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    MORE RECENT Opera Compact Discs

    Anne Sofie Von Otter "Lamenti"
    REVIEW

    Renee Fleming "Strauss Heroines"
    REVIEW

    G. Puccini "Boheme-Comp Opera"
    REVIEW

    Jose Cura "Verismo"
    REVIEW

    "In Paradisum: Faure and Durufle Requiems"
    Cecilia Bartoli, Bryn Terfel, Santa Cecilia Academy of Rome Orchestra; Myung-Whun Chung, conductor
    REVIEW
    The ritual farewell that is part of the Requiem's function has inspired its share of intensely dramatic scores, but Faure's composition stands out for its gentleness and peaceful vision. Chung understands that its pleasures are more subtle than lapel-grabbing in this sensitive account of the later, fully orchestrated version. It features stunning solo contributions by Cecilia Bartoli and Bryn Terfel. The coupling of the increasingly popular and beloved Durufle Requiem makes a perfect complement.

    "Monteverdi: Il Ritorno D'Ulisse in Patria"
    Gloria Banditelli, Maria Cristina Kiehr, et al.; Ensemble Elyma; Gabriel Garrido, conductor
    REVIEW
    Opera pioneer Claudio Monteverdi's late work "The Return of Ulysses" is a very different creature from the more famous "L'Orfeo," presenting instead of the lavish pageantry of the latter a real drama particularly involving in its scope. Gabriel Garrido brings this drama to life with an unusually colorful and imaginative continuo ensemble (including several lutes, regal, harp, and lyra-viol) and an expert cast of idiomatic Monteverdian singers.

    "Haydn: Lord Nelson Mass"
    Collegium Musicum; Richard Hickox, conductor
    REVIEW
    Haydn's Masses represent a significant and musically potent aspect of his legacy. In Richard Hickox's ongoing series of recordings for Chandos, these works can be heard with both period-instrument precision and dramatic verve. The "Lord Nelson Mass" in particular comes through as the supremely beautiful statement that it is, filled with tension, richly contrapuntal webbings, and ultimate affirmation.

    "The Face on the Barroom Floor"
    David Holloway, Leanne McGiffin, Barry McCauley; Central City Opera
    REVIEW
    Henry Mollicone's pocket opera (lasting about 25 minutes) about an explosive love triangle in the Old West, "The Face on the Barroom Floor," has shown remarkable staying power since it was commissioned in 1978. With its tight economy of scale and vivid story line, "Face" has become a frequently performed contemporary American opera. This is the work's first reissue on CD, and the cast of three singers, together with an ensemble of piano, cello, and flute, packs a memorable dramatic punch.

    "Vivaldi et al.: Music from the Venetian Ospedali"
    San Francisco Girls Chorus; Sharon Paul, conductor
    REVIEW
    Here's a stunning account of one of Vivaldi's greatest works (the Gloria), one that sounds fresh by going back to the practices of the composer's time. The Gloria, like the other works on this disc, was written for all-girl choruses in Venetian orphanages. The San Francisco Girls Chorus sings with a marvelous variety of expression and power: soon it becomes clear how the apparent limitations of such ensembles actually provided a source of inspiration to Vivaldi and other contemporaries.

    "Jean Catoire and Hildegard of Bingen: Extasia"
    Harrogate Ladies' College Chapel Choir; Harvey Brough, conductor
    REVIEW
    This fascinating fusion of ancient and modern involves a "collaboration" between 12th-century abbess Hildegard of Bingen and contemporary French composer Jean Catoire. Here music of austere, simple beauty reaches across the centuries and finds an echo in the searching spirituality of today's "holy minimalists."

    "Mozart: Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail"
    Ian Bostridge, Christine Schafer, et al.; Les Arts
    Florissants; William Christie, conductor
    REVIEW
    Here's another exciting period-instrument performance of the operatic Mozart, all beautifully held together by the tasteful and intelligent William Christie. In spite of the silly complications--and then-fashionable Turkish setting--of the libretto, Mozart displays his astonishing facility for characterizing nuance and situation through music. If you know only Mozart's later collaborations with Da Ponte, this is an opera you will likely find delightfully seductive.

    "Ockeghem: Missa Cuiusvis Toni"
    The Clerks' Group; Edward Wickham, conductor
    REVIEW
    Ockeghem was known as the great Renaissance puzzlemaster thanks to such works as the Missa Cuiusvis Toni ("Mass in whatever mode you'd like"). Depending on where the singers start, the score can be sung in different modes. In their account, the Gramophone Award-winning Clerks' Group--which has made a specialty of Ockeghem--gives us a vigorous and lively portrait of this highly influential master.

    "Glass: the CIVIL warS"
    Denyce Graves, Giuseppe Sabbatini, et al.; American
    Composers Orchestra; Dennis Russell Davies, conductor
    REVIEW
    Since his epoch-making "Einstein on the Beach," Philip Glass has redefined the face of contemporary musical theater. This premier recording of his contribution to Robert Wilson's gargantuan, multinational "the CIVIL warS" project shows Glass at his most "operatic." The score features lush voices and full-bodied orchestrations that bind together a number of haunting images inspired by Matthew Brady's photographs of the American Civil War.

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