"A Showcase for and a love letter to a century of amazing music" is how the creator of The Enchanted Island, Jeremy Sams, described this spectacular operatic pasticcio of music by Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau, Purcell and others. Premiered at the Metropolitan in New York on New Year's Eve 2011, it stars Joyce DiDonato, David Daniels, Danielle de Niese and Placido Domingo, and is conducted by William Christie.
Robert Shaw's reading of the B Minor Mass is, in one sense at least, just what one would expect: sober and purposeful, beautifully shaped (Shaw is a master architect), it centers on the chorus. Like all of Shaw's choruses, the Atlanta group has that trademark richness of body and blend, and it sings with utter unanimity as though it were one great voice. Shaw opts for marginally broader tempos than those found in most period-instrument performances but is nowhere near as glacial as some interpreters.
Il barbiere di Siviglia, ovvero La precauzione inutile (The Barber of Seville, or The Useless Precaution) is a comic opera by Giovanni Paisiello from a libretto by Giuseppe Petrosellini, even though his name is not identified on the score's title page. The opera was first performed on 26 September 1782 (old Russian calendar, 15 September) at the Imperial Court, Saint Petersburg. It was adapted from the play Le Barbier de Séville of Pierre Beaumarchais. The full title for the opera reads: "Il barbiere di Siviglia, ovvero La Precauzione inutile, dramma giocoso per musica tradotto liberamente dal francese, da rappresentarsi nel Teatro Imperiale del corte, l'anno 1782" (Trans: "The Barber of Seville, or The Useless Precaution, comical drama with music freely translated from the French, presented at the Imperial Court Theater, the year 1782")
Le astuzie femminili (Feminine wiles) is an dramma giocoso in four acts by Domenico Cimarosa with an Italian libretto by Giuseppe Palomba (it). The opera buffa premiered at the Teatro dei Fiorentini in Naples, Italy, on 26 August 1794. The opera was subsequently performed in Barcelona in 1795, Lisbon in 1797, Vienna in 1799, Paris in 1802, and London in 1804, remaining popular during the first quarter of the nineteenth century. Although not performed often today, the opera is still occasionally revived and a number of recordings have been made.
For listeners who prefer their Ravel lushly textured, luminously colored, and luxuriantly impressionistic, this four-disc set of his orchestral music performed by Charles Dutoit and the Orchestre Symphonique de Montréal will be just the thing. Recorded between 1981 and 1995 in warmly opulent Decca sound and including all the canonical works plus the two piano concerts and the opera L'Enfant et les sortiléges, Dutoit's approach to Ravel is decidedly sensual, even tactile. One can feel the excitement in the closing "Dance générale" of Daphnis et Chloé, sense the energy in La Valse, smell the sea in Une barque sur l'océan, and touch the dancer's flushed skin in Boléro. This is not to say that details are lost in Dutoit's performances – with the superlative playing of the Montreal orchestra, one can assuredly hear everything in the scores. Nor is this to say that Dutoit neglects the music's clear shapes and lucid forms – with a decisive beat and a clean technique, Dutoit's interpretations are models of clarity. But it is assuredly to assert that, for sheer aural beauty, these recordings cannot be beat. With the very virtuosic and very French playing of Pascal Rogé in the two piano concertos plus very characterful singing in L'Enfant, this set will be mandatory listening for all those who love Ravel.
'Dimitrij' was presented in several different versions during the composer's lifetime. It was premiered in 1882, with cuts and revisions occuring in the 1886 piano reduction. The work was further revised in 1894 (this version premiered in Prague in that year), however the final performances in Dvořák's lifetime (in Plzeň in 1904) consisted of the first version combined with the third act in the second version.