WAGNER: Tristan und Isolde

Elsewhere on Opera Today readers can find a recent review of a live recording of Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro from the Ponto label, a company that has joined the ranks of Opera D’oro and Gala in offering, at budget price, live recordings of various provenance. At their best, as with that Nozze, these recordings offer in acceptable sound (sometimes better) performances of such quality they rival their more expensive competitors. At less than the best, however, even the budget price becomes exorbitant.
This Tristan und Isolde, recorded on January 25, 1967, unfortunately belongs to the latter category. Unless one has a strong personal reason for wanting a keepsake of this company or the artists involved, the recording is unlikely to please most listeners. The primary reason is the sound. While not unlistenable, the recording is clearly an “in-house” affair, and probably from an audience member, as some of the coughing is more up-front than the singing. Worse, during the climax, some audience members are whispering as Isolde enters the Leibestod. One would love for a Jon Vickers to have been present to yell out, “Stop your damn whispering!”

MOZART: Le Nozze di Figaro

Recorded in Tokyo on October 23, 1963, this live recording of Nozze di Figaro boasts fine sound, a top cast, and the leadership of a conductor of great skill and experience. The label, Ponto, has joined the ranks of such other companies as Opera D’oro and Gala in making available broadcast and in-house recordings at affordable prices. Sometimes these releases are not even worth the modest price asked for; this one may well have more to offer than higher-priced studio sets.
After a slightly hesitant first few moments, the sound quality settles down and becomes admirably strong and well defined. There is relatively little stage noise, the voices have a natural presence without being too forwardly placed, and Böhm’s orchestral control can be relished. His may be an old-fashioned reading, but it never lags or lacks for humor or beauty. The audience can be heard laughing from time to time at the stage antics; applause only interferes with the musical pleasures at the end of Non piu andrai, when unrestrained clapping covers a bit of Böhm’s ironically happy martial send-off.

Verlaine and Rimbaud in Boston

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BOLCOM: Songs of Innocence and of Experience

William Bolcom is arguably the preeminent American opera composer of today. His third commission for Lyric Opera of Chicago, A Wedding, recently opened to mostly positive reviews. His previous work in the form, A View from the Bridge, had a successful run at the Metropolitan Opera following its premiere in Chicago.

Turandot at the Met

Turandot, Metropolitan Opera, New York By Martin Bernheimer Published: January 5 2005 02:00 | Last updated: January 5 2005 02:00 Turandot remains a prime tourist attraction at the Met, lock,…

The Cambridge Companion to Rossini

The title of this book, “The Cambridge Companion to Rossini” probably means different things to different people.

VERDI: Il Trovatore

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BACH: Matthäus-Passion

On an accompanying CD and in the liner notes, interviewer Klaus J. Schönmetzler asks conductor Enoch zu Guttenberg, “Why another St. Matthew Passion?” This is a fair question considering the glut of recordings ranging from the overtly romantic to the idealized “authentic” (and mostly fast) Baroque editions. To his credit, Guttenberg responds to this question by acknowledging an aversion to interpreting Bach overly Romantically while desiring a Baroque sensibility. As a theologian, zu Guttenberg understands an undeniable conviction in Bach’s theology, particularly in the chorales, which he acknowledges can lead to a more Romantic interpretation. Zu Guttenberg’s attempt to capture this devotion coupled with the reality of twenty-first century instruments and performers, produces a St. Matthew stuck in a mediocre middle ground between a Baroque “ideal” and a Romantic interpretation.

Trois Valses at Théâtre Royal de Liège

Wow ! Les Trois Valses comme il faut in Liège Laurence Janot (Fanny Grandpré) and Jean-Baptiste Marcenac (Octave de Chalencey) For the year’s end the Walloon Opera always offers some…

Britten’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream at De Munt, Brussels

(c) Johan Jacobs De Munt’s Christmas production plays into high summer and it is magnificent to behold. Scottish director David McVicar is somewhat of a cult director in Antwerp and…