Author Topic: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?  (Read 295767 times)

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Offline knight66

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2000 on: June 16, 2020, 10:58:35 PM »
That set, the Mehta and the Giulini. I can’t imagine needing any other performance. As so often Callas spins her music as though she was being inspired to invent it. It does not sound learned. I have never been fond of Di Stefano, but he does not let the side down. Karajan really is so acute, the piece moves in a great arc towards its inevitable conclusion.

Mike
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Offline ritter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2001 on: June 20, 2020, 01:44:22 PM »
First listen to this recording of a favourite opera of mine:



I ordered this recording of Spontini’s La Vestale (used and dirt cheap) weeks before the lockdown across Europe started, really forgot all about it, and then it was delivered last Friday. This is the opera’s first recording, predating the famous 1954 La Scala revival (with Callas and Corelli, and which marked Luchino Visconti’s debut as an operatic director) by three years. La Vestale never completely disappeared from the stage, and in the 20s it was given at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino with Rosa Ponselle under Vittorio Gui (in one performance, when Gui would not allow a bis of one of Ponselle’s arias, someone in the audience shouted “Vittorio, think that she’ll be returning to America, and who knows whether we’ll ever hear her again!  ;D).

I already have the Callas live recording in my collection (initially on LP, and now on CD in the lavish Skira release, but still in atrocious sound), and the Muti from La Scala in the original French, but wanted to hear this recording for the conductor Fernando Previtali (whom I once saw conduct Turandot in Caracas, and was an expert opera conductor) and for the Grand Vestal of Elena Nicolai (one of the great mezzos in Italian repertoire of the 40s and 50s). The Giulia is the hitherto unknown to me Maria Vitale, who had a short but distinguished  career in Italy in the 50s), and the Licinio is Renato Gavarini (whose name I’ve only encountered in the cast of the 1954 La Scala AlcesteGluck—with Callas, a performance I haven’t heard). So far (I’ve reached the third scene of Act I) this is most enjoyable. The overture is vigorously exposed by  PrevitaliNicolai is imposing in her part (as expected), and Gavarini is quite good in his role—with excellent diction. Perhaps Vitale is a bit impersonal as the lead, but the voice is steady across the while range (in any case, her big scenes are in Acts 2 and 3). The sound is perfectly tolerable.

Usually, these RAI / Cetra recordings from the 50s aren’t the most subtle undertakings, but in my experience they invariably deliver committed and interesting renditions of the repertoire (both off the beaten track and standard), and give a rather charming glimpse of the Italian operatic scene of those years.
ritter
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2002 on: June 21, 2020, 10:51:18 PM »


Beecham's recording of La Bohème is a big favourite of mine and almost as much of a classic as the De Sabata Tosca. A fantastic cast unified by Beecham's effortlessly elastic conducting.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2003 on: June 23, 2020, 01:23:36 AM »


When one thinks of Mimi, Callas is probably the last name that comes to mind, but in fact she inhabits the role as well as anyone, revealing many details that others gloss over. This is a very fine recording of the opera, superbly cast from top to bottom. The only problem is the rather routine penny plain conducting of Votto. What heights these artists might have achieved under a Karajan or a Beecham. Still, Callas's Mimi is a lot more than a mere curiosity

Fuller review on my blog https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/la-boheme/

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

Offline ritter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2004 on: June 26, 2020, 05:33:59 AM »
First listen to this new arrival, Erich Leinsdorf's 1967 recording of Così fan tutte.


Still in Act I, but this performance has already won me over (hat tip to JBS). Leinsdorf's relaxed but never sluggish tempi are just perfect for this score, and the New Philharmonia Orchestra plays wonderfully. One can notice the conductor's long and distinguished career in the opera pit, and his affinity to the Viennese Mozart "school" (his conception of the piece sounds very similar to that of Karl Böhm--who was probably the strongest defender of Così in the post-WW2 period). The voices range from the good to the very good. Troyanos is a wonderful Dorabella (she was to be a wonderful Cherubino under Böhm a year later in one of the greatest Nozze di Figaro ever committed to disc). Leontyne Price fruity, velvet voice so far is a pleasure as Fiordiligi (let's see how she acquits herself in the devilish Come scoglio aria *). One wouldn't immediately associate Sherrill Milnes with Mozart, but I've long admired his hyper-macho Don Giovanni under Böhm live in Salzburg (from 1977), and here he's also very good. George Shirley was a very versatile singer, who I've admired in different repertoires (Pelléas under Boulez, Haydn under Doráti), and he's equally admirable here. Judith Raskin's Despina is lively and agile, but not too soubrettish--her "In uomini, in soldati" is among the best I've ever heard. Perhaps Ezio Flagello's Don Alfonso is a touch below the rest of the cast (he was never the subtlest of singers, I'm afraid), but still quite good.

