Author Topic: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?  (Read 157101 times)

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Offline Todd

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1700 on: June 09, 2019, 04:39:47 PM »
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Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1701 on: June 10, 2019, 10:29:31 AM »
After Schreker’s wonderful Der ferne Klang, some more familiar stuff :

Quote
Smetana’s Bartered Bride in the german translation that brought it success on german/austrian stages. The Bamberger Symphoniker was made up of expats from the Prague German Opera. The idiom is pretty much in their blood. Splendid singing. The star of the show is Gottlob Frick’s Osmin-like marriage courtier. I guess making fun of the stuttering character of Wenzel is not quite politically correct.



Splendid production. I have the original czech language version lined up for listening some time later.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1702 on: June 14, 2019, 01:51:09 AM »


Karajan's second recording of Aida was recorded, like the first one, in Vienna  in 1979 exactly twenty years later. For some reason, it is usually passed over in favour of the first, which starred the more obvious Aida cast of Tebaldi, Bergonzi, Simionato and MacNeil. Personally, I've always preferred this later one with a cast which, on paper, might seem lightweight, but actually works in practice very well.

Roughly contemporaneous with Karajan's Berlin recording of Don Carlo this Vienna recording, though still wide ranging, is much better, more natural, putting the voices in a more natural acoustic, and Karajan in so many places brings out the beauty and lyricism of the score. He paces the score brilliantly and is most attentive to his singers. Not that this is an undramatic reading. Far from it. Though tempi can be measured, Karajan is an experienced Verdian and still infuses them with energy. The orchestral climaxes are stunning and all the singers relish the text and sing off the words. It hardly needs be said that the Vienna Philharmonic play magnificently.

Freni is a little taxed in places, nor does she command the sheer beauty of sound Caballé does on the Muti recording, but what pleasure it is to hear the text so well enunciated, so clearly communicated. Her Aida is lyrically vulnerable and I actually prefer it to many who one might consider more vocally entitled. Carreras is likewise a lyrical Radames, and his voice was still very beautiful at this phase of his career. He too sings well off the text. I like, for instance, the reflective way he sings Se quel guerrier io fossi, becoming more forceful in the second part of the recitative when he sings about the applause of all Memphis, before softening his tone again when he sings about Aida. How much of this is Carreras, how much Karajan I don't know, but it makes for a more thoughtful reading than we often get.

Baltsa was also at her absolute vocal peak, though she is no barnstorming Amneris. She reminds us that Amneris is a young spoiled princess, used to getting her own way but also vulnerably feminine and a vaild rival for Aida. It is a very convincing portrayal and she is absolutely thrilling in the judgement scene. Cappuccilli is maybe not so implacable an Amonasro as Gobbi, but he also sings well off the words, and Raimondi and Van Dam are nicely contrasted as Ramfis and the King. The silken voiced Ricciarelli is luxury casting as the Priestess.

An excellent set, well worth investigating and, in my opinion, much more dramatically alive than the 1959 set, which has always seemed a little too self-consciously beautiful for my taste.


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

Offline knight66

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1703 on: June 14, 2019, 02:50:15 AM »
I have had this set in one format or another since it was first issued. I don’t connect all that well with Freni, I don’t think she dominates the soundscape where I like a voice with more heft. But there is a lot to enjoy. And Baltsa sounds seductive where a number in her part sound like harridans.

I wish the voices were a bit more forward. Karajan is for me too fond of sinking the voices into the orchestral textures. However, I enjoy the whole thing more than Karajan’s earlier recording.

Mike
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1704 on: June 14, 2019, 03:07:00 AM »

I wish the voices were a bit more forward. Karajan is for me too fond of sinking the voices into the orchestral textures. However, I enjoy the whole thing more than Karajan’s earlier recording.

Mike

I was listening on headphones this time round and I didn't feel I had to strain to hear the voices as often happens on his Don Carlo, though the voices are occasionally submerged as you say. It is perhaps a less natural acoustic than, say, the new Pappano, but Karajan's cast is, for the most part, superior.

