discografieën

Vespri siciliani/Les vêpres siciliennes. A bit of a discography (but not really)

Sicilian Vespers (1846), by Francesco Hayez

Les vêpres siciliennes was Verdi’s first French ‘grande opéra’, which, after much insistence by the Paris Opera, he composed on a libretto by Eugene Scribe and Charles Duyverier. It is one of his longest operas, thanks in part to the lengthy ballet in the third act, which was compulsory for the Paris of the time (no less than half an hour!).

The story is set in Palermo in 1282, during the French occupation of Sicily. The young Sicilian Henri is in love with Hélène, a young Austrian duchess, who is being held prisoner by Guy de Montfort, the French governor of Sicily. When de Montfort turns out to be Henri’s father, the complications are incalculable, and by the end just about everybody is dead.
The premiere in 1855 was a fiasco and a few years later, Verdi adapted the work into the Italian I vespri Siciliani, which was much more successful. However, the opera never became a real box-office hit.



IN FRENCH



Les vêpres siciliennes
was the third release in Opera Rara’s series of ‘original versions’, following earlier releases of Macbeth and Simon Boccanegra. It had already been recorded live at The Camden Theatre in London in May 1969 and broadcast by the BBC in February 1970, but the CD was not released until 2004.

The performance, starring Jacqueline Brumaire, Jean Bonhomme and Neilson Taylor, is fair to good, but as a document it is of extraordinary importance (ORCV303).

In June 2002, our unsurpassed Saturday Matinee staged Les vêpres siciliennes concertante. It is a great pity that the recording has never been released on CD, because the performance (with, among others, Nelly Miricioiu, Francisco Casanova and Zeljko Lucic) was really good.


IN ITALIAN



If you want the Italian version of the opera, the choice is a bit greater, but to say the market is flooded with them?

To be honest, I only know of one studio recording of the work (once RCA RD 80370). The cast includes Martina Arroyo, Plácido Domingo, Sherill Milnes and Ruggiero Raimondi. It is well worth seeing, especially as the music is virtually complete.



For the rest, we have to depend on (admittedly, in most cases very interesting) pirate recordings. Highly recommended is a recording with Montserrat Caballé and Plácido Domingo from Barcelona 1974 (SRO 837-2).

The same recording on another label (SRO is no longer available):



Don’t forget La Divina (with Boris Christoff and others), recorded in 1951 during the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino (Testament SBT 21416).



Fantastic is also the version with Renata Scotto, Gianni and Ruggiero Raimondi from La Scala 1970
The entire opera:

And then there are a few recordings with Cristina Deutekom
This one is from Paris 1974:

And Leyla Gencer.
Recording from 1970:




Please note: most recordings have been (greatly) shortened. Check the internet just to be sure, because these pirate labels come and go and the difference in price can be enormous.



AND ON DVD



In the 1980s, the American Susan Dunn was immensely popular. She was seen as the ultimate Verdi soprano. In her ‘Bologna years’ she became the favourite singer and protégé of Riccardo Chailly, the chief conductor there at the time. She made many CD recordings with him. Apart from Verdi also Mahler, Schoenberg and Beethoven, and they also recorded opera performances for video.

Elena in I vespri Siciliani was one of her star parts. She sang it, with enormous success, for the first time in 1986 (Warner Music Vision 504678029-2). Luca Ronconi’s production is quite traditional and the decors are true to nature. It feels like being among the cacti on a very sultry Sicily. The costumes also leave nothing to be desired, but the whole performance is rather static.


The audience clearly loves it. One open curtain follows another and the singers gratefully accept all the applause. Even though none of the protagonists are great actors – which may also be due to the director – their singing is of a very high level. And there is a surprise too: Anna Caterina Antonacci in the small role of Ninetta.

Below, Susan Dunn sings “Arrigo! Ah, parli a un core”:







Der Rosenkavalier op cd’s: kleine selectie

Lisa Della Casa

Hugo von Hofmannsthal, Risë Stevens, Hilde Güden, Ralph Herbert & Lisa  Della Casa | Play on Anghami

Della Casa is één van mijn geliefde zangeressen, zeker in het Duitse ‘fach’. Haar mooie, romige stem met een vloeiende hoogte en een zeer sensuele ondertoon maakt haar tot één van de beste vertolksters van de muziek van Strauss. Haar ‘Vier Letzte Lieder” vind ik zelf het allermooist van allemaal.

Zo ook haar Marschallin. Voor mij heeft ze alles, wat de wat ouder (nou ja, ouder, zij is pas 34!) wordende vrouw ook voor een jonge jongen aantrekkelijk maakt. Zelfbewust en toch enigszins kwetsbaar. Koninklijk en speels. Vrolijk en melancholisch.

Della Casa was een zeer mooie vrouw, zeer elegant ook. Het is daarom echt jammer dat haar Feldmarschallin voor zover ik weet niet is vastgelegd op dvd. Er zijn diverse cd-opnamen met haar verkrijgbaar, allemaal live en in de meeste gevallen niet in een optimale geluidskwaliteit.

Ik wil even stilstaan bij de productie die op 18 januari 1956 werd opgenomen in de Metropolitan Opera (Walhall WLCD0313). De geluidskwaliteit is zeer pover en scherp, wat niet wegneemt dat er zo ongelofelijk veel valt te genieten!

Het Met-orkest onder leiding van Rudolf Kempe klinkt ouderwets mooi: zoetig en weemoedig. Wenen ten top. Af en toe moest ik ook aan oude films denken – toch geen straf.

Della Casa is onweerstaanbaar en zo is ook haar Octavian, Risë Stevens. Tel daar de onnavolgbare Hilde Güden als Sophie bij op en dan weet je wat voor hemel je in de ‘Hab’mir’s gelobt’ kunt verwachten.

Elisabeth Schwarzkopf

Review | Gramophone

Nu ga ik mij op glad ijs begeven. De Karajan-opname uit 1956 ((Warner Classics 5099996682425) heet legendarisch te zijn. Maar ik houd niet van Elisabeth Schwarzkopf: ik vind haar zingen vaak gemaniëreerd en haar nadrukkelijke dictie maakt dat ik mij vaak ongemakkelijk voel. Ook haar glansrol, de Marschallin, vind ik te geaffecteerd en bovendien zeer onderkoeld.

Von Karajan kan mij hier ook moeilijk bekoren. O ja, het orkest onder zijn leiding speelt werkelijk fenomenaal, maar ik vind er te weinig ‘Weense bonbons’ en te veel ‘Pruisische dril’ in. Maar wellicht ligt het aan mij?

