Musical gift ideas: for opera mavens


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Opera is expensive to record, but the industry continues to fill in repertory gaps. Rachmaninoff’s “The Miserly Knight” gets an excellent performance on Chandos. Thomas Ades’ irresistible “The Tempest” features the original Covent Garden cast and the composer conducting (EMI Classics).

Mascagni’s verismo tear-jerker “L’Amico Fritz” is probably the last time we’ll hear Roberto Alagna and Angela Gheorghiu together now that they’ve angrily broken up.


Kaija Saariaho’s luminous “L’Amour de Loin” has been on DVD for a while, but a new CD set (Harmonia Mundi), with a different cast as conducted by Kent Nagano, presents it in a different light. Janacek’s bizarre sci-fi “The Excursions of Mr. Broucek” gets the long-awaited big-label treatment (DG).

Still, most of the opera action has moved to DVD. One of the season’s best is Patrice Chereau’s celebrated production of Janacek’s “From the House of the Dead” conducted by Pierre Boulez, in the same production that Salonen recently led at the Met (DG).

Former L.A. Opera music director Kent Nagano conducts a politically gripping production of Mussorgsky’s “Khovanshchina” from Munich (Medici Arts). Current L.A. Opera music director James Conlon is in the pit in Florence for a grittily effective version of Shostakovich’s “Lady Macbeth of Mitsensk” (ArtHaus Musik).

Another local, Peter Sellars, adds his own astonishing political take on Mozart’s incomplete “Zaide,” which he views in the context of present-day slave trade (Medici Arts).

And then there is Zubin Mehta. He is always good for a spectacle, and boy does he have one with “Turdandot” in an eye-popping top production by Chinese film director Chen Kaige taped in Valencia, Spain (Unitel Classics).

-- Mark Swed

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