what amounts to a popular "play list" of works that consistently draw audiences. »

14 Jun 2005

VIVALDI: Arsilda, Regina di Ponto

Antonio Vivaldi composed Arsilda, Regina di Ponto for the Venetian theater of Sant’Angelo in the fall of 1716. While Vivaldi had, by its debut, been an important member of Venetian musical culture for over a decade as a violinist and composer, he had begun composing only three years earlier. Domenico Lalli, his librettist, who settled in Venice in 1710 after fleeing his native Naples upon being charged with embezzlement, was one of the most important librettists of the first decades of the eighteenth century. »

12 Jun 2005

SCHUMANN: Dichterliebe & Kerner-Lieder

Ulf Bästlein’s recent compilation of Lieder by Schumann presents fine performances of the works listed in the title, the cycle Dichterliebe (to texts by Heinrich Heine) and the Liederreihe usually referred to as the Kerner-Lieder for the twelve settings of poetry by author Justinus Kerner. It also contains some songs that may be less familiar, including several other settings of Heine: “Der arme Peter,” op. 53, no. 3, “Die beiden Grenadiere,” op. 49, no 1, and the late work “Dein Angesicht,” op. 127, no. 2. This is a rich and focused program that offers some of Schumann’s finest Lieder on a single disc. »

11 Jun 2005

SCARLATTI: Disperato Amore

Alessandro Scarlatti, a contemporary of Handel and father of Domenico Scarlatti, was a prolific composer of cantatas, oratorios, and operas. He wrote more than 60 operas and 600 cantatas. Contemporaries frequently distinguished between styles according to the locale in which they might have been performed or to which they were appropriate: the church, chamber, and theatrical styles. The cantata was considered a genre of the chamber style and offered listeners refined counterpoint and delicate changes in dynamics; cantatas of the period generally set pastoral or love texts and employed recitative alternating with arias. Many of Scarlatti’s cantatas were written for performances at aristocratic residences; most survive in manuscript form and were never published. »

11 Jun 2005

GLUCK: Alceste

This two-disc performance was performed and recorded on December 12, 1981 at Covent Garden in London. The recording is one of a series of Ponto releases dedicated to Dame Janet Baker, who performs here the role of Alceste. This drama, a collaboration between Gluck and the librettist Calzabigi, was performed in late 1767 and is based on the tragedy by the ancient Greek poet Euripides. It was written in response to Empress Maria Theresa’s grief over the death of the emperor, given that the text is practically synonymous with conjugal devotion. Calzabigi’s libretto specifically emphasizes Alceste’s sacrifice for her husband throughout, and is dedicated to Maria Theresa. The staging of the opera was delayed by a number of other royal deaths in 1767. Alceste was revived in 1770. »

11 Jun 2005

WEBER: Oberon

In a certain sense, each of Carl Maria von Weber's final three operas: Der Freischütz, Euryanthe, and Oberon belongs to a different genre. Freischütz — the only one of these three that still in any way forms a part of the repertoire — builds on the folk-like traditions of the Singspiel, while Euryanthe is more closely related to the grand operas that were to become so important in the 1830s and 1840s. »

10 Jun 2005

HAYDN: Symphonies no. 91 & 92 (“Oxford”) and Scena di Berenice

This wonderful recording features two Haydn symphonies composed in the year 1789, which frame the short dramatic scena Berenice, premiered in London in 1795. The autograph scores of the two symphonies were dedicated and given to Claude-Francois-Marie Rigoley, Comte d’Ogny, cofounder and patron of the “Concert de la Loge Olympique,” an association for which Haydn had already written the so-called “Paris” symphonies in 1785/86. »

09 Jun 2005

A Portrait of Ernst Gruber

Up to now Ernst Gruber was only a name to me. During the fifties and sixties his career was centered in the houses of the defunct German Democratic Republic; first Dresden and Leipzig and later on at the Deutsche Staatsoper in East-Berlin. Usually he rated one or two entries each year in Opera Magazine; mostly just barely mentioning his name as even in those times reviewers concentrated almost exclusively on the antics of director Felsenstein and some of his copycats. So I thought of him as one of those somewhat to be avoided German tenors like Hans Günther Nocker who, while acting their heads off, sang in that barking way that got them epitaphs like “intelligent, thought-provoking” while words like “beauty of tone” were anathema to them and the critics. Mostly they remained behind the Iron Curtain, unless at the last moment they had to run to the rescue in Western Europe or the US when Windgassen or Thomas fell unexpectedly ill. They were always happy to comply as they mostly got 20% of the fee, immediately handing over the remaining 80% to the Stasi officer accompanying and controlling them, who would always remind them of the fate of their families who had to stay home as hostages. »

08 Jun 2005

Boris Christoff — Lugano Recital 1976

Boris Christoff was, together with Cesare Siepi, the most prominent bass during The New Golden Age of Singing (1945-1975). At the time of this television recording, he was considered somewhat old hat as he had been singing for more than 30 years. During the mid-sixties he was superseded by Nicolai Ghiaurov who, due to his rolling voice and bigger volume, quickly became the hottest ticket in town. Both men were Bulgarians and there was pure hate between them; especially from Christoff’s side. Christoff was a protégé of the deceased king Boris. He studied in Italy and was not allowed to return home after the war when the communists had snatched power. He didn’t even get a visa to attend his father’s funeral. Ghiaurov was sent to Italy by the communists for further study. Their confrontations as Filippo and Grande Inquisitore in a La Scala Don Carlos are still legendary. Nobody had ever witnessed such (real) hatred in that scene. Afterwards, Christoff demanded that Ghiaurov be ousted but sovrintende Ghiringhelli sided with the younger bass and Christoff’s career at La Scala was finished. »

06 Jun 2005

VERDI: Il Corsaro

Alessandro Trovato’s admirably honest and forthright booklet essay (translated by Daniela Pilarz) for this Dynamic release of Verdi’s Il Corsaro goes a long way to explaining why this ranks as one of the master’s least-performed works. »

05 Jun 2005

SCHUBERT: Die Schöne Müllerin

In some circles, Bostridge isn’t fashionable, perhaps because he achieved success so early, because he didn’t come up through the choirboy route, and, perhaps, most of all because he is so startlingly different. But those with a real interest in intelligent music making would do well to ignore the clichés and really listen to this. It’s an experience to change most perceptions of the cycle, and indeed of Schubert. This is no quaint bucolic romp. The protagonist kills himself, doomed even before he meets the girl. As Bostridge points out, the poet Wilhelm Müller said it should be “im Winter zu lessen.” The songs refer to Maytime and blossoms, but since Nature itself is destructive, this is just seductive sham. This cycle is to read in the spirit of a harsh Prussian winter, not an innocent Austrian spring. Schubert picked up on the inner meaning of Müller’s poetry because he had himself just been diagnosed with syphilis — the AIDS of his era. He had no bucolic delusions. He knew only too well that Nature can turn love into death. »

02 Jun 2005

KILAR: Tryptyk (The Triptych)

Wojciech Kilar (b. 1932) is an exciting composer from Poland, and he may be best known in the West for his film scores, which include Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1992), Polanski’s Death and the Maiden (1994), Campion’s Portrait of a Lady (1996) and others. At the same time, Kilar also composes concert music, and his Tryptyk (1997) is a fine example of his work. Nevertheless, film is a useful point of reference in discussions of his style, since some of the techniques he used in creating effective soundtracks may be found in his other music. »

02 Jun 2005

SCHUBERT: An den Mond — Chants nocturnes

Beyond his song cycles and collections like Schwanengesang, Schubert’s Lieder can be grouped in various ways. In this recording, the baritone Dietrich Henschel and pianist Helmut Deutsch selected twenty Lieder that reflect the ideas of wandering, night, and death, as stated on the jacket copy of this CD. Some of the music chosen is predictably part of this kind of selection, as with “Der Wanderer,” D. 649, “Der Wanderer an den Mond,” D. 870, and “Auf dem Wasser zu singen,” D. 774, while others may be less familiar. The Lieder are from different times in Schubert’s career and include various poets, not only the more famous ones like Goethe and Schlegel, but also figures whose reputation may be attributed to the composer’s settings of their verses. »

01 Jun 2005

VERDI: Nabucco

With Nabucco (1842) Giuseppe Verdi began a long and feverishly productive creative period in his life. More importantly, in this work, largely influenced by French grand opéra, the masses are as important as the soloists. This is one of the reasons why this opera, representing the enslavement of the Hebrews by the Babylonians under the rule of Nebuchadnezzar, was later received as a metaphor of the Austrian political domination of Italy, which the patriots of the Risorgimento were fighting against. Neither the alleged political metaphor (which has been recently questioned by Roger Parker), nor the grandeur of the drama as a series of large tableaux seem to be at the center of the conception of this recent production (Genoa, 2004), staged in a relatively small theater that does not allow choral masses to act dynamically (the soloists overpower the contained choral masses). »

01 Jun 2005

GIORDANO: La Cena delle Beffe

The recording industry has recently been good for Umberto Giordano. We now at last have well recorded performances of Mala Vita (Bongiovanni), Siberia (Gala), Madame Sans-Gêne, Il Re and Mese Mariano (all on Dynamic). Still missing are recordings of his first opera Marina, of Regina Diaz, Marcella (Gigli recorded one aria) and Giove a Pompei. La Cena delle Beffe was somewhat better represented. There was a live performance on MRF-LP and in 1988 Bongiovanni recorded another performance (with Fabio Armiliato) in Piacenza. Both recordings however are no match for the RAI broadcast of the 14th of April 1956 (and not 1955 as the sleeve notes say). That recording was already issued several years ago by the same company (Myto 2MCD002.220). The big difference between both issues is that this first version included an Italian language-only libretto while this new issue doesn’t. That can make a difference for enjoying the recording though Sem Benelli’s Italian libretto is not exactly written in house and kitchen Italian. »

31 May 2005

GOMES: Salvator Rosa

One of the nice features of art in former times was the care-free way artists took in mining the same sources over and over again. Contents and quality were held in higher esteem than an “original” idea. Auber’s La Muette de Portici was still in full swing in many theatres when Antonio Ghislanzoni of Aida-fame concocted a libretto on the same subject: the rising of Naples led by the fisherman Tomas Aniello against the Spanish viceroy in 1647. (Incidentally, it is a legend that La Muette triggered the separatist mutiny that ended the united Netherlands in 1830). And in 1953 composer Jacopo Napoli won third prize in the Verdi composition competition with another Mas’aniello which was duly performed at La Scala. As they couldn’t find a tenor, they asked a youngster, thanked him profusely after the job was done and sent him back home for another two years: Carlo Bergonzi. »