Christa Ludwig is echter een wonderschone Octavian en Teresa Stich-Rendall een Sophie in de beste Mozartiaanse traditie. Otto Edelmann is een heerlijke baron Ochs.

Montserrat Caballé

Der Rosenkavalier CD (Glyndebourne 1965)

Onlangs bereikte mij een cd-opname uit Glyndebourne 1965. Het is een in alle opzichten merkwaardige voorstelling geweest: de rol van de Marschallin werd toen gezongen door niemand minder dan Montserrat Caballé.

Wij kunnen het ons nu niet meer voorstellen, maar toen was het volstrekt voor de hand liggend. Caballé is haar carrière in Duitsland begonnen en heeft zelfs een prachtige Salome op haar repertoire staan. Er is ook helemaal niets op haar Duits aan te merken. Ze is een mooie, jonge en kruidige Marschallin, die de rol ‘op z’n Caballés’ verrijkt, met de mooiste pianissimo’s en legato’s.

Teresa Zylis-Gara is een verrukkelijk licht klinkende Octavian en Edith Mathis een als een vijftienjarig meisje klinkende Sophie. Otto Edelmann (Ochs) completeert de fantastische opname (GFOCD 010-65).

Trailer:

Claire Watson

Rosenkavalier Kleiber

Net als voor zijn vader Erich, was ‘Der Rosenkavalier’ een paradepaardje van Carlos Kleiber, een van de meest charismatische dirigenten van de laatste 50 jaar.  In 1973 werd de opera live geregistreerd tijdens het Münchner Festival en een jaar of twee geleden op Orfeo (C 581 083 D) uitgebracht.

Bij de enthousiast ontvangen première een jaar eerder werd de Marschallin gezongen door Gwyneth Jones (er bestaat een DVD-opname van), nu werd ze vervangen door Claire Watson, jarenlang het boegbeeld van het Münchense ensemble. Watson is een wat rijpere Marschallin, weemoedig, bitterzoet en niet gespeend van humor. Ik vind het mooi.

Karl Ridderbush is werkelijk kostelijk als Ochs: lomp en over alles heen walsend, maar in zijn walsjes klinkt hij toch oprecht ouderwets melancholisch. De Sophie van Lucia Popp is onnavolgbaar: kwikzilverig, flirterig en kwetsbaar. Haar pure meisjesachtige sopraan smelt in perfecte harmonie met de donkere mezzo van Brigitte Fassbaender, twee stemmen die daadwerkelijk verliefd op elkaar zijn geworden.

Maar het mooiste is het orkest. Kleiber ontlokt de beoogde ‘zilverklank’ en vervlecht het natuurlijke sentiment met ironie en een zekere hang naar vroeger.

De opname werd al eerder op verscheidene piraten-labels te koop aangeboden, maar nu kunnen we hem eindelijk in een goede geluidskwaliteit beluisteren.

Anna Tomowa-Sintow

Tomowa-Sintow behoorde tot de lievelingszangeressen van Herbert von Karajan. Begin jaren zeventig haalde hij haar naar Salzburg, waardoor ze internationaal kon doorbreken. Zij heeft ook veel opnamen onder de maestro gemaakt, voornamelijk Mozart en Strauss. De Marschallin had ze onder zijn leiding al in 1984 voor Deutsche Grammophon opgenomen, maar ik ken die opname niet.

Wel een andere, op 3 maart 1995 live opgenomen in Covent Garden (Opus Arte OA CD9006). In 1995 was ze al een rijpe vrouw en zo klinkt ze ook. Maar haar vertolking is meer dan roldekkend: ze zingt niet alleen doorleefd maar heeft ook allure.

Ann Murray (ach! Wat een zangeres!) is een verrukkelijke Octavian en Barbara Bonney een wellicht niet voor de hand liggende, maar wel een heerlijke Sophie.

De walsjes zijn onder handen van Andrew Davis heel erg luchtig, wat ook de hele opname een opvallend milde toon geeft.

Kát’a Kabanova, discography


DVD

Robert Carsen


For most Russians, the Volga, the longest river in Europe, is the symbol for everything, including life itself. It is celebrated in many songs, and in many stories and poems it plays the leading part.

In Ostrovsky’s Storm, on which Janaček’s opera is based, and also in the opera itself, the river mirrors the soul of the unhappy Kát’a , whose life ends in the Volga. You can hear the river in the music also.

Robert Carsen understood this very well; in his 2004 Antwerp production he had the entire stage covered with water and the story played out on platforms. I thought it was the most beautiful production of the work ever. It was taken over by the Teatro Real in Madrid in 2008 and released on DVD not long ago (Fra Musica 003).

I must honestly confess that I was really scared to see it again. Would I still find it so very beautiful? The answer is a resounding yes! It is even more beautiful than I remembered it.

Karita Mattila is a Kát’a to fall in love with and Jiří Bělohlávek is, next to Mackerras, the best advocate for the opera. Do you want my honest opinion? Buy it, because it is as beautiful as it gets!

Act Three: The Storm



Christopher Marthaler


Believe it or not, to most opera lovers Kát’a Kabanova belongs to the standard repertoire, but in Salzburg it was not performed until 1998. The fact that the production was received with mixed feelings at the time, was not due to the music or the singers, or the orchestra or the conductor.

Sylvain Cambreling took care of Janaček’s  masterpiece with the necessary love and understanding. The overture already made my throat close and my eyes fill with tears.

But alas, there was also a director. Marthaler set the action somewhere in the Eastern Bloc of the 1960s, clearly drawing his inspiration from the Czech film hits of the time. Those who have ever seen Miloš Forman’s Love of a Blonde know what I mean.

There is no river anywhere (a picture on the wall does not really count) and that is something I find absolutely unacceptable, because Kát’a  Kabanova without the Volga is to me like Die Zauberflöte without the flute.

A lover of modern, conceptual directing theatre might enjoy it though, because musically it is really well put together. It is clear that he had a particularly long rehearsal time at his disposal: the singers were moulded into a formidable ensemble.

The singing was also superb. Angela Denoke portrayed a vulnerable Kát’a and Dagmar Pecková shone as the rebellious Varvara. David Kuebler and Rainer Trost were perfectly cast as Boris and Kudrjas respectively, and they all deserved their bravos. For us Dutch, it is also nice to see our own national pride, Henk Smit, in action.
In the struggle between direction and music, the latter won.



Nicolaus Lehnhoff



Lehnhoff belongs to those directors who like to give their own twist to a performance, but in Glyndebourne he delivered a rather traditional production (Arthaus 100158). Very austere, but with great attention to detail and to the psychological development of the characters.

