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Thread: The Talk Classical Most Recommended Opera CDs Project

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Default The Talk Classical Most Recommended Opera CDs Project

    OK, folks, as promised, now that the list of TC Most Recommended Operas got ready (we got as far as 272), we'll proceed with the next project.

    It will be a long and ambitious one.

    The ultimate goal is to provide a list of Most Recommended audio and video recordings (the latter, when available) of all 272 operas, and to have hyperlinks that will connect these lists together so that by clicking on the name of an opera, we'd be easily taken to a post with the TC Most Recommended recordings for that opera. Once more operas get into the In Depth project (only La Traviata so far; if I'm not mistaken, I believe that we have established that Die Tote Stadt is next, and then Les Troyens), these threads will be hyperlinked to the list as well.

    Our esteemed member TxllxT will be coordinating the CD project. He happens to be about to travel to Italy for 3 weeks and will be back in mid-October, but wanted us to get going anyway (I did tell him that we could wait for him, but he insisted that we should get started). However, as the coordinator, I'd say that whatever recordings we start to nominate and vote for, would not be considered to have yielded final results until TxllxT comes back and is able to cast his votes as well.

    We can use this time to test the waters... see what difficulties we bump into... see how to best proceed, etc.

    Because see, the DVD part is not that difficult - there aren't that many different versions for each operas, except for a few operas. Most operas have below 10 different DVD versions.

    CD recordings, on the other hand, are counted by the dozens and dozens for most famous operas. So, we may end up with many nominations and no overlap to be able to say that a given recording is the one that is most recommended by our members.

    We already have a list of the most recommended DVDs and blu-ray discs for our Top 100 operas (and the list has been revised once already, and is scheduled to be revised annually).

    Therefore, we'll need to start by picking the most recommended CDs for these Top 100.

    Then, when we get to the operas listed 101-272, we'll be able to simultaneously nominate CDs and DVD-Blu-ray versions (when available) for each opera.

    Maybe we won't be able to easily find a 1st and 2nd Most Recommended CD version like we did for the operas on visual media. Maybe we'll need to select, say, 3 or 5 recommended CDs for each opera, something like this, and not necessarily rank these 3 or 5 in a given order.

    I don't know yet how to best proceed, because I don't know how many different versions people will usually nominate. I'm no authority in opera CDs... only a fraction of my opera collection is made of CDs, since I privilege so much the visual media. I'll rarely be able to offer nominations. But I know that others here such as TxllxT, schigolch, Ballo, Yashin, Superhorn, etc., do know a lot about opera CDs, and I'm hoping that these and other knowledgeable members will make of this project a successful one.

    Anyway, while TxllxT is away, we can start to test the waters by nominating CDs that are recommended by our members for the first opera in our list, Der Ring des Nibelungen.

    Since the Ring is a special case by being a set of four operas, we may need to give it special consideration by picking two categories of CDs:

    1. What is in your opinion the best recording of the complete Ring in one box set? (Please mention conductor, year of recording, orchestra, and recording company - e.g., EMI, DG, etc. - no bootlegs, please)

    2. What are in your opinion the best individual recordings for each one of the four Ring operas? (Again, please mention conductor, year of recording, orchestra, and recording company)

    So, the effort is tentatively open. Make your nominations, suggest methodology, whatever. We'll see how this shapes up, and once TxllxT is back, we'll start to have official results and official recommendations ready.

    Remember, just like in all similar efforts here on TC, we don't presume to be able to say which recording is the "best" one - which is a subjective and variable concept anyway. All we *can* say is which recordings are "most recommended" (as in, more often recommended) by our members.

    Just like we did for the DVD effort, in order to cast a valid vote there are only two requirements:
    1 - The voter must be a TC member in good standing (obviously, and self-regulating because only members in good standing have posting privileges)
    2 - The voter must have listened to the CD, and liked it. This is to prevent people from voting for what they "think" is the 'best' version out of reading about it in guides and encyclopedias. There are numerous sources out there, some of them quite well informed, such as books and guides authored by professional music scholars. That's not what we're trying to accomplish here. What we're interested in, is in establishing what our Talk Classical members like and recommend.

    So, if you've only listened to *one* CD of a given opera but you liked it and would recommend it to a friend, then feel free to vote for it, even though several dozens of other recordings exist and you don't know them.

    However, don't vote for something that you *didn't* like just because it's the only one you know.

