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Our motto: "Critical thinking in the cheap seats." Unbiased, honest classical music and opera opinions, occasional obituaries and classical news reporting, since 2007. All written content © 2016 by Paul J. Pelkonen. For more about Superconductor, visit this link. For advertising rates, click this link. Follow us on Facebook.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Superconductor 2012 Gift Guide

Lock the Door and Hit the Floor! 
(And by that I mean, Merry X-MAS!)
by Paul J. Pelkonen
Robot Santa trapped in ice. 'Cos it's been that kind of year.
Image from Futurama © Matt Groening/30th Century Fox Television.

'Twas less than a week before Christmas,
And all 'cross the Net,
Shoppers were realizing,
that their lists were not set.

In other words (and with apologies to Clement Clark Moore, we proudly present our annual guide to the best in new recordings and boxed sets for that hard-to-please classical music lover on your lis(z)t this year.

New Complete Operas:

Don Giovanni (Deutsche Grammophon, 2012)
This live recording from Baden-Baden offers the opportunity to hear an all-star cast of young singers, drawn from the current generation of stars. Diana Damrau, Joyce Di Donato, Ildebrando d'Arcangelo and Rolando Villazon spangle this energetic set, the first of a planned cycle of major Mozart operas on Deutsche Grammophon.

Tristan und Isolde (PentaTone, 2012)
The newest and best of Marek Janowski's half-completed survey of the ten mature Wagner operas, made in a live setting with the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra. The reason to hear this set is soprano Nina Stemme, whose powerhouse Isolde veers from seething rage to passionate ecstasy. Mr. Janowski has the pulse of this unique score in a crystal-clear recording that benefits from the presence of a live audience.

The Bartered Bride (harmonia mundi, 2012)
The BBC Symphony Orchestra offers this energetic recording of Smetana's comedy, a work which none other than Gustav Mahler elevated to a repertory standard. The use of the original language preserves much of the opera's humor and rhythm, helped by an authentic Czech cast.

Boxed Sets and Reissues:

The Other Wagner (EMI 2012)
The most interesting Wagner reissues so far (the composer's centennial is next year, so we're just getting started) is this three-disc set from EMI collecting recordings of the composer's early Faust Overture, the Wesendonck Lieder, and even his Symphony. Or you can opt for the Great Opera Box  B008YKRRJU from the same label which includes rare operatic gems like Rienzi along with a reissue of the Wolfgang Sawallisch Ring.

Solti: The Strauss Operas (Decca, 2012)
Decca has issued six big boxed sets celebrating Sir Georg Solti's 100th birthday and the fiery Hungarian's legacy as an opera conductor. The best of these is the
Strauss box, with the six complete operas which he recorded for Decca in the course of a forty-year career with the label. Salome, Elektra, Der Rosenkavalier, Ariadne Auf Naxos and Arabella are included, but the real gem is this powerful, note-complete Die Frau Ohne Schatten with Hildegard Behrens and Plácido Domingo at their best.

The Massenet Edition (Decca, 2012)
Jules Massenet was the last in a great tradition of French opera composers, combining the lyric grace of Gounod with a gift for showing the pathos of suffering heroines. This enormous budget box from Decca spans decades of Massenet recordings, bringing rarely heard operas like Esclarmonde and Thaïs to stand next to better known works like Manon. Singers include Renée Fleming, Dame Joan Sutherland and Alfredo Kraus.

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Critical Thinking in the Cheap Seats

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Since 2007, Superconductor has grown from an occasional concert or CD review to a near-daily publication covering classical music, opera and the arts in and around NYC, with excursions to Boston, Philadelphia, and upstate NY. I am a freelance writer living and working in Brooklyn NY. And no, I'm not a conductor.