He emphasises all aspects of Kát’a’s character, including her piety, penetrates deeply into her tormented soul and makes her misery palpable. There is a feeling of complete abandonment, which is reinforced by the beautiful, bright colours that are sometimes strongly reminiscent of paintings by Münch.

Musically, too, there is no reason to complain: Nancy Gustafson is a wonderful Kát’a and Barry McCauley an excellent Boris.

Third act of the opera:





CD


Both CD recordings conducted by Charles Mackerras starring respectively Elisabeth Söderström on Decca (4218522) and Gabriela Beňačková on Supraphon (SU3291-2 632) are very good and I would not like to miss either of them, although I have a slight preference for Beňačková .

Peter Straka is as credible as Petr Dvorsky as Boris and Nadĕžda Kniplova and Eva Randová (Kabanicha) are a match for each other.

https://open.spotify.com/album/00ecyvNzFFwrv3y9fnjEZn?si=a2wwb5RnTGeIkM4UFplH9Q

Discography of Khovanshchina by Mussorgsky

Vasily Surikov (1848-1916): The Oldbelievers

I love Khovanschina very much. The music is a combination of Russian folk songs, religious chorales, moving arias and glowing orchestral splendour and presents us with a masterpiece of an altogether unprecedented beauty. The libretto, based on historical facts, tells of religious strife, struggles for power, political manipulations, sectarianism and a collective suicide. The chorus plays a fundamental role, but the six leading roles are also particularly well developed as to their individual psychological developments.

The opera had its premiere in 1886, in Rimsky-Korsakov’s abridged version: Mussorgsky had left the score unfinished. In 1959, Shostakovich orchestrated the original piano arrangement. That version, with the ending recomposed by Stravinsky, is almost always used nowadays.



Boris Khaikin


The conductor Boris Khaikin, who was very popular in the post-war Soviet Union, is mainly known for his recordings of Russian operas, including Khovanshchina.

He already recorded the opera in 1946, with the unsurpassed Mark Reizen as Dosifej.

Mark Reizen as Dosifey



For the curious: you can find the complete recording on YouTube.



In 1974, Khaikin recorded the opera again, this time with Alexander Ognivtsev as Dossifej, Aleksey Krivchenya as Chovansky and Vladislav Piavko as his son.
Golitsin was beautifully performed by Aleksey Maslennikov. Anyone still looking for an example of a tenor from the ‘old Russian school’? Listen to Maslennikov!

The real star of the recording, however, is Irina Arkhipova. As Marfa, she is absolutely unequalled in my opinion:



If you are used to Shostakovich’s instrumentation, Rimsky-Korsakov’s version feels a bit strange. More melodious, almost fairy-tale like. The overture could just as well have been an introduction to Shéhérazade. Rimsky-Korsakov has taken the sting out of it. Unintentionally, it makes you think of old films in which even the greatest misery has been put through the technicolour filter.
In this version, Marfa’s prophecy also sounds rather bland. Mild and not very threatening, which makes it difficult to understand Golitsin’s terrified reaction.


The recording is very clear, making every word easy to understand. (Melodia MEL CD 1001867)



Boris Leskovich


A year earlier, in 1973, Boris Leskovich conducted the opera in Rome. In Italian. Despite the fact that he used Shostakovich’s version, the result is rather light and it does not “smolder”anywhere. It also lacks the “width” in the overture, but that may also be due to the poor sound quality.

The soloists are fingerlickingly good: Cesare Siepi (Dosifej), Fiorenza Cossotto (Marfa), Elena Souliotis, Veriano Luchetti, Siegmund Nimsgern and the greatest Chovanski in history: Nicolai Ghiaurov.

As a bonus, you get the complete fifth act with Boris Christoff as Dosifej in a recording from 1958 conducted by Artur Rodziński. Also in Italian (Irene Companez’ Marfa sounds just like Azucena here), but with a significantly better sound quality. (BellaVoce BLV 107.402)
Different label, same recording:


Emil Tchakarov

The much-lamented Bulgarian conductor Emil Tchakarov (he died of AIDS at the age of 42) recorded Chovanshchina in 1990, with the best Bulgarian voices available at the time, including – how could it be otherwise – Ghiaurov in the title role.

Nicola Ghiuselev is an excellent Dosifej, Alexandrina Milcheva a very charismatic Marfa and Kaludi Kaludov a very lyrical Golitsyn. He stands with both feet firm in the Russian tradition, but at the same time sings with a large dose of Italianitá.
Tchakarov keeps the orchestra very transparent. (Sony S3K 45831)

The recording can also be found on You Tube.
Below act 1:




Claudio Abbado


In 1989, Abbado conducted the opera at the Vienna State Opera. Alfred Kirschner’s direction and Erich Wonder’s staging are real masterpieces. Anchored in tradition, with a great eye for detail, strong direction of the characters and a well-developed mise-en-scène. The final scene is a dramatic climax, leaving you riveted to your seat, gasping for breath.

Paata Burchuladze sings an excellent Dosifej and Ludmila Semtchuk is a very erotic Marfa. Ghiaurov once again manages to impress as Chovansky.
(Arthaus Musik 100 310)



Michael Boder


In Barcelona (May 2007), the opera was presented in yet another version. Although the orchestration used was that of Shostakovich, the ending was recomposed by Guerassim Voronkov.

Norwegian director Stein Winge says the story is set in the 1950s, but it could just as well be 300 years ago. Or the here and now. His images are timeless and very evocative.

Vladimir Ognovenko is an excellent Chovansky and Vladimir Vaneev a ditto Dosifej. Vladimir Galouzine is without doubt one of the best Andrews I know, if not the best. With Robert Brubaker, Golitsyn sounds less lyrical than usual, but the character does gain character. Graham Clarke provides the comic note as the writer (Opus Arte OA0989 D)

Excerpt from the production:



Kent Nagano


Kent Nagano’s well-conducted and Dmitri Tcherniakov’s extraordinarily excitingly directed Munich production of Chovanshchina unfortunately has two misfits. Paata Burchuladze (Chovansky) whose career by then has lasted for too long and Doris Soffel (Marfa), whom I love very much, has ended up in the wrong opera. Not for a second can she convince me that she is a young, sexy woman. A real pity, because otherwise the production is strongly recommended.

Anatoli Kocherga is a magnificent Dosifej and Klaus Florian Vogt a ‘creepy’ Andrej. John Daszak, like Brubaker, is a ‘character Golitsyn’ and Camilla Nylund a dreamy Emma.

