Author Topic: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?  (Read 83203 times)

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Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1360 on: November 07, 2018, 07:59:20 AM »
I used to have a highlights disc of the Vickers/Gorr EMI set, but I wasn’t satisfied with it, mostly on technical grounds. Both singers were so well endowed vocally that the EMI microphones seemed to overload whenever they were singing. Gorr’s Dalila in particular was a casualty. She tended to sound boomy of voice and quite the dominatrix interpretively. I wonder if there is a good-sounding remastering of that set ?

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1361 on: November 07, 2018, 08:12:11 AM »
I used to have a highlights disc of the Vickers/Gorr EMI set, but I wasn’t satisfied with it, mostly on technical grounds. Both singers were so well endowed vocally that the EMI microphones seemed to overload whenever they were singing. Gorr’s Dalila in particular was a casualty. She tended to sound boomy of voice and quite the dominatrix interpretively. I wonder if there is a good-sounding remastering of that set ?

If there is I'm not sure it would make that much difference to Gorr, who, to my ears, has always sounded more maternal than sensual. Baltsa is leaner of voice but has a leonine sensuality which is altogether more sexy.

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

Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1362 on: November 07, 2018, 08:29:49 AM »
If there is I'm not sure it would make that much difference to Gorr, who, to my ears, has always sounded more maternal than sensual. Baltsa is leaner of voice but has a leonine sensuality which is altogether more sexy.

Gorr was a fantastic Ortrud, the only one to give Astrid Varnay a run for her money. But I agree that doesn’t necessarily make her a good match for Dalila, who needs to sound both menacing and vulnerable.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1363 on: November 07, 2018, 08:38:43 AM »
Gorr was a fantastic Ortrud, the only one to give Astrid Varnay a run for her money. But I agree that doesn’t necessarily make her a good match for Dalila, who needs to sound both menacing and vulnerable.

Callas absolutely nails it in her recording of the three main arias, but I imagine the role would have lain a bit too low for her in the theatre. Walter Legge said that she had difficulty maintaining the low tessitura. Mon coeur s'ouvre is gorgeously sensual, and she is one of the very few singers to sing exactly what Saint-Saëns wrote, which is that the phrase Ah réponds à ma tendresse be sung in one (very long) breath. Most of them break the line by addingan extra réponds. Oddly she never approved it for publication and it was only first released after she'd died.

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

Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1364 on: November 07, 2018, 08:54:41 AM »
Agreed. Hers are still benchmark performances of Dalila’s arias. The descent into the lower reaches of the voice at succombera sous mes efforts is amazing.

Offline Wendell_E

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1365 on: November 08, 2018, 02:57:35 AM »


This is actually Davis's second recording of Saint-Saëns' most popular opera. the first made in London with José Cura as Samson and Olga Borodina as Dalila.

Actually, the Carreras recording came first, released in 1991, the year before Cura's operatic debut.
“Never argue with an idiot. They will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” ― Mark Twain

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1366 on: November 08, 2018, 03:32:49 AM »
Actually, the Carreras recording came first, released in 1991, the year before Cura's operatic debut.

Apologies. My memory is incorrect then. I should have checked.

I did have the recording with Cura and Borodina, but got rid of it when I bought this one.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1367 on: November 10, 2018, 01:29:53 AM »


Slightly muddy sound, but Carreras is at his youthful, honeyed best, and Baltsa too is in enviable vocal form, the voice seamless from top to bottom.

The opera is worth investigating too.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1368 on: November 10, 2018, 01:12:31 PM »


The sonic splendour of this production towers above all other productions I’ve heard, whether it’s in the placement of the off-stage choruses (beg of act III for example), the myriad interventions of the percussion and harps, or the pipe organ (yes, there’s an organ playing, and you can’t miss it here, esp at the end of the second act). There are countless little touches that show what an unusually refined score this is, something that is lost in the hustle and bustle of some other recordings more interested in staging a vocal dog fight.

Karajan’s is a leisurely take on the opera. Most versions sail throuh the score in 110-117 minutes, Karajan in 132. And yet, despite some patches of indulgent wallowing, Karajan maintains a density of string sound that in itself provides a firm, secure foundation that generates its own inner tension. Above it, the rest of the complex orchestration can be heard as in no other version: winds, harps, the different types of bells and gongs and so forth. The various choruses get their due too. I wrote that IMO this is a huge choral symphony with solo voices, a bit like Mahler’s 8th or Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder. Karajan (like Serafin) perfectly understands that, generating a powerful dramatic sweep.

