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Volume 11 Issue 8 - May 2006

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VOCAL DISCS REVIEWED Ich empfehle diesen Film fiir Englisch, Deutsches und Chinesisches gleich. Gabrielle McLaughlin Mallon and Aradia deliver a period the continua section that it loses a bit performance not handicapped by too much of its own character, parforced pretentiousness or manner- ticularly when playing with the pair isms so irritating in many "period" of violins. attempts. Here, the music is crisp Alison Melville and focused, trying (and succeeding) to recreate Rinaldo as Handel might have wished it performed. Bravo! Robert Tomas 11 1\. 1111 l~ in:1!t!o I, • \'.,t'"..,.,\, Thy Kiss of a Divine Nature: The Contemporary Perotin The Hilliard Ensemble ArtHaus Musik 100 695 This DVD was created to tell the Handel - Rinaldo story of Perotin (or Perotinus Magnus), the mediaeval composer who is thought to have initiated the movement of Notre-Dame polyphony. The film (directed by Uli Aumiiller) was conceived and made by German historians who were very excited about recreating the beauty and sacredness of Perotin's music. They do a lot of philosophizing and lecturing on camera, but still manage to keep the film from becoming too dry. I had a few problems with this disc, however. When it asks you what language you want - don't be fooled! By 'English', it means German. By 'German', it means German. By 'Chinese', it means German. I watched the entire thing straight through in German twice, before realizing that I still don't speak the language. I finally discovered a hidden option for subtitles - not to be confused with the option for language. Surprisingly, it was about the same with subtitles, although one of the historians creating questionable chalk diagrams of Paris on the tiled floor of the rehearsal space was decidedly less funny. Once the subtitles were on, I was supplied with translations of the Hilliard Ensemble's quips to one another from the original English to easier English. How fortunate I am not to be forced to comprehend the muddled slang which is Oxbridge English. The music and the performance thereof are simply divine. The Hilliard Ensemble is the undisputed king of this era of music, and the singers are each individually immaculate in their communication of the text. The highlight of the film is the counter-tenor solo (sung by David James) Beata Viscera. That Perotin could write. Opera in Concert; Aradia; Kevin Mallon Naxos 8.660165-67 Rinaldo may not be the best known of Handel's operas, but it certainly is one of his most important. Not only was it his first operatic work composed specifically for the London stage, quickly consolidating the composer's reputation back in 1711, it was also the very first Italian opera composed for a London production (the earlier ones were "pasticcios" or adaptations.) Fully 273 years later, Rinaldo would also be Handel's debut at the Met in 1984, with Marilyn Horne as the intrepid knight. This story of the First Crusade (1096) and the siege of Jerusalem by the Christian knights is a story of passion and betrayal. Then again, which opera is not? Among the "firsts", it also features the first in a long line of powerful sorceresses in Handel's operas. The "baddie" in Rinaldo is Armida, Queen of Damascus. Over its first decades of existence ( 1711-1731) Rinaldo went through several drastic revisions (at least two major re-writes are documented: 1717 and 1731), incorporating music from other operas, changing plot resolutions and shifting keys to accommodate cast changes from disappearing castrati to mezzo-sopranos. It is the mezzo aria "Venti, turbini" that may be the most familiar, particularly after Ewa Podles' stunning recording. In this Naxos edition, it receives a little less of a star turn from Kimberly Barber, but such comparison is unfair. Ms. Barber delivers the nuances of Rinaldo's torment beautifully in this live recording from the Grace Church on the Hill in Toronto. Yet again, Kevin Bach - Cantatas, Vol. 30 Carolyn Sampson; Bach Collegium Japan; Masaaki Suzuki BIS BIS-SACD-1471 The bulk of this enhanced 'hybrid' CD from Sweden's BIS label presents a complete recording of Bach's recently-discovered Alles mit Gott und nichts ohn' lhn. (In February I reviewed a partial recording of the same work by John Eliot Gardiner and the English Baroque Soloists in these same pages.) Discovered in June 2005 and apparently Bach's only contribution to the strophic aria genre to date, the work's 12-verse text was based on the motto of Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Sachsen-Weimar and was written for his 52nd birthday. Setting any 12-verse text to music would be a challenge, even for the likes of Bach, but he measures up admirably with his trademark contrapuntal brilliance, as well as clever elaborations of the string ritornello found at the end of each strophe. Recording a performance of the work also requires considerable creativity, in which Suzuki largely succeeds through changing continuo colours from verse to verse, and varying the number ofritornello players. Though it's unlikely that I will listen to this piece many times, it receives a thoughtful and elegant performance here, as does Cantata 51, 'Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen!' and the aria 'Spielet, ihr beseelten Lieder' from Cantata 210. English soprano Carolyn Sampson sings wonderfully, in celebratory or serenely contemplative fashion as the texts require. The demanding trumpet obbligatos of BWV 51 present no problem at all to Toshio Shimada, and the solo violinists are excellent. I only wish that the cellist's sound had been given more definition; it is so well-blended into Puccini/Berio - Turandot Schnaut; Gallardo-Domas; Botha; Burchuladze; Vienna Philharmonic; Vienna State Opera Chorus; Valery Gergiev ORF DVUS-OPTURSFER The principal attractions of this Austrian Television broadcast of the 2002 Salzburg Festival performance of Puccini's Turandotare David Poutney's striking production and the world premiere of Luciano Berio's sensitive completion of the third act of this posthumous work, a welcome alternative to the heavy-handed Alfano version. This is a innovative staging in which Turandot towers twenty feet above the stage in a long golden robe, monstrous mechanical puppets portray the Emperor and his Mandarin, and imposing three-story tall sets entrap the grotesquely masked, robotic chorus. Only Calaf, Liu and Timur, interlopers in this inhuman realm, are portrayed conventional! y. Thirty years of singing Wagner and Strauss has obviously taken their toll on soprano Gabriele Schnaut's voice, though one might charitably allow that her imperious tone is not inappropriate to the despotic nature of her character. Not a single member of the cast is Italian. Paata Burchuladze's Timur in particular is incongruously Slavic sounding. Tenor Johan Botha is a rock-solid Calaf, though his considerable girth limits his stage deportment to the old park-and-bark. Christina Gaillardo­ Domas as Liu seems the most musically sensitive member of the cast. The trio of courtiers, Ping, Pang and Pong, adorned in weird headgear and prosthetic arms, are excellent throughout. It goes without saying that the Vienna orchestra provides a masterful interpretation under Gergiev 's dynamic leadership. The Vienna Opera Chorus is front and centre in this production, towering over the soloists in more ways than one. Daniel Foley 64 WWW. THEWHOLENOTE,COM M AY 1 - ) U N E 7 2 0 06