Tcherniakov portrays the three clashing currents – the conservative, the power-hungry and the progress-seeking – very well. The confrontation between the three rulers is chillingly exciting. Unfortunately, the tension weakens towards the end, so that the last scene feels like an anticlimax. (EuroArts 2072424)

Trailer of the production:

>

Why do we love Manon Lescaut: discography

manon-lescau

Why do we love Manon so very much? She is not really virtuous. She leaves the love of her life for an old rich man, but as soon as she gets bored, she allows her young lover to come back to her. She is willing to run away with him, but not without her jewels. A child can see that it cannot end well.

Once caught, Manon is taken prisoner and exiled to America, where she dies in the arms of her lover. The poor soul refused to leave her. Talk about real love!

It is thanks to Puccini, who captured her character in the most beautiful notes, that she never becomes one-dimensional and you must be made of stone if you do not love her.

The role of Manon was created in 1893 at the Teatro Reggio in Turin by Cesira Ferrari, an Italian soprano who made her debut as Micaëla in Carmen and three years later sang the first Mimì in La bohème. Perhaps here is an indication of the type of voice that Puccini had in mind for his Manon?

How many good Manons are there nowadays? Not many, I think. The role makes very high demands on the performer. It requires a voice that can combine the childishly naive sex appeal of the silly girl in the first three acts with the real tragédienne in act four.

But Des Grieux, too, is a role that is not easy to fill. The man himself may be a sissy, but Puccini has written such violent notes for him, challenging him with such utterly emotional outbursts, that the singer must be a would-be Calaf to survive the opera with his voice intact.


MAGDA OLIVERO

manon-olivero-domingo



There is no doubt about it: Magda Olivero was the very best Manon Lescaut of the second half of the twentieth century. In 1970, when she was 60 (!) years old, she sang the role in Verona with the not yet 30-year-old Domingo at her side. Quite bizarre when you consider that Olivero made her professional debut eight years before Domingo was born. And yet her portrayal of the young heroine was utterly convincing. Most of her colleagues could not (and cannot) match her performance!



The role of Des Grieux was a role that could have been written for Domingo. As Renato, he was able to combine all his charm, his sehnsucht and his boyishness (something he has managed to retain to an advanced age) with a cannon-like voice. My copy was released on Foyer (2-CF 2033), but nowadays there are more releases in better sound quality and the recording can also be found on You Tube.


manon-olivero-tucker-foto


Two years later, Olivero sang the role in Caracas. The performance of 2 June 1972 was recorded by Legato Classics (LCD-113-2). The sound quality is reasonably good, but what makes the recording really desirable is Des Grieux by the then 60-year-old Richard Tucker. So yearning, so in love, so beautiful…. Sigh. Yes, folks: once upon a time, opera was made by voices, not by beautiful bodies!


Duet from the fourth act:



RAINA KABAIVANSKA

manon-kabaivanska



Manon was sung in Verona in 1970 not by Magda Olivero alone, but also by Raina Kabaivanska, with the same cast and the same conductor. The recording is very poor and therefore only for the diehards among us, but if you have a chance to listen to it: please do! Between Kabaivanska, who is still extremely underrated, and the young Domingo, a chemistry can be heard that, despite the poor sound quality, comes across really well.

The duet from II Tu, tu, Amore? tu?

As a bonus, you get fragments from 1953 of the live performance in Mexico, with Mario del Monaco and Clara Petrella. Not bad at all! (GAO 162/63)




MIRIAM GAUCI

manon-gauci



In 1991, the Maltese Gauci was not exactly an unknown, but her great career only took off with her role as Manon Lescaut at the Vlaamse Opera in Antwerp. The opera was the first in the Puccini cycle, created by the then fledgling Canadian director Robert Carsen. Those who were present will never forget it. Because of the magnificent production, of course, but also because of Gauci’s scorching performance.



In 1992, Gauci recorded the role for Naxos (8660019-20), with Bulgarian tenor Kaludi Kaludov at her side as a very lyrical sounding Des Grieux. His “Donna non vidi mai” is very passionate, but at the same time kept within the boundaries of lyricism. To fall in love with, so beautiful. Alexander Rahbari’s direction is very intense, but also lacks many nuances. A real must because of Gauci and Kaludov.

Highlights are on Spotify:




RENATA SCOTTO

manon-scotto


I can be very brief about the offers on DVD: buy the Menotti production with Renata Scotto and Plácido Domingo from the Metropolitan Opera (1980) and you are set for life. There is no other production that comes even close to it and I do not expect that event to happen any time soon. The compulsiveness with which many contemporary directors want to update everything can only kill the opera. Such was the case with Mariusz Trelinski’s production in Brussels a few years ago, with Eva-Maria Westbroek and Brandon Jovanovich.  And this was also the case with the latest production from the MET, directed by Richard Eyre, with Kristine Opolais and Roberto Alagna in the leading roles.

Scotto sings and acts Manon like no one else has done before, and together with Domingo she provides us with a lovely evening filled with a whole lot of old-fashioned crying. Menotti’s very realistic, true-to-nature and oh-so-exciting production could not be any better.
It is quite unique (DG 0734241).




THE VERY FIRST MANON

Back to the very first Manon. What did she sound like? There is a recording by Cesira Ferrari of “In quelle trine morbide”, made in 1905. It is on a double CD by Standing Room Only (SRO-818-2) with the title “Creators Records”. What you hear is a light, almost soubrette-like voice, but with dark undertones. And with a lot of body. You could say it’s a bit of a big-boned Lolita.

I Puritani: mini discography

puritani

It is said of I Puritani that it is a true soprano opera, but that is not really quite the case. Elvira may be the pivot around which everything revolves, she is also one of the most passive opera heroines I know. Everything that happens around her and to her, happens in spite of her; because apart from loving and going mad, she doesn’t seem to be able to do much of anything at all.

It is the bass (her uncle Giorgio) who devises all sorts of plans to steer the action in the desired direction, and for this he is rewarded by Bellini with a most beautiful aria (‘Cinta di fiori’).

Nicolai Ghiaurov:

In order to save the mad soprano from certain death, he asks the baritone to spare the tenor’s life, which ends in a gorgeous duet (‘Suoni la tromba’), a real show-stopper.

Samuel Ramey and Sherrill Milnes:

The tenor also, who in a fit of patriotinic frenzy seems to send the whole thing into disarray, gets to sing a lot of beautiful (and high!) notes.

