Shell Shock – Nicholas Lens

Global official release double cd on Friday, October 14, 2016 from the world premiere live recording with Royal Opera House La Monnaie.

(Universal 481247-3) © Mute Ltd

Shell Shock
A Requiem of War

opera by Nicholas Lens
libretto, Nick Cave
world premiere performances October 24 trough November 2, 2014
commissioned by Peter de Caluwe, Royal Opera House La Monnaie

Cast

stage director & choreography, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui
stage designer, Eugenio Swarcer
costume designer, Khanh Le Thanh
conductor, Koen Kessels
chorus master, Martino Faggiani
soprano, Claron McFadden
mezzo-soprano, Sara Fulgoni
counter, Gerald Thompson
tenor, Ed Lyon
bass/baritone, Mark Steven Doss
boys soprano, Gabriel Kuti – Theo Lally – Gabriel Crozier
choir & orchestra Royal Opera House La Monnaie

Mefistofele – Boito

HR Musik live recording with Oper Frankfurt

Cast

Mark S. Doss
Alberto Cupido
Annalisa Raspagliosi
Michela Remor
Diane Pilcher
Yvonne Hettegger
Hans-Jürgan Lazar
Michael McCown
Paolo Carignani (conductor)

Synopsis

Act 1
Scene 1, Easter Sunday

The aged Dr. Faust and his pupil Wagner are watching the Easter celebrations in the main square in Frankfurt. Faust senses that they are being followed by a mysterious friar, about whom he senses something evil. Wagner dismisses his master’s feelings of unease and as darkness falls they return to Faust’s home

Scene 2, The Pact

Faust is in his study, deep in contemplation. His thoughts are disturbed in dramatic fashion by the sudden appearance of the sinister friar, whom he now recognizes as a manifestation of the Devil (Mefistofele). Far from being terrified, Faust is intrigued and enters into a discussion with Mefistofele culminating in an agreement by which he will give his soul to the devil on his death in return for worldly bliss for the remainder of his life.

Act 2
Scene 1, The Garden

Restored to his youth, Faust has infatuated Margareta, an unsophisticated village girl. She is unable to resist his seductive charms and agrees to drug her mother with a sleeping draught and meet him for a night of passion. Meanwhile Mefistofele amuses himself with Martha, another of the village girls.

Scene 2, The Witches Sabbath

Mefistofele has carried Faust away to witness a Witches’ Sabbath on the Brocken mountain. The devil mounts his throne and proclaims his contempt for the World and all its worthless inhabitants. As the orgy reaches its climax Faust sees a vision of Margherita, apparently in chains and with her throat cut. Mefistofele reassures him that the vision was a false illusion.

Act 3
Faust’s vision had been true. Margareta lies in a dismal cell, her mind in a state of confusion and despair. She has been imprisoned for poisoning her mother with the sleeping draught supplied by Faust and for drowning the baby she had borne him. Faust begs Mefistofele to help them escape together. They enter the cell and at first Margareta does not recognize her rescuers. Her joy at being reunited with Faust turns to horror when she sees Mefistofele and recognizes that he is the Devil. Refusing to succumb to further evil, Margareta begs for divine forgiveness. She collapses to the cell floor as the Celestial choir proclaims her redemption.

Act 4
Mefistofele has now transported Faust back in time to Ancient Greece. Helen of Troy and her followers are enjoying the luxurious and exotic surroundings on the banks of a magnificent river. Faust, attired more splendidly than ever, is easily able to win the heart of the beautiful princess. In a passionate outpouring they declare their undying love and devotion to each other.

Epilogue
Back in his study Faust, once more an old man, reflects that neither in the world of reality or of illusion was he able to find the perfect experience he craved. He feels that the end of his life is close, but desperate for his final victory, Mefistofele urges him to embark on more exotic adventures. For a moment Faust hesitates, but suddenly seizing his Bible he cries out for God’s forgiveness. Mefistofele has been thwarted; he disappears back into the ground as Faust dies and the Celestial choir once more sings of ultimate redemption.

