Author Topic: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?  (Read 82577 times)

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1140 on: July 21, 2018, 12:41:23 AM »


Based on tremendously successful performances at Covent Garden, this Pritchard set has a real whiff of the theatre about it. The main difference is that the young Carreras, who played Nemorino on stage is here replaced by Domingo, whose first Otello was not too far away. Domingo lightens his voice as best as he can, and almost convinces without quite pulling it off. Carreras, who ended up recording the role a little too late in his career (with Ricciarelli as Adina) would, at this stage of his career, been perfect. Cotrubas is an absolute delight as Adina, one of the best on record, Wixell a believably preening Belcore and Sir Geraint Evans a genially scheming Dulcore.


Sir John's conducting is wonderfully alert and alive. The set has long been a favourite of mine.
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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1141 on: July 21, 2018, 08:59:51 AM »


There is no Philips recording of Giovanna d'Arco in their early Verdi series, no doubt because Levine and EMI had got their first.

Like the Philips sets, it is cast from strength with Caballé, Domingo and Milnes, all of whom also appeared in some of the Philips recordings. The main difference is in the slightly more abrasive recording and Levine's conducting, which is less lyrical and relaxed than Gardelli, a tad dare I say it, more brash and bombastic, and I do rather wish it had been recorded by Gardelli with the same singers.

We are still very much in the galleys, but more and more of Verdi's individual style is emerging and in Giovanna at least, superbly sung by Caballé here, Verdi creates a character of real flesh and blood.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2018, 09:29:19 AM by Tsaraslondon »
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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1142 on: July 22, 2018, 12:47:52 AM »
Revisiting George Enescu’s Oedipe:



IMHO, Oedipe is one of the great operas of the 20th century, and its composer’s magnum opus. The richness of this score, and the impact of many scenes (the prologue, Oedipus’s encounter with Laios at the crossroads, and then with Sphinx, and the beautiful, transfigurative finale) is tremendous.

This performance is good enough, and a nice testament to the artistry of a great singer who tragically died too young, Monte Pederson. Still, there’s an authority and idiomatic feeling in José van Dam’s studio recording which is missing here, and Michael Gielen imposed some unnecessary cuts in the score.
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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1143 on: July 22, 2018, 06:05:47 AM »


Recorded straight after a run of terrifically successful performances at Covent Garden in 1968, La Fille du Régiment has long been considered one of Sutherland's best studio recordings, and the role of the tomboyish Marie certainly suits her well. As you'd expect she tosses off the coloratura and high notes in spectacular fashion, but also has the ability to convey a deeper vein of pathos when required. Pavarotti is also at his best, and he executes the top Cs in Pour mon âme with delightfully insouciant ease. Monica Sinclair, who sometimes overplays the comedy, and Spiro Malas provide excellent support and Richard Bonynge's conducting is alert and nicely sprung.


I do have a couple of cavils, though. There is absolutely nothing authentically French about the enterprise, and, where this might be of less importance in Donizetti than Offenbach, I do miss a genuine French accent. Sutherland's diction, though better than on some of her recordings, still leaves a great deal to be desired. On the other hand Pavarotti's diction is so good you can hear just how bad his French is.

I'm assuming this will matter less to most people than it does to me, so I will finish by saying I really rather enjoy this set. It has the feel of a real performance, and it is a pleasure to hear two such great singers at the top of their game.
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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1144 on: July 24, 2018, 12:34:48 AM »


Verdi's second opera was a comedy, Un Giorno di Regno, his only attempt at the genre until his last great work Falstaff. This is hardly in that class, but it is charming and, in the right performance, enjoyable enough. It's model is obviously the comedies of Donizetti, though it lacks the easy, tuneful memorability of, say, L'Elisir d'Amore.


I've always preferred this effervescent Simonetto performance from 1951 to Gardelli's Philips version, which seems a little po-faced and heavy handed in comparison. Cossotto and Norman, a dramatic mezzo and a dark voiced soprano, nowhere have the lightness of touch of their counterparts here, the smilingly lyric soprano Lina Pagliughi and the light lyric mezzo Laura Cozza, and Capecchi, Bruscantini and Dalamangas, all more natural buffo performers, easily outclass theirs on the Philips set. Carreras, at his honeyed best, is one of the assets of the Philips set, but Oncina is also excellent, and a tad more at home in comedy.