John Osborn with Mariola Cantarero from Amsterdam 2009:



All these roles require an excellent bel canto technique, with good coloratura, leggiero and legato. And don’t forget a sense of pure drama, because Bellini (and his librettist!) have created a lot of havoc for the poor soprano: first she becomes delirious with joy, then she loses her mind. She then regains it, only to lose it again immediately. Are you still there? Because it’s not over yet: her mind comes back once more and immediately she’s delirious with joy again. Ouch… Fortunately, the opera stops here, because poor Elvira apparently has to repeat such tricks a few times a day


CD’S

JOAN SUTHERLAND

puritani-suth


Elvira, like Lucia, was a showpiece for Maria Callas and Joan Sutherland, both of whom recorded it several times. In 1974, Richard Bonynge (Decca 4175882) made a peerless recording of the opera, besides Sutherland, there was the sublime male trio: Luciano Pavarotti, Nicolai Ghiaurov and Piero Cappuccilli. Sutherland sounds like a little heap of misery, and her virtuosity knows no limits. Pavarotti still possessed all his glorious long high notes in those days and he pops them out with no effort at all.




MARIA CALLAS

puritani-calls

The recording with Callas from 1953 (Naxos 8110259-60) is weighed down by the fact that Giuseppe di Stefano is totally unfit to sing Arturo. But Nicola Rossi-Lemeni (Giorgio) and Rolando Panerai (Riccardo) are excellent, and Tulio Serafin conducts with verve and theatricality. Unfortunately, the score is not complete.


BEVERLY SILLS

puritani-sills

A good (and complete!) alternative is the 1973 recording under Julius Rudel (Westminster 4712072), with a very virtuoso Beverly Sills. Arturo is sung in an extraordinarily beautiful and elegant way by Nicolai Gedda. His approach to the high notes is delightful, and personally I find it very pleasant to listen to him.



Conclusion;  you are best off with the Decca and Westminster recordings. You get all the music, all the high notes and the best male voices. But since Naxos’ recording with Callas is in the budget class, why not buy it! Because of the conductor, because of the bass, but mainly because of La Divina. Because let’s be honest – nobody else can go so deliciously mad.


DVD’S

ANNA NETREBKO

puritani-nebs



It gets more difficult if you want to buy the work on DVD, because I cannot recommend either of the performances I watched without any reservations.

The Metropolitan Opera production, filmed in January 2007 (DG 0734421), is over 30 years old and was originally made for the Sutherland/Pavarotti duo. Perhaps this explains its total lack of personal direction?

There are these monumental tableaux-vivants , in which nobody seems to be allowed to move. The sets are ‘larger than life’ and all the costumes ‘historically accurate’. Anna Netrebko is a very imaginative Elvira. And although she lacks trills, her top notes are there and her presentation (charisma?) is more than convincing.

Both the bass (John Relyea) and the baritone (Franco Vassallo) are reasonable, but no more than that. Eric Cutler (Arturo) has a pleasant timbre and he reaches (albeit with difficulty) the high notes, but it is not really spectacular.

Netrebko sings ‘Deh Vieni al Tempio’ from the first act:

EDITA GRUBEROVA

puritani-grub



But Cutler is much better than the totally miscast José Bros in the fifteen-year-old production from Barcelona (ArthouseMusik 107267). His voice is at least a size too small for Arturo. Edita Gruberova is a matter of taste. I do not like her ‘pussy-mouthed ways’ and I do not really want to watch her, but with my eyes closed there is little to complain about, because yes, she can sing bel canto.

Carlos Álvarez is a first-class Riccardo, but the rest of the cast …. Ah, let’s not talk about it. Andrei Serban’s direction, on the other hand, is truly sublime and exciting, I enjoyed it a lot. A friend I was watching with summed it up like this: Netrebko is for straight men and Gruberova (because of Álvarez) for gays and women, but of course it is not that simple. If only we could cut and paste!



BELLINI-BOX

puritani-box


A 25-cd Bellini box set is an absolute must. For 90 euros only, you get all of Bellini’s operas, two of which (La Sonnambula, Norma) are also available in two different versions. Many well known names too: Callas, Caballé, Scotto, Ciofi, Bernstein…

Most recordings are live and the sound and performance quality vary, but who cares? Among them, of course, is I Puritani, recorded in Catania in 1989, with Mariella Devia as Elvira. In the beginning, she is a bit of a disappointment, but gradually she gets better. Not only does she have all the top notes at the ready, she also brings in a lot of (her own) embellishments, and if that is not part of the art of bel canto, then I don’t know what is.

Mariella Devia:

Unfortunately, the men are not of the same level, although Paulo Washington is a moving and very imaginative Giorgio. A special CD-ROM contains all the libretti. A MUST! (Dynamic CDS 52/1-25)

Alban Berg’s Wozzeck

Wozzeck Buchner
Georg Büchner

The true story of the young soldier Woyzeck, who was found guilty of murdering his girlfriend in 1824 and sentenced to death, inspired the young Austrian Georg Büchner to write his play. The work remained unfinished, Büchner died of typhus in 1837 at the age of 24, and Woyzeck was not staged until 1913. Alban Berg saw the play a year later in Vienna and decided to turn it into an opera. The premiere on 4 December 1925 in Berlin was an overwhelming success.

Wozzeck Alban&HeleneBerg
Alban and Helene berg after the premiere in Berlin

“Fragmentary, hallucinatory and extremely pessimistic’. This is how the play was described and this is an exact description of the opera also. This work – perhaps the most moving opera of the last century – always comes with an unprecedented inaccessability The music is highly expressive and cannot be defined by a single definition: Berg used both dodecaphony and the sweetest violin sounds, and alternated the sprechgesang with melancholic ‘arias’.

Wozzeck Berg met performers van Wozzeck premiere in Oldenburg
(Alban Berg wth the Wozzeck – cast after the première in Oldenburg 1929

Masterpiece or no (for me an absolute masterpiece) everything depends on the performance and there are many.
A selection:


DVD’S:

Hamburg 1970

Wozzeck Blankestein

Under the direction of Rolf Liebermann, the Hamburg State Opera grew into one of the best and most talked-about opera houses in the world. Liebermann ensured a good, thorough and diverse repertoire with extra attention to contemporary works.

Fortunately for those of us who did not experience those years (consciously), Liebermann also thought about the future and commissioned the director Joachim Hess to record about thirteen of his productions for TV. Most of the recordings were made in a studio, but with Wozzeck they went to a castle in southern Germany and also its environs.

The now almost completely forgotten baritone Toni Blankenheim was one of the pillars of the Hamburg opera. He sang numerous roles, but only became truly famous as Schigolch (Lulu), in the production with Teresa Stratas.

