A mysteroius childlike woman, a murder by jealousy, an orphan: Debussy’s Pelléas et Méllisande, his only completed opera, is full of magical, cryptical and deeply symbolic moments. With this work Debussy added quite literally a new dimension to the 1893 stage play of the same name by Belgian playwriter and poet, Maurice Maeterlinck, who was to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1911. Rodney Gilfry, a leading American opera baritone whos vocal excellence has been repeatedly extolled by many leading music critics, is Pelléas. Praised by the San Francisco Chronicle for his “rich, rolling baritone with a superb upper range,” as well as his “vivid stage presence,” Rodney Gilfry has established himself as a most compelling musician on the world’s operatic stages. By his side Isabel Rey, internationally recognised for her exquisite vocal technique and her sensitive acting skills, is Mélisande. Due to her crystal-clear soprano and the winterly stage setting the cold dream-world of the subconscious emerges to the audience. Because of the fabulous soloist and a distinguished cast this opera promises outstanding listening pleasure. Under Franz Welser-Möst’s fabulous conducting this production of the Zurich Opera House is setting musical standards. Welser- Möst is ecxeptionally talented and internationally known as one of the outstanding personalities in the field of classical music. In conjunction with the director Sven-Eric Bechtolf, he has developed into one of the leading teams in contemporary music theater.
Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835) wanted to move the audience of his operas to tears. And this is exactly what Beatrice di Tenda manages to do: it has great music and the story really touches the heart. In this production by Daniel Schmid, one can experience the stunning singers Edita Gruberova and Michael Volle in the main roles – with Marcello Viotti conducting the Orchestra of the Zurich Opera House. In Beatrice di Tenda, Bellini departs from the belcanto style, which he used in Norma, and explores a new way of musical expression, which brought to the fore a new warmth and different characteristics. The story is based on true events from the 15th century. It focuses on the impressive Beatrice di Tenda, who is wrongly accused by her husband to be unfaithful and is ultimately beheaded. The premiere of the opera was given at the Teatro la Fenice in Venice on 16 March 1873. Although Beatrice di Tenda is not Bellini’s most successful opera, the title role is a popular showpiece among sopranos. In this production, Beatrice is brilliantly interpreted by the “Queen of Belcanto”, Edita Gruberova.
Rossini’s unusual scoring of the drama calls for three tenor supporting roles – here sung to universal acclaim by long-standing Bartoli collaborators John Osborn and Javier Camarena and newcomer Edgardo Rocha. Bartoli’s dramatic command and vocal presence dominate the stage and reveal her artistry to be entering a rich new stage of development.
This Rigoletto, filmed live at the Zurich Opera House in 2006, has three strong leads to recommend it. In the title role, Leo Nucci fully represents all of Rigoletto’s character traits and range of emotions—the hunchback’s lancing wit, fearfulness, and self-loathing when we first meet him and later, his obsessive need for revenge. Both Rigoletto’s sense of righteous triumph when he believes he’s got the Duke dead in the bag and his inconsolable grief at the drama’s end are palpable.
Translucence, transparency – warmth' are the qualities identified by Bernard Haitink as necessary for an ideal sound performance of Beethoven's only opera, and all are present in this fantastic recording of Katharina Thalbach's new production for Opernhaus Zurich. Haitink conducts the Zurich Opera Orchestra in a magnificent performance in which Leonore Overture No. 3 provides an interlude between the two scenes of the second act, following a tradition started by Gustav Mahler.
The members of the Zurich Ensemble are Fabio di Càsola (clarinet), Kamilla Schatz (violin), Pi-Chin Chien (cello), and Benjamin Engeli (piano). The ensemble’s web site doesn’t indicate when it was founded or even whether this is its first CD. (This is, however, the only CD listed on ArkivMusic’s site, so draw your own conclusions.) Be that as it may, this is a thoroughly delightful CD, headlined by a clever arrangement of Rimsky-Korsakov’s enduring warhorse, and complemented by the less familiar works by Khachaturian and Sergei Bortkiewicz.