What a wonderful opera this is, despite its occasional longueurs, and its politically incorrect (for 19th century audiences, downright immoral) subject matter. Let's enjoy while we can, as we are entering an age where this kind of artworks might be censored.  >:(

*EDIT: Unforunately, she doesn't acquit herself all that well. She has trouble in the lower reaches of the aria, her trill is just hinted at, and the coloraturas are fine--without being spectacular. Not bad by any means, but not first-tier, I'm afraid. Still, this remains a great recording of the opera.
« Last Edit: June 27, 2020, 07:35:28 AM by ritter »
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Online JBS

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2005 on: June 26, 2020, 08:18:24 AM »
 :)

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Offline knight66

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2006 on: June 26, 2020, 09:28:49 AM »
I enjoy that set quite a good deal, though it is not one that would get frst recommendation from anyone. The part is just not suited to the weight of Price’s voice, but it is such a pleasure hearing her in most of the part. It might be old fashioned now, but there are plenty of pleasures to be had.

I also got hold of Price in Butterfly and that is also well worth catching.

Mike
DavidW: Yeah Mike doesn't get angry, he gets even.
I wasted time: and time wasted me.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2007 on: June 27, 2020, 06:26:11 AM »
I enjoy that set quite a good deal, though it is not one that would get frst recommendation from anyone. The part is just not suited to the weight of Price’s voice, but it is such a pleasure hearing her in most of the part. It might be old fashioned now, but there are plenty of pleasures to be had.

I also got hold of Price in Butterfly and that is also well worth catching.

Mike

I have three recordings of Cosí fan tutte, all of which I would prefer to Leinsdorf.

Böhm with Schwarzkopf, Ludwig, Steffek, Kraus, Taddei and Berry.
Davis wth Caballé, Baker, Cotrubas, Gedda, Ganzarolli and Van Allan
Davis (live) with Te Kanawa, Baltsa, Mazzucato, Burrows, Allen and Van Allan again, which I bought because I saw this cast in this production at Covent Garden during the same run of performances.

The Böhm, which was the first recording of the opera I owned, and the one by which I got to know the opera, is still my favourite.


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

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2008 on: June 29, 2020, 12:36:40 AM »


Un Ballo in Maschera is a unique work in Verdi's canon with a varied musical palette you will find nowhere else in his work. On the one hand we have Oscar's delightully sparkling music, sprinkled like fairy dust at various points in the score, then the dark, ironic humour of the conspirators's music all interwoven into the passionate beauty of the writing for the three principals. Throughout Verdi's gift for musical characterisation is at its best, and who better to reveal that than three of the greatest vocal actors of all time.

When this recording was made in 1956, Callas had yet to sing the role of Amelia on stage, but she is at her very best, stunningly accurate in the coloratura that is usually glossed over by less technically accomplished singers, her singing a model of Verdian style and eloquent phrasing. Others may have sung Renato's arias with greater beauty of tone (Bastianini, for instance, who sang the role with Callas and Di Stefano at live performances of the opera at La Scala the following year), but few have probed so deeply into the character and Di Stefano is here singing one of his best roles, occasionally careless of note values but utterly charming, eventually solicitous and ultimately noble. 

Votto is, as ever, a reliably good accompanist, but I do sometimes wonder what this performance might have been like with a Serafin or a Karajan at the helm, or indeed Gavazzeni, who conducted the La Scala live performances of the following year.

https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/un-ballo-in-maschera/
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline ritter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2009 on: June 30, 2020, 03:15:37 AM »
After Spontini’s La Vestale, and Gluck’s ballet Don Juan, I continue in a neoclassical vein (with some Sturm und Drang touches) with Alceste. First listen to the live Callas recording from La Scala in 1954 (found at an attractive price at a department store here in Madrid).


Yes, the sound is atrocious, and the (then standard) version used is not philologically orthodox—essentially, the French version back-translated into Italian—, but Gluck’s Alceste is a nobly expressive work, and IMHO one if the great operas of its (or any) era. Callas is in excellent voice, and deeply moving in the role; her long solos in Act I—leading to the famous aria “Divintés du Styx” (here “Divintà infernale“) and in Act III are extraordinary. She is well supported by the rest of the cast (mostly forgotten names, including Renato Gavarini—who made a favourable impression on me in the Previtali / Cetra recording if La Vestale a couple of days ago), and Carlo Maria Giuilini’s pacing of the score is most engaging (making it sound solemn and lively at the same time, odd as that may appear). It dawned on me this time that this is one of the few operas in which the ballets do not become a bothersome interpolation.