His very charismatic appearance, his enormous acting talent and his agile, warm baritone made him more than suitable for singing roles of “complex characters”. A character like Wozzeck. Better than anyone, Blankenheim is pretty much the personification of the “simple soul”; his despair is not played and you can really see the incomprehension on his face.

Sena Jurinac is a beautiful, slightly timid, but very sensual and erotically charged Marie.

Bruno Maderna has never been a champion of conducting other people’s works, but he certainly has a great affinity with Berg’s idiom.

The production is very realistic and the tension is palpable. It is as if you are watching an unadulterated thriller.

Liebermann is now seen as the father of Regietheater (directing theatre), but his vision was quite different from today’s conceptualism and its search for (and often crossing) the boundaries of the permissible and the ridiculous. Anyway: see for yourself. That recording is an absolute must (Arthaus Music 101277)


Vienna 1987

Wozzeck Abbado


This production was my first ‘Wozzeck’ ever. It made me sick; the opera evoked so many emotions and feelings in me. I was most touched by Hildegard Behrens’ performance of Marie. I still find her performance extremely impressive, but now that I know the opera better, I also have some reservations. Now and then I find her a little too much. Too exaggerated in her acting and also in her singing. As if she is challenging the outer limits of her voice. In her creation, she reminds me – don’t take it too literally! – of the Italian actress Anna Magnani, which is actually a great compliment.

Franz Grundhebber portrays an embittered Wozzeck, but one not devoid of pathos.

Heinz Zednik is an unequalled captain and the young Philip Langridge a brilliant Andres.

That Abbado has an affinity with Berg’s music is obvious. He conducts fiercely and compellingly; the tension is palpable from the very first note. And yet the lyricism is never far away.

Can you still remember that magical moment when the curtain opens? You can experience it again here. And then a world that you know from the libretto is revealed: we are in the captain’s room, with, behind the window, a view of what could become a crime scene. And then the lighting! It is so beautiful!

This fascinating production (directed by Adolf Dresen) should be mandatory for any director’s course. If only to show all those aspiring directors that traditional does not automatically mean boring or museum-like (incidentally: there is nothing against that either).

And how young Abbado is here! (Arthaus Musik 109156)

Trailer of the production:


Moscow 2010

Wozzeck Nigl Tcherniakov


I have to be brief about this. After more than four minutes of staring at a kind of doll’s house with lots of boxes, in which all kinds of people playing house and looking bored (televisions were on) – all this accompanied by an orchestra tuning its instruments – I had had enough. But I did watch it for a while because I was quite curious. Unfortunately, I did not get very far.

If you want an evening of exciting theatre with lots of video images and even more music, then this is the DVD for you. However, you do have to forget about Wozzeck, because this production has nothing – absolutely nothing – to do with either Alban Berg’s opera or Büchner’s play. Teodor Currentzis, the darling of Russian audiences, who is famous (and notorious) for his strange tempi, here really lives up to his reputation (BAC068).

CD’S

Berlin Classics 1973

Eterna - Berg: Wozzeck / Kegel, Adam, Schroter, Goldberg, Herbert Kegel |  CD (album) |... | bol.com


This recording, reissued on Berlin Classisc, was recorded live in 1973 during a concert performance in Leipzig (then GDR).

What strikes one immediately is the clarity of sound and the fantastic diction of the singers. Reiner Goldberg (the drum major) has a somewhat “embarrassing” height, which underlines his sillyness as a failed macho.

The truly incomparable Horst Hiestermann (Hauptmann) confirms his reputation as one of the best character actors in history and Helmuth Klotz is delightful as the totally messed-up doctor.

Gisela Schröter is moving as Marie and Theo Adam is a thoroughly tragic Wozzeck, who cannot understand the ‘why’.

The orchestra under the sublime direction of Kegel sounds alternately screeching and loving, exactly as this music was meant to be (0184422BC).


Decca 1981

Wozzeck Wachter


Eberhard Wächter is one of the best Wozzecks I know. His anti-hero sounds resigned and desperate, but also fierce and terrifying. And although his voice sometimes sounds a little unbalanced, his portrayal is solid.

Anja Silja is a wonderfully light, childlike – naive Marie. Very lyrical and clumsy, someone to feel sorry for. She is not a mature woman, more a child who is full of life and looking for challenges.

Heinz Zednik (Captain) sounds even better here than in the Hamburg recording. He does not sing his role as terribly caricatured as many of his colleagues, proving once again that a good character tenor is perhaps one of the most difficult voices to find.

There is nothing but praise for the Vienna Philharmonic; under the inspired leadership of Christoph von Dohnányi, they show that they really know and master this score (4173482).



Warner 1998

Wozzeck Skovhus


Under Ingo Metzmacher, the opera sounds more modern than it really is. Not that it is bad, but it makes it a bit more unapproachable. He does keep the momentum going, which is very beneficial to the tension. And in the scenes with Marie, he keeps the orchestra surprisingly lyrical.

Bo Skovhus should perhaps have waited a little longer to sing his first Wozzeck. He sounds a tad too young and too healthy; fortunately, he is able to camouflage these “flaws” with his excellent voice-acting.

Angela Denoke is, in my opinion, the star, although she is more a cool blonde than an alley cat. Think of Marlene Dietrich in Der Blaue Engel.

I do not listen to this recording very often, for this I blame Chris Merritt’s captain. The amount of ugly notes this man can produce almost borders on the impossible. But this is actually the only real flaw in this splendid performance, recorded live in Hamburg 1998 (6406622).



Naxos 2013

Wozzeck Naxos



Naxos’ 2013 performance recorded live in Houston is also more than excellent.

Roman Trekel’s dry baritone and his nervous singing make him an almost ideal Wozzeck. He relies mainly on his very impressive voice-acting and his intelligibility and his handling of the text are more than sublime. Hats off!

Anne Schwanewilms is an excellent Marie. Perhaps a tad too neat and a little understated, but she is able to compensate for this with her velvety singing.

With the concert performance of his favourite opera, Austrian conductor Hans Graf bid a spectacular farewell to his orchestra. The recording is highly recommended for the orchestral part alone. (8660390-91)



My love-hate relationship with Fidelio by Beethoven

https://basiaconfuoco.files.wordpress.com/2020/07/fidelio18140523.jpg

I have a love-hate relationship with ‘Fidelio’. On the one hand, I think it is a whole lot of rubbish, but on the other hand, I love the overture. And the quartet in the first act – a heavenly piece of music, if performed well.

