Tonight’s program at the New York Philharmonic, Arthur Honegger’s massive oratorio dramatique Jeanne d’Arc au Bûcher, has been an occasional visitor to the orchestra’s repertoire starting with the performance conducted by Charles Munch in January of 1948. Despite its slight 70 minute running time, it’s a vast polyphonic work that attracts that certain species of conductor who enjoys showing off the adroit command of large forces both orchestral and choral. As well one can hardly imagine the near electro-magnetic tug actresses must feel at the opportunity of playing one of the most mythic women of the middle ages and not get scorched by the process. Read more »
“Disciplined and intelligent.” “Clean and transparent.” “Fleet and lithe.” Though Fabio Luisi’s Wagner performances draw frequent praise for their tidy professionalism, there’s often an undercurrent of frustration with the Genoese maestro for not wringing a little more blood out of the scores, or putting a personal stamp on them. Frequent work in the house where James Levine reigns has a way of creating invidious distinctions, even when clear vision and tasteful restraint can be welcome virtues. Read more »
I’m a long-time fan of the Opera in English series funded by The Peter Moores Foundation that started, fittingly enough, with conductor Reginald Goodall’s performances of Wagner’s Ring cycle recorded live from the London Coliseum and released by EMI. Cast from strength with a team of British singers that included the likes of Rita Hunter, Alberto Remedios, Norman Bailey and Derek Hammond-Stroud. Many of whom never found the kind of recognition they deserved outside of England for one reason or another and it stands alone today as a unique achievement of its era. Read more »
Aribert Reimann’s 1978 opera Lear, based of course on Shakespeare’s titanic tragedy King Lear, is a major achievement in modern operatic scoring.
Before this recording arrived in my mailbox, I: ( a) didn’t know there was an operatic version of Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, one of my favorite plays; and (b) was unfamiliar with the works of composer Gerald Berry. After several hearings, I’m still not convinced that there is an operatic version of Earnest. Barry has created what I would call a narrative set to a series of sound effects. Now many of these effects are clever, occasionally amusing, and purposely bizarre, but they rarely seem to fit the brilliant verbal wit of Wilde’s original. I kept thinking that, [...]
If works like Salome and Erwartung defined modernism in the first decades of the 20th century, Die Tote Stadt and Palestrina represented the regressive avant garde.
The opening night of the Metropolitan Opera of September 1972 was supposed to be the dawn of a new era.
Imagine two tenors releasing French opera aria collections at the same time without duplicating a single track!
The last day of December a parcel arrived in the mail containing an absolute delight: “Semiramide—La Signora Regale.” One of best vocal recordings of 2014, this sumptuous 2-CD set on Deutsche Harmonia Mundi features the marvelous Italian mezzo-soprano Anna Bonitatibus and includes 90 minutes of rarely-heard music written for the legendary Babylonian queen.
Manon Lescaut was Giacomo Puccini’s first big international success. His publisher, Giulio Ricordi, tried to put him off the project by citing Jules Massenet’s very successful adaptation just nine years previously. Puccini was intent on making the story his own, insisting, “A woman like Manon can have more than one lover… I shall feel it like an Italian, with desperate passion.” Desperation is certainly the feeling this reviewer got from a new recording of Manon Lescaut from our friends at Decca Classics, but I’m also quite certain it’s not the same type that the Maestro had for his subject.