Warwick Arnold

Warwick Arnold

Articles by Warwick Arnold

September 29, 2017
CD and Other Review

Review: Stravaganza D’Amore! (Pygmalion/Raphaël Pichon)

Ten years ago in Paris Raphaël Pichon founded Pygmalion, a superb ensemble of period specialists, and since then they have steadily built a fine discography; their Bach Masses on the Alpha label have garnered raves as have their Rameau, but this latest release should raise their stock considerably. In order to bring to life the genesis of opera, Pichon has contrived the sort of spectacle that the Medici court was famed for at the end of the 16th century. We all know the story of the Florentine Camerata, though few examples of their experiments are extant, but we do have the intermedi of Peri, Malvezzi, Marenzio and others along with the fragments of operas by Peri, Caccini and Gagliano. Recreating a grand wedding festivity, two mini-operas on the stories of Apollo and Orpheus are bookended by celebrations of love and marriage. From the tenor’s opening cry of Stravaganza D’amore, joined by choirs, sackbuts, cornetti and a lavish continuo with every imaginable plucked instrument, I was hooked and listened through both discs entranced. The soloists are splendid. Sophie Junker produces a gorgeous sound; her O che felice giorno by Caccini, an early highlight. Renato Dolcini raises a smile with Brunelli’s witty…

August 11, 2017
CD and Other Review

Review: Puccini: Turandot (Nina Stemme, Aleksandrs Antonenko, La Scala/Chailly)

In 2002, Riccardo Chailly conducted the first Turandot to use the new completion by Luciano Berio at the Amsterdam Muziektheater directed by Nikolaus Lehnhoff. 15 years later, the same team reunited to mount it at La Scala and commit it to video. Alfano’s completion sought to continue the spectacle but, in its rush to wrap up the story, is dramatically implausible – poor Liú is soon forgotten and love conquers all. Berio’s alternative is low key and pensive, its modernist touches may jar the ear but it’s more respectful than Alfano’s gauche reprise of “that” tune. Lehnhoff’s production has some curiosities but I “get” his neo-Brechtian-meets-Commedia-dell’arte aesthetic and there are some arresting images. Stemme is splendid as the cruel princess, her warm tone evincing a humanity behind the ice; her Wagnerian credentials allow her to ride the maelstrom from the pit in thrilling fashion. Antonenko does well to match her, though his sound has tightened since his fine 2008 Salzburg Otello. Maria Agrest is a lovely full-toned Liú, and the Milan chorus is superb whether delicately awestruck or baying for blood. Topping all is the brilliance of Chailly’s conducting – this could well be the finest account of the score…