30 May 2005

SALIERI: Tarare

The appearance of a DVD of the Beaumarchais — Salieri Tarare is cause for celebration.  »

29 May 2005

TCHAIKOVSKY: Eugene Onegin

Recently released by TDK, this version of a Tchaikovsky classic was recorded at the Bolshoi Theater in October 2000. Directed by Boris Pokrovsky and conducted by Mark Ermler, the production features Maria Gavrilova as Tatiana, Nikolai Baskov as Lensky, Vladimir Redkin as Onegin, Yelena Novak as Olga, and Aik Martirosyan as Gremin. It is very much a live recording, complete with curtain calls and screaming fans who cheer their favorites after practically every number (to the performers’ credit, there are no encores!). »

28 May 2005

BELLINI: I Puritani

Bellini’s last opera has had its share of classic performances on stage and in studio, but it has not truly challenged the prominence of the reigning work of this bel canto master, Norma. The Druid princess remains such an attraction both for sopranos who aspire to greatness and to audiences who relish its dramatic power that it alone of all Bellini’s works maintains a firm position in the standard repertory. »

27 May 2005

PURCELL: Dido and Aeneas and The Masque of Cupid and Bacchus
GAILLIARD: Pan and Syrinx

This 2-disc recording contains three mid-Baroque English operas, two of them by Purcell. Dido and Aeneas is the well-known ancient Greek story of the widowed Carthaginian queen Dido and her doomed love for the wandering Aeneas, with its most famous aria built on a descending ground bass. The Masque of Cupid and Bacchus is a light-hearted comparison of the joys of love and drunkenness. Pan and Syrinx is a through-sung, one-act English opera on an original text by Lewis Theobald. It premiered at London’s Lincoln’s Inns Fields Theatre in 1718. London’s opera scene was dominated by Italian opera at this time, and it was very successful as an English-language opera. It is the story of the woodland god Pan, who falls for a cold-hearted nymph named Syrinx. Typical of maidens who are about to be ravished when they don’t want to be, Syrinx calls to the gods as Pan attempts to grab her, and she is transformed into a bunch of reeds, from which Pan makes his panpipe, in order to sing her eternal praise and lament her death. »

26 May 2005

MOZART: Lucio Silla

In December 1772, Mozart completed Lucio Silla on commission for Milan’s Teatro Regio Ducale — his second opera for Milan, after Mitridate. This opera seria is placed in ancient Rome, where Lucio Silla is the absolute dictator. Silla wishes to marry Giunia, the wife of the Roman senator Cecilio, whom he had exiled. After an attempt to assassinate Silla is thwarted, Cecilio is condemned to die. Silla eventually renounces the dictatorship, pardons Cecilio, frees all political prisoners, and gives freedom to the Roman people. »

25 May 2005

BACH: Cantatas, Vol. 14 & 15

These two sets of three CDs each are the current installment in Ton Koopman’s monumental complete cycle of J.S. Bach’s cantatas, performed by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir, and produced by his wife, Tini Mathot. The cycle started out in 1995 on the Erato label, but only twelve volumes had been published when Erato was disbanded by its parent company, Time Warner. After searching for another label that would take over his cycle project, Koopman finally applied for a loan and started his own label, Antoine Marchand, which is distributed by Challenge Classics and Allegro. Koopman’s cycle has loosely followed Bach’s original chronological order of performance for the volumes appearing so far (vol. 1-13.) Appearing after a gap of two years since vol. 13, the current two volumes cover cantatas from Bach’s second to third yearly cycles of cantatas for Leipzig (chorale cantatas.) »

24 May 2005

Teresa Berganza: The Spanish Soul

Brilliant Classics’ Teresa Berganza: The Spanish Soul is an outstanding compilation of Spanish songs and cycles by prolific Spanish and Latin American composers, including de Falla, Granados, Turina, Guridi, Toldra, Villa-Lobos, Braga, and Guastavino. The very beauty of this recording is the innate sense of energy in the Spanish style, which both Berganza and pianist Juan Antonio Alvarez Parejo seem to execute effortlessly. Once more, such an extensive collection of well-known compositions alongside rare jewels creates an essential recording. »

24 May 2005

Ivan Kozlovsky: The Great Russian Tenor

This new release from Pearl presents an anthology of Russian selections, primarily operatic, performed by tenor Ivan Kozlovsky (1900-1993). Kozlovsky was one of the giants of the Russian operatic stage during its glory days in the 1940s and 50s; he recorded extensively with Melodiya, both Russian and Western repertoire. Surprisingly, however, there has apparently never been a Kozlovsky Russian anthology available prior to this release (Myto Records released a collection of the singer’s Western operatic hits in 2000). It is gratifying to see it finally here. »

24 May 2005

Arie del ‘700 Italiano (Italian arias of the 18th century)

Featuring nine arias from various eighteenth-century operas and composers, this recording contains a wide variety of dramatic songs, three of which are the recitative and aria “Se cerca, se dice: “I’amico dov’e?” and “Ha keres, ha kerdez: a baratom hol van?” from the opera L’Olimpiade, set by three different composers. Accompanied on period instruments by the Savaria Baroque Orchestra, Monica González does a magnificent job with each of the arias on this disc. She is a former winner of the International “Toti dal Monte” singing competition, and has studied by personal invitation with Dame Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge at their home in Montreaux. »

24 May 2005

ADAM: Si J’etais Roi
LEHÁR: Rose de Noël

Accord has gone back to the vaults for an attractively packaged series called “Opérette.” On the evidence of two of the sets, these releases feature recordings made in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. The booklets are entirely in French (and offer no librettos whatsoever), but even a French-challenged persons such as your reviewer can understand the inside front cover, which appears to explain that the recordings are the efforts of “L’Academie Nationale de l’Opérette.” This organization appears to have as its rationale — all right, raison d’etre — the preservation, if not resuscitation, of the great French tradition of light musical entertainments. With bold, bright colors decorating the packaging, the sets come across as delectable candy boxes — but how much sweetness one will enjoy when partaking of the series does depend on a taste for the bouncy, frivolous world of operetta. »

23 May 2005

DONIZETTI: Maria Stuarda

One of the more interesting debates in arts politics in England last century centered on the language in which operas should be performed. While some staunchly favored opera in the original, others maintained that librettos should be translated into the vernacular. The latter side felt strongly that opera in English would nurture a national style of operatic presentation; a more chauvinistic argument suggested that if native composers heard opera in English, they would be more likely to attempt to set original English librettos (which, of course, would come from the pens of similarly inspired writers). Benjamin Britten and W.H. Auden’s Peter Grimes (1945) might be interpreted as representative of such a strategy. In addition, the mounting of vernacular performances also would inspire British performers (and discourage foreign singers who would be less likely to want to relearn a role in a new language). The debate eventually led to the division of operatic labor, with Covent Garden (soon to be renamed The Royal Opera) to perform works in their original languages and Sadler’s Wells (renamed the English National Opera after its move to the Coliseum, where it remains today) to produce works in translation. Thus, it was left up to audiences to decide which they preferred—or, better yet, to enjoy them both. »

23 May 2005

Geistliche arien des norddeutschen Barock (Sacred Baroque arias from North Germany)

This disc features nine compositions by eight composers located in the area of northern Germany from the sixteenth to the early seventeenth centuries. Despite the title, this recording presents sets of sacred compositions for soprano voice and instruments separated by purely instrumental pieces. The disc begins and ends with compositions by Christian Geist (ca. 1640-1711); otherwise, there is a variety of composers and compositions represented here. »

20 May 2005

FAURÉ: The Complete Songs - 1 — Au bord de l’eau

The songs of Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) are some of the finest works examples of the genre and they represent the mature French mélodie in the hands of a composer who knew both the voice and the piano quite well. This release is the first of four discs that include all of Fauré’s songs for voice and piano within Hyperion’s series of French Song editions. Like those other collections from Hyperion, this volume of the Fauré set involves excellent performers who know the literature well. »

17 May 2005

BROWNE: Music from the Eton Choirbook

For more than a quarter century, Peter Phillips and the Tallis Scholars have achieved great distinction in the performance of sixteenth-century polyphony, bringing to that repertory interpretations of engaging directness, rhythmic vitality, and fullness of tone. These are qualities that are admirably well suited to the music of the Eton Choirbook and one of its most representative composers, John Browne, the subject of this recent recording. »

11 May 2005

BØRRESEN: The Royal Guest

When this CD arrived, I had never heard of Danish composer Hakon Børresen (1876–1954). Baker’s gives him only a few lines, and a Google search didn’t turn up much information until I found a Danish site (www.samfundet.dk) with interesting biographical details to supplement the little biography in the CD notes. When I put the CD on and sat back to listen, I suddenly realized I had heard, if not heard of, Børresen before. It’s Richard Strauss! Or maybe Edward Elgar. The composer seems to have remained firmly rooted in the nineteenth century (or maybe Hans Pfitzner) until his death, three years after that of Arnold Schoenberg. That he retained his leadership of the Danish Composers’ Society during the Nazi occupation until he was ousted in 1948 may say something about his conservative nature as well. »

11 May 2005

BRUBECK: Songs

This problematic recording is another in Naxos’s “American Classics” series, an important body of releases that demonstrates the broad reach of American music across two centuries. While some of the recordings are decidedly novelties, they are welcome as such. William Henry Fry’s “Santa Claus” Symphony, for instance, deserves to be heard as well as mentioned in textbooks. The songs of Dave Brubeck, however, are certainly more than novelties, despite their not being as well known or as widely heard as the music of his justly famous quartet. »

10 May 2005

Mara Zampieri: A Tribute to Verdi

The recurring practice in classical recording studios is “re-mastering” recordings of a legendary artist, sometimes focusing on those artists well known but not frequently recorded. Soprano Mara Zampieri is one of those veteran performers, who released only a handful of commercial recordings and no personal compilations. Myto’s new release, Mara Zampieri: A Tribute to Verdi, is proof why this singer has not been recorded more frequently. »

09 May 2005

WEILL: Die sieben Todsünden

A new recording of Kurt Weill’s (1900 – 1950) ballet chanté, Die 7 Todsünden (1933) featuring Anja Silja and the SWR Rundfunkorchestra Kaiserslautern and conducted by Grzegorz Nowak, has recently been made available in the U.S. on the Hässler-Classic label. Also included on the CD is Weill’s Quodlibet, opus 9 (1923) — an orchestral arrangement taken from his 1922 children’s pantomime, Zaubernacht. »

