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Juan Antonio Muñoz "Juan Herrenz" (Italy)

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Don Carlo: Salzburg Festival (Pappano) [Blu-ray] [2014]
Don Carlo: Salzburg Festival (Pappano) [Blu-ray] [2014]
Dvd ~ Antonion Pappano
Price: £14.99

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A “Don Carlo” of reference, 3 July 2014
“Don Carlo” (Verdi) is the opera that no one can imagine, as each performance seems unique; it is very difficult to find a staging of the complete work. There are almost as many “Don Carlo” as there are stagings of it. There are even changes between the version of the première in Paris, in 1867, and those performed two days later. There are also the “editions” of 1872, signed in Naples, and those of 1884 (made for Vienna) and 1886 (Modena). This last one excludes the ballet. Nowadays, there is generally a distinction between the French version of 1867 and the Italian one of 1884, with libretto by Zanardini and De Lauzieres.

This major title of the Verdian production lives within a tapestry of contradictions: the plot gathers historical characters, but they are all at the service of an idea that is not interested in the real story; at the time of the première the composer was accused of being influenced by Meyerbeer and Wagner, but the score is an example of the most profound and complex Verdi, and although it demands a great show, its soul is to be found in the more intimate scenes. To all of the aforesaid, we have to add that, despite the love conflict, it is a political opera that shows a hard-hearted king (Filippo II di Spagna) who is finally willing to speak of freedom and to open up his heart to a rebel (Rodrigo de Posa), and challenging the interference of the Catholic Church in State decisions.

There still remains love, here betrayed, as well as desire: Elisabetta di Valois marries Filippo although she is in love with his son, Carlo; Filippo loves and suffers on account of a woman who he knows is in love with his son; Carlo loves his “madre” (mother), as he calls Elisabetta, and makes the love conflict he has with his father compete with the differences he has with him in terms of government; the Princess of Éboli loves Carlo and that is why she ends up by denouncing Elisabetta. The best term to describe the relationship between Carlo and Rodrigo is “bromance”; their unbeatable friendship is demonstrated with Posa’s immolation. He and Carlo wish a freedom they have never lived; they seem to love each other in that desire for freedom.

There are various aspects that allow us to say that this is a “Don Carlo” of reference. Staged in Salzburg in 2013, it is the version in five acts of the Italian translation, without the ballet but with the scene in the third act in which Isabel and Éboli exchange dresses, which is not to be found in most of the record editions. Peter Stein —theatre director who founded the Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz, a cutting-edge company of the German theatre— opts for a staging with traditional elements based on a careful work of the actors, oozing with questions about the nature of the conflicting private relationships, but which also takes a stand on the variegated political and religious conflicts addressed by the libretto. It supports their work with a functional and naked staging, with delicate allusions to the Spain of the 16th century; lights that render suggestive twilight pictures, especially for the solitude of Carlo and for his duets with Isabel and Rodrigo; a luxurious wardrobe with Diego Velázquez as reference, and a sextet of singers who know that having a voice is not enough.

From the pit, Maestro Antonio Pappano conducts with passion and manages to capture the shadows inhabiting this difficult score, achieving sonorous climaxes in the crescendo of the love duet between Carlo and Isabel in the first act, in the ambiguous passion that consumes Rodrigo, and in the huge concertante of the Auto da Fe. The Infante of tenor Jonas Kaufmann is a dispossessed and melancholy prince, a vulnerable and sickly hero rendered light and shadows through a dark and burnished voice that disturbs with its tenderness and beauty, and dazzles with its masterly use of the messa di voce. Anja Harteros sings an Elisabetta di Valois who is pure nobility in the attitude and rigor in the phrasing, features that are also to be found in Thomas Hampson (Rodrigo de Posa), whose vocal enamel is not the same of recent years, but is a sensitive and musical artist like few others. Ekaterina Semenchuk —natural successor of the Obraztsova and Borodina lineage— imposes her Éboli through a voluptuous and intense singing, while two unparalleled veterans, basses Matti Salminen (a master of declaimed singing) and Eric Halfvarson (terrifying), render the confrontation between Filippo II and the Grand Inquisitor into a lesson in theatrical tension.

Juan Antonio Muñoz H.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 4, 2014 8:01 AM BST

Schubert: Winterreise
Schubert: Winterreise
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £9.74

23 of 24 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jonas Kaufmann in “Winterreise”: Relentlessly seeking rest, 26 Mar. 2014
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This review is from: Schubert: Winterreise (Audio CD)
“Winterreise” (D 911), Franz Schubert’s cycle (1797-1828) on poems by Wilhelm Müller, is a musical drama that can be read as the story of a young man, desperate on account of a lost love who travels through a winter landscape, and also as the discovery of the desolation of a man, expressed in the description of the climate, finding the ultimate realities. It is, therefore, a cycle about death, perceived as longing and rest. Death, in this case, replaces what has been lost; the further the young man distances himself from his love, the further he distances himself from his life. A really deep sea in 24 songs; an open sea of feeling.

Tenor Jonas Kaufmann addresses this huge work from emotion and his wager renews each Lied for our time and works as catharsis. It purifies, in a sense. His many nuanced voice, to which he confers abysmal meanings, builds an environment that is essentially meditative and dreamlike, as if the “moment” in which it is produced were the one which precedes death, in which a whole life or the most important things in it are recapitulated. He insists on solitude and in the option to finish once for all.

“Gute nacht” (Good night) is the first poem and it begins with the word “Fremd”, stranger, because as such we come into the world and into love. Kaufmann reveals right from the start the state of dejection of the wanderer, whom he will move through pain and fury, showing the understandable weakness of his pleas, as in “Die Wetterfahne” (The Weather-vane): Was fragen sie nach meinen Schmerzen? (Why should you worry about my suffering?).

The piano, in the miraculous hands of Helmut Deutsch, draws the notes that describe “Gefrorne Tränen” (Frozen Tears) and Jonas Kaufmann resorts to alchemy in the question “Dass ich geweinet hab?” (Have I cried?) to tell us that he has done so and that the drops that fall from his eyes are so warm that they freeze “like the cold water of dawn” (“wie kühler Morgentau”). His voice seems that of a bass-baritone in “Ei Tränen, meine Tränen” (Oh tears, my tears), as it sinks into the depths —how low can he sing? — in “Des ganzes Winters Eis!” (All the Winter’s Ice). The use of appoggiatura in the words “Tränen” (tears), “Eise” (ice) and “Brust” (breast) highlight the intense perturbation of the young man.

Love gets mixed up with anger in “Erstarrung” (Numbness), and the proposed journey passes through the stations of annoyance-anger-pain-longing. Pain reigns and Kaufmann gives us to understand that the young traveler prefers to sing that pain because if he silences his suffering, who will talk to him about her? It is a way of seizing for himself, of owning, something that does not exist except in the wishes of his mind.
Schubert adopts Monteverdi in this cycle; his songs are the romantic reflection of the stile rappresentativo. “Der Lindenbaum” (The Linden Tree) may be the best expression of this, both because the declamatory style triumphs and because there is a dominant tone of remembrance. It is Helmut Deutsch’s piano that murmurs melancholy while Kaufmann comments “Du fändest Ruhe dort” (There you will find peace) and asks with his voice if it is possible to find happiness by reliving the past. The answer is “No”.

“Wasserflut” (Torrent) provides the contrast between the fluid vocal line and the restless piano. Helmut Deutsch, remarkable! There are beautiful ascending lines, made for the tenor’s lyricism, who finds a new climax in the word “Weh” (affliction). In “Auf dem Flusse” (On the river), he rebukes the “wild” (wilder) river that has become quiet and confusing when he asks “Mein Herz, in diesem Bache /Erkennst du nun dein Bild?” (Heart of mine, do you recognize your image in this stream?). “Rückblick” (Retrospect) shows the struggle between the lark and the nightingale —that once tormented Romeo and Juliet—, and here joy identifies itself with unreality. From the piano, Helmut Deutsch says that the dream will not happen; it is an “Irrlicht” (Will o’the wisp), title of the following song which tells us that “Every current finds its sea, / Every sorrow its tomb” (Jeder Strom wird’s Meer gewinnen, / Jedes Leiden auch sein Grab”.

There is weariness in “Rast” (Rest), where the piano once more begs for some hope until we get to “Frühlingstraum” (Dream of Springtime), with Kaufmann amid a dreamy meditation in which he sighs “Ich träumte von Lieb um Liebe” (I dreamt of love for love) just before “Einsamkeit” (Solitude) makes him become aware of the void. “Die Post” (The Post), with its implacable bar of silence after the first verse, confirms again the absence, a key to turn to for “Der greise Kopf” (The grey head), where the death wish is explicit: Wie weit noch bis zur Bahre! (How long now until the coffin!).

“Die Krähe” (The crow) represents evil omens and brings death mixed up with the young man’s obsession with fidelity, and “Letzte Hoffnung” (Last Hope) reverses the meaning because we know that there is nothing to hope for; that is why the leaves float on falling and that is why the voice rises through the staff to fall immediately one octave. In “Im Dorfe” (In the Village), the barking dogs are the conflicting forces that assail in life, and “Der stürmische Morgen” (The Stormy Morning) is the perfect climate for the young man’s feelings, whose heart is torn by the “Täuschung” (Deception).

“Der Wegweiser” (The Signpost) is the song that raises the unanswered whys, expressing something which seems to come from Jonas Kaufmann’s own soul, fully portrayed in the phrase “Ohne Ruh’ und suche Ruh” (Relentlessly seeking Rest). The tenor himself, the same as the young wanderer, chooses hidden paths that others do not follow. When he gets to “Das Wirtshaus” (The Inn), the signs indicate that all the rooms have been taken; death still does not want him. What beauty in his voice when he says “Bin matt zum Niedersinken / bin tödlich schwer verletzt” (I am weak enough to lie, deathly wounded). That is why “Mut !” (Courage) comes next, sudden —and final— joy bound with some courage and strength. A decision to commit suicide? It is likely: “Will kein Gott auf Erden sein, / sind wir selber Götter” (If there is no God on Earth, / we ourselves are gods!”).

We must behold the beauty of “Die Nebensonnen” (The Phantom Suns), maybe because we cannot explain what those “Drei Sonnen” (Three Suns) the traveler talks about, mean. The symbol here is a mystery and the tenor, in a final stupor, begs for that “darkness where I will be much better” (Im Dunkeln wird mir wohler sein). It is what precedes the “encounter” with “Der Leiermann” (The Hurdy-Gurdy Man), where Kaufmann dominates with his tenderness and confirms his decision to let himself be taken away: “Will you accompany my songs with your lyre?” (Willst zu meinen Liedern / deine Leier drehn?”).
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 26, 2015 4:49 PM GMT

Sylvia Sass - The Decca Recitals
Sylvia Sass - The Decca Recitals
Offered by Fulfillment Express
Price: £12.09

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great singer and amazing arias and songs, 7 Nov. 2011
Sylvia Sass sings the best "Lorelei" (Liszt) version of my experience. Really a great artist with a big repertoire and very personal voice material: her "D'amor sull'ali" is a mixture between Bellini and Verdi; her Gioconda, red and black, a song from the grave; her Norma, light from de Moon; her Giselda is like a saint who loves a man... Incredible. Sass was a great soprano.

Un Ballo In Maschera/Lucia Di Lammermoor (Lukacs, Sass)
Un Ballo In Maschera/Lucia Di Lammermoor (Lukacs, Sass)

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing singer, 4 Aug. 2008
Where is now Sylvia Sass? Decca must put in scene her album "Dramatic coloratura". This album (Hungaroton) has beautiful pages: Willow Song, Ballo, Pace pace and the incredible Malibran's version for Lucia's mad scene. Great singer, moving, with a sensive parlar cantando...

Sylvia Sass
Sylvia Sass
Price: £10.34

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Meravigliosa, 24 Sept. 2007
This review is from: Sylvia Sass (Audio CD)
Una artista incredibile. Sua Lady Macbeth puo essere la migliore... e sicuro sua Giselda è la migliore. Anche grande come Turandot e Manon... Un avis rara che oggi non essiste.

Sylvia Sass: Arias/Orchestral Songs
Sylvia Sass: Arias/Orchestral Songs

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Senta's ballad in the History, 7 Mar. 2007
Where is Sylvia Sass? An exceptional singer with a dramatic personality. Realy a great artist. Her pianissimi and the power of her proyection are amazing. She remains as the "new Callas'' but she has a lot of own: pathos, le sense de la parole, nuances.... Her Senta (Der fliegender Holländer) is the best of my experience and is superb her "Allmacht'ge Junfrau'' (Tannhäuser). Perfect and disturbing in "Wesendock Lieder'' and touching in "Morgen''...

Montserrat Caballe said of the hungarian soprano to pianist András Schiff: "Sylvia Sass is the most splendid opera singer I have even heard''. Not bad...
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 30, 2012 10:10 PM GMT

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