Harnoncourt (Teldec 4509-94560-2)

Fidelio Harnoncourt cd



I particularly like the recording Nikolaus Harnoncourt made in 1995 with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe. Charlotte Margiono is a fantastic Leonore and Peter Seiffert (Florestan) sounds like a young god. Also the young (yes, make no mistake! Don Ferrando is young!) Bo Skovhus sings the noble minister in a very natural way. Sergei Leiferkus (Don Pizarro) is also much more at home here than in Verdi’s operas.

I become a little sad when I see the names of László Polgár (Rocco) and Deon van der Walt (Jaquino) again: Polgár, a much beloved singer (not only in Amsterdam), died suddenly in September 2010. And Deon van der Walt was shot dead by his own father in November 2005 (who says life is not like opera?). The orchestra is very transparent and wonderfully light-hearted, something I enjoy very much.


Barenboim (Teldec 3984-25249-2)

fidelio barenboim


Now you may say: Fidelio light-hearted? I want thunder and lightning! In that case, your choice should be Daniel Barenboim. Here, not only is the orchestra (Staatskapelle Berlin) of almost Wagnerian proportions, so are the singers: Waltraud Meier (Leonore), Plácido Domingo (Florestan), Falk Struckman (Don Pizarrro), René Pape (Rocco), Kwangchul Youn (Don Fernando).
On the other hand the roles of Jaquino (Werner Güra) and Marzelline (Soile Isokoski) are wonderfully lyrical (although more heavily cast than usual). The tempi are solid but never punishing, and Barenboim conducts with verve.

Elder (GFOCD 004-06)

Fidelio Eldet

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the 2006 performance, recorded live in Glyndebourne for the Festival’s own label. Anja Kampe made her enthusiastically received debut there as Leonore. And rightly so. Rarely, if ever, has this role been sung with such beautiful lyricism and such fragility, making Leonore even more deserving of our respect for her heroic actions. In the spoken dialogues, moreover, Kampe shows herself to be an outstanding actress.

I am not a big fan of Torsten Kerl (Florestan), but the way he sings his great aria is outstanding. Lisa Milne (Marzelline) has stolen my heart with her lovely soprano and the rest of the cast is also fantastic. Mark Elder conducts the beautifully playing London Philharmonic Orchestra with great intensity.
It is a great pity that the production has not appeared on DVD, because all the reviews praised Deborah Warner’s direction. But even without seeing it, there is still a lot to enjoy.

The packaging is also very attractive: the two CDs are enclosed in a kind of booklet with a hard cover, with, besides the libretto, many rehearsal and performance photographs.

Harnoncourt (Arthouse 107111)

Fidelio kaufmann

On DVD the choice is also quite large and out of necessity I will limit myself to two recordings.

Already in 2004 (!) Jonas Kaufmann sang Florestan, in Zurich, conducted by Nicolaus Harnoncourt. The conductor has changed his vision audibly and the orchestra sounds heavier than on Teldec. He conducts with a firm hand and starts very quickly, only to calm down afterwards. I find it all too measured, too tight … At least it is for me.

Jürgen Flimm directed the film and he gives us, for him, rather realistic images, sometimes maybe even ‘too’ realistic. A fun fact: Flimm also directed and supervised the dialogues for the 1994 Teldec recording.

Lászlo Pólgár is a wonderful Rocco. I doubt if he is a perfect match for the role (physically then), especially with a (very weak) Elisabeth Magnus as his daughter, but just to be able to see that man again!

Camilla Nylund is a rather unemotional Leonore, but Kaufmann is an irresistible Florestan.

Haitink (Opus Arte BD OA7040)

Fidelio Haitink


Again in Zurich, but four years later in 2008, a new production of ‘Fidelio’ (they apparently love it there) was presented. The orchestra of the Opernhaus Zürich is conducted very affectionately by Bernard Haitink, but then again – he has pretty much identified himself with Beethoven’s works.

He has also really thought about it: he finds the ideas behind the music much stronger than any political labels. He doesn’t care about updating, because the music itself is translucent, transparent and warm.

Harking back to the Mahlerian tradition, he puts “Leonore III” in the second act. However, he is a bit on the slow side.

Katharina Thalbach’s direction and Ezzio Tofolutti’s furnishings are very realistic, which is in line with Haitink’s ideas, but the costumes are a bit of everything. The dialogues are somewhat abbreviated, which I do not really consider a lack.

Lucio Gallo is a misfit for me. He portrays Don Pizzaro as an Italian mafia boss, but as the sort you’ll only see in the cinema. It is  all very exaggerated and his voice does not have the right timbre for the role.

Alfred Muff is better suited as Rocco than as Pizzaro four years earlier, but he too has had his day. Melanie Diener (Leonore) sings very adequately, and I have little to say about her acting, but she is not at all convincing as a man!

Robberto Saccà  is a great Florestan. More lyrical than we are used to, but I do not mind that at all. And although he does not look gaunt, his fantastic acting skills are enough to suggest his great suffering. I have also come to appreciate this singer more and more.

Death in Venice: an autobiographical testament?

Death Pears Britten

Britten’s vocal oeuvre is almost inextricably linked to one singer, Peter Pears. For years they were partners in art and in daily life. Britten composed his songs and operas for Pears, and with his voice in mind he made arrangements of English folk songs.

Death in Venice, Britten’s last opera; he was already very ill by then, was also composed for his partner. I am not sure of course, but I think that Britten put a bit more of his own life into it than into his earlier operas. And so it may be strongly autobiographical.

Death all opera's

What do we have to compare it to? Next to my player are two DVDs and a CD. Well, CD… Let’s say CDs, because Decca has honoured one of the great British composers with a box set of all his operas (4756029). The eight-disc second volume also includes Gloriana, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Rape of Lucretia and The Turn of the Screw. Apart from Death in Venice and Gloriana, all of them are conducted by the composer himself.

Death in Venice decca



To say that the 1974 recording is just about the very best imaginable, is, of course, stating the obvious. Not only is it the most exemplary performance imaginable(Peter Pears as Aschenbach and John Shirley-Quirk in all those baritone roles), the recording itself is also insanely good: direct, clear and so authentic that you get the impression it was recorded live. Stuart Badford conducts the English Chamber Orchestra.

TONY PALMER

Death Palmer



The same conductor, orchestra and baritone can also be found in Tony Palmer’s film (TPDVD176), filmed on location in 1980. The role of Gustav von Aschenbach was taken by Robert Gard, a tenor unknown to me, but who really does an excellent job. Although he cannot make me forget Pears.

The film is very realistic and even if it is a bit dated (the typical seventies atmosphere is everywhere), there is no denying that it will keep you on the edge of your seat! The images of Venice are more beautiful than you can imagine, the atmosphere is oppressive and the singer-actors are more than excellent. Besides Gard and Shirley-Quirk, my eyes (and ears!) also focussed on an unnamed singer in the role of the English clerk.

