Old Songs, New Songs

Yesterday Matthew Cairns and Rachel Kerr performed an unusually wide range of songs in the Richard Bradshaw Amphitheatre.  It’s part of Matthew’s prep for his CBC recording session which was part of the prize at last year’s Centre Stage and which will be broadcast in the new year.  They kicked off with a contrasting pair of Duparc song’s.  First came the almost dreamy L’invitation au voyage with it’s arpeggio accompaniment followed by the much more dramatic Le manoir de Rosemonde.  These really set the tone for the recital.  There was power where it was needed but also considerable delicacy from both singer and pianist.

Matthew Cairns Rachel Kerr -5895

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Gruberova’s Zerbinetta

A chance to see the young Edita Gruberova’s near legendary portrayal of Zerbinetta would be reason enough to watch the 1978 Vienna recording of Ariadne auf Naxos but, as it happens, there’s much more.  For a start the cast includes Gundula Janowitz, Walter Berry, René Kollo and Trudeliese Schmidt plus Karl Böhm, a man who worked closely with Strauss, is conducting.

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Historic Ariadne

Opera videos of performances before 1980 are quite rare and are mostly films.  Recordings of live performances are extremely uncommon and often quite interesting.  A couple have just been rereleased on DVD.  The one reviewed here is an Ariadne auf Naxos from the 1965 Salzburg Festival (the other is a recording, in German, of Don Giovanni with Fischer-Dieskau – watch this space).  It’s an old ORF TV broadcast with a grainy 4:3 black and white picture and less than stellar mono sound but it does provide an idea of what audiences saw and heard fifty years ago.

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Pulp Figaro

Today’s Ponelle production is the 1976 Le Nozze di Figaro.  It has the starriest cast of any of the Ponelle films I’ve seen to date; Herrman Prey in the title role, Mirella Freni as Susanna, Kiri Te Kanawa as the countess and Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as the count.  It even, rather bizarrely, has Maria Ewing as Cherubino.  To round things out Karl Böhm conducts with the Wiener Philharmoniker and Staatsopernchor.  As we shall see, musically it lives up to the casting.   Continue reading

Fear and loathing in Mycenae

OK, I have shamelessly stolen the title of this post from the DVD booklet because it’s just a perfect description of Götz Friedrich’s 1981 film version of Strauss’ Elektra.  It’s one of those lip-synched films where the soundtrack is recorded in the studio and then the filming is synched to the sound track.  Mercifully the singers are also the actors.  I hate it when they use body doubles. Continue reading

Barbarella, Prinzessin von Judea

Götz Friedrich’s 1974 film of Strauss’ Salome is a bit of an oddity. It’s a studio film rather than a video recording of a live performance. This allows the casting of singers who might not be able to manage the role in the opera house. In this case, crucially, the light lyric soprano Teresa Stratas sings the title role which she most certainly never did on stage. Continue reading