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Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen.
This live performance of Laurent Pelly’s Glyndebourne staging of
Humperdinck’s affectionately regarded fairy tale opera, was recorded at
Glyndebourne Opera House in July and August 2010, and the handsomely produced
disc set — the discs are presented in a hard-backed, glossy-leaved book and
supplemented by numerous production photographs and an informative article by
Julian Johnson — is certainly stylish and unquestionably recommendable.
Recorded at a live performance in 2012, this CD brings together an eclectic
selection of turn-of-the-century orchestral songs and affirms the extraordinary
versatility, musicianship and technical accomplishment of mezzo-soprano
Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon features an assortment of
songs by Ricky Ian Gordon interpreted by soprano Stacey Tappan, a longtime
friend of the composer since their work on his opera Morning Star at
the Lyric Opera of Chicago.
Alfredo Kraus, one of the most astute artists in operatic history in terms of careful management of technique and vocal resources, once said in an interview that ‘you have to make a choice when you start to sing and decide whether you want to service the music, and be at the top of your art, or if you want to be a very popular tenor.’
In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi.
With celebrations of the Verdi Bicentennial in full swing, there have been
many grumblings about the precarious state of Verdi singing in the world’s
major opera houses today.
In the thirty-five years immediately following its American première at the Metropolitan Opera in 1914, Italo Montemezzi’s ‘Tragic Poem in Three Acts’ L’amore dei tre re was performed in New York on sixty-six occasions.
Few operas inspire the kind of competing affection and controversy that have surrounded Mozart’s Così fan tutte almost since its first performance in Vienna in 1790.
During his career in film, opera, and operetta, Richard Tauber (1891 - 1948) enjoyed the sort of global fame that eludes all but the tiniest handful of ‘serious’ singers today.
Known principally for its two concert show-pieces for the leading lady, the success of Francesco Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur relies upon finding a soprano willing to take on, and able to pull off, the eponymous role.
It would be condescending and perhaps even offensive to suggest that singing
traditional Spirituals is a rite a passage for artists of color, but the musical heritage of the United States has been greatly enriched by the performances and recordings of Spirituals by important artists such as Paul Robeson, Marian Anderson, Leontyne Price, Martina Arroyo, Shirley Verrett, Grace Bumbry, Jessye Norman, Barbara Hendricks, Florence Quivar, Kathleen Battle, Harolyn Blackwell, and Denyce Graves.
As a companion to their excellent Great Wagner Singers boxed set
compiled and released in celebration of the Wagner Bicentennial, Deutsche
Grammophon have also released Great Wagner Conductors, a selection of
orchestral music conducted by five of the most iconic Wagnerian conductors of
the Twentieth Century, extracted from Deutsche Grammophon’s extensive
There could be no greater gift to the Wagnerian celebrating the Master’s
Bicentennial than this compilation from Deutsche Grammophon, aptly entitled
Great Wagner Singers.
What better way for Masonic brothers, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Emmanuel Shikaneder to disseminate Masonic virtues, than through the most popular musical entertainment of their age, a happy ending folktale that features a dragon, enchanting flutes and bells, mixed-up parentage, and a beautiful young princess in distress?
Since its first performance at the Teatro Santi Giovanni e Paolo during Venice’s 1643 Carnevale, Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea has been one of the most important milestones in the genesis of modern opera despite its 250 years of unmerited obscurity.
Though 2013 is the bicentennial of the births of Giuseppe Verdi and Richard Wagner, the releases of Cecilia Bartoli’s recording of Bellini’s Norma on DECCA, a new studio recording of Donizetti’s Caterina Cornaro from Opera Rara, and this première recording of Saverio Mercadante’s forgotten I due Figaro, suggest that this is the start of a summer of bel canto.
Recording Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen is for a
record label equivalent to a climber reaching the summit of Mount Everest: it is the zenith from which a label surveys its position among its rivals and appreciates an achievement that can define its reputation for a generation.
Few people who love opera in general and bel canto in particular have never heard the comment made by Lilli Lehmann, veteran of the inaugural Ring at Bayreuth in 1876, that singing all three of Wagner’s Brünnhildes—in Die Walküre, Siegfried, and
Götterdämmerung, respectively, all of which she sang to great acclaim—pales in comparison with singing the title rôle in Bellini’s Norma.
