This week’s picks bring us opera’s dark side and… death.
Bryn Terfel - Bad Boys (Deutsche Grammophon)
It’s the nature of opera that tenors are the heartthrobs and baritones are the scoundrels. A new CD by Welsh bass-baritone Bryn Terfel called Bad Boys shows exactly why. It puts Terfel’s rich voice through a rogue’s gallery of villains, creeps, and in two instances, the devil himself. Bryn Terfel is a gentleman in real life but he really sinks his teeth into the portrayal of Baron Scarpia, the corrupt chief of police in Puccini’s Tosca. Other characters on Bryn Terfel’s album Bad Boys include Gershwin's drug-dealer Sportin' Life, the nihilistic Sweeney Todd, and Kurt Weill’s Mack the Knife. - Picked by Brian Wise [Amazon]
Ensemble Klang - O Death – Oscar Bettison (Ensemble Klang CDs)
Our final pick sports the cheery title, O Death. It’s a 7-part meditation on – well, you know. And it comes from Oscar Bettison, who, though born in England, lives and works here in the States and draws heavily on American folk ballads, like the Appalachian tune called “O Death.” The bluesy smears in the horns alternate with raucous rhythmic passages. Bettison’s score calls for horns, piano, electric guitar, banjo, tuned wrenches, and other oddities. It’s not always pretty, but then death rarely is. Still, there’s an unconventional lyricism and a menacing beauty in this odd ensemble. – Picked by John Schaefer