The world of opera features largely in this month's audiovisual releases, both in stunning performances of Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov (Royal Opera) and Britten's Albert Herring (Glyndebourne), and as the backdrop to a distinctive feature film by Jens Neubert that follows an impoverished Richard Wagner as he works on his opera Tristan und Isolde in Zurich while exiled from his homeland. Distinguished performances of two choral and orchestral works based on Sophocles' tragedy Oedipus Rex, recorded at the 2022 Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, complete the month's new releases.
An exile from his native land following the failed revolution of 1848, the impoverished Richard Wagner is in Zurich working on his opera Tristan und Isolde. There he meets Otto and Mathilde Wesendonck, ardent admirers of his music. Wagner’s passionate and scandalous affair with Mathilde, whose poems he set to music, is explored in this feature film by director Jens Neubert. After their relationship ended, Wagner left Zurich for Italy, forever remembering Mathilde as ‘my first and only love’.
Also available in Blu-ray Video (NBD0170V)
Both Pizzetti and Stravinsky were drawn to the subject of Oedipus Rex, but in very different contexts. The 24-year-old Pizzetti was commissioned to write Three Orchestral Preludes for use in a theatrical production. He wrote with an austere sense of orchestral colour, devoid of impressionism that favours the vaguely archaic, with modal inflections. Stravinsky’s opera-oratorio was written in his neo-Classical style, with a central role for narrator. In a stark, stylised and formal setting, the use of Latin, and Stravinsky’s instruction for the leading characters to wear masks, add timeless, impersonal elements to a work that culminates in catharsis.
Benjamin Britten’s comic opera, which is gently laced with moments of farce, is a jocular parody on life in East Suffolk at the turn of the 20th century. Albert Herring is a quaint, nostalgic journey to a bygone England and the journey has come full circle back to Glyndebourne where this piece was premiered in 1947. The ensuing antics are brilliantly characterised by a strong British cast in this production, which is infused with freshness and limitless charm. Expertly conducted by Bernard Haitink, this archive recording showcases some of Britain’s finest singers in this landmark production by Peter Hall.
Mussorgsky was inspired to compose his masterpiece Boris Godunov after reading Pushkin’s Shakespeare-inspired play of the same name. It features one of the most dramatically rewarding bass-baritone roles: a noble ruler who loves his children and his people, but whose thirst for power has led him to commit a terrible crime. Bryn Terfel is ‘a powerful new Boris’ (The Observer) in Richard Jones’ new production of the original 1869 score. Antonio Pappano conducts an outstanding cast that also includes John Graham-Hall as the crafty Prince Shuisky and John Tomlinson as the vagabond monk Varlaam.
Also available in Blu-ray Video (OABD7314D)