Welcome to a new show! WDBX Opera Overnight will be focused on opera and other similar forms of vocal classical music, giving equal weight to contemporary and historical performance, and will run every Monday morning from 2 to 7 am. The show will be cooperatively hosted by Doug Flummer and DaveX, and we are both quite excited at the potential that the program presents.
We open the show with a legendary performance of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart‘s Don Giovanni. Tonight’s recording is a 1959 edition featuring Eberhard Wächter (in the title role), Dame Joan Sutherland and Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, with the Philharmonia Orchestra under the conduction of Carlo Maria Giulini. It was premiered in Prague on October 29, 1787 to great acclaim (Mozart was quite popular in Prague), but when Mozart premiered it in Vienna in May of the next year, he had made additions, including the important aria Dalla sua Pace. The work has gone down in history as being one of the most important works of the opera genre; one database ranks Don Giovanni as the seventh most performed opera worldwide. Charles Gounod is quoted as having said that Don Giovanni is “a work without blemish, of uninterrupted perfection,” while Gustave Flaubert is said to have referred to the opera, along with Hamlet and the sea, as “the three finest things God has ever made.”
- Eberhard Wächter (1929-1992) – Austrian baritone, noted for his performances of Mozart, Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss. He participated in a number of opera recordings that are considered classics of the genre (several of which we shall hear on this show in upcoming broadcasts). After his retirement from the stage, he became manager of the Vienna Volksoper, and later the Vienna State Opera, a position he held at the time of his death.
- Joan Sutherland (1926 – 2010) – Australian dramatic coloratura soprano, considered one of the great sopranos of the 20th century (no less than Luciano Pavarotti called hers “the voice of the century”), who is considered partially responsible for a renaissance of the Italian “bel canto” repertoire. She combined her natural talents with impeccable technique, with exceedingly rare results. As with Wächter, she also participated in a number of classic opera recordings.
- Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (1916 – 2006) – German-born soprano who was also considered one of the notable sopranos of the 20th century. She was especially noted for her performances of Mozart, Strauss and Schubert, and was also noted for her recital work (not all stage performers extend their efforts to recitals) and performance of lieder (art songs; Schubert was noted for his lieder, as was Mozart and Brahms). After her 1979 retirement, she taught classes worldwide, including at Julliard.
- Luigi Alva (b. 1927) – Peruvian tenor noted for his purity of tone, elegance of phrasing and clarity of diction. He specialized in Mozart and Rossini roles. He retired from the stage in 1989, and now teaches singing at La Scala in Milan.
- Gottlob Frick (1906 – 1994) – German bass who was known for a wide variety of roles, ranging from Mozart to Wagner. His dark-toned bass was considered especially suited for Wagnerian bass roles.
- Giuseppe Taddei (1916 – 2010) – Italian baritone who specialized in Mozart and Verdi. He made his premiere in Rome in 1936, yet had such vocal longevity that he was finally able to make his premiere at the Met in 1985, at the age of 69, singing the title role in Falstaff.
- Graziella Sciutti (1927 – 2001) – Italian soprano, noted for her excellent vocal technique and acting ability. She specialized in perky, coquettish roles, and in her later years focused on teaching (noted contemporary soprano Anna Maria Panzarella was a student of hers) and production.
- Piero Cappuccilli (1926 – 2005) – Italian baritone, noted for his Verdi roles, who had excellent breath control and smooth legato. He had an excellent reputation as one of the finest Italian baritones of the 20th century.
After Don Giovanni, we next heard Georg Frideric Handel‘s Saul. Saul was not an opera, per se, but rather an dramatic oratorio in three acts, sung in English. Handel had been writing oratorios for years – his first oratorio, Il trionfo del tempo e del disinganno (translated: The Triumph of Time and Truth; HWV 46a) was written in 1707, and his first oratorio using a biblical subject was written the next year. But by the 1730s, living in England, he was seeing diminished financial returns from his Italian operas. His first response was to start replacing Italian soloists with English soloists. Eventually he replaced the entire form with one that required no staging or costumes. The first such oratorio was Alexander’s Feast, written in 1736. Tonight’s oratorio, Saul, was written two years later, and finds Handel experimenting with instrumentation, using trombones and kettle drums (“it will be most excessively noisy”), and is considered one of Handel’s great mature oratorios. It began a trend that would eventually lead to Handel’s composition of Messiah in 1742. The libretto was in fact written by Charles Jennens, who wrote five oratorio librettos for Handel, including Saul and Messiah.
- Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau (b. 1925) – Noted German lyric baritone and conductor, who is well known for his excellent recordings of lieder. He is also well represented in operatic recordings (he is referred to by some as one of the most recorded artists in the 20th century), and is well regarded for his performances in heroic baritone and bass-baritone roles.
- Anthony Rolfe Johnson (1940 – 2010) – English tenor who was noted for his wide range of early music performances. He is well-represented in recordings, some of which are slated for future WDBX Opera Overnight broadcasts. He died in 2010 from Alzheimer’s disease.
- Paul Esswood (b. 1942) – English counter-tenor, with 150 recordings to his credit. He is the founder of Pro Cantione Antiqua, an all-male a capella group that specializes in early music, and has recently established a reputation as a conductor.
- Júlia Várady (b. 1941) – German-Hungarian soprano who is married to Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau. She has sung a wide variety of operatic roles in multiple languages (including Russian).
- Elizabeth Gale
The orchestra was the Concentus Musicus Wien, an ensemble that specializes in baroque music, conducted by its founder Nikolaus Harnoncourt, a leader in the popular historical performance trend. We also heard the Vienna State Opera Concert Choir.