Thursday’s concert in the Music in the Afternoon series at Walter Hall was curated by Marion Newman and featured herself, soprano Melody Courage, baritone Evan Korbut and pianist Gordon Gerrard. It featured some classic opera duets and trios ranging from the Flower Duet from Madama Butterfly to an exuberant “Dunque io son” from the Barber of Seville along with Berlioz’ “Vous soupirer” from Beatrice et Bénédict (which sounded like title should translate as “you will be immersed in warm soup”). These numbers were all very well done and there were a couple of solo pieces too with Melody singing the Poulenc La Fraicheur et le Feu with great verve and Evan chipping in with an exuberant “Sit down, you’re rocking the boat” from Guys and Doills.
Tag Archives: berlioz
Jessye Norman – The Unreleased Masters
Decca have just released a 3CD set of previously unreleased recordings made by the late Jessye Norman between 1989 and 1998 with various orchestras and conductors.
The first is a series of extracts from Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde recorded in Leipzig in 1998 with Kurt Masur conducting the Gewandhaus Orchestra. Besides the Prelude there’s most of the Isolde/Brangäne scenes from Act 1 (Hannah Schwarz is Brangäne). Then comes the huge Act 2, Scene 2 duet; “Isolde! Geliebte! – Tristan! Geliebte!” etc, with Thomas Moser as Tristan, and finally, and inevitably, the “Liebestod”. It all sounds really good with the duet properly ecstatic and the “Liebestod” very moving. It’s a studio recording made in many takes so that challenging final scene doesn’t have to be sung after many hours on stage which no doubt contributes but it’s all very fine and a good record of Jessye in the role.
Wirth prize winner
The 2021/22 winner of the Wirth Vocal prize at McGill’s Schulich Schoolof Music is Innu soprano Elisabeth Saint-Gelais. She performed in the RBA at noon on Wednesday, accompanied by Louise Pelletier. It was impressive. She has power to burn and a rather lovely voice and, not so common among young dramatic sopranos, considerable control across her registers. She also displayed considerable linguistic skill in French, German and Czech though I’m completely unqualified to comment on the quality of her Anishinabe.
Homage to Viardot
Yesterday the Ensemble Studio put on a really nicely curated tribute to Pauline Viardot. Viardot was a singer, pianist, composer and muse who was enormously influential in music circles in paris in the middle years of the 19th century. She came from a famous musical family and was the younger sister of Maria Malibran. Her own work is little performed today although the Royal Conservatory did her Cendrillon in 2016.
The Toronto Symphony have a new CD out. It’s a couple of Berlioz works recorded under the baton of Sir Andrew Davis at Roy Thomson Hall in September 2018. The first piece is the rarely heard Fantaisie sur la Tempête de Shakespeare for which the orchestra is joined by the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir. It’s an early piece inspired by one of Berlioz’ unrequited passions (like everything else by Berlioz!) and was considered daringly modern in its day. It’s said to be the first piece to introduce a harp to the symphony orchestra and it also includes piano four hands. It’s very colourful and rather brash which is territory that Sir Andrew excels in. There’s great clarity to both the singing and the playing.
L’Enfance du Christ
I got hold of the recent Chandos recording of Berlioz’ L’Enfance du Christ largely because I wanted to take a look at the Super Audio CD format. On that subject my thoughts are here. But it was also a chance to listen to a piece I was entirely unfamiliar with. I’m glad I did. It’s quite beautiful music; lyrical rather than dramatic, except perhaps in the early sections where Herod is having a hissy fit. I can see why it’s not done very often though. It calls for seven soloists plus chorus and a big orchestra.
My recently acquired media player plays SACD disks. I recently acquired a review copy of one such. It’s the Chandos recording of Berlioz’ L’enface du Christ recorded by Andrew Davis and the Melbourne Symphony. It comes with three “tracks”; standard (more or less) CD which will play on a CD player and both stereo and surround tracks in SACD format. Now “standard CD” for Chandos is a bit higher definition than most CDs. 24 bit at 48kHz versus 16 bit at 44.1 kHz. Is there a detectable difference?
More than the kitchen sink
I’m a bit surprised that Berlioz’ 1838 opera Benvenuto Cellini hasn’t come my way before. It’s got all the operatic elements; romance, politics, murder (and the Pope) etc and some really rather good music. There’s a lovely duet between Cellini and his girl, Teresa, in the first act and Cellini’s aria Sur les monts les plus sauvages is long and demanding in the way that Rossini writes long and demanding tenor arias. The plot maybe has a few holes. One might expect that after the pope has decreed that Cellini will be hanged if he doesn’t finish a statue by nightfall that he might just get on with it rather than running around fighting duels and stuff but there you have it. It’s French opera after all.
The Norcop prize recital
It’s that time of year again at UoT when the respective winners of the Norcop song prize and the Williams Koldofsdky prize for accompanying collaborate in a lunchtime recital. This year’s winners were mezzo Simona Genga and pianist Jialiang Zhu who gave us a program of songs by Schoenberg, Freedman, Berlioz and Santoliquido. The Vier Lieder Op. 2 of Schoenberg are extremely lyrical though with a rather complex and involved piano part. They played to the strengths of both musicians. Taken at fairly slow tempi they allowed Simona to show off the beauty and ease of her voice all through the registers combined with terrific breath control and spot on German diction while Jialiang had something fairly virtuosic to display her skills.
It’s pure madness!
That’s what Laurent Pelly said about the idea of a Frenchman directing a French opera adaptation of a Shakespeare play for an English audience during Shakespeare 400. Maybe he has a point but I think his 2016 production of Berlioz’ Béatrice et Bénédict probably gets as much as there is to be got out of a curiously uneven work.