In view of that, solo voices tend to have a different function than what one would expect from an operatic blockbuster. Individual characterizations tend to emphasize a solemn, hieratic posture, certainly appropriate for an old legend with phantoms of the dead and a living god. The resulting shift of perspective integrates well with the conductor's view, but it has to be said that characters lose in immediacy and humanity and the action sometimes hangs fire. This affects mostly the title role. The consensus on Ricciarelli’s Turandot is that she is vocally lost at sea. I would not be concerned overmuch with that if she had shown some spunk in her singing delivery. Her assumption of Turandot as a living god initially takes her in the wrong direction. In the last act, however, her transformation into a flesh and blood woman finally makes her interesting to listen to. But bear in mind that Turandot is the shortest of all big soprano roles - or the biggest of the short soprano roles. If it was a movie, hers could be mistaken for a supporting part.

As Calaf, Domingo is refulgent of tone and sings with great involvement. He takes the optional high C at the end of II (ti voglio ardente d’amor), and that shows the limits of his abilities. Still, one of the more impressive Calafs around. Barbara Hendricks sings a touching Liù and to my ears her unusual vocal make-up, with its flickering vibrato and silvery tones is just what the role needs. I find Raimondi too reticent verbally - unusual for him - as Timur, but he is superb vocally. The three ministers and the Mandarin are one of the set’s big assets. They do have important roles vocally and dramatically y have been cast from strength (Francisco Araiza as Pong !).

To sum up: an unusual, idiosyncratic view of Puccini’s La-La Land operatic fantasy, but one that convincingly presents the work as the culmination of romantic opera.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1369 on: November 11, 2018, 06:28:33 AM »


The sonic splendour of this production towers above all other productions I’ve heard, whether it’s in the placement of the off-stage choruses (beg of act III for example), the myriad interventions of the percussion and harps, or the pipe organ (yes, there’s an organ playing, and you can’t miss it here, esp at the end of the second act). There are countless little touches that show what an unusually refined score this is, something that is lost in the hustle and bustle of some other recordings more interested in staging a vocal dog fight.

Karajan’s is a leisurely take on the opera. Most versions sail throuh the score in 110-117 minutes, Karajan in 132. And yet, despite some patches of indulgent wallowing, Karajan maintains a density of string sound that in itself provides a firm, secure foundation that generates its own inner tension. Above it, the rest of the complex orchestration can be heard as in no other version: winds, harps, the different types of bells and gongs and so forth. The various choruses get their due too. I wrote that IMO this is a huge choral symphony with solo voices, a bit like Mahler’s 8th or Schoenberg’s Gurrelieder. Karajan (like Serafin) perfectly understands that, generating a powerful dramatic sweep.

In view of that, solo voices tend to have a different function than what one would expect from an operatic blockbuster. Individual characterizations tend to emphasize a solemn, hieratic posture, certainly appropriate for an old legend with phantoms of the dead and a living god. The resulting shift of perspective integrates well with the conductor's view, but it has to be said that characters lose in immediacy and humanity and the action sometimes hangs fire. This affects mostly the title role. The consensus on Ricciarelli’s Turandot is that she is vocally lost at sea. I would not be concerned overmuch with that if she had shown some spunk in her singing delivery. Her assumption of Turandot as a living god initially takes her in the wrong direction. In the last act, however, her transformation into a flesh and blood woman finally makes her interesting to listen to. But bear in mind that Turandot is the shortest of all big soprano roles - or the biggest of the short soprano roles. If it was a movie, hers could be mistaken for a supporting part.

As Calaf, Domingo is refulgent of tone and sings with great involvement. He takes the optional high C at the end of II (ti voglio ardente d’amor), and that shows the limits of his abilities. Still, one of the more impressive Calafs around. Barbara Hendricks sings a touching Liù and to my ears her unusual vocal make-up, with its flickering vibrato and silvery tones is just what the role needs. I find Raimondi too reticent verbally - unusual for him - as Timur, but he is superb vocally. The three ministers and the Mandarin are one of the set’s big assets. They do have important roles vocally and dramatically y have been cast from strength (Francisco Araiza as Pong !).

To sum up: an unusual, idiosyncratic view of Puccini’s La-La Land operatic fantasy, but one that convincingly presents the work as the culmination of romantic opera.

Good review, André. Your views largely concur with mine. Orchestrally, chorally and sonically it has a lot to offer, but I'm not sure it's quite what Puccini had in mind. My favourite of the soloists is Hendricks, whose Liu is one of my favourites, and reminds me that I actually heard her once sing the role in a concert performance of the opera, which included the original Alfano ending. She took the vocal honours on that night too. Sylvia Sass was the Turandot and she was a good deal better than she had been as Norma a couple of seasons previously at Covent Garden. Still, for expressiveness and beauty of tone, Hendricks easily outclassed her. Franco Bonisolli was the Calaf, and admittedly he had a fair amout of vocal muscle, but, on this occasion at least, proved to be a vulgur performer, thusting out his chest and waiting for appause from the gallery after every high note. The habit becamse so pronounced that it evetually provoked titters from the audience. It was a a very curious evening.

