Cher Public

Enchanted April

You don’t have to be Quechua to enjoy some of the outstanding CDs and DVDs to be released this month, but it can’t hurt.

Here are some April releases La Cieca is anticipating eagerly:


Klaus Florian Vogt, Juliane Banse, Christian Gerhaher, Gabriele Schnaut, Andreas Hörl, Stephan Rügamer, Sophia Schupelius; Rundfunkchor Berlin; Berlin Girls’ Choir; Berlin SO/Ingo Metzmacher.


Handel: Bad Guys

Arias from from Tamerlano, Ariodante, Teseo, Amadigi, Giulio Cesare and Ottone. Xavier Sabata (countertenor); Il Pomo d’Oro, Riccardo Minasi. “Sabata here proves his mettle with a fascinating program devoted to the the villains of Handel operas whose strikingly varied music is rarely anthologized. . . . his fierce dramatic commitment and intriguing musical imagination reveal the many devious, occasionally sympathetic facets of his characters.” — DeCaffarrelli

Yma Sumac Recital

“Recorded live in concert in Bucharest, 1961.”

Wagner at the Met: Legendary Performances

This 25 CD box set includes: Götterdämmerung – January 11, 1936: Marjorie Lawrence, Lauritz Melchior, Friedrich Schorr, Dorothee Manski, Ludwig Hoffman, Kathryn Meisle, Eduard Habich, Artur Bodanzky; Die Walküre – February 17, 1940: Kirsten Flagstad, Marjorie Lawrence, Lauritz Melchior, Julius Huehn, Karin Branzell, Emanuel List, Erich Leinsdorf; Siegfried — January 30, 1937: Lauritz Melchior, Kirsten Flagstad, Friedrich Schorr, Kerstin Thorborg, Karl Laufkoetter, Eduard Habich, Emanuel List, Stella Andreva; Artur Bodanzky; Tristan und Isolde – April 16, 1938: Kirsten Flagstad, Lauritz Melchior, Julius Huehn, Karin Branzell, Emanuel List, Artur Bodanzky; Lohengrin – January 2, 1943: Astrid Varnay, Kerstin Thorborg, Alexander Sved, Norman Cordon, Mack Harrell, Erich Leinsdorf; Der Fliegende Holländer — December 30, 1950; Hans Hotter, Astrid Varnay, Set Svanholm, Sven Nilsson, Thomas Hayward, Hertha Glaz; Fritz Reiner; Das Rheingold – January 27, 1951: Hans Hotter, Margaret Harshaw, Lawrence Davidson, Set Svanholm, Karin Branzell, Jerome Hines, Deszo Ernster, Jarmila Novotna, Brian Sullivan, Osie Hawkins, Erna Berger, Lucine Amara, Hertha Glaz, Fritz Stiedry; Die Meistersinger Von Nürnberg January 10, 1953: Victoria De Los Angeles, Paul Schoeffler, Hans Hopf, Hertha Glaz, Richard Holm, Gerhard Pechner, Josef Greindl, Mack Harrell; Fritz Reiner; Tannhäuser – January 9, 1954: Margaret Harshaw, Astrid Varnay, Ramon Vinay, George London, Jerome Hines, Brian Sullivan, George Szell.

I Vespri Siciliani

Leo Nucci, Fabio Armiliato, Giacomo Prestia, Daniela Dessi, Dario Russo and Andrea Mastroni star in this Teatro Regio di Parma production of the Verdi opera conducted by Massimo Zanetti and staged by Pier Luigi Pizzi.

David et Jonathas

Pascal Charbonneau, Ana Quintans, Neal Davis, Frederic Caton, Kresimir Spicer and Dominique Visse star in this Andreas Homoki production of the Charpentier opera with William Christie conducting Les Arts Florissants.


  • honorary virgin

    I’d be eager to know if the promised remasterings of the Met’s golden-age Wagner broadcasts from the 1930s are a significant sonic improvement on the versions long available from Naxos, Guild Historical and other labels.

    • I can speak only for the Lohengrin which was broadcast on Sirius this past week, presumably in the same remastering, which I found very clean and present. I would say the general quality of the sound is comparable to that of a Met broadcast of the early 1960s. (If you have Sirius and would like to hear for yourself, it will be rebroadcast at 3:00 PM today.)

    • Buster

      Me too. Some of the Naxos issues were definitely not an approvement over the old Walhall CD’s (the ones with the stunning colour covers). The Schorr Rheingold, for example, and the Marjorie Lawrence Götterdämmerung just sounded awful on Naxos. The first Naxos Götterdämmerung was so bad, they had it redone by Ward Marston, but Walhall still sounds much better to my ears. Guild mixes performances of different dates, or slices in bits from studio recordings, so I avoid most of their stuff. For the moment, I stick to Walhall, and to Naxos for Siegfried. There is a new dubbing of the Schorr Meistersinger from 1939 (a wonderful performance, with Charles Kullman, and Irene Jessner), but again, the old Walhall sounds fine to me.

      • Buster

        In general, I don’t believe these advertisements that promise “newly discovered tapes” or “newly remastered tapes” anymore. They are just a sales gimmick. With the surface noise, anyhow, you remove a lot of the vibrancy of the voices as well. Eklipse is another excellent label for early live performances. Their Toscanini Meistersinger sounds much fuller and warmer than the Andante dubbing.

  • newlyaddicted

    I don’t get it. Why does the Met keep releasing ancient scratchy old recording of singers long dead. If they want to build an audience, or keep the one they have, why don’t they release recordings on CD or MP3 (not DVD’s) of recent performances featuring singers who are alive and kicking who can still be heard alive.

    • Buster

      Lucine Amara is alive, and still singing:

      • Quanto Painy Fakor

        but she has to cope with a lot of pain these days.

      • papopera

        I remember her as Eugemes Tatiana in English otherwise as Madame Second Best Cover.

      • Ilka Saro

        Thanks sooooo much for posting this! Beautiful.

    • luvtennis

      How about “because I wouldn’t pay one freakin red cent for most of the singers on the boards today and the Met would actually like to make money.” And I am one of those fools who still spends a fortune on audio-only performances. Does that answer your question. ;-)

      There are numerous DVDs out there of recent Met performances. Unfortunately, few of them offer singing of a sufficiently high quality to justify and audio only release.

    • paddypig

      Because those “ancient scratchy old recordings of singers long dead” represent not only one of the most comprehensive histories of singing of the twentieth century, they are also prime examples in many cases of vocal technique and style. For example, while the sound of the 1949 broadcast of SALOME may not be digital. Welitsch’s performance is so hot and sexy and vocally opulent that I will take it over the digital recordings of Studer or Malfitano anyday. The 1938 performance of TRISTAN UND ISOLDE from London with Beecham conducting Melchior and Flagstad, despite the sound is still one of the most sublime performances of the opera. Very few singers today have the commitment or solid techniques of the singers of the past that many fans collect. Most American singers today fall very much into (at best) the Angela Meade category. Well trained voices, good techniques, but absolutely zero personality or dramatic commitment, Deborah Voigt in her prime was a classic example of this,(beautiful voice, good technique, but no dramatic insight and even at her best, absolutely clueless in the Italian repetoire) and now that the voice is in decline has basically nothing to offer. If you have no interest in historic performances, you really have no interest in opera itself. You just want to be entertained and might as well go to Cirque de Soleil. Opera is not American Idol, where any idiot who has sung in a karaoke bar can get up with a microphone and yell their ass off. An opera singer’s career, like a ballet dancer’s career, is based on years of study, a strong technique and a thorough musical education. In addition, to truly capture the imagination of the public you need stage presence and preferably a true understanding of the music and style. Much of that is lacking in many of todays singers, who sing, Strauss, Verdi, Wagner, Bellini, Puccini and Donizetti with little sense of the different styles required or what it takes to interpret the different composers intentions. I attended a master class with Renata Scotto many years ago and a young soprano sang the first act aria from LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR, the first thing Scotto said to her is this LUCIA, not CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA, and went on to explain the different dramatic and vocal requirements for each composer. Listen to Scotto’s first studio recording of BUTTERFLY, or the early Callas NORMA, or anyting by OLIVERO, these singers may not be on the boards today, but they certainly brought a brilliance, intelligence and musicianship that many singers today just dont have. Listen to any of the MET broadcasts with Bergonzi, Do you really think Alvarez or Giordani are satisfactory alternatives for home listening? They may be the only thing we have live, but they simply don’t bring the same qualities to their performance that many singers from the past (Bergonzi, Corelli, Del Monaco, Di Stefano, Pavarotti, Domingo, Vickers, Kraus) brought to their performances. So try listening to some of these “ancient scratchy old recordings of singers long dead” and you might learn to really appreciate the art form more. My piano teacher would never teach me ragtime or jazz until I had a solid knowledge of the classics, I still cannot play even Broadway tunes or ragtime unless I warm up with Clementi, Bach, Beethoven or Mozart. Opera did not suddently develop in a vacuum. It is an older artform with a rich history and tradition of performance and style, (many reject most of this today unfortunately) If you want to really understand it you need to expose yourself to the historical performances. I never saw Olivero live, but when introduced to her recordings was completely blown away. Try it , you might really grow to love opera more.

      • RosinaLeckermaul

        Bravo, Paddypig!! Couldn’t agree more.

    • Milady DeWinter

      Well, newlyaddicted, why don’t we have the Louvre and the Metropolitan Museum of Art throw out all those tiresome, scratchy Rembrandts, Titians and Matisses.
      I agree! Who needs ’em?

      P.S. the Wagner Met set contains no Traubel at all (scandale); the Sumac concert is a blast -- but not new -- I’ve had that disc for 4-5 years

    • La Valkyrietta


      The Met does both. As long as opera fans have ears, they will want to hear the better interpretations. If the Met does not offer those, someone else other than the Met will profit. The Met makes money by selling tickets to the house, sure, but also by selling other things. Capitalism does have good points.

  • messa di voce

    Why the photo of Marilyn Horne in “Ghosts of Versailles”?

    • Bianca Castafiore

      That’s Ms. Amy Camus of Hoboken, NJ, to you!

      • Belfagor

        That’s a lie! I know a bona-fide Inca princess when I see one…….!

  • The Wagner set looks like a great value. I don’t have a Ring with Melchior. Hmmm…

  • newlyaddicted

    I’m sure those long dead singers did have perfect tecnique but the sound that comes out of my speakers isn’t their voice, it’s a sometimes unpleasant sound many times remastered.
    All reviews tell me Caballe’s Norma in Orange is the performance of a lifetime, the recording quality is dreadful. With the video it’s acceptable but not to listen to as more than a curiosity.
    Are you telling me that there’s no one performing at the Met presently that’s worth listening to in a audio recording. Wouldn’t a recording of last months Parsifal be more attractive than a 40 year old recording. Isn’t it more exciting to enjoy a recording then to be able to go to a theatre and hear those artist live.

    • A. Poggia Turra

      I own a Dreamlife DVD of the Orange Norma, and the sound is fine (given that it’s outdoors during a mistral wind).

      • Milady DeWinter

        Well, newlyaddicted, a 40-year-old performance of “Parsifal” would take us to, ummm…1973. Guess what? They actually had stereo and quadraphonic sound then! Amazing! But your point is well taken, kidding aside. Last month’s “Parsifal” is indeed a keeper. What you have to develop, as many of us have, is a tolerance for less than perfect sound in order to catch performances from the legendary past. It’s like being in a time machine! Surely you don’t think that modern CD technology truly captures the real sound of a real voice in a real theatre, do you? With digital technology, all voices are created equal. That’s why these legendary “pirate” recordings are so valuable to us -- they not only catch the artist, live, in full flight, sometimes on a bad night, sometimes on a great night, but they also impart a sense of the “house acoustic” -- something you rarely get with digital technology. And you’re perfectly right about some of those re-masters of re-masters : they can be awful -- it’s sort of caveat emptor. In any case, I wish you good luck and fun as you discover the world of opera and peel back the many layers of its years of legendary performances.

    • marshiemarkII

      newly, the Parsifal of last month WAS a performance of a lifetime. I am a huge fan of Jimmy L, but I had never EVER heard the Met orchestra sound that glorious, the tempi portentous, the colors diaphanous, the rhythms intense yet so organically right, and the overall architecture classically perfect, from beginning to end. Same with that astonishing chorus. I had heard Pape and Mattei before at the Met, but nothing prepared me for what they offered that night, it was singing from the greatest Golden Age. Dalayman was of course her usual pedestrian self, blowzy and with unequalized registers, but none of that mattered, she was not offensive, and worked well with the rest. The greatest disappointment for me was Kaufmann. Please note that I considered myself a fan. I adored the Munich Lohengrin with Harteros, and several other DVD I had with him. I loved his baritonal timbre, and his musicality. I was also not expecting the rebirth of Jon Vickers. I thought he was definitely underwhelming as Parsifal, inaudible in Act I and when he opened up in Act II, it was barely acceptable. Beczala gives far more voice in Verdi than Kauffmann does in Wagner, not comparing the actual volume, side by side, as filling the line is not the same as just volume per se. Kaufmann’s voice that I found beautiful on DVDs, sounded wan and uninteresting in the house. Comments that I heard were that he was better that night than all previous nights, it was the Wednesday before the HD. And I was lucky that my seat may have had the best acoustics I have ever heard at the Met :-)

      But yes, your point is well taken, the Parsifal was indeed for the ages and would stand comparison to any of the so called Golden Age.

    • la vociaccia

      Listen to milady, newlyaddicted. Those scratchy recordings are the BEST! Getting an actual feel for the house acoustic is worth some ear buzzing. I don’t like listening to engineered recordings of the Verdi requiem or the Aida triumphal march, because I want to know EXACTLY what it sounded like when the soprano bats a C over the whole orchestra and chorus. And it’s ALWAYS worth it to hear Melchior and Flagstad

      if the caballe Norma is once in a lifetime, the 1955 Scala Callas Norma is once in a millennium. And the sound ain’t too hot on that either, but oh does Maria burn…

      • marshiemarkII

        Voci, not to beat a dead horse over and over, but the new tape of the Norma of a Millennium is actually quite sensational, check out the new Myto.

      • Milady DeWinter

        I agree mia vociaccia: that 1955 La Scala Norma (and I’m sorry, but the sound is not that bad -- but of the weird curse on Callas “live” sonics, we shall not speak of at this time) is the sine qua non of Normas, the stuff of legend, imho, seconded only by Norma a l’Orange, which is also magnificent, but La Divina trumps La Superba by a D. And an audience meltdown at “Son io!”

        • la vociaccia

          My favorite part of the Scala 1955 (warning: canary-fancying-queen alert) is when maria does a messa di voce on the C in “Oh Rimembranza” and the audience audibly gasps

          • And then there’s that audience outburst after “Son io” (when she’s supposed to give up Adalgisa but reveals herself to be the culprit).

            That 1955 La Scala Norma is the reason live opera recordings exist. It doesn’t get better. And second to that performance is the 1954 Rome Norma, also with Callas/MdM but with Stignani as Adalgisa. Maria is in even stronger voice in Rome but she has more vulnerability in the La Scala one.

          • marshiemarkII

            Not to be a pedant k but Rome is also 1955. And she had her period hence it’s more acidic but fab nevertheless :-)

          • messa di voce

            Do you have a calendar of La Divina’s periods? That would come in useful when listening to her recordings.

    • oedipe

      It is also true, Newlyaddicted, that not ALL performances from the past are legendary, far from it, as the Mon coeur s’ouvre à ta voix compilation on the “Dozen Dalilas” thread clearly shows. It’s not just that the sound quality of the tape is not perfect, but the taste of several of the singers is quite questionable.

    • k0000

      In their most recent remasterings, some “ancient scratchy recordings of singers long dead” in fact offer vivid sonic portraits of great singers. I’d even go so far as to say that the best of these early recordings can give a more accurate sense of the voices than what’s produced by the latest technology, where engineers can fiddle endlessly with the product. Try some of the reissues on the Marston label. And here’s what one writer says of the Romophone set of Pol Plancon’s Victor recordings, made over one hundred years ago: “On the Romophone set of his complete Victor catalogue (Romophone 82001-2), Plançon’s basso cantante emerges against the background of tinny piano or orchestral accompaniments with startling presence; more than a century after these studio sessions took place, the digital remasterings permit us to speak confidently and in detail about the voice’s timbre (lean, focused, warmed by a delicate vibrato), the seamless legato, the control of dynamics, the effortless coloratura, and the exemplary diction.” (Yale Review, April 2012).

  • newlyaddicted

    Thanks for your comments, I will admit to trying to provoke you all because I know how you/we all can become very attached to certain artists, certain recordings.
    I will look back at older recordings.
    I just wish the Met would make Audio from the HD recordings available. I have tried stripping the sound off the DVD’s to make MP3 files but they don’t sound very good, just very mushy.
    It’s disappointing as a new (but no longer young) fan that every time I go looking for a recording the first thing I’m offered is always Joan Sutherland, not that she wasn’t wonderful but it’s been 30 years.

    • manou

      It’s OK newlyaddicted -- you are just an opinionated neophyte.

    • la vociaccia

      It’s been thirty years…but queens will be talking about that e flat for another hundred ;) .

    • Noel Dahling

      Unfortunately Newly, you live in a time when new recordings of opera with current artists are rarely released. Plus there are some roles that no one today is performing at anywhere near the level of singers form 30,40,50 years ago (Norma, for example). At least we still get recital albums though, and if you haven’t checked out Joyce DiDonato’s Drama Queens album yet, you should. Her Cleopatra is stunning, a perfect synergy of acting/singing.

  • Milady DeWinter

    You said it, Dahling.
    The problem, Newly, is that the tipping point for the profit margin to justify the costs of recording another studio Boheme or Carmen or Don Carlo has simply been reached, and the new releases of most standard fare is DVD first. It also has something to do with the phenomenom of a little thing called dowloading and piracy. That’s why there’s no Tower Records any more where you can go get the new Rosca that isn’t being recorded any longer..Of course, there IS a Handel or Lully CD set issued every week, but that’s another story.

    But by all means, do listen to all the current Met and international artists of today. I do. There are some amazing singers now, always have been, always will be. I am listening to the last in the very interesting series of “Traviatas” with Ms. Damrau, who is achieving a sort of personal best with the role. And brickbats notwithstanding, Domingo is still capable of spinning a Verdian line and bringing vocal distinction to the proceedings. Tenor Samir Pirgu, alas, is one of the long lists of singers chosen, seemingly, because they are young hotties and actors first, singers second. This would be a Traviata for the archives if we could just plop in any number of better endowed tenors from the pre-digital era of in-house tapes and FM broadcasts.
    The thing about opera is that we have an amazing archive in live sound, and while repertoires change with the times, look at any international house, its repertoire in 1918, 1946, 1962, 1974, 1998, or this year, and you will see the same works over and over: about 75%, and the other 25% will depend on the country, the culture at the time,, fashionable revivals (like the bel canto revival of the 1960s-1970s), and new works, but Aida , Lucia, Butterfly, Barbieri, the Ring, Der Rosenkavalier, etc., you know them -- they are the constants.
    The rosetta stone to unlocking the vast sound archives and getting “through” recording limitations, perhaps having an epiphany about a singer, or a work, or most happily, both, is to simply listen, and learn. Pick the operas you like (and they will change and develop) and listen to the sonically deluxe recordings until you know the score backwards.

    When you have that luxury, of knowing the music fairly well, your journey of opera fandom will be so much richer, the mind can listen past technical imperfections and you can really evaluate and savor the great (and yes, sometimes not-so-great) art of those singers. It is a full time sport, art, and, addiction. You have your work cut out for you, ma cher, now, proceed, and happy listening to you!

    • Milady DeWinter

      Oh dear.
      MdW does wish there were an edit button,

      • Bianca Castafiore

        I got excited for a moment, I thought you meant a new recording of Fosca…

        Ah, je ris!!!!

    • shoegirl

      Also the market is absolutely flooded with multiple recordings of many works. I grew up across the road from our national critic (I know it sounds funny, but we really only have one opera critic here). He gave me lift home from a live cinecast a while back and mentioned that he has 28 recordings of La Traviata.

      If you are going to do another one in the studio, you’re not only up against those 28 Traviatas, you’re up against DVDs, broadcasts, youtube (now HD itself), TV stations, Sky Go, websites, iTunes, mp3s, plus old ex catalogue recordings that are still available if you dig hard. It seems now that a singer must develop their reputation first and then record, not the other way round.

      Plus those “in favour” get the studio roles -- which seems to particularly leave many artists outside the tent. Of course some also get dropped . . . leaving room for the odd newcomer.

  • newlyaddicted

    I saw Damrau as Violetta last week, I think a cold must have affected my hearing because nothing was getting through to me. Thanks for saying you are listening to the recording because I notice it is playing all week on the Met website. I will listen again.
    There aren’t enough hours in the day to listen to everything I want to hear. When I start listening to historic recordings, which was the original thread of this chatter, I foresee a divorce in my future.

  • Milady DeWinter

    Newly Addicted said: “When I start listening to historic recordings, which was the original thread of this chatter, I foresee a divorce in my future.”--

    —indeed, I understand! The answer: Sennheiser wireless headphones: they are great, not over-priced, easy to install, have wonderful sound (sensurround on some models), with hardly any static or interference than can happen with wireless products, are comfortable, and they really let me get “inside” the music. Don’t blast them though, you’ll hurt yourself!