Cher Public

Wendy Escambia

Tales that witness madness

Orlando is the first of three Händel operas based Orlando Furioso, Ariosto’s 15th-century adaptation of the 12-century poem, Chanson de Roland, the other two operas being Alcina and Ariodante. This epic tale of heroism, love, reason and madness also served as the basis for operas by Lully, Vivaldi, Haydn and Scarlatti. In fact, Händel based his Orlando on a libretto written by Carlo Capece for a proposed Scarlatti setting. (In more recent times, Chanson de Roland was adapted by novelist Stephen King for his best-selling Gunslinger series.)  Read more »

“Little,” Joyce

I’ve had this DVD sitting in my apartment for literally months – mea culpa, La – and I finally got around to watching Mark Adamo’s opera Little Women last weekend. Commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera, the piece received almost unanimous critical and popular acclaim when it premiered in 1998. This DVD was recorded for television at a subsequent performance in 2000.

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Werther, original

kaufmann_amazonDecca has released a remarkable performance of Massenet’s great romantic tragedy Werther. Filmed live in January 2010, this performance stands out primarily for the great singing and dramatic vitality of the principals, particularly the remarkable Werther of Jonas Kaufmann.

It is rare to hear a tenor voice with this much heft, body and color phrase and shape musical lines with such lyricism and pathos. High notes ring out thrillingly or shimmer with retrained longing, as needed, and Kaufmann dramatically embodies this tortured soul to the point that it is hard to separate singer and part. Add Mr. Kaufmann’s matinee-idol good looks, and there is not much else to say. Read more »

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Measha of a muchness

In Measha Brueggergosman‘s newest DG release, “Night Songs…” Oh… sorry! That was Renée Fleming‘s beautiful 2001 Decca release of similar (occasionally overlapping) material. Let me try that again. “In the Still of Night…” Oh… sorry! That was Anna Netrebko‘s voluptuous CD of Russian songs released earlier this year. 

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Rake, no progress

James Levine: Celebrating 40 Years at the Met includes not only unreleased video performances on DVD but also live radio broadcasts on CD.  This performance is one of the latter,  originally heard April 19, 2003. The Rake’s Progress has one of the greatest operatic pedigrees of all time.  It was inspired by a series of William Hogarth engravings that Igor Stravinsky saw in 1947.  The libretto was written by W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman.  The opera premiered in Venice in 1951 with Elisabeth Schwarzkopf singing Anne Truelove and Robert Rounseville (“His name is Mr. Snow…”) as Tom Rakewell.  The […]

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Noch einmal!

Richard Strauss’s brilliantly disturbing Elektra was first performed at the Dresden State Opera in 1909, and arrived in America in 1910 at the Manhattan Opera House.  A second American premiere, this time in the original German, was in Philadelphia in 1931 with – and this will kill you – Nelson Eddy as Orestes. Along with Salome it represents Strauss at his most dissonant and chromatic. After Elektra, the composer would retreat to a more tonal, neo-romantic compositional style that while still harmonically complex, would never push the envelope like Elektra. This 1994 Metropolitan Opera performance has never been commercially available […]

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Frankly no worse than Measha

This live CD of Wagner orchestral excerpts and the Wesendonck Lieder is noteworthy for the conducting of Franz Welser-Most and the truly remarkable playing of The Cleveland Orchestra. I have seldom heard an ensemble sound so beautiful on CD. The strings shimmer like satin, the reeds are clean and clear, the brass warm and burnished with none of the bombastic over-blowing that seems to be so popular these days. 

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When he has sung his songs

On the occasion of Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau’s 85th Birthday, TDK has re-released performances of Schubert’s “Die schöne Müllerin” and “Winterreise” as a two-DVD boxed set. “Winterreise” was recorded without an audience at Siemensvilla, Berlin in January 1979, and is the earlier and more robust of the two performances. “Die schöne Müllerin” was taped over a decade later before a live audience at the Schubertiade Feldkirch, in June of 1991 – only two years before the great baritone retired.

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Cross purposes

The subtitle for Il crociato in Egitto, the last of Meyerbeer’s great Italian operas, is “Historic Melodrama in Two Acts,” and boy is it!  A melodrama, I mean. I’m not sure about the historic part.

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What Hervieux

Reviewing a CD of someone you have never heard live is always a dicey proposition. As we all know, a voice sounds very different in a big hall than it does up-close and personal. So if Marc Hervieux is your favorite new tenor, please don’t put me in the “crosshairs” just yet. I freely admit I have yet to hear him live. 

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