1 May 2015 at 2.49pm | 5 Comments
Il trittico (CD – Warner Classics)
The three disparate musical canvases that make up Puccini’s operatic triptych require the most skilled conducting if they are to work: colours and details have to be found but contained within the arc of the drama; and emotions must be expressed, restrained and let free at key moments. Antonio Pappano is revelatory in all aspects here, leading the London Symphony Orchestra through three magnificent performances. Life at the docks in Il tabarro’s downtrodden Paris is rendered with all of the sordid grime you'd expect; Suor Angelica’s eventual suicide is devastating, never straying into the realms of the sentimental; and the black comedy at the heart of Gianni Schicchi is played to the full without any tendency to rush for comic effect. It’s a masterly work, aided by exceptionally astute casting including Angela Gheorghiu and Roberto Alagna that allows these dramas to unfold with real credibility. This is the benchmark recording of these often underrated works and an unalloyed pleasure.
Tristan und Isolde (CD – Warner Classics)
In 2005, Antonio Pappano took the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House into the studio to make what was billed at the time as the very last studio recording of an opera. A fitting end to a great tradition if that were the case, enshrining Plácido Domingo’s career-defining Tristan, and the Isolde of the emergent Nina Stemme under Pappano’s persuasive baton. Wagner himself exhorted his singers to sing 'in the Italian style' and with Domingo, this is what we experience in a performance full of musical and textual detail. He is able to rise to the enormous challenges of the role with no loss of beauty in the tone and no broken line. Opposite him, Stemme’s Isolde is alive to every nuance and in fearless voice, announcing herself as our leading Wagnerian soprano. Pappano is their ideal collaborator, the orchestra playing for him with an aching sense of the tragedy that is being played out. Tristan und Isolde has been blessed in the studio with several very fine recordings. We may all have our personal favourite, but this recording need fear no comparisons.
Tosca (DVD – Opus Arte)
Director Benoît Jacquot’s film of Puccini’s Tosca is a fascinating document of collaborative music making, opting to cut between the opera in performance and the opera in rehearsal, and allowing us to watch Antonio Pappano and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House at work. It’s a gamble that pays off. The opera itself is sumptuously staged and dramatically-lit framing Angela Gheorghiu’s near definitive Tosca. Roberto Alagna offers an impassioned Cavaradossi and veteran bass Ruggero Raimondi offers an object lesson in stagecraft as a chilling Scarpia. All three can act for the screen, and Jacquot’s cut-aways to the orchestra add to the spontaneity of a performance that is always underpinned by Pappano’s instinctive and incisive conducting.
Which recordings would you recommend?
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