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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.
22 Dec 2004
Zelmira Gioachino Rossini, music and Andrea Leone Tortola, libretto ORC 27 Scottish Chamber Orchestra Maurizio Benini, conductor Besides its Opera in English series on Chandos, Peter Moore's Foundation has sponsored the recording of many a fine bel canto rarity on...
Gioachino Rossini, music and Andrea Leone Tortola, libretto
Scottish Chamber Orchestra
Maurizio Benini, conductor
Besides its Opera in English series on Chandos, Peter Moore's Foundation has sponsored the recording of many a fine bel canto rarity on the label Opera Rara. Donizetti operas received much attention in past years; lately, Rossini has been favored, and Opera Rara's latest resurrection, Zelmira, is a worthy tribute indeed — a finely played, beautifully sung performance of an opera perhaps unlikely to ever regain a foothold in the staged repertory, but with music more than worth a hearing.
All the hallmarks of the classy Opera Rara production are here: superlative artwork, beautifully presented; a booklet of substantial size and content, with a comprehensive essay and fully translated libretto (Italian/English), a lovely range of photos of the performers rehearsing and performing, and most importantly, a commitment to the highest musical standards. The sets do not come cheap, but no one could doubt that the price is justified.
Zelmira belongs to Rossini's string of dramatic efforts composed for Naples, perhaps the best known of which today are La donna del lago and Ermione, the latter having recently enjoyed a remarkable run at New York City Opera. While many of Rossini's comedies maintain a firm grip in the repertory, these dramatic efforts have suffered relative neglect. Before too many reasons are proposed, a look at the performing history of Zelmira, contained in the CD booklet and supplied by the estimable Tom Kaufman, suggests that it is not only the modern era that slighted these operas. Zelmira premiered in 1822; it enjoyed performances in many top opera houses for about ten years. Lisbon saw it in 1839, and after that, Zelmira fell into a long slumber, not to reawake until 1965. This live set is not from a staged production, but rather from a concert performance at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2003.
Why the neglect? Here the essay by Jeremy Commons really earns our thanks, for it is not only wonderfully informative but also clear and honest in its perspective. Right from its debut, the opera earned fine notices for Rossini's score and derisive comment for the libretto, especially the contrived story. Commons refers to the plot's "inverosimilitudes," and they are aplenty. Our finest directors would really be put to the test by a scene such as the one where our put-upon heroine, going to see her estranged husband, interrupts a murder attempt, pulls the knife out of the assassin's hand, only to have the villain tell the freshly-awakened king that she (still holding the knife, of course) was about to commit the crime.
But such unlikely scenes occur throughout many a well-regarded opera. The difference here is in the superficial characterization. Zelmira is the dutiful daughter and faithful wife, despite every tribulation thrown her way. Her husband Ilo is the loving husband in sorrow for the seeming duplicity of his wife, which he believes due to the efforts of the dastardly Antenore and his malevolent lieutenant Leucippo. None of these characters undergoes change or reveals any depth. Zelmira pretty much proceeds like an old silent serial, with various cliff-hangar situations until the literally incredible end, where just as the villains close in to finish off our saintly heroes, the good guys break through a wall and send the baddies off to meet their just desserts.
And what a great time a classy cast has with all this malarkey. Bruce Ford and Marco Palazzi, tenor and baritone, make a wonderfully evil pair. Palazzi's handsome voice should go on to more prepossing roles. Elizabeth Futral's soprano aches with femininity and pain without allowing the heroine's outlandish trials to become too exasperating. A nice counterpart to Ford's high-flying tenor villain is Ilo, an even more high-flying tenor role for the good but confused prince/husband, sung by Antonio Siragusa with admirable control and resourcefulness, if not the last word in elegance.
Rossini's tremendous scoring, often calling to mind great moments in later, more esteemed operas (particularly those of early/middle Verdi) gets a tremendous performance by the Scottish Chamber orchestra, led by Maurizio Benini. The ensemble's chorus also makes a wonderful contribution, especially in a chorus by priests near the end of act one.
This set represents the best Opera Rara has to offer - featuring some wonderful music that would otherwise go unheard, offering talented performers the opportunity for some real vocal display, and providing an important historical service to those who want to know more about the origins of this art form. Zelmira, despite the "inverosimilitudes," is a veritable winner.