On the box it says that Pears is also involved. I could not discover him, although I thought I heard his voice in the group of extras surrounding the hallucinating Von Aschenbach.



PIER LUIGI PIZZI

Death Pizzi


Venice belongs to this opera, of course. Therefore, a performance recorded in that city appeals more to one’s imagination than one from … (fill in the blank). The production recorded in June 2008 in La Fenice (Dynamic 33608) is definitely special.
Pier Luigi Pizzi always stands for beautiful images and his productions are almost always semi-realistic, but with a twist to both surrealism and symbolism.

In his predilection for ballet, he can sometimes go too far, which is also the case here. The chorus and all the extras, sailors and guests of the hotel are made up of beautifully dressed (or, if you prefer, beautifully undressed) gorgeous dancers. When there is no dancing, there is stylistic walking and aesthetic standing.

It’s like a film and Visconti is never far away – even the famous hat worn by Silvana Mangano as Tadzio’s mother in the movie, has been copied here. But the atmosphere is very oppressive, the heat palpable and the final result very moving.
Marlin Miller deserves an Oscar for his role of the tormented Von Aschenbach. Waving his handkerchief and wiping off his sweat, he tries to maintain some decency, only to finally having to succumb to total madness and delirium. Bravissimo!
His voice is different from Pears’s. It is rounder and more focused, especially towards the audience, which only enhances his intelligibility.

Scott Hendricks is more than phenomenal in all his ‘devilish’ characters. With a sardonic smile and visible pleasure, he helps Von Aschenbach meet his doom.

Bruno Bartoletti succeeds in eliciting the most beautiful sounds from the orchestra of La Fenice.

A slight objection: Tadzio (a stunningly beautiful, it cannot be denied, Alessandro Riga) is optically too old and too sure of himself. Still – highly, highly recommended.

Hänsel und Gretel: Discography

hans-tekening
Das Bild ist ein Holzstich nach einer Zeichnung von Ludwig Richter von 1853.

Fairy tales! As a child I couldn’t get enough of them and I still love them. My small bookcase was well stocked with them then and my current bookcase has several shelves with every fairy tale I could lay my hands on.

The story of the children lost in a dark wood, the wicked witch and – yes! – the gingerbread house particularly appealed to me; a girl who loved sweets.

I knew that the fairy tale had once been turned into an opera. In the old German film adaptation of Kärstner’s The Parent Trap, Luise/Lottie visits the performance of Hänsel und Gretel conducted by her father. This very dramatic scene made a huge impression on me at the time, so the opera was very high on my wish list.
My first real introduction to the opera, however, was downright disappointing. And I still cannot get really excited about the work. It is not sweet or scary enough for me. However, I immediately admit that a beautiful, well sung and acted production will give me a lot of pleasure!

The two DVD recordings known by me are certainly all that, and I really wouldn’t know which of the two to choose


Royal Opera House, 2008

hans-roh



Colour! That is what is most striking about Moshe Leiser and Patrice Caurier’s London (Covent Garden 2008) production. The enchanted (and enchanting) fairy- tale forest is green, the sky blue, Gretel’s jacket red, and the biscuits, cakes, pies and puddings are all the colours of the rainbow. Or even more. And they are so very bright!

It is a true feast for the eyes, but the singing is also at the highest level. Diana Damrau is a delightful Gretel and Angelika Kirschlager a boyish Hänsel. Even in the scenes together with real children, they are not out of place.

Elisabeth Connell and Thomas Allen, here as real- life riff- raff, are good for a lot of delicious “schadenfreude”. And the fact that Anja Silja convinces more with her acting than with her singing should be forgiven, she is after all a witch (Opus Arte OA BD 7032)




Metropolitan Opera, 2008

hans-met



Richard Jones’ production, originally created for the Welsh National Opera and recorded at the Met in 2008, is just as much fun.
Chistine Schäfer (Gretel) and Alice Coote (Hänsel) are perhaps just a little more brazen, but Rosalind Plowright and Alan Held are just as deliciously caricatured as Connell and Allen.

What makes this performance an absolute must have is Philip Langridge’s witch, even Anja Silja cannot match that! And the dream pantomime at the end of the first act is simply delicious.

During the overture and the interval, we get a look behind the scenes and get to see the make-up artists in action. Very special!

Vladimir Jurowski conducts very lightly, almost belcantesque.
Warning for purists: the opera is sung in English! (Warner 5099920630898)

Below a short trailer:



von Karajan, Milan1954

hansel-karajan-italiaans



Talking about foreign languages: it is not at all surprising that an opera intended for a mainly young audience is performed in a language they can understand.

In 1954, von Karajan conducted the fairy tale in Italian in Milan, but with two German sopranos in the leading roles: Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and Sena Jurinac. Which makes the notion of “intelligibility” immediately relative.

Rolando Panerai is a delightful “Pietro”, but of course the CD’s greatest attractions are the Sand- and Taumännchen sung irresistibly by Rita Streich. The orchestral sound is very refined despite the analogue sound (Date DAT 12314).

https://open.spotify.com/album/5wcO8IrP9pnAzooD82Sdi8?si=jeT_t5W0RtabNBI91BMJdQ&dl_branch=1



Von Karajan, 1953

untitled



Refinement is also the best word to describe the (studio) recording of Karajan from 1953. It is fully worth it for the overture alone. Orchestrally it sounds even better than the Milan recording, but that may be due to the excellent sound quality.

Both Elisabeths: Grümmer and Schwarzkopf sound very credibly childlike. Their ‘Brüderchen , komm tanz mit mir’ is simply irresistible. It is just a pity that their voices sound so similar that you cannot really tell whether it is Hansel or his sister who is singing. (Warner 509996407162)

https://open.spotify.com/album/6NcBtroE4jZdQqV3rrHval?si=A1P5xVzxRAiF7RmPWISh2Q&dl_branch=1




Eichhorn, 1971

hans-rca



There are five reasons to buy the recording Kurt Eichhorn made for RCA in 1971: Anna Moffo (Hans), Helen Donath (Gretel), Christa Ludwig (witch), Arleen Auger and Lucia Popp (the ‘males’).

Charlotte Berthold and Fischer Dieskau are not really exciting and the orchestra is no more than okay, but those five ladies! And secretly I think I may find Helen Donath’s Gretel the most beautiful of all. (BMG 74321 252812)

Below Anna Moffo and Helen Donath in `Abendsagen`: