Locke Lists Rep-Enriching Opera Recordings and More

At the end of the year I recommend two dozen superlative opera offerings of various kinds, plus a smaller number of recordings in other genres, focusing mainly on lesser-known operas because that’s where I’m more likely to be sent to review. But the list also reflects my belief that the operatic tradition is broader and deeper than our ‘standard representation’. carmen and so on makes us think. (And I’m one of the tallest in the world carmen fans.)

Some of these operas are in languages ​​I don’t know; It took me extra effort to follow the libretto and translation, which in almost all cases come with the recording, but I’m glad I did.

Some were recorded before the pandemic began, others were made without an audience or with half-filled seats, and often the orchestra players (except those in the wind sections) were masked. Some of these are important re-releases, first released years earlier on another label or lying unreleased in the vaults of European radio stations. I only became aware of one belatedly at the age of 16.

I should mention (since you are reading this in the wonderful Boston Musical Intelligencer) that some of these recordings have a connection to The Hub. Boston-based composer Marti Epstein offers an eerie, enchanted short opera based on the Rumpelstiltskin fairy tale. Eine Barockoper (in German by Graupner) comes from the Boston Early Music Festival, directed by Paul O’Dette and Stephen Stubbs. One of the two newly recorded operas by Saint-Saëns (Henry the Eighth) is brought to us by Odyssey Opera, conducted by its founding Music Director, Gil Rose. And Gunther Schuller (composer of a now-first-recorded two-piano sonata) was President of the New England Conservatory for 16 years.

Baroque and Classical Eras: Stradella’s Amare e fingereChristoph Graupners Antiochus and StratonicaVivaldis The Seine hosts a celebrationSalieris Armidaand Endmione by Haydn’s brother Johann Michael.

Romanticism (Beethoven until 1900): a three-opera box by Rossini (ermine, La donna del lego, Bianco and Falliero), by the same composer The Scala di Seta (The Silk Ladder), Weber’s The Freeshooter (in a convincing extended version by conductor René Jacobs) Meyerbeer is alternately amusing and dramatic L’Etoile du Nordthe delightful one-act play by Saint-Saëns Phryne (in the version with skilfully composed recitatives by André Messager) and his grand opera Henry the Eighth,

20th-21St Centuries: Gino Marinuzzi’s Post-Verdian Palla de’MozziOperetta by Pietro Mascagni si, The Emperor of Atlantis by Victor Ullmann (who died in Auschwitz), The Bright Night by Swiss composer Richard Flury (The Illuminated Night), the powerful opera about the Nazi era The passenger (The Passenger from Cabin 45) by Mieczyslaw Vainberg (Weinberg), Britten’s The rotation of the screwthe sacred opera the customer by Antál Dorati (who was better known as a conductor), three one-act plays by Lennox Berkeley (A dinner engagement, Ruth—based on biblical history—and Throw away), Terence Blanchards Fire trapped in my bones (not yet available for purchase, but I saw the delayed TV show), Marti Epstein’s from Boston Rumpelstiltskinand Jeanine Tesoris Blue (to a libretto by renowned stage director Tazewell Thompson).

Lovers of vocal music will also want to listen to some amazing recent recordings of art songs performed by singers who all have beautifully produced voices and special insights into their chosen repertoire: 18th Century German Songs sung by Carolyn Sampson with fortepianist Kristian Bezuidenhout, a varied bouquet of American songs (superbly performed by mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe and tenor William Burden) and stirring songs and cantatas by Fanny Hensel and Felix Mendelssohn, sung by the wonderful Israeli lyric soprano Chen Reiss,

I cannot resist adding a few outstanding instrumental CDs that have caught my attention: a group of chamber works by Samuel Adler, works for chamber orchestra by Adler, a dozen short but varied pieces for organ by British composers from the years after First World War (sentimentally performed by Robert James Stove; he is joined by fine Australian singers for some vocal numbers), sonatas and rondos by Bach’s immensely imaginative son CPE, a CD with pieces for violin and piano since 1900 by composers from China, Croatia, Israel , Sudan and other countries (with Itamar Zorman, two pianists and a tambourine player), two impressive concerts of music by Latin American composers (by guitarist Plínio Fernandes and cellist John-Henry Crawford) and a remarkable CD of three previous unrecorded pieces by Kevin Puts (for the same instruments that Schubert played in the “Trout” fifth tt used), Andrea Clearfield and the late Gunther Schuller.

Plus choral works by James Kallembach; Beatriz Bilbao and other Latin American composers; and contemporary composers (including John Rutter, Roxana Panufnik, and Korean-born Eunseog Lee) responding to certain pieces by the great Spanish Renaissance composer Tomás Luis de Victoria.

Ralph P Locke is Professor Emeritus of Musicology at the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester. Six of his articles have received the ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award for Outstanding Writing about Music. His last two books are Musical exoticism: images and reflections and Music and exoticism from the Renaissance to Mozart (both Cambridge University Press). Both are now available in paperback; the second also as an e-book. Ralph Locke also contributes to this American record leader and to the online art magazines New York art, opera todayand The Boston Musical Intelligencer. His articles have appeared in the most important scientific journals, in Oxford music online (Grove Dictionary) and in the program books of major opera houses, e.g. Santa Fe (New Mexico), Wexford (Ireland), Glyndebourne, Covent Garden and the Bavarian State Opera (Munich). This article first appeared in The art backup and is provided here with kind permission.

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