    It's pretty simple, folks. If you can tell yourself that a given CD is 'recommended' out of having listened to it and liked it, do feel free to vote for it. Otherwise, don't.
    Last edited by Almaviva; Sep-25-2011 at 17:20.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    I don't have enough knowledge about Ring recordings, to be able to help on this one. Of course, I've listened to a few, but again I'm missing so many it wouldn't be a really informed choice.

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    As I understand the plan, although again, I wasn't around for the earlier rounds of it, we should feel free to vote if we have limited knowledge. That, if we listened to a CD or DVD and loved it, we shouldn't feel inhibited about voting for it. It might not be the objective 'best', (not that such a thing usually exists,), but it'd serve to guide someone else.

    So, believing that, I'm going to vote for the Solti Ring--that is, the Ring of Hans Hotter, Wolfgang Windgassen, Birgit Nilsson, etc.

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    Senior Member Aksel's Avatar
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    The Solti Ring. Recorded sometime in the 50's, around when Kirsten Flagstad died; Decca; Wiener Philharmoniker.
    Solti has the sexiest brass, always a must when conducting Wagner. And Birgit Nilsson doesn't hurt either.

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    Senior Member jflatter's Avatar
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    Solti is certainly going to be a popular choice. I would have nominated it myself had this project been a few years ago as well for the total package. Where my opinion changed was when Testament released the live Keilberth Ring from Bayreuth 1955. This was in fact the first stereo Ring. Keilberth conducts a wonderfully dramatic cycle. Furthermore you get many of the 'Golden Age' singers at their peak rather than at the end of their careers such as you do on Solti's and Bohm's sets. Hotter and Windgassen are in much better voice throughout this cycle. You also have Ramon Vinay who I personally prefer as Siegmund to James King. Finally Astrid Varnay as Brunnhilde is personally for me my favourite in this role but of course could not argue with anyone who preferred Nilsson, Flagstad, Modl etc. There are of course historical recordings that will also be popular amongst hardcore Wagner lovers such as Furtwangler's efforts, Knappertsbusch and the exciting effort from Krauss which has a similar cast to Keilberth. So personally I am with Keilberth.

    In terms of recordings for each of the individual operas I would do as follows:

    Das Rheingold: I think that this is really the one where I do prefer Solti. George London stands out as Wotan and Flagstad as Fricka is not bad either. The Rheingold of Keilberth's has the worst sound quality in that particular set but it is still a very good effort.

    Die Walkure: IMHO Solti's version is very weak and there are lots of better recordings of this particular piece. Personally I feel it is the stongest of Karajan's cycle. There is also a wonderful stand alone recording by Leinsdorf in 1962 with the LSO. For those seeking historical Walkure's there is another wonderful recording by Leinsdorf from the Met on 6 December 1941 featuring Melchior and Varnay (making her debut) at the Walsung twins, Helen Traubel as Brunnhilde, Schorr as Wotan. There is also another Keilberth recording from the same year as complete cycle but with a slightly different cast with Modl as Brunnhilde and Varnay as Sieglinde. Some think this is actually better than the first released version. However I would side with the first Keilberth version.

    Siegfried: Again I would side with Keilberth as Windgassen is really at his best. Although I do have a liking for Bohm's effort.

    Gotterdammerung: Many people will side with Solti as they will be fond of Nilsson's remarkable effort and Frick is a great Hagan. Although I would side again with Keilberth as Varnay is so emotional that I am almost in tears every time I hear the end of this great monument of Western art.

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by AnaMendoza View Post
    As I understand the plan, although again, I wasn't around for the earlier rounds of it, we should feel free to vote if we have limited knowledge. That, if we listened to a CD or DVD and loved it, we shouldn't feel inhibited about voting for it. It might not be the objective 'best', (not that such a thing usually exists,), but it'd serve to guide someone else.

    So, believing that, I'm going to vote for the Solti Ring--that is, the Ring of Hans Hotter, Wolfgang Windgassen, Birgit Nilsson, etc.
    Absolutely, that's the spirit, I should have inserted a paragraph about this in the opening post, I'll do it, thanks.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member sospiro's Avatar
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    Do you think we ought to re-name this sub forum "Opera on CD, DVD and Blu-ray"? I know we know but it's confusing for any new people.
    Ann

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    Senior Member Aksel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sospiro View Post
    Do you think we ought to re-name this sub forum "Opera on CD, DVD and Blu-ray"? I know we know but it's confusing for any new people.
    Please do. It would be rather practical.