I know what you mean about Freni. The role cries out for a Ponselle, a Tebaldi or a Price, but afterwards I lstened to some of Karajan's first recording and, though Tebaldi is much more vocally entitled, I found Freni more communicative. I suppose it's one of the reasons I still enjoy Callas in the role, though I don't think she was ever that suited to it vocally. Her Aida is more alive to the drama than any, and the Nile duet with her and Gobbi's Amonasro has never been bettered. Serafin is rarely given enough credit, but his conducting at this point, possibly spurred on by his two soloists, is pure brilliance.

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

Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1705 on: June 14, 2019, 11:12:46 AM »
Cross posted from WAYLT thread:

Quote


Act III

I made it!

Quite enjoyable, actually. For me the crux lies in having two outstanding singing basses in the roles of Ochs and Faninal, as well as a conductor who can make the orchestra sing, swing and swoon when appropriate. As for the female leads, they have been lucky on record. I think I have an idea for the next version I’ll buy. This one is excellent overall but a bit dated sonically. Plus, it’s sometimes hard to distinguish some of the voices when they sing in the same vocal range (Weber and Poell for example).

Offline knight66

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1706 on: June 18, 2019, 12:17:24 AM »
The recent Gramophone magazine had a long article on Pavarotti, interesting and informative. It was not a hagiographical piece, but an evaluation of him and there were some frank recollections of the very mixed blessing of working with him. I have his famous Puccini recordings, but the only Verdi I had of his was Otello and I ditched it.

I went on-line to look for bargains and found some. I am working my way through the arrivals.

Verdi Un Ballo, Pavarotti, Margaret Price, Bruson, Ludwig and Battle. The National Phil Orch is conducted by Solti.

The sound is glossy and very immediate, the feel is pretty red blooded. Pavarotti sings beautifully and is engaged. He does not blast it all out and really uses the words to propulse the music. He colours them and integrates the colours so that nothing sounds exaggerated. Price is just perfect for me with enough weight and her peerless phrasing and really fine acting. I never tire of hearing her. Bruson sounds much juicier than I had expected and I enjoyed his engagement with his role. Ludwig, well, this seems odd casting to me. I just don’t think she makes that much of an impression. Battle is fine, though these lad parts are really quite odd, I think they inadvertently draw attention to the guying and away from the focus on the drama. Actually, I find them flat out irritating.

Solti does provide a lot of bite and drama, but to my ears he also allows contrasts of space and time so as not to exhaust the listener. I liked the whole set a lot, just as much as the other versions that I have had for a long time. And with full libretto etc, under £4 for the set, it was a real bargain.

Mike
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Offline knight66

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1707 on: June 24, 2019, 06:23:15 AM »
Next up in the Pavarotti sets is the Decca studio Il Trovatore. Sutherland, Pavarotti Horne, Wixell, Ghiaurov conductor Bonynge

This seems a very odd set it was recorded in 1976, a little past the best of Sutherland, she was 50, but her singing still sounds accurate, no disturbing vibrato or any other noticeable problem. The cast looks good, but this is not Verdi as we expect him. The pulse is often slow, the rhythms are rarely lifted and there is a lack of drama. Giulini’s set has been criticised as slow, but it is dark and tense and has drama where this set sits in neutral. And it is evident that Bonynge has reshaped the piece as a bel canto opera somewhat akin to, say, Norma. Drama is kept in check until the final scene where things hot up.

Sutherland is not without expression, but it does not feel like she is putting her back into it. Pavarotti does not have the weight of voice for the heavier moments. di quella sounds constricted and he does not relish the words in the way we expect of him. Horne is fine, perhaps a bit lightweight for the part, which surprised me.

Overall, it lacks sweep, drama and weight. There is nothing awful here, but not much that sounds quite right.

Mike
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Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1708 on: June 24, 2019, 03:42:34 PM »
Next up in the Pavarotti sets is the Decca studio Il Trovatore. Sutherland, Pavarotti Horne, Wixell, Ghiaurov conductor Bonynge

This seems a very odd set it was recorded in 1976, a little past the best of Sutherland, she was 50, but her singing still sounds accurate, no disturbing vibrato or any other noticeable problem. The cast looks good, but this is not Verdi as we expect him. The pulse is often slow, the rhythms are rarely lifted and there is a lack of drama. Giulini’s set has been criticised as slow, but it is dark and tense and has drama where this set sits in neutral. And it is evident that Bonynge has reshaped the piece as a bel canto opera somewhat akin to, say, Norma. Drama is kept in check until the final scene where things hot up.

