CD and Other Review

Review: Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier (Opera Australia CD)

This memorable live recording of Strauss’ bittersweet masterpiece was taken from live performances at the Sydney Opera House in 2010 and shows the company at maximum strength with an outstanding trio of female voices, some superbly idiomatic conducting and a fine supporting cast. Cheryl Barker is Strauss’ Die Marschallin, a married woman trying to come to terms with the march of time who proves wise enough to let her younger lover move on to girl of his own age. The role sits well for her and plays to her natural strengths for vocal characterisation and attention to text. The odd shrill note aside, this is a deeply felt performance, possibly her finest on record. Emma Pearson is a delicious Sophie (the aforementioned younger woman), her pure voice managing the exposed high notes with greater ease than many a starrier name. Catherine Carby is equally distinguished as Octavian, ardent and youthful sounding, vocally able to compliment both Barker and Pearson. The various love duets are ravishing and the famous trio a genuine highlight. The young Austrian bass Manfred Hemm makes a ripe and resonant Ochs with bags of character and genuine Viennese accent.  If his top is a little pushed, his…

January 31, 2013
CD and Other Review

Review: Vinci: Artaserse

The short life of the Neapolitan composer Leonardo Vinci reads like an opera plot, full of triumphs and intrigues and culminating in death via a cup of poisoned chocolate. Yet the “Lully of Italy” blazed brightly, renowned in his day for his melodic style and natural expression. Artaserse, presented in Rome in 1730 a mere three months before the composer’s sticky end (pardon the pun), was his crowning glory, typical of his gift for vivacity unburdened by weighty matters of musical structure. The libretto, by the great Pietro Metastasio, is a tale of murder, betrayal, love and honour at the Persian court and is representative of his lofty yet accessible approach. As this was the age of the castrati and women were forbidden on the Roman stage, all six of the characters, including the two female roles, were played by men. Cue this historical reenactment with five of the best countertenors around ready to do battle with Vinci’s challenging tessituras and florid vocal lines. I’m happy to report that there isn’t a duff singer to be found on this recording. The two star names, Philippe Jaroussky as King Artaserse and Max Emanuel Cencic as his sister Mandane, are class acts,…

January 31, 2013