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Volume 11 Issue 5 - February 2006

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OPERA AND BALLET Pugni - The Pharaoh's Daughter Bolshoi Ballet Bell Air Classiques BAC201 Swan Lake Svetlana Zakharova, Roberto Bolle; Corpo di Ballo ed Orchestra del Teatro alla Scalia/James Tuggle TDK DWW _BLSL The Pharoah s Daughter was Marius Petipa's first full-length ballet. The 1862 premiere in St. Petersburg, where the French dancer was royal bal­ I et-master, marked the beginning of a revolution in the world of dance. In 1953, over seventy years after its last performance, the ballet was painstakingly restored by French choreographer Pierre Lacotte, who also designed the spectacular sets and costumes. This well-documented DVD records the landmark 2003 Moscow production, which created a sensation when the Bolshoi brought it to the Met last summer. An English traveler smokes an opium pipe and falls asleep in the ancient tomb of an Egyptian princess. In his dream, the sarcophagi rise up, the princess emerges, and he is transformed into a virile Egyptian prince. Svetlana Zakharova is turning out to be the most exciting ballerina of her generation. She extends her long legs higher, bends her pliant back lower, stretches her elegant arms further than would seem possible. Only her facial expressions hold something back. The muscular, fleet Serguer Fil in balances Zakharova's reserve with his emotional intensity. They make an expressive pair, with their final pas de deux a series of breathtakingly glamorous lifts. The virtuosic Bolshoi soloists and corps de ballet bring the story to life with intricate footwork and flashy entrances and exits. Cesare Pugni 's tuneful score is full of lovely sequences which, though repetitious, move the story forward with panache. 60 The ever-popular Swan Lake remains Petipa's greatest triumph, even though there have been many versions since its inauspicious Moscow premiere in 1877. nt .,l!j La Scala Ballet presents Vladimir Burnmeister's 1953 adaptation, with its surprising happy ending - Siegfried defeats Rothbart, Odette turns back into a princess, and they embrace. Roberto Balle makes a dreamy prince. His bearing is elegant, his mien boyish, and his technique steely. He is a thrilling partner for the regal Zacharova, who, in the dual role of Odette/Odile, gets a chance to show off her dramatic range, while taking every opportunity to make technical challenges like the famous 32 fouettes appear effortless. The La Scala swans are sprightly and full of character. The Act II pas de quatre is particularly charming, presented here in the original choreography of Petipa's assistant, Lev Ivanov. This memorable production, filling the huge stage of the Arcimboldi, is made even more enjoyable by the impassioned performance of Tchaikovsky's gorgeous score by the La Scala Orchestra under James Tuggle. In both productions the camerawork is unobtrusively spot-on, the sound clear and well-balanced. Pamela Marg/es Concert Note: The National Ballet of Canada performs Swan Lake on February 17 and 18 at 7:30pm, and on February 19 at 2pm. Handel - Serse Sandrine Piau, Isabel Bayrakdarian, Paula Rasmussen, Patricia Bardon, Ann Hallenberg, Marcello Lippi, Matteo Peirone; Ludwigshafen Theatre Chorus; Les Talens Lyriques; Christophe Rousset EuroArts 2053798 This production of Serse was presented at the Dresden Music Festival in 2000. Conducted by Christophe Rousset, this DVD recording WWW. TH EWHOLENOTE.COM features dynamic staging from director Michael Hampe and a stellar international cast, including Canada's own Isabel Bayrakdarian, as Romilda. The ' seria' side opera deals with the inherent, destructive blindness of absolute power and authority that sends those bound to a tyrant's wi II into absolute chaos. Paula Rasmussen as the King of Persia creates a fantastic blend of tender narcissism and furious rage with finesse and virtuosity. On the other hand are the comic