09 May 2005

ZANDONAI: Francesca da Rimini

Strange to think that Magda Olivero has to thank Renata Tebaldi and Maria Callas for two of her best known live recordings. Tebaldi cancelled the famous Adriana Lecouvreur performances in Naples 1958 (Corelli, Bastianini, Simionato) and La Scala originally wanted Callas as Francesca da Rimini. Twice Olivero substituted and made the role so much her own that whenever one of these operas pops up in a conversation so does Olivero’s name. Contrary to Adriana, Francesca was not a staple in the soprano’s repertoire. She sang a few performances with Alessandro Ziliano and Tullio Serafin in Torino in 1940 and only returned to the role 19 years later for her second and last run of Francescas. »

09 May 2005

Lamentations and Messiah

The Brilliant Classics label has been releasing budget priced recordings on CD for some time now, many to high praise. Complete symphony cycles (for example, of Shostakovich and Bruckner) have been favorably compared in some publications to those from major labels featuring star conductors and top orchestras. »

09 May 2005

ESCUDERO: Illeta

The Basque region of Spain is known as a unique cultural enclave. Within its confines thrives a rich artistic heritage. Composer Francisco Escudero has become one of the most famous 20th century composers from the region. His avant-garde sound blends many eclectic styles with elements of traditional Basque music. »

05 May 2005

The Very Best of Beverly Sills

EMI Classics’ release of The Very Best of Bevery Sills is a mixed bag. Unlike similar EMI compilations of Maria Callas, Mirella Freni, or Lucia Popp, who all present an array of signature arias or art songs, this release should be re-titled Some of Beverly Sills’ Opera Scenes and a Few Arias. Though Sills performs with an impressive cast, including Alfredo Kraus, Nicolai Gedda, Sherrill Milnes, and Samuel Ramey, this recording would be much more satisfying if is showcased more of signature Sills. »

04 May 2005

BIZET: Carmen

I still remember the incredible excitement in the early 1970s when DGG issued recordings featuring the young conductor, Carlos Kleiber (1930-2004). Both the Weber Freischütz and Beethoven Fifth Symphony showcased the craft of an extraordinary talent, an artist capable of making even the most familiar music sound fresh, spontaneous, and new. Music lovers hoped that this son of the great conductor Erich Kleiber would be a constant presence, both in the concert hall and opera house. »

03 May 2005

VERDI: La Forza del Destino

“The policies of recording companies never fail to wonder me.” I am often reminded of the late Harold Rosenthal’s expression in the magazine, Opera, and I definitely had it in mind when I received this recording. Why would anyone bring out a set with two singers (Bergonzi and Cappuccilli) duplicating their roles of the classic EMI-recording of 1969; maybe still the best buy around? And yet, yet I’m not so sure anymore of the superfluousness of this set. There are two reasons for it. Number one is Carlo Bergonzi. I didn’t think he would be able to surpass his formidable EMI-Alvaro and nevertheless he does. Bergonzi’s voice was slowly changing in the early seventies. He had been singing the most strenuous roles of the repertoire for almost a quarter of a century and still the voice had not suffered. On the contrary, there were no traces of his baritone past anymore. The top was secure, though there never was much squillo and a high C usually became a high B. It was the middle voice that had changed most. It became honeyed, silvery in an almost Gigli-like way. Combined with his inexhaustible breath control, his legato and the way he could colour some small phrases and switch from forte to a heavenly pianissimo it slowly dawned upon many listeners that here was one of the greatest tenors of the century who maybe had been taken too much for granted. »

03 May 2005

VERDI: Ernani

“Few tenors today have his ringing top” and “his ringing, clear top” are not exactly qualities one associates with baritenor Placido Domingo, as he has been calling himself for the last ten years. Still, those were the exact words used by critic Peter Hoffer in his reports for Opera Magazine and Opera News on the opening of La Scala for the season 1969-1970. In all honesty, a ringing top à la Corelli is not exactly what one hears on this recording. But there is no hint of a pushed up baritone either. This is 28-year old fresh voiced Domingo with all the beauty and youthful freshness of the middle voice and quite an acceptable top always taking the higher option (A or B-flat) at the end of a solo or a duet. Mr. Domingo has been so long among us that one somewhat has forgotten how meltingly beautiful the young tenor sang, relying on his outstanding vocal gifts. »

03 May 2005

VERDI: Attila

This DVD release, taken from an RAI telecast, documents a 1991 La Scala performance of Verdi’s 1846 opera, based on the life of Attila the Hun. I’ve always felt that early Verdi is one of Riccardo Muti’s greatest strengths. When Muti was Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, I was privileged to see their concert performances of Nabucco and Macbeth. Both featured breathtaking execution, intensity, and momentum. »

28 Apr 2005

HANDEL: Rodelinda

There was a time, not so long ago, when Handel was a rare bird on the video shelves of opera shops and record retailers, but it seems that with the advent of the slim ‘n sexy DVD disc, and (in Europe at least) a more flexible attitude to rights issues between record companies and opera houses, that those days are now, happily, past. The latest offering from Farao Classics is the 3 year old Munich Staatsoper production of his “Rodelinda” with staging by David Alden, music direction by Ivor Bolton, first given at their Festival in 2003. I’m not entirely sure why certain operas get chosen for DVD release and others don’t, and this one is a bit of a puzzle for several reasons. »

28 Apr 2005

LARSEN: love lies bleeding — Songs by Libby Larsen.

This CD, entitled "Love Lies Bleeding," is a companion to the fascinating recording by the same soprano and pianist, entitled "With All My Soul" (The Orchard 6003). »

26 Apr 2005

GLUCK: Orphee et Euridice

Christoph Willibald Gluck's (1714-1787) Orfeo ed Euridice is an opera that began a major reform of Italian opera and the way it was composed and performed in the eighteenth century. »

25 Apr 2005

BRITTEN: The Turn of the Screw

Britten biographer Humphrey Carpenter quotes a friend of the composer’s as calling Miles “a male Lolita.” For all the blather, if not bother, about innocence in The Turn of the Screw, I’ve never felt there was much of it present among the inhabitants of Bly. There’s sure a nasty case of naiveté going around among the grown-ups though. »

24 Apr 2005

BIZET: Les Pêcheurs de Perles

Les Pêcheurs de Perles is not a terribly major opera. Ned Rorem once memorably described it as “harmless” concerning the occasion on which it shared a double bill with the world premiere of Poulenc’s Les Mammeles De Tiresias. But for a competent early work by a promising composer who went on to greater things (well, one greater thing, given his tragically early death), Pecheurs has been given an enormous amount of attention both on stage and in the recording studio. An attractive work of conventional Second Empire French oriental exotica, it’s blessed to contain two beloved numbers that have won the hearts of opera lovers whose loyalty keeps it before the public with some frequency. »

24 Apr 2005

Miliza Korjus sings Mozart, Donzetti, Delibes, Meyerbeer, Offenbach, Gounod, ...

Miliza Korjus (1912-1980), the “Queen of Pyrotechnics”, sings with a crystalline precision, reminiscent of Joan Sutherland, and a purity of voice akin to Natalie Dessay. During the height of her operatic career, 1933-1936, Korjus had the flexibility, dynamic vocal range, and brightness to become the quintessential lyric coloratura. Hänssler Classic brings her voice back to life by remastering the very Electrola recordings that made her singing “immortal.” »

24 Apr 2005

“Fly, Thought, on Golden Wings” — Verdi’s Life told by Thomas Hampson

With a running time of 60 minutes, this DVD biographic feature on Verdi’s life might possibly be a satisfactory introductory piece for the newcomer to the great man and his art. Even then, the knowledge gained would barely form an outline to be filled in by much more study. However, if one would like a pretty travelogue of the sights and landscapes of Verdi’s Italian roots (with a side trip to Paris), plus a little time joining Thomas Hampson in admiring his own handsome self, Euroarts has a treat in store. »

22 Apr 2005

GOUNOD: Polyeucte

In spite of the fact that Gounod had a special fondness for Polyeucte, it was among the least successful of his many operas. In fact, he was reported to have considered it as the favorite of his works. It was first composed around the time of the Franco-Prussian war. »

22 Apr 2005

WILLIAMS: Wagner and the Romantic Hero

There is no doubt that Richard Wagner as an artist, composer, and writer was the center of controversy both during and after his lifetime. Despite the overwhelming political, social, and psychological elements contained in his musical oeuvre, Wagner is one of the more enduring figures in the history of the arts. Based on lectures delivered at the Bayreuth Festival between 1998 and 2000, Simon Williams examines a topic that has generated much interest and scrutiny both within the arts and outside of it: Wagner’s treatment of the hero. »

22 Apr 2005

Joan La Barbara. Voice is the Original Instrument: Early Works (1974-1980)
Jacqueline Humbert. Chanteuse

You can rely on Lovely Music. The new-music label Lovely Music invariably provides some of the most interesting new music available on recordings. They can be relied upon in a business with its fair share of unreliables — immaturity, bad quality recording, sophistry — to give good quality interesting recordings of innovative work. They’ve been around for at least two decades, and their catalog covers some of the very best in what can be called “downtown” new music — conceptual music influenced in large part by John Cage, world music, and modern American art and dance after abstract expressionism (let’s say Warhol and after). Their rather humble website is at www.lovely.com, and really tells only a small part of their story. For someone exploring American new music for the first time, they make a very good starting point. »

21 Apr 2005

GLASS & MARSHALL: Les Enfants Terribles — Children of the Game

Well I’m trying. The liner notes read: “Les Enfants Terribles, the final installment of Philip Glass’ trilogy based on the work of Jean Cocteau, articulates Cocteau’s belief in the transcendent power of imagination and creativity. It is the story of a brother and a sister, Paul and Lise, two characters so caught up in a world of their own imaginings that they can no longer see a reality beyond their ‘game’.” The music on this cd is the accompaniment to a dance/opera (and thus it’s only half the story — to be as fair as possible to thing). The work is scored for three singers and a narrator, accompanied by three keyboards. »

21 Apr 2005

SAARIAHO: Cinq reflets de L'Amour de loin; Nymphea Reflection; Oltra Mar

This is very pleasant new music, long in breath, richly scored, nice poetry, nothing pretentious, but good solid rewarding composition. Ms. Saariaho is truly adept at making a great orchestral score, and she has a way with voices, particularly Pia Freund’s on the first track, which truly soars. »

