Meditation, mezzo-soprano Elina Garanca's 2014 release on Deutsche Grammophon, is an album of serene vocal and choral works that express religious feelings with an operatic touch and showcase the Latvian singer's warm and radiant voice. Choosing pieces from the early Baroque era to contemporary works, Garanca presents a soothing program that is consistent in its comforting tone and gentle treatment, though as a purely musical consideration, it tends to flow a bit too evenly and predictably. Insofar as the selections represent the Christian tradition, including settings of the Ave Maria, the Salve Regina, the Sanctus, the Agnus Dei, and the Regina Coeli, the character of the collection admits little variety, except for the general alternation between penitential and quietly ecstatic moods.
The singers are all good, the orchestra light, lively and evocative. But it is above all Patrice Chereau's direction that makes this production one of the best filmed opera experiences I have had. This is a fairly long opera (about 3 hours), but it flies by in this version with rapid and telling movement on stage and in the pit, and with a constantly moving camera. Chereau's is an expectedly dark interpretation, both modern and classical, that refuses to play up the buffo elements and achieves a remarkably heart-rending, bittersweet effect. The singers are all well-coached actors; we are never allowed to forget that we are watching a performance (occasional views of the conductor in the pit) but that doesn't mar the emotional impact of one of Mozart's most touching scores. Period costumes on what is made to seem to be a bare, ancient Italian stage..
Composed for the Carnival season in Verona in 1735, Bajazet is a ‘pasticcio’ opera based on the familiar story of the eponymous Turkish sultan’s imprisonment at the hands of the Tartar tyrant Tamerlane. As such, it openly uses arias by other composers, including Hasse, Broschi and Giacomelli, as well as re-cycled pieces from Vivaldi’s own operas (L’Olimpiade, Giustino, Farnace, Semiramide and Montezuma among them). But this is no mere patchwork of recycled numbers. All the ‘borrowed’ arias are expertly placed within the dramatic fabric of the work and are held together with richly composed recitatives. What we end up with is the best of the best in terms of Neapolitan-style opera – tuneful, virtuosic and passionate. Virtually every number in this recording is a highlight. What really lifts the recording is the quality of the performances. There are no holes or flaws among the experienced cast. David Daniels makes a fine Tamerlane – slippery and cruel – while Marijana Mijanovic’s Asteria packs a powerful dramatic punch. Top marks too for Vivica Genaux in the technically demanding role of Irene. Ildebrando D’Arcangelo makes a commanding Bajazet, although his tough dignity comes at the loss of some sensitivity.
As well as triumphant successes as Carmen in London, Vienna and Munich, Elīna Garanča, “the Carmen of our day” (News, Austria), took New York’s Metropolitan Opera by storm in this ‘Met Live in HD’ performance, transmitted to cinemas around the world and now available for the first time on BluRay. Starring alongside her is star tenor Roberto Alagna as Don José, Barbara Frittoli as his first love Micaëla and New Zealand baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes as the toreador Escamillo. The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra is conducted by rising star Canadian maestro Yannick Nézet-Séguin.
A Verdi Requiem with a dream line-up of soloists and the forces of La Scala, Milan, directed by one of the greatest maestros of our time. Preceding acclaimed performances at the Lucerne and Salzburg Festivals, Barenboim and his magnificent partners recorded this masterpiece around a live performance at La Scala, Milan, in 2012. This marks the first audio recording by Barenboim in his role as La Scala’s Music Director.