10 March 2014 at 5.37pm | 1 Comment
As part of our series of recommended recordings from the Royal Opera House Shop, this month we take a look at releases from two great singers and a conductor with strong connections to the Royal Opera House.
Juan Diego Flórez - L'Amour (CD, Decca)
Juan Diego Flórez breaks new ground with L’Amour, his tenor still as centred and thrillingly agile, but now showing a touch of steel that - as recently hinted - will allow him to move into a broader repertoire. L’Amour is the kind of record you thought might never be made again – a recital of French lyric arias, previously so much the territory of Nicolai Gedda and Alfredo Kraus, but here superbly sung by Florez and showing immense promise for some heavier roles: his two excepts from Werther make one really want to hear him restore this role to its rightful voice. This is an hour of unalloyed pleasure.
Parsifal - the Metropolitan Opera (DVD/Blu-Ray, Dir: Francois Girard)
Francois Girard’s production of Parsifal at the Met does not stake new dramatic or interpretive milestones, instead he allows the story to unfold organically in vistas of breathtaking beauty that echo the music without dictating its intent.
The cast fielded here could have made Parsifal work on a bare stage, but allied to Girard’s hieratic symbols and ever-shifting projections, it grows into something of overwhelming beauty and power: the last moments are, as any great Parsifal should be, transcendently lovely. Kaufmann’s Parsifal must now be without competition: singing with immense strength and dramatic intensity, he is exceptional in all his key moments, and never less than immersed in the whole - this is no star turn. René Pape’s Gurnemanz is a known entity and again he leads the field today in this marathon role, singing with beauty and detail throughout, Peter Mattei towers as the ideal Amfortas, Evgeny Nikitin excels as Klingsor, and Katarina Dalayman offers a Kundry that is perhaps a little below the achievements of her colleagues but is nonetheless superb. Daniele Gatti conducts, taking the Met Orchestra places it has not been for a while. I would urge you to own this Parsifal: it is a very special experience.
Jonas Kaufmann - Winterreise (CD, Sony)
Jonas Kaufmann’s take on Winterreise might split opinion: those who will hear it live at the Royal Opera House in April will doubtless make their own minds up, but as an audio experience, Kaufman seems to me ideal in this rare outing onto the lieder stage. His gritty tenor perfectly mirrors the angst-ridden narration, the voice opens up thrillingly at key moments, and above all the drama is seen as a linear experience: each song is given its own treatment but not at the expense of the bigger work. Is he too theatrical with it? Perhaps, if you prefer your lieder more intimate, but for me Kaufmann catches both the naivety and despair central to the text and to Schubert’s agonized settings. Helmut Deutsch is a perfect accompanist, supporting, colouring and adding to the implacable flow of the cycle.
What recently released recordings would you recommend?