Author Topic: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?  (Read 103960 times)

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Offline Undersea

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1460 on: January 02, 2019, 11:26:29 PM »
One of my favourite operas, though I still tend to prefer Davis's earlier recording, mostly for the cast. Only Petra Lang, on the second recording, is an improvement on Lindholm in the first. For the rest, I prefer the earlier cast.

Nice one - hopefully I will get to hear the earlier recording at some stage... :)
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1461 on: January 03, 2019, 02:06:51 AM »
Nice one - hopefully I will get to hear the earlier recording at some stage... :)

The latest recording under Nelson is also excellent, but I still tend to prefer Davis's first trailblazing recording. As a supplement, one also really needs Janet Baker's recording of the final scenes.



Baker first sang Didon with Scottish Opera, and later was a last minute substitute for an ailing Veasey at Covent Garden (singing Didon in English, whilst the rest of the cast sang in French), and it is a great pity she was not engaed for the recording. Not that Veasey is bad; just that Baker would have been even better.


« Last Edit: January 03, 2019, 02:17:34 AM by Tsaraslondon »
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Maestro267

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1462 on: January 04, 2019, 12:04:53 PM »
Puccini: Tosca
Caballé, Carreras, Wixell, etc.
Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House/C. Davis

First time listening to this (the opera, not just this recording), having purchased it yesterday.

Offline Alberich

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1463 on: January 04, 2019, 12:18:44 PM »


Exhilarating recording so far. "Nume custode e vindice" is brilliantly conducted and sung.
"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."

- Victor Hugo

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1464 on: January 04, 2019, 12:37:09 PM »
Puccini: Tosca
Caballé, Carreras, Wixell, etc.
Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House/C. Davis

First time listening to this (the opera, not just this recording), having purchased it yesterday.

I've always liked the Davis recording, whilst still finding that the mono Callas/De Sabata still trumps the lot. One of the undisputedly greatest opera recordings of all times, it demands to be heard. The sound is more than acceptable in its recent Warner transfer. Just be sure to go for the 1953 recording under De Sabata, not the 1964 under Prêtre which finds La Divina in much frailer voice.



Review of it here

https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2017/01/09/tosca-1953/

« Last Edit: January 04, 2019, 12:38:53 PM 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 #1465 on: January 04, 2019, 12:41:21 PM »


Exhilarating recording so far. "Nume custode e vindice" is brilliantly conducted and sung.

The only thing I can remember about this recording is that Nilsson just didn't sound like an Aida to me. Much too steely and not nearly vulnerable enough. Shame, because I think it's Corelli's only studio recording of Radames.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Online André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1466 on: January 04, 2019, 01:40:30 PM »
The only thing I can remember about this recording is that Nilsson just didn't sound like an Aida to me. Much too steely and not nearly vulnerable enough. Shame, because I think it's Corelli's only studio recording of Radames.

This has always been a kind of ugly duckling among Aida recordings. Nilsson is not italianate enough, Mehta’s conducting is erratic, blablabla. I love this performance. It may lack refinement but it doesn’t lack excitement or involvement. Real ‘stand and deliver’ stuff.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1467 on: January 06, 2019, 03:49:35 AM »


As I say in my review on my blog, if your preference is for a recording which allows you to wallow in lush sounds, glorious tunes and gorgeous voices, then this recording is probably not for you. If however, like me, you think the opera is more than just a sentimental bot poiler, then this recording brings you face to face with real life in all its raw pain and tragedy. Butterfly's predicament has hardly, if ever been so heartrendingly expressed.

You would never guess that Callas was yet to sing the role on stage, so complete is her identification with the character, and Gedda is a lot better than he is often given credit for; not a down and out cad, but a charming young man, who does a terribly thoughtless thing, which he deeply regrets at the end of the opera.

Be advised though, listening to this recording (by which I mean giving one's full attention and not putting it on while you get on with something else) is a deeply upsetting experience. It's not one I can subject myself to too often.