Worth a listen.
« Last Edit: July 24, 2018, 12:37:46 AM by Tsaraslondon »
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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1145 on: July 24, 2018, 11:32:27 AM »


75 minutes of extracts drawn from various french productions of this once popular opera by Ambroise Thomas. 4 baritones sing the title role, 4 sopranos are Ophélie. An interesting compilation with some legendary names. The music is often remarkable.

The opera has been recorded in modern times by Decca (a Sutherland vehicle), EMI (Thomas Hampson), EMI again, with Simon Keenlyside and Nathalie Dessay. It’s the latter I'll turn to if I ever want to hear it in full.

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1146 on: July 24, 2018, 03:37:08 PM »


Another 75 minutes of Ambroise Thomas, this time his most famous work, Mignon. The libretto by the team of Barbier and Carré (Hamlet, Faust, Roméo et Juliette, Les Contes d’Hoffmann) is drawn from the seminal « coming of age » novel by Goethe, Wilhelm Meister’s Apprenticeship. From the latter, countless lieder have been composed by the likes of Beethoven, Schubert (a dozen at least), Schumann, Wolf, etc - the most famous being Kennst du das Land, given the full operatic treatment by Thomas: Connais-tu le pays, a favourite calling card of mezzos the world over.

Mignon was first given in Paris in 1866. Lamoureux (founder of the eponymous orchestra) gave the 500th performance 12 years later. By 1894 it had been performed 1000 times. The 2000th performance was given in 1955 under Jean Fournet. It is the 3rd ranking opera in number of performances given in Paris, after Faust and Carmen.

The disc at hand features excerpts from french performances 1929-1949, with a 1942 Toscanini-led performance of the overture as curtain raiser. It is then followed by encore performances of the main arias, including italian ones (Pagliughi in the Polonaise), russian (Lemeshev), german (Margarethe Siems in the Polonaise). Wilhelm’s beguiling romance suits both the russian language and Lemeshev’s voice beautifully. Of course he could be singing from the phone book and it would still make the charts, but this is a particular highlight of the disc. The Siems performance is a bit strange, in the sense that she was the first Marschallin, a type of voice one wouldn’t associate with the crystalline tone of the coloratura role of Philine.

Mignon has not been recorded as much as one would think, given its huge popularity in its first 100 years. Pretty much the only game in town is the Vanzo/Horne recording on Sony. There is a 1999 Denève recording, but it’s very elusive. Others on offer are old live broadcast performances. For anyone not wanting to invest in the full thing (it is a long opera) the Malibran disc is a good conspectus of the work.

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1147 on: July 25, 2018, 09:17:45 AM »


This 1946 recording of Samson et Dalila has never been out of the catalogue and the opera itself is still regularly showcased in all the great opera houses. It is expertly remastered here by Ward Marston. The pageantry of the last act may lack a couple of decibels, but that may be a reflection of the reduced forces available in the aftermath of the war. Conductor Fourestier and the Paris Opera forces make up for that in zest and enthusiasm.

Apart from a slightly cautious Dalila by Bouvier (who sings very well none the less), this is the cast to beat when it comes to the male voices: corsican tenor José Luccioni had that rare combination of plangency and lung power that carries him through all the facets of the role. In verbal finesse he easily nudges Domingo, Carreras, Cura and Vickers, fine as these great tenors may be. When it comes to throwing the vocal gauntlet, he’s up there with any of them, with a luscious, powerful ring at the top. The High Priest is to this opera what Scarpia is to Tosca: an implacable, magnetic character that schemes in the grand manner. Bass Paul Cabanel is truly outstanding. The other low voice roles are excellent as well.

There are many recordings available, none entirely satisfying, including this one. Samson is too often afforded the Pagliacci or Tosca treatment, and it never works. What I particularly liked about this historic reissue is the verbal clarity and the unfailingly elegant singing. I think Saint-Saëns would have approved.

