8 years ago

Volume 17 Issue 6 - March 2012

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Old Wine, New Bottles |

Old Wine, New Bottles | Fine Old Recordings Re-ReleasedLast month some of us, in fact manyof us around the world, “attended” theMET’s production of Gotterdammerung,the final opera of their “Ring Cycle” live inHD at local movie houses. The conductorwas Fabio Luisi who has taken over at theMET from the incapacitated James Levine.Luisi can be seen and heard onmany CDs and DVDs, one exampleof which is a live performanceof Mahler’s First Symphonythat is outstanding in everyway. The concert took place inthe Philharmonie in Gasteig,Munich, with the StaatskapelleDresden of which he was themusic director at the time, inApril 2008. From the first few bars ofthe first movement Luisi emerges as atrue Mahlerian. His tempos and pacingare flawless as are the dynamics.It’s a gift to know what to do betweenthe notes and, at least here, Luisi getsit. When he lets the orchestra outin the coda of the fourth movementthe effect is spectacular in the grandmanner. Earlier, the concertopens with a performance ofthe Beethoven Piano ConcertoNo.1 with pianist MargaritaHohenrieder. Her brilliant performanceis engaging, witty andanimated, proving that one canplay Beethoven and smile at thesame time. She and Luisi areon exactly the same page (EuroArtsDVD 2057718).Back to the MET …Some of their productions havebeen issued on DVD by other companiesbut recently the MET hasbegun issuing selected performancesfrom their archives that were broadcastlive. The tapes of the selected performancesare produced, transferred,restored and re-mastered by theMET themselves. Sony, whopublishes them, has issued eightnew two-CD sets since our firstreviews some months ago and,as before, offer singers and conductorsno longer with us.Risë Stevens, one of the favouritesof the day, stars withRichard Tucker and Nadine Connor in Bizet’sCarmen, conducted by Fritz Reiner in the performanceof February 16, 1952 (Sony 8869796189). Reiner was then a staff conductor atthe MET but a year later he was appointedmusic director of the Chicago Symphony, apost that lasted for an illustrious ten years.Risë Stevens and Richard Tucker are featuredagain in Offenbach’s Les Contes d’Hoffmannwith an all star cast including RobertaBRUCE SURTEESPeters, Lucine Amara, James McCrackenand Martial Singher conducted by PierreMonteux (88697 96190). This productionwas broadcast live on December 3, 1955, andthe sound, as it is in all these sets, is cleanand clear monaural, complete with somesounds of stage business that contributes,for me at least, to the illusion.In this case, however, the homelistener of the time would nothave heard the fidelity we havehere. Hoffmann is one of myfavourite operas and I listen to itregularly. This production doesin no way disappoint.Risë Stevens is joined byJames Melton, Mimi Benzelland Ezio Pinza forThomas’ Mignon fromJanuary 27, 1945 (8869796192). Canadian WilfridPelletier is the conductorand Pinza, who would retirefrom the Met in 1948after 22 years, was still fouryears away from playingEmil de Beque. HandsomeJames Melton was a populartenor in the 20s and 30s untilthe popularity of ballad singersand the romantic repertoiredeclined. He sang at the MET insuitable roles for just a few yearsonly and here is a rare chance tohear him.Donizetti’s La Fille duRégiment was once theproperty of Lily Pons andhere she is on December28, 1940 assisted by RaoulJobin, Salvatore Baccaloniand others conductedby Gennero Papi (8869796191). It is the greatbass Baccaloni as Suplice whodominates every time he openshis mouth and Lily Pons and therest of the cast are swamped.Still, she has her moments andthe whole production is goodfun. Very good sound, too.Moving into the 1960s, theusual suspects included CarloBergonzi, Leontyne Price, CornellMacNeil, Carlotta Ordassy, Giorgio Tozzi,Roald Reitin and Robert Nagy and here theyare in Verdi’s Ernani from December 1, 1962under Thomas Schippers (88691 90996). Theopera is basically about ill-fated lovers … thesame old story of girl meets bandido, conspirators,revenge, the Holy Roman Empireand 16th century Spanish politicking. Agood plot for an opera which this cast makesbelievable. A new production was seen inHD in movie theatres on February 25 withan encore presentation for those who missedit, or wish to see it again, coming up onMarch 31.From March 5, 1966, we have RobertaPeters, Carlo Bergonzi, Frank Guarreraand Fernando Corena in Donizetti’s L’Elisird’Amore conducted by Thomas Schippers(88691 90991). Love makers again, thistime between a “poor villager and thebeautiful, alluring landowner; the pair exudecharm and vivacity …” It’s an amusing storywith many comic situations that the cast havea great time conveying to the audience.Thomas Schippers also conducts Verdi’sLuisa Miller from February 17, 1968, featuringSherrill Milnes, Montserrat Caballé,Richard Tucker, Ezio Flagello and GiorgioTozzi … a dream cast if there ever was one(88691 90994). This opera is a fine exampleof love — both requited and unrequited — deceptionand betrayal, with a tragic last scene.In other words, melodrama at its best. Theartistry of the entire ensemble draws the listenerin and holds on until the final curtain.Finally, the double bill of “Cav & Pag,”Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci broadcaston April 14, 1954 (88691 90999).“Cav” features Richard Tucker, EileenFarrell, Lili Chookasian, Cesare Bardelli andMildred Miller. “Pag” stars Anselmo Colzani,Franco Corelli, Franco Ghitti, Lucine Amaraand Calvin Marsh. Nello Santi conducts.The evening could not have been in betterhands. Each singer brings his or hercharacter to life, reacting seamlessly to thevarious situations. These really are marvelousperformances.Concert Notes: You can hear an abridgedversion of La Fille du Régiment at theUniversity of Toronto Faculty of Music’sannual Opera Tea at MacMillan Theatreon April 1. The Canadian Opera Companypresents The Tales of Hoffmann in performancesat the Four Seasons Centre April 10 toMay 14.FEELING LUCKY?THREE WAYS TO WINCDs, tickets and othermusical prizes courtesy ofThe WholeNote1. Join our mailing list byregistering atwww.thewholenote.com2. Like us on Facebook3. Follow us on Twitterthewholenote.com76 thewholenote.comMarch 1 – April 7, 2012

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