So, despite the reservations, it was well worth getting to know this.  :)

Next up, the Callas / Sanzogno Iphigénie en Tauride (again in Italian, from La Scala in 1957, the last collaboration between the soprano and producer Luchino Visconti), bought together with Alceste on Sunday.
« Last Edit: June 30, 2020, 03:35:43 AM by ritter »
ritter
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Online Pohjolas Daughter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2010 on: July 02, 2020, 12:47:55 PM »


Beecham's recording of La Bohème is a big favourite of mine and almost as much of a classic as the De Sabata Tosca. A fantastic cast unified by Beecham's effortlessly elastic conducting.
That's a lovely one.  I have and enjoy it too.   :)

PD

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2011 on: July 04, 2020, 12:59:06 AM »


Berlioz's great opus is one of my favourite operas. I can never understand why people go on about it being too long and why, even these days, it is often split into two parts. It's shorter than a lot of Wagner operas.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2012 on: July 04, 2020, 02:26:32 AM »
I ran across a set of Boito's Mephistopheles with Domingo and Ramey yesterday:  $2 and in pristine shape, boxed and with libretto.  How could I say no?  Looking forward to listening to it soon, but not today (will be celebrating the Fourth of July).   :)

PD

Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2013 on: July 04, 2020, 08:25:29 AM »
I ran across a set of Boito's Mephistopheles with Domingo and Ramey yesterday:  $2 and in pristine shape, boxed and with libretto.  How could I say no?  Looking forward to listening to it soon, but not today (will be celebrating the Fourth of July).   :)

PD

I discovered Mefistofele only a few months ago and was quite pleasantly surprised. High quality operatic fare.

Offline ritter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2014 on: July 04, 2020, 08:54:44 AM »
I discovered Mefistofele only a few months ago and was quite pleasantly surprised. High quality operatic fare.
I very much agree. A very, very interesting and enjoyable work...
ritter
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Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2015 on: July 04, 2020, 11:19:00 AM »
Right now listening for the very first time to this Britten opera:



from this inexpensive box set:



The libretto is available on line (opera-arias.com). Quite essential in this work, which Britten adapted directly from Shakespeare’s Olde English text. As is his wont, Britten finds very ingenious solutions to give a musical identity to the characters. Instead of leitmotive, instrumental patterns are used, like celesta and harp = Oberon, glassy string glissandi for the group of fairies, horns and percussion for the rustics, trumpet and snare drum for Puck. Since the plot involves a constant flow of comings and goings, the musical characterization certainly helps the listener.

I found that very few recordings seem to exist, suggesting either a lack of popularity or a higher level of difficulty in terms of an audience relating to the complicated shenanigans of the fairies and rustics. OTOH there are a certain number of filmed performances on DVD, which in turn would point to the visual potential of the action and characters. Sort of like the last scene of Verdi’s Falstaff, which is best experienced seen as well as heard.

So far I have heard Peter Grimes, Albert Herring, Paul Bunyan, The Turn of the Screw, Death in Venice, A Midsummer Night’s Dream from the above box, with The Rape of Lucretia and Billy Budd remaining. I have a video of Gloriana as well waiting in the wings. I will need to turn to other sources for the missing works, like Owen Wingrave and two of the three Church Parables (I have Noye’s Fludde).

My experience with Britten’s operatic oeuvre is that each work is very sophisticated in design and composition, possibly to the expense of dramatic punch and musical character, as if the composer was intent on keeping a layer or two of his personality from the listener’s inquisitive ear. That means that repeated listenings will be necessary to carefully peel its different layers until the heart is exposed.


Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2016 on: July 05, 2020, 11:55:25 PM »


I have always had a soft spot for Konwitschny's Dutchman and like Fischer-Dieskau's intellectual Dutchman more than most. Wunderlich gets the set off to a fantastic start. Has anyone else ever sung the Steersman's Mit Gewitter und Sturm with such headily beautiful tone? (He's billed on the front cover, whereas Rudolof Schock, who sings Erik is not.) Frick is superb as Daland and Schock fine as Erik. The real problem is the ghastly Senta of Marianne Schech, who sounds as if she would have been hard pressed to sing Mary.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2017 on: July 06, 2020, 12:21:43 AM »
Right now listening for the very first time to this Britten opera:



from this inexpensive box set:



The libretto is available on line (opera-arias.com). Quite essential in this work, which Britten adapted directly from Shakespeare’s Olde English text. As is his wont, Britten finds very ingenious solutions to give a musical identity to the characters. Instead of leitmotive, instrumental patterns are used, like celesta and harp = Oberon, glassy string glissandi for the group of fairies, horns and percussion for the rustics, trumpet and snare drum for Puck. Since the plot involves a constant flow of comings and goings, the musical characterization certainly helps the listener.

I found that very few recordings seem to exist, suggesting either a lack of popularity or a higher level of difficulty in terms of an audience relating to the complicated shenanigans of the fairies and rustics. OTOH there are a certain number of filmed performances on DVD, which in turn would point to the visual potential of the action and characters. Sort of like the last scene of Verdi’s Falstaff, which is best experienced seen as well as heard.

So far I have heard Peter Grimes, Albert Herring, Paul Bunyan, The Turn of the Screw, Death in Venice, A Midsummer Night’s Dream from the above box, with The Rape of Lucretia and Billy Budd remaining. I have a video of Gloriana as well waiting in the wings. I will need to turn to other sources for the missing works, like Owen Wingrave and two of the three Church Parables (I have Noye’s Fludde).



It's performed quite frequently here in the UK and I've seen productions at the Royal Opera House and at the English National Opera. I have the same recording as you too. It's very good indeed. I think I marginally prefer it to the composer's own recording.

Of those you haven't heard yet, you have a treat in store with Billy Budd, one of the great operas of the twentieth century, and one that seems to be gaining in popularity. I put off hearing it for ages because I thought I wouldn't like an opera with no female voices and that there wouldn't be enough variety of vocal colour. Boy, was I wrong! I have Hickox's Chandos recording, which is superb, but I believe the Harding version included in your set is also excellent and reminds me that I heard a concert performance at the Barbican with pretty much the same performers some years ago.

I think Gloriana is still rather underrated, and never quite recovered from its not so successful premiere which was largely due to non musical matters. Britten was so dispirited by the whole experience that he never visited the opera again. Sadlers Wells revived it in 1973 in a production by Colin Graham and this production had an even greater success when revived in 1984, with Sarah Walker in the title role, a production I saw myself when it came to Leeds. This production was once available on video, but I don't know whether it's still available.

I'm still struggling with Owen Wingrave, not one I've warmed to, I'm afraid.


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

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2018 on: July 09, 2020, 05:13:03 AM »


It's a long time since I've listened to this set, but recent discussion of the opera on another platform prompted me to get it out and it isn't bad at all. Certainly preferable to the other studio recordings I've heard featuring Sills and Sutherland.

That said I wouldn't prefer it to the live 1957 La Scala set, with Callas in fabulous form as Anna. This one is a lot more complete, of course, though there are still a few minor cuts, so it gives you a better impression of the opera as Donizetti intended it. It's a shane Souliotis didn't record this at the same time she recorded Abigaille in Nabucco, but the voice has deteriorated quite a bit in three years, though nowhere near as disastrously as on the Macbeth which followed. However there are plenty of instances of hollow, unsupported tone, her coloratura has become a bit vague and she doesn't have a trill. At least she has the requisite vocal grandeur and makes something of the role dramatically, though nowhere near as much as Callas, who sounds as if she might have been born to sing it.

Horne is excellent, as you might expect, but I still prefer Simionato on the Callas set. Ghiaurov has a much more pleasing voice than the woolly toned Rossi-Lemeni, who is nevertheless more authoratative and presents a much nastier character, which is what Henry undoubtedly is in this opera. Alexander has a lot more music to sing than Raimondi, most of whose coloartura sections were cut, not that he executes it that well. To be honest, I don't mind losing some of Percy's music. He behaves like a lovesick schoolboy for most of the opera and I find him quite tedious.

Gavazzeni conducts a much more dramatically propulsive performance than Varviso, but it's good to hear the score almost complete. I have still to listen to the Theodossiou, nor have I heard the earlier live performance with Souliotis, Horne and Domingo, and Janet Baker no less as Smeton. I'm told it's a much better representation of Souliotis at her brief best.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2019 on: July 09, 2020, 11:13:23 AM »
Thanks for the review ! This Souliotis set is sitting in the pile, still unwrapped. I might give it a go soon  :).