Das Wunder der Heliane

Korngold Das Wunder der Heliane opera to a libretto by Hans Müller-Einigen. Directed 2018 by Christof Loy at the Deutsche Oper Berlin. Stars Sara Jakubiak (Heliane), Brian Jagde (Der Fremde or the Stranger), Josef Wagner (Der Herrscher or the Ruler), Okka von der Damerau (Die Botin or the Messinger), Derek Welton (Der Pförtner or the Doorman), and Burkhard Ulrich (Der blinde Schwertrichter or the Chief Justice). Marc Albrecht conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Deutsche Oper Berlin (Chorus Master Jeremy Bines). Set design by Johannes Leiacker; costume design by Barbara Droshin; directed for TV by Götz Filenius. Released 2019, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

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Handel Agrippina opera to a libretto by Vincenzo Grimani. Directed 2016 by Robert Carsen at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna. Stars Patricia Bardon (Agrippina), Jake Arditti (Nerone), Danielle de Niese (Poppea), Filippo Mineccia (Ottone), Mika Kares (Claudio), Damien Pass (Pallante), Tom Verney (Narciso), and Christoph Seidl (Lesbo). Thomas Hengelbrock conducts the Balthasar Neumann Ensemble. Set and costume design by Gideon Davey; lighting design by Robert Carsen and Peter van Praet; video design by Ian Galloway; dramaturgy by Ian Burton. Directed for TV by François Roussillon. Released 2018, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A-

Agrippina was Handel’s first great opera hit, but it is not often produced now. All the characters existed in history, but this libretto is a completely fictional baroque tale of incessant intrigue and lust for power/satiation by all except for good girl Poppea and good guy Ottone. Robert Carsen’s take on this is a bright, clean, funny update with a wicked twist in the finale (not spoiled here). In this review, we focus on Carsen’s stagecraft and the brilliant images captured by François Roussillon.

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Iolanta and The Nutcracker

This title has a double bill of Tchaikovsky works, an opera and a ballet:

  1. Iolanta opera to a libretto by Modest Tchaikovsky. Stars Sonya Yoncheva (Iolanta), Arnold Rutkowski (Vaudémont), Alexander Tsymbalyuk (King René), Andrei Zhilikhovsky (Robert), Vito Priante (Ibn-Hakia), Elena Zaremba (Marta), Roman Shulakov (Alméric), Gennady Bezzubenkov (Bertrand), Anna Patalong (Brigitta), and Paola Gardina (Laura). Sung in Russian.

  2. The Nutcracker ballet to a libretto by Dmitri Tcherniakov. Choreography by Arthur Pita, Édouard Lock, and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui. Stars Marion Barbeau (Marie), Stéphane Bullion (Vaudémont), Nicholas Paul (Drosselmeyer), Aurelien Houette (The Father), Alice Renavand (The Mother), Takeru Coste (Robert), and Caroline Bance (The Sister) supported by the Corps De Ballet de L’Opéra national de Paris.

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Verdi Atilla opera to a libretto by Temistocle Solera. Directed 2016 by Daniele Abbado at the Teatro Comunale di Bologna. Stars Ildebrando D’Arcangelo (Attila), Simone Piazzola (Ezio), Maria José Siri (Odabella), Fabio Sartori (Foresto), Gianluca Floris (Uldino), and Antonio Di Matteo (Leone). Michele Mariotti conducts the Orquesta del Teatro Comunale di Bologna and the Coro del Teatro Comunale di Bologna (Chorus Master Andrea Faidutti). Set and lighting design by Gianni Carluccio; costumes by Gianni Carluccio and Daniela Cernigliaro; choreography by Simone Bucci; assistant stage direction by Boris Stetka; assistant stage design by Sebastiana Di Gesù. Directed for TV by Arnalda Canali. Released 2019, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

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Don Carlo

Verdi Don Carlo opera to a libretto by Camille du Locle and Joseph Méry. Directed 2013 by Peter Stein at the Salzburg Festival. Stars Matti Salminen (Flilppo II), Jonas Kaufmann (Don Carlo), Thomas Hampson (Rodrigo/Marchese di Posa), Anja Harteros (Elisabetta di Valois), Ekaterina Semenchuk (La Principessa Eboli), Eric Halfvarson (Il Grande Inquisitore), Robert Lloyd (Un frate/Carlo V), Maria Celeng (Tebaldo), Kiandra Howarth (Una voce dal cielo), Benjamin Bernheim (Il Conte di Lerma/Un Araldo reale), Antonio di Matteo, Peter Kellner, Domen Križaj, Roberto Lorenzi, Iurii Samoilov, Christoph Seidl (Sei deputati fiamminghi), Oleg Savran (Un boscaiolo), and Anna-Eva Köck (La Contessa D’Aremberg). Antonio Pappano conducts the Vienna Philharmonic and the Concert Association of the Vienna State Opera Chorus (Chorus Master Jörn Hinnerk Andresen). Stage music by Members of the Angelika-Prokopp-Sommerakademie der Wiener Philharmoniker. Set design by Ferdinand Wögerbauer; costume design by Annamaria Heinreich; lighting design by Joachim Barth; choreography by Lia Tsolaki; directed for TV by Agnes Méth. Released 2014, disc has dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A-

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Carmina Burana and Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2

Carl Orff Carmina Burana cantata and Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2 concert. Recorded October 10, 2018 at the Imperial Ancestral Temple in the Forbidden City, Beijing. Features soloists Aida Garifullina (soprano), Toby Spence (tenor), Ludovic Tézier (baritone), Daniil Trifonov (piano), and Mari Samuelsen (violin). Long Yu conducts the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, the Shanghai Spring Children’s Choir, and the Wiener Singakademie (Chorus Master Heinz Ferlesch). Disc contains the following works:

  1. Carl Orff Carmina Burana (soloists Aida Garifullina, Toby Spence, and Ludovic Tézier)

  2. Rachmaninov Piano Concerto No. 2 (Daniil Trifonov)

  3. Max Richter November (Mari Samuelsen)

  4. Tianhua Liu Enchanted Night

  5. Jasmine Flower, a traditional Chinese folk song.

Directed for TV by Tiziano Mancini. Released 2019, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: C+

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Der Rosenkavalier

Richard Strauss Der Rosenkavalier opera to libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. Directed 2017 by Robert Carsen at the The Met. Stars Elīna Garanča (Octavian), Renée Fleming (Marschallin), Billy Conahan (Mohammed), Günther Groissböck (Baron Ochs), Scott Scully (Major-domo), Marco Jordão, Ross Benoliel, Clark Smith, Edward Hanlon (Lackeys),  Sidney Fortner (Noble widow), Maria D'Amato, Christina Thomson Anderson, Rosalie Sullivan (Three noble orphans), Anne Nonemacher (A milliner), Dustin Lucas (An animal vendor), James Countney (Notary), Alan Oke (Valzacchi), Helene Scheiderman (Annina), Tom Watson (Hairdresser),  Matthew Polonzani (An Italian singer), Patrick Stoffer (Leopold), Markus Brück (Herr von Faninal), Erin Morley (Sophie), Susan Neves (Marianne),Mark Schowalter (Faninal's major-domo), Frank Colardo (Doctor), Tony Stevenson (Innkeeper), Brian Frutiger, Bradley Garvin, Brian Kontes, Christopher Job (Waiters), and Scott Conner (Police Commissioner).  Sebastian Weigle conducts the The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

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Handel Saul opera to libretto by Charles Jennens. Directed 2015 by Barrie Kosky at the Glyndebourne Opera House. Stars Christopher Purves (Saul), Iestyn Davies (David), Lucy Crowe (Merab), Sophie Bevan (Michal), Paul Appleby (Jonathan), Benjamin Hulett (Abner/High Priest/Amalekite/Doeg), and John Graham-Hall (Witch of Endor). Ivor Bolton conducts the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (Leader Alison Bury) and The Glyndebourne Chorus (Chorus Master Jeremy Bines). Designs by Katrin Lea Tag; choreographed by Otto Pichler; lighting by Joachim Klein. Directed for TV by François Roussillon; produced by George Bruell. Released 2016, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A+

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Der Freischütz

Carl Maria von Weber Der Freischütz opera to libretto by Friedrich Kind. Directed 2017 by Matthias Hartmann at the Teatro alla Scala. Stars Michael Kraus (Ottokar), Frank van Hove (Kuno/Samiel’s Voice), Julia Kleiter (Agathe), Eva Liebau (Ännchen), Günther Groissböck (Kaspar), Michael König (Max), Stephen Milling (A Hermit), and Till von Orlowsky (Kilian). Myung-Whun Chung conducts the Coro e orchestra del Teatro alla Scala (Chorus Master Bruno Casoni). Set design by Raimund Orfeo Voigt; costume design by Susanne Bisovsky and Josef Gerger; lighting design by Marco Filibeck; dramaturgy by Michael Küster. Released 2019, music was recorded with 48kHz/24-bit sound sampling and disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

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Le Coq d’Or

Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov Le coq d’or (The Golden Cockerel) opera to a libretto by Vladimir Bel’sky. Staged 2002 by Ennosuke Ichikawa at the Théâtre Musical de Paris - Châtelet. Stars Albert Schagidullin (King Dodon), Ilya Levinsky (Prince Guldon), Andrei Breus (Prince Afron), Ilya Bannik (General Polkan), Elena Manistina (Amelfa), Barry Banks (Astrologer), Olga Trifonova (Queen of Shemakha), and Yuri Maria Saenz (Golden Cockerel). Kent Nagano conducts the Orchestre de Paris and the Chorus of The Mariinsky Theatre (Arndrei Petrenko Chorus Master). Stage direction by Isao Takashima with assistant Nobuo Ichikawa; set design by Setsu Asakura with assistant Yasue Itod; costumes by Tomio Mohni; make-up by Suzanne Pisteur; lighting by Jean Kalman; choreography by Kanshino Fujima with assistant Sakon Fujima. Sung in Russian with subtitles in English, German, Italian, French, Spanish, and Chinese. Directed for TV by Thomas Grimm. Released in 2012, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A-

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Le Comte Ory

Rossini Le comte Ory opera to libretto by Eugène Scribe and Charles-Gaspard Delestre-Poirson. Directed 2011 by Bartlett Sher at the Met. Stars Juan Diego Flórez (Le Comte Ory), Diana Damrau (La Comtesse Adèle), Joyce DiDonato (Isolier), Susanne Resmark (Ragonde), Michele Pertusi (Tutor), Stéphane Degout (Raimbaud), Monica Yunus (Alice), Tony Stevenson (Courtier), and Tyler Simpson (Courtier). Maurizio Benini conducts the Orchestra and Chorus of the Metropolitan Opera (Chorus Master Donald Palumbo). Sets designed by Michael Yeargan; costume design by Catherine Zuber; lighting design by Brian MacDevitt; music produced by Jay David Saks; directed for video by Gary Halvorson. Supervising Producers Mia Bongiovanni and Elena Park. Producers Louisa Briccetti and Victoria Warivonchik. Released 2015, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A

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Le Comte Ory

Rossini Le comte Ory opera to libretto by Eugène Scribe and Charles-Gaspard Delestre-Poirson. Directed 2017 by Denis Podalydès at the Opéra Comique. Stars Philippe Talbot (Le Comte Ory), Julie Fuchs (La Comtesse), Gaëlle Arquez (Isolier), Éve-Maud Hubeaux (Dame Ragonde), Patrick Bolleire (Le Gourverneur), Jean-Sébastien Bou (Raimbaud), Jodie Devos (Alice), and Laurent Podalydès and Léo Reynaud (Actors). Louis Langrée conducts the Orchestre des Champs-Elysées and Choir Les éléments (Chorus Master Joël Suhubiette). Set design by Éric Ruf; costume design by Christian Lacroix; lighting design by Stéphanie Daniel; choreography by Cécile Bon; assistant stage direction by Laurent Delvert and Laurent Podalydès. Directed for TV by Vincent Massip. Released 2019, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

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I Puritani

Bellini I Puritani opera to libretto by Carlo Pepoli. Directed 2018 by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito at the Staatsoper Stuttgart. Stars Roland Bracht (Lord Gualtiero Valton), Adam Palka (Sir Giorgio Valton), Ana Durlovski (Elvira), Réne Barbera (Lord Arturo Talbo), Gezim Myshketa (Sir Riccardo Forth), and Heinz Göhrig (Sir Bruno Robertson). Manlio Benzi conducts the Staatsorchester Stuttgart and the Staatsopernchor Stuttgart (Chorus Master Christoph Heil). Dramaturgy by Jossi Wieler and Sergio Morabito; set and costume design by Anna Viebrock; lighting design by Reinhard Traub; video direction by Marcus Richardt. Released 2019, disc has 5.0 dts HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

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Emmanuel Chabrier L’Étoile opera to libretto by Eugène Leterrier and Albert Vanloo. Directed 2014 by Laurent Pelly at the Dutch National Opera & Ballet. Stars Stéphanie d’Oustrac (Lazuli), Christophe Mortagne (Le Roi Ouf I), Hélène Guilmette (La Princesse Laoula), Jérôme Varnier (Siroco), Elliot Madore (Hérisson de Porc-Épic), Julie Boulianne (Aloès), François Piolino (Tapioca), François Soons (Patacha), Harry Teeuwen (Zalzal), Jeroen van Glabbeek (Le Maître), and Richard Prada (Le Chef de la Police). Patrick Fournillier conducts the Residentie Orkest The Hague and the Chorus of the Dutch National Opera (Chorus Master Nicholas Jenkins). Set design by Chantel Thomas; costume design by Laurent Pelly in collaboration with Jean-Jacques Delmotte; lighting design by Joël Adam; dialogue adaptation and dramaturgy by Agathe Mélinand. Directed for TV by François Roussillon. Released 2019, disc has 5.0 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: NA

The “étoile” or “star” here is not a character in the opera but one of those shining in the firmament, which is linked by the bogus astrologer Siroco to the fates of a preposterous King and the lumpenprolateriat street peddler Lazuli (Stéphanie d’Oustrac in trousers). Confused? You will be even more so when you learn that both the King and the peddler are in love with the same Princess Laoula, etc.

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Alban Berg Wozzeck opera to libretto by the composer (as inspired by the play Woyzeck by Georg Büchner). Directed 2015 by Andreas Homoki at the Opernhaus Zürich. Stars Christian Gerhaher (Wozzeck), Brandon Jovanovich (Drum Major), Mauro Peter (Andres), Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke (Captain), Lars Woldt (Doctor), Gun-Brit Barkmin (Marie), Pavel Daniluk (First Apprentice), Cheyne Davidson (Second Apprentice), Martin Zysset (Madman), Irène Friedli (Margret), and Alessandro Reinhart (Marie’s Child). Fabio Luisi conducts the Philharmonia Zürich and the Chor der Oper Zürich (Chorus Master Jürg Hämmerli). Set and costume design by Michael Levine; costume assistance by Meta Bronski; lighting design by Franck Evin; dramaturgy by Kathrin Brunner. Directed for TV by Michael Beyer; produced by Paul Smaczny. Released 2016, disc has 5.1 dts-HD Master Audio sound. Grade: A+

Georg Büchner died in 1837 when he was only 24! He was a member of the Young Germany movement and an active revolutionary who literally risked his neck and had to flee arrest by the secret police. He had published several well-regarded Sturm und Drang plays and a novella. He was a contemporary of Heinrich Heine; Nietszche was born about 7 years later. Büchner left behind 4 batches of barely legible fragments of a play called Woyzeck.

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