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Thread: The new Martha Recording (Weigle 2016) just released

          
   
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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    The new Martha Recording (Weigle 2016) just released



    This is not so much a review as a first impression. But after listeing to Weigle four times yesterday and then all six today, I have to say it is very hard to pick a favorite, but I think I am still leaning towards Wallberg (Popp and Jerusalem). There is no better Last Rose (sound quality and quality of singing combined ) that that of Lucia Popp. But I like them all, even the ones with cuts such as the grievous (to those who love the alto voice) cut of Nancy's huntress aria in Schuller and Martin's sets (top row of image below). As for the newly released Weigle set, I think my favorite aspect is the deep rich voice of Nancy. Perhaps I need more time to let it soak in, but I am not as impressed with it as I initially was upon discovering it and first listened to the clips. Some of my favorite parts (such as the Plumkett/Nancy love duet near the end) don't sound as beautiful in Weigle as they do in other sets. Nonetheless, it is a very good set and well worth having. The three best sound quality sets are Weigle (2016), Wallberg (1977), and Heger (1969). The other three are decent though, but more reflective of the recording technology of their times: Martin (1960), Gierster (1955), and Schuller (1944).

    Total times are typed on each set in this image. Conductors for the sets below are:
    Row 1: Schuller (1944), Martin (1960)
    Row 2: Weigle (2016), Wallberg (1977)
    Row 3: Gierster (1955), Heger (1969)


    As I get more familiar with this new recording, I can post further thoughts below, and so can others who may pick it up and have something to say about it.
    "Ah,non credea mirarti si presto estinto, o fiore." --Bellini, La Sonnambula (also written on his tomb).

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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    NAXOS has posted a couple of the tracks on You Tube.



    "Ah,non credea mirarti si presto estinto, o fiore." --Bellini, La Sonnambula (also written on his tomb).

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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    For some reason this new Martha is not clicking with me. The orchestra is magnificently conducted and sounds phenominal, but the singing seem to be lacking something. I think that the singers maybe are trying too hard and it shows, or they are just not emotionally involved--that is to say they have not become the characters they are portraying. Lionel seems rather unengaged. Lady Harriett's voice is too dark for this role IMO, albeit a wonderful voice otherwise.

    I think if one listens to this one and the Popp set side by side they will see how much more natural the set with Popp is. On the other hand, maybe it is just me. Maybe I had set my expectations way too high on this set.

    I should add that in the beginning of the first video clip in above post, the singer very nicely does the intended name flub.
    "Ah,non credea mirarti si presto estinto, o fiore." --Bellini, La Sonnambula (also written on his tomb).

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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Florestan View Post
    For some reason this new Martha is not clicking with me. The orchestra is magnificently conducted and sounds phenominal, but the singing seem to be lacking something. I think that the singers maybe are trying too hard and it shows, or they are just not emotionally involved--that is to say they have not become the characters they are portraying. Lionel seems rather unengaged. Lady Harriett's voice is too dark for this role IMO, albeit a wonderful voice otherwise.

    I think if one listens to this one and the Popp set side by side they will see how much more natural the set with Popp is. On the other hand, maybe it is just me. Maybe I had set my expectations way too high on this set.

    I should add that in the beginning of the first video clip in above post, the singer very nicely does the intended name flub.
    Let me just add that with further listening I think the bolded comments above are too harsh. It is a good recording and a pleasure to listen to, just somehow I think I had set my expectations way too high. I do think that the Lucia Popp/ Siegfried Jerusalem set will remain my favorite of all Martha recordings though.

    The whole thing is on You Tube track by track, just search for this:

    Flotow Martha Weigle

    then scroll down until you see the yellow covers (NAXOS posted it).

    As for my expectations, well they were formed by this absolutely wonderful and unbeatable production:


    This I think the earlier comments were colored by the voices being different and not my idealized voices vs what I said above:
    "I think that the singers maybe are trying too hard and it shows, or they are just not emotionally involved--that is to say they have not become the characters they are portraying."

    I think the problem here is I don't care for the tenor's voice. The one in the video above is so much better to my ear, not that this "Lionel seems rather unengaged."

    She definitely is a heavier soprano and perhaps could sing a lot of mezzo. But probably not true that
    "Lady Harriett's voice is too dark for this role."
    "Ah,non credea mirarti si presto estinto, o fiore." --Bellini, La Sonnambula (also written on his tomb).

