Author Topic: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?  (Read 288164 times)

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Offline T. D.

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1960 on: May 11, 2020, 11:30:02 AM »
What’s this one like, T. D.? Noteworthy?

I'd say "interesting" rather than really good. I enjoy it, but am a big fan of Gogol's writing so would have bought it in any case.
Performance, esp. singing, is good, the orchestration is novel (no violin section). Many scenes are rather loud and boisterous, vaguely reminiscent of DSCH's The Nose (also of course based on a work by Gogol) or Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. I'm not an audiophile, but will add that my old Melodiya CD pressing suffers from the harsh metallic sonics sometimes found in early CD releases (esp. Melodiya).

I'll equate it with DSCH's The Nose: recommended if you like Gogol, marginal at best otherwise. Maybe The Nose would get the slight nod because of the greater fame of the composer, but I actually listen to Dead Souls more often (disclaimer: I don't consider Shostakovich much of an opera composer).

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1961 on: May 11, 2020, 01:55:56 PM »
I'd say "interesting" rather than really good. I enjoy it, but am a big fan of Gogol's writing so would have bought it in any case.
Performance, esp. singing, is good, the orchestration is novel (no violin section). Many scenes are rather loud and boisterous, vaguely reminiscent of DSCH's The Nose (also of course based on a work by Gogol) or Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District. I'm not an audiophile, but will add that my old Melodiya CD pressing suffers from the harsh metallic sonics sometimes found in early CD releases (esp. Melodiya).

I'll equate it with DSCH's The Nose: recommended if you like Gogol, marginal at best otherwise. Maybe The Nose would get the slight nod because of the greater fame of the composer, but I actually listen to Dead Souls more often (disclaimer: I don't consider Shostakovich much of an opera composer).

I love Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth, but I haven’t really given a proper listen to The Nose. Anyway, thanks for the feedback.
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1962 on: May 13, 2020, 11:22:46 PM »


The front runners for this opera are probably Maag with Caballé and Pavarotti and Cleva with Moffo and Bergonzi, but this one has its attractions too, not least the affecting Luisa of Katia Ricciarelli. Vocally she is a little more fallible than either Caballé or Moffo, but she is very much inside the character and makes a vulneraby moving Luisa, no doubt helped by the fact that this recording was made during a highly successful run of performances at Covent Garden (actually a revival of a production that had been new the previous year). Much as I admire the two aforementioned ladies, I think ultimately I'd prefer Ricciarelli.

For the rest, honours are about even. Of the conductors, Maag is often revelatory and Cleva, whilst less imaginative, in the best Italian lyric tradition, but Maazel can be somehwat brash and vulgar. All three tenors are excellent and in their best form, as are the three baritones, Milnes, MacNeil and Bruson, so choice will depend on personal preference.

Federica was sung by Elizabeth Connell in the Covent Garden performances, but for some reason it was deemed necessary to bring in Obraztsova for the recording, who oversings and overpowers the role. The best Federica is Verrett on the Cleva; Reynolds on the Maag is completelyel anonymous. Richard Van Allan was Wurm in the stage performances but he is replaced by Ganzarolli, presumably because he had already recorded the role for Maag.

Still, for the three principals, this is a recommendable version of the opera and I'd be hard pressed to make a choice between it, Maag and Cleva.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2020, 06:42:23 AM by Tsaraslondon »
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1963 on: May 21, 2020, 10:56:02 PM »
Yesterday I listened to this, inspired an operetta thread on another site.



And this morning I've turned to this. Atrocious sound but some of the most stunning coloratura singing ever committed to disc.



Full review on my blog https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2017/10/22/armida-florence-1952/
« Last Edit: May 21, 2020, 10:57:48 PM by Tsaraslondon »
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Offline JBS

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1964 on: May 22, 2020, 05:16:27 AM »
Yesterday I listened to this, inspired an operetta thread on another site.



And this morning I've turned to this. Atrocious sound but some of the most stunning coloratura singing ever committed to disc.



Full review on my blog https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2017/10/22/armida-florence-1952/

Not really important, but both those covers are similar: you have to look hard at the photo to be sure who the singer is.  Especially Schwarzkopf.

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Offline André

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1965 on: May 22, 2020, 03:50:05 PM »


My own personal Boris curse: for some 40 years I’ve delayed buying and listening to this opera. When I started to get interested in acquiring it, the original unrimskyfied 1869 version was first issued on disc. I had no money to buy both versions and remained paralyzed for years between two equally interesting choices. So I procrastinated endlessly. To complicate matters further, new versions were issued, and critics started turning their back on Karajan (glitzy) and Christoff (tut-tutted fort his three-role stunt). I eventually settled on not making a choice and turned my back on the opera  ::). Until I found a cheap copy of the Karajan set.

I’ve read on the subject of the 1869 and 1872 versions (new scenes, different order, etc), attempts at conflating the two, as well as the subject of the original and the Rimsky orchestrations. My firs impression is that the Polish act jars. Dramatically and geographically it sounds out of place with the rest of the work, as well as being unnecessary to the work’s narrative. However, it contains some superb music, and since I love Vishnevskaya (unlike Mike :D), I am happy to have it. It can be skipped. The St-Basil scene is not essential either, but it is important in fleshing out the character of the Simpleton, as well as to herald the Tsar’s descending madness. I find that the Kromÿ Forest scene ends rather anticlimactically, but that’s how Mussorgsky conceived it in both versions.

As for the orchestration, it obviously interferes with the many russian folk references by clothing them in too sumptuous a garb. One has to listen attentively to hear what are actually very simple tunes and motifs. Too much strings, woodwinds and brass tend to take away from the melodies. Conceived as musical characterizations of the soul and people of Old Russia, they should be easier to perceive than what Rimsky allows us to hear. This is especially obvious in the Prologue. I obviously need to hear the 1869 version to complement the 1872 reworking.

The cast of this version cannot be faulted. Ghiaurov’s Tsar is human to a fault, the beautiful voice never suggesting the scheming murderer he is supposed to be. But I could not help warming to his noble delivery and moving portrayal. Talvela is an impressive Pimen, and all the other roles are strongly cast. Vishnevskaya is beyond reproach. I see that other singers who took the role include Arkhipova and Obraztsova, two formidable, fire-eating mezzos. I find that surprising and wonder if they transposed the role down, or if Vishnevskaya transposed it up. In any case, I’d rather have a minx Marina than a lioness one.

The orchestra’s playing is sumptuous but also quite characterful (low brass and winds) and Karajan conducts powerfully. As is his wont in opera, his tempi are on the slow side, but he is splendidly supportive of the singers and manages the crowd scenes and the few moments of pageant with panache. Whatever details one may quibble with, Karajan always manages to convey his views with power and conviction. The late sixties sound is still magnificent.




Offline JBS

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1966 on: May 22, 2020, 05:37:38 PM »
I have the Christoff version, and frankly the sound isn't good, and the scene in which Christoff as Pimen confronts Christoff as Boris might work on video with CGI, but on record it didn't work.

I have a live Salzburg Festival recording conducted by Karajan with Kim Borg as Boris. Meh.

And then I have Abbado, which is good, but I don't remember what version of the text and score they use. ( Amazon reviews say it's the second version, mostly, with Mussourgsky's original score, not the R-K version.)

I had the very good fortune of seeing the Met's production from the late 1970s. The version they presented was very similar to the one used by Abbado. The big difference in seeing it live was the importance of the chorus,  which turned out to be the real star of the show both musically and dramatically. The Abbado recording doesn't give them that prominence.

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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1967 on: May 22, 2020, 10:20:24 PM »
Not really important, but both those covers are similar: you have to look hard at the photo to be sure who the singer is.  Especially Schwarzkopf.

Well they've switched hair colour (Schwarzkopf is wearing a dark wig and Callas a blonde one) and this is pre weight-loss Callas, but otherwise they look pretty recognisable to me.
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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1968 on: May 22, 2020, 10:40:56 PM »


My own personal Boris curse: for some 40 years I’ve delayed buying and listening to this opera. When I started to get interested in acquiring it, the original unrimskyfied 1869 version was first issued on disc. I had no money to buy both versions and remained paralyzed for years between two equally interesting choices. So I procrastinated endlessly. To complicate matters further, new versions were issued, and critics started turning their back on Karajan (glitzy) and Christoff (tut-tutted fort his three-role stunt). I eventually settled on not making a choice and turned my back on the opera  ::). Until I found a cheap copy of the Karajan set.

I’ve read on the subject of the 1869 and 1872 versions (new scenes, different order, etc), attempts at conflating the two, as well as the subject of the original and the Rimsky orchestrations. My firs impression is that the Polish act jars. Dramatically and geographically it sounds out of place with the rest of the work, as well as being unnecessary to the work’s narrative. However, it contains some superb music, and since I love Vishnevskaya (unlike Mike :D), I am happy to have it. It can be skipped. The St-Basil scene is not essential either, but it is important in fleshing out the character of the Simpleton, as well as to herald the Tsar’s descending madness. I find that the Kromÿ Forest scene ends rather anticlimactically, but that’s how Mussorgsky conceived it in both versions.

As for the orchestration, it obviously interferes with the many russian folk references by clothing them in too sumptuous a garb. One has to listen attentively to hear what are actually very simple tunes and motifs. Too much strings, woodwinds and brass tend to take away from the melodies. Conceived as musical characterizations of the soul and people of Old Russia, they should be easier to perceive than what Rimsky allows us to hear. This is especially obvious in the Prologue. I obviously need to hear the 1869 version to complement the 1872 reworking.

The cast of this version cannot be faulted. Ghiaurov’s Tsar is human to a fault, the beautiful voice never suggesting the scheming murderer he is supposed to be. But I could not help warming to his noble delivery and moving portrayal. Talvela is an impressive Pimen, and all the other roles are strongly cast. Vishnevskaya is beyond reproach. I see that other singers who took the role include Arkhipova and Obraztsova, two formidable, fire-eating mezzos. I find that surprising and wonder if they transposed the role down, or if Vishnevskaya transposed it up. In any case, I’d rather have a minx Marina than a lioness one.

The orchestra’s playing is sumptuous but also quite characterful (low brass and winds) and Karajan conducts powerfully. As is his wont in opera, his tempi are on the slow side, but he is splendidly supportive of the singers and manages the crowd scenes and the few moments of pageant with panache. Whatever details one may quibble with, Karajan always manages to convey his views with power and conviction. The late sixties sound is still magnificent.

I used to have the Karajan on LP and I did really like it, but on CD I only have Gergiev's 1872 version (Borodina as Marina). It was originally issued with the 1869 version and he used different singers for the role of Boris (Putilin for 1869 and Vaneev for 1872), apparently because they are now considered very different works rather than 1872 just being a revision of 1869. I do like the Gergiev, but I do rather miss the sheer gorgeousness of the Karajan, however inauthentic we think it now.

We shouldn't be too hard on Rimsky-Korsakov. Without him the opera might well have disappeared completely.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1969 on: May 22, 2020, 11:03:08 PM »


Unalloyed joy from beginning to end and a sure way to lift the spirits. Those who seek textual accuracy should probably look elsewhere, but this one captures the spirit of the work like no other.

https://tsaraslondon.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/il-turco-in-italia/
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1970 on: Today at 12:26:20 AM »


Prelude and Act I at the moment. Not sure how much time I will have today, so might have to listen over a few days. That's the problem with Wagner. One act can be as long as a whole Puccini opera. I think Götterdämmerung is my favourite of the four though.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline JBS

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1971 on: Today at 04:48:27 AM »


Prelude and Act I at the moment. Not sure how much time I will have today, so might have to listen over a few days. That's the problem with Wagner. One act can be as long as a whole Puccini opera. I think Götterdämmerung is my favourite of the four though.

The idea that Wagner operas are mammoth size compared to other operas is a bit of an illusion, helped by the fact that there are no breaks in the music. I think the Prelude and Act I of Gotterdammerung is supposed to be the longest stretch of music with no break in all of opera.  And of course there's no Puccinian concision.  But some 19th century grand operas come close to the same overall length.  I think Les Huguenots hits the four hour mark, for instance.

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Offline Tsaraslondon

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1972 on: Today at 08:56:41 AM »
The idea that Wagner operas are mammoth size compared to other operas is a bit of an illusion, helped by the fact that there are no breaks in the music. I think the Prelude and Act I of Gotterdammerung is supposed to be the longest stretch of music with no break in all of opera.  And of course there's no Puccinian concision.  But some 19th century grand operas come close to the same overall length.  I think Les Huguenots hits the four hour mark, for instance.

It's not so much of an illusion. Act I of Götterdämmerung lasts about the same amount of time as the whole of La Bohème. The Puccini might take longer in the theatre, but that's more because of the extened intervals to ensure people spend money at the bars! Not that I want to listen to endless Puccini, but the point is that Wagner requires quite a time commitment. Yesterday I listened to the whole of Il Turco in Italia in not much more than an hour and a half.

I love Berlioz's Les Troyens (it's one of my favourite operas), which is almost as long as one of Wagner's longer operas, but I don't listen to it as often as I'd like, simply because it is so long and I've never been one for just listening to bits of an opera. I like to listen to the whole thing in one go.
\"A beautiful voice is not enough.\" Maria Callas

Offline Pohjolas Daughter

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Re: What Opera Are You Listening to Now?
« Reply #1973 on: Today at 01:00:53 PM »


My own personal Boris curse: for some 40 years I’ve delayed buying and listening to this opera. When I started to get interested in acquiring it, the original unrimskyfied 1869 version was first issued on disc. I had no money to buy both versions and remained paralyzed for years between two equally interesting choices. So I procrastinated endlessly. To complicate matters further, new versions were issued, and critics started turning their back on Karajan (glitzy) and Christoff (tut-tutted fort his three-role stunt). I eventually settled on not making a choice and turned my back on the opera  ::). Until I found a cheap copy of the Karajan set.

I’ve read on the subject of the 1869 and 1872 versions (new scenes, different order, etc), attempts at conflating the two, as well as the subject of the original and the Rimsky orchestrations. My firs impression is that the Polish act jars. Dramatically and geographically it sounds out of place with the rest of the work, as well as being unnecessary to the work’s narrative. However, it contains some superb music, and since I love Vishnevskaya (unlike Mike :D), I am happy to have it. It can be skipped. The St-Basil scene is not essential either, but it is important in fleshing out the character of the Simpleton, as well as to herald the Tsar’s descending madness. I find that the Kromÿ Forest scene ends rather anticlimactically, but that’s how Mussorgsky conceived it in both versions.

As for the orchestration, it obviously interferes with the many russian folk references by clothing them in too sumptuous a garb. One has to listen attentively to hear what are actually very simple tunes and motifs. Too much strings, woodwinds and brass tend to take away from the melodies. Conceived as musical characterizations of the soul and people of Old Russia, they should be easier to perceive than what Rimsky allows us to hear. This is especially obvious in the Prologue. I obviously need to hear the 1869 version to complement the 1872 reworking.

The cast of this version cannot be faulted. Ghiaurov’s Tsar is human to a fault, the beautiful voice never suggesting the scheming murderer he is supposed to be. But I could not help warming to his noble delivery and moving portrayal. Talvela is an impressive Pimen, and all the other roles are strongly cast. Vishnevskaya is beyond reproach. I see that other singers who took the role include Arkhipova and Obraztsova, two formidable, fire-eating mezzos. I find that surprising and wonder if they transposed the role down, or if Vishnevskaya transposed it up. In any case, I’d rather have a minx Marina than a lioness one.

The orchestra’s playing is sumptuous but also quite characterful (low brass and winds) and Karajan conducts powerfully. As is his wont in opera, his tempi are on the slow side, but he is splendidly supportive of the singers and manages the crowd scenes and the few moments of pageant with panache. Whatever details one may quibble with, Karajan always manages to convey his views with power and conviction. The late sixties sound is still magnificent.
Hi André,

You might be interested in reading this (at least the parts about Boris) https://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/obituary-boris-christoff-1494547.html; From what I've read, it helps to set that HMV recording in context.  I haven't heard it before now, but would be interested in doing so.  :-)  And thank you so much for your comments; I have the Cluytens and Abbado (by Mussorgsky).  Will double check later on the RK version.  In any event, I'm delighted that you have found a version that you enjoy....that's what matters most of all! :-)

Best wishes and happy listening,

PD