I haven't listened to it, but I see that the performance appears to be available on youtube

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ut9AoBLiACk

Owain Orwel Hughes, who conducted,  says in his memoirs that the orchestra was the LSO not the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House. Covent Garden. He also remembers how difficult Bonisolli was and how he constantly tried to upstage his colleagues. It didn't work  ::)
« Last Edit: November 11, 2018, 06:33:31 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 #1370 on: November 12, 2018, 03:18:30 AM »


What a joy this recording is. OK, so the score is cut, but the performance exudes more high spirits and sheer fun than any of the more urtext versions that followed it.

Though Callas's Rosina, unlike her recording of the role, was not well received at La Scala in 1956, her Fiorilla, which she first sang at the tiny Eliseo Theatre in Rome in 1950 seems to have been an unqualified success. This recording was made shortly before more performances of the role at La Scala in 1955, with substantially the same cast, in a sparkling new production by Franco Zeffirelli.

Like Gui's recordings of Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Le Comte Ory, and like Callas's studio recording of Il Barbiere di Sivigia, there is a real sense of a stage production with an ensemble thoroughly at home in the medium and enjoying themselves enormously.

Sheer delight from beginning to end.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Roasted Swan

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1371 on: November 12, 2018, 06:45:58 AM »
First partial listen through to



I was really looking forward to hearing this having thought ever since the Mauceri recording that this is the "ultimate" Korngold score.  First impressions not great, the voices are simply not good enough and the orchestra as recorded does not have the weight of tone this opulent score requires.  Hopefully it will get better as I hear more......

Offline pjme

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1372 on: November 13, 2018, 01:32:46 AM »


Stage make up and costume jewelry -especially in opera- should never be photographed that close...
Mr. Carreras is neither Victor Mature nor mrs. Baltsa Hedy Lamarr ...


Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1373 on: November 15, 2018, 12:50:18 AM »


Wonderful performance of the Naples version of Monteverdi's L'Incoronazione di Poppea.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Undersea

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1374 on: November 17, 2018, 01:42:31 AM »
NP:



From the Box-Set:

Frei aber einsam.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1375 on: November 17, 2018, 02:00:14 AM »
It's gone very quiet here recently. Where has everyone gone?



I don't know how this performance, recorded live at a concert performance in Wildbad in 2012, compares with the recent Opera Rara set, but it does have a lot to commend it. For a start, and unlike the famous Bonynge recording, the score is performed complete, which means it runs about one hour longer.

Though there is of course some stunning singing from Sutherland and Horne on the Bonynge recording, it is seriously let down by weak male soloists. Lorenzo Regazzo as Oroe and John Osborn as Idreno are a great impovement, the latter granted the arias that were cut from the Bonynge recording. Alex Penda doesn't offer the stunning pyrotechnics we get from Sutherland, whose performance of Bel Raggio on her Art of the Prima Donna reciital has long been my benchmark, but she is a much more forceful, more dramatically alive presence as Semiramide, and her exciting performance grew on me as the opera progressed. On the other hand Mariana Pizzolato's Arsace, reasonably well sung but dully charcterised, doesn't begin to erase memories of Marilyn Horne in one of her very best recordings.

The sound in s trifle dull, but the liveliness of Antonino Fogliani's conducting comes across well.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2018, 02:15:13 AM by Tsaraslondon »
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Wendell_E

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1376 on: November 17, 2018, 04:13:50 AM »
It's gone very quiet here recently. Where has everyone gone?


I'm bad about not posting my listening. Earlier this week, I gave a first listen to this, which I picked up used for only $4.00 when I was in New Orleans last Sunday for New Orleans Opera's production of Rameau's Pygmalion.



Today, an opera much more familiar to me. The first review I read about it described it as "unloveable". I beg to differ.



Hmm. "Image unavailable" for the second picture? Anyway to save y'all from having to click on it, it's Boulez' second (DG) recording of Moses und Aron.
« Last Edit: November 17, 2018, 04:32:53 AM by Que »
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Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1377 on: November 17, 2018, 06:02:53 PM »


Ever since its issue back in 1972 this recording has been touted - at least by the british press - as the one to have above all others. Eventually the tide ebbed and it’s become fashionable to whine about its deficiencies, real or imagined.

