Author Topic: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?  (Read 86263 times)

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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #720 on: October 23, 2017, 05:11:45 AM »


Moving on through Warner's Callas Live box set.

I didn't really know this performance that well, having previously only listened to excerpts in pretty atrocious sound. The sound here is massively improved (though it can't blot out the contribution of the prompter), but I'm still not sure why Warner decided to include it in the Callas Live box, especially considering that the studio version of the opera is considered one of the classics of the gramophone. If including this, then why not the superb live Un Ballo in Maschera from La Scala in 1957, which is a far better performance and far better recorded?

The only other singer of note is Di Stefano, and, without the firm hand of Serafin at the helm, he tends to be careless of note values and rhythm. Campolonghi's Rigoletto makes hardly any impression at all. The conductor, Umberto Mugnai, makes even more cuts than those traditional at the time and stage and pit are often out of sync; nor does he have any real idea of shaping the music and his tempi are all over the place.

Callas is a miracle. She could almost be a different singer from the one we have heard so far in this set, her voice wondrously lightened to dispel any associations with Abigaille, Kundry, Elena, Aida and Armida, the roles we have heard thus far. I dislike, as did she in later years, the decision to end Caro nome on a high E (actually an Eb as she transposed the aria down) rather than the rapturous trill on the lower E that Verdi wrote. It obtrudes on the air of gentle reverie that she has created in the aria itself. Apparently Callas did it to appease the Mexican audience's love of high notes, but she massively regretted it later.

It is also remarkable that when stage and pit fall apart, it is usually Callas (who was so blind she couldn't see the conductor) who brings things back on track.

It's interesting to have this snapshot of Callas trying out a role she wouldn't sing again except in the studio, and it is a great shame that she didn't keep it in her repertoire. Had she done so, we might have re-thought the role of Gilda, much as we did that of Lucia. That said, it is still to the studio set that I will turn if I want to hear Callas's Gilda.


« Last Edit: May 20, 2018, 05:41:08 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 #721 on: October 28, 2017, 03:06:05 AM »


This live recording captures Callas's debut in front of one of her most loyal audiences. She appeared again at the house in 1953, 1957, 1958 (arguably her greatest performances of Violetta), 1959 and finally in 1964 and 1965 in the Zeffirelli Tosca, which was also her last ever appearance on stage.

Though this Norma would not be my first choice for the opera (that would be the live La Scala recording of 1955 with Simionato and Del Monaco), it is still a very good performance, with excellent contributions from Stignani, Picchi and Vaghi. Gui is also a welcome presence in the pit. Callas is in stupendous voice, but she is infinitely more subtle at La Scala in 1955. I also somewhat prefer Simionato to the rather mature voiced Stignani, who was twenty years Callas's senior. The voice is firm and seamless from top to bottom, but she sounds like the older woman, which skews the balance somewhat.

Worth hearing nevertheless.

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

Online ritter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #722 on: October 29, 2017, 11:06:50 AM »
I've expressed my general lack of admiration for Gaetano Donizetti here on GMG before, but it is difficult (and useless) to resist the charms of his wonderful, rustic comédie larmoyante L'Elisir d'amore.



This 1952 recording is excellent, expertly conducted by that grand seigneur of Italian opera, Gianandrea Gavazzeni (who had Donzetti's music in his veins, so to speak, as both men were born in Bergamo). The cast is as idiomatic as you can get, with that marvellous tenore di grazia Cesare Valetti standing out as Nemorino.  Afro Poli as Belcore and, especially, Sesto Bruscantini as Dulcamara are also great, but I cannot warm to the soubrette-ish tone of Alda Noni (even if she manages her instrument most admirably, she sounds irredeemably old-fashioned).

The sound is rather congested (50's radio broadcast), but I've read it was greatly improved in later reissues of the recording.
« Last Edit: October 29, 2017, 11:08:29 AM by ritter »
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ComposerOfAvantGarde

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #723 on: October 29, 2017, 08:31:38 PM »
Recently watched this with my 10 year old sister who kept exclaiming 'put on the next one!!!!!!' after each act.



I think I will take her to see Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg with me next year.

Offline GioCar

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #724 on: October 29, 2017, 10:18:02 PM »
Recently watched this with my 10 year old sister who kept exclaiming 'put on the next one!!!!!!' after each act.



I think I will take her to see Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg with me next year.

Raising another musician in you family? Preparing for the MS duo? Very well done!  :)

Online Alberich

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #725 on: October 30, 2017, 08:10:07 AM »
Recently watched this with my 10 year old sister who kept exclaiming 'put on the next one!!!!!!' after each act.



I think I will take her to see Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg with me next year.

For a moment, thanks to those sparks, I thought Siegfried was holding a chainsaw.

Thread Duty: Listening to Euryanthe, what a marvelous opera!
"Javert, though frightful, had nothing ignoble about him. Probity, sincerity, candor, conviction, the sense of duty, are things which may become hideous when wrongly directed; but which, even when hideous, remain grand."

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ComposerOfAvantGarde

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #726 on: October 31, 2017, 04:15:09 PM »
For a moment, thanks to those sparks, I thought Siegfried was holding a chainsaw.

Thread Duty: Listening to Euryanthe, what a marvelous opera!

Nothung as a chainsaw sounds like a great idea really. I hope one day someone comes up with a lumberjack themed Siegfried. ;D
This production is quite sound but frustratingly traditional if one is already very familiar with these works.........................................

Spineur

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #727 on: November 05, 2017, 01:59:00 PM »
Giacchino Rossini Mose in Egitto, broadcasting from the Bregenz festival



https://bregenzerfestspiele.com/en/programme/moses-egypt
« Last Edit: November 05, 2017, 02:00:43 PM by Spineur »

Offline vandermolen

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #728 on: November 06, 2017, 03:58:03 AM »
I enjoyed listening to Mussorgsky's 'Khovanshchina' on the radio over the weekend.
"Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm" (Churchill).

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #729 on: November 06, 2017, 04:35:12 AM »


Wretched sound (though somewhat  improved in this Warner transfer) but barnstorming performance.

Bernstein conducts a fiery account of the score, in line with his Beethoven recordings from the same period. Callas is in fabulous voice, though at times you might think this Medea overplays her hand. She is much more subtle in Dallas in 1958, which is my preferred recording of the opera.

One should also point out that, like all Callas recordings of the opera, this edition is something of a hybrid; a translation into Italian of a nineteenth century version with added recitatives by the German composer Franz Lachner. The original version in French, with spoken dialogue, has been recorded a couple of times, but Callas's Medea is hors concours, and one her greatest creations.

« Last Edit: May 20, 2018, 05:42:36 AM by Tsaraslondon »
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Spineur

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #730 on: November 06, 2017, 12:07:42 PM »
Cherubini Medée and its italian adaptation is a top drawer opera.  Although it had been performed by Rosa Ponselle in the past, it is Callas that really revived this opera.  I am still waiting to see a high quality production of the initial french version.  I got this Simon Mayr Medea in Corinto which was performed 20 years after Cherubini opera



The opera only really starts in the middle of act II and has some nice scenes.  But it is much less interesting than Cherubini score & libretto.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #731 on: November 07, 2017, 12:56:29 AM »
Cherubini Medée and its italian adaptation is a top drawer opera.  Although it had been performed by Rosa Ponselle in the past, it is Callas that really revived this opera.   

Actually Ponselle never sang Medea. When Callas sang it in Florence in 1953, I'm pretty sure it hadn't been performed since the La Scala premiere (also in Carlo Zanagarini's Italian translation of the Lachner version) in 1909.

Ponselle, however, was renowned for the role of Giulia in Spontini's  La Vestale, which Callas revived at La Scala (the first time she worked with Visconti) in 1954.

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

Online ritter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #732 on: November 07, 2017, 01:09:10 AM »
Actually Ponselle never sang Medea. When Callas sang it in Florence in 1953, I'm pretty sure it hadn't been performed since the La Scala premiere (also in Carlo Zanagarini's Italian translation of the Lachner version) in 1909.

Ponselle, however, was renowned for the role of Giulia in Spontini's  La Vestale, which Callas revived at La Scala (the first time she worked with Visconti) in 1954.
Indeed..the first performance of Medea at La Scala was, as Tsaraslondon points out, in 1909, with Ester Mazzoleni. I believe the work was not performed there until the 1953 run with Callas and Bernstein (which followed the revival in Florence earlier that year, conducted by Vittorio Gui).

Talking about Gui and Ponselle, the latter sang La Vestale (in Florence once again) in the early 30s IIRC, and the audience was demanding a bis, which Gui would not allow. Someone then shouted "Please! She'll return to America and who knows when we'll hear her again!" and the bis as given.  :D

A much underrated opera, La Vestale, IMHO. And, yes, pity there is no decent recording of the original Médée in French. The live effort (from Martina Franca) with Iano Tamar on the Nuova Era label verges on the disastrous...
« Last Edit: November 07, 2017, 01:11:34 AM by ritter »
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #733 on: November 07, 2017, 05:54:15 AM »
And, yes, pity there is no decent recording of the original Médée in French. The live effort (from Martina Franca) with Iano Tamar on the Nuova Era label verges on the disastrous...

I too would love to hear it in the original French, with spoken dialogue. That said, I can't imagine anyone bringing the role and music to life in quite the way Callas does. Her performances, especially in Florence and Milan in 1953, and in Dallas 1958, bring the music alive in a way I've never heard from anyone else. As one critic quipped after the Florence performances, she sounds as if she were born singing it!
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Spineur

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #734 on: November 07, 2017, 07:33:19 AM »
Actually Ponselle never sang Medea. When Callas sang it in Florence in 1953, I'm pretty sure it hadn't been performed since the La Scala premiere (also in Carlo Zanagarini's Italian translation of the Lachner version) in 1909.

Ponselle, however, was renowned for the role of Giulia in Spontini's  La Vestale, which Callas revived at La Scala (the first time she worked with Visconti) in 1954.
Thanks for correcting me.  I mixed La Vestale and Medea, both revived by Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #735 on: November 07, 2017, 12:26:23 PM »
Thanks for correcting me.  I mixed La Vestale and Medea, both revived by Callas

Well they are both operas by Italian composers, contemporaries, who were working in France at the turn of the nineteenth century. Easy to mix them up, I suppose, though, if I'm honest, I can't really imagine Ponselle as Medea. I'm not sure that Rolls Royce of a voice would ever have had the vitriolic edge it needs.


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

Spineur

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #736 on: November 08, 2017, 12:49:12 PM »
I found this OOP live recording of Meyerbeer, Robert le Diable


This is a 1985 production of Paris opera, with a casting de reve.  Alain Vanzo as Robert has a perfect french diction, Samuel Ramey as the father/mephistopheles is at the summit of his art and June Anderson and Michèle Lagrange as Robert sister and wife.  The orchestra directed by the late Thomas Fulton has a gorgeous sound.

I already had the Royal opera house recent blue ray



which isnt bad by any means but I did not care for the carton pate staging nor the strong accent of most of the cast.  Also for some reason the orchestra did not sound as big as on this CD.  Still the strong presence of John Reylea (father-mephistopheles) makes this blu ray worth while.  Too bad he steals the show from everybody else.
« Last Edit: November 08, 2017, 12:54:16 PM by Spineur »

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #737 on: November 10, 2017, 01:42:59 AM »


Not a lot Warner can do with the sound for this recording, as the source material is so compromised.

The edition used wouldn't take much scrutiny today, but Giulini has a keen understanding of the music. The supporting cast is not great, but Callas is superb; "a Gluck soprano of the highest order" according to Max Loppert in Opera on Record 2, who "answers almost every demand the role has to make".

Worth hearing if you can put up with the sound, which distorts quite badly in the choruses.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2018, 05:43:59 AM by Tsaraslondon »
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

ComposerOfAvantGarde

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #738 on: November 10, 2017, 03:03:48 AM »
Prologue and act 1 with my youngest sister, who is enjoying it very much.


Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #739 on: November 10, 2017, 09:05:07 AM »


Taking a break from the Callas box for a first time listen, via Spotify, to Chausson's Wagner inspired Le roi Arthus, and rather enjoying it.

The libretto deals with the Arthur, Lancelot and Guinevere love triangle, with definite echoes of Tristan und Isolde. However, though the score is definitely influenced by the music of Wagner, it still sounds very French to me.

The performance is pretty good too, though I might have preferred a more girlish voice for Guinevere. Zylis-Gara's creamy tone sounds a little too sophisticated and soignee for the role. It doesn't seem to lie too high, and I can imagine it would have suited De Los Angeles well, or even Von Stade. The men are fine, particularly Quilico.


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