19 Apr 2005

Sir Thomas Allen: Great Operatic Arias

Some 20 years ago I ended my subscription to Opera Magazine after an article by its editor, the late Harold Rosenthal. He had written a review of La Clemenza di Tito that described tenor Stuart Burrows in words that, for those who did not attend the performance, they had missed the second coming of Enrico Caruso, Jussi Björling and Beniamino Gigli in one person. I had attended and I knew that Rosenthal and his colleagues could be almost funny in their chauvinism but enough was enough. Well, I’m happy to report the old tradition still lives on. I looked at some reviews of this recital by British critics and Giuseppe De Luca, Tito Gobbi and Robert Merrill in their heydays would have been proud of such notices. »

18 Apr 2005

Joseph Schwarz Sings Arias by Verdi, Wagner, Leoncavallo and Meyerbeer

For whom is this fine CD? It is published by Hänssler Verlag; a publishing house that specializes in Christian literature and that has a classical record branch as well. »

15 Apr 2005

Lotte Lehmann: “Frauenliebe und Leben” — Works by Schumann, Brahms, Schubert and Sacred Songs

Of all the singing geniuses of the 20th century, Lotte Lehmann is among the forefront. Though not blessed with the most beautiful voice or impressive technique, Lehmann knew how to reach her audience through unmatched musical interpretation and expression. She was able to win the love of her audience, and now, almost a century from the start of her career, the world continues to sing her praises. »

15 Apr 2005

English Choral Music

One has to wonder if the number of recordings of English choirs singing English choral music will ever reach a saturation point. This Naxos double disc by the Choir of St. Johns College, Cambridge, may very well signify such a moment through its attempt to chronicle the succession of English choral music from the 19th century to the present. The choir of men and boys sings gloriously, nearly equaling their more famous sister choir at King’s College, yet the musical montage is rather unusual. »

13 Apr 2005

WAGNER: Tristan und Isolde

After playing a few tracks I was reminded of the late Harold Rosenthal’s review of a 1973 Callas and Di Stefano-concert in his own Opera Magazine: “This is one of the saddest reviews I ever had to write.” »

13 Apr 2005

HANDEL: Athalia

I have long been accustomed to the grumblings of my German and Italian colleagues concerning the pronunciation and expression of musical works in their native languages by English-native singers and choirs. I had chalked it up to benevolent xenophobia, but this beautiful recording gives me new insight into their perspective. »

11 Apr 2005

SCHUBERT: Die Winterreise

When it comes to any new recordings of Schubert’s song cycle Winterreise, it is difficult not to think of the fine performances by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau at various points in his career. While Fischer-Dieskau’s recordings can serve as points of reference, the recent CD by the baritone Andreas Schmidt adds to the many excellent recordings that already exist for this work. Schmidt brings to this cycle a personal and effective interpretation that emerges clearly in the recording, where the close ensemble with Rudolf Jansen results in a nuanced performance. By allowing themselves fluid tempos, the performers allow the text to serve the music well. At times they linger over a syllable or stretch a phrase to reinforce the meaning. These are subtle differences that are at the core of experienced and effective Lieder performance. »

05 Apr 2005

MOZART: Idomeneo

In 1934, John Christie launched an institution of English musical life with Fritz Busch and Carl Ebert: The Glyndebourne Festival. Since 1951, the Festival has staged four productions of Mozart’s opera seria Idomeneo (1781), the most recent being in 2003. »

04 Apr 2005

BALAKAUSKAS: Requiem in Memoriam Stasys Lozoraitis

Of the three Baltic States, both Latvia and Estonia are better known for choral music than Lithuania. Yet, Osvaldas Balakauskas, born in 1937, could be one of the finest lesser known modernist composers of the 20th century. Resisting both the neoclassical Soviet aesthetic of Prokofiev and a trendy nationalist folk identity, Balakauskas embraced the avant garde developments of Western Europe. Composing from dodecaphonic tonal modes and complex rhythmic constructs, he can most accurately be compared to Olivier Messiaen. »

04 Apr 2005

Feodor Chaliapin sings Russian folk songs

This new release from Hänssler Classics presents an anthology of live and studio performances by the Russian bass Feodor Chaliapin (1873-1938), undoubtedly one of the greatest singers in recorded history. The title of the album, “Feodor Chaliapin sings Russian Folk Songs,” is somewhat misleading. Apart from traditional songs such as “Mashenka,” “Eh, Van’ka,” and “Down the Volga,” the recording includes arrangements of 19th-century popular songs such as “Dubinushka,” “Down the Peterskaya,” and the perennial Gypsy favorite “Black Eyes,” as well as a selection of salon romances, art songs, and ballads by Mikhail Glinka, Alexander Dargomïzhsky, Anton Rubinstein, and Modest Musorgsky, among others. Most of the selections on the new CD have been previously released on various labels, with the possible exception of “Dubinushka,” which I have not been able to find among the recordings currently available. Hence, avid Chaliapin collectors should be aware that the Hänssler release offers little if anything new to them. Those music lovers still unacquainted with Chaliapin’s art, however, or those whose exposure to this singer has been limited to his opera recordings, would find this album a great insight into a spectacular voice and a unique artistic persona. »

03 Apr 2005

Caballe: Beyond Music

Monserratt Caballé’s journey to La Scala and the Metropolitan Opera was truly a road of talent, dedication, and will. One of the most beautiful and athletic voices of our generation, declared as Callas’ successor, Caballé dominated both the dramatic spinto and bel canto arenas, transcending the realm of the opera world to influence the popular masses. »

02 Apr 2005

Verdi Gala

As a live occasion, the gala format allows for a festive atmosphere — a variety of singers trot back and forth across the stage, usually performing a series of “opera’s greatest hits” with no distractions, if one may, in the way of costume, set, or dramatic context. Recorded for posterity, such gala events can lose, for many viewers, the attractions of the live atmosphere and become rather labored exercises. »

31 Mar 2005

BRAHMS: Lieder, Complete Edition, Vol. 8

This latest release in the collaborative project to record the complete songs of Johannes Brahms focuses on four opus numbers, among the last groups of Lieder to be so designated by Brahms. The present recording represents typical songs from the so-called mature composer, most of these having been written between 1883-88. Each of the opus numbers includes a mix of texts drawn from the works of contemporary, well known poets and from the milieu of popular folk-songs. As an example of this mix, the songs from op. 97 comprise settings of poems by Reinhold, Alexis, and Groth, as well as two songs for which the source is simply given as Volkslied. As in most of the previous releases of this project, the singers Juliane Banse and Andreas Schmidt divide the repertoire and are accompanied by the pianist Helmut Deutsch. »

30 Mar 2005

LAURIDSEN: Lux aeterna

The title piece, Lux aeterna (light eternal), a five-movement work by American composer Morton Lauridsen (b.1943), is intended to be an “intimate work of quiet serenity.” The composer’s quest for texts that express “hope, reassurance, faith and illumination in all of its manifestations,” results in a free compilation from various liturgical observances or feasts: the Introit from the Requiem; select verses of the Te Deum, sung at the end of Matins on Sunday or in thanksgiving for a special blessing, interpolated with a verse from the Beatus vir (Ps. 111:4); verses from O nata lux, the Lauds hymn for the feast of the Transfiguration; Veni sancte spiritus, the sequence for Pentecost; and the Agnus Dei and Communio from the Mass for the Dead with an “Alleluia” tag added by the composer. Admittedly, the work is non-liturgical. Still, the fashioning of these texts causes the work to be viewed by some as a “Requiem” or quasi “German Requiem.” Indeed, it is neither a Requiem nor a Mass for the Dead, in spite of the opening and closing movements. As a meditation on “light eternal,” texts other than those from the Requiem could have been used. One need only read the Exsultet, which overflows with the symbols and imagery of “the Light” that conquers death, and which dispels darkness. Further, the theme of the texts used in the three inner movements is more Trinitarian (Te Deum = God the Father; O nata lux = God the Son; Veni sancte spiritus = God the Holy Spirit). Unfortunately, their importance and strength is reduced to the occurrence of the word “light” in their verse. That being said, the texts are not what the ear remembers in this work; it is the music. The words are merely the vehicle for the vocalists. »

29 Mar 2005

VERDI: Falstaff

Years ago I remember reading a commentary on Verdi by a respected critic — Conrad L. Osborne — to the effect that most of early Verdi could have been written by Donizetti except for the first great success, Nabucco, that could have been written by Rossini. If one accepts that proposal, it would mean that Rossinian operas bracketed Verdi’s career, for surely Falstaff, at the very end, reflects the energy, elegance, joyousness and sophistication of Rossini from one end to the other. »

29 Mar 2005

Maria Callas — Living and Dying for Art and Love

The legend of Maria Callas has transcended her death, and after more than twenty five years, titans of opera still proclaim her the ultimate Diva: artist, actress, musician, lover and woman. Iambic Productions and BBC’s 2004 DVD, Maria Callas: Living and Dying for Art and Love, is a fascinating look at the life of Callas from the perspective of her final role and performance at Covent Garden, Tosca. »

28 Mar 2005

BEETHOVEN: Fidelio

I grew up during the Age of LP and compared with CD’s the size had its disadvantages but there were some distinct gains as well, especially in the field of artwork. Collectors may have the same set on CD but they will rarely separate from those glorious RCA-Soria recordings like Carmen (Price, Corelli) or Otello (Vickers, Gobbi) with their lavish booklets. Though there are no colour photographs in this set under review I nevertheless was reminded of those old glories. This 4Cd-set is so wonderfully packed and designed into what looks like a small hard cover book that just paging in it gives one already some joy. Of course, neither performance is a great discovery for the collector. The Böhm-set already appeared twice on LP and twice on CD. The Furtwängler only has one LP- and one CD-reissue, which is quite understandable as the conductor led exactly the same cast the same year for a commercial recording on HMV (3 LP’s) and with all spoken dialogues cut as if producer Legge didn’t trust the singers to speak their lines. At the time he was not alone in this false belief. The next commercial Fidelio (Fricsay) came out on DG with actors for the dialogues; an even more ridiculous solution as one could clearly hear the differences in timbre between actors and singers. »

28 Mar 2005

SALAZAR: Vísperas Completas de Nuestra Señora

Sacred music from the Spanish Baroque deserves to be held up next to the finest Italian examples of the same period. Equally celebratory in nature, the music written for use in Catholic Vespers services on this recording is an example of the mixed concertante style developed in Venice. While not as monumental as Claudio Monteverdi’s conglomerate Vespers of 1610, the Vísperas Completas de Nuestra Señora by Juan Garcia de Salazar (1639-1710) contrasts polyphonic and homophonic choruses with plainchant, monody, instrumental pieces, and organ improvisation. »

