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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.
14 Feb 2005
SCHUMANN AND BRAHMS: Schöne Wiege meiner Leiden
The CD entitled Schöne Wiege meiner Leiden contains a selection of music by three friends who composed Lieder: Robert Schumann, his wife Clara, and their colleague Johannes Brahms. Their friendship is well known, and this recording is an attempt to pay tribute to what Berner calls “the manifold interactions between this artistic trinity” by presenting music by each of them; the pieces include Robert Schumann’s Liederkreis, Op. 24, seven Lieder by Clara Schumann, and ten of Brahms’ Deutsche Volkslieder, WoO 33.
Schöne Wiege meiner Leiden
Clara & Robert Schumann, Brahms: Lieder & Briefe.
Werner Güra, tenor, Christoph Berner, piano.
Harmonia Mundi CD HMC 901842
The CD entitled Schöne Wiege meiner Leiden contains a selection of music by three friends who composed Lieder: Robert Schumann, his wife Clara, and their colleague Johannes Brahms. Their friendship is well known, and this recording is an attempt to pay tribute to what Berner calls "the manifold interactions between this artistic trinity" by presenting music by each of them; the pieces include Robert Schumann's Liederkreis, Op. 24, seven Lieder by Clara Schumann, and ten of Brahms' Deutsche Volkslieder, WoO 33.
This recording is based on a semi-staged recital that involved both of the performers on this CD, Werner Güra and Christoph Berner, and also the actress Meriam Abbas. As mentioned in the notes that accompany the recording, the original program was not only a performance of Lieder by these three composers, but also readings of excerpts from their correspondence. While none of the readings are included on the CD, the extensive booklet bound with the CD includes excerpts from relevant letters in the original German, along with translations in French and English.
Beyond the unique concept behind this particular CD, the recording itself contains some fine performances of Lieder in general. Güra is known for some of his interpretations of tenor roles in operas by Mozart and Rossini, and he has also given Lieder recitals. This particular CD offers an excellent opportunity to hear him perform both familiar music, like the cycle by Robert Schumann, and works that are less well known, like the songs by Clara Schumann. With Brahms, Güra has chosen some excellent songs that show various moods and styles, and Berner is quite deft at handling the sometimes intricate rhythms Brahms used in these settings. Yet the selection of music by Clara Schumann offers some fine examples of her Lieder, which show her mastery of the genre. These songs deserve the kind of striking performances that Güra provides along with the discreet and supportive accompaniment by Christoph Berner. For those unfamiliar with Clara's Lieder, the seven presented here are a good introduction to her work in this genre.
Güra and Berner work well together in Robert Schumann's Liederkreis, Op. 24, and it is from the setting at the center of this cycle, "Schöne Wiege meiner Leiden" ("Beautiful cradle of my sorrow") that the CD takes its name. This is an effective performance of the cycle for the clarity of the melodic line that emerges from some of the more involved keyboard writing. Some of the pieces in this cycle are highly dramatic, but even when