The 1990 Metropolitan Opera performance of Die Walküre with James Levine conducting is a solid, four-square performance with few frills and no gimmicks, just extraordinarily fine singing and orchestral playing. There is no point in this where you find yourself asking why the director did something: this is the sort of production which could be criticised as unimaginative but defended as serving Wagner's intentions for this instalment of his Ring cycle. Levine and his orchestra give the music an emotional intensity that never overwhelms its grandeur, though perhaps in Wotan's farewell to Brunnhilde, we feel him more as father than as god.
Kiri Te Kanawa does well by these songs, avoiding the billowing excesses of sentiment that in other hands (or vocal chords) can make them sound much too soggy. Although Berlioz gathered them all together under the present title, all of the songs were composed at different times for different singers, so they aren't really a cycle at all. I seldom listen to all of them at once, and you should feel free to take them in any order that suits you. "The Death of Cleopatra" is an early cantata that perfectly suits Jessye Norman's stately delivery. She's always at her best playing royalty, and if they're dying in mortal agony, so much the better.
“Domingo's clarion (though stretched) Aeneas and Norman's passionate Cassandra are most memorable. Troyanos does not match Gardiner's Susan Graham, but Levine is admirably epic and provides the traditional finale.” BBC Music Magazine, October 2007 “A triumph” New York Daily
It would be hard to find an opera in any area of the repertory that presents so many textual problems as Les conies d'Holfmann, largely stemming from the fact that the composer died four months before the premiere early in 1881, leaving the score incomplete. The traditional text, bringing in extra material, much of it unauthentic, and leaving out a lot, was only established this century. Arthur Hammond with the Carl Rosa Company was a pioneer in attempting to sort out a more acceptable text, and his work formed the basis of the English National Opera production at the Coliseum and also the Richard Bonynge recording for Decca. Since then the discovery of no less than 1,250 autograph pages allowed Fritz Oeser to produce his monumental edition, as used extensively in the Cambreling recording for EMI (12/88 —nla)…
Ariadne auf Naxos (Ariadne on Naxos) is an opera by Richard Strauss with a German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal.
The material on this disc ranges from the smoky melancholy of "Je vivrai sans toi" ("I Will Live Without You") to the hyperbolic camp of "Celui-là" ("The One") but mainly hovers in the realm of anguished longing. Jessye Norman uses the material to show off the extraordinary range and flexibility of her voice, and slips between a pure, almost boyish sound, and a full-throated luxurious warble with ease. But idiomatically she may not be to everyone's taste: for the most part this is the musical territory inhabited by the Billie Holidays of this world, and Norman's technique puts her at a disadvantage. Michel Legrand in his role as pianist is another matter, however. His carefully nuanced accompaniments flow with improvisatory ease, and inspire some great moments from the bass and drums.
One of my favorite albums. I have never heard a better performance of the two songs, and the aria from Jeanne D'Arc is absolutely flawless, makes one wonder why the opera itself is not more popular. This electric performance of the Rococo Variations is the best I've heard by Yo-Yo Ma or any other performer for that matter. Itzhak Perlman shines with glorious legato in the Serenade Melancolique. Tchaikovsky would have been proud of this tribute. The disc implies that is a soundtrack for a film of the concert yet I have been unable to find more information about it. Highly recommended!
Who's afraid of Alban Berg?
The fact that it's Jessye Norman who performs these songs is not the only reason why I think this is a great record. I think this record gives you a great view on the evolution of Alban Berg as a composer. The three different sets of songs belong to a different period in his life: the early songs are still truely romantic, the "Seven early songs" show a composer searching for new ways of expression and the Altenberg-lieder show him using a totally new and different soundscape. I think Jessye Norman is the perfect singer for these songs. The early 20th century repertoire suits her perfectly.―Amazon.com Customer Review