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 »
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.
Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea (The Coronation of Poppea) is opera on the grand scale with mellifluous arias and breathtaking duets that tell a tale of ancient Roman political machinations, adultery, and murder in which there is no true protagonist. This stunningly expressive music is performed by an all-star cast. Soprano Miah Persson, praised by The New York Times for her “sumptuous sound and elegant lyricism,” is joined by singers who have all won worldwide critical acclaim for their mastery of this beautiful repertoire. The Guardian wrote that “there are few performers better-versed in the music of Claudio Monteverdi than Rinaldo Alessandrini and the ensemble he founded 30 years ago, Concerto Italiano.” Alessandrini and company anchor a performance that promises to be one of the season’s most thrilling nights of opera.
Decca 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 »
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.