What Opera Are You Listening to Now?

Started by Tsaraslondon, April 10, 2017, 04:29:04 AM

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Quote from: Tsaraslondon on April 02, 2024, 03:09:45 AMI prefer Giulini. I've never been a fan of Solti in Verdi, and I still find him over-emphatic. I think, all round, Giulini also has the better cast too. I prefer Caballé to Tebaldi and much prefer Milnes to Fischer-Dieskau. Verrett and Bumbry probably come out about equal and so do Bergonzi and Domingo. Raimondi is perhaps a little light for Philip, but his performance has grown on me and he contrasts well with the black-voiced Inquisitor of Giaotti.

I like Karajan's cast quite a bit too, though he chooses four acts and the ridiculously wide sound picture is a bit of a problem.

I did a comparison of Giulini, Abbado and Karajan on my blog. Verdi's Don Carlo - a Comparison of Three Different Recordings.

I once did a sort of head to head matchup of Guilini and Muti (who has Pavarotti/Dessi/Ramey) and came away feeling Guilini was better.  I don't think I have any other versions.

Has anyone ever seen the DVD version of Karajan?

Hollywood Beach Broadwalk


Quote from: nico1616 on April 02, 2024, 08:05:05 AMThere are some great suggestions you are giving here  ;D Serafin is of course a great conductor and I also know and adore his Rigoletto with Callas. I have never warmed to his Forza, which I find a difficult opera to bring off by anyone. The only recording of that one I really appreciate is the Tebaldi/Molinari-Pradelli.
It now occurs to me that I only know the Sony/Levine recordings and not the RCA ones, I must find out about those, I guess a 70s opera cast beats a 90s one on every account.

As for the Karajan Trovatore, that must one of the best Verdi recordings ever made. You make me curious about the Karajan EMI Aida, it is hard to imagine Freni as Aida but who knows...

And then the Gardelli series on Philips, I have most of them on my shelves but hardly know them. If I want to listen to Verdi, I tend to go for the big names.

There are plenty of big names in the Philips series - Caballé, Domingo, Cappuccilli, Milnes, Raimondi, Ricciarelli, Jessye Norman, Cossotto etc - and Gardelli was always superb in early Verdi. His is, IMO of course, the best studio Nabucco on disc.

Oddly I don't get on so well with the Tebaldi/Molinari-Pradelli Forza. I think she is better on some of the live recordings and Molinari-Pradelli is OK, but not as exciting as Serafin. I also think it's one of Callas's best recordings.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas


Quote from: JBS on April 02, 2024, 08:53:20 AMI once did a sort of head to head matchup of Guilini and Muti (who has Pavarotti/Dessi/Ramey) and came away feeling Guilini was better.  I don't think I have any other versions.

Has anyone ever seen the DVD version of Karajan?

It's a long time ago, but I saw it, or at least some of it, when I worked at the Music Discount Centre Opera Shop at the Colisseum (home of English National Opera). I remember it being rather good.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas


Quote from: Tsaraslondon on April 02, 2024, 10:06:05 AMIt's a long time ago, but I saw it, or at least some of it, when I worked at the Music Discount Centre Opera Shop at the Colisseum (home of English National Opera). I remember it being rather good.
I've seen it. IIRC, bizarrely, Eboli's "Veil Song" is truncated (only the first half is performed).


Reporting a bit late from the Simon Boccanegra performance that took place in the April 2nd. The production was magnificently evocative, Anish Kapoor's set using abstract imagery to reflect the states of mind of the characters. One especially impressive part was when Paolo must curse himself by the order of Doge. When he does the floor starts to sink under him, as if sinking into the crimson red of his own personal hell, evoking the desperate mindset of a once relatively respectable plebeian goldsmith, now a kidnapper and a future assassin. The first act opens with Amelia (Maria) laying in a pool of blood, with four main male characters in each corner of the pool, as if symbolizing their obsession to some extent with her, either by being over-protective or letting their political inclinations to put Amelia's happiness in jeopardy (Simon and Fiesco), using her as a pawn towards power and riches with perhaps a touch of lust in it also (Paolo), being romantically in love with her and almost narcissistically jealous (Adorno), with the pool of blood reminding of her mother's (also named Maria) tragic death and highlighting Amelia's innocence. The costumes by Wojciech Dziedzic reflected the plot changes such as when Paolo's attire becomes more fancy after the prologue when he has achieved more power and wealth.

Simon's singer, Vladimir Stoyanov was capable. Although I've always imagined Simon to be, especially in the acts following the Prologue, significantly older. I guess there is only so much a make-up can do. Fiesco's singer, Riccardo Zanellato, stole the show, along with Paolo's singer Sebastian Catana. Fiesco has always eluded me as a character before but after this performance he really cemented himself in my mind as one of the best characters in this opera and in fact best Verdi opera roles in general. His thundering voice when raging at Simon, his over-protective tenderness when talking with Amelia and Adorno, his remorse in the last act when hearing the truth from Simon, all this is conveyed effortlessly by Zanellato. Now, about Catana as Paolo, I have said before that Paolo is one of my favorite Verdi villains. After this performance, I repeat this ever louder. I already touched on this before but Paolo's character arc is one of the most interesting ones in this opera and in Verdi in general. His initial plot in the prologue is most interesting, he wants to overthrow patricians who oppress the plebeians of Genoa of which I have no doubt that Paolo used to be a relatively virtuous example, at least initially. However, as always, power goes into his head and cyclically the once oppressed threatens to become the oppressor. Yet there is still a measure of sympathy Verdi can conjure for him, particularly in Act 3 when he goes towards his execution while having the wedding song of Amelia and Adorno haunt him in his final moments. Catano brings this tragic character arc magnificently to life in his every expression, gesture, tone. Now, about Amelia and Adorno... I feel they are the weakest of bunch in this opera, or at least Adorno is. Amelia is fine by herself, especially in the moving opening of act 1... but whenever she is in relation to her lover, Adorno, the quality of opera decreases. Adorno is annoying to say the least and the romantic plot tumor, which is especially in full force in Act 2, makes for much less enjoyable art than the political power struggle of the characters mentioned before. Adorno is easily the worst character in this work. No matter how good the singer (and Mihails Culpajevs wasn't even that good) he is just boring and insufferable. Amelia's singer, Joyce El-Khoury, is quite good. She has the sufficient innocence, mildness and beauty of voice and appearance to make for a quite good ingénue. It is only when she is singing about love with Adorno that she falls short. Also, as a sidenote, why does almost every Italian opera always have at least one scene where some character begs in sympathetic tones: "Pietá!" Is that a cultural thing in Italy?

I spoke about the romantic plot tumor before. Well, the plot has other quite big failings too. For most people, it is probably incoherent mess, with implausible coincidences and happenstances. Dialogue is quite good whenever the focus is on politics but when the romantic plot tumor becomes excessive, it really harms the whole experience. I would have preferred that the whole focus was on the power struggle. No matter how good the production, it cannot hide certain weaknesses in the libretto. If I had to guess, I'd say that Act 2 was probably the one most left untouched when Boito and Verdi edited Piave's libretto because that act is, both musically, dramaturgically and poetically, the weakest one. The two other ones and the prologue are much better but on the whole the plot fails to achieve complete coherence when looking at the big picture.

On the whole, a very enjoyable experience, I just had forgot how bad the libretto sometimes was.


Quote from: Ganondorf on April 05, 2024, 05:43:03 AMReporting a bit late from the Simon Boccanegra performance that took place in the April 2nd.

Blimey, man, how did you have the time to muse about all that AND listen to the music?  ;D

Seriously now, I believe you overthink the whole thing/stuff.

IMHO, the mark of a succesful opera is not the plausibility of the libretto. The very idea of opera, ie people singing their way through life, is itself higly implausible; actually, suspension of belief is a prerequisite for enjoying it. In a succesful opera the music should match the situation at hand and fit the characters' moods, feelings and state of mind. If the melodic material is memorable, all the better. That is all. Few operas, even among the greatest, have entirely plausible librettos and besides, who listens to them for the libretto? The music is much more important. Prima la musica poi le parole.

My two cents, anyway.
Si un hombre nunca se contradice será porque nunca dice nada. —Miguel de Unamuno


Arturo Toscanini conducts a memorial concert at La Scala on 10 June 1948, the 30th anniversary of Arrigo Boito's death. The program consist the Prologue and Act III from Mefistofele, and Act III and a selection from Act IV from Nerone. Among the vocal soloists, Cesare Siepi, Giacinto Prandelli, Herva Nelli, Giulietta Simionato...


Another legendary evening at La Scala (December 13, 1951). Victor de Sabata conducts Tristan und Isolde (with Max Lorenz, Gertrude Grob-Prandl, Elsa CaveltI, Sven Nilsson, et al).

Only listening to Act II today. The sound quality is terrible, but a superbly shaped and paced performance shines through. As for the voices, Lorenz was nearing the end of his distinguished career, but is still a very fine Tristan, while Grob-Prandl has a torrent of a voice, but isn't the most nuanced of singers. This is the conductor's show IMO.