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1148 on: July 25, 2018, 01:01:40 PM »


This 1946 recording of Samson et Dalila has never been out of the catalogue and the opera itself is still regularly showcased in all the great opera houses. It is expertly remastered here by Ward Marston. The pageantry of the last act may lack a couple of decibels, but that may be a reflection of the reduced forces available in the aftermath of the war. Conductor Fourestier and the Paris Opera forces make up for that in zest and enthusiasm.

Apart from a slightly cautious Dalila by Bouvier (who sings very well none the less), this is the cast to beat when it comes to the male voices: corsican tenor José Luccioni had that rare combination of plangency and lung power that carries him through all the facets of the role. In verbal finesse he easily nudges Domingo, Carreras, Cura and Vickers, fine as these great tenors may be. When it comes to throwing the vocal gauntlet, he’s up there with any of them, with a luscious, powerful ring at the top. The High Priest is to this opera what Scarpia is to Tosca: an implacable, magnetic character that schemes in the grand manner. Bass Paul Cabanel is truly outstanding. The other low voice roles are excellent as well.

There are many recordings available, none entirely satisfying, including this one. Samson is too often afforded the Pagliacci or Tosca treatment, and it never works. What I particularly liked about this historic reissue is the verbal clarity and the unfailingly elegant singing. I think Saint-Saëns would have approved.

Excellent review.

It's a lost era of French singing, no doubt, though, as you point out, Bouvier is not exactly the sexy, sensual but dangerously demonic Dalila of one's dreams. It's a difficult role to cast, and most mezzos or contraltos sound too matronly and motherly to my ears. Baltsa is a bit closer to my ideal, but by the time she recorded the role, the voice had acquired a distracting vibrato. Verrett does get it right, but there are no studio recordings of her singing the role. Callas is wonderful in her recording of the three central arias, but I doubt she'd have been able to sustain the low tessitura on stage.


You're right about Samson too. None of the tenors in more modern recordings has quite the right voice for the role, though Vickers possibly comes closest.
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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1149 on: July 25, 2018, 05:32:54 PM »
I find it impossible to listen to Dalilas without hearing the Callas voice in my mind. Hers is not the only vocal/interpretational option to be sure, but her verbal specificity is such that the vocal line falls into place totally naturally. Most singers do it the other way around, producing the sounds and tacking the words onto them with little regard to their meaning, often ignoring how to bind them together in a meaningful phrase. It's true that Saint-Saëns’ butterscotch and crème brulée melodies are a singer’s dream, so the temptation to produce beautifuls sounds first is very great.

Callas was very strict about breathing technique in these arias, with their long, arching melodies. This is an aspect I found lacking in Bouvier’s singing of the arias, where aspirates are carelessly handled, chopping the vocal line where one would wish for perfect legato. But she is not alone in the long list of unsatisfactory Dalilas. A role for Marie-Nicole Lemieux, maybe ?

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1150 on: July 25, 2018, 11:38:46 PM »
I find it impossible to listen to Dalilas without hearing the Callas voice in my mind. Hers is not the only vocal/interpretational option to be sure, but her verbal specificity is such that the vocal line falls into place totally naturally. Most singers do it the other way around, producing the sounds and tacking the words onto them with little regard to their meaning, often ignoring how to bind them together in a meaningful phrase. It's true that Saint-Saëns’ butterscotch and crème brulée melodies are a singer’s dream, so the temptation to produce beautifuls sounds first is very great.

Callas was very strict about breathing technique in these arias, with their long, arching melodies. This is an aspect I found lacking in Bouvier’s singing of the arias, where aspirates are carelessly handled, chopping the vocal line where one would wish for perfect legato. But she is not alone in the long list of unsatisfactory Dalilas. A role for Marie-Nicole Lemieux, maybe ?

And of course Callas is one of the few singers to sing what Saint-Saens wrote. In Mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix he sets the words Ah réponds a ma tendresse to be sung in one long phrase. Most singers add another réponds which allows them to grab a quick breath in the middle of the phrase. How like Callas to stick to what the composer wrote, and what a difference it makes to the sensuality of the line. She never approved this aria for release, and it was first issued just after she died. I can't imagine why she found fault with it.

