Author Topic: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?  (Read 446933 times)

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Offline LKB

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2780 on: October 31, 2021, 08:11:07 AM »
I only enjoy a small number of operas, which is rather strange considering l was a professional bass-baritone for 25 years...

Atm, Parsifal has my attention. I own both the von Karajan and Knappertsbusch recordings, but find myself with HvK more often so as to bask in Kurt Moll's superlative Gurnemanz.
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Offline JBS

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2781 on: October 31, 2021, 11:44:19 AM »
A different sort of Faust



A live recording from 1993.
This is the two act version of 1819 (so it includes two arias Spohr added in to the original 1813-16 version), with spoken dialogue. The plot involves Faust in two love affairs, and owes little or nothing to Goethe's version. Magic is used liberally, and a love potion is brewed during a witches' sabbath, so it's more akin to Freischutz or Oberon in both plot and music, than it is to anything by Berlioz or Gounod.

Thirty years later Spohr revised the opera into a three act version with recitatives instead of the spoken dialogue.


Wikipedia article on the opera here.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faust_(Spohr)

The only other recording is on CPO and is of the 1852 version. (Amusingly CPO used the same exact painting for its cover image as the recording of Gounod's version I listened to yesterday.)

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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2782 on: November 01, 2021, 01:42:42 AM »


A superb performance of Janáček's Káťa Kabanová. This performance really brings out both the drama and the lyricism in the music. Weirdly there were odd times that the music slightly reminded me of the Puccini of La Fanciulla del West. Mackerras made another recording of this work in Prague, with Gabriela Beňačková in the title role, but I haven't heard that one. In any case, Söderström is wonderful and the rest of the cast (all Czech) also excellent.

The opera is quite short and Decca provide as makeweight, performances of Capriccio and Concertino, played by Paul Crossley with members of the London Sinfonietta conducted by David Atherton.
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2783 on: November 02, 2021, 01:11:05 AM »


I come to the end of my mini Janáček binge with Věc Makropulos or, as it usually known in English speaking countries, The Makropulos Case. Söderström is again magnificent in the leading role, with excellent performances from the Czech cast and Mackerras once again conducting the Vienna Philharmonic.

The makeweight here is the charming, if slight Lachian Dance played by the London Philharmonic Orchestra under François Huybrechts.
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Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2784 on: November 03, 2021, 04:32:06 PM »


il Tabarro is Puccini’s shortest opera and yet it packs a lot of atmosphere, melodies and drama in its under 50 minutes duration. The characters are well delineated, the story uncomplicated and the setting very simple: the deck of a barge on the Seine river in Paris. Secondary characters have actually a lot to go for them in this opera. The character of La Frugola for example is a peach of a role for a character mezzo. It is taken  superbly by the veteran Oralia Dominguez. The main characters each get a scene, an aria, and Giorgietta has duets with both Michele and Luigi. Puccini’s orchestra is copious in numbers and in sound effects, including sirens, car horn, glockenspiel, tubular bells on top of a very full wind, brass and percussion contingent - and strings of course. But all of those are used mostly in a chamber-like setting to create atmosphere, not decibels. Puccini’s orchestra is almost debussyan in its subtle harmonies.

The singers must be Fanciulla or Tosca-sized, not Bohème-sized. Milnes is an excellent Michele. In fine voice, he does not overdo the grand-guignol aspects of his role. Price is very good, but I find her voice too plush for the role. Scotto (under Maazel) has more tang to her voice, more bite in her exchanges with her husband Michele and yet she is convincing when showing hints of remorse and tenderness at the end. Luigi is sung by the young Domingo. He is excellent. Under Maazel in 1978 he would offer an almost frighteningly intense account of Hai ben ragione. Overall this is superb in every way except for the utmost in characterfulness. For that, the Tebaldi-Del Monaco and Scotto-Domingo versions provide even more thrills. I have a 4th version (EMI Pappano) but I have not listened to it yet.

Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2785 on: November 03, 2021, 04:49:31 PM »


If ever an opera cried out for a translation into English, this one’s the best candidate I can think of. After all it is set in the Republic of Gilead (the USA of the year 2195) and is based on an English language novel. Which makes all the more frustrating the efforts one has to make to find his/her way into the libretto, which runs to a staggering 202 pages (the full booklet is 268 pages long). This being an opera about women, most sung roles are feminine. In any language sopranos and mezzos singing at the top of their range are bound to be incomprehensible. The role of Offred seems to be a voice killer. Ruders being Dane and this being a Royal Danish Theatre production (2000), it is of course sung in Danish. So music and text kind of conspire to make the plot very hard to follow. Short of an English language production (hello Chandos !) or better, a filmed production with subtitles, I’m afraid I can only appreciate the music separated from its literary context.

The recorded sound is excellent and everyone (conductor, orchestra, numerous soloists and chorus) seem utterly involved in the adventure.

Offline Wendell_E

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2786 on: November 04, 2021, 02:18:49 AM »


If ever an opera cried out for a translation into English, this one’s the best candidate I can think of. After all it is set in the Republic of Gilead (the USA of the year 2195) and is based on an English language novel. Which makes all the more frustrating the efforts one has to make to find his/her way into the libretto, which runs to a staggering 202 pages (the full booklet is 268 pages long). This being an opera about women, most sung roles are feminine. In any language sopranos and mezzos singing at the top of their range are bound to be incomprehensible. The role of Offred seems to be a voice killer. Ruders being Dane and this being a Royal Danish Theatre production (2000), it is of course sung in Danish. So music and text kind of conspire to make the plot very hard to follow. Short of an English language production (hello Chandos !) or better, a filmed production with subtitles, I’m afraid I can only appreciate the music separated from its literary context.

The recorded sound is excellent and everyone (conductor, orchestra, numerous soloists and chorus) seem utterly involved in the adventure.

It doesn't need to be translated into English. The libretto, by Paul Bentley, is in English, and that's what Ruders set to music "alongside Ruders' Danish translation of the libretto", according to Wikipedia. The Danish translation was used for the Royal Danish Theatre production, but there have been performances outside of Denmark using the original English text in London, Minneapolis, Toronto, and Boston.

An English-language recording would be great to have, in any case.
« Last Edit: November 04, 2021, 03:05:57 AM by Wendell_E »
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2787 on: November 04, 2021, 02:33:37 AM »


il Tabarro is Puccini’s shortest opera and yet it packs a lot of atmosphere, melodies and drama in its under 50 minutes duration. The characters are well delineated, the story uncomplicated and the setting very simple: the deck of a barge on the Seine river in Paris. Secondary characters have actually a lot to go for them in this opera. The character of La Frugola for example is a peach of a role for a character mezzo. It is taken  superbly by the veteran Oralia Dominguez. The main characters each get a scene, an aria, and Giorgietta has duets with both Michele and Luigi. Puccini’s orchestra is copious in numbers and in sound effects, including sirens, car horn, glockenspiel, tubular bells on top of a very full wind, brass and percussion contingent - and strings of course. But all of those are used mostly in a chamber-like setting to create atmosphere, not decibels. Puccini’s orchestra is almost debussyan in its subtle harmonies.

The singers must be Fanciulla or Tosca-sized, not Bohème-sized. Milnes is an excellent Michele. In fine voice, he does not overdo the grand-guignol aspects of his role. Price is very good, but I find her voice too plush for the role. Scotto (under Maazel) has more tang to her voice, more bite in her exchanges with her husband Michele and yet she is convincing when showing hints of remorse and tenderness at the end. Luigi is sung by the young Domingo. He is excellent. Under Maazel in 1978 he would offer an almost frighteningly intense account of Hai ben ragione. Overall this is superb in every way except for the utmost in characterfulness. For that, the Tebaldi-Del Monaco and Scotto-Domingo versions provide even more thrills. I have a 4th version (EMI Pappano) but I have not listened to it yet.

