Best Operas Ever is a new podcast from Saturday Afternoon at the Opera on CBC Radio 2. In each instalment, host Ben Heppner talks to one of the major opera figures of our time about a particular opera recording that they especially love. You'll find each episode here on cbcmusic.ca, and you can tune in to CBC Radio 2 at 1 p.m. any Saturday from now until the end of November to hear these classic recordings in their entirety — along with extended conversations with our esteemed guests.
Ben Heppner talks to Vancouver Opera's maestro about a classic recording by Darlington's hero: Carlos Kleiber.
Vancouver Opera is Jonathan Darlington's musical home base, but his conducting career has also brought him to some of the world's most prestigious podiums: the one in front of the Vienna Philharmonic, for instance. Or, the Staatskapelle Dresden. Darlington's association with that orchestra connects him ever so slightly to the recording that he selected as the best ever. In 1973, Carlos Kleiber led the Staatskappelle and a cast of vocal heavyweights in a recording of Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz that has gone down in history as one of the greatest records ever made.
It is especially treasured by conductors, who voted Kleiber their number one most admired maestro in 2010. That's in spite of the fact that his recorded legacy is tiny by comparison to many of his peers, and that he gave fewer than 100 concert appearances in his entire life. "Some people do that in a single season," Darlington pointed out. But Kleiber's approach to music was unique, so each of the recordings that we have of him is worth making noise about.
For Darlington, the opera itself — with its huntsmen, magic bullets and wise old hermits — is one of the masterpieces of the 19th century. "I had a very Protestant upbringing," he told Ben Heppner. "My father was a Baptist minister, so I was brought up with black and white, and no uncertain terms. And so, probably there's some of that that's crept into my appreciation of this: that there is a hermit that can come along as say 'Listen, you're all just stupid. Use your common sense!'"
Hit the play button above to hear the full interview, including the story of how Darlington barely avoided a musical catastrophe while conducting Der Freischütz at a crucial audition. Plus, you can tune in to Saturday Afternoon at the Opera on Oct. 1, to hear more from this conversation, plus Kleiber's 1973 recording of Der Freischütz in its entirety.
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