We have a feast of four operas in captivating audiovisual productions to present this month, each representing a different European style and age. From Italy, we have Cimarosa’s 1794 comic opera Le astuzie femminili; from France there’s Delibes’ Lakmé, premiered in 1883 and still one of the country’s most popular operas; Persinette by Austrian composer Albin Fries, recorded at its 2019 premiere, retells the famous Rapunzel fairy tale; and Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice, first performed in Vienna in 1762, can be savoured in a legendary 1982 Glyndebourne performance that features Dame Janet Baker in her swan song performance, remembered to this day as ‘a quite staggering performance.’ (MusicWeb International)
Premiered in 1883, Lakmé remains one of the most popular of all French operas. Reflecting contemporary tastes, the original source material presented a tragic liaison between a French officer and a Tahitian woman on a Pacific island, but Delibes moved the location to British-ruled India where the two central characters are torn between passion and loyalty, and assailed by a fanatical religious leader. For this opera Delibes wrote music of indelible beauty, including the much-loved ‘Flower Duet’ and ‘Bell Song’.
Also available on Blu-ray Video (NBD0177V)
World premiered with great success at the Vienna State Opera in 2019, Persinette retells the famous Rapunzel fairy tale. Against a backcloth of the late-romantic music of Albin Fries, children’s opera specialist Matthias von Stegmann takes us into a world rich in images, allowing us to sympathise with and feel the excitement of the action. Will Persinette escape her imprisonment in the high tower?
Domenico Cimarosa was riding high on the triumphant success of Il matrimonio segreto when he embarked on the ‘commedia per musica’ Le astuzie femminili in 1794. The narrative for this opera revolves around the clever and resourceful Bellina, who devises a plan to avoid an unwanted marriage while gaining a large inheritance and marrying her love Filandro. Styled somewhere between Mozart and Rossini, Cimarosa’s witty and tender score includes deliciously comical moments such as Filandro’s outlandish Italian-German imitation of a Magyar officer. The spirited performance and lively pace of this opera buffa accounted for its acclaimed reception at the 2022 Reate Festival.
Also available on Blu-ray Video (DYN-57989)
British mezzo-soprano, Dame Janet Baker, chose to retire from the operatic stage singing the title role in Sir Peter Hall’s acclaimed production of Orfeo ed Euridice. This 1982 recording from Glyndebourne, where Dame Janet appropriately began her professional career, proved a suitable crowning glory to the career of one of the great singing actresses of our age. Dame Janet’s realisation of Orfeo, the grieving musician from Greek mythology, who follows his beloved wife Euridice to the depths of Hades in an attempt to bring her back from the dead, is totally convincing ‘… a quite staggering performance …’ (MusicWeb International)