Fuller review here https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/madama-butterfly/
« Last Edit: January 06, 2019, 04:47:21 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 #1468 on: January 07, 2019, 06:19:38 AM »


This first recording of Poulenc's opera has a great deal of historical significance. The French premiere took place on 21 June 1957 (the opera receieved its world premiere, in Italian, at La Scala, Milan the previous January) and in 1958 conductor Pierre Dervaux took most of the cast from the French premiere into the studio to record it. I must say it's a great pleasure to hear such clear, forwardly placed voices enunciate the text so clearly, not something we are used to so much these days.

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

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1469 on: January 08, 2019, 02:16:50 PM »


Mehta's recording of Turandot is justly famous, but his recording of La Fanciulla del West is arguably just as good, and in fact won a tranche of awards when it was first released.

It is based on performances of a spectacular new production at Covent Garden (which I saw in revival with the same two leads). The main difference from the stage performances is that Sherrill Milnes replaced Silvano Carroli, presumbaly because he was a bigger name.

All three stars acquit themselves admirably and Carol Neblett, who for a short time was the Minnie to see is just about perfect in the role, warmer voiced than Nilsson, securer on high than Tebaldi. Supporting roles are all well characterised, with a superb contribution from Gwynne Howell as Jake Wallace.

I think the score one of Puccini's finest, but I still have a few problems accepting tough miners crying over missing their mothers and dancing together for entertainment. I just find it a bit hard to take. Nevertheless this is a great set.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Online André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1470 on: January 08, 2019, 05:55:55 PM »
+ 1.

Indeed, an excellent version. It helps that Neblett has such a great partner as Domingo. The other sets are not as judiciously cast. In this particular opera the excellent, atmospheric engineering works wonders. One of these opera sets where everything was right.

Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1471 on: January 08, 2019, 06:26:25 PM »
+ 1.

Indeed, an excellent version. It helps that Neblett has such a great partner as Domingo. The other sets are not as judiciously cast. In this particular opera the excellent, atmospheric engineering works wonders. One of these opera sets where everything was right.
+2. I bought it originally because I wanted to determine for myself if (and/or how much) Andrew Lloyd Webber had stolen from here. I remember thinking 'ah ha' when the part came, but I was so bowled over by the opera, that I didn't go back until I'd listened to it all. It's funny how for some pieces there are simply no sets available that quite get it all right and then there are sets like this where it all falls into place just right. A joy from start to finish and the rare opera with a (mostly) happy ending! :)
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Offline JBS

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1472 on: January 08, 2019, 07:29:46 PM »


Mehta's recording of Turandot is justly famous, but his recording of La Fanciulla del West is arguably just as good, and in fact won a tranche of awards when it was first released.

It is based on performances of a spectacular new production at Covent Garden (which I saw in revival with the same two leads). The main difference from the stage performances is that Sherrill Milnes replaced Silvano Carroli, presumbaly because he was a bigger name.

All three stars acquit themselves admirably and Carol Neblett, who for a short time was the Minnie to see is just about perfect in the role, warmer voiced than Nilsson, securer on high than Tebaldi. Supporting roles are all well characterised, with a superb contribution from Gwynne Howell as Jake Wallace.

I think the score one of Puccini's finest, but I still have a few problems accepting tough miners crying over missing their mothers and dancing together for entertainment. I just find it a bit hard to take. Nevertheless this is a great set.

I have that production on DVD, and agree about the quality.  Miners dancing with each other when no females were about happened quite a bit--they needed entertainment like everyone else--and occurred on other occasions when women were in short supply, especially among Civil War troops. The crying over mothers is not so heavily documented, but 19th century Americans seem to be more sentimental than we moderns.

At any rate, the opera is well worth seeking out.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1473 on: January 09, 2019, 02:22:16 AM »
I have that production on DVD, and agree about the quality.  Miners dancing with each other when no females were about happened quite a bit--they needed entertainment like everyone else--and occurred on other occasions when women were in short supply, especially among Civil War troops. The crying over mothers is not so heavily documented, but 19th century Americans seem to be more sentimental than we moderns.

At any rate, the opera is well worth seeking out.

