Two more ways to enjoy opera
Opera Without Words
I recall all those old LPs (now many of them on CD) of abridged scores of "Carmen" and "La Boheme" or the best known works of Wagner or Verdi played without words by full orchestras or small ensembles or just piano. Only the words are missing.
My favorites became reduced transcriptions of the scores of Mozart operas for combinations of winds with just one or two strings. This technique was developed around 1760 and was called Harmoniemusik and gave those who could not afford tickets to full operas a chance to hear the latest hits or even play them themselves.
An excellent example is found on a Claves CD titled "Music from Rossini's Wilhelm Tell Arranged for Harmonie by Wenzel Sedlak 1776-1851" and played by the Consortium Classicum. The original opera was a very long affair and is noted today mostly for the last part of its overture (thanks to "The Lone Ranger" radio show). Here we have 64 minutes of the score (the overture, some ballet music, and several arias and ensembles), made even more delightful by the perky Harmoniemusik style.
Strangely, the players are shown in the program notes but nowhere identified. The notes are very interesting.
Another similar approach is taken on a Gallo CD, "Roaring Dramas." Here we have the Albek Duo—twins Ambra (violin, viola) and Fiona (piano)—playing highlights from "Tosca," "Cavalleria Rusticana," "Pagliacci," and "La Boheme" as they are arranged by Alessandro Lucchetti (b.1958).
While not every selection is "roaring," the "drama' is surely emphasized. It took awhile for me to come to terms with the string/keyboard combination. But Puccini in any form is enchanting and many will find this CD most enjoyable listening.
I had high hopes for the video "Music—A Journey For Life: Riccardo Chailly" on the Accentus Music label. Chailly is a most respected Italian conductor, long associated with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra, and he is highly regarded in the art of symphonic conducting.
But alas, the 64-minute "portrait" by Paul Smaczny shows its subject to be a very nice person, a sincere musician, a wonderful family member, and a man who knows how to get from his orchestra what he wishes. But what he has to say about the latter has been said by every other conductor in interviews; and after a while my expectations dropped considerably.
Then there is a 40-minute performance of Grieg's "Piano Concerto in A Minor," in which pianist Lars Vogt sets the keyboard on fire and an encore of a Chopin Nocturne. I can, at least, recommend the Grieg.
TALK TO US
If you'd like to leave a comment (or a tip or a question) about this story with the editors, please email us. We also welcome letters to the editor for publication; you can do that by filling out our letters form and submitting it to the newsroom.