Paul Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, first heard in 1907, once seemed important. Arturo Toscanini conducted the Met premiere in 1911 with Farrar and later arranged some of its music for a 1947 recording with his NBC Symphony.
13 Nov 2004
ARG Reviews Mercadante's Emma d'Antiochia
MERCADANTE: Emma d'Antiochia Nelly Miricioiu (Emma), Maria Costanza Nocentini (Adelia), Bruce Ford (Ruggiero), Roberto Servile (Corrado); Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, London Philharmonic/ David Parry Opera Rara 26 [3CD] 183 minutes I have long been on a campaign to revive the works...
MERCADANTE: Emma d'Antiochia
Nelly Miricioiu (Emma), Maria Costanza Nocentini (Adelia), Bruce Ford (Ruggiero), Roberto Servile (Corrado); Geoffrey Mitchell Choir, London Philharmonic/ David Parry
Opera Rara 26 [3CD] 183 minutes
I have long been on a campaign to revive the works of Saverio Mercadante. Eight of his operas and some of' his choral and orchestral works have been issued on CD from a variety of performance venues, good, bad, and indifferent. Bongiovanni has been the leader here. But only Opera Rara has published studio recordings of his music: Italian songs (Nov/Dec 1999), the complete opera Orazi e Curiazi (Jan/Feb 1996), and a quasi-introduction to Mercadante's music, Mercadante Rediscovered (Jan/Feb 2004), a compilation with selections drawn from several Opera Rara recital recordings. To begin its new series, "The Essential Opera Rara", selections from an opera that will give the "essence" of the work, they chose Mercadante's Zaira (July/Aug 2003). All have been favorably reviewed in these pages.
It is said that you cannot judge a book by its cover, but certainly the sheer luxurious elegance of Opera Rara's presentations goes far in establishing the credibility of the music. Most of all it establishes the feeling that Opera Rara has a strong belief in and support for the music. As usual there is an extensive performance history of the work, an examination of text and music, and a complete libretto with English translation. There is even information on Mercadante's use of the glicibarifono (a bass clarinet kind of instrument).
Although the opera was written at the height of Mercadante's career, had a libretto by the prolific Felice Romani, and was written specifically for super-diva Giuditta Pasta (along with almost-as-popular star Domenico Donzelli and the soon to be super-diva Eugenia Tadolini) Emma was a disaster at its premiere (La Fenice, March 8, 1834). Pasta was ill, but "graciously consented to appear" in a highly truncated version of the opera. But at the third performance Pasta was back in form and the opera was awarded a sensational reception. It was performed almost annually though the mid-1840s, disappeared briefly, had a few revivals and was last performed in Malta in 1861.
Thanks to Opera Rara for bringing Emma back to life. The music is packed with good, solid, sing-along tunes as effective as many of early Verdi, with many unusual touches of orchestration. Rhythmic devices are always ear-catching and pull the listener (and the singer) excitedly along. The melodramatic excesses of the plot can easily be ignored in favor of the music.
Conductor Parry seems to have an almost uncanny insight into music of the bel canto school, particularly in the selection of tempos. He is rhythmically propulsive, always supportive of the singers, but not subject to their whims. Indeed, this is (as is so often true of Parry-led operas) a true ensemble effort. Miricioiu is her own spectacular, gutsy self imperious, confident, supremely musical, emotionally restrained, no Italianate super-diva stunts, trusting in the music to deliver its own emotional impression. One has come to expect a similar performance from Ford, and he delivers it handsomely. Servile has a curious mushy pronunciation that is not intrusive and a voice darkly rich and handsome in tone. Nocentini's brighter, smaller soprano sound is an effective contrast to Miricioiu. The Geoffrev Mitchell Choir again are a strong lot.
Charles H Parsons
THIS REVIEW ORIGINALLY APPEARED IN THE NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2004 ISSUE (VOL. 67 NO. 6) OF AMERICAN RECORD GUIDE (ARG). IT IS REPRINTED HERE WITH THE KIND PERMISSION OF ARG. FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON ARG, GO TO ITS WEBSITE AT www.americanrecordguide.com.