Semele – Handel

Grammy Award Winner for Best Opera Recording (1993)

Deutsche Grammophon recording with English Chamber Orchestra and Ambrosian Opera Chorus

Cast

Michael Chance (Countertenor)
John Aler (Tenor)
Sylvia McNair (Soprano),
Neil Mackie (Tenor)
Samuel Ramey (Bass)
Marilyn Horne (Mezzo Soprano)
Mark S. Doss (Bass)
Kathleen Battle (Soprano)
John Nelson (Conductor)

Synopsis

Act 1
In the temple of Juno, Cadmus, King of Thebes, is preparing for the marriage of his daughter Semele to Athamas, Prince of Boeotia. However, the bride is hesitant for she is secretly in love with Jupiter. She calls on the god to help her in her predicament.

Semele’s sister, Ino, is also distressed by the impending marriage but for different reasons: she herself is in love with Athamas. Jupiter has heard Semele’s plea: his thunderbolts make it clear that in spite of Juno’s approval, he violently opposes Semele’s marriage. All flee in terror.

Ino attempts to comfort Athamas, but in so doing she reveals her love for him. Cadmus interrupts their confusion and describes the extraordinary event he has just witnessed: as they fled the temple Semele was suddenly carried off by an eagle. Cadmus’s courtiers bring the happy news that it was in fact Jupiter who abducted the young girl. As the act ends, Semele is seen enjoying her role as the god’s new mistress.

Act 2
Iris, messager of the Gods, reports to Juno the whereabouts of Semele’s newly built, dragon-guarded palace. Enraged, Juno swears to destroy her rival; but first she decides to set out and find Somnus, the god of sleep, in order to enlist his help in achieving her revenge.

Waking in her bedroom, Semele languidly awaits the return of her lover. Jupiter appears and reassures her of his love. Semele tells him that she is uneasy when she compares her mortality to his godliness, causing Jupiter to be alarmed by her ambition.

Rather than telling her that she can never attain immortality, he decides to divert her. His plans include bringing her sister Ino from Earth. Semele’s fears are calmed for the moment and when Ino appears the two sisters extol the music of the spheres.

Act 3
Somnus is sleeping peacefully in his cave when Juno and Iris arrive. It is only when Juno speaks the name of the nymph Pasithea that Somnus awakes. In exchange for the nymph, Somnus agrees to help Juno. He is even prepared to lend her his magic, sleep-inducing wand, which she will need to elude the dragons that guard Semele’s palace.

Juno, now disguised as Ino, appears to Semele. She first presents her ‘sister’ with a magic mirror which causes Semele instantly to fall in love with her own image. Juno then craftily advises the young woman how to obtain the immortality she desires: Jupiter must be tricked into making love to her in his true god-like form, rather than in his mortal disguise. Semele is delighted and thanks her profusely.

Jupiter returns, inflamed with desire. Semele rejects him until he swears to give her whatever she wants. Continuing to follow Juno’s advice, she asks him to appear in all his godly splendour. The god is horrified and desperately warns her of the mortal danger she is in. Semele refuses to accept anything less than the fulfilment of her wish and leaves Jupiter to lament his part in her inevitable destruction.

Juno gloats over her triumph, while Semele realizes too late the consequences of her ambition. As she approaches the godhead, the flames of Jupiter’s power burn her and she dies.

The people lament Semele’s death. Ino describes a dream in which Hermes revealed Jupiter’s wish for her and Athamas to wed. Apollo himself now appears and announces that Bacchus, god of wine, will be born phoenix-like from Semele’s ashes. The people are left to celebrate this unexpected piece of good news.

Amistad – Davis

New World Records Recording with Lyric Opera of Chicago Orchestra and Chorus

Cast

Thomas Young
Mark S. Doss
Stephen West
Florence Quivar
Mark Baker
Dennis Russell Davies, conductor

Composed by Anthony Davis
Libretto by Thulani Davis

A look into the work

“Amistad is an opera that was ten years in the making. Thulani and I first discussed the idea of making an opera on the Amistad Rebellion in 1986, after the premiere of our opera X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X. We were drawn to the drama of the story, a successful uprising of captives on a slave ship, and the implications of the Amistad incident in an understanding of ourselves and the American experience. Through the Amistad, we could revisit the story of the Middle Passage, the contradictions implicit in the ethos of America, and also explore the emergence of the African-American as a cultural entity. Amistad is my most ambitious work to date and gave me the opportunity to expand upon what I learned from my previous operas as well as the chance to explore new musical areas.”
– Anthony Davis

