RENEE FLEMING - "Guilty Pleasures"
MUSSORGSKY: Sorochintsi Fair
WAGNER: Overture, Bacchanal and Dich, teure Halle from Tannhäuser.
Wesendonck-Lieder, Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde.
Super-star soprano Renée Fleming's latest is this disk called Guilty Pleasures, a collection of arias and songs in eight languages which she calls by that name as they are mostly taken from larger works. It surely is a fine collection of beautifully sung repertory over a wide range including lovely arias from seldom-heard operas by Tchaikovsky, Smetana and Dvorák. All of this music is beautiful indeed, and is heard with rich orchestral accompaniment from the Philharmonia directed by Sebastian Lang-Lessing, who adapts his conducting to showcase the soprano. Excellent sound, and complete texts.
Sorochintsi Fair, written 1874-1880, was Mussorgsky final opera, which he left unfinished. He worked on it at the same time as he was writing Boris Godunov and Khovanschina. Several composers attempted to complete it including Liadov, Cui, Tcherepnin and Shebalin whose version is heard on this excellent recording made in June-July 1996. It is a comic opera based on a play by Nikolai Gogol with a convoluted plot involving the peasant Cherevik, his shrewish wife Khivrya, their daughter Parysya, and the handsome young peasant Gritsko. It all takes place during the big fair, and a major element is inclusion of a witches' sabbath scene in Act III for chorus and orchestra, later orchestrated as a purely orchestral work by Rimsky-Korsakov, a favorite on concert programs, called A Night on Bare (or Bald) Mountain.. . Another familiar excerpt is the lively Hopak. This recording is superb featuring an all-Russian cast, and the audio is rich and resonant. This is a budget reissue, and there is no libretto, but the general plot is provided along with track listings. This is worth owing just for the exciting original version of Night on Bald Mountain.
Soprano Anne Schwannewilms has recently built a reputation as a singer of Strauss and Wagner. She was a sensation at the Met this season as the Dyer's Wife in Die frau ohne schatten, a role she had sung with enormous success a few months ago in concert performances of the opera in Amsterdam, and she also appeared in the Salzburg performance of the opera in 2011 available on DVD (REVIEW). She also sings lighter Wagner roles (Elsa, Elizabeth). This new CD, recorded in May 2013, is surely promising, but puzzling as well, simply because it half of it is purely orchestral music—new recordings of the Tannhäuser overture and bacchanal and the first-act prelude of Tristan really are not necessary—why not more from this fine soprano? What is heard surely is impressive, but there should have been more. Excellent audio, and texts are provided.
R.E.B. (April 2014)