Author Topic: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?  (Read 269983 times)

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Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1880 on: February 12, 2020, 05:20:46 PM »


This is a disc of highlights, some 70 minutes from Donizetti’s popular comic opera. I have listened to a couple of Met broadcasts in the past and have the Sutherland/Pavarotti recording, but have listened to it only once a long time ago. I’ve always found the work very slight.

Pavarotti’s timbre is pinched and the tessitura of Nemorino seems to lie too high for his 55 year old self.  A number of tenors have invested more pathos in Una furtiva lagrima. Pavarotti just doesn't seem interested any more. Battle is charming and sings beautifully. Not much fun is derived from Nucci’s gruff Belcore. Not bad, but not recommended.

Online Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1881 on: February 13, 2020, 01:51:21 AM »


This is a disc of highlights, some 70 minutes from Donizetti’s popular comic opera. I have listened to a couple of Met broadcasts in the past and have the Sutherland/Pavarotti recording, but have listened to it only once a long time ago. I’ve always found the work very slight.

Pavarotti’s timbre is pinched and the tessitura of Nemorino seems to lie too high for his 55 year old self.  A number of tenors have invested more pathos in Una furtiva lagrima. Pavarotti just doesn't seem interested any more. Battle is charming and sings beautifully. Not much fun is derived from Nucci’s gruff Belcore. Not bad, but not recommended.

The work is slight, though I've always liked it more than the rather cruel humour of Don Pasquale.

My favourite recording would be the Pritchard with Cotrubas, Domingo, Wixell and Geraint Evans, which was based on performances at Covent Garden, though Carreras was the Nemorino in the stage production. Carreras at that stage in his career would probably have been a better choice as this was recorded round about the same time Doming was moving on to Otello, but it has to be said that Domingo performs miracles in lightening his voice.

Pavarotti is excellent on the Bonynge, but Sutherland is a bit po faced as Adina.
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Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1882 on: February 13, 2020, 12:37:51 PM »


Magic Flute is probably the opera I have listened to the most in my listening life. My first ever disc was an Heliodor LP of highlights from the Fricsay version purchased when I was in college, around age 16. The college store had a fine assortment of classical music back then, including the Bruckner symphonies by Jochum  :o.

I find MF can be listened to at different levels: the full operatic experience, complete with the dialogues, or in abridged, dialogueless form (as here). Or even in highlights, when one feels like having fun with just the great overture and best arias. Despite its origin as a singspiel composed for a small theater, it’s an incredible vocal feast. No basso profundo or dramatic coloratura soprano has ever stayed away from the roles of Sarastro or Astrafiammante, the Queen of the Night. Some roles are written for modest voices (Monastatos), some require the highest level of vocal purity and technique (Pamina). And some parts like those of the Three Ladies or the Three Boys are conceived as one role spoken by three voices, an idea picked up by Verdi and Wagner 50-60 years later.

So, to the recording at hand: the original 3 cd issue contained the full dialogue and lasted over 160 minutes. When reissued, the dialogue was dropped and the timing shortened by 30 minutes. Other versions used the abridged sung-only solution, like Karajan (EMI), Böhm (Decca) and Klemperer (EMI). Others use a modicum of dialogue (Fricsay), but nowadays we usually get a full dialogue experience.

Davis conducts affectionately but IMO he misses some of the sparkle and is sometimes too smooth for the music’s good. An instance in point is Papageno’s entrance aria. Even given the singer’s choice of tempo the conductor could have used a more pointed, fresher way with the accompaniment. So, a measure of fun and buoyancy is missing. Great playing from the orchestra, though. All the singers are good to superb. In order of excellence (best first) are Kurt Moll, the Three Boys (!), Margaret Price (creamy of voice but a tad marmoreal), Peter Schreier, Luciana Serra (very fine vocalism, a more vulnerable than usual Queen), Mikael Melbye, Theo Adam. In the ‘adequate’ category, Robert Tear and the Three Ladies. So, not a top contender, but a good one, especially for Moll’s best incarnation of Sarastro on disc (others are with Solti and Sawallisch), and a classy account of Pamina by Margaret Price.


Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1883 on: February 13, 2020, 01:38:49 PM »


Magic Flute is probably the opera I have listened to the most in my listening life. My first ever disc was an Heliodor LP of highlights from the Fricsay version purchased when I was in college, around age 16. The college store had a fine assortment of classical music back then, including the Bruckner symphonies by Jochum  :o.