I know you're right, of course. Certainly about the dancing, but all that crying about "la mia mamma" seems altogether too, well, Italian!  ;D All opera requires quite a lot of suspension of disbelief of course, but that stretches it just a bit too far. But, as I said, musically I think it one of Puccini's greatest scores.

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

Offline ritter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1474 on: January 09, 2019, 04:16:34 AM »
Indeed, the Mehta is an excellent recording of what I too consider one of Puccini”s greatest achievements (if not, the greatest). Especially, the second act is really wonderful.

La fanciulla... may be one of the few operas that would work much better in concert performance rather than fully staged...we‘d be spared the spaghetti western visuals (and the libretto is too feeble to withstand any sort of Regietheater approach)...
« Last Edit: January 09, 2019, 02:04:27 PM by ritter »
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1475 on: January 09, 2019, 07:11:32 AM »
Indeed, the Mehta is an excellent recording of what I too consider one of Puccini”s greatest achievements (if not, the greatest). Especially, the second act is really wonderful.

La fanciulla may be one of the few operas that would work much better in concert performance rather than fully staged...we‘d be spared the spaghetti western visuals (and the libretto is too feeble to withstand any sort of Regietheater approach)...

Well, yes and no. The Covent Garden production on which the Mehta recording was based was really splendid and quite realistic, with a whole hut on stage (minus the fourth wall) for Act II and, strangely enouh, I don't remember being bothered by any spaghetti western connotations. Maybe my disbelief was more easily suspended back then. I've no doubt it was extremely expensive and I doubt anyone could afford to stage it like that these days.


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

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1476 on: January 11, 2019, 01:56:59 AM »


The critics weren't particularly kind to this when it was performed by the LSO under Previn in a semi-staged version at the Barbican,. Andrew Clements in the Guardian was particularly vitriolic, but I have a lot of affection for it, as I played the doctor who takes Blanche off to the asylum at the end. I also doubled as one of Stanley's cronies and one of the soldiers in a dream sequence when she recounts visiting the baracks. It was quite something having Renee Fleming singing into my ear, as she draped herself over my naked torso!

The score is derivative no doubt, but very approachable, with elements of jazz and reminiscent of Korngold. It was premiered in San Francisco and has had quite a few different performances round the world, but whether it survives remains to be seen.

Janice Watson replaced Elizabeth Futral in London, but Fleming, Gilfrey and Griffey all reprised their roles from this production.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1477 on: January 12, 2019, 11:41:18 AM »


One wouldn't really think of Callas as a natural for Mimi, but then many would not count her a natural for Gilda or Amina either, and yet she made highly successful recordings of both. As is her wont, she enters fully into the character, charming and diffident in the first two acts, but revealing a deeper vein of tragedy in the latter two acts than is often the case.

The opera is cast from strength with Di Stefano in one of his best roles, Panerai a superb Marcello and Moffo a welcome relief from some of the sparky soubrettes who often play Musetta.

Along with Beecham and Karajan, one of the most successful recordings of La Bohème out there, depite Votto being reliable rather than inspired.

I review the set in more depth here https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/la-boheme/
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Online André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1478 on: January 13, 2019, 07:13:30 PM »
Henry Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas in these three versions:







Composed around 1690, Dido as opera is a curious case, bearing only passing resemblance to the next centuries’ works for the stage with their often elaborate plots and musical structure. The first of the 3 versions above presents only what seems to have been left by Purcell - although nothing is certain, as the opera was known only through private performances based on manuscripts. It was printed for the first time in 1840 and it took another 100 years or so before opera houses in England started to take interest. The Leppard version thus presents the music with no extra material, resulting in a chop chop structure where recits, arias and dances are strung together with little concern for dramatic continuity. IOW we get something like Zauberflöte with no dialogue. Except that in the latter case we get all of Mozart’s music, whereas in Purcell’s time one would most certainly have expected various pantomimes, dance or music interludes to be performed, whether from other Purcell works or from other composers’. As for the performance, it (Leppard’s) is closer to an oratorio than a flesh and blood music drama.