Sutherland is not without expression, but it does not feel like she is putting her back into it. Pavarotti does not have the weight of voice for the heavier moments. di quella sounds constricted and he does not relish the words in the way we expect of him. Horne is fine, perhaps a bit lightweight for the part, which surprised me.

Overall, it lacks sweep, drama and weight. There is nothing awful here, but not much that sounds quite right.

Mike

+ 1

 The cd reissue has ditched the ballet, a sound decision considering the general slackness of the performance. And yet I keep liking it. For some reason it reminds me of these silent movies where every gesture and facial expression is exaggerated.  :)

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1709 on: June 25, 2019, 01:28:55 AM »
Next up in the Pavarotti sets is the Decca studio Il Trovatore. Sutherland, Pavarotti Horne, Wixell, Ghiaurov conductor Bonynge

This seems a very odd set it was recorded in 1976, a little past the best of Sutherland, she was 50, but her singing still sounds accurate, no disturbing vibrato or any other noticeable problem. The cast looks good, but this is not Verdi as we expect him. The pulse is often slow, the rhythms are rarely lifted and there is a lack of drama. Giulini’s set has been criticised as slow, but it is dark and tense and has drama where this set sits in neutral. And it is evident that Bonynge has reshaped the piece as a bel canto opera somewhat akin to, say, Norma. Drama is kept in check until the final scene where things hot up.

Sutherland is not without expression, but it does not feel like she is putting her back into it. Pavarotti does not have the weight of voice for the heavier moments. di quella sounds constricted and he does not relish the words in the way we expect of him. Horne is fine, perhaps a bit lightweight for the part, which surprised me.

Overall, it lacks sweep, drama and weight. There is nothing awful here, but not much that sounds quite right.

Mike

I heard it when it first came out and tried it again via spotifty a couple of years ago. Totally unimpressed both times. None of the voices are quite right for the roles they are singing and Bonynge's conducting is slack and just "not quite right" as you put it.
A good Leonora needs a good lower register, which has always been the weak chink in Sutherland's armoury, nor does her voice have the right tinta for the role. Think Ponselle, Callas, Price or Plowright. Same with Horne. Azucena needs a Simionato, a Cossotto or a Barbieri. Fassbaender is not really quite right either, but she is such an intelligent singer that she still convinces.

I expected Pavarotti to make a better Manrico than he does, but it doesn't quite come off. Di Stefano on the first Karajan set is also light of voice, but just about gets away with it because of his sheer personality.

I doubt it would figure high on anyone's list of recommendable Trovatores.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline JBS

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1710 on: June 25, 2019, 09:20:50 AM »
I have this DVD which I watched once, and that was more than enough

Empty headed singing from everyone on hand is the best way I could describe it, although I should note that Milnes made so little an impact on me that I don't even remember him being in the cast....

Offline JBS

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1711 on: June 30, 2019, 04:50:05 PM »
Granados's tragic opera in three scenes


Recorded in concert at the Barbican in January 2018.

The chorus is active, almost dominant in the first two scenes. But absent in the third scene. The plot and the characters are rather flimsy. 
Rosario is an aristocratic woman, Fernando an army officer who is her lover.
Paquiro is a bullfighter. Pepa is a maja, and to the extent Paquiro has a girlfriend, she is it.  Paquiro flirts with Rosario and makes both Pepa and Fernando jealous.   Paquiro invites Rosario to a ball that night. In the end, Rosario goes with Fernando and Pepa with Paquiro.  Fernando is rude to everyone, especially Paquiro,  who eventually arranges a duel with him. In the third scene, Rosario has an aria and a duet with Fernando in a garden before the duel. He leaves for the duel, and returns mortally wounded, dying in Rosario's arms. She faints when she realizes he is dead.
That's the plot, in 59'33" on this recording.

Sound is better than on many LSO Live recordings done in the same premises. Chorus good, singers capable. (Hard to say more, since of the four soloists only Rosario, sung here by Nancy Fabiola Herrera, has anything more than dialogue or scattered one liners.)

