Saturday, January 28, 2012

Awards 2011 - Opera

Donizetti: Linda di Chamounix
Eglise Gutiérrez et al; Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden/Mark Elder
Opera Rara

Mark Elder conducted last year's Opera winner, the Hallé's Götterdämmerung, and he returns with an opera that, according to Joel Kasow in Fanfare, "has far too long been relegated to minor status". Also in Fanfare, Henry Fogel notes that "This is a very tricky opera to get right, because it has elements of serious and comic operas blended into a form known as opera semiseria. If either element is blown out of proportion or minimized, the opera loses its balance... Elder is just about perfect". Fogel describes lead soprano Eglise Gutiérrez's work as "a truly sensational performance in every way". In BBC Music Magazine, Michael Tanner tells us that "All the singers are up to their roles, and the playing of the orchestra is bold; even the most conventional passages sweep you along... It's hard to imagine this set ever being replaced, or even rivalled".

Martin: Der Sturm
Robert Holl et al; Netherlands Radio Philharmonic/Thierry Fischer

Bartók: Bluebeard's Castle
Laszló Polgár; Ildikó Komlósi; Budapest Festival Orchestra/Iván Fischer
Channel Classics

Rossini: Ermione
Carmen Giannattasio et al; London Philharmonic Orchestra/David Parry
Opera Rara

Beethoven: Fidelio
Nina Stemme et al; Lucerne Festival Orchestra/Claudio Abbado

A second appearance for Opera Rara in this category, and Hyperion scores a success with a rare venture into opera. DG is, for the third year in a row, the sole major label presence, but then the majors do have those massive back catalogues. The Bartók is another one of those reissues-that-kind-of-aren't-reissues, having first been released by Philips. Perhaps the most intriguing thing about this category is an absence: René Jacobs's recording of The Magic Flute got the highest bonus scores from foreign-language press - which is to say, continental Europe adored it - but neither IRR nor Classics Today was impressed. Of course this brings up the fact that if I had a slightly different way of calculating scores, it might have even won the Award. But it feels "right" that it should place just outside the top 5, which is essentially what these Awards are trying to reflect - a general feeling about how the year's reviews went, rather than a scientific description.

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