Personally I find this version of Turandot one of the top recordings of any opera ever recorded. Not that it’s flawless. There are some miscalculations, a couple of pumped up performances and a general deficiency in authentic italianità. The cast is certainly as international as it gets, with an australian Turandot, an italian Calaf, a spanish/catalan Liù, a bulgarian Timur, an english Emperor, a finnish Ping, an english set of choristers etc. All are experienced professionals and there is not a bad accent to be heard. But it’s only fair to say that any hint of verbal cloud or mist disappears when Pavarotti sings. More than his famously beautiful tones, his superb diction and perfect enunciation of the text illuminates his Calaf more than with any other singer of the role I know (Corelli, too, is Italian, but his diction is sometimes sloppy and the famous lisp intrudes every once in a while). Pavarotti is not a great vocal actor, but a reasonably good one and what he has, he has: the sunniest tones this side of Bjoerling and the best italian diction of all modern Calafs.

It’s hard to resist using a big, beautiful bass voice in the role of Timur. And yet the role is that of a deposed, fugitive king much diminished physically. Therefore casting a huge, and hugely healthy voice like Ghiaurov’s stretches credulity. Also, Pavarotti’s Calaf is helped by the microphones in the first act. The balance is redressed at the end of In questa reggia and the ensuing Riddle Scene, where he must compete with Sutherland without artificial pumping of the volume. Unsurprisingly, she drowns him handily when they both sing at the top of their lungs.

Top notes for Caballé’s Liù (substantially better than I had remembered) and the smaller roles of Emperor Altoum and the Three Ministers (superb Tom Krause). Sutherland has been much maligned by the peanut gallery of internet critics. In my view she gives a phenomenal vocal interpretation and a commendably solid characterization. Admittedly the range of emotions that pass her tonsils is more limited than Callas’, or even Nilsson’s, but then again Turandot is no Violetta. The character is unbelievable to start with, and remains so until the end. Only Callas manages to infuse the part with a sense of humanity that engages the listener’s feelings. It should be noted that, vocally, there is no real contest between Sutherland and Nilsson in the part. Their respective vocal complexions are so different from one another that it’s impossible to make comparisons.

The real stars of this recording and, ultimately the ones responsible for making it indispensable are the conductor, the producers and the sound engineers. Mehta has 4 recordings of Turandot to his credit (this was his first), so we can only assume he understands and loves the work. I have enthused about the superbly idiomatic conducting of Serafin and the provocatively probing insights of Karajan. In a sense Mehta is a much plainer opera conductor, but he catches the blend of propulsiveness and expansion that make it so difficult to pace (Erede is rythmically stodgy, Molinari-Pradelli incisive to the point of rigidity). Turandot mixes a phantasmagoric oriental legend with elements of the italian commedia dell’arte, and Puccini lavished on the work incredibly elaborate and sumptuous choral and orchestral colours. The forces assembled for this recording have been marshalled by conductor, producer and texhnicians to a level of magnificence unattained previously. Only DGG’s production really compares and yet, it has its own inadequacies to contend with.

Small imperfections that do not really detract from this recording then. It remains  a remarkable achievement.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1378 on: November 18, 2018, 01:33:27 AM »
I listened to Mehta and Karajan more or less back to back myself recently, and I pretty much agree with all your points on both sets. Though it's a lot better here than on some of her other sets, Sutherland's muddy diction bothers me more than most, I suppose, especially when set beside Pavarotti's well nigh perfect enunciation of the text, but there is the compensation of the beauty of the voice itself, an aural equivalent of the beauty that so many princes risk their lives for. For me, Nilsson, for all her clarion top notes, doesn't sound, in any way shape or form, alluring, one of the problems I also have with her Salome. Ricciarelli is an experiment that doesn't quite come off. Callas, the most interesting of them all, was recorded just a few years too late. If only the Serafin's set had been recorded when she recorded In questa reggia for her Puccini recital.

Pavarotti is probably my favourite of modern day Calafs, for all the reaosons you mention. As for Liu, well Hendricks, gorgeously vulnerable and sweet-toned, takes the palm for me. I love both Caballé and Scwharzkopf, and they both sing divinely, but neither of them really sounds like a slave girl. Caballé is too much the grande dame and Schwarzkopf too much the Austrian duchess. Zaccaria is my favourite Timur, and Serafin also has a wonderfully characterful Ping, Pang and Pong, not to mention Giuseppe Nessi, who sang Pang at  the first performance of Turandot, as the Emperor.

Had Serafin been accorded the sort of sound Mehta and Karajan get, I might well also have placed him higher than either Mehta or Karajan. His unforced, totally natural, italianate conducting is rarely given the credit it deserves.

« Last Edit: November 19, 2018, 01:29:25 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 #1379 on: November 18, 2018, 05:32:54 AM »


I just love this performance, which has a passion and exuberance often missing from the cooler, more restrained performances that we have become used to. There are some big names amongst the singers and they tend to be quite expressive, but I like it, whatever the purists might have to say. Natalie Dessay's brilliantly charcterised Musica gets us off to a great start, and from then the performance never flags.

Highly enjoyable, even for those who normally don't respond to early music or HIP.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

 

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