I find MF can be listened to at different levels: the full operatic experience, complete with the dialogues, or in abridged, dialogueless form (as here). Or even in highlights, when one feels like having fun with just the great overture and best arias. Despite its origin as a singspiel composed for a small theater, it’s an incredible vocal feast. No basso profundo or dramatic coloratura soprano has ever stayed away from the roles of Sarastro or Astrafiammante, the Queen of the Night. Some roles are written for modest voices (Monastatos), some require the highest level of vocal purity and technique (Pamina). And some parts like those of the Three Ladies or the Three Boys are conceived as one role spoken by three voices, an idea picked up by Verdi and Wagner 50-60 years later.

So, to the recording at hand: the original 3 cd issue contained the full dialogue and lasted over 160 minutes. When reissued, the dialogue was dropped and the timing shortened by 30 minutes. Other versions used the abridged sung-only solution, like Karajan (EMI), Böhm (Decca) and Klemperer (EMI). Others use a modicum of dialogue (Fricsay), but nowadays we usually get a full dialogue experience.

Davis conducts affectionately but IMO he misses some of the sparkle and is sometimes too smooth for the music’s good. An instance in point is Papageno’s entrance aria. Even given the singer’s choice of tempo the conductor could have used a more pointed, fresher way with the accompaniment. So, a measure of fun and buoyancy is missing. Great playing from the orchestra, though. All the singers are good to superb. In order of excellence (best first) are Kurt Moll, the Three Boys (!), Margaret Price (creamy of voice but a tad marmoreal), Peter Schreier, Luciana Serra (very fine vocalism, a more vulnerable than usual Queen), Mikael Melbye, Theo Adam. In the ‘adequate’ category, Robert Tear and the Three Ladies. So, not a top contender, but a good one, especially for Moll’s best incarnation of Sarastro on disc (others are with Solti and Sawallisch), and a classy account of Pamina by Margaret Price.
I agree that there are some very good voices here. This was, in fact, the first version of the opera I got on disc. But it does have flaws, as you alluded to in your post. And I rarely pull it out to listen anymore. I am a little more negative about the women than you are, particularly the Queen of the Night.  Still, I have a soft spot for it. There are certainly worse versions of it, though better as well.
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Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1884 on: February 15, 2020, 12:35:12 PM »


Not the most exciting or even the best sung version, yet I prefer it to most others, on account of Giulini’s searching, probing conducting. He pays the composer the compliment of taking the work seriously (some might say too seriously), but his involvement carries everything before it, starting with the singers, who plunge head first into the drama like their lives depended on it.

Azucena’s racconto  for example has Fassbaender singing her crazed, harrowing story with a hoarse tone and hair-raising intensity. And so it goes with the other singers, even normally tasteful, elegant vocalists like Domingo (his mal reggendo is a to-die-for lesson in legato and breath control). Plowright’s tawny port tones resonate with a mix of fire and velvet that is hard to resist, even if she eschews all interpolated high notes (we have Leontyne Price for that, bless her).

I don’t think the orchestra’s colours have ever been showcased so warmly as here. Trovatore’s orchestra has often been derided as nothing more than a jumbo guitar, but when played as vibrantly as here it’s an aural feast. Because of the moderate speeds rythms register with unusual force. Listen to Di Luna’s per me, ora fatale for a good example.

I have and love a dozen other versions, mostly on account of some particularly striking vocal performances by one of the principals, but also sometimes because of the conducting. This one checks all the boxes for me.

Offline T. D.

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1885 on: February 15, 2020, 03:50:47 PM »

This just arrived, will take some time to digest. I previously listened to a CD containing most of act III (different cast) and to The Rhinegold on youtube. Own the Solti cycle in German, sold Levine. Don't intend to buy the whole Goodall Ring, but wanted to have one complete opera.
First thoughts: highly impressed by the singing, enjoy the English text, am OK with Goodall's slow tempi. Need much more listening to evaluate the orchestral playing.

Online Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1886 on: February 18, 2020, 01:17:54 AM »


Aida is an opera I admire rather than love, (I love the music but rarely feel involved in the characters' plights) but I seem to have acquired more recordings of it than any other Verdi opera, possibly in my quest to find one that satsfies on all levels.

This one is certainly a contender. Listening to it now for the first time in quite a while, I am newly impressed by Caballé's Aida; quite one of the best things she ever did on disc. Her voice was in prime condition when it was recorded and she doesn't over-exploit those famed pianissimi. Mind you, the ppp top C at the end of O patria mia is just exquisite. I've never heard it done better. Elsewhere she is dramatically involved and involving and there is no lack of power when she needs it. Domingo's performance is a bit generic, but the voice was certainly a beautiful instrument back then. The other soloists are all excellent, but I find Muti's conducting just a little rigid, no match for Pappano's on the most recent set, or, to my mind, the much under-rated Serafin on the Callas recording.

Nonetheless this is a very good recording, but, for my money, Caballé is the best thing in it.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas