Cher Public

Absolute assoluta

Only because I am a member of the You Can Never Have Too Much Callas School of Opera Listening can I recommend EMI’s new release The Callas Effect.  The beautifully packaged production is the size of a small paperback book and consists of two CDs with 29 arias sung by Callas plus a new 70-minute DVD showing some details of her life and artistry, focusing on her work with the Royal Opera House.  The package also contains a detailed and moving essay by Ira Siff plus translations of the texts of all the recorded arias.   Read more »

An unweeded garden that grows to seed

When Mojca Erdmann’s new debut CD for Deutsche Grammophon was reviewed in the September issue of Opera News, the disc’s cover art showed the lissome German soprano in a thin, revealing white dress, lying on a bed of roses.  The album was then called Mostly Mozart.  When that review questioned the titling, DG must have gone back to work.  The current cover shows the same over-the-top cover art, but it’s now called Mozart’s Garden.  Read more »

The stuff that dreams are made of

With his new CD release for Decca, The Maltese Tenor, Joseph Calleja clearly declares his ascension to the top level of the world’s lyric tenors.  The 15-selection program shows that his plaintive voice has matured and clarified, his emotional understanding of the music has deepened significantly, and his artistry has moved to a higher level.  Calleja has reached the height of his powers, and that height is indeed formidable.  Read more »

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I am a camera

I would never have imagined that the story of Anna Nicole Smith could be today’s entry in a long line of opera’s “fallen women”—pop culture’s reinvention of Violetta, Manon Lescaut, and Lulu.  But that is indeed what composer Mark-Anthony Turnage and librettist Richard Thomas have created in Anna Nicole, commissioned by England’s Royal Opera House and premiered in February 2011.  Opus Arte has released a DVD of the February 26 performance that manages to be funny and moving while being as garish, noisy, and vulgar as its subject. 

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Anna mirabilis

Deutsche Grammophon has just released Anna Netrebko: Live at the Metropolitan Opera, a CD with 11 excerpts recorded live from her Met performances from 2002 through 2010.  Released to feature the soprano just prior to her opening in the Met’s Anna Bolena, the CD features Netrebko singing solo arias as well as duets with such colleagues as Alagna, Hvorostovsky, Florez, Calleja, and Beczala. 

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There’s something about Merrill

Sony Classical, in association with The Metropolitan Opera, has begun issuing on CD a number of historic Met broadcasts, newly remastered.  The first I received for review was the December 10, 1955 broadcast of Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera, perhaps most notable for the Ulrica of Marian Anderson, who earlier that year made her debut as the first performance by an African-American artist in a major role at the Met.  

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Not quite Godunov

In the fall of 2010, director Andrei Konchalovsky and conductor Gianandrea Noseda struck up a collaboration for a new production of Mussorgsky’s Boris Godunov, to be performed at Teatro Regio Torino, co-produced with Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia of Valencia and Fondazione Lirico Sinfonica Petruzzelli e Teatri di Bari. 

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Del primer pianto

Classical music writer and opera critic Robert Levine has written a very pleasant new book, Weep, Shudder, Die, A Guide to Loving Opera, published by HarperCollins Books.  Levine sets up the book’s premise early in his introduction: “Could singing… make one, as the composer Vincenzo Bellini said, ‘weep, shudder, die’ and at the same time entertain, warm, and fill with joy?”   While the book claims to be a “guide to the grand art of opera for both new and longtime fans”, it is clearly aimed at those new to opera or those with an early budding interest.  It is these […]

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Blind devotion

Danish composer Poul Ruders, having been deeply moved by Lars von Trier’s 2000 film Dancer in the Dark, used his third commission from the Royal Danish Theatre to create a 75-minute opera based on this tragic story of a mother’s sacrifice to save her son from hereditary blindness.  The result is a small masterpiece, renamed Selma Jezkova after its heroine.   Ruders and librettist Henrik Engelbrecht have pared down the story to five harrowing, concise scenes that refocus the wide palette of the film squarely in the relationship between Selma and her 12-year old son Gene.  The opera is wrenching, […]

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Erin go bravo

One of the many pleasures of reviewing CDs and DVDs is the discovery of an unfamiliar composer whose works are original, fascinating, and moving.  Such is the case with Irish composer Donnacha Dennehy, and his new Nonesuch CD of the concert piece “Gra agus Bas” (Love and Death) and a 6-song cycle entitled “That the Night Come,” set to poems by the wonderful W. B. Yeats.   

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