• CD Review: Die Zauberflöte (1964, Klemperer)

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    Die Zauberflöte

    1964, EMI

    (Nicolai Gedda, Gundula Janowitz, Walter Berry, Lucia Popp, Gottlob Frick, Gerhard Unger; Philharmonia Chorus; Philharmonia Orchestra, cond. Otto Klemperer)

     

    This classic recording has been hailed again and again as the definitive Zauberflöte, yet at the same time is controversial due to its decidedly Romantic take on the score. With its lack of any spoken dialogue, use of women as the Three Boys, lush modern orchestra and slow, slow tempos, it can never be called a historically authentic performance. But in the masterful hands of Otto Klemperer, Read the rest of this entry »

  • DVD Review: La Cenerentola (2005, Glyndebourne)

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    La Cenerentola

    2005, Glyndebourne Festival Opera

    (Ruxandra Donose, Maxim Mironov, Luciano di Pasquale, Simone Alberghini, Nathan Berg, Raquela Sheeran, Lucia Chirillo; Glyndebourne Chorus; London Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Vladimir Jurowski)

    (dir. Peter Hall; video dir. Robin Lough)

     

    This second Glyndebourne Cenerentola DVD couldn’t be more different from the first: the atmosphere of Sir Peter Hall’s production is worlds away from the storybook charm of John Cox’s 1983 staging. While the Regency-era setting is traditional, its look and feel is characterized by stark, gritty realism. Don Magnifico’s mansion is truly shabby, the royal palace is elegant yet austere, and the color scheme consists mainly of earth tones, with only the men of the court in bright colored satins. Slapstick among the comic characters Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: Don Giovanni (1959, Giulini)

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    Don Giovanni

     1959, EMI

    (Eberhard Wächter, Giuseppe Taddei, Joan Sutherland, Luigi Alva, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Graziella Sciutti, Piero Cappuccilli, Gottlob Frick; Philharmonia Chorus; Philharmonia Orchestra, cond. Carlo Maria Giulini)

     

    If a definitive Don Giovanni can ever be said to exist, this revered recording is probably the top contender for the title. Critic after critic has labeled it one of the greatest opera recordings of the 20th century and rightfully so. Carlo Maria Giulini leads the Philharmonia Orchestra in a virtually flawless reading of the score. The pacing is brisk yet sensitive, the sound world is always elegant yet never lacks drama, the recitatives are rapid-fire yet Read the rest of this entry »

  • DVD Review: Il Barbiere di Siviglia (2005, Madrid)

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    Il Barbiere di Siviglia

    2005, Teatro Real, Madrid

    (Pietro Spagnoli, Maria Bayo, Juan Diego Flórez, Bruno Praticó Ruggero Raimondi, Susanna Cordón; Coro de la Comunidad de Madrid; Orquestra Titular del Teatro Real, cond. Gianluigi Gelmetti)

    (dir. Emilio Sagi; video dir. Ángel Luis Ramirez)

     

    This Barbiere has quickly become one of the most popular and easiest to find. When I first saw it, I was caught off guard by its unusual atmosphere, but since then I’ve come to appreciate it as a production filled with talent and creativity. Both sets and costumes are entirely in black and white for most of the opera, but as the happy ending draws near and rebellion triumphs over the old social order that Bartolo represents, bright colors finally appear and take over. The sets, which are moved by costumed stagehands a la Brecht Read the rest of this entry »

  • “The Biggest Cad in Opera”?

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    This is my first post that isn’t a review. In addition to discussing recordings, I like to write down my various thoughts about opera in general, as well as the books and articles I read on the subject.

     

    Recently I reread Peter Fox Smith’s excellent book “A Passion For Opera.” With its detailed chapters discussing both libretti and music of every standard repertoire opera, as well as Smith’s experiences with each opera both as a music lover and as a professor, that book is a good source of information and understanding for any newcomer to opera. But one aspect of it baffles me slightly. In the chapter on Madama Butterfly the main emotion Read the rest of this entry »

  • DVD Review: Die Zauberflöte (2003, Covent Garden)

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    Die Zauberflöte

    2003, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

    (Will Hartmann, Dorothea Röschmann, Simon Keenlyside, Diana Damrau, Franz-Joseph Selig, Adrian Thompson; Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, cond. Colin Davis)

    (dir. David McVicar; video dir. Sue Judd)

     

    Anyone expecting a charming fairy-tale Magic Flute with lavish, colorful scenery will be taken aback by this unconventional production. The fantasy world of this Flute is a dark, mystical one with an almost minimalist aesthetic. Somber, vaguely 18th century set pieces slide almost imperceptibly onto and off of the darkly lit, often misty stage. The characters likewise Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: Il Barbiere di Siviglia (1957, Galliera)

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    Il Barbiere di Siviglia

    1957, EMI

    (Tito Gobbi, Maria Callas, Luigi Alva, Fritz Ollendorf, Nicola Zaccaria, Gabriella Carturan; Philharmonia Chorus; Philharmonia Orchestra, cond. Alceo Galliera)

     

    This Barbiere has been praised again and again as the definitive recording of Rossini’s masterpiece. Granted, by modern standards of Rossini scholarship it’s an “inauthentic” performance. All the standard cuts are in place (including, as was usual for the day, one recitative passage whose absence leaves a gaping plot hole), as are transpositions, line-reassignments, and an elaborate cadenza added to “Contro un cor” for the superstar soprano Rosina who sings it. But I defy Read the rest of this entry »