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itywltmt
December 27th, 2013, 03:03 PM
For my last OTF post of the year, I thought I would share some recordings I acquired over the last year or so, which may be of interest if you exchange gifts at New Year’s – or at Orthodox Christmas… Some of these have been discussed in posts of the same nature I share in other places, but some have never been discussed before. Hope you will enjoy!


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Humperdinck: Hänsel und Gretel
[eMusic (http://www.emusic.com/listen/#/album/staatskapelle-dresden-otmar-suitner-renate-krahmer-theo-adam-peter-schreier-renate-hoff-ingeborg-springer-dresdner-kreuzchor-gisela-schroter/humperdinck-hansel-und-gretel/13708153/)]
This is the re-issue of a 1971 analog studio recording by Otmar Suitner and the Staatskapelle Dresden with Gisela Schröter and Renate Hoff in the title roles. For my money, I like the Karajan recording I featured earlier this month better, but this is still a very tight recording with good, but not great, singers. Note the interesting casting twist here – the witch is sung by a tenor (Peter Schreier).


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Dom Quichotte... Cantates & concertos comiques
[eMusic (http://www.emusic.com/album/dominique-visse-cafe-zimmermann/dom-quichotte-cantates-concertos-comiques/11632041/)]

Located on Saint-Catherine street in Leipzig, Gottfried Zimmermann’s coffee house would host weekly concerts by the Collegium Musicum back in the 18th century. The ensemble, founded by Georg Philipp Telemann and conducted by J.S. Bach between 1729 and 1739, performed secular cantatas and instrumental music for an audience of experienced music-lovers: duet or trio sonatas, pieces for solo instruments, concertos for violin, harpsichord, oboe, etc. It was in this spirit that the Café Zimmermann Ensemble was formed in 1998 to explore the orchestral music of that era. The ensemble is featured here in some French baroque secular cantatas and concertos, featuring a quite light-hearted Don Quichotte cantata. This is a different way of approaching a HIP performance.


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The Saint of Bleecker Street
[eMusic (http://www.emusic.com/album/gian-carlo-menotti/the-saint-of-bleecker-street/11857886/)]

The next couple of selections are from American-Italian composer Gian-Carlo Menotti, most remembered this time of year for his Christmas-inspired tale Amahl and the Night Visitors. Here, the subject matter is darker – set in New-York’s Little Italy, this story is about a woman who is blessed with the stigmata, and who is torn between her love of God, her love for her brother, the sometimes fanatical behaviour of her neighbours and an (undisclosed) medical condition which will tragically shorten her life. It is Menotti in the tradition of The Consul and not in the tradition of Amahl… This is a re-issue of an original cast recording, conducted by Thoimas Schippers (no doubt, with the supervision of Menotti himself).


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Menotti: The Medium - The Telephone
[eMusic (http://www.emusic.com/album/emanuel-balaban/menotti-the-medium-the-telephone/12469942/)]

Sometimes, the line between opera and musicals can be blurred (think of West Side Story or of Show Boat, for example), but there is no mistaking Gian-Carlo Menotti’s one-act operas The Medium and The Telephone as musical comedies. They are, in the tradition of Puccini’s Il Trittico, sefl-contained stage works, one with a tragic ending the other with a light-hearted one. These short operas do have a Broadway connection: this double bill opened on Broadway at the Ethel Barrymore Theater, on 1 May 1947, and ran for over 200 performances. According to what I have read, the shorter Telephone was the curtain raiser, and then the longer Medium completed the double-bill. The performances here feature the Broadway casts and orchestra, supervised by Menotti and under the musical supervision of Emanuel Balaban. As most Naxos historic releases, great care was taken in restoring the analog master, and the singers shine, especially the deep contralto voice of Mary Powers.

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Notre-Dame de Paris
[Torrent (http://kat.ph/notre-dame-de-paris-t551943.html)]

This is an oldie, but a goodie. Around the time of Disney’s animated feature on the subject, French-Canadian lyricist Luc Plamondon (who’d collaborated with the late Michel Berger on another musical comedy of some renown Starmania), teams up with Richard Cocciente in setting to words and music the tragic Victor Hugo novel. There are some real zingers in this musical, and some great singing by artists from both sides of the Pond, including Daniel Lavoie who sings a very convincing Frollo. This is the “concept album” which foreshadowed the staging of the musical.

As a final note, I wanted to let you know that I may be tinkering with the frequency and content of OTF in the new year, as I juggle family and blogging. Don’t be surprised if my OTF opera selections slow down to about one a month, with either a repeat or a same-day issue of one of my Podcast montages, as I try and keep the need for “original material” down while I compose with home front needs and the launch of my French blog.

I know I’m not as active on this site as I was originally (just so many hours in a day…), but I hope folks still appreciate the posts and content!

Happy New Year!