Following the ‘Gramophone Record of the Year’ award-winning set of the Brahms Symphonies, Riccardo Chailly turns his “rare talent for transforming music ripe for rediscovery” to Brahms’s Serenades. This exquisite recording renews these unjustly neglected and rarely performed works in performances of “trademark clarity” (Gramophone Record of the Year 2014) and marks the first Decca recording of these works since Kertesz in 1968.
Stage and television director Werner Herzog, one of the most highly acclaimed German film makers of all time, joins forces with the great Italian conductor Riccardo Chailly to effect a masterful rendition of this rarely-performed opera involving spectacular scenes of alternating light and dark, pageantry and intimacy. The production is further complemented by the great Italian baritone Renato Bruson as Giacomo, the American soprano Susan Dunn as Giovanna and the outstanding tenor Vincenzo La Scola as the Dauphin. The magnificent Teatro Comunale di Bologna provides an intimate yet ornate setting for this production of Verdi's seventh opera, the story of the Maid of Orleans.
Puccini's Il trittico is a triple-bill which is seldom performed as such. Of the three one-act short operas that compose it, only Gianni Schicchi is regularly seen on stage; Suor Angelica is second, but perhaps more often performed in concert form, its only famous piece being the aria "senza mamma", while Il tabarro is a real rarity. The effort to set up three different operas which demand quite different casts is certainly one of the reasons for this situation. Il tabarro calls for real spinto voices in the main roles, while Angelica is also quite demanding for the singer in the title role, not to mention the huge number of principals it calls for.
In this recording Riccardo Chailly directs Verdi’s Un ballo in maschera for the first time in his function as General Music Director of the Leipzig Oper on the 2nd of November 2005. Un ballo in maschera is as exciting as a thriller, but with a passion that can only be experienced in a Verdi opera. It stands to reason that only a man of equal passion would have the ability of bringing this spectacle to the stage adequately.
Puccini’s reputation rests on a mighty handful of operas whose popularity shows no sign of diminishing. It would be tempting to suppose that because of this a wealth of scintillating orchestral music has been unjustly ignored. Not so – the music so fervently performed here is lyrical and charming, but ultimately weak-willed. The very beginning of La bohème crops up in the middle of E the Capriccio sinfonico, but the energy soon peters out. It shows just how much Puccini needed the external impetus of a libretto to create drama and excitement in his music. For all that, these soft-centred sweeties make enjoyably soothing listening.
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… –Dan Davis