I used to have this one on LP, but never re-acquired it when I made the switch to CD. Price is I think the weak link. Gorgeous singing, but she sounds way too glamorous and that's not really what the role of Giorgetta requires.

I now have the Maazel and the older Bellezza with Gobbi as Michele, which I slightly prefer. It's mono, but Bellezza has the measure of the score. Mas and Pradelli do not have glamorous voices, but I believe in their characters and Gobbi is simply hors concours, a characterisation to set beside his wonderful Scarpia. Gobbi allows us to see inside the man and reveal the inner pain which leads to his violent act. I've never heard anyone equal his terrifying Nulla, silenzio. Certainly not Wixell, who is I think the weak link on the otherwise excellent Maazel. Scotto and Domingo are superb as you say, but Gobbi's performance tips the balance towards the older recording, for me at least.
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Offline JBS

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2788 on: November 05, 2021, 11:13:20 AM »


The recording total time is about 154 minutes; in order to fit it all onto two CDs lasting 77 minutes each, Erato made the rather odd choice to split the chorus which begins the Act I Finale between the last track of CD 1 and the first track of CD 2. The alternative of putting it all on CD 2, resulting in a CD with a timing of 81 or 82 minutes, was not available back in 1990, I suppose.

Other than that glitch, the recording seems well performed.

There is one other recording of this 1822 opera, on Opera Rara, who chose to do it on 3 CDs, but it's OOP.

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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2789 on: November 06, 2021, 01:37:00 AM »


Korngold's Die tote Stadt was a huge success at its premiere and had clocked up several performances all over the world in its first two years. However the work was banned by the Nazi regime because of Korngold's Jewish ancestry and fell into obscurity and had to wait until 1975 for this, its first complete recording. In fact the recording did much to restore the opera's fortunes and it is now performed much more often.

And indeed it is a superb performance, Leinsdorf revelling in the lush orchestration and brilliantly sung by Neblett, Kollo, Wagemann, Luxon and Prey. Since its release one or two live recordings have been issued, as well as a couple of DVDs, but it would seem that this one still leads the field.
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Online Roasted Swan

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2790 on: November 06, 2021, 02:31:38 AM »


Korngold's Die tote Stadt was a huge success at its premiere and had clocked up several performances all over the world in its first two years. However the work was banned by the Nazi regime because of Korngold's Jewish ancestry and fell into obscurity and had to wait until 1975 for this, its first complete recording. In fact the recording did much to restore the opera's fortunes and it is now performed much more often.

And indeed it is a superb performance, Leinsdorf revelling in the lush orchestration and brilliantly sung by Neblett, Kollo, Wagemann, Luxon and Prey. Since its release one or two live recordings have been issued, as well as a couple of DVDs, but it would seem that this one still leads the field.

A genuinely revelatory recording given that it was made when Korngold's reputation (and probably other similar Viennese late-Romantics) was at its lowest ebb.  Huge credit to Korngold's son George for his indefatigable promotion of his father's music.  What really stands out on this set is the luxury casting - you would be hard put to assemble such a cast for any opera today let alone an "unknown" (at the time) work.  Certainly my enduringly favourite version.  I've been tempted by Dutton remastering - has anyone heard that to say whether it is substantively better than the standard/original CD release?

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2791 on: November 06, 2021, 02:41:15 AM »
A genuinely revelatory recording given that it was made when Korngold's reputation (and probably other similar Viennese late-Romantics) was at its lowest ebb.  Huge credit to Korngold's son George for his indefatigable promotion of his father's music.  What really stands out on this set is the luxury casting - you would be hard put to assemble such a cast for any opera today let alone an "unknown" (at the time) work.  Certainly my enduringly favourite version.  I've been tempted by Dutton remastering - has anyone heard that to say whether it is substantively better than the standard/original CD release?