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1151 on: July 26, 2018, 12:14:29 AM »


Lucia - Maria Callas
Edgardo - Ferrucio Tagliavini
Ernesto - Piero Cappuccilli
Raimondo - Bernard Ladysz

Philharmonia Orchestra and Chorus - Tullio Serafin


Not Callas's best Lucia by any means, though I have a certain amount of affection for it, as it was the first recording of the opera I ever owned, and the one by which I got to know the work.

The stereo recording, made in the Kingsway Hall with the Philharmonia, is a lot better than either the 1953 studio recording or the live Berlin performance from 1955, so, in one aspect at least, it improves on what had gone before.

Leaving aside Callas for a moment, her colleagues here are something of a mixed bag. Cappuccilli's Enrico lacks authority and he is nowhere near as menacing as Gobbi (1953) or Panerai (1955). Tagliavini might have seemed a good idea at the time, but, stylishly though he sings, his voice is clearly past its best and one misses Di Stefano's youthful ardour (both 1953 and 1955). Ladysz is the oddest casting of all. He appears to have recorded little else other than Penderecki's Devils of Loudon and one wonders why he was engaged at all. Arie (1953) and, especially, Zaccaria (1955) are much better.


As for Callas, I'm often surprised how good she actually sounds. Aside from at the very top of the voice, her singing is unfailingly lovely; phrases are spun out to incredible length, her legato is prodigious and the coloratura flourishes have a lovely finish to them. As always she establishes the slightly unhinged character of Lucia almost from her very first notes. That said, notes above the stave are often unlovely and the top Ebs in the Mad Scene something of a trial. It's a shame she felt the need to sing them.


The Berlin performance, in pretty good sound for a live performance from 1955, still remains my favourite of all recordings of the opera, but this one is still worth listening to from time to time.

My review of the set on my blog, where you can also find reviews of the 1953 studio and 1955 Berlin performances.

https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2017/01/07/callass-stereo-lucia/
« Last Edit: July 26, 2018, 12:21:56 AM by Tsaraslondon »
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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1152 on: July 29, 2018, 12:14:24 AM »


Leonora was actually Callas's first Verdi role. She sang it first in Trieste in 1948 and then in Ravenna in 1954, a few months before making this recording, but then no more.


It is a great shame she didn't sing it more often, because it is one of her greatest recorded performances, and her darkly plangent tones were particularly suited to the melancholia of the role.

The recording has other assets too, not least Serafin's warmly lyrical, but dramatic pacing of the score - just listen to the way he articulates those stabbing chords when Leonora is mortally wounded in the last act. Rossi-Lemeni is a warmly sympathetic, if woolly toned, Padre Guardiano and the monastery scene emerges as the dramatic centrepiece of the score. As usual, Tucker tends to sob and aspirate too much, but there is at least the compensation of the voice itself. Nicolai does what she can with the somewhat thankless part of Preziosilla, Clabassi is a firm voiced Calatrava and Renato Capecchi excellent in the role of Fra Melitone. The role of Carlo really needs a firmer, younger sounding, voice than Tagliabue (56 at the time of the recording) provides.

Full review on my blog https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/la-forza-del-destino/
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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1153 on: July 30, 2018, 03:43:57 AM »


Leonora was actually Callas's first Verdi role. She sang it first in Trieste in 1948 and then in Ravenna in 1954, a few months before making this recording, but then no more.


It is a great shame she didn't sing it more often, because it is one of her greatest recorded performances, and her darkly plangent tones were particularly suited to the melancholia of the role.

The recording has other assets too, not least Serafin's warmly lyrical, but dramatic pacing of the score - just listen to the way he articulates those stabbing chords when Leonora is mortally wounded in the last act. Rossi-Lemeni is a warmly sympathetic, if woolly toned, Padre Guardiano and the monastery scene emerges as the dramatic centrepiece of the score. As usual, Tucker tends to sob and aspirate too much, but there is at least the compensation of the voice itself. Nicolai does what she can with the somewhat thankless part of Preziosilla, Clabassi is a firm voiced Calatrava and Renato Capecchi excellent in the role of Fra Melitone. The role of Carlo really needs a firmer, younger sounding, voice than Tagliabue (56 at the time of the recording) provides.

