by ALEX ROSS [New Yorker, 26 September 2005]
New recordings, from Wagner to Golijov.
The EMI labelís new version of ìTristan und Isolde,î starring Pl·cido Domingo, has received weirdly apocalyptic advance publicity: it has been described as the final large-scale opera recording in history. ìTwilight of the CD Gods? A Studio ëTristaní May Be the Last Ever,î read a headline in the Times. With its opulent production values and showy cameos in minor rolesóIan Bostridge as the Shepherd; Rolando VillazÛn, Domingoís heir apparent in the Italian tenor repertory, as the Young Seamanóthe set is a throwback to the golden age of the nineteen-fifties and sixties, when EMI summoned all-star casts to make generally unsurpassed recordings of ìDon Giovanni,î ìThe Magic Flute,î ìFidelio,î ìTosca,î and, under the helm of Wilhelm Furtw‰ngler, ìTristan.î They donít make them like that anymore, but they are still making them. Virgin Classics, which is distributed by EMI, just issued a glamorous recording of Vivaldiís previously unknown ìBajazet.î Decca is releasing a sumptuous studio recording of Richard Straussís ìDaphne,î with RenÈe Fleming in the title role. Thereís even a competing ìTristanî out, a feisty budget effort from the Naxos label. Where did the end-ofeverything story about EMIís ìTristanî get started? Probably in EMIís publicity department. Only in classical music would the alleged death of a genre be used to hype it.
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