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

Giacomo Puccini: Edgar
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.

Giacomo Puccini: Edgar

Plácido Domingo, Adriana Damato, Marianne Cornetti, Juan Pons, Rafael Siwek, Coro e Orchestra dell'Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, Alberto Veronesi (cond.)

DG 00289 477 6102 [2CDs]

$30.58  Click to buy

And as critics like to copy sleeve notes, one finds this same opinion in Opera News’ review. I don’t buy this argument. Too often libretti are thought to be ridiculous — Trovatore is an outstanding example — because people don’t take the pains to read them line by line (and then Trovatore makes perfect sense). As long as a libretto is able to inspire its composer, it may ramble along.

Puccini’s Manon Lescaut is a prime example. At the end of Act I, René des Grieux and Manon elope from the clutches of Geronte. At the beginning of Act II, Manon is firmly established as the mistress of the same Geronte. Newbie’s seeing the opera for the first time probably wonder if by coincidence the two acts are not erroneously switched. Still Manon Lescaut was a success and Edgar was not. The fault, if there was one, lies with Puccini. The Tuscan was a very slow starter and in his first two operas he still had not found the inspiration to write those short, catchy tunes that would make him the most popular composer of his time. In Edgar, his melodies sound a little laboured (e.g. the tenor’s ‘O soave vision’) though after a few hearings they are clearly recognizable and enjoyable.

A real performance of Edgar always is a pleasure as I can witness. It is one of three ‘Flemish’ operas which were all performed some years ago in Antwerp as the story plays out itself in Flanders (the two others being Lohengrin and Tote Stadt) and Sharon Sweet as Fidelia was exemplary.

On record, as in the theatre, Edgar didn’t have much of a career. We had to wait until 1976 when CBS finally brought forth an official recording made during an OONY performance (Bergonzi, Scotto, Killebrew, Sardinero, Queler). And then it took another 29 years when Varady and Tanner recorded a far less impressive performance. The issue under review is superior in all aspects to its predecessors except one: the title role. Domingo is no match for Bergonzi. Though the Italian tenor already flattened every note from high A on by the time of his recording, his sense of phrasing in his arias and duets is vastly superior. Bergonzi’s middle voice at the time sounds far more beautiful and sweeter than Domingo nowadays can master. At 64 and after a career of 45 years, the shimmering beauty of Domingo’s voice is slowly deteriorating and he sounds nasal a lot of the time. His top notes are more firmly sung than Bergonzi’s though one wonders how much is still Domingo’s and how much came out of DG’s vaults. Adriana Damato is a wonderful Fidelia, equalling Scotto’s expressiveness without the shrillness that was often there with the older soprano. Her ‘Addio, , mio dolce amor’ is a calling card that should open many an opera house’s door as she combines the strength and the morbidezza needed of every Puccini soprano. I never felt Juan Pons was just a creation of the Caballé clan (sister and brother/impressario) whose career was bigger than his accomplishments. Maybe he didn’t have the necessary snarl for some of his roles like Rigoletto but once more he brings his well-rounded always musical voice to the role of Frank and the warmth of his voice is ideal for a sympathetic character. Pons is vastly superior to Sardinero. So is Marianne Cornetti in the all-bad role of Tigrana where she brings more metal than Killebrew had.

It’s good to hear the Orchestra and Chorus of the Roman Academia Sancta Cecilia, an orchestra whose ancestors were so intimately connected with the glorious London/Decca recordings of the fifties and sixties. The orchestra still has the luscious Puccini-sound and is conducted by Alberto Veronesi who doesn’t over sentimentalize the score but still brings out the glowing melodies clearly and incisively. Orchestra and chorus are splendid in the famous funeral music, which would be the first track one would play as a proof of Puccini’s coming genius.

I wish to digress one moment on the historical setting of the opera. It originated with a poem by Alfred de Musset who set the action in Tyrol (like La Wally). For some obscure reason librettist Fontana reset it in medieval Flanders, before and after the battle of the Golden Spurs (11th of July 1302, still Flanders national holiday) which ended the French king’s attempts to incorporate the county into his own domains. Should you ever visit Flanders, you would look in vain on maps or at road signs for a place called ‘Courtray’. The real name of this magnificent medieval city is Kortrijk and it is and always has been Dutch-speaking. As during the 19th century, a lot of inspiration was derived from French plays by libretto and other writers (though by now Mr. Budden should know better) who used French translations of place names. One is still confronted with ridiculous names like Courtray or Aix-la-Chapelle and Cologne (Aachen and Köln in Germany) that nobody uses in reality.

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):