Full review on my blog https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/la-forza-del-destino/
Nice roundup, Tsaraslondon, thanks. I was listening to this recording myself some days ago, and agree with your impression. Callas is excellent, and Serafin conducts very eloquently. Tucker has a beautiful voice, but his approach is a tad vulgar. He sounds old-fashioned. Elena Nicolai also sounds “old-school”, but in a positive way (yep, Preziosilla is a bizarre role, but one without which Forza would be less interesting nteresting IMO).

The Don Alvaro on record that I’ve found most convincing ( of those I know, of course) is Carlo Bergonzi on EMI, who sings beautifully, and with passion not devoid of elegance. Verdi singing if the highest calibre. Martina Arroyo is wonderful on that set as well, but—surprisingly—I found Lamberto Gardelli’s conducting a letdown, a bit too impassioned and lacking in nuance (and robbing this—admittedly difficult to pull together—opera of a real sense of unity).

« Last Edit: July 30, 2018, 03:53:18 AM by ritter »
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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1154 on: July 30, 2018, 04:59:12 AM »
Nice roundup, Tsaraslondon, thanks. I was listening to this recording myself some days ago, and agree with your impression. Callas is excellent, and Serafin conducts very eloquently. Tucker has a beautiful voice, but his approach is a tad vulgar. He sounds old-fashioned. Elena Nicolai also sounds “old-school”, but in a positive way (yep, Preziosilla is a bizarre role, but one without which Forza would be less interesting nteresting IMO).

The Don Alvaro on record that I’ve found most convincing ( of those I know, of course) is Carlo Bergonzi on EMI, who sings beautifully, and with passion not devoid of elegance. Verdi singing if the highest calibre. Martina Arroyo is wonderful on that set as well, but—surprisingly—I found Lamberto Gardelli’s conducting a letdown, a bit too impassioned and lacking in nuance (and robbing this—admittedly difficult to pull together—opera of a real sense of unity).




I think Serafin is often underrated as a conductor, though there are ample examples on disc of his natural, dramatic pacing, especially in the sets he recorded with Callas. Oddly he is a more muted presence in the sets he did with Tebaldi.

I'd agree with you re Bergonzi's Alvaro. Arroyo's is a voice I like, but she's a little lacking in vocal personality. Beautifully though she sings, her Leonora makes nowhere near the impression Callas does, nor does she render the notes with quite the same degree of accuracy, particularly in Act I, which really requires the dexterity of a bel canto specialist. (Interesting to note that, though both the Act II and Act IV arias are often performed out of context, most sopranos leave the Act I aria alone, as it's a good deal more difficult.) It's a long time since I've listened to the Gardelli, but I seem to recall that Cappucilli's Carlo is not on the same level as his Boccanegra or Macbeth. I can't remember Casoni at all. Baltsa is the only singer I recall making much of Preziosilla, but there's nothing much else to commend the Sinopoli recording she appears on.



« Last Edit: July 31, 2018, 02:22:00 PM by Tsaraslondon »
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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1155 on: July 30, 2018, 07:49:18 AM »


This wonderful live performance captures Caballé on the occasion of her US debut, and there is no doubting the acclaim she receives right from her first aria. She is in fabulous voice, but also characterises well, and the whole recording is a lot more alive than the somewhat dull studio recording of the same year, which somehow never takes off.
The much under-recorded Vanzo and Paskalis are distinct assets, but Berbié as Orsini has a tendency to sing under the note (to my ears at least).
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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1156 on: August 02, 2018, 10:16:18 PM »


Verdi's great comic masterpiece in this wonderfully effervescent and brilliantly cast classic interpretation. Recorded in 1956, it remains a top recommendation for the opera. Pure joy from beginning to end.
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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1157 on: August 03, 2018, 05:23:46 PM »


Bizet’s ‘other’ opera. He wrote a few more of course, but none has really entered the standard repertoire. Pearlfishers is shorter than Carmen, a mere 105-110 minutes. It is still in the repertoire, esp in smaller houses. Its vocal requirements are not demanding in terms of size and it contains plenty of purple patches for the enjoyment of the « average » listener, as well as  benefiting from an exotic setting. Of late, another factor has contributed to the work’s popularity. Bare chested barihunks and tenors are much in demand in the two main male parts, as shown for example in this Chicago Lyric Opera production from last year:


This pic below is from a Seattle production, with the article’s title giving away part of the explanation for its enduring appeal: « Going to the Opera with Grandma ». The Chicago Opera aptly describes it as escapist entertainment.


