Eschewing its usual heavy orchestral sound in favor of a more stripped-down instrumentation, Dutch violinist Janine Jansen's second album offers a fresh interpretation of one of the most performed classical works, Vivaldi's The Four Seasons. The 2005 follow-up to her Barry Wordsworth-conducted debut, the subtle but passionate renditions of the "La Primavera," "L'estate," "L'autunno," and "L'inverno" concertos are performed with a sparse, eight-piece ensemble including Lithuanian violinist Julian Rachlin, her cellist brother Maarten, and harpsichordist father Jan.
Dutch violinist Janine Jansen has made some unorthodox recordings (check out her Vivaldi Four Seasons sometime), but here, in a work in which proportion and technique are exquisitely balanced, she plays it straight with impressive results. Prokofiev's Violin Concerto No. 2, composed in 1935 just before his return to the Soviet Union from France, has always been a popular repertory item, but Jansen's reading, ably accompanied by the London Philharmonic Orchestra under Vladimir Jurowski, has a pearly quality throughout, a kind of bright ease, that comes only at the highest levels of technique.
Andrea Chénier presents a fictionalized account of the last years of the French poet André Chénier, guillotined during the Reign of Terror in 1794. It is the greatest of Giordano’s operas and shows why Puccini sometimes feared Giordano as a rival. Taking the starring role of Chénier, with its three marvellous arias, is Jonas Kaufmann. Soprano Eva-Maria Westbroek sings the role of Chénier’s beloved Maddalena and baritone Željko Lučić stars as Carlo Gérard – the servant-turned-revolutionary who is Chénier’s rival for the love of Maddalena. David McVicar brings Giordano’s thrilling historical drama back to the Royal Opera House for the first time since 1985 in a stunning new production.
Jonathan Kent’s new production of Manon Lescaut recorded at the Royal Opera House in 2014, includes a stellar cast, featuring Kristine Opolais and Jonas Kaufmann in the roles of the young lovers Manon Lescaut and the Chevalier des Grieux. Kent brings this 19th-century classic to a 2014 setting, non-naturalistic and theatrical. Supporting the action on stage is the Orchestra and Chorus of the Royal Opera House, with their venerable Music Director Antonio Pappano.
"From the moment Kaufmann and Opolais embark – with infinite delicacy – on their emotional journey, it becomes clear that this is a vocal marriage made in heaven. His warmly burnished sound is balanced by the exquisitely nuanced purity of hers, and they are supported by a performance in the pit, under Antonio Pappano, of rare refinement." – The Independent
Leading director Richard Jones staged his witty, darkly comic realization of Gianni Schicchi for The Royal Opera in 2007. The production was revived in 2012 and here he completes the trio with two new productions of Il Tabarro and Suor Angelica. Antonio Pappano conducts an acclaimed cast including Eva-Maria Westbroek, Ermonela Jaho, Lucio Gallo, Elena Zilio and rising star Francesco Demuro. “A triumph…three wonderfully directed and expertly acted productions. Add in Pappano's impeccable conducting and his valuable introductions to the pieces, and you have a nigh-on ideal Trittico.” BBC Music Magazine
This is a fine recording of two vastly under-appreciated works by young cello virtuoso Han-Na Chang. She has the extraordinary technique to play the excruciatingly difficult cadenza in the central movement of the Sinfonia Concertante and the sustained tone to play the long, lyrical melodies in the opening movement of the cello sonata. Antonio Pappano is a faithful accompanist whether he's directing the London Symphony Orchestra in the Sinfonia Concertante or playing the piano in the cello sonata.
This magnificent recording of Aida, made in Rome, rises to all the musical and dramatic challenges presented by Verdi’s richly-coloured Egyptian epic. Antonio Pappano, once again proving his mastery of Italian opera, moves between sumptuous grandeur and touching intimacy. The responses of the Orchestra e Coro dell’Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia are both immediate and vibrant, while the singers – Anja Harteros, Jonas Kaufmann, Ekaterina Semenchuk, Ludovic Tézier and Erwin Schrott – do justice to every facet of their roles.
Captured live at London’s Royal Opera House, this Barbiere, with its unbeatable cast and the directors’ characteristic wit and intelligence, offers a unique dramatic twist: Joyce DiDonato, who had broken her leg on the opening night, went on with the show. As she said: “Being trapped in the wheelchair was a quite literal way of demonstrating Rosina's huge desire to break free.
Les Troyens is a tour de force that ranges from fiery military marches to intense choruses, passionate soliloquies and the lyrical love duets of Dido and Aeneas. For Hector Berlioz, librettist and composer, the opera became the work of decades and the passion of a lifetime, the culmination of his literary love affair with Virgil's Aeneid and with two tragic heroines, Cassandra and Dido. David McVicar's staging is on an enormous scale, assembling one of the largest casts ever seen at Covent Garden. The sweeping theme of the rise and fall of empires runs throughout Les Troyens, along with moving meditations on love and honour.