Premiered by the Opera De Paris in 1870, and inspired by the fantastical writings of E.T.A. Hoffmann, Coppélia tells the story of a young man who becomes besotted with an exquisite automaton and is finally brought to his senses by his fiancée. In their production from the magnificent Palais Garnier, choreographer Patrice Bart in his final production and designer Ezio Toffolutti explore the story's darker side while doing full justice to the exuberance and elegance of Delibes’ glorious score.
The labels that are now gathered under the Universal Classics umbrella have a pretty impressive scorecard in the area of classical compilations. We've seen The Greatest Opera Show on Earth, The Yellow Guide: Classical Music, Best of the Millennium, and now there's The No. 1 Opera Album. But that's no surprise, since Universal has some of the finest interpreters in its catalogue to draw from. This two-CD set (at the price of one), for example, brings together the likes of Cecilia Bartoli, Renée Fleming, Luciano Pavarotti, Kiri Te Kanawa, Sir Georg Solti, Herbert von Karajan, and many more. Yet the other key to a successful compilation is canny anthologizing, and here again, you have a nice selection to give you a smattering of opera's heavyweights from the Italian, German, and French repertory (there's even a step outside the standard framework with an aria from Dvorák's lovely Rusalka). Ranging from 1959 to 1997, the choices from back catalogue will doubtless be the entry ticket for many into this grandest of the arts.
David Zinman's performance of Coppelia is beautifully played and most naturally recorded. The warm acoustic of the Rotterdam concert hall certainly suites Delibes colourful scoring, and the gracefully delicate string-playing is nicely flattered. 'Les Sylphides' is a compilation of works by Frédéric Chopin. It was conceived as a ballet by Mikhail Fokin in 1909, and orchestrated by Roy Douglas in 1936. 3. Faust: Ballet Music by Charles Gounod.
The Show Must Go On offers a definitive collection of Sayer's 1970s bubbly dance-pop hits like "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing," "When I Need You," and "More Than I Can Say." A number of rare singles are also included, as is the unreleased cut "Tonight the Sky's About to Cry".
A somewhat less ambitious record than Mudlark, from a recording standpoint, Greenhouse is a true solo record that offers several surprises. Over a third of it is made up of vocal numbers, including two that are absolutely superb. "Tiny Island" may be the best track here, a song by Al Gaylor, inspired by the death of Jimi Hendrix, that offer one of Kottke's best vocal performances of his whole career.