KOTNGOLD: Das Wunder der Haliane, Op. 20.
Annemarie Kremer (Heliane). Aris Argiris (The Ruler). Ian Storey (The Stranger). Katerina Hebebelkova (The Messenger). Frank van Hove (The Gatekeeper). Theater Freiburg Choruses. Members of Freiburger Bachchoir. Freiburg Philharmonic Orchestra / Fabrice Bolon, cond.
NAXOS 8.660410 (3 disks) TT: 2:41:37

MASSENET: La Navaraisse
Aleksandra Kurzak (Anita). Roberto Alaagna (Araquil). George Andguladze (Garrido). Brian Kontes (Remigio). Issachah Savage (Ramon). Michael Anthony McGee (Bustamente. New York Choral Ensemble. Opera Orchestra of New York / Alberto Veronesi, cond.

PUCCINI: Arias and duets from Tosca, La boheme, Madama Burfly, Manon lescaut, Il Tabarro, La Rondine, Fanciulla del West
Aleksandra Kurzak, soprano. Roberto Alagna, tenor. Sinfonia Varsovia / Riccardo Frizza, cond.
SONY 19075859832 TT: 65:00

Erich Wolfgang Korngolds's fifth opera Das Wunder der Heliane (The Miracle of Heliane), was composed in 1927. The score contains some of Korngold's most beautiful music and is scored for large orchestra with a prominent chorus. He had captured the imagination of Vienna and the opera world with Die tote stadt (The Dead City) seven years earlier. Heliane's premiere was a great success. The opera's plot focuses on the beautiful Heliane married against her will to The Ruler. A handsome young Stranger appears. The jealous Ruler orders that he be killed, but Heliane, attracted to him, visits him in his dungeon. She wanted him to know love before he died. The Ruler decided Heliane also be killed but, in a typical opera paradox, ssid if she could resurrect the dead Stranger, he would not kill her. The Stranger returns to life, the Ruler stabs Heliane, and the opera ends as the Stranger and Heliane ascend into the heavens. It demands great singers which it surely had at its premiere: Lotte Lehmann and Jan Kipura.

Naxos here offers a peformance recorded partly in concert in July 2017 at the Rolf-Böhnne -Saal Konzerthaus in Freiberg, Germany. Unfortunately the cast leaves much to be desired. Dutch soprano Annemarie Kremer has an active career in Europe, but her voice has a tremolo I find distracting. Ian Storey is severely taxed by the role of The Stranger. The Nxos performane is beautifuly reorded; it is unfortunate the performance isn't better. The opera is presented more sucessfully in Decca's reissue which features Anna Tomowa-Sintow in the title role. This is mid-price and was reviewe on this site (REVIEW). It has the advantage of the complete libretto with translation, not to be found i the Naxos issue. There are a number of Kremer videos on You Tube including a Vienna performance of the famouss Heliane aria Ich ging zu ihm. Also on You Tube you will find audio of Lotte Lehmann's famous recording of the sane aria, a performance that set the standard for this exquisite music.

Massenet's two-act opera La Navaraisse had its premiere at Covent Garden in1894 with the legendary Emma Calve as the heroine. It was very popular briefly, often coupled with Cavalleria Rusticana. The plot concerns the peasant girl Anita who is in love with Araquil, a soldier. His father doesn't like her and insists that she have 2,000 duros as a dowry, thinking it would be impossible for her to do. She agrees to kill the enemy commander for this money, but Araquil, who has been mortally wounded, thinks she has prostituted herself. Distraught, in a melodramatic ending to the opera, Anita kills herself. There have been several recordings notably one made in the 1970s with Marilyn Horne and Placido Domingo. Now we have this fine new version with the exciting soprano Aleksandra Kurzak in the title role. She is impressive in this passionate role. As her lover, Roberto Alagna doesn't have much to do but does it well, and the remainder of the cast is strong.This is a mid-price issue, and it includes the complete libretto with translations. Excellent sound.

Roberto Alagna and Aleksandra Kurzak star in this collection called Puccini in Love: arias and scenes from seven operas. The chemistry between the two is obvious and appropriate as they are married. Alagna and his first wife, Angela Gheorghiu, recorded together as well including an album similar to this and several complete operas. Happier days on the operatic scene, which ended in a bitter divorce. For those interested, here is a fine collection of Puccini excerpts beautifully sung , accompanied by Sinfonia Varsovia directed by Riccardo Frizza. Excellent audio. No texts. This is a mid-price issue.

R.E.B. (December 2018)