28 Mar 2005

BACH: St. John's Passion

The explosion of research into the music of J. S. Bach allows for innumerable interpretations of his works. Scholars meticulously study the musical source material, letters and writings from the 17th and 18th centuries, and anything else that could possibly lead to an insight into Bach’s musical practice. Invariably, each interpreter achieves new conclusions and raises new questions forming their own distinctive ideal. In the last decade and a half, the dialogue over Bach’s choral music has been particularly active and fierce with proponents of massive romantic proportions and those who prefer single singers and instrumentalists on a part. »

24 Mar 2005

Leontyne Price & Samuel Barber: Historic Performances (1938 - 1953)

Among the leading figures in music in twentieth-century America, the composer Samuel Barber and the soprano Leontyne Price are notable for various reasons, not the least of which is the fact that they worked together at various times. »

22 Mar 2005

BACH: Weinen, Klagen — Cantatas BWV 12, 38 & 75

One of the greatest challenges in compiling a recording of J. S. Bach’s cantatas must be choosing which cantatas to group together. For his Harmonia Mundi release, Weinen, Klagen…, Philippe Herreweghe selects three cantatas that represent the human experience of “desolation and comfort.” These two themes are so central to Lutheran theology they could in fact be found in any number of Bach’s cantatas. Nevertheless, the three cantatas on this recording reflect the variety across Bach’s output. “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen” BWV 12, comes from Bach’s period in Weimar, the double cantata, “Die Elend sollen essen” BWV 75, was the first work Bach presented at his new post in Leipzig, and “Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir” BWV 38 is based strictly on the chorale tune throughout the entire work. Despite their differences, all of these works make the theological transition from earthly desolation to eternal comfort. »

21 Mar 2005

Maria Cebotari sings Mozart, Verdi, Puccini, Strauß and Gounod

So often we get wrapped up in today’s world of great performers that we forget the performers of the past who, directly or indirectly, influenced these performers and shaped the characters they play. Not one singer today can boast working side by side with Richard Strauss or living in Puccini’s heyday, but Maria Cebotari (1910-1949) could. Thanks to a brilliant re-mastered recording by Hänssler Classic, we are now able to take part in signature performances of a woman who is known as the “predecessor” to Maria Callas. »

21 Mar 2005

The Irreplaceable Beverly Sills

OF all the times Beverly Sills was host of the “Tonight” show, her favorite was in 1977, when her guests were three of her closest confidantes: the comedian Carol Burnett, the perky singer and television host Dinah Shore and the pop chanteuse Eydie Gorme. The women got into a spat over who was whose best friend, then kidded the wholesome Ms. Shore about her current beau, the heartthrob actor Burt Reynolds. »

17 Mar 2005

Les Travailleurs De La Mer: Ancient songs from a small island

Cast off the shores of Normandy, the tiny isle of Guernsey lies isolated between the two European powers of England and France. Guernsey, however, has remained independent since 1204, and its government, the Bailiwick of Guernsey, comprises the inhabited islands of Guernsey, Alderney, Sark, Herm, Jethou, Brecqhou and Lihou. Rich in an abundant culture and history, Guernsey is well-known for its sea ports, mystic pagan rituals, potent cider, and poetry. »

13 Mar 2005

Leo Slezak sings arias by Wagner, Verdi and Meyerbeer

Leo Slezak is generally regarded as a German tenor, although he was actually born in what is now the Czech Republic. But, Moravia, where he is from, was Austrian at the time, and had a significant German speaking population, with German the dominant language of the middle and upper classes. He made his debut in Brno (then Brunn), at a time when most opera performances were sung in German, and, to the best of my knowledge, all of his recordings were in that language or Italian (the great majority being in German). He made over 400 records from a wide repertory of German, Italian and French operas, as well as many Lieder and some operetta. His two published discographies list no records from Czech operas. The arias he recorded most frequently include 11 versions each of the Preislied and “Celeste Aida”, nine of the “Ah, fuyez douce image” and seven of the “Roi du ciel” from Le prophète. His stage repertory could probably be divided into four more or less equal parts. Verdi predominated, with 133 performances of Radames, 130 of Otello, 91 of Manrico, and at least 41 of Riccardo. He also sang Ernani and the Duke in Rigoletto. Wagner and grand opera (comprising Elèazar, Raoul, Jean in Le prophète and Assad), were probably tied for second and third, with other composers, including Mozart, Boieldieu, Gounod, Puccini, etc. coming in fourth. His career was largely centered on Vienna, but also included an important stint at the Met, some stays in Brno, Breslau and Berlin during his youth, and guest appearances in many other centers. He has been described as everything from a “Heldentenor” (in many sources) to a large voiced lyric tenor (by Michael Scott, in his books on great singers). I would split the difference, calling him the German equivalent of a French “fort tenor”, who could sing everything from Mozart to the lighter Wagner roles, and did. »

11 Mar 2005

BRITTEN: Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings; Nocturne; Phaedra

A spare and yet splendid masterpiece, Britten’s Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings doesn’t seem to make it into concert halls as often as it deserves. In the recording studio, however, it has fared well. Besides the classic recordings from the composer and his partner Peter Pears, esteemed versions from Anthony Rolfe-Johnson, Robert Tear, Ian Bostridge, and others have a place in the catalogue. »

10 Mar 2005

KÁLMÁN: Die Csárdásfürstin

Emmerich Kálmán’s name may be familiar primarily to music lovers d’un certain âge, but between the world wars his operettas were as popular as those of Léhar and Strauss on both sides of the Atlantic. Die Csárdásfürstin (The Gypsy [or Czardas] Princess), which premiered in Vienna in 1915, is his best known, and for good reason. Its book by Leo Stein and Béla Jenbach sparkles and delights, but with reversals of fortune that leave the audience wondering until the last minute how love’s complications will be resolved. The Budapest-born Kálmán (1882–1953; his fellow composition students included Béla Bartók and Zoltán Kodály) apparently was weaned on his homeland’s melodies and czardas, which he mixes generously with Austrian waltzes to create a glorious portrait of the twilight years of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The piece played the New Amsterdam Theater in New York in 1917 as The Riviera Girl, with a new book by Guy Bolton and P. G. Wodehouse and added numbers by Jerome Kern. »

08 Mar 2005

BRITTEN: Canticles I–V, The Heart of the Matter

Benjamin Britten is usually thought of as a musical dramatist on a large, operatic scale, but the instinct (or perhaps the inner necessity) to capture psychological conflict in music burst through in his smaller musical forms as well. His five canticles (not to be confused with the church parables) mirror Britten’s artistic growth in his operas and other large-scale works from the late 1940s until shortly before his death. »

08 Mar 2005

The Origin of Fire: Music and Visions of Hildegard von Bingen

This last in the contributions of Anonymous 4 to the performance of medieval music is a selection of thematically related texts – most by Hildegard von Bingen – dealing with a spiritual or religious fire. Those renditions of traditional hymns, such as “Veni Creator Spiritus” and “Veni Spiritus eternorum alme,” are interspersed with works of Hildegard’s composition. Some of these are based on her prose visions, e.g. “Et ego homo non calens,” identified topically as “The fire of creation,” a depiction of which is also used for the cover illustration. The prose texts are provided with musical adaptations of plainsong by Anonymous 4. “The fire of creation” was performed using plainchant, and Hildegard’s vision “The fiery spirit” was adapted to a two-voice lection tone from Christmas matins of Polish origin. »

08 Mar 2005

VERDI: Les Vêpres Siciliennes

In 1847, Giuseppe Verdi revised his opera I Lombardi alla prima crociata (1843) into a work for the Parisian stage. This “new” composition, featuring extensive plot changes, new music, and the requisite ballet, is considered better than the original upon which it was based. A reverse fate awaited Verdi’s next work for Paris, the grand opéra Les Vêpres Siciliennes, which premiered at the Opéra in 1855. Although it was performed there, with minor changes, until 1863, attempts to get the work past censors in Italy failed, for tales of successful revolutions simply were not permitted on the Risorgimento stage. After a poor translation of the opera entitled Giovanna de Guzman made the circuits, Verdi revisited the score in 1856, and, removing the ballet, created I vespri sicilani. This inferior version, which employs much of Giovanna de Guzman’s text, is unfortunately the one that has remained in the repertory. »

07 Mar 2005

STRAUSS: Die Fledermaus

Film freezes time and even serves to transport an enrapt viewer into its temporal world. Viewers of the recent DVD release of a December 1980 performance of Strauss’ operetta classic, Die Fledermaus, may not be quite as ecstatic as the local audience, but resistance is futile. Have some champagne ready for the curtain calls. Lovers of this art form will rejoice, and even the operetta-resistant (of which your reviewer is one) must succumb to the energy, star power, and sheer good will of all involved. »

06 Mar 2005

PUCCINI: La Bohème

Even for a jaded reviewer like this one who has seen innumerable Bohème’s all over the world, there comes a moment in the third act when music and production simply take precedence over intellectual curiosity: the old magic works again and one is moved by the fate of these youngsters. High praise indeed for the famous Zeffirelli-production, born in 1963 at La Scala together with a juicy scandal when Di Stefano was ousted and replaced by Gianni Raimondi. »

05 Mar 2005

ZEMLINSKY: Une Tragédie Florentine

The operas of the Austrian composer Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942) continue to fascinate audiences with their combination of carefully composed music and well-selected librettos. After using fairy-tale elements in his early operas, such as Sarema (1897), Es war einmal (1900), and Der Traumgörge (1905-6), Zemlinsky turned to Renaissance settings for Eine florentinische Tragödie (1917) and Der Zwerg (1922). In fact, Zemlinsky’s Florentinische Tragödie is based the dramatic fragment A Florentine Tragedy, by Oscar Wilde, whose works intrigued other composers of the time. Beyond the provocative drama Salome set by Richard Strauss, Franz Schreker used a story by Wilde as the basis for his ballet Die Geburtstag der Infantin (1908). »

05 Mar 2005

SCHOENBERG: Gurrelieder

Schoenberg for lovers. Sounds like an oxymoron, but in fact there is enough passion in the too seldom heard Gurrelieder to make even Valentine blush. We know Schoenberg largely from the atonal and dodecaphonic later works (and most listeners know of these mostly by inaccurate rumor). But we forget all too often the fact that Schoenberg had an early period, much of which is readily accessible to conservative tastes. Gurrelieder is the sort of diamond in the crown of this period, a long cantata-like adventure, some two hours in full. Scored for an enormous orchestra, four choirs, and speaker, and five soloists, the work is the logical conclusion of the nineteenth-century penchant for Texas-style excess when it comes to orchestration: you can’t get any bigger than this without havin’ to build a second story. »

01 Mar 2005

Mosaic: African-American Spirituals

Angela Brown has attracted the attention of those eager for the appearance of the next great Verdi soprano, and she continues to live up to the high expectations. Appearances with the Opera Company of Philadelphia as Leonara in Il Trovatore, Elisabetta in Don Carlo, and Strauss’s Ariadne evoked high praise from local and national critics, and her recent debut as Aida at the Metropolitan Opera was well received. All have noted the powerful and richly expressive voice in early bloom as well as Brown’s commanding stage presence. So this recent recording of spirituals, sung only with guitar or piano accompaniment (they all three contribute to the final “Ride Up in the Chariot”), is an interesting release. Brown is minimizing resources in search of what, in the liner notes, she calls an “intimate recording” of “songs of personal introspection.” The results are a little more mixed than her operatic reception. »

01 Mar 2005

VERDI: Falstaff

This Andante release is a marvelous compilation of two recordings of Verdi’s Falstaff performed at the Salzburg festival, the first conducted by Arturo Toscanini in 1937, the second by Herbert Von Karajan in 1957. The juxtaposition and accompanying extensive program notes encourage the aficionado to compare, contrast and delight in the music through the lens of time. Falstaff was a favorite of the maestri and both took professional chances with it. Toscanini performed Falstaff during his first season at La Scala in 1898; Karajan perplexed his German-speaking audience by programming Falstaff in Aachen during his final season in 1941-2. »

28 Feb 2005

STRAVINSKY: Oedipus Rex; Les Noces

Robert Craft has begun an ambitious project of recording Stravinsky’s oeuvre with two of the best dramatic works, Oedipus Rex — a sort of melodrama in a fever — and Les Noces (The Wedding), which simply defies any generic classification. The two make an ideal pairing, Rex as high drama told at a breakneck crawl, Noces as a kind of musical Polaroid camera that churns through frozen snapshots with a mind numbing velocity. Craft was a close confidant and collaborator with Stravinsky, and was responsible for many premiers and other definitive statements. For better or worse this fact brought down upon his head a certain amount of critical skepticism on the part of academics. This can be set to one side in these recordings, which are certainly reliable in a workaday sense, if a little tepid in terms of insight and energy. »

25 Feb 2005

BYRD: Consort Songs

This CD collaboration between the early music viol ensemble Fretwork and vocalist Emma Kirkby is devoted to songs of William Byrd composed in the vernacular to be sung with string accompaniment; interspersed with these is a selection of short instrumental pieces in various genres. As a composer whose work was associated especially with the English Catholics, many of Byrd’s compositions from the last quarter of the sixteenth century were based on sacred Latin texts. The less familiar English consort songs chosen for this recording represent a mix of both secular and religious themes. Topics in the song texts include the constancy of Penelope, the narrative of a pet dog who meets an unexpected end, an elegy on Sir Philip Sidney, and the execution of Mary Stuart as bound up with the vicissitudes of Fortune in this world. This selection is further balanced by vernacular songs of an overtly religious character focusing on topics such as the vanity of earthly pleasure and possessions, the Nativity, and a lengthy prayer for divine grace. Finally, some of the song texts draw on a thematic complex of both sacred and profane. »

22 Feb 2005

CAVALLI: Arias and Duets from 5 operas

Some years ago, those of us who are aficionados of pre-1750 repertory – and all the more so, those of us who are privileged to be able to teach it – were happy to have any recording of the music we hold so dear. We were happy to excuse wooden-ness or sloppiness of performance because, well, some idea of the sound of pre-Classical repertories was better than none at all. Over the last couple of decades, with the proliferation of phenomenal performers and ensembles who specialize in early music, this resignation faded: we now are spoiled by having our choice of many polished performances, and the privilege of comparing their relative merits. »

21 Feb 2005

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf Sings Operettas by Lehár, Suppé, and Strauss

This new disc, from Hänssler’s “Living Voices” series, divides essentially into two parts. The first four tracks are “Potpourris” from Léhar’s Paganini and Das Land des Lächelns, Suppé’s Bocaccio, and Johann Strauss’s Wiener Blut. Recorded in 1939 and 1940, these “Potpourris” feature tenor Rupert Glawitsch and a very young Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (b. 1915). The remaining eight tracks include excerpts from Schwarzkopf’s early-50s EMI complete mono recordings of Die Lustige Witwe and Land das Lächelns. »

21 Feb 2005

CANTELOUBE: Chants d’Auvergne

In the mountains of the vast Auvergne country near the south of France lays the inspiration of Canteloube’s Chants D’Auvergne. Marie-Joseph Canteloube, born in 1879 at Annonay, spent his childhood in the countryside of Malaret in the south of Auvergne. It was these roots that instilled his love for folk-music, consuming much of his compositional output and research. He wrote Les chants paysan s’élève bien souvent au niveau de l’art le plus pur, par le sentiment et l’expression, sinon par la forme. (The songs of peasants very often reach the level of the purest art in feeling and expression, if not in form.) »

21 Feb 2005

SALGADO: The Teatro Solis 150 years of Opera, Concert and Ballet in Montevideo

During the latter half of the 19th century, and much of the 20th, countless opera companies, mostly Italian, but also some French and an occasional German, toured much of the Southeast coast of Latin America. Cities visited most frequently included Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Rio de Janeiro, and Sao Paulo, with occasional swings inland (Rosario and Cordoba), but sometimes going as far West as Santiago and Valparaiso. »

19 Feb 2005

PENDERECKI: A Polish Requiem

Krzysztof Penderecki’s A Polish Requiem is a monumental work expressing the struggles of 20th century Poland against oppression. Written over the course of several years in the 1980s and 90s, sections of A Polish Requiem memorialize significant events in Poland’s history. The Lacrimosa was written for Lech Walesa and his Solidarity movement as a memorial to Gdansk dock-workers who died in a conflict with authorities. The Agnus Dei was composed as a memorial tribute to the Polish religious leader, Cardinal Wyszynski and the Recordare marks the beatification of Father Maximilian Kolbe who sacrificed his life at Auschwitz so that another man and his family could live. In addition, the Dies Irae was written to mark the 40th anniversary of the Warsaw uprising against the Nazis. In its whole, A Polish Requiem is a work of piety as an expression of Penderecki’s devout Catholicism and a conviction of the human ability to triumph over evil. »

14 Feb 2005

SCHUMANN AND BRAHMS: Schöne Wiege meiner Leiden

The CD entitled Schöne Wiege meiner Leiden contains a selection of music by three friends who composed Lieder: Robert Schumann, his wife Clara, and their colleague Johannes Brahms. Their friendship is well known, and this recording is an attempt to pay tribute to what Berner calls “the manifold interactions between this artistic trinity” by presenting music by each of them; the pieces include Robert Schumann’s Liederkreis, Op. 24, seven Lieder by Clara Schumann, and ten of Brahms’ Deutsche Volkslieder, WoO 33. »

13 Feb 2005

CUI: A Feast in Time of Plague
RACHMANINOV: The Miserly Knight

The new Chandos recordings present Valeri Polyansky and the Russian State Symphony Orchestra in two little-known Russian operas of the early twentieth century, Sergei Rachmaninov’s The Miserly Knight (1905), and César Cui’s A Feast in Time of Plague (1900), the latter recorded for the first time. Each work is a setting of one of Alexander Pushkin’s Little Tragedies (1830), a series of four short plays in blank verse that elaborate on popular literary topics: “Don Juan, or The Stone Guest,” “The Miserly Knight,” “Mozart and Salieri,” and “A Feast in Time of Plague.” Sharply penetrating psychological portraits of people consumed by their obsessions – passion, greed, jealousy, and fear – Pushkin’s “dramatic scenes” have enjoyed a near cult status among the classics of Russian literature over the past 175 years. So has the first attempt to set one of them to music – a radical 1869 word-for-word setting of The Stone Guest by Alexander Dargomyzhsky (1813-69). Cast almost entirely as a continuous arioso, the work was proclaimed a revolution in operatic style by the Russian Five whose unbridled enthusiasm contributed to its enduring reputation. »

13 Feb 2005

DONIZETTI: L’elisir D’amore

Of today’s opera stars, tenor Rolando Villazón may be the “hottest” (if readers will allow that Entertainment Tonight term). He has gone from being an Operalia winner a few years back to assuming leading roles in the major houses of Europe and the U.S. His second major label recital disc has just been released to even higher praise than his first received, which appeared on many “best of the year lists” for 2004. Wherever he appears, major profiles and interviews appear in the local papers. He’s so hot he may be contributing to global warming. »

11 Feb 2005

LULLY: Les Fêtes de l'Amour et de Bacchus

Born in Florence, Jean-Baptiste Lully (1632-1687) came to France in 1646 as an Italian tutor to Louis XIV’s cousin Anne-Marie-Louise d’Orléans. Thanks to her, Lully became acquainted with French music, and got to study with several eminent musicians in Paris. In early 1653, he was asked to play several roles in the spectacular Royal Ballet of the Night. His performances caught the eye of King Louis XIV, who immediately appointed the young musician to the post of “Instrumental Music Composer.” Soon, Lully became Louis XIV’s favorite musician — he was appointed to the post of “Master of Music of the Royal Family” in 1662 — and the most important composer in France. Today, Lully is known primarily as the first major composer of French opera. (Unfortunately, he is also remembered for the way he died. In January 1687, Lully stabbed his foot with a cane that he used to beat time, and he succumbed to infections that resulted from this injury.) »

10 Feb 2005

Il primo dolce affanno… The first sweet pain

True to the intent of its series, Il Salotto, Opera Rara offers in this seventh volume a delightful sampling of art songs from the mid- to late-nineteenth-century repertory. Performing them are sopranos Elisabeth Vidal and Laura Claycomb, mezzo Manuele Custer, tenors Bruce Ford and Willliam Matteuzzi, baritone Roberto Servile, and bass Alastair Miles, accompanied on piano by David Harper. »

10 Feb 2005

BUSNOIS: Missa O Crux lignum, Motets, Chansons

The most recent recording by England’s premier performers of Renaissance vocal music, the Orlando Consort, features a selection of works by the renowned fifteenth-century composer Antoine Busnois, works that represent the major genres of music composition of the time — mass, motet, and chanson. The performances are what we have come to expect from the fine singers of the Orlando Consort: warm, vibrant, and precise. »

