Claude D'Anna's film of Verdi's Macbeth is a gloomy affair, stressing the descent into madness of the principal villains. It's acted by the singers of the Decca recording of the opera (with two substitutions of actors standing in for singers) and the lip-synching is generally unobtrusive. The musical performance is superb, conducted by Riccardo Chailly with admirable fire, and sung by some of the leading lights of the opera stages of the 1980s.
Zemlinsky's Die Seejungfrau ("The mermaid") is a three-movement symphonic fantasy based on the Hans Andersen story. It was first performed (under the composer's direction) in 1905, and is thus a good deal earlier than the works that have recently excited renewed interest in him—the oneact operas Eine florentinische TragOdie (1916) and Der Zwerg (1921), and the exquisite Lyric Symphony of 1922. In its masterly handling of a large orchestra, however, and of an episodic but firm structure, it is a far from immature piece. Zemlinsky was 34 when he wrote it, after all. If his list of works were not in such a terrible mess—many are unpublished; several, including the present work, were until recently thought to be lost—Die Seejungfrau would count as his Op. 30 or thereabouts.
The exceptional and unaffected Martha Argerich gives here a spellbinding performance of Schumann's Piano Concerto.
The Waldebuhne in Berlin is one of the most appealing outdoor amphitheaters on the European continent, and is home to the Berlin Philharmonic's summer concerts. With audiences of more than 20,000 these are some of the most popular classical music concerts in the world.
Bernard Haitink’s 1980 Manfred was the prize of his Concertgebouw/Tchaikovsky symphony cycle. Riccardo Chailly’s 1987 effort with the same orchestra, while very good, doesn’t quite live up to that standard. In both recordings you get the sense that Tchaikovsky composed Manfred expressly for the Concertgebouw Orchestra. The very sound of the ensemble in its own hall conjures the dark, fantasy world described in the music. To this add lively and colorful playing, rich sonority, and utterly impeccable musicianship and you’ve got a uniquely compelling aural experience. Where the performances part company is in Haitink’s embrace of Tchaikovsky’s passionate dramatic ethos, a quality that Chailly, by contrast, tends to shy away from. (Of course, for a truly passionate reading you have to hear Muti’s rendition on EMI.) In his favor Chailly does have Decca’s vivid, high-impact digital recording, which, though having less warmth than the analog Philips production, better conveys the massiveness of the Concertgebouw Hall’s acoustics.
Here are two of Rossini's "secular" cantatas: "The Lament of Harmony on the Death of Orpheus" for tenor, male chorus, and orchestra, written when he was a 16-year-old conservatory student, and the far more substantial "Wedding of Thetis and Peleus," one of many such pieces he composed for special occasions, commissioned for the marriage of an Italian princess to a French prince. Both consist of primarily short, separate, contrasting numbers, most of which would be perfectly at home in the opera house.
Early recordings of Franco Zeffirelli's 2006 production of Verdi's opera which saw Roberto Alagna's high-profile exit during the second performance. Egypt and Ethiopia are at war. Radames is appointed commander of the Egyptian forces by the King, whose daughter, Amneris, loves Radames. It is in fact Amneris' Ethiopian slave Aida whom Radames loves. Ramades wins the war against the Ethiopians, capturing Aida's father Amonasro in the process. On his return to Egypt he faces a choice between marrying Amneris or betraying his country through his love for Aida.