I have a personal criterion for judging sopranos in modern recordings of any role that Maria Callas excelled in: If you can beat Callas, you are gold. And despite her achievements in bel canto roles (most of which I find uninteresting, either dramatically or as music), I still think that Callas’s greatest gift to the world of opera, particularly opera in Italy, was to point out to the entire country and the world how much more there was in roles like Elvira in I Vespri Siciliani, Cheribini’s Medea, Iphigénie in this opera, and yes, even Lady Macbeth than had been previously thought.
Riccardo Muti leads the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, men of the Chicago Symphony Chorus and bass soloist Alexey Tikhomirov in this poignant performance of Shostakovich’s Symphony No. 13, Op. 113 (Babi Yar), recorded live in September 2018.
For his production of “ Don Giovanni“ at the Vienna International Festival (Wiener Festwochen), Roberto de Simone does not want to follow in the footsteps of other directors who modernise the design and add something that did not exist in Mozart’s original. He sends Don Giovanni on a journey through time to revisit the centuries that the character lived through starting with the original costume of the 16th century and ending in the 19th century. Don Giovanni changes garments but is still the same legend and archetype. Something similar can be said for his accompanying antagonist, Donna Elvira. De Simone succeeds in sticking to the flow of the plot and to the music, in which the soloists and Riccardo Muti’s state opera orchestra have a crucial part. Muti spiritedly conducts with a sense for style and gives the singers room to shine. In the baroque ambiance of the theatre on the river Wien, we experience a “Don Giovanni“ in a unique unity of theatrical pretence and top-rate musical performance.
Maria Guleghina impresses strongly. To my mind she is Puccini’s ideal ‘tart with a heart for gold’. She has control and sensitivity and she acts everybody off the stage. She’s coy (but with just a hint of being street-wise) in Act I, outrageously flighty and avaricious in Act II, and, at last, contrite in Act IV. Just watch her as she taunts Geronte di Ravoir (a far too gentlemanly Luigi Roni) in Act II and the way she disports herself on the floor of the stage to seduce Des Grieux back to her charms.
Così fan tutte is the third most-frequently performed work at the festival after Le nozze di Figaro and Die Zauberflöte. This DVD provides a closer look at a classical staging from the Salzburg Festival in the series of important opera productions seen at the festival in the last decades. Riccardo Muti had made a sensational Salzburg début in 1971 and this Così fan tutte was his first Mozart opera at the festival. It was acclaimed by both the general public and international critics, who were virtually unanimous in their praise of the aesthetic quality of the production. Muti was praised for his authoritative approach to Mozart’s music, while the remarkably homogeneous team of international soloists was equally applauded. The singers form an admirably cohesive ensemble and all of them are outstanding Mozart singers.
TDK presents an impressive staging of one of Rossini’s opera masterpieces. This production, staged by La Scala Milan is conducted by Riccardo Muti. Moïse et Pharaon - Rossini’s re-adaptation of the story of Moses in Egypt - emphasizes the dramatic moments of the biblical account beautifully and also demonstrates the composer‘s mastery of the French tradition: solos and choral work are superb compositions, the duets are expressive and touching. Including an extensive ballet scene at the beginning of Act III and featuring a preeminent international cast of singer-actors – Erwin Schrott, Barbara Frittoli, Sonia Ganassi - this recording brings a Rossini experience of the highest rank onto the screen.