Author Topic: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?  (Read 73489 times)

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Offline ritter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1120 on: July 05, 2018, 09:03:02 AM »
First (and, if I can help it, last  ::)) listen to Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari’s I gioielli della Madonna, in this relatively recent release (which is the opera’s only “legitimate” recording AFAIK):



Wolf-Ferrari’s diversion into über-verismo territory is of a vulgarity that would probably make even someone like Umberto Giordano blush. The extremely unpleasant story of lust and blasphemous theft in the Neapolitan underworld has music to match, with all the cheap effects you can think of to provide “local colour”: bells galore, an accordion, the inevitable children’s chorus.... Next to this, the Te Deum from Puccini’s Tosca has the purity of a Webern cantata!  :D Despite all the busy going-ons onstage and in the pit, you’d be hard press to find a memorable theme or musical idea.

It’s surprising that a man who produced all those delightful Goldonian comedies, but who could also succeed in heavier fare (Das Himmelskleid, or even Sly) would come up with this repulsive concoction. ???

I always applaud enterprising opera companies or orchestras that resurrect obscure works (even if they’re not worth the effort, like in the case at hand), but this performance from Bratislava sounds very provincial, particularly as far as the vocal soloists are concerned .

Un orrore! >:(
« Last Edit: July 05, 2018, 10:43:19 AM by ritter »
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1121 on: July 10, 2018, 07:59:09 AM »


I Masnadieri might seem a backward step from even the 1947 version of Macbeth, which preceded it, but it was actually completed in all essentials before it. It is true that nowhere do we hear the imagination and originality of pieces like Lady Macbeth's Sleepwalking Scene, for instance, but it is not entirely negligible. and there are some fine moments, such as the prelude, the end of Act I, the Act III duet for Amalia and Carlo (though its cabaletta is unremarkable stuff) and so on.

Gardelli's 1975 set makes the best possible case for it, with Bergonzi, Caballé, Cappuccilli and Raimondi all on top form.
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Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1122 on: July 10, 2018, 10:24:57 AM »


Third version, this is Vanzo’s last recording, from 1977. It's quite good, and very well recorded, but overall I would place it behind the 1953 Fournet (Simoneau) and the Rosenthal (Vanzo again). In some ways the earliest is also the most clearly and cleanly recorded. An embarrassment of riches, really, for this superb score.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1123 on: July 11, 2018, 12:18:20 AM »



There is much more to Delius's gorgeous, but rarely performed, opera A Village Romeo and Juliet than the Walk to the Paradise Garden. Well worth a listen.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1124 on: July 11, 2018, 04:09:54 AM »
It’s a beautiful opera. The character of the Dark Fiddler is a nice touch.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1125 on: July 12, 2018, 12:39:17 AM »
I really can't understand why it's not more popular or staged more often.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1126 on: July 12, 2018, 04:47:35 AM »


Preceded by Attila and followed by I Masnadieri, Macbeth is a much more original work than either, even in its original version without the 1865 revisions, which included Lady Macbeth's magnificent La luce langue, though not the arrestingly original Sleepwalking Scene, which was part of the original score.


The Abbado is my top choice of all studio recordings, more subtle and more murkily mysterious than Muti's fine, but more theatrically dramatic version. Both casts are superb, but I prefer Verrett's more psychologically interesting Lady Macbeth. That said, she doesn't quite erase memories of Callas on De Sabata's live 1952 La Scala account, who is, without question, the most thrilling Lady Macbeth you will ever hear.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Guido

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1127 on: July 12, 2018, 05:48:57 AM »
I really can't understand why it's not more popular or staged more often.

Hello, long time no post, but decided to log on and see if any of the old regulars were still here!

 Live, the music comes across as turgidly scored and rather flat, and sadly it's also a dramatic dud. I like the best of Delius, but this isn't top drawer (the lovely orchestral interlude mentioned notwithstanding.)
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1128 on: July 12, 2018, 08:06:01 AM »
Hello, long time no post, but decided to log on and see if any of the old regulars were still here!

 Live, the music comes across as turgidly scored and rather flat, and sadly it's also a dramatic dud. I like the best of Delius, but this isn't top drawer (the lovely orchestral interlude mentioned notwithstanding.)


Well I haven't seen it staged, so can't comment on a production, but can't agree with you re the music, which I find absolutely glorious. I like it more every time I listen to it. Dramatically too, in this Mackerras recording, it hangs together very well. I'm sure the right director could make it work.



« Last Edit: July 12, 2018, 08:20:35 AM by Tsaraslondon »
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1129 on: July 15, 2018, 01:10:05 AM »


OK, the score is cut to shreds, but this is the performance which put both the opera and Donizetti's more serious works back on the map, paving the way for revivals of operas that had lain in obscurity for years. Without this one revival the careers of Sutherland, Caballé, Sills et al might have been very different.

Callas's Anna remains one of her greatest creations. This Visconti production was a huge success and was revived the following year, and this recording of the opening night stands, despite the cuts and live 1950s sound, as the opera's greatest recorded testament. Simionato is a superb Giovanna, Rossi-Lemeni authoritative but woolly toned and Raimondi an adequate, if not inspired, Percy.

