Author Topic: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?  (Read 307551 times)

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Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1880 on: February 12, 2020, 05:20:46 PM »


This is a disc of highlights, some 70 minutes from Donizetti’s popular comic opera. I have listened to a couple of Met broadcasts in the past and have the Sutherland/Pavarotti recording, but have listened to it only once a long time ago. I’ve always found the work very slight.

Pavarotti’s timbre is pinched and the tessitura of Nemorino seems to lie too high for his 55 year old self.  A number of tenors have invested more pathos in Una furtiva lagrima. Pavarotti just doesn't seem interested any more. Battle is charming and sings beautifully. Not much fun is derived from Nucci’s gruff Belcore. Not bad, but not recommended.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1881 on: February 13, 2020, 01:51:21 AM »


This is a disc of highlights, some 70 minutes from Donizetti’s popular comic opera. I have listened to a couple of Met broadcasts in the past and have the Sutherland/Pavarotti recording, but have listened to it only once a long time ago. I’ve always found the work very slight.

Pavarotti’s timbre is pinched and the tessitura of Nemorino seems to lie too high for his 55 year old self.  A number of tenors have invested more pathos in Una furtiva lagrima. Pavarotti just doesn't seem interested any more. Battle is charming and sings beautifully. Not much fun is derived from Nucci’s gruff Belcore. Not bad, but not recommended.

The work is slight, though I've always liked it more than the rather cruel humour of Don Pasquale.

My favourite recording would be the Pritchard with Cotrubas, Domingo, Wixell and Geraint Evans, which was based on performances at Covent Garden, though Carreras was the Nemorino in the stage production. Carreras at that stage in his career would probably have been a better choice as this was recorded round about the same time Doming was moving on to Otello, but it has to be said that Domingo performs miracles in lightening his voice.

Pavarotti is excellent on the Bonynge, but Sutherland is a bit po faced as Adina.
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Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1882 on: February 13, 2020, 12:37:51 PM »


Magic Flute is probably the opera I have listened to the most in my listening life. My first ever disc was an Heliodor LP of highlights from the Fricsay version purchased when I was in college, around age 16. The college store had a fine assortment of classical music back then, including the Bruckner symphonies by Jochum  :o.

I find MF can be listened to at different levels: the full operatic experience, complete with the dialogues, or in abridged, dialogueless form (as here). Or even in highlights, when one feels like having fun with just the great overture and best arias. Despite its origin as a singspiel composed for a small theater, it’s an incredible vocal feast. No basso profundo or dramatic coloratura soprano has ever stayed away from the roles of Sarastro or Astrafiammante, the Queen of the Night. Some roles are written for modest voices (Monastatos), some require the highest level of vocal purity and technique (Pamina). And some parts like those of the Three Ladies or the Three Boys are conceived as one role spoken by three voices, an idea picked up by Verdi and Wagner 50-60 years later.

So, to the recording at hand: the original 3 cd issue contained the full dialogue and lasted over 160 minutes. When reissued, the dialogue was dropped and the timing shortened by 30 minutes. Other versions used the abridged sung-only solution, like Karajan (EMI), Böhm (Decca) and Klemperer (EMI). Others use a modicum of dialogue (Fricsay), but nowadays we usually get a full dialogue experience.

Davis conducts affectionately but IMO he misses some of the sparkle and is sometimes too smooth for the music’s good. An instance in point is Papageno’s entrance aria. Even given the singer’s choice of tempo the conductor could have used a more pointed, fresher way with the accompaniment. So, a measure of fun and buoyancy is missing. Great playing from the orchestra, though. All the singers are good to superb. In order of excellence (best first) are Kurt Moll, the Three Boys (!), Margaret Price (creamy of voice but a tad marmoreal), Peter Schreier, Luciana Serra (very fine vocalism, a more vulnerable than usual Queen), Mikael Melbye, Theo Adam. In the ‘adequate’ category, Robert Tear and the Three Ladies. So, not a top contender, but a good one, especially for Moll’s best incarnation of Sarastro on disc (others are with Solti and Sawallisch), and a classy account of Pamina by Margaret Price.


Offline mc ukrneal

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1883 on: February 13, 2020, 01:38:49 PM »


Magic Flute is probably the opera I have listened to the most in my listening life. My first ever disc was an Heliodor LP of highlights from the Fricsay version purchased when I was in college, around age 16. The college store had a fine assortment of classical music back then, including the Bruckner symphonies by Jochum  :o.