' 1. ,1',11 , ~~-=-:.)l:Z"~--~ Berg - Lulu Lisa Saffer; English National Opera Orchestra; Paul Daniel Opera in English - Chandos CHAN3130 Few operas have benefited so fully from being presented in our own language as Berg's convoluted tale of the bisexual, merciless femme fatale known as Lulu. Berg derived his own lengthy libretto (78 pages worth in the booklet) from two plays by Frank Wedekind (Earth Spirit and Pandora's Box) and was meticulous in his text settings, which run the gamut from speech to be! canto. Translator Richard Stokes faced a daunting challenge rendering this work into English. Though perhaps a tad too specifically British at times (expressions such as "Bugger!" and "cheeky monkey" come to mind) it is nonetheless a very effective effort. Berg left Lulu unfinished upon his unexpected death in 1935 and despite early indications that the opera could be completed based on the remaining sketches, the entire work would not see the light of day until 1979, when Pierre Boulez premiered Friedrich Cerha's complete version in Paris. We are fortunate that this excellent ENO production was captured in a studio recording in 2005, marking the final collaboration with long serving music director Paul Daniel, before the administrative chaos that overtook the company in recent months. Lisa Saffer is technically outstanding in the very demanding title role (though she does not quite achieve the sultry decadence the great Teresa Stratas imparts to this role in the Boulez recording) and is ideally paired with Susan Parry as her infatuated lesbian partner Countess Geschwitz. Robert Hayward as Dr Schon, John Graham­ Hall as Alwa and Gwynne Howell as Schigolch all contributing well rounded characterizations seasoned by live performances. The liner notes by Anthony Legge are excellent, tracing the complicated tale of Berg's widow's attempts to suppress the work and offering insights into the unique leitmotifs of the drama. Daniel Foley M AY 1 - ] UNE 7 2006 Britten: A Midsummer Night's Dream David Daniels; Ofelia Sala; Gordon Gietz; Deanne Meek; Symphony Orchestra of the Gran Teatre de! Liceu; Escolania de Montserrat; Harry Bicket; Robert Carsen Virgin Classics 33920293 DVD This production, originally created in 1991, was already hugely popular by the time it reached the Gran Teatre de! Liceu in Barcelona last year. It bears the distinctive stamp of Canadian director Robert Carsen, whose spare, imaginative, and musical stagings make him the most consistently enjoyable of today's modernizing directors. Carsen brings out the high-spirited wit of both Shakespeare and Britten, while doing justice to their philosophical musings. Canadian designer Michael Levine has created striking sets of green-blanketed beds, in various sizes and quantities, against a blue backdrop. As Oberon, countertenor David Daniels serves Shakespeare's language, as adapted by Britten and his long-time partner, tenor Peter Pears, with an ideal combination of robustness and lyricism. Actor-mime Emil Wolk is an agile, wizened Puck. He never sings, yet he does occasionally annoy. But Ofelia Sala's Tytania blazes splendidly, and the boys of the Escolania de Montserrat beguile without cuteness. All sport green and blue costumes, with matching hair. Canadian tenor Gordon Gietz, a handsome and fair-voiced Lysander, sets the tone for the Athenians, dressed conspicuously in gold. The 'rude mechanicals', led by Peter Rose's Bottom, are delightful, aided by Mathew Bourne's stylish choreography. Harry Bicket leads the orchestra deftly through Britten's colourful orchestrations. Franc;:ois Roussillon's expert video direction gives us the complete stage picture, yet with satisfying detail. But we see almost nothing of the theatre, and the orchestra and conductor appear on camera only for curtain calls. Pamela Margles Concert Notes: Mathew Bourne brings his version of Swan Lake to the Elgin Theatre from May 2 to May 7. Gordon Gietz sings with the _ JIDiDIDII 111 Ill Iii Iii Iii \in \in i \in )jj( NAXOS 111111111111111 IIIII IIIII 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! I I w 111-. \l{\J\ l'J(\)1- 1( !l.111 1i.,.1111I \urf11·n1 , I l.!.11 , ,;i,mr,,nl l 11111 •Jl.,,. ,ll,•)' 111nll f, ,.-,u, '•,'" ~ .. I ( I ·, ,,J ' I .!1,:11,·· I [1;

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