Odds and sods

This is a collection of disks that didn’t make it onto one of the previous lists but seem to me to be noteworthy in some way; if not always for their excellence!

Albeniz, Merlin, Madrid, 2003.  This is a real oddball.  It’s almost a vanity project by an English banker called Money-Coutts who seems to have been trying to create an Arthurian Ring cycle.  It features the oddest English language libretto ever but in some ways it’s peculiarly compelling.

Britten, Peter Grimes, ENO, 1994.  Philip Langridge is the most interesting Peter Grimes on disk and Tim Albery’s production is pretty decent.  The disk is pretty ropy though.

Cavalli is a much neglected composer but his operas tend to be weird and oddly compelling.  Perhaps the least weird is La Didone, recorded at Caen in 2011.  It’s a fairly straightforward version of the Dido story but has the occasional twist.  Il Giasone, recorded at Vlaamse Opera in 2010 is much weirder.  It’s a version of the Medea/Golden Fleece story like you have never seen and has some very strange moments.  Finally, Ercole amante, recorded in Amsterdam in 2009 is a bizarre tribute to Louis XIV and features Luca Pisaroni in a muscle suit of, well, Herculean proportions.

Dvořák, Rusalka, Paris, 2003.  This is a genius Robert Carsen production.  It only just missed out on the “all time” list.  The attraction for me, as one who trained as a mathematician, is the fascinating use of symmetry and symmetry breaking.  Everything else about the disk is pretty good too.

Meyerbeer, Die Hugenotten, Berlin, 1991.  19th French grand opera isn’t usually my thing at all but this Berlin production, sung in German, is truly disturbing in a good way.

Mozart, Ascanio in Alba, Salzburg, 2006.  This is a train wreck.  It’s like a parody of Regie. Gumbies, wonky androids and Diana Damrau in a wheelbarrow all figure.  So bad it’s good!  Actually the singing is pretty decent though.

Poulenc, Dialogues des Carmélites, Milan, 2004.  That man Carsen again in one of his signature productions.  It’s also very well conducted by Riccardo Muti.  Not so hot video direction and 2004 picture quality kept it off the “all time” list.

Puccini, La Bohėme, Oslo, 2012.  This is a Stefan Herheim production and shows just what a director can do with an established classic.  If TB was the plague of the 19th century then surely cancer is ours and Herheim works with that.  He also cleverly works in the sets from Oslo’s old, traditional production.  It asks us to see the work, and how we see the work, anew.  Only less than top notch singing kept this off the “all time” list.

Strauss, Capriccio, Paris,2004.  More Robert Carsen!  This time showing how the theatre within a theatre trope can be deployed rather less lamely than they do in New York.  In fact he riffs off an opera about opera to create an opera about opera in an opera.  It’s fascinating and the concept seems to have been taken even further on DVD as it’s consciously a film of an opera about opera in an opera.  The singing is very good too with Renée Fleming actually doing some acting too.

Strauss, Salome, ROH, 1992.  This review has been read more than three times as many times as the next most popular.  The interwebs seem to have endless fascination with the wife of a peer of the realm getting her kit off for maybe two seconds.  Weird!

Wagner, Lohengrin, Bayreuth, 2011.  This was another serious contender for the “all time” list.  Hans Neuenfels’ portrayal of the Brabanters as lab rats works on so many levels and musically it’s very strong.  Technically a very good disk too.

So there we go.  Done for now with DVD recommendations unless, as may just happen, I feel the need for an OMG how did I miss that one? post.

Updates as of December 19th 2016:

Britten, The Rape of Lucretia, Glyndebourne, 2015. Fiona Shaw’s production is an object lesson in how to deal with a “problem” libretto.  The end result is challenging theatre that is musically satisfying.  Top notch technically too.

Reimann, Lear,Hamburg, 2014. Reimann’s masterpiece, written for Fischer-Dieskau, is strangely neglected.  Admittedly it’s a toughish, modern piece but it’s great drama and a really good score if one has any tolerance for serialism.  The Hamburg production is interesting and the recording is pretty decent.


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