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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Here might be another problem, if not the main problem, with this recording (from JPC translated):

    ...the story of bored Lady Harriet Durham and her friend Nancy, who, as Martha and Juliet, head to Richmond's grocery store to find not only employment, but true love as well.
    And this (and photos) from the article I previously quoted:

    Plunkett in a kilt, choristers in hard hats, and two of the principals driving around in a car.




    So how can they put out a serious sound recording of a traditional Martha when they are acting out a goof ball Regie version? I think a major problem may be that the goofiness of this production comes through in the sound recording just enough to detract from the true beauty of this opera. As I stated initially, some parts just don't seem as beautiful in this production as in the other recordings. This is probably the first recording that was not made from a traditional performance.
    "Ah,non credea mirarti si presto estinto, o fiore." --Bellini, La Sonnambula (also written on his tomb).

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    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    I'm certainly no fan of Regietheater productions, but I have to admit that Martha may be problematic to stage for modern audiences. I don't know if a very traditional, straightforward approach would work anymore, especially since the character of Lady Harriet really isn't very sympathetic.

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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAuer View Post
    I'm certainly no fan of Regietheater productions, but I have to admit that Martha may be problematic to stage for modern audiences. I don't know if a very traditional, straightforward approach would work anymore, especially since the character of Lady Harriet really isn't very sympathetic.
    A sad situation if people can't understand a historic society and its different standards. That sort of thing results in people from the past being judged by today's standards by people who had they lived back in that day might have done the very thing they are judging.
    "Ah,non credea mirarti si presto estinto, o fiore." --Bellini, La Sonnambula (also written on his tomb).

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    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    To play the devil's advocate, I'm not sure I'd consider Martha to be a "historical" opera. It's not an accurate reflection of living conditions in 18th century Great Britain, but rather something imagined by a German librettist based on something imagined by a French playwright! Not that it was supposed to be a true picture of British society; it was intended as a comedy, but what folks in the 19th century found amusing may not always strike modern audiences as particularly funny. And that's why I believe this opera poses certain problems for stage directors.

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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAuer View Post
    To play the devil's advocate, I'm not sure I'd consider Martha to be a "historical" opera. It's not an accurate reflection of living conditions in 18th century Great Britain, but rather something imagined by a German librettist based on something imagined by a French playwright! Not that it was supposed to be a true picture of British society; it was intended as a comedy, but what folks in the 19th century found amusing may not always strike modern audiences as particularly funny. And that's why I believe this opera poses certain problems for stage directors.
    I guess for the postmoderns of our present society, the social milieu of Flotow's Martha, which is based on real historic social divisions based on birth, could be difficult to swallow. The opera is very much pivoting on the idea of a favored class of better people as shown by how Lionel is perceived. A few snippets from this synopsis will illustrate:

    [Lionel] evidently was of a gentler birth.
    Lionel, who bore himself with innate grace and refinement under his peasant garb, had immediately attracted "Martha,"
    Of course, there was the difference in station between Lady Harriet and Lionel. But he had the touch of innate breeding that made her at times forget that he was a peasant while she was a lady of title.
    So, this birth difference is so strong that even being raised in a farm family, Lionel's higher breeding shows through.

    On the other hand, is Martha much different from Rossini's La Cenerentola? Both are comic fairy tales. Both use historic birth-related class distinctions.

    Still I don't see the difficulty of staging a traditional Martha. Here is one from 2002 (with terrible singing). I don't have more recent examples but surely traditional productions are still being done.
    "Ah,non credea mirarti si presto estinto, o fiore." --Bellini, La Sonnambula (also written on his tomb).

  13. #10
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Found another review of the new Martha CD set (here it is translated to English).

    In the staging of Katharina Thoma the story remained neatly intact. She released the piece as a nineteenth-century romcom, in the feel-good style of films like Pretty Woman and You've got mail . The whole breathed the vitality of a modern musical and managed to generate sentimental emotion at the appropriate moments. A comical note was the deliberately rather strikingly displayed gender changes during the Richmond Fair.
    The bold part explains something I noticed on the CD. Molly Pitt's voice sounded like it was from a Monty Python skit with a man singing a woman's part in a false higher voice. So now I know.

    Google Translate says the original language of the review is in Dutch (Link to review in original language)). So, if anyone here knows Dutch, could you provide a better translation of the bold text line in above quote. Here is that line in Dutch:
    Een komische noot vormden de opzettelijk nogal opvallend weergegeven genderwisselingen tijdens de Richmond Fair.