Unfortunately the recent transfer should be avoided, as their source material is not the best and the recording is muffled and dull, where the Divina issue is bright and clear; worth every penny of the extra outlay.

Reviewed on my blog https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2017/06/13/anna-bolena-la-scala-milan-april-14-1957/
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline knight66

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1130 on: July 15, 2018, 04:48:20 AM »
Currently listening to snatches of Massenet's Le Cid being rehearsed. I am working in Admin for the Dorset Opera Festival where they prep and perform two operas from scratch in two weeks. The other opera is La Boheme.

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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1131 on: July 19, 2018, 03:10:28 AM »


Luisa Miller is one of those early Verdi operas, which has always held a foothold on the repertoire, and it has had quite a few recordings, three of which (Maag, Maazel and this one) seem to me to stand out. Maag has the most interesting conducting, coupled to a stellar cast, Maazel has the most affecting, if most vocally fallible Luisa, but I've always enjoyed this version with Moffo steering a sort of midway course between Caballé and Ricciarelli.

Hard to choose between the three tenors, but Bergonzi is certainly at his best in this recording. MacNeil is fine as is Tozzi, and Verrett does well in the rather ungrateful role of Federica.

Cleva does nothing wrong, but he is not as revelatory as Maag. Nonetheless it's a very enjoyable set, and might just be my favourite all round.

\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1132 on: July 19, 2018, 11:50:26 PM »


Don Pasquale - Ernesto Badini
Norina - Adelaide Saraceni
Ernesto - Tito Schipa
Malatesta - Afro Poli

This 1932 performance was the first complete recording of Don Pasquale and has certainly stood the test of time. Vocal honours go to Afro Poli's mellifluous Malatesta and Tito Schipa's stylishly lyrical Ernesto. Badini is an experienced and characterful Pasquale, though his baritone is a little thin and Adelaide Saraceni's acid-toned Norina tends to sound shrewish rather than minx-like. Sabajno conducts a sprightly and effervescent version of the score.

Very enjoyable.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1133 on: July 20, 2018, 05:34:56 AM »



Back with early Verdi, I'm listening to I Lombardi, which dates from 1843 and is a much more uneven work than Luisa Miller. Nonetheless it still has some great moments.


This Philips recording was, if I remember correctly, the first in Gardelli's early Verdi series, and is still eminently satisfying today, though Deutekom, slightly fluttery on top with a weak lower register, is hardly ideal as Griselda, a role that really needs a voice capable of singing Abigaille. Domingo and Raimondi are much stronger and Gardelli, as usual, conducts with verve.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1134 on: July 20, 2018, 05:53:13 AM »


This 1970 recording has over the years suffered from tepid recommendations due to its boxy sound. In this 2017 remastering things seem to have been righted, and quite nicely. It still retains a somewhat studio bound quality, with little air around the soundstage. Even though the loud dynamics are loud enough thank you, you don’t get the thrilling feeling of sound expansion experienced in, say, Karajan’s EMI or Harnoncourt’s versions (both recorded in Vienna’s Musikvereinsaal, incidentally). Still, for a nearly 50 year old recording this is quite good.

So much for the sonic aspects. The casting is uniformly strong. You get what you can expect from these star singers:

- Price offers some muffled sounds, and much glorious soaring high notes, especially the soft ones in the Nile scene, as well as rather generic despair and expression of love. Unusually for her, her Italian leaves somewhat to be desired, with some typically american pronunciation of the ‘r’. This may seem minor, but failing to slightly roll that consonant robs it of the snap that is part of the italian language speech rythm. Put simply, her articulation is sometimes sloppy.

- Domingo is commanding of presence and refulgent of tone, but also businesslike (his usual fault) and unable to let rip in the part of the ambitious, lovestruck, tormented and ultimately despairing war leader. And despite ruling the pool of Radameses for 2 decades, his voice does not - never did - have the clarion ping of a Del Monaco or Corelli. Even the more modestly endowed Carreras uses his smaller voice to greater effect (Karajan), even if he sometimes squeals in the loudest parts of the role.

- Milnes is beautiful of voice, forceful of utterance, if rather generic in his brutish declamation. His cajoling/threatening/blackmailing of his daughter in the Nile scene, invoking the ghost of Aida’s dead mother is good but not harrowing, as it should be (Gobbi and even Cappuccilli show how it should be done). Still, his slightly generic mustache-twirling portrayal of the vanquished ethiopian king is verbally effective and vocally superb.

- Bumbry’s Amneris is surely one of the great operatic portrayals, one she has recorded more than once. The voice is perfect for the part and she does not disappoint here. The Judgment scene is striking in its intensity. Her command of Italian is very good, which makes her the real dominatrix in the confrontation with her slave.