07 Feb 2005

MAHLER: Songs

While a number of fine recent recordings of Mahler’s Lieder with orchestral accompaniment have been released in recent years, his songs are also of interest in the versions the composer made for voice and piano. In presenting the songs with piano accompaniment, Stephan Genz and Roger Vignoles bring out details that can become apparent only in this setting. Genz is known for his fine recordings of Lieder, include the award-winning CD of Beethoven’s Songs, as well as various recordings of Hugo Wolf’s Lieder (all on Hyperion). In this recording of Mahler’s music, he performs with Vignoles three complete sets of Lieder, that is, the cycles Lieder eines farhrenden Gesellen and Kindertotenlieder, as well as the set of Fünf Rückert-Lieder and, further, seven selections of settings from Mahler’s early publication of Lieder und Gesänge. »

02 Feb 2005

BELLINI: I Capuleti e I Montecchi

Surely the reader of this reviewer is passionate about opera – why else, faithful one, have you found yourself at the fount of information and wisdom knows as Opera Today? Therefore, the need for an outfit such as Premiere Opera need not be belabored – true opera lovers know that there sometimes arises a need to have a performance that cannot easily be obtained, and that need may trump the desire to have the recording, (whether only audio, or visual as well, as in the case of this DVD) be of optimal quality. So what we have here is a performance of April 7, 2002, at the Teatro Cuyas in the lovely Canary Islands. The opera is Bellini’s I Capuleti e I Montecchi, and the star gracing the stage as the lovely young Capulet is Cristina Gallardo-Domas. Perhaps it is her fans who will be most grateful to Premiere Opera for making available a record of the performance. Not to be slighted, however, is her imposing Romeo, a mezzo/trouser role. Daniela Barcellona is a rising star, and the reasons why are evident here. And Bellini lovers, as your reviewer knows well, are apt to want most any document of the master’s work, as the operas get performances but not as often as his fans might wish. »

30 Jan 2005

A Batallar Estrellas — Music in Spanish Cathedrals of the Seventeenth Century

Interest in the music of “New Spain” (the Spanish colonies in the Americas) has blossomed in the last decade, with a number of fine recordings of sacred music composed by musicians who emigrated to the New World in support of the mission of the Catholic church. A parallel interest in the music of those who stayed in Spain – indeed, who set the tradition that was exported to the Americas – has been slower to build, so this recording is especially welcome, since it provides an opportunity to hear a tradition seldom performed outside of Spain, whether in the Baroque era or in the present. »

30 Jan 2005

WAGNER: Die Feen

How narrow-minded can one be ? Very much so in the case of Richard Wagner who succeeded in not mentioning once the name of Verdi in all his writings. And is not his decision to banish his early youth works from the Bayreuth-barn rooted in that same mentality ? Of course during his lifetime he was the subject of many attacks and maybe he feared to be the victim of ridicule with critics dissecting every bar of Die Feen, Das Liebesverbot and Rienzi and looking for influences of other composers. Rienzi and Liebesverbot had been staged while he lived but Die Feen was only known by a few selections and he never took pains to have his first opera performed at a time when he could easily have done it. Die Feen was premiered 5 years after his death and then led a rather undistinguished life of a few performances. Still the amount of bigotry of his successors is even greater, considering that Siegfried Wagner himself was a composer of fairy tales and should not have respected his father’s wish not to perform Die Feen. The grandchildren complied as well though one can understand their motives. As Wagner lost some of his hallowed reputation during the fifties and the sixties, the stock of Verdi rose very high indeed and maybe it was not in the Wagners’ interest to show the more amateurish trials of granddaddy. Eva Wagner, Wolfgang’s estranged daughter who should have succeeded him long ago, was the first to offer a business plan for a new New Bayreuth where Die Feen, Rienzi and even the operas of composers who influenced the maestro would have their place. And then music lovers could at last hear and see what the fuss is all about if there is something to be excited about. Well, there is. The overture is a gem, all of its 11 minutes and almost worth the purchase of the set. Yes, it’s easy to trace the influence of Mozart and especially Weber but 20-year Wagner had a voice of his own as well, different from that of his contemporaries. Wagner was twelve years younger than Lortzing who could easily have treated the same fairy subject but one immediately hears the far richer orchestration, the ease Wagner has in composing more complicated arias and ensembles. And one regrets somewhat that the mature Wagner gave his best tunes to the orchestra instead of sticking with the singers like the youthful composer still did in the old tradition. »

25 Jan 2005

SCHUBERT: Alfonso und Estrella

New artists are taking greater chances with repertory, looking for niches to call their own. Dawn Upshaw explores new music, Cecilia Bartoli eighteenth-century Italian song, and in this live recording up-and-coming artists Eva Mei and Rainer Trost take on the lead roles in Schubert’s Alfonso und Estrella. Mei and Trost’s sympathetic singing with the orchestra and chorus of the Teatro lirico di Cagliari conducted by Gérard Korsten breathes life into this choppy opera, which Liszt famously condemned as a work of only historical interest. »

21 Jan 2005

BERLIOZ: Les Troyens

For the last couple of decades, the “concept production” has been a controversial presence on opera stages, generally director-driven and decried by traditionalists as detracting from the essence of opera which they define as “voice, voice, voice.” Here’s a refreshing and overdue variant, a production concept that is conductor-driven, devoted to rethinking the sound and casting principle appropriate for French grand opera by starting at the top with the grandest of them all. The point is often made that we now lack heroic voices for the great works. John Eliot Gardiner’s casting argues, rather convincingly I think, that “heroic” is a concept relative to an opera’s overall style and the period in which it was written. He casts in the French tradition that knows the difference between a German heldentenor whose strength lies in the middle and bottom of the voice, and a French heroic tenor, of whom is demanded a free and brilliant top and the ability to soar over ensembles with precisely focused tone. Many in this cast are associated with music of the Renaissance, Baroque and early nineteenth century. Their voices are clearer and lighter than we have become accustomed to in Les Troyens and Gardiner surrounds them with a chorus that can not only move and act with distinction, but whose voices in ensemble have the required buoyancy, flexibility and brilliance for Berlioz’s demanding choral writing. »

20 Jan 2005

BERG: Wozzeck

Andante’s new mastering of famous live performances aims to capture what those performances might have felt like. This gives these recordings an automatic cachet of authenticity and a kind of cult status. However, much depends on the quality of the particular performance. The skill is to choose quality performances that really are interesting in themselves, and to remaster them in ways that do them justice. The Andante series comes impressively packaged, with luxuriously bound booklets, beautifully presented. However, in this case the music does not quite match the promise. Worthy as this performance is, and worthy it is indeed, it is not an ideal first choice. Artistically it is good, but best appreciated by those who know Abbado, Boulez, Dohnanyi and even Böhm’s later recording. While I’m one who listens for music, not for sound quality, in this case the sound quality is poor enough to distract – not enough to ruin listening, for it would take a lot to deter a genuine listener – but just enough to feel that you’re listening through an artificial medium. This may have been recorded live, but it doesn’t “feel” live, with the pops, crackles and occluded passages. Ultimately that defeats its own purpose. »

18 Jan 2005

Songs of Schumann, Vol. 9

The latest volume of Hyperion’s comprehensive collection of the Songs of Robert Schumann is an impressive recording of Schumann’s Liederalbum für die Jugend, Op. 79 (1849). The songs are settings with children in mind, and not necessarily music for children to perform; the texts are by a number of poets, such as Goethe, Hebbel, Schiller, Rückert, Uhland, and von Fallersleben. In selecting the texts for this collection of Lieder, Schumann touched upon a variety of subjects, including topics associated with children, like Christmas, and verse about animals (“Marienwürmchen” and “Die Schwalben”); other texts deal with seasons, like Spring (“Frühlingsbotschaft” and “Frühlingsgruss”) and the fantastic, as occurs in “Vom Schlaraffenland.” »

13 Jan 2005

WAGNER: Die Walküre

This release documents performances of Richard Wagner’s Die Walküre at the Munich National Theater in July of 2002. The cast includes several contemporary singers well known for their Wagnerian performances, as well as a famous conductor who has enjoyed a long and successful career, both in the concert hall and opera house. Die Walküre is an opera that has been particularly well served on records, with several outstanding versions derived both from the studio and live performances. Unfortunately, this new Walküre does not stand up well to that formidable competition. »

13 Jan 2005

VERDI: Aida

Now, who needs another Aida? There are (or there have been) available 65 complete recordings (commercially available pirates included) and I don’t take into account the staggering amounts of non-commercial recording now widely circulating among collectors. Another Aida therefore can only interest buyers interested in specific singers. Happily, this set indeed fills a gap and it is not centered upon il divo himself, as the nice sleeve notes make clear. This set is for the admirers of Julia Varady, though not only for them. The Hungarian soprano has a reputation. As the fourth Mrs. Fischer-Dieskau she was undoubtedly helped in her career in the early seventies by this connection. But I presume this asset soon turned into a liability. Allow me to digress a few moments. »

11 Jan 2005

Le Monde Reviews Lamento

Cela arrive rarement, le souffle coupé dès les premières notes. Une minute entière à retenir sa respiration dans une apnée d’émotion totale pour recevoir la première phrase du Lamento pour contralto, de Johann Christoph Bach, d’après les Lamentations de Jérémie, son ascension douloureuse, ornée de sanglots, puis les deux accords d’une longue plainte instrumentale, avant l’entrée, magique, de la voix de Magdalena Kozena. “Ach, dass ich Wassers g’nug hätte.” “Ah, si ma tête était remplie d’eau, si mes yeux étaient une source de larmes.” L’insouciance a été jusqu’alors votre lot ? Vous, toi, nous tous, pécheurs, allons connaître ce que pèse le lourd fardeau de nos iniquités – et la récompense de cette connaissance : 7 minutes 22 d’une pure splendeur musicale. »

10 Jan 2005

MOZART: Le Nozze di Figaro

Recorded in Tokyo on October 23, 1963, this live recording of Nozze di Figaro boasts fine sound, a top cast, and the leadership of a conductor of great skill and experience. The label, Ponto, has joined the ranks of such other companies as Opera D’oro and Gala in making available broadcast and in-house recordings at affordable prices. Sometimes these releases are not even worth the modest price asked for; this one may well have more to offer than higher-priced studio sets. After a slightly hesitant first few moments, the sound quality settles down and becomes admirably strong and well defined. There is relatively little stage noise, the voices have a natural presence without being too forwardly placed, and Böhm’s orchestral control can be relished. His may be an old-fashioned reading, but it never lags or lacks for humor or beauty. The audience can be heard laughing from time to time at the stage antics; applause only interferes with the musical pleasures at the end of Non piu andrai, when unrestrained clapping covers a bit of Böhm’s ironically happy martial send-off. »