    Even more, would you translate these lines from the review about the tenor who sings Lionel:
    De Amerikaanse tenor AJ Glueckert deed als Lionel niet onder voor zijn tegenspeelster Bengtsson. Zijn vertolking van ‘Ach, so fromm’ zorgde bij mij voor heuse ontroering.
    "Ah,non credea mirarti si presto estinto, o fiore." --Bellini, La Sonnambula (also written on his tomb).

  14. #11
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Florestan View Post
    The bold part explains something I noticed on the CD. Molly Pitt's voice sounded like it was from a Monty Python skit with a man singing a woman's part in a false higher voice. So now I know.
    They say knowledge is power. So I took action! Fixed it. Now the Molly Pitt from the Lucia Popp set is in place of this man pretending to sing like a woman. Much nicer and it is seamless. Nobody would guess from just listening to it. Thank you Audacity music editor!
    "Ah,non credea mirarti si presto estinto, o fiore." --Bellini, La Sonnambula (also written on his tomb).

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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    From the current issue of Opernglas (https://www.opernglas.de/) as quoted by MAuer ( in this post). Finally, after seeing nothing but glowing reviews, my reservations with this set are vindicated. Every underlined part in the quote below is pretty much my impressions and I have listened to this set at least a dozen times.

    I noted Lady Harriet is a dark soprano and while I like that type of soprano, I don't find it the best fit for Lady Harriet. But I did not feel she sang as beautifully as the Harriets in the other sets as noted here she was not quite making the arias with the greatest of ease. Lionel's voice did not appeal to me. I don't know if I would call it nasal, but it seems to lack a richness that is present with Wunderlich and Rüdiger Wohlers (in both German television productions).

    The orchestral part is where this recording really shines. I would rate this the best Martha on CD orchestrally, but for singing and for overall production I am sticking with the Lucia Popp/Siegfried Jerusalem set.


    - Flotow: Martha
    Conductor: Sebastian Weigle
    Cast: Maria Bengtsson, Katharina Magiera, Barnaby Rea, A. J. Glueckert, Björn Bürger, et. al.
    Oehms Classics OC972 (2 CDs)
    Since its world premiere in November, 1847, at Vienna’s Kärntnertor Theater, Flotow’s opera has enjoyed undiminished popularity. One really detects the audience’s enthusiasm while listening to this 2016 live performance from the Frankfurt Opera . . . and a lot of stage noise and extraneous sounds from time to time, as well. (Actually performances – the disc is a combination of “takes” from several performances from that October.) Maria Bengtsson sings the capricious Lady Harriet Durham with a dark soprano, but lacks the ease that’s indispensable for the character’s sometimes very demanding arias. As Her Ladyship’s confidante Nancy, mezzo Katharina Magiera makes a more favorable impression, and is enchanting in the third act hunting scene with her saucy clowning. Barnaby Rea is entirely credible vocally (if not accent-free) as Sir Tristan Mickleford, the middle-aged prig who is cajoled by the bored ladies into joining their masquerade at the Richmond Fair. A. J. Glueckert (Lyonel) has a nasal tenor that sounded somewhat strained at the time of the recording, but Björn Bürger is vocally and dramatically winning as Lyonel’s foster brother Plunkett. In the beginning, the five are lacking spontaneity and vitality in the ensemble scenes, but fortunately, things improve over the course of the performance. Sebastian Weigle elicits wonderfully organic sound from the Frankfurt Opera and Museum Orchestra. The sparkling, imaginative motifs and folksong-like melodies with some British color are superbly drawn out of the score, and the singers receive accomplished support from the pit
    .
    "Ah,non credea mirarti si presto estinto, o fiore." --Bellini, La Sonnambula (also written on his tomb).

  16. #13
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Live performance that the new Martha CD set was recorded from. Cheerleaders (and male?) in Flotow's Martha? If DVD is issued--NOT! I just saved $30 if a DVD is issued.

    Source page.
    "Ah,non credea mirarti si presto estinto, o fiore." --Bellini, La Sonnambula (also written on his tomb).

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    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    Ugh.

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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    I finally put up a review on Amazon for this set. What do you think?

    www.amazon.com/dp/B07BN4RKZ1/
    "Ah,non credea mirarti si presto estinto, o fiore." --Bellini, La Sonnambula (also written on his tomb).

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