The two other versions make a bold attempt at creating a fuller spectacle, with linking material (extra dances, a thunder and wind machine here, a guitar chaconne there). Also, the use of PI and a more interventionist hand from the conductor makes for far more lively and dramatically involving performances. Currentzis is the more interesting and imaginative - some would say provocative - influence here. Haïm is more refined in her shaping and handling of the numbers, but in the end hers sounds like a very good update of the conventional approach. It thus falls to Currentzis to really shake the cobwebs off the work. IMO he succeeds brilliantly, even if doubts arise here and there. There are too many differences, large and small, to detail, but both accounts present a rewarding and complete experience.

When it comes to the singers, just about anything goes, so a role by role comparison is impossible. Dido has been sung by contraltos (Ferrier), wagnerian sopranos (Flagstad), and all sorts of medium to dark female voices. Norman is regal to a fault, and her diction is not always impeccable. Kermes (Currentzis) is a light voice, but one with myriad nuances of light and shade. Her pianissimi are breathtakingly beautiful. Graham has a beautiful instrument, but IMO she doesn’t use it to produce a strongly individual vocal portrayal. IOW she sounds slightly anonymous.

The role of Aeneas is similarly allotted to various kinds of male voices. Under Leppard we have bass-baritone Thomas Allen. Strong of voice but he doesn’t convince as Dido’s love interest. One wonders why she goes berserk over him. With Currentzis and Haïm we have Dimitris Tiliakos, a baritone and Ian Bostridge, a tenor. Both are sharply individual of voice and create a believable portrayal. Bostridge has the edge IMO. As Belinda, we always get a light soprano voice. For my taste Currentzis’ Deborah York has it game, set and match over Haïm’s Camilla Tilling. York’s way with the tongue twisting "Haste, haste to town" is dazzling and a vocal high point of the work, something like Der hölle rache in Zauberflöte.

The important parts of the sorceress, the voice of Spirit and the chorus fare about equally. The choruses are more sizzling under Currentzis (superb laughing choruses), the Sorceress and Spirit more characterful and sharply individual under Haïm. I prefer Currentzis’ Sailor to Haïm’s.

And so it goes. Dido is such a short opera that listening to 2 performances in a row is shorter than going through the first act of Parsifal (!!), and since Currentzis and Haïm provide complementary virtues and contrasting experiences, I will listen to both again when Dido comes calling.
« Last Edit: January 13, 2019, 07:15:05 PM by André »

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1479 on: January 14, 2019, 02:27:17 AM »


This was the first opera set I ever owned and, as such, has a great deal of significance in my life. Norma swiftly became my favourte opera, though I despair of ever hearing it adequately sung and staged live.

Of Callas's two studio recordings this one has by far the better cast. Corelli and Zaccaria completely outshine the crudely inadequate Fillipeschi and woolly-toned Rossi-Lemeni in the first and, for my money, Ludwig outshines the over-the-hill Stignani. She was an unexpected, but very successful, piece of casting, sounding, as she should, like the younger woman. Her coloratura may not be as precise as Callas's, but the two singers blend their voices surprisingly well.

As for Callas, the voice has deteriorated in the 6 years since the first recording, though not as disastrously as one might expect. The middle and lower parts of the voice are still beautiful, her command of legato unparalleled, but the top of the voice can now sound edgy and hard. For all that she still makes more of the role than any other recorded singer. Furthermore her characterisation has deepened even further, with certain passages almost more experienced than sung.

John Steane put it very succinctly when he suggested that for Callas as Norma, you take 1954, but for Norma with Callas, then the second recording is the better option.

I might add that for Callas as Norma and Norma with Callas, then you opt for the live 1955 La Scala account, with Simionato and Del Monacao, which sounds very well, especialy in its Divina transfer, and captures Callas on a night when everything seemed to be going right.

Fuller review of the 1960 studio set on my blog https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2017/01/07/callass-1960-norma/

« Last Edit: January 14, 2019, 03:20:11 AM by Tsaraslondon »
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas