BERLIOZ: Gramde Messe des Mortes, p. 5
VERDI: Le trouvére
ROSSINI: The Barber of Seville
Distinguished American conductor John Nelson (b. 1941) has been music director of a number of orchestras and frequently guest conducts many of the major orchestras. He has particular interest in large-scale choral works, and in music of Berlioz. His recordings of Benvenuto Cellini and Les Troyens have been praised. Now we have his magnificent performance of the mighty Berlioz Requiem. This easily challenges historic recordings including those by Sir Colin Davis, Charles Munch and Leonard Bernstein, to mention only a few. And don't forget the historic Hermann Scherchen recording, and the live Sir Thomas Beecham BBC performance recently issued on Pristine (REVIEW). Amd we must not overloo the important first recording made in 1943 with Jean Fournet on the podium. . Most of these have been reviewed on this site.The Nelson version is a live performance recorded March 9, 2019 in London's St. Paul Cathedral. The huge choruses are outstanding, and it is a pleasure to hear the brilliant brass outbursts in Tuba mirum. The format for this release is somewhat odd. The first disk is a regular CD containing the entire work (81:35) in stereo, and the second disk, a DVD, contains a video of the entire concert which is 7 minus longer - and it is mulli-channel. Engineers have done a superb job capturing the rich church atmosphere, and we find ourselves right in the center of the venue. I'm surprised he first disk is not SACD. I'm sure a majority of collectors will wish to experience this stupendous performance in muli-channel sound and watch it as well. An outstanding issue, in any case.
Il trovatore is one of Verdi's true tests for opera singers. There are dozens of recordings featuring major artists. On this new Dynamic issue the opera is presented in the French version the Paris Opera asked Verdi to prepare. The tanslation was by Émilien Pacini. The language is only one of the changes; Verdi made numerous others including adding characters, changing many of the arias and adding a ballet. This performance is by Teatro Regio Parma.from the Parma Verdi Festival during a series of performances in October 2018. It was conceived by Robert Wilson who designed the set, lighting and directed. Costumes were designed by Julia Von Leliwa. This performance of the French version is an insult to the composer. Wilson wrote the program notes explaining the many changes, but he cannot justify his bizzare approach to the opera. The set is basically a non-set, a bare blue background which on a few occasions has some faded projected images. Costumes are modern and basic,usually black, and there is limited acting. Characters just stand there facing the audience and there is limited interaction between them. Much of the visual is in silhouette. Particularlty stupid is Wilson's treatment of the ballet in Act III which is performed by boxers dressed in black with red boxing gloves. Singing is generally fine if not thrilling. To my knowledge, this is the only recording of the Fresh version of the opera except for a CD issued about two decades go also on the Dynamic label. If you love Il trovatore and have a sense of humor, you might wish to invesigate this new production—you have been warned. experience this
After the debacule of Le trouvér. it is a pleasure to see an operatic masterpiece that has been modernized" in a tasteful, charming way. That's what we hve in this brilliant Barber of Seville, which is a co-production by the Théatre des Champs Élysées, the Opera National de Bordeaux, the Opera of Marseille, the Opera de Tours, the Théatres de la Ville de Luxembourg and the Stadttheater Klaggenfurt. This performance was filmed December 2017 at the Théatre des Champs Élysées. The conductor, Jérénie Rhorer leads the superb period instrument ensembe Le Cercle de l'Hrmonuie in a spirited reading, joined by the Unikanti chorus. The cast is outstanding and all of Rossini's vocal demands are perfetly presented. It is a pleasure to hear a lively Figaro sung by Florian Sempey (the first Barber I've seen who has a tatoo); you can see him singing his famnous aria on You Tube. And mzzo Catherine Trottmm is a very beaitful sparkling Rosina. Michele Angelini as Almaviva displays why he is consided to be one of today's finest Rossini tenors.he set is simple and serves is purpose. Excellen fideo and audio his is a sparkling Barbr wory of investigation.
R.E.B. October 2019)