Offline ritter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1712 on: July 07, 2019, 08:12:12 AM »
Cross-posted from the WAYLTN thread:

Listening to this delightful curiosity :


Paul Le Flem’s Aucassin et Nicolette is a hybrid, but thoroughly enchanting piece. This chantefable from 1909, conceived  as a chamber opera for puppets (or rather, as a shadow play) in some aspects reminds the listener of a perennial favourite of mine, Falla’s El retablo de Maese Pedro (which is from ca. 15 years later). The first chords and choral phrases, with their archaising and rather stern sound, seem right out of Frank Martin’s Le vin herbé (which is from about 40 years later), but then we are plunged into vocal writing clearly inspired in Pelléas et Mélisande (it seems that Le Flem was obsessed with Debussy’s opera, and attended 29 performances of its first run), combined with a tenderness and delicacy in the scoring which is almost Ravelian. Wonderfully performances by the soloists, conductor Nicolas Chalvin and his Savoyard forces. Highly recommended.
ritter
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« Des yeux purs dans les bois
Cherchent en pleurant la tête habitable »

Offline SurprisedByBeauty

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    anything from Monteverdi to Widmann and well beyond in either direction and everything in the middle!

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1714 on: July 13, 2019, 11:33:42 PM »


I have a certain amount of affection for this recording of Tosca despite its shortcomings, as it was the first recording of the opera I owned. Despite Callas's vocal shortcomings in 1964, it is still a vital perforance, even if it is not in the same class as the De Sabata 1953 studio recording. I would also now prefer the live 1964 Covent Garden recording, especially in its recent Warner master. That said, I do still get this set down from the shelves from time to time, as in some ways, having gone through the experience of re-thinking the role for Zeffirelli's Covent Garden production, Callas has deepened her characterisation, even if she no longer quite has the vocal means to carry it off.

Fuller review on my blog https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2017/01/06/callass-stereo-tosca/
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1715 on: July 21, 2019, 06:52:55 AM »





The first three are DVDs, listed in order of preference for art direction, sets, lighting, costumes - that sort of thing. The last one is a cd of a live performance.

As for interpretations, the Braunfels work has no competition, but I really liked the involvement of everyone on board. The production by EntArte Opera marked the work’s centenary (1913). This Ulenspiegel has little to do with the Strauss prankster. He’s a self-serving, cynic punk who eventually finds a cause to channel his energies. Braunfels wrote his own libretto, based on Charles de Coster’s famous novel. 16th century Flanders is transposed to a roughly contemporary period (1970-1980ish if one is to judge from the props). The thuggish occupying forces are suitably sinister. The characters and argument are quite close to Beethoven’s Fidelio (same timeline and story setting, with a strong resemblance between some of the characters). Transposing the story to a contemporary setting was a good idea, superbly brought off by stage director Roland Schwab. Not a masterpiece, but a welcome exploration of the byways of the repertoire.

Karajan's Carmen is, thankfully, not a Karajan vehicle, but a faithful, artful and tasteful representation of the opera, in conventional setting. There are some departures: the scene at Lilas Pastia’s inn includes a couple of dance numbers, with the participation of Ballet de España, to music from Bizet’s L’Arlésienne. Nice touch. Unconscionably though, part of the last act is missing (the colourful crowd scene À deux cuartos). Why ? This is senseless. Also, this is a playback performance. Although well done, with the obvious intent of getting the most perfect singing and acting (not a given in a filmed live performance, where the camera shots can reveal the singers’ teeth fillings, sweating, and other distracting bits), I think I could have lived with a real stage performance. It helps that some of the acting is indeed superb (Bumbry in particular) and the singing uniformly excellent - glorious indeed from principals Bumbry, Vickers and Díaz. As always, Freni manages to mangle the pronunciation, but she does it charmingly. As filmed performances of Carmen go, this one is of very high quality.

Settings and art direction let the Lucia di Lammermoor production down. Boring. Bonfadelli’s Lucia starts shakily, but she gains strength and vocal focus as the performance builds. Her mad scene is quite good vocally and she acts really well. Alvarez perspires profusely and his acting is wooden, Pavarotti style. I don’t think I’ll watch this again.