I find MF can be listened to at different levels: the full operatic experience, complete with the dialogues, or in abridged, dialogueless form (as here). Or even in highlights, when one feels like having fun with just the great overture and best arias. Despite its origin as a singspiel composed for a small theater, it’s an incredible vocal feast. No basso profundo or dramatic coloratura soprano has ever stayed away from the roles of Sarastro or Astrafiammante, the Queen of the Night. Some roles are written for modest voices (Monastatos), some require the highest level of vocal purity and technique (Pamina). And some parts like those of the Three Ladies or the Three Boys are conceived as one role spoken by three voices, an idea picked up by Verdi and Wagner 50-60 years later.

So, to the recording at hand: the original 3 cd issue contained the full dialogue and lasted over 160 minutes. When reissued, the dialogue was dropped and the timing shortened by 30 minutes. Other versions used the abridged sung-only solution, like Karajan (EMI), Böhm (Decca) and Klemperer (EMI). Others use a modicum of dialogue (Fricsay), but nowadays we usually get a full dialogue experience.

Davis conducts affectionately but IMO he misses some of the sparkle and is sometimes too smooth for the music’s good. An instance in point is Papageno’s entrance aria. Even given the singer’s choice of tempo the conductor could have used a more pointed, fresher way with the accompaniment. So, a measure of fun and buoyancy is missing. Great playing from the orchestra, though. All the singers are good to superb. In order of excellence (best first) are Kurt Moll, the Three Boys (!), Margaret Price (creamy of voice but a tad marmoreal), Peter Schreier, Luciana Serra (very fine vocalism, a more vulnerable than usual Queen), Mikael Melbye, Theo Adam. In the ‘adequate’ category, Robert Tear and the Three Ladies. So, not a top contender, but a good one, especially for Moll’s best incarnation of Sarastro on disc (others are with Solti and Sawallisch), and a classy account of Pamina by Margaret Price.
I agree that there are some very good voices here. This was, in fact, the first version of the opera I got on disc. But it does have flaws, as you alluded to in your post. And I rarely pull it out to listen anymore. I am a little more negative about the women than you are, particularly the Queen of the Night.  Still, I have a soft spot for it. There are certainly worse versions of it, though better as well.
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Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1884 on: February 15, 2020, 12:35:12 PM »


Not the most exciting or even the best sung version, yet I prefer it to most others, on account of Giulini’s searching, probing conducting. He pays the composer the compliment of taking the work seriously (some might say too seriously), but his involvement carries everything before it, starting with the singers, who plunge head first into the drama like their lives depended on it.

Azucena’s racconto  for example has Fassbaender singing her crazed, harrowing story with a hoarse tone and hair-raising intensity. And so it goes with the other singers, even normally tasteful, elegant vocalists like Domingo (his mal reggendo is a to-die-for lesson in legato and breath control). Plowright’s tawny port tones resonate with a mix of fire and velvet that is hard to resist, even if she eschews all interpolated high notes (we have Leontyne Price for that, bless her).

I don’t think the orchestra’s colours have ever been showcased so warmly as here. Trovatore’s orchestra has often been derided as nothing more than a jumbo guitar, but when played as vibrantly as here it’s an aural feast. Because of the moderate speeds rythms register with unusual force. Listen to Di Luna’s per me, ora fatale for a good example.

I have and love a dozen other versions, mostly on account of some particularly striking vocal performances by one of the principals, but also sometimes because of the conducting. This one checks all the boxes for me.

Offline T. D.

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1885 on: February 15, 2020, 03:50:47 PM »

This just arrived, will take some time to digest. I previously listened to a CD containing most of act III (different cast) and to The Rhinegold on youtube. Own the Solti cycle in German, sold Levine. Don't intend to buy the whole Goodall Ring, but wanted to have one complete opera.
First thoughts: highly impressed by the singing, enjoy the English text, am OK with Goodall's slow tempi. Need much more listening to evaluate the orchestral playing.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1886 on: February 18, 2020, 01:17:54 AM »


Aida is an opera I admire rather than love, (I love the music but rarely feel involved in the characters' plights) but I seem to have acquired more recordings of it than any other Verdi opera, possibly in my quest to find one that satsfies on all levels.

This one is certainly a contender. Listening to it now for the first time in quite a while, I am newly impressed by Caballé's Aida; quite one of the best things she ever did on disc. Her voice was in prime condition when it was recorded and she doesn't over-exploit those famed pianissimi. Mind you, the ppp top C at the end of O patria mia is just exquisite. I've never heard it done better. Elsewhere she is dramatically involved and involving and there is no lack of power when she needs it. Domingo's performance is a bit generic, but the voice was certainly a beautiful instrument back then. The other soloists are all excellent, but I find Muti's conducting just a little rigid, no match for Pappano's on the most recent set, or, to my mind, the much under-rated Serafin on the Callas recording.

Nonetheless this is a very good recording, but, for my money, Caballé is the best thing in it.
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Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1887 on: February 29, 2020, 09:57:36 AM »


Nice vocal and dramatic touches from Callas cannot rescue this version from the other principals’ inadequacies. Di Stefano’s tenor voice is at least one size too small for Manrico, and singing at the top of his lungs doesn’t succeed in pulling the wool over the listener’s eyes (ears). Barbieri overacts like a femme fatale from a 1920s silent movie. Panerai’s voice is quite unpleasant with its flickering vibrato and pitch unsteadiness. Callas herself is not trouble free (the last note from her big aria d’amor sull’alli rosee is very unsteady). Karajan conducts well. The sound is sub par for its time, the solo voices well caught but the chorus is woolly and very unclear.
« Last Edit: February 29, 2020, 09:59:19 AM by André »

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1888 on: February 29, 2020, 02:54:03 PM »


Nice vocal and dramatic touches from Callas cannot rescue this version from the other principals’ inadequacies. Di Stefano’s tenor voice is at least one size too small for Manrico, and singing at the top of his lungs doesn’t succeed in pulling the wool over the listener’s eyes (ears). Barbieri overacts like a femme fatale from a 1920s silent movie. Panerai’s voice is quite unpleasant with its flickering vibrato and pitch unsteadiness. Callas herself is not trouble free (the last note from her big aria d’amor sull’alli rosee is very unsteady). Karajan conducts well. The sound is sub par for its time, the solo voices well caught but the chorus is woolly and very unclear.

Sorry, Andre. Can't agree with you at all.

Aside from Callas, who is my favourite Leonora on disc, the only soprano who really makes sense of the notes (and accurately executes all the filigree and intricate coloratura in the role - and that includes Leontyne Price), I think Karajan's conducting is superb, quite outclassing that of any other version I've come across, including his other versions (live and studio). Panerai is a singer I've always enjoyed and actually I like his flicker vibrato. Di Stefano is admittedly a notch to small for Manrico, but he almost convinces and Barbieri is fine as Azucena, though more conventional than someone like Fassbaender.

My full review of the set here https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/il-trovatore/



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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1889 on: March 01, 2020, 09:30:53 PM »
Cross-posted from the ‘Listening’ thread:

Bartók
Bluebeard’s Castle
Jessye Norman (soprano), László Polgár (bass)
Chicago Symphony Orchestra
Pierre Boulez




Having just finished listening to this performance, allow me to offer some criticism I have for it. I think one of the biggest problems with this performance is the mis-match of vocalists. I do not find Jessye Norman to be a compelling Judith and, in fact, I felt no empathy for the character at all and the vocal performance while technically superb failed to touch me in any way. Baritone László Polgár just doesn’t have much of a commanding voice --- he sounds rather underwhelming compared to other performances I’ve heard like Siegmund Nimsgern or John Tomlinson. I think Boulez has a great command of the orchestra, but he can’t quite match his earlier self on Columbia. I think the earlier Boulez had an Expressionistic quality to it that outclassed this one. This isn’t to say I didn’t think his performance was terrible as it certainly wasn’t, but I think the sheer energy of the earlier performance was a better match than the more laser precision focus of this Chicago performance. Anyway, the earlier Boulez and Kertész are my go-to performances of this operatic masterpiece.
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Offline ritter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1890 on: March 02, 2020, 04:23:04 AM »
I'll have to re-listen to that Bluebeard's Castle sometime soon, John.

THREAD DUTY:

This, the first commercially released recording ever of Puccini's La fanciulla del West, was difficult to obtain on CD at a reasonable price, but the other day by chance I located a cheap copy and grabbed it up:



IMHO (shared by many, AFAIK), La fanciulla conatains--along with Turandot--the best music Puccini ever wrote (with some very interesting harmonic twists and a really accomplished, dazzling orchestration). Unfortunately it also has the silliest libretto he ever set (which is saying something)...but the music (particularly in Act II--that long duet between Minnie and Dick!) makes up for any shortcomings in the drama.

This recording is actually very enjoyable. Arturo Basile conducts very naturally, nicely supporting the voices. There's no big stars here, but verismo specilaist Carla Gavazzi as Minnie (huge voice, slightly inexact at times, but beautifully passionate) and Vasco Campagano as Dick Johnson (more lyrical than other tenors in the role) do a splendid job. Perhaps a nostalgic trip,  but a great one in any case.

Whisky per tutti! ;D
« Last Edit: March 02, 2020, 04:55:14 AM by ritter »
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Offline Mirror Image

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1891 on: March 02, 2020, 07:43:46 AM »
I'll have to re-listen to that Bluebeard's Castle sometime soon, John.

Cool. Let me know what you think of the performance.
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Offline JBS

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1892 on: March 02, 2020, 08:59:13 AM »
I'll have to re-listen to that Bluebeard's Castle sometime soon, John.

THREAD DUTY:

This, the first commercially released recording ever of Puccini's La fanciulla del West, was difficult to obtain on CD at a reasonable price, but the other day by chance I located a cheap copy and grabbed it up:



IMHO (shared by many, AFAIK), La fanciulla conatains--along with Turandot--the best music Puccini ever wrote (with some very interesting harmonic twists and a really accomplished, dazzling orchestration). Unfortunately it also has the silliest libretto he ever set (which is saying something)...but the music (particularly in Act II--that long duet between Minnie and Dick!) makes up for any shortcomings in the drama.

This recording is actually very enjoyable. Arturo Basile conducts very naturally, nicely supporting the voices. There's no big stars here, but verismo specilaist Carla Gavazzi as Minnie (huge voice, slightly inexact at times, but beautifully passionate) and Vasco Campagano as Dick Johnson (more lyrical than other tenors in the role) do a splendid job. Perhaps a nostalgic trip,  but a great one in any case.

Whisky per tutti! ;D

I don't think the libretto is silly. It does contain all but one of the classic tropes of American Westerns (no gunfight a la High Noon), so perhaps it may strike others differently.  But the poker game is one of the most dramatic scenes in opera.


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Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1893 on: March 07, 2020, 03:18:54 PM »
Cross-posted from WAYL2:

Back from the theater where I saw Wozzeck from the Metropolitan Opera stage. The actual performance played a few weeks ago. The staging was brilliant, if sometimes veering off the play’s plot details. The visual signature was strongly reminiscent of the work of Otto Dix. The singing was very strong. It was actually sung, not yelled, nor overacted. The orchestra was splendid. Berg’s score offers many chamber music textures and important instrumental solos. They were luscious and transparent. Marie’s death scene was suitably apocalyptic, the orchestra unleashing its might for the first and only time - there is sometimes a misconception that Wozzeck is a noisy score. It is not. Rather, it is unrelenting both in pace and intensity.




Offline JBS

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1894 on: March 24, 2020, 11:35:52 AM »
Crosspost from WAYLT2

This

From this


First listen as an adult to this recording.

When I was kid, my mother had a copy of the first half (through Act 2 Scene 1) of Traviata on 78s. (No idea why she didn't have the second half.) I played it...a lot.  [Perseveration is the technical term.] It was my introduction to opera. I am fairly certain it was this recording. It certainly matches my aural memories.

CD 1 contains Acts 1 and 2, CD 2 Act 3, filled out with a trio from I Lombardi, the third act of Rigoletto (Warren, Milanov, Peerce), and "Va pensiero".

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Offline JBS

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1895 on: March 25, 2020, 11:16:12 AM »
Again, crossposting....

Continuing with the Toscanini Verdi box


Yesterday I listened to the La Traviata in this set, as filtered through Proust's madeline.  With Ballo in Maschera, no such filter.  It's fine, but the 1950s mono means it's not one I would listen to very often.

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Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1896 on: March 25, 2020, 11:30:40 AM »
Hindemith
Mathis


Scenes 1 & 2 rather lost me, but Scene 3 and on are a different story (so to speak)
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Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1897 on: March 25, 2020, 04:02:27 PM »
Hindemith
Mathis


Scenes 1 & 2 rather lost me, but Scene 3 and on are a different story (so to speak)

My Mathis initiation is yet to be performed. In due time it will happen.

Offline k a rl h e nn i ng

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1898 on: March 25, 2020, 04:15:08 PM »
My Mathis initiation is yet to be performed. In due time it will happen.

I don't know where my brain was. After listening through to the end (and smooth sailing, too) I went beck to try Scenes 1 and 2 afresh. I do like it!
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His only competition was with himself. — Françoise Gilot

Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1899 on: March 25, 2020, 04:48:46 PM »
I shall hasten the initiation, then  :)