It is a little-known fact that the librettists had originally planned the opera to be set in Mexico. Maybe the french houses didn’t have sombreros at hand ? That is only one of the numerous changes that took place, as was common at the time. A few years later the librettists stated that, had they known the music was of such quality, they would have worked a little bit harder. Bizet himself was no stranger to working under pressure (the delay was 4 months only) and facing mishaps and contingencies. Consequently, Pêcheurs de perles is larded with quotes and borrowings from other works of his. That, too, was quite common. Composers were expected to deal with every kind of circumstances.

The end result was not a huge success. Critics panned the new opera. The single laudatory review came from Hector Berlioz (Journal des débats, 1863). French audiences didn’t buy this particular LaLaLand fantasy until after the composer’s death a dozen years later.

To make the picture even muddier, the original score is « lost » (apparently it is in private hands and its owner will not make it public), so there is no way to know exactly what Bizet wrote in it. What’s available is Bizet’s piano reduction and a short score for the conductor. Moreover, following Bizet’s death his editor Paul Choudens wanted to cash in on the success of Carmen and published a heavily edited version. New productions in Milan and other places fostered a mini industry of changes, alterations, with numbers added or substracted at will. All productions and recordings before 1965 derive from one of the corrupt editions. A new edition was published in 1975 and in 2002 a critical edition of Bizet’s score was put together, followed in 2014 by the edition on which this recording is based.

............................

The disc at hand derives from a 2015 french concert, with no attempt at staging - no 6-pack pics here, everybody was fully dressed. Two things that should be taken for granted in this work have been conspicuously missing for decades - over 50 years as a matter of fact: first, it is a delicate bird that is very sensitive to that common virus, the wrong vocal technique and voice projection. And, secondly, unintelligible french pronunciation. Despite its exotic setting, Pêcheurs de perles is as french as baguette and croissants. The dearth of the appropriate type of voice in France since the 1960s has led to the opera being staged mostly on foreign ground, hence the second problem.

So, this all-french production has great assets in the credit column: a more faithful text, exempt from any non-Bizet alterations; young voices trained for the classical and baroque repertoire, where verbal acuity and musical sophistication are the name of the game; a dedicated team of musicians acutely aware of the importance of the enterprise. That being said, there are a couple of checks to be scored on the debit side of the ledger. The initial chorus is taken too fast, and the words become unintelligible. So much for authentic French if the singers can’t enunciate properly. That initial misstep apart, things go very well with the orchestral and choral contributions.

The two bass voices are cardboard characters to be sure, but they have nice melodies to sing, and the voices are fine. Soprano Julie Fuchs was predicted to be a great asset in the role of LeÏla. She does have some delightful moments, but this is a live production, and there is a smidgen of insecurity and/or flutter to her voice in the first act. Later on in the opera the voice is perilously close to developing a wobble on the high notes. Even so, I count hers as a successful portrayal. I found her wanting only in comparison with Pierrette Alarie (Fournet, 1953), who endows her priestess with crystal clear diction and pure voice even in the highest reaches.

The revelation and real star of the recording is tenor Cyrille Dubois as Nadir. 30 years old at the time of the recording, he has been singing since the age of 7, as a boy soprano in the Maîtrise de Caen. He entered the Paris Opera Atelier lyrique at 20. His is a fully developed voice, free ranging up to the topmost notes. Despite a hint of a tight vibrato in the middle register, his high notes display a mesmerizing plangent quality that left me speechless. His vocal emission is very peculiar, reminding me of the squeezed toothpaste technique of czech sopranos, but without any edginess. He is also a poet with the words. In that respect another singer comes to mind: Ian Bostridge. To sum up, Dubois’ vocal style has a slightly androgynous quality, and he displays all the qualities a true ténor lyrique.

