Composed in 1783, Thrice Betrothed, Never Wed was the young Cherubini’s fifth opera and his first opera buffa. While it echoes its era—Paisiello, Cimarosa, Haydn, and early Mozart—it displays an almost Rossinian rhythmic bite and a few harmonic touches that look forward to the dramatic masterpieces of Cherubini’s Paris years (Lodoiska, Medée, Les deux journées, Anacréon, the C-Minor Requiem). Despite decades-long exploration of Cherubini, I have never encountered the opera before; this claims to be its first recording. The plot is filled with the expected inanities: disguises, mistaken identities, and Commedia dell’arte shenanigans. Don Pastacchio is the thrice-betrothed nobleman who is left standing when the music stops. After many false starts and red herrings, the other six characters finally match up into couples.
Over a decade before Richard Wagner's Valkyries took their celebrated ride, August Bournonville and Johann Peter Emilius Hartmanns Valkyrie danced on the Danish stage. Born in Copenhagen, son of French dancers, Bournonville founded the national Danish ballet with a series of ballets drawing its themes from Nordic mythology and early Danish history. For his first such project, Bournonville turned to his childhood friend Hartmann, who already had established himself as a composer of music on national themes.
English-speaking audiences have always found Die Meistersinger to be a life-enhancing celebration of wisdom, art and song. So it proves in David McVicar's production – the first at Glyndebourne – which is updated to the early-19th century of Wagner's childhood. At the centre of a true ensemble cast is Gerald Finley, a 'gleamingly sung', 'eminently believable' Sachs (The Independent on Sunday), supported by the dynamic conducting of Vladimir Jurowski which, like McVicar's production, uses Glyndebourne's special intimacy to bring sharp focus to bear on the subtlety of Wagner's musical and dramatic counterpoint.
Like the legendary pianists of the 19th and early 20th century, such as Sigismund Thalberg, Franz Liszt, Leopold Godowsky, and Ignace Jan Paderewski, it often sounds as if Marc-André Hamelin has more than 10 fingers. His ability to play fiendishly difficult music, make it sound as if it's a stroll in the park, yet imbue it with musical sensitivity makes him worthy of the description "super-virtuoso" by The New York Times' Harold Schoenberg. Hamelin studied at the Vincent d'Indy School of Music in Montréal with Yvonne Hubert, a pupil of Cortot, then received bachelor's and master's degrees at Temple University, working under Russell Sherman and Harvey Weeden.