Midway through Haitink’s Damnation de Faust. Played by the Netherlands Radio Philharmonic and recorded in the Amsterdam Concertgebouw in 2001. As always, I find the first part mostly uninteresting. Past the superb prologue, the various peasant/student/pilgrim choruses, ballet numbers and tavern songs bore me no end. Personally I would trim a lot of it. Annoyingly, the Faust and Méphisto can’t pronounce the french text properly. Vinson Cole’s delivery of the lines is slightly cautious and scholarly, and Quasthoff’s maddeningly inconsistent. Both sing very well, though. Karajan’s decision to have a well-rehearsed studio performance for the audio portion of his Carmen may be a good one after all... Hopefully parts 3 and 4 will improve this overall impression.

EDIT: I have finished the recording of Damnation and fortunately the performance improves markedly in the last part, where the sizzle and drama of the Course à l’abîme and the Pandaemonium inspire the performers to give of their best. That is especially true of the conductor and chorus. Haitink is fired up in the proceedings, whereas previously he sounded merely attentive and dutiful. The Netherlands Radio Chorus is a sterling group, with impeccable diction. All the words are crystal clear even in the tumultuous last numbers. Its proximity to France and Belgium and the long tradition of visiting/resident french conductors (Monteux, Fournet) must have left a mark. Before that, we had Charlotte Margiono singing Marguerite in Part 3. Although the voice is good, the characterization is very bland. Her D’amour l’ardente flamme goes by without leaving a trace. To hear Callas in this extraordinary aria is to experience greatness. Margiono is merely efficient here. So, no cigar for this production despite the overall excellence of the last part.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2019, 06:11:10 PM by André »

Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1716 on: July 21, 2019, 05:46:05 PM »
Cross-posted from the WAYL thread:

Quote


Spectacular singing from the principals, excellent choral and orchestral performances, all captured in beautiful sonics (from the Amsterdam Concertgebouw). All that's missing is a touch of daring and imagination from Orgonasova. Ah non giunge is sung almost timidly, as if this Amina couldn’t believe her good luck. I miss the rythmic exuberance and vocal spunk of Callas here (Mado Robin too, but I know her take on italian coloratura roles is an acquired taste  :D). Orgonasova became a favourite singer of Harnoncourt’s and Gardiner’s, notably in mozartian roles. She is caught here in her early prime, the voice beautiful and the coloratura impeccable. Gimenéz, a Rossini specialist, is sweet-toned and flawless as Elvino. Lisa is sung by the Uyghur diva Dilber Yunus, giving Orgonasova a run for her money in the vocal pyrotechnics department.

This is a live performance from 1992. The normally well-behaved Amsterdamers go wild after each act. Other than this sign of enthusiasm, not a peep or a sneeze is heard from the audience - purrrrfect. A most satisfying release, possibly the best opera set ever issued on that label.

Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1717 on: July 23, 2019, 11:32:43 AM »
Cross-posted from the WAYL thread:

Quote
Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmann:



From this box:



This version of Offenbach’s most successful stage work get very high marks on my scorecard. Foreign accents (Domingo, Sutherland, Plishka) are acceptable and practically all the other roles are expertly handled by francophone singers. The all-important chorus parts are crisp and lively, and Bonynge conducts with flair and not a hint of heaviness. Superb sound and effective production tricks, à la Decca. Bacquier, Cuénod and Sutherland carry all before them in their multiple roles. What’s not to like?

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1718 on: July 24, 2019, 11:15:00 AM »
I have the Bonynge set and agree that it's a front-runner, though I do have a couple of problems with it. I like Domingo and Bacquier, but personally, I prefer different singers for the heroines, as each requires quite different vocal skills. Sutherland is spectacular as Olympia, but hardly makes a seductive Giulietta, and tends to resort to her moony, droopy manner for Antonia.

There are a couple of others on my radar; a live one with Domingo and Malfitano and the Cluytens with Jobin.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1719 on: July 24, 2019, 02:11:18 PM »
 One downside on the first one (Jobin) is Jobin himself, not a very subtle performer IMO (nice voice notwithstanding) and another one is the casting of Bourvil as Pitichinaccio & Co. I find him insufferable  :-X. I am not familiar with the second, stereo performance. There’s also the Nagano version. I wonder if he gets the flow of the work right? Bonynge really scores big here.

The various soprano and bass roles being sung by a single performer is a standard practice as they are supposed to be avatars of the same characters. It’s not as objectionable as when a bass takes on Boris, Pimen and Varlaam. That being said, it’s nice to have different voices too, provided they are of equal quality.