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

Richard Wagner: Das Rheingold
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?

Richard Wagner: Das Rheingold

John Bröcheler, Henk Smit, Graham Clark, Reinhild Runkel, Chris Merritt, Jurgen Freier, Residentie Orkest, Hartmut Haenchen (cond.)

Opus Arte OA0946D [2DVDs]

$35.99  Click to buy

Even when video tape and laser discs ventured into operatic fare, Ring cycles didn't exactly crowd the market. Not so today. The classic Boulez/Chereau set is in its second DVD incarnation, and lovers of the traditional have had the Metropolitan Opera's versions on silver disc for a while. The Barenboim cycle is emerging, and the last couple years have seen a controversial Stuttgart set and a recent Barcelona production. Now OpusArte offers on DVD a Pierre Audi-directed Ring, with sets by George Tsypin, which De Nederlandse Opera staged in 1999. At this rate, avid Wagner lovers will soon have so much of their master's work on DVD to contemplate that they may need social services to drop by and remind them to eat, bathe, change their diapers....

Das Rheingold, the so-called prologue to the three-opera Ring, can fit onto one DVD disc, but Opus Arte has included a worthy bonus feature of 50 minutes length, covering the production of the entire cycle, requiring an additional disc. Most remarkable for its candid interviews, this bonus has glowing remarks from the Wotan, John Bröcheler, on the rewards of participating in the production, and somewhat more ambivalent comments from Jeannine Altmeyer (who appears as Brunhilde, and therefore is otherwise not to be seen here). The soprano found one of the key features of some of the stagings - having the orchestra basically on stage with the performers - necessitated less detailed singing than she would like to have offered. That cannot be judged on the basis of this Rheingold, but she also suggests that the direction had her lost between very specific blocking and otherwise ambiguous, undefined instructions.

Perhaps that last attribute explains why the opera as filmed, while quite impressive in its individual elements, fails to achieve the grander, deeper impact that a fine production of Rheingold can. Some broader integral vision might have pulled together the striking moments into an impressive whole. Instead, this intermissionless opera feels episodic, rambling.

The staging is dominated by a huge platform of metallic scaffolding with a Plexiglass surface. This tilts at various angles, rising and lowering (sometimes alarmingly so, with respect to the singers' safety). A secondary structure intersects at times to suggests different planes, or locales. On the one hand, each different setting does have its own design, in a way. At the same time, the set never really looks all that different, just shifted around, and no real sense of "scene" develops - with the exception of Alberich's underworld, with its amazing explosions of fire and the slaves, looking like chubby versions of the aliens from Close Encounters, scurrying about.

Eiko Ishioka's costumes manage to be striking without assisting in developing character. The gods wear brightly colored robes of vaguely Greek design, and also rather silly looking rubber headpieces where hair should be. The giants appear to be made of stone, with something of an Aztec warrior look. Loge wears black, and Chris Merritt has been directed to strike vogue-ish poses, for no discernible reason. The trolls have misshapen, bald heads, and their gold-tinted clothing sprouts unruly hair. Of course, the various populations of Wagner's world must be differentiated, but whatever alchemy that makes them all part of a larger, coherent universe remains absent here.

The performers make valiant efforts. Graham Clark, a stellar Loge in the Barcelona cycle, offers his trademark energy as Mine. Henk Smit's Alberich lacks that edge of pathos which makes the character come alive. Merritt seems constricted by the odd directorial vision of Loge, but sings more than capably. Impressive vocally, Reinhild Runkel has no glamour as Fricka, but still manages to impress more than John Bröcheler does as Wotan. He lacks both the character's seedy grandeur and an attractive, powerful voice. Smaller roles are aptly done, and Hartmut Haenchen conducts with authority if not imagination.

Later releases of this cycle may offer more than the Rheingold. For many, the Boulez/Chereau staging will remain the benchmark for this "prologue."

Chris Mullins
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy

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):