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by schigolch View Post
    I don't have enough knowledge about Ring recordings, to be able to help on this one. Of course, I've listened to a few, but again I'm missing so many it wouldn't be a really informed choice.
    schigolch, your idea of this effort would set the bar too high. If everybody here only felt free to vote if they knew all or most of the existing recorded versions of an opera, we'd barely collect enough votes and the effort would fail. Please read the added paragraphs that I've just inserted at the end of the opening post above, which further clarifies the goal of this effort. The spirit of this effort is to just indicate what *our* members like and recommend, not necessarily which versions are the authoritative 'best'. The bottom line is, it doesn't need to be *a really informed choice* otherwise we wouldn't get anywhere. Certain operas have 250 CD recordings or more. How would we ever be able to recommend a couple of recordings out of personally liking them, if the requirements included being really informed about most existing versions in order to be able to contribute? Short of top professionals in operatic music, I'd assume that only a handful of human beings on the planet have listened to all 250+ recordings of a given opera.

    In my book, any CD recommendation coming from you would qualify as a really informed choice, given your superior understanding of what constitutes good operatic singing and good conducting/orchestral playing. When you refrain from giving us your recommendation, you deprive our members of your highly respected expertise. So please feel free to contribute each time you feel that a given recording is worth a recommendation, regardless of having listened to most of the competition or not. Knowing you and how valuable your opinion is, I'm quite sure that whatever you recommend is worth a listen.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sospiro View Post
    Do you think we ought to re-name this sub forum "Opera on CD, DVD and Blu-ray"? I know we know but it's confusing for any new people.
    Yes, I do.
    At the time the collective decision was to exclude CD from the title of the sub-forum, given that the overwhelming majority of contributions had DVDs and blu-rays reviews, and the lonely CD thread was quite small.

    I think that with the growth of the CD thread which is now approaching the number of posts that made us split the Opera forum in two when the DVD thread got to similar numbers, it is more than justified now to rename the sub-forum, especially since we'll be trying to come up with CD recommendations for no less than 272 operas!

    Only Krummhorn has the editing powers to do this, though.

    Maybe we should open a poll, get to know whether the majority of members would like the sub-forum renamed, and then bring the results to Krummhorn's attention.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member sospiro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    I think that with the growth of the CD thread which is now approaching the number of posts that made us split the Opera forum in two when the DVD thread got to similar numbers, it is more than justified now to rename the sub-forum, especially since we'll be trying to come up with CD recommendations for no less than 272 operas!
    Then you can make a start trawling through the 'Opera on CD' thread to get all our recommendations like Herkku did with the DVD thread.

    I really miss him, and Dark Angel.

    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    Only Krummhorn has the editing powers to do this, though.

    Maybe we should open a poll, get to know whether the majority of members would like the sub-forum renamed, and then bring the results to Krummhorn's attention.
    Okey dokes
    Ann

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    Senior Member TxllxT's Avatar
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    I'm not gone yet, but preparations are in full sway (5 travel guides to read, get the TomTom ready-programmed, etc. etc.) so my TC attendance is getting lower. Just for info: we are heading at the end of the week for the eastside of the Venice Laguna on the Adriatic coast to a new appartment with seaview & swimmingpool. We will 'do' Venice, Triëst and the region inbetween. Perhaps some of you have must-see suggestions....

    As to Der Ring des Nibelungen: my overall choice would be Solti for the sake of the voices, but Karajan comes close with his much stronger orchestral discipline, that never fails to infatuate me completely. When I devote myself to listening to such lenghty pieces of music, I want perfection and nothing but perfection. Solti's grip on the score often slackens; too often to my taste. But again, Solti has the voices...
    Taking Der Ring apart into 4 operas:
    Das Rheingold My heart is torn apart between Karajan's obsessive orchestral headbanging and Solti's better casting of the voices.
    Die Walküre Leinsdorf 1962 without doubt.
    Siegfried Solti for the overall sound quality. (I don't like Siegfried that much, I must confess).
    Götterdämmerung Karajan who has this sinister brooding & gripping ability of transporting the listener into a pre- (or post-)cultural world that is falling apart.

    Personally I tend to make a division between CDs with high soundquality and CDs with historical soundquality. Therefore I would put Fürtwangler and Keilberth in a different category. We ought to discuss this though...

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    I'm so jealous TxllxT & hope you have a fabulous time.

    Will you have time to see an opera?
    Ann

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    Senior Member TxllxT's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sospiro View Post
    I'm so jealous TxllxT & hope you have a fabulous time.

    Will you have time to see an opera?
    It will be our first time to Venice, so I think that we will spend most of the time with letting the marvel come over us. But who knows....
    Last edited by TxllxT; Sep-25-2011 at 20:40.

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