elements of this opera such as Matteo Peirone as the bumbling servant Elviro, Sandrine Piau as Atalante, the cunning vamp ofa sister, whose antics and bold vocal prowess had me rolling with laughter. Even the supernumerary roles of palace guards send up the pomposity of their characters hilariously. The set is all in black, white, gray and silver, with occasional splashes of colour. An arrangement of huge metal-framed sliding glass panels behind which can be seen a rather cold and artificial plane tree - the object ofSerse's opening aria, which is subsequently burned by his fury, then reborn as a bonsai as the comp! icated love story resolves into a happy ending. The production is truly beautiful, and it is easy to understand why this production of Serse became one of the highlights of the festival. Dianne Wells Verdi - La Traviata Anna Netrebko, Rolando Villazon, Thomas Hampson; Vienna Philharmonic; Carlo Rizzi Deutsche Grammophon 477 5936 This live recording of Verdi 's La Traviata was taped at wildly popular performances from last summer's Salzburg Festival, starring opera's hottest new soprano-tenor pairing, the Russian Anna Netrebko and the Mexican Rolando Villaz6n. Netrebko possesses a beautiful and generous lyric soprano with a warm, opaque timbre, and especially stunning high notes. She sounds more awake than on her two rather deadpan solo discs (this is a live recording after all); in the third act she is able to characterize Violetta's last hours as beautifully as any soprano on disc. In parts of the first act, however, she sounds laboured and phlegmatic. Villaz6n'sAlfredo is a more complete performance. His is not a typical Italianate tenor voice, but it is splendid and honey-toned, secure up to a ringing high C and well-matched with Netrebko. He sings with intense passion, caressing each phrase dramatically. American baritone Thomas Hampson sings with keen intelligence and unusual textual insight, and a fine sense of legato, which makes it all the more unfortunate that he lacks the vocal weight and authority required for Pere Germont. Carlo Rizzi leads an incisive, nuanced performance by the superb Vienna Philharmonic. The deluxe booklet reveals Netrebko as a strikingly beautiful woman, while Villaz6n cuts a dashing stage figure. With so many recordings of La Traviata available, this is not a first choice - those with Cotrubas (DG), Gruberova (Te Idec), and Stratas (Orfeo) are nearly flawless. But this recording is far from your standard Traviata, and Netrebko and Villaz6n are both young, exciting singers well worth hearing. Seth Estrin Concert Notes: Opera Ontario will be performing La Traviata April 29th, May 4th and 6th in Hamilton, and May 12th and 14th in Kitchener- Waterloo. The following season the Canadian Opera Company will be performing it May 4th to 26th 2007. EARLY MUSIC Bach - Alles mit gott und nichts ohn' ihn, BWV 1127 Monteverdi Choir; The English Baroque Soloists; John Elliot Gardiner SDGSDG114 Bach - Tonet, ihr Pauken Collegium Vocale Gent; Philippe Herreweghe harmonia mundi HMC 901860 The names Gardiner and Herreweghe are well known to anyone interested in historically-informed performances of Bach' s choral masterpieces. Although their intrin- FEBR UA RY 1 - M ARCH 7 2006

sic subject matter is similar, these two discs predictably present very different programs and performances, each with divergent strengths. Gardiner's disc begins with the premiere recording ofa brand new addition to the Bach canon - BWN 1127, 'Alles mit Gott und nichts ohn' lhn, ' (All things with God and nothing without Him). Written in 1713, this 12-minute-long birthday ode for Duke Wilhelm-E rnst of Saxe-Weimar was rediscovered in Weimar's Duchess Anna Amalia Library in 2005 by musicologist Michael Maul, who describes his detective work in the informative liner notes. An aria combining both strophic and da capo features, three of its twelve verses are performed here, and the work is a sweetly transparent delight. Soprano soloist Elin Manahan Thomas sings with innocent expressiveness; the continuo playing is excellent, especially from cellist Alison McGillivray; and the string ritornello playing is downright enchanting. The remaining 47-odd minutes on the disc offer a selection of choruses, arias and other pieces from Gardiner's " Bach Pilgrimage". Be it the breathless hurriedness of' Wir eilen' from BWV 78, the 'tossing' gestures of ' Wirfmein Herz' from BWV 155, or the elegant innocence of ' Si.isser Trost' (BWV 151), the interpretations are consistently well-considered and elegantly performed by solo singers, chorus and instrumentalists alike. The continuo playing is particularly strong, supportive and thoughtful and always interestingly coloured. Herreweghe's CD offers us two sitdown meals rather than a buffet - two of Bach 's secular cantatas dating from his time in Leipzig. The disc opens with BWV 207, ' Vereinigte F EB RUARY 1 - M ARCH 7 2006 Zweitracht der wechselnden Saiten' ('United discords of alternating strings' ), written in 1726 to celebrate a professorship awarded by the city's University. The suitably magnificent opening chorus will dispel any apprehension the listener might initially experience in reaction to the cantata's name! Recitatives and arias for the allegorical characters Diligence, Honour, Happiness and Gratitude are sung with aplomb and finesse by the soloists, disguising the fact that the text itself is a bit fawning. The second cantata, 'Tonet, ihr Pauken! ,' was first performed in Zimmermann 's coffee house in December 1733; Bach recycled four of its movements a year later in the Christmas Oratorio, including the magnificent opening and closing choruses. Although the continuo playing struck me as a bit heavy-handed, there are many highlights to be enjoyed here, such as the beautiful oboe playing of Marcel Ponseele, and the gorgeous rendition of ' Blast die wohlgegriffenen Flaten' by soprano Carolyn Sampson and fluti sts Hantai" and de Winne. Those of you seeking an introduction to Bach's cantatas would do very well with the Gardiner disc; but both recordings are well worth a listen! Alison Melville Defiled is My (Middle) Name I Furiosi Baroque Ensemble I Furiosi IF 001 ( This self-produced recording offers a great variety of mostly 16th and 17th century repertoire along with an Irish traditional tune, Johnny, I hardly knew ye, and a haunting 13th-century lauda, Cristo e Nata, not to mention a surprise bonus track. The program is beautifully paced. Beginning with the lyrical Defiled is my name (words by Anne Boleyn), they take advantage of the contrasting slow and fast movements of Rosenmi.iller's Sonata Prima. Following a cello solo Ricercar, there's a setting of Psalm 112 CONTI NUES IO Ill m IO rn m Ill IO Ill mnmnrnWmnmn NAXOS llll\ lllll 111111111111111 OF CANADA LTD • Over 3,000 titles • All digital recordings • New recordings and compositions monthly • Critical acclaim in all key classical publications • Featuring great Canadian artists All this at an astonishingly Low price! The world's leading Classical Music label! ~ Cdtfr,'1Hi11~ .\acu,! Rlt_,1!11.·1~ \l{Jl-.l . lt\.\ll RU. \ l, ... t ( 'ri1,ll.1 • '\,11ld.1d \m ,1r.1 ! . I fl lOl[\/l \ : \lw, .. , 11 1>., ,11, .•.dl(h·,·t1•. IIJ., · ll,.,,.,!l h l11•,'. ,.1.,,-,, r · , .. i11. t , ,,•,1 · l' .. lo!"!.,l..- 11.u ,1,. 1, ,,.., 1111·( !,·f .. J \n:,-..d I,, l..,· >ln \L>llu!J Karl von Ordonez Symphonies Toronto Camerata Kevin Mallon, conductor 8557482 IIA!\DEL \all-r\Jmk Handel - Water Music Music for the Royal Fireworks Aradia Ensemble Kevin Mallon, conductor 8557764 .\JOZART l-'.i11\· l, ll-i11 t• :\:id ih1111 .. i~ SN·._·n.,lam,tt urn.1 I 01lrnu \ i~l, 1 \lu~il "-"· I ,1, ,·,l1, hC loa 111l•l'I (lh !u·q1;, I', :1 , r .~1111d!.1 i·.t W.A. Mozart Eine kleine Nachtmusik Petter Sundkvist, conductor 8557023 .--,..=___,,...,.,,,.,, BR ITISII TUI.\ COM T IHOS l,n.· ... ; (.,·ll.111il _1,.,. ,. ,

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