opera haz anger
December 7, 2008 1:07 PM   Subscribe

what are your favorite, and "rawest", recordings of the great operas?

i love the magic flute, the requim, etc - much of mozart's stuff, and his contemporaries. i'm looking for recordings that are more "raw", more angry - think glenn gould doing bach, for instance. does that exist in opera? any recommendations would be much appreciated!
posted by yonation to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It's not opera, but if you like powerful raw massed choral, you have to go for totalitarian nationalistic music.

The 1944 version of the Soviet Anthem, sung in '44 by the Red Army Ensemble. When they sing "Soyuz nerushimy respublik svobodnykh / Splotila naveki velikaya Rus'!" ... " they've just fought back the Hun from the gates of Moscow, will soon raze (and yes, infamously rape) their way across the burnt-out Groß Deutsches Reich. When they sing "Soviet flag, people's flag / Let it lead from victory to victory!" they'll soon literally follow that flag through hand-to-hand fighting across the bombed out streets and alleys of a defeated Berlin. And when they shout "Stalin brought us up — on loyalty to the people, / He inspired us to labor and to heroism!" they'd better shout it loud it, or it's the Gulag for them.

The 1977 version is pretty good too, and the Paul Robeson English language version, performed as WWII alliance turns into McCarthyite Cold War, has its own flair. Disgusting murderous regime, but while the ideologies are repugnant, the music is raw.

Other anthems are similarly powerful when sung by nationalists; though Britain and Commonwealth Nations tend to be more are more sentimental than raw. You can find more national anthems here.

There's also a 1944, Furtwangler conducted, recorded in Berlin during the war Beethoven's Ninth with a very impassioned choral Ode to Joy.

And of course there's always Wagner.
posted by orthogonality at 2:08 PM on December 7, 2008

If you are seeking unconventional interpretations of great operas, then director Peter Sellars is your man.

But if you're looking for a singer's remarkable operatic interpretation, I'd recommend Maria Callas' 1960 recording of Bellini's "Norma." This was La Divina's signature role, but by 1960 her voice was in decline. Ever the performer, she compensated the weakened money notes and vibrato with powerful dynamism and drama.
posted by terranova at 2:57 PM on December 7, 2008

I've got a smallish collection of mostly Italian and French operas, and I can't think of any that are particularly angry. Most of them have several angry scenes, but not the entire thing.

For pure, raw emotion I think you have to go with Puccini's Tosca. IMHO, the best example is the 1953 Callas, di Stefano, and Gobbi Tosca, conducted by de Sabata. Absolutely astounding.

I'm also rather partial to Saint-Saëns' Samson et Dalila. Even though the recording comes across as scratchy at times, I love the Gorr, Vickers, and Blanc Samson et Dalila. I get chills when Samson tells the Israelites to cast off their chains (Israël! romps ta chaîne!)
posted by sbutler at 3:09 PM on December 7, 2008

Response by poster: these are all good so far - but to me precise, i'm looking for rawer recordings of traditional operas (ie the ones i listed by mozart). basically, different orchestras and whatnot render operas differently (hence the glenn gould example; the way he plays bach is substantially differnt than the way others do it). for studying and finals purposes, i'm interested in different renditions of the classics in ways that appeal to the more raw nature. but.. keep listing whatever you think fits the original question too!
posted by yonation at 4:16 PM on December 7, 2008

One of the first opera recordings I loved was this Rigoletto conducted by Richard Bonynge. That's down to fantastic baritone Sherrill Milnes as Rigoletto: I've heard better-sung Rigolettos, but none better-acted. (Having the young, full-blooded Pavarotti and Sutherland on board doesn't hurt either.)

This opera is so noir it verges on the goth: Rigoletto is a hunchbacked court jester who works for the handsome, lecherous, amoral Duke of Mantua. All the courtiers hate him because he's the Duke's favourite; he detests them and (secretly) loathes the Duke. The one thing Rigoletto loves is his beautiful, innocent daughter Gilda -- innocent, that is, until the Duke gets his hands on her. Cue vengeful fury, mayhem and death.

Have fun!
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:08 AM on December 8, 2008

Harnoncourt's Marriage of Figaro from Salzburg 2006 is out on DVD and it's a very gloomy, strange version. The director staged it essentially as a tragedy, and you can see and hear the angriest Figaro ever -- he's seen as an impotent cuckold, mocked and pitied by Susanna, not exactly your average pov on this character. Furtwangler's Don Giovanni with Tito Gobbi (Salzburg again, I think) is another example of a dark, dark vision, where Don Giovanni is not an amiable seducer but a rapist and a monster. Falstaff conducted by Giulini is really sad, not the comedy you're usually given. The last Medea that Callas ever recorded, I think, from 1961, under Schippers, is another example of hair-raising raw emotion. Musically, it's hard to get scarier, more devilish stuff than the Callas-De Sabata Macbeth. In general you can count on De Sabata for very unsettling dark versions of works you know, a wartime Mozart Requiem of his comes to mind (sound quality, since it's old stuff, may vary). Hope that helps.
posted by matteo at 1:00 PM on December 10, 2008

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