10 Opera Recordings to Get this Fall

Wednesday, September 14, 2011 - 12:00 PM

Performances are one thing, but recordings are universal. And from a long-awaited sophomore disc from René Pape to a Callas homage by Angela Gheorghiu, there's no shortage of discs to listen to this season (I'm already happily spinning away with Ildebrando D'Arcangelo's Mozart disc and a sumptuous debut from Aleksandra Kurzak). The hits are already underway, but here are 10 discs to keep watch for in the next few months.

Anna Netrebko, Live at the Metropolitan Opera (Deutsche Grammophon, Sept. 20)
Anna and the king of all opera houses have a symbiotic relationship most artists can only dream of. This collection of the diva's live appearances at the house (timed perfectly to her opening the season with Anna Bolena) balances new recordings from I Puritani and Les Contes d'Hoffmann, though even numbers that she's also done in-studio ring differently captured here in live performances. Here's hoping the Met does this sort of compilation more often.

Michael Spyres, A Fool for Love (Delos, Sept. 27)
Sweet-voiced American tenor Michael Spyres made waves this summer in Caramoor's Guillaume Tell, a rare stopover in the States from his European home base. His debut solo recording for Delos hints that this may change soonest—if he wants. In the meantime, we have a swoony collection of standards from works like La fille du regiment, Eugene Onegin, Don Giovanni and Der Rosenkavalier, offering up a calling card for a singer with boundless promise.

Karina Gauvin and Marie-Nicole Lemieux, Handel: Streams of Pleasure (Naïve, Sept. 27)
Oh, Canada! Whoever came up with the name for this CD may have been a little…well…naïve, but there will doubtlessly be endless pleasure and love coming from this holy trinity of Canadian sopranos Karina Gauvin and Marie-Nicole Lemieux and conductor Alan Curtis. Maybe it's something in the Tim Horton's, bagged milk, Peek Freans or poutine, but Gauvin and Lemieux go together like maple syrup and Canadian bacon and it's devilishly divine hearing them tear through the Handelian rep.

René Pape, Wagner (Deutsche Grammophon, Oct. 4)
Yes. Just... yes. We have been waiting since 2008 for René Pape to make a follow-up recital disc following the sexy and at times downright scary Gods, Kings and Demons. And our favorite tall drink of operatic water has finally delivered with a Wagnerian recital disc that includes selections from Tannhäuser, Parsifal, Lohengrin, Die Meistersinger and Die Walküre. If his Mariinsky recording of Parsifal last year is any indication, this is going to be a must for any Wagnerite.

Fasolis, Cencic, Nesi, Farnace (Virgin, Oct. 4)
Vivaldi's operas are getting equal attention from Naïve's eponymous edition and Virgin's equally solid recordings (their account of Bajazet, with Vivica Genaux, is one of the finest Vivaldi operas on recording). The album features Max Emanuel Cencic, a charming representative of the new wave of countertenors and a supporting cast that includes Mary-Ellen Nesi, Ruxandra Donose and Karina Gauvin. Altogether, you've got a recipe for fireworks. 

Järvi, Jaroussky, Goerne, Requiem (Virgin, Oct. 4)
And speaking of countertenors, Virgin has another intriguing release due on Oct. 4 with Philippe Jaroussky singing the soprano role in Fauré's Requiem, alongside Matthias Goerne and under the baton of the severely underrated Paavo Järvi. It sounds off-kilter, but the Pie Jesu works. Trust me.

Joseph Calleja, The Maltese Tenor (Decca, Oct. 18)
Calleja got an early start on recordings (he made his first for Decca at age 26) and in the last seven years we've been able to see him grow and mature on disc and in the opera house. At first glance, the track listing for The Maltese Tenor looks like a debut release, a way of presenting several facets of the instrument at once. But, like Netrebko's live compilation disc this season, hearing Calleja now running the gamut of the romantic rep is a tantalizing thought.

Simone Kermes, Viva! (Archiv, Oct. 24)
Okay, Simone Kermes is crazy beyond all expletives (see below). But she channels that crazy into some pretty insane 17th-century arias and 18th-century operas, turning out performances as energetic and vibrant and kinetically kinky as her firebrand red hair. I'm especially eager to hear her all-Vivaldi album for Archiv after last year's Colori d'Amore, a collection of airs by Antonio's contemporaries including Scarlatti and Caldara. After all, you can't spell "Vivaldi" without "Viva."

Patricia Petibon, Melancolia (Deutsche-Grammophon, Oct. 25)
Something about redheaded sopranos just makes for a great disc. Patricia Petibon has been rocking the soundwaves with turns in Carmina Burana and Italian Baroque arias, and now goes into the more a seductive range of Latin and Iberian art song. There's also a world premiere recording of a song cycle by Nicolas Bacri and enough zarzuela to make you forget about a certain other Latin-infused opera disc that came out this year to much less positive results (I won't name names).

Angela Gheorghiu, Homage to Maria Callas (EMI, Nov. 7)
Let's get it out of the way: Gheorghiu singing Medea is a hot mess. That being said, in other tracks on this EMI collection, paying homage to La Divina—a Callas compilation is also due out from the label this season—show a voice in top form and full of the dramatic pathos you expect from Gheorghiu's Greek-American idol. "Pleurez mes yeux" from Massenet's Le Cid is a particular treat, and Angie's Violetta never gets old (though she still manages to die).

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