10 Jan 2005

WAGNER: Tristan und Isolde

Elsewhere on Opera Today readers can find a recent review of a live recording of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro from the Ponto label, a company that has joined the ranks of Opera D’oro and Gala in offering, at budget price, live recordings of various provenance. At their best, as with that Nozze, these recordings offer in acceptable sound (sometimes better) performances of such quality they rival their more expensive competitors. At less than the best, however, even the budget price becomes exorbitant. This Tristan und Isolde, recorded on January 25, 1967, unfortunately belongs to the latter category. Unless one has a strong personal reason for wanting a keepsake of this company or the artists involved, the recording is unlikely to please most listeners. The primary reason is the sound. While not unlistenable, the recording is clearly an “in-house” affair, and probably from an audience member, as some of the coughing is more up-front than the singing. Worse, during the climax, some audience members are whispering as Isolde enters the Leibestod. One would love for a Jon Vickers to have been present to yell out, “Stop your damn whispering!” »

07 Jan 2005

BOLCOM: Songs of Innocence and of Experience

William Bolcom is arguably the preeminent American opera composer of today. His third commission for Lyric Opera of Chicago, A Wedding, recently opened to mostly positive reviews. His previous work in the form, A View from the Bridge, had a successful run at the Metropolitan Opera following its premiere in Chicago. »

04 Jan 2005

VERDI: Il Trovatore

Il Trovatore Giuseppe Verdi, music and Salvatore Cammarano and Leone Emanuele Bardare, libretto TDK DVUS-CLOPIT Raina Kabaivanska (Leonora) Fiorenza Cossotto (Azucena) Plácido Domingo (Manrico) Piero Cappuccilli (Conte di Luna) José van Dam (Ferrando) Maria Venuti (Inez) Heinz Zednik (Ruiz) Karl... »

04 Jan 2005

BACH: Matthäus-Passion

On an accompanying CD and in the liner notes, interviewer Klaus J. Schönmetzler asks conductor Enoch zu Guttenberg, “Why another St. Matthew Passion?” This is a fair question considering the glut of recordings ranging from the overtly romantic to the idealized “authentic” (and mostly fast) Baroque editions. To his credit, Guttenberg responds to this question by acknowledging an aversion to interpreting Bach overly Romantically while desiring a Baroque sensibility. As a theologian, zu Guttenberg understands an undeniable conviction in Bach’s theology, particularly in the chorales, which he acknowledges can lead to a more Romantic interpretation. Zu Guttenberg’s attempt to capture this devotion coupled with the reality of twenty-first century instruments and performers, produces a St. Matthew stuck in a mediocre middle ground between a Baroque “ideal” and a Romantic interpretation. »

30 Dec 2004

Lamento with Magdalena Ko

The imposing figure of Johann Sebastian Bach has loomed large for Magdalena Koená throughout her career. It was her first disc of Bach arias on Deutsche Grammophon’s Archiv label that brought the golden-voiced mezzo to the attention of the music world as early as 1997. Word then quickly went round that Magdalena was the perfect choice for Bach recordings. ”This disc that started my international career also was my introduction to the great Baroque conductors, including the wonderful scholar and musician Reinhard Goebel, with whom I’ve worked on my new disc, Lamento.” Although the title may suggest wailing and gnashing of teeth, this is a sublime and eclectic mixture of music by J. S. Bach, his relations and contemporaries. ”There’s a very optimistic feeling to this CD,” says Koená. ”Although all these pieces are about how horrible it is on this earth, they are really celebrating how great it will be afterwards. There’s a message of hope throughout.” »

30 Dec 2004

Gramophone Reviews Le Comte Ory

Colour, wit and life abound with a star turn from the Rossini tenor of the moment Comte Ory Le Comte Ory is the first great French-language comic opera. A late work (Paris, 1828), sensuous, witty and exquisitely crafted, it has... »

30 Dec 2004

Bullfrog Films' Don Giovanni: Leporello’s Revenge

Don Giovanni: Leporello's Revenge Mozart's opera presented from the point of view of Don Giovanni's servant, Leporello. 55 minutes Color / Stereo Copyright Date: 2000 ISBN: 1-56029-885-5 Mozart's Don Giovanni is arguably one of his most complex, politically controversial, and... »

29 Dec 2004

Le Monde Reviews Verdi's Falstaff from Andante

Deux "Falstaff", à vingt ans d'écart LE MONDE | 27.12.04 | 14h05 Les amateurs d'opéra ont, généralement, un fort penchant pour l'écoute comparée des interprétations. L'éditeur Andante les comblera. Dans un somptueux livre-CD (224 pages avec notice et livret en... »

22 Dec 2004

ROSSINI: Zelmira

Zelmira Gioachino Rossini, music and Andrea Leone Tortola, libretto ORC 27 Scottish Chamber Orchestra Maurizio Benini, conductor Besides its Opera in English series on Chandos, Peter Moore's Foundation has sponsored the recording of many a fine bel canto rarity on... »

17 Dec 2004

AMOR: Richard Strauss — Opera Scenes and Lieder

French soprano Natalie Dessay sings three roles, all quite different in character and personality -- from Zerbinetta in "Ariadne" to Zdenka in "Arabella" and Sophie in "Rosenkavalier." It is a delicious way to sample the pleasures of this great singer.... »

07 Dec 2004

RAUTAVAARA: The House of the Sun

The House of the Sun Einojuhani Rautavaara, music and libretto Ondine 1032-2D Oulu Symphony orchestra Mikko Franck, conductor The recording company Ondine, based in Helsinki, has built itself an international reputation, at least arguably, by dedicating itself to the works... »

07 Dec 2004

VERDI: A Masked Ball

A Masked Ball Giuseppe Verdi, music and Antonio Somma, libretto English translation by Amanda Holden Chandos 3116 (2) London Philharmonic Orchestra David Parry, conductor In an era where major record companies seldom produce complete opera sets (and those they do... »

15 Nov 2004

STRAUSS: Der Liebe der Danae

STRAUSS Der Liebe der Danae, op. 83 * Ulrich Windfuhr, cond; Franz Grundheber (Jupiter); Manuela Uhl (Danae); Hans-Jürgen Schöpflin (Mercury); Robert Chafin (Midas); Paul McNamara (Pollux); Cornelia Zach (Xanthe, Europa); Daniel Behle, Martin Fleitmann, Simon Pauly, Hans Georg Ahrens (Vier... »

15 Nov 2004

Myto Releases Spontini's Agnese di Hohenstaufen

SPONTINI: Agnese di Hohenstaufen Lucille Udovick (Agnese), Dorothy Dow (Irmengarda), Franco Corelli (Enrico il Palatino), Francesco Albanese (Filippo), Enzo Mascherini (Re di Francia), Anselmo Colzani (Enrico il Leone), Gian Giacomo Guelfi (L'Imperatore); Florence Teatro Communale/ Vittorio Gui Myto 42084 [2CD]... »

14 Nov 2004

Myto Releases Ernani

VERDI:Ernani with Giovanna d'Arco excerpts Georgio Merighi (Ernani), Piero Cappuccilli (Don Carlo), Augusto Ferrin (De Silva), Mara Zampieri (Elvira) Trieste Teatro Communale/ MolinariPradelli; Mara Zampieri (Giovanna), Renato Francesconi (Carlo), Ettore Nova (Giacomo) San Remo Symphony/ Buenza-Delil Myto 41288 [2CD] 148... »

14 Nov 2004

Myto Releases Otello

VERDI: Otello Mario del Monaco (Otello), Renata Tebaldi (Desdemona), Leonard Warren (Iago); La Scala/ Antonio Votto Myto 41083 [2CD] 140 minutes Tebaldi and Del Monaco twice recorded Otello together in the studio, and we've reviewed a number of bootlegs starring... »

13 Nov 2004

ARG Reviews Mercadante's Emma d'Antiochia

MERCADANTE: Emma d'Antiochia Nelly Miricioiu (Emma), Maria Costanza Nocentini (Adelia), Bruce Ford (Ruggiero), Roberto Servile (Corrado); Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, London Philharmonic/ David Parry Opera Rara 26 [3CD] 183 minutes I have long been on a campaign to revive the works... »

05 Nov 2004

Fanfare Reviews Jenufa

JANáCEK Jenufa * Charles Mackerras, cond; Janice Watson (Jenufa), Josephine Barstow (The Kostelnicka), Nigel Robson (Laca), Peter Wedd (Steva), Neale Davies (Foreman); Welsh Natl Op O & Ch * CHANDOS 3106 (2 CDs: 121: 11) There is so much to... »

22 Oct 2004

Thomas Quasthoff Sings Sacred Cantatas by Bach

MUSICAL PERFORMANCE AND PERSONAL EXPERIENCE Thomas Quasthoff Sings Sacred Cantatas by Bach by Jürgen Otten It would be easy to describe or appraise the art of bass-baritone Thomas Quasthoff by evoking the title of an exquisite lied by the Romantic... »

08 Oct 2004

Roger Pines on historic recorded performances of Bizet

Georges Bizet’s Carmen has a distinguished recording history in both complete performances and excerpts. From this ever-popular work, as well as the composer’s Les pêcheurs de perles, there are considerable lessons to be learned from the early decades of recording in terms of balancing dramatic urgency with the needs of the drama. Many singers have gotten by in Bizet with beauty at the expense of text, but a Solange Michel or a Charles Dalmorès demonstrates indisputably that Bizet does not come alive unless the text is commanded in depth. »

30 Sep 2004

King's Music Reviews New Recordings of Works by Rameau

Rameau : Platée Paul Agnew Platée, Mireille Delunsch La Folie & Thalie, Yann Beuron Thespis & Mercure, Vincent Le Texier Jupiter, Doris Lamprecht Junon, Laurent Naouri Cithéron & a Satyr, Valérie Gabail L'Amour & Clarine, Franck Leguerinel Momus, Orchestra and... »

09 Sep 2004

Simon Heighes Reviews L'Amfiparnaso

In the September 2004 issue of International Record Review, Simon Heighes reviews Orazio Vecchi's L'Amfiparnaso, a new DVD under the Chandos Chaconne label. Composed in 1597, L'Amfiparnaso is a realization of commedia dell'arte consisting of a prologue and three acts.... »

08 Sep 2004

Fanfare Reviews Die Loreley

PACIUS Die Loreley * Osmo Vänskä, cond; Cornelius Hauptmann (Hubert); Soile Isokoski (Lenore); Riikka Rantanen (Bertha); Raimo Sirkiä (Otto); Topi Lehtipuu (Reinald); Arttu Kataja (Leupold); Lahti SO; Dominante Ch * BIS-CD-1393/1394 (2 CDs: 125:02 &) Live: Lahti, Finland 9/2003 Fredrik... »