- Best of all for me is the formidable Ramfis of bass Ruggero Raimondi. I’ve always been a sucker for this singer’s elegant, imposing, cutting sounds. There’s never a woolly, indistinct tone heard from this great singing actor. And of course the italian language flows from his tongue and cords so naturally and stylishly that his every utterance is a pleasure. He is even better in the Karajan recording by virtue of his having more time to shape his phrases to maximum effect (Leinsdorf usually goes for the jugular, leaving little time for verbal niceties if they don’t fit his rythms).

The conducting by veteran Erich Leinsdorf takes some getting used to. Far from a stickler to the bar line or the composer’s tempo indications, he often gets excited (speeding up) towards the end of a scene, only to slow down markedly in places. The end of the Judgment scene and a couple of other places made my eyebrows raise, not quite sure if the result justified the rather crude means employed. But, like every opera recording, when wrapping up and counting pluses and minuses, it’s the final impression that counts. I have to say that this uneven, unusual and sometimes daring approach worked to make this Aida a successful operatic listening experience.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1135 on: July 20, 2018, 09:07:34 AM »
Aida is, by no means, my favourite Verdi opera, and yet I've ended up with five different recordings. It's an opera I admire rather than love. Though the music is magnificent, I rarely feel engaged with the characters.


Three of my recordings have Callas as Aida, even though I've never considered her particularly suited to the role. That said, she does manage to breathe more life into in than most and I'm not sure anyone has bettered the Nile Scene with her and Gobbi on the studio set. The other recordings I have with her are Mexico 1951, a thrilling, if somewhat unsubtle, performance which includes that spectacular top Eb in the Triumphal Scene and London 1953 under a disappointingly staid Barbirolli. I also own the EMI Karajan (Baltsa, my favourite Amneris) and the recent Pappano (Kaufmann might just be my favourite Radames).


I discuss them all on my blog https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2017/03/11/verdis-aida-a-comparative-review-of-5-different-recordings/


\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1136 on: July 20, 2018, 10:18:03 AM »
Callas’ high E flat in the Triumph scene is a stunt, but one that refuses to go away once heard. And yet interpolated high notes are a tradition in italian opera. The only reason it’s almost never done is not that it’s musically wrong or in bad taste, but simply that it's so damn hard to achieve. Make one mistake at that point and it makes tomorrow’s headlines  ???. I’m glad we have it, though, the thrill never fades  ;D. In her studio recording Callas had the good fortune to have a great dramatic tenor and baritone to abet her. Tucker flings his high As as defiantly as anybody else in ‘Sacerdote, io resto a te’. And Gobbi schemes and manipulates devilishly in his confrontation with his daughter. So different from some over polite examples on record !

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1137 on: July 20, 2018, 01:15:37 PM »
Callas’ high E flat in the Triumph scene is a stunt, but one that refuses to go away once heard. And yet interpolated high notes are a tradition in italian opera. The only reason it’s almost never done is not that it’s musically wrong or in bad taste, but simply that it's so damn hard to achieve. Make one mistake at that point and it makes tomorrow’s headlines  ???. I’m glad we have it, though, the thrill never fades  ;D. In her studio recording Callas had the good fortune to have a great dramatic tenor and baritone to abet her. Tucker flings his high As as defiantly as anybody else in ‘Sacerdote, io resto a te’. And Gobbi schemes and manipulates devilishly in his confrontation with his daughter. So different from some over polite examples on record !

Weirdly, I wait for that high Eb now every time, but of course it was a stunt; amazing if you could pull it off, like Callas did in 1950 and 1951, but most Aidas wouldn't even have the note in their armoury.

I have equivocal feelings about Tucker. The voice, as you noted, had a fine heroic ring, but he could be a crude artist, marring his singing with aspirates and sobs as if he was trying too hard to emulate the bad habits of many an Italian tenor.

\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1138 on: July 20, 2018, 03:20:53 PM »
Weirdly, I wait for that high Eb now every time, but of course it was a stunt; amazing if you could pull it off, like Callas did in 1950 and 1951, but most Aidas wouldn't even have the note in their armoury.

I have equivocal feelings about Tucker. The voice, as you noted, had a fine heroic ring, but he could be a crude artist, marring his singing with aspirates and sobs as if he was trying too hard to emulate the bad habits of many an Italian tenor.

Not so much in his Radames as in his Forza del destino Alvaro, I feel. And yet, in the opera’s concluding scene he spits his curse ‘Maledizione! Maledizione!’ to bloodcurdling effect, which makes Padre Guardiano’s ensuing entreaty (‘Non imprecare...Prostati’) all the more believable. It’s for moments like these that one sits and listens to opera.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1139 on: July 21, 2018, 12:01:00 AM »
Not so much in his Radames as in his Forza del destino Alvaro, I feel. And yet, in the opera’s concluding scene he spits his curse ‘Maledizione! Maledizione!’ to bloodcurdling effect, which makes Padre Guardiano’s ensuing entreaty (‘Non imprecare...Prostati’) all the more believable. It’s for moments like these that one sits and listens to opera.

Indeed. And I agree that his Radames is more well-mannered than his Alvaro.

\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas