Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



Plumbago_9780993198359_1.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

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

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

Anima Rara: Ermonela Jaho

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

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

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

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

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

Max Lorenz: Tristan und Isolde, Hamburg 1949

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

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

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

Rosa mystica: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire Chamber Choir

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

The Prison: Ethel Smyth

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

Songs by Sir Hamilton Harty: Kathryn Rudge and Christopher Glynn

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

After Silence: VOCES8

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

Beethoven's Songs and Folksongs: Bostridge and Pappano

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beethoven’s Choral Symphony and Choral Fantasy from Harmonia Mundi

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

Taking Risks with Barbara Hannigan

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

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

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

Those Blue Remembered Hills: Roderick Williams sings Gurney and Howells

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

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

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

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Ruperto Chapi: Margarita la tornera
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?

Ruperto Chapi: Margarita la tornera

Placido Domingo (Don Juan de Alarcon), Elisabete Matos (Margarita), Angeles Blancas (Sirena), Stefano Palatchi (Gavilan), Angel Odena (Don Lope de Aguilera), Maria Rey-Joly (La tornera). Orquesta Sinfonica de Madrid conducted by Garcia Navarro.
Recorded live at the Teatro Real de Madrid on the 16th and 19th of December 1999

RTVE Classics 65169 [2CDs]

$33.49  Click to buy

As so often, truth lies somewhere in the middle. Chapi was a pupil of Emilio Arrieta, the successful composer of the zarzuela Marina which he later reworked into a three-act opera (try the first Kraus recording from 1960). Like so many aspiring youngsters, Chapi went for eternal glory in opera and orchestral music. So did Leo Fall, Imre Kalman and Franz Lehar. And after less than rousing success they opted for a genre which suited their talents best. Fall, Kalman and Lehar became masters of operetta and Chapi wrote some good zarzuelas like La Bruja, La Tempestad and maybe his finest and surely his most popular work, the one act La Revoltosa. But contrary to his Central-European colleagues, Chapi never gave up on his operatic dreams. He died, almost 58, a few days after the première of this Margerita which he had conducted. It is the one of his many operas that is from time to time resurrected and it is based on a legend that with some variations was told in most catholic countries. A nun is seduced by a nobleman and leaves her cloister. Two years later, she returns utterly disillusioned and discovers that nobody has missed her absence as a doorkeeper ( = la tornera). All the time the Virgin Mary had taken her place.

The last revival of Margarita la tornera was a series of performances at the Madrid Opera seven years ago. The sleeve notes state that “numerous reasons led to extensive cuts . . . affecting various choral passages and some vocal numbers”. So one has to be careful with one’s judgment. This certainly is no zarzuela. The music has a slower, more earnest tone. Exciting rhythms, love choruses etc. are conspicuously lacking but so is the easy tunefulness of Chapi’s best works. The orchestration is brilliant but doesn’t quite compensate for the fact that the emotional moments don’t strike deep as the composer did find the orchestral colours but not the thematic material to go with it. Neither the love scenes, the quarrels and especially the apotheosis of the story are particularly memorable. I’m sure this can be a pleasant evening in the theatre though not one that results in humming the leitmotivs for days to come. The sleeve writer emphasizes the influence of Puccini but I think he underestimates the influence of the “giovane scuola” as a whole. Some ensembles remind me more of Leoncavallo’s Bohème than Puccini’s. And there are hints of Mascagni and Giordano as well. In short, not a very original score but still worthwhile investing in if you are tired of the old warhorses and are exploring Siberia, Amica, Zanetto, Germania etc.

Contrary to many recordings of the lesser known verismo works, this Margarita is cast from strength. Though Placido Domingo doesn’t sing the title role, his name and photograph on the cover stand first; an acceptable marketing ruse. The tenor is in amazingly fresh voice; his rich middle voice ringing out and maybe deleting some high notes nobody knows are in the score due to a lack of performance tradition. Of course it is well possible that Chapi like all zarzuela composers gave some leeway to his singers: according to the available singers one could either use a tenor or a baritone or even a mixed version. That was probably the version chosen in Madrid as it suits soprano Elisabete Matos, too. The Portuguese lady has a vibrant, passionate voice, full of colours in the best Mediterranean tradition and she is a worthy partner of the tenor. Her shrill shriek at the end of the opera where a fine high C is needed proves that she is not too sure above the stave as well. Good top notes, therefore, come from Angeles Blancas, daughter of baritone Antonio Blancas and the late lamented dramatic soprano Angeles Gulin. She has probably the finest scene of the opera in a rousing theatre scene where as Sirena she dances, sings and seduces and she has the voice and the sense of rhythm the music asks for. Angel Odena is a convincing Don Lope, the rival of the tenor for the temptress. Only Stefano Palatchi in his Leporello-role sings with a dry and boring sound and is not up to the level of the other singers. The late Garcia Navarro clearly believes in the score and leads the orchestra with conviction, revealing the many beauties of the orchestral parts. Due to the cuts the second CD gives short value, lasting only 36 minutes. Notes and summary are both in Spanish and English but it is a pity that the libretto itself is in Spanish only.

Jan Neckers

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):