Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Music Webmaster
Len Mullenger:

Combined CD and Book Review

38 arias and interludes on 2 CDs
762pp book - all in presentation slip case
NAXOS 8.555037-38 bargain price [157.41]
 £8.50  Amazon US  $10.49

This set and its companion A-Z of Classical Music are clearly intended for the Christmas present market. Each is a 2 CDs set and each is matched with a substantial book all housed in a light card slip case.

The sequence of tracks is chronological to follow the development of opera over the centuries. The tracks are all sourced from Naxos's phenomenally blooming opera catalogue (excluding their more recent historical series). The oldest will date from the 1980s but most are 1990s DDD material.

The span is from Monteverdi through to Korngold and Szymanowski. This takes in along the way Purcell, Handel, Gluck, Mozart (4), Beethoven, Weber, Rossini, Donizetti, Bellini, Verdi (5), Wagner, Catalani, Dvorák, Puccini (5), Delibes, Massenet, Bizet, Leoncavallo, Mascagni and Giordano.

No space or time to list everything but I will try to pick up the highlights as well as the total misfires.

There are 33 arias and 5 orchestral chunks. The Aida Grand March is a gaudy blast from the Irish NSO though ending with a fade-out rather than a concert conclusion. This does happen on several tracks but comparatively few overall. Sadly the final track (Korngold) also ends in this way.

Among the notable highlights are Ingrid Kertesi (soprano) in Ombra mai fu. Kertesi shows up well in all her tracks. The Slovak Phil Choir are in good suave tone in Va Pensiero and in the Pilgrim's Chorus. Similarly sweet of tone is Vincenzo La Scola in Una furtiva lagrima. Yordi Ramiro is in splendid voice for La donna e mobile. Wildner lovingly shapes the introduction to O Silver Moon (a Joan Hammond favourite) for the distantly recorded Miriam Gauci. Luba Organosova is fine in O Mio Babbino Caro but Jonathan Welch is strained in Che Gelida. Kym Amps in When I am laid in earth is far too squally in tone as is Inga Neilsen in the Abscheulicher Fidelio extract. Andrea Martin in Madamina is humourless. The Ride of the Valkyries starts well but later succumbs to a certain splashiness. The Mascagni Intermezzo is touchingly done under Rahbari's baton. Thomas Harper is simply glorious in Nessun Dorma as I would have expected from the superb impression made by his role in Schrecker's Ferne Klang (also on Naxos). The Thais Meditation is taken by Janos Selmeczi (violin) in agreeably soupy style. Flower Duet from Lakme is brilliantly spun by Adriana Kohutkova and Denisa Slepkovska. Nicola Matinucci confidently continues the old sentimental tradition of Vesti la Giubba. Nothing from Tchaikovsky's Onegin - you might have expected The Letter Scene. How refreshing that the decision was taken to include (from Szymanowski's King Roger) Roxanna's swaying mystical Aria (Barbara Zagorzanka - soprano) to reflect a Polish voice rather than the predominant Italian one. We end with Marietta's Lied from Korngold's Die Tote Stadt sung by Katerina Dalayman with Thomas Sunnegardh. Korngold for me represents an ecstatic river which opera-house audiences have yet to encounter in quantity but which has very great strengths measured against the Italian tradition.

The orchestras include the Slovak State PO, Failoni, Vienna Mozart, Hungarian State Opera, Czechoslovak RSO, Camerata Transylvanica, NSO Ireland, Camerata Budapest. Conductors: Antoni Wit, Leif Segerstam, Johannes Wildner, Will Humburg, Oliver Dohnanyi, Michael Halasz and Konrad Leitner.

The set also functions as a sampler of the Naxos opera catalogue.

No texts are provided.

The 762pp booklet is CD but circa 1½ inches thick. The coverage is very wide including all the major operas most people could think as well as a sledful of others. Look you even get Martinu's Greek Passion, Ligeti Grand Macabre, Sallinen's Kullervo, Pacini's Saffo, Messiaen's St Francois d'Assise to choose a few at random. The operas are listed alphabetically with plot summary, characters (register of voice), librettist and dates of premieres. That covers 610pp. Then composers are listed each with brief bio plus list of operas. There is an index and a glossary of technical terms.

All this for ten pounds or less!

A great present for someone who has just taken an interest in opera. The book is a convenient and quick reference that will stand the owner in good stead for years to come. Much easier than going to Kobbé.

Rob Barnett

Disc: 1
1. L'orfeo - Sinfonia & Ecco Pur ch'a Voi - Monteverdi
2. Dido and Aeneas - When I am laid in earth - Purcell
3. Rinaldo - Lascia ch'io pianga - Handel
4. Serse - Ombra mai fu (Largo)
5. Orfeo ed Euridice - Dance of the blessed spirits - Gluck
6. Alceste - Ombre larve
7. Don Giovanni - Madamina! (Catalogue Aria) - Mozart
8. Cosi fan tutte - Soave sia il vento (Terzetto)
9. The Marriage og Figaro - Non piu andrai
10. Dei Zauberflote - Der Holle Rache (Aria of the queen of the Night)

11. Fidelio - Absheulicher! - Beethoven
12. Der Freischutz - Hutsmen Chorus - Weber
13. The Barber of Seville - Largo al factotum - Rossini
14. L'elisir d'amoe - Una furtive lagrima - Donizetti
15. I Puritani - Qui la voce sua soave - Bellini
16. La Traviata - Un de felice (Love duet) - Verdi
17. Nabucco - Va pensiero (Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves)
18. Rigoletto - La donna e mobile
19. Aida - Grand March
20. Falstaff - E sogno? O realita

Disc: 2
1. Die Walkure - Ride of the Valkyries - Wagner
2. Tannhauser - Begluckt darf nun dich - Wagner
3. La Wally - Ebben, ne andro iontana - Caralani
4. Rusalka - O, Silver Moon (Song to the Moon) - Dvorak
5. Gianni Schicchi - O nio babbino caro - Puccini
6. La Boheme - Che gelida mania
7. Madame Butterfly - Unbel di verdremo
8. Tosca - E lucevan le stele
9. Turandot - Nessun dorma
10. Lakme - Domeepais (Flower Duet) - Delibes
11. Thais - Meditation - Massenet
12. Carmen - L'amour est un oiseau rebelled (Habenera) - Bizet
13. The Pearl Fishers - Au fond du temple saint (Duet)
14. La Gioconda - Cielo e mar - Pnchelli
15. I Paglicci - Recitar!…Vest la giubba - Leoncavallo
16. Cavalleria Rusticana - Intermezzo - Mascagni
17. Andrea Chenier - Come un bel di di meggio - Giordano
18. King Roger - Roxana's Aria - Szymanowski
19. Die tote Stadt - Gluck, das mir verblieb - Korngold

Reviews from previous months

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