I haven't, but I came across this review here https://jarijuhanikallio.wordpress.com/2020/12/30/reissue-of-the-year-the-classic-die-tote-stadt-premiere-recording-still-holds/

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Online Roasted Swan

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2792 on: November 06, 2021, 03:35:16 AM »
I haven't, but I came across this review here https://jarijuhanikallio.wordpress.com/2020/12/30/reissue-of-the-year-the-classic-die-tote-stadt-premiere-recording-still-holds/

That's an interesting, balanced and detailed review.  I'm more tempted than ever! (aagh).  I never knew that some of Kollo's part was over-dubbed in post-production sessions.  Credit to the original engineers/production team that the vocal persepctives are kept so even throughout...

Prompted by your post this is my Saturday morning listening - is really is an extraordinary piece!
Edit:. Carole Neblett was a very fine singer and on disc at least under represented.   This might well be her crowning achievement but I love her Golden Girl with Mehta and her wonderful Musetta on Solti's La Boheme
« Last Edit: November 06, 2021, 07:03:24 AM by Roasted Swan »

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2793 on: November 06, 2021, 06:54:05 AM »
That's an interesting, balanced and detailed review.  I'm more tempted than ever! (aagh).  I never knew that some of Kollo's part was over-dubbed in post-production sessions.  Credit to the original engineers/production team that the vocal persepctives are kept so even throughout...

Prompted by your post this is my Saturday morning listening - is really is an extraordinary piece!

Agreed. I listened to it after listening to a small spate of Korngold works, the Violin Concerto, the Symphony, Incidental Music for Much Ado About Nothing and the Suite for Piano and Strings. It seems incredible to me that his non-film work was neglected for so long.
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Offline Todd

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2794 on: November 07, 2021, 04:38:36 PM »



Half the opera with DFD in the lead.  Picked it up for $6, and all it made me do is wonder why the whole thing is not available.  The world needs 2-3 other complete recordings of the work.
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Offline Wendell_E

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2795 on: November 09, 2021, 01:50:24 PM »



Half the opera with DFD in the lead.  Picked it up for $6, and all it made me do is wonder why the whole thing is not available.  The world needs 2-3 other complete recordings of the work.

Actually, that is the whole thing. They just did those selected scenes in concert at the 1985 Salzburg Festival. The Festival did eventually stage the complete opera, in 1992.

Ozawa, who conducted the world premiere of the opera in Paris, presented a similar "highlights" concert with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, several years before the opera's U.S. premiere in San Francisco.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2021, 01:55:46 PM by Wendell_E »
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Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2796 on: November 09, 2021, 05:01:39 PM »
Cross-posted:



André Laporte’s opera Das Schloss (The Castle), after Kafka’s novel.

I recently listened to Poul Ruders’ take on Kafka’s The Trial. Now it’s the turn of another modern opera of the absurd. Composed from 1981 to 1985, the score is resolutely modern, but not aggressively so. Dodecaphonic atonality and tonality mingle. As per the notes, (they) « do not conflict, but rather complement each other ». There are references to Wagner and Berg. Laporte wears his Darmstadt schooling lightly.

It is a very mobile opera: characters constantly interact, creating a flow populated by the tones of a very active orchestra. The libretto is 25 pages of densely written text in very small font. Unfortunately the libretto is unilingual (German), making it hard to appreciate Kafka’s prose. The booklet contains an analysis of the work and a synopsis. Although I know the storyline, I haven’t read the novel. Be that as it may, Laporte’s score buzzes with interesting sounds and the conversational vocal line helps get into the spirit of the work.

Excellent sound, with voices and orchestra in good balance in a clear acoustic. 1995 production.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2797 on: November 10, 2021, 02:03:14 AM »


Lecocq's operetta was his most popular work, and still gets the occasional airing today. It is a charming work in the manner of Offenbach's operettas, if not with his melodic flair.

It's the sort of thing Mady Mesplé did brilliantly and she doesn't disappoint here.
« Last Edit: November 10, 2021, 03:32:30 AM by Tsaraslondon »
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Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2798 on: November 10, 2021, 01:42:54 PM »


Butterfly was a role de los Angeles sang on stage as well as making two commercial recordings of it. Freni said she never sang it on stage because it was too heavy emotionally, which tends to constrict throat muscles. I guess an artist must make that kind of choices for the sake of preserving a healthy physical/mental balance.

This is the stereo recording from 1959 with Björling, and it is conducted by Gabriele Santini. It is 11 minutes shorter than the mono version from 1954 with di Stefano and Gobbi. I don’t know if it’s due to faster tempi or cuts in the first recording ? In any case de los Angeles sings it beautifully and with much feeling. No optional high D in her entrance scene, but she doesn’t make it sound like she’s ducking any difficulties. She wouldn’t sing an E flat in Sempre libera either. Dignity and a sad smile were pretty much her emotional trademarks. Amazing how these feelings can be evoked by mere vocal means.

Björling’s tenor sounds almost too gorgeous for the role of the the selfish, reckless Pinkerton. This was to be his last commercial recording. He was very ill at the time and died the next year. Both singers are splendid in the love duet. Although neither had a very large voice, their vocal size and slightly squeezed type of emission are perfectly matched.

Santini’s conducting is very attentive. One can hear him tailoring his every moves to the singers’, never overwhelming them even in the biggest moments. Quite different from Karajan (w. Callas or Freni), who is not afraid to open the floodgates (to thrilling effect). Santini is the more conversational conductor here.

The sound is still quite good, with effective stereo separation and commendable clarity.

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #2799 on: November 11, 2021, 12:36:40 AM »


Butterfly was a role de los Angeles sang on stage as well as making two commercial recordings of it. Freni said she never sang it on stage because it was too heavy emotionally, which tends to constrict throat muscles. I guess an artist must make that kind of choices for the sake of preserving a healthy physical/mental balance.

This is the stereo recording from 1959 with Björling, and it is conducted by Gabriele Santini. It is 11 minutes shorter than the mono version from 1954 with di Stefano and Gobbi. I don’t know if it’s due to faster tempi or cuts in the first recording ? In any case de los Angeles sings it beautifully and with much feeling. No optional high D in her entrance scene, but she doesn’t make it sound like she’s ducking any difficulties. She wouldn’t sing an E flat in Sempre libera either. Dignity and a sad smile were pretty much her emotional trademarks. Amazing how these feelings can be evoked by mere vocal means.

Björling’s tenor sounds almost too gorgeous for the role of the the selfish, reckless Pinkerton. This was to be his last commercial recording. He was very ill at the time and died the next year. Both singers are splendid in the love duet. Although neither had a very large voice, their vocal size and slightly squeezed type of emission are perfectly matched.

Santini’s conducting is very attentive. One can hear him tailoring his every moves to the singers’, never overwhelming them even in the biggest moments. Quite different from Karajan (w. Callas or Freni), who is not afraid to open the floodgates (to thrilling effect). Santini is the more conversational conductor here.

The sound is still quite good, with effective stereo separation and commendable clarity.

It's a long time since I listened to this set, but I used to have it on cassette (remember those). Though I liked De Los Angeles's Butterfly, I always felt the conducting was a bit dull, and Bjoerling a bit stiff as Pinkerton, so I acquired the earlier mono recording on CD. (I also have the Callas/Karajan and the Scotto/Barbirolli). Gavazzeni is a much more positive presence in the pit and Di Stefano is superb as Pinkerton, utterly and believably charming. Gobbi makes more of Sharpless than anyone ever heard. The sound isn't as good as the later recording, of course, but all in all I prefer the earlier set.



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