The music of Anthony Davis (b. 1951) embodies an intercultural approach, drawing not only upon traditional and current African-American sources, but upon Javanese gamelan, American Minimalism, and the European and American avant-garde. Davis is best known for his operas. “[X: The Life and Times of Malcolm X] has brought new life to America’s conservative operatic scene,” enthused Andrew Porter in The New Yorker, “it is not just a stirring and well-fashioned opera-that already is much-but one whose music adds a new, individual voice to those previously heard in our opera houses.” Amistad, Davis’s fourth, is an opera in two acts with full orchestra, double chorus, and an integrated jazz ensemble with trap drums that drives its motoric rhythmic flow. In many ways, Amistad revisits aspects of Davis’s previous operas, X and Tania, but in a form that exhibits maximum focus and a tightened compositional practice. The musical language is marked by constant motion and kaleidoscopic permutation of the same elements, including a four-note ending cadence that appears constantly, but in ever-shifting guises. This recording is drawn from Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 1997 world-premiere performances.

Florencia In the Amazon – Catán

Albany Records CD recording of the Houston Grand Opera

Cast

Patricia Schuman (Florencia)
Mark S. Doss (Riolobo)
Ana Maria Martinez (Rosalba)
Suzanna Guzmán (Paula)
Hector Vasquez (Alvaro)
Chad Shelton (Arcadio)
Oren Gradus (Captain)
Patrick Summers (conductor)

Synopsis

Act 1
The title character, Florencia Grimaldi, is a famous opera soprano returning to her homeland to sing at the opera house in Manaus with the hope that her performance will attract her lover Cristóbal, a butterfly hunter who has disappeared into the jungle. She boards the steamboat El Dorado for a trip down the Amazon River, along with several passengers who are traveling to hear her sing. The passengers, however, are unaware of her identity. One of them, Rosalba, is a journalist planning to write a book about Grimaldi and hoping to interview her. In preparation, Rosalba has compiled a notebook for two years with information about the diva.

Florencia spends her time on the boat brooding about Cristóbal. She does not interact much with the other passengers initially, and the thread connecting the subplots in the story is provided by the ship’s mate, Ríolobo, who also is the focus for the elements of magical realism. Ríolobo functions as a narrator, one of the characters, and the intermediary between reality and the mystical world of the river.

Meanwhile, Rosalba is beginning to fall in love with the steamboat captain’s nephew, Arcadio, who rescues her notebook when it falls overboard. The two play a game of cards with Paula and Álvaro, a bickering couple who are also looking forward to Grimaldi’s performance. After the game, a storm develops and Álvaro saves the boat but is thrown overboard. With the captain knocked unconscious and Ríolobo having disappeared, Arcadio takes the helm but the ship runs aground. Ríolobo reappears in the form of a river spirit and the storm stops after he calls upon the river gods.

Act 2
The characters recover from the storm. Florencia seems to feel Cristóbal’s presence and is unsure whether she is alive or dead. Rosalba, focused on her objective, resists the attraction she and Arcadio feel for each other. Meanwhile, Paula, in spite of their constant fighting, recognizes that she still loves Álvaro and mourns his loss. Again Ríolobo appeals to the river and Álvaro is suddenly returned to the ship.

In the storm, Rosalba’s precious notebook has been lost again, and when it is recovered again it has been ruined by the water. Distraught, Rosalba argues with Florencia about the meaning and value of its contents when suddenly she discovers that the woman she has been arguing with is the very singer she has been longing to interview. Realizing how Florencia draws inspiration from love, Rosalba decides to give in to her feelings for Arcadio.

The boat arrives in Manaus, but a cholera outbreak keeps the passengers quarantined aboard the ship. Florencia despairs of a reunion with Cristóbal, but in the end she is magically transformed into a butterfly, to represent her spirit going off to be reunited with her lover.