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Opera and Vocal CD Review

By Joel Kasow

PARIS, 9 December 2004

Gluck - Orphée et Eurydice
Mireille Delunsch (Eurydice); Marion Harousseau (L'Amour); Claire Delgado-Boge (Une Ombre heureuse), Richard Croft (Orphée)
Chœur des Musiciens du Louvre
Les Musiciens du Louvre - Grenoble
Marc Minkowski, conductor
DGG Archiv 471 582-2 (2 cds; texts and translations in English, French and German)

Gluck:- Orphée
				 et Eurydice

For the first time we have Gluck's Paris version of the Orpheus legend as he wrote it. Earlier recordings sometimes transposed, omitted the bravura aria at the end of Act One, and were committed to posterity half a century ago. Minkowski's Gluckian credentials have already been well established and he does not let us down here. Richard Croft and Mireille Delunsch are dramatically aware throughout, singing mellifluously, while Minkowski gets to strut his stuff in the ballet music at the end.

Handel - Serse
Elizabeth Norberg-Schulz (Romilda); Sandrine Piau (Atalanta); Silvia Tro Santafé (Amastre); Anne Sofie von Otter (Serse); Lawrence Zazzo (Arsamene); Giovanni Furlanetto (Ariodate); Antonio Abete (Elviro)
Chorus and Orchestra Les Arts Florissants
William Christie, conductor
Virgin 7243 5 45711 2 1 (3 cds; texts and translations in English, French and German)

Handel: Serse

Serse is one of Handel's more immediately appealing operas, with its short (relatively) arias, its comic servant and its frequent eschewal of the standard da capo form. This recording was made during live performances in November 2003 at the Théâtre des Champs-Elysées in Paris with an audience that is noticeable only when it laughs on occasion. The performance is generally excellent, with excellent performances by Sandrine Piau, Lawrence Zazzo, Anne Sofie von Otter and the two basses. Unfortunately, Elizabeth Norberg-Schulz's narrow-bore voice is not always square on the notes, while the idiosyncratic qualities of Silvia Tro Santafé's mezzo do not really lend themselves to the character of Amastre. William Christie and Les Arts Florissants offer a solid backdrop for the singers, with the performance only marginally superior to its most recent rival on BMG to which I gave a lukewarm reception a few years ago.

Moniuszko - The Haunted Manor
Iwona Hossa (Hanna); Anna Lubanska (Jadwiga); Stefania Toczyska (Czesnikowa); Agnieszka Zwierko (Marta); Dariusz Stachura (Stefan); Piotr Nowacki (Zbigniew); Adam Kruszewski (Miecxznik); Krzysztof Szmyt (Damazy); Zbigniew Macias (Maciej); Romual Tezarowicz (Skoluba); Jacek Parol (Grzes)
Chorus and Orchestra of the Polish National Opera Warsaw
Jacez Kaspszyk, conductor
EMI 7243 5 57489 2 8 (2 cds; texts and translations in Polish, English, French and German)

Moniuszko: The Haunted Manor

If you want to expand your operatic horizons, if you are a fan of Glinka and 19th century Italian opera, you could do worse than to acquire The Haunted Manor. The music is tuneful, skillfully orchestrated, interesting vocally, well sung and played. Purists will decry the cuts that enable the work to fit easily onto two discs, but the infectious enthusiasm of a cast to whom this work is part of their natural heritage outweighs such dissatisfaction. And this is the only version generally available, so I would suggest going out to buy the opera, thereby encouraging EMI to offer us further treasures on the verge of disappearance.

Scarlatti - La Santissima Trinità
Roberta Invernizzi (Fede); Véronique Gens (Amor divino); Vivica Genaux (Teologia); Paul Agnew (Infedeltà); Roberto Abbondanza (Tempo)
Ensemble Europa Galante
Fabio Biondi, conductor

Virgin 545 666 2 2 (texts and translations in English, French and German)

Scarlatti: La
				 Santissima Trinità

Alessandro Scarlatti's prolific output in all domains, little of it available, is given further substance with this new recording of an oratorio embodying a theological conversation. On this arid ground, the composer gives us an astounding range of music, using the limited resources of a string orchestra. The women are nicely distinguished vocally, from the bright sound of Roberta Invernizzi to the warmer tones of Véronique Gens to the agile mezzo of Vivica Genaux. Paul Agnew and Roberto Abbondanza fill out this remarkable cast, while Fabio Biondi leads a performance that never flags. Give us more Scarlatti, please.

Vivaldi - Vespri per l'Assunzione di Maria Vergine
Gemma Bertagnolli, Roberta Invernizzi, Anna Simboli (sopranos); Sara Mingardo (contralto); Gianluca Ferrarini (tenor); Matteo Bellotto (bass)
Concerto Italiano
Rinaldo Alessandrini, condcutor
Naïve OP 30383 (2 cds; texts and translations in English, French and Italian)

				 - Vespri per l'Assunzione di Maria Vergine

This has to be one of my favorite albums of the year. The music-making is totally infectious, so that I listened several times, unable to resist the sopranos in their vocal duels, the lush contralto of Sara Mingardo, the inspiration of the composer and the vision brought by Rinaldo Alessandrini so that there the two and one half hours fly by. You may wonder why you have never heard of this piece, and that is because it is a compilation of a number of pieces, some of which have long been familiar to listeners (for example, the Nisi Dominus), but Vespers collections have often been assembled in similar fashion. The gamble pays off here, with a major addition to Naïve's project to record all the music of Vivaldi in the Turin University Library.

.Joel Kasow is the Operanet editor of Culturekiosque.com.

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