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Next month’s release highlights from the Naxos Music Group include outstanding operas by Charles Gounod, Franco Faccio and Carl Maria von Weber, flute concertos by Leopold Hofmann, Ludwig von Beethoven’s ballet The Creatures of Prometheus in its rarely heard version for piano, and the four Roman plays by William Shakespeare. Klaus Heymann, founding chairman of Naxos, puts the spotlight on his personal picks.
Naxos 2.110632 [DVD]
This release comes strongly recommended, both in terms of rarity value and creative content. Gounod’s opera La Nonne sanglante (‘The Bleeding Nun’) is a Gothic melodrama featuring warring families, two lovers, and the vengeful spectre of a nun. Gounod’s music fuses romanticism with the supernatural on the grandest scale. With only one audio recording and no other video recordings of the work available, I’m confident that this DVD/Blu-ray release will attract enormous interest. The work is barely known: the second of Gounod’s twelve operas, it was withdrawn after only eleven performances in 1854. This fine co-production between the Paris Opéra Comique and François Roussillon et Associés in association with Naxos was staged in 2018 as part of the celebrations to mark the bicentenary of Gounod’s birth.

Also available on Blu-ray (NBD0097V)

Naxos 8.660454-55
Franco Faccio’s Amleto combined striking music with a radical development in Italian opera at its premiere in 1865, namely an enhanced relationship between text and music that heralded the verismo operas of the years ahead. The impact of this new approach is self-evident in the great set-piece scenes: Hamlet’s soliloquy Essere o non essere! (To be or not to be), Ophelia’s Mad Scene, and the fight scenes. This first ever audio recording was made at a production staged at the 2016 Bregenz Festival; the work was described by Gramophone as a ‘major operatic rediscovery’; there are no competing versions. The excellent cast is headed by Czech tenor Pavle ÄŒernoch in the title role, and the performance is conducted by Paolo Carignani. Both artists are regular guests at the world’s leading opera houses.

Naxos 8.573967
There’s still much to be done to re-establish the neglected works of Leopold Hofmann, a contemporary of Haydn and one of the most prominent Viennese composers of his generation. But I’m happy that we can now tick one more box with this third and final volume of his flute concertos, works that radiate superlative elegance; most of the recordings in the collection are world premieres. Hofmann’s writing for flute has a lightness, grace and agility perfectly suited to the instrument’s strengths, all beautifully conveyed by soloist Uwe Grodd. It’s hardly surprising that musicians and audiences find these concertos so beguiling. They have lost none of their magic today and deserve a place in everyone’s collection. Vol. 1 can be found on 8.554747, and Vol. 2 on 8.554748.

Naxos 8.573974
Beethoven’s sublime score for the ballet The Creatures of Prometheus was a commission from the dancer and choreographer Salvatore Viganò. While it’s justly popular in orchestral recordings, Beethoven’s version for piano solo presented here is virtually unknown on disc and will therefore be a release of great interest to a wide audience. Steinway Artist Warren Lee is already represented in the Naxos catalogue by several recordings, both as soloist and accompanist. His programme of piano miniatures by Bernstein and Tan Dun (9.70252) was well received, not least by the American Record Guide: ‘Warren Lee is a first-rate artist, and this program…is exquisite in every respect ... [he] responds imaginatively to the music, and he has a masterly range of colors.’

Capriccio C5373
While many music lovers are well acquainted with Weber’s opera Der Freischütz, few are familiar with his Euryanthe. Considering the musical quality of the opera, this neglect hardly seems fitting. Euryanthe was Weber’s most ambitious project, a ground-breaking work that is truly deserving of more attention. In his critical appreciation of Euryanthe, Robert Schumann described the work as a ‘chain of glittering jewels from the beginning to the end. All witty and ingenious.’ Constantin Trinks, a regular guest conductor with opera houses around the world, here directs a fine cast of soloists headed by bass Stefan Cerny; the Arnold Schoenberg Choir, one of Austria’s most versatile ensembles; and the renowned ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra.

Opus Arte OA1295BD [4 DVDs]
I’m delighted to spotlight this special release from the Royal Shakespeare Company that brings together for the first time four of their critically acclaimed productions: the box set includes Antony and Cleopatra, Coriolanus, Julius Caesar and Titus Andronicus, known collectively as The Roman Plays. Filmed throughout 2017 in Stratford-upon-Avon, they prove that some of Shakespeare’s lesser performed works should still be held in high regard, with their power to hold a mirror to contemporary society and their universal themes. The critical reception for the productions was excellent: ‘Terrific…outstanding’ (The Mail on Sunday on Antony and Cleopatra); ‘Strongly performed modern reframing of one of Shakespeare’s most political plays’ (The Stage on Coriolanus); ‘Everything about this production feels right’ (The Guardian on Julius Caesar); ‘There’s fantastic work, throughout, from Troughton [in the title role].’ (The Daily Telegraph on Titus)

Also available on 4 Blu-rays (OABD7262BD)

Browse through the Opera & Operetta segment catalogue with the full list of recordings, including superb performances from top companies and festivals like the Deutsche Oper Berlin, Dutch National Opera, Oper Stuttgart, Opera Lafayette, Rossini in Wildbad, Teatro Regio Torino and Victorian Opera, among others.

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