VERDI: Aida

Now, who needs another Aida? There are (or there have been) available 65 complete recordings (commercially available pirates included) and I don’t take into account the staggering amounts of non-commercial recording now widely circulating among collectors. Another Aida therefore can only interest buyers interested in specific singers. Happily, this set indeed fills a gap and it is not centered upon il divo himself, as the nice sleeve notes make clear. This set is for the admirers of Julia Varady, though not only for them.
The Hungarian soprano has a reputation. As the fourth Mrs. Fischer-Dieskau she was undoubtedly helped in her career in the early seventies by this connection. But I presume this asset soon turned into a liability. Allow me to digress a few moments.

Le Monde Reviews Lamento

Cela arrive rarement, le souffle coupé dès les premières notes. Une minute entière à retenir sa respiration dans une apnée d’émotion totale pour recevoir la première phrase du Lamento pour contralto, de Johann Christoph Bach, d’après les Lamentations de Jérémie, son ascension douloureuse, ornée de sanglots, puis les deux accords d’une longue plainte instrumentale, avant l’entrée, magique, de la voix de Magdalena Kozena. “Ach, dass ich Wassers g’nug hätte.” “Ah, si ma tête était remplie d’eau, si mes yeux étaient une source de larmes.” L’insouciance a été jusqu’alors votre lot ? Vous, toi, nous tous, pécheurs, allons connaître ce que pèse le lourd fardeau de nos iniquités – et la récompense de cette connaissance : 7 minutes 22 d’une pure splendeur musicale.

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.

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.

VERDI: Il Trovatore

Il Trovatore Giuseppe Verdi, music and Salvatore Cammarano and Leone Emanuele Bardare, libretto TDK DVUS-CLOPIT Raina Kabaivanska (Leonora) Fiorenza Cossotto (Azucena) Plácido Domingo (Manrico) Piero Cappuccilli (Conte di Luna) José…

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.

Lamento with Magdalena Ko

The imposing figure of Johann Sebastian Bach has loomed large for Magdalena Ko�ená throughout her career. It was her first disc of Bach arias on Deutsche Grammophon’s Archiv label that brought the golden-voiced mezzo to the attention of the music world as early as 1997. Word then quickly went round that Magdalena was the perfect choice for Bach recordings. ”This disc that started my international career also was my introduction to the great Baroque conductors, including the wonderful scholar and musician Reinhard Goebel, with whom I’ve worked on my new disc, Lamento.”
Although the title may suggest wailing and gnashing of teeth, this is a sublime and eclectic mixture of music by J. S. Bach, his relations and contemporaries. ”There’s a very optimistic feeling to this CD,” says Ko�ená. ”Although all these pieces are about how horrible it is on this earth, they are really celebrating how great it will be afterwards. There’s a message of hope throughout.”

Gramophone Reviews Le Comte Ory

Colour, wit and life abound with a star turn from the Rossini tenor of the moment Comte Ory Le Comte Ory is the first great French-language comic opera. A late…

Bullfrog Films’ Don Giovanni: Leporello’s Revenge

Don Giovanni: Leporello’s Revenge Mozart’s opera presented from the point of view of Don Giovanni’s servant, Leporello. 55 minutes Color / Stereo Copyright Date: 2000 ISBN: 1-56029-885-5 Mozart’s Don Giovanni…