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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.
18 Jan 2005
Songs of Schumann, Vol. 9
The latest volume of Hyperion’s comprehensive collection of the Songs of Robert Schumann is an impressive recording of Schumann’s Liederalbum für die Jugend, Op. 79 (1849). The songs are settings with children in mind, and not necessarily music for children to perform; the texts are by a number of poets, such as Goethe, Hebbel, Schiller, Rückert, Uhland, and von Fallersleben. In selecting the texts for this collection of Lieder, Schumann touched upon a variety of subjects, including topics associated with children, like Christmas, and verse about animals (“Marienwürmchen” and “Die Schwalben”); other texts deal with seasons, like Spring (“Frühlingsbotschaft” and “Frühlingsgruss”) and the fantastic, as occurs in “Vom Schlaraffenland.”
The Songs of Robert Schumann, vol. 9.
Ann Murray, Felicity Lott, sopranos, Graham Johnson, piano. Hyperion CD J33109
The latest volume of Hyperion's comprehensive collection of the Songs of Robert Schumann is an impressive recording of Schumann's Liederalbum für die Jugend, Op. 79 (1849). The songs are settings with children in mind, and not necessarily music for children to perform; the texts are by a number of poets, such as Goethe, Hebbel, Schiller, Rückert, Uhland, and von Fallersleben. In selecting the texts for this collection of Lieder, Schumann touched upon a variety of subjects, including topics associated with children, like Christmas, and verse about animals ("Marienwürmchen" and "Die Schwalben"); other texts deal with seasons, like Spring ("Frühlingsbotschaft" and "Frühlingsgruss") and the fantastic, as occurs in "Vom Schlaraffenland."
In this CD the performers created what the pianist Graham Johnson describes as "a new performing version" of the work by interspersing the songs with various pieces from the composer's Klavieralbum für die Jugend, Op. 68 (1848). This mode of presentation is wholly in the spirit of Schumann's music and gives the sense of a Lieder-Abend. In fact, the performance is framed by other works that reinforce the spirit of the recording, with a vocal duet set to a text by Schumann's daughter, Marie, and concluding with the "Soldatenlied" (WoO 6) that ends with the direction (implied in its text) that should send children to bed.
Graham Johnson's extensive notes that accompany this recording are useful for understanding the performers' rationale in combining these two collections — the Liederalbum and the Klavieralbum — into a convincing whole. In explaining the planning that went into this performing edition, Johnson considers the exigencies of performing this music. While the music is overtly intended for children, the works do not entirely lend themselves to unskilled performers. Johnson concedes that youthful pianists could tackle the music in either the solo piano pieces or the accompaniments to the Lieder, but cautions the use of children's voices for Lieder that are better suited to experienced singers.
In fact, the two singers here demonstrate in their effective performance the nuance they can contribute. Both Ann Murray and Felicity Lott are highly regarded for their work with Lieder, and this new recording is further proof of their talent. When the women sing together, their voices blend easily and convincingly, as is evident in the "Mailied" (Op. 79, no. 10) and "Frühlingslied" (Op. 79, no. 19). Elsewhere, each singer renders the songs with equal assuredness and mastery, as found in Murray's effective approach to the two "Zigeunerliedchen" (Op. 79, nos. 7 and 8) and the "Käuzlein" (Op. 79, no. 11). Likewise, Lott makes the most of the music in "Mignon" (Op. 79, no. 29), which contains the famous text "Kennst du das Land." In this single Lied, Lott demonstrates her ability to shape such familiar music masterfully.
The pianist Graham Johnson not only accompanies these two women in the Lieder, but also executes the piano pieces deftly. He chose several fine pieces from the Op. 68 collection to use in this performance, so that they complement the songs and also contribute some thematic unity to the recording. In placing the "Lied Italienischer Marinari" (Op. 68, no. 36) after "Kennst du das Land" Johnson offers an apt postlude to the song just before the recording closes with both women singing the "Soldatendlied" that forms a fitting epilogue to the entire performance.
This recording is an excellent contribution to the modern performances of Lieder preserved on CD. Not only does this recording offer authoritative interpretations of the Op. 79 Lieder, but it should inspire performers to use their creativity to combine music by Schumann in the engaging fashion found here, which is fully in the spirit of nineteenth-century practice. The booklet published with the CD includes Johnson's discussion of this performing edition, along with a fine essay on the genre of music for children, which he places in the context of nineteenth-century culture. In addition, the complete texts and translations are accompanied by a commentary on each song and the several illustrations from the period, including facsimiles from various editions, round out the presentation of Lieder on this fine CD.
James L. Zychowicz