Executive Summary:

- The version of choice remains the first one, with Simoneau and Alarie giving affecting portrayals as well as object lessons in great vocalism allied to perfect french diction - straight, clear, unaffected. It has been said that this recording is like a Vogue catalogue on glazed paper, with the implied criticism of over refinement. Despite its age the sound is clear as a bell - no fuzziness, no peaking, with a good sense of space.

- The 1959 Rosenthal, in very good but a bit crude sound, has the benefit of Alain Vanzo’s amazing portrayal of Nadir. Manly yet delicately shaded singing, alternately cooing and stentorian - a curious combination, but it works superbly. The two low voices are excellent. Janine Michaud though is not entirely up to snuff as Leïla, lacking purity and innocence.

- In 1977 EMI issued the first recording based on the new edition. It is very good, but alas not perfect. Cotrubas is lovely as the love object of the pearl fishers. The two bass voices are adequate, but no more - and Mexican baritone Guillermo Sarabia’s imperfect French is no match for that of his colleagues. Vanzo sings beautifully, but there is a slight feeling that this was another day at the office for him.

- The 2015 version benefits from great sound, a splendid orchestra and lively conducting - plus the nicety of a better text. Dubois is outstanding, not as perfect vocally as Simoneau or commanding as Vanzo, but I have a feeling that his portrayal will become some sort of landmark in the role. Zurga and Nourabad are very well sung and portrayed, among the best from the lot. Fuchs is uneven. The flutter on the high notes is irritating, but her tones are often beautiful. This is something that would have been put right in the recording studio.
« Last Edit: August 03, 2018, 05:30:45 PM by André »

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1158 on: August 03, 2018, 11:23:46 PM »


Mary Stuart - Dame Janet Baker
Queen Elizabeth I - Pauline Tinsley
Robert Dudley, Earl of Leicester - Keith Erwen
George Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury - Don Garrard
Sir William Cecil - Christian Du Plessis

English National Opera Orchestra and Chorus - Sir Charles Mackerras

This is not the same as the Chandos (originally EMI) recording of Maria Stuarda with Dame Janet Baker, which was recorded at performances of the revival in 1982, and was also filmed. It was taped at a performance of the original production in 1973, and aside from Dame Janet and Sir Charles Mackerras, all the principals are different.

Pauline Tinsley, who here plays Elizabeth, was a much loved British soprano, well known for the dramatic intensity of her performances. The voice, as recorded, can tend to the wiry, and doesn't fall so easily on the ear as Rosalind Plowright, who sings in the 1982 version, but quite a bit of that dramatic intensity comes through, and she is an excellent foil for Baker's Maria.

Dame Janet herself is in fabulous form, the voice fresher and more compact than it is in 1982. Superb though she is in 1982, she is bettered by her younger self here, and, despite the fact that the opera is sung in English translation, this has been my go to version for many years now. Easily encompassing all its vocal demands, she reveals character and emotion through the music with uncanny ability. As such, her portrayal is closer to Sills than, say, Sutherland or Caballé, but she also has the vocal grandeur that Sills' voice lacks.

Keith Erwen is hardly in the Pavarotti class, but is a strong Leicester nonetheless, and the lower voices are in the capable hands of ENO stalwarts Don Garrard and Christian Du Plessis.

Mackerras paces the score with a sure sense of the drama, knowing exactly when to relax and when to push forward. The confrontation scene, with Baker and Tinsley spitting fire at each other, is possibly the most thrilling on disc.

So pleased I bought this when it first came out. Copies are selling for around £100 on Amazon UK at the moment.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1159 on: August 04, 2018, 02:17:09 AM »



Verdi's Ernani has always held a foothold on the repertoire, probably due to the opportunities it holds for the singers and its seemingly endless supply of great tunes.


This Schippers recording, made in the 1960s, is now regarded as something of a classic, though the upper voices lend it rather more distinction than the lower ones, particularly Bergonzi, who is as ever a model of style and elegance. Price too is at her best, whilst not quite erasing memories of Ponselle in Ernani involami. Sereni and Flagello lend excellent, if less distinctive, support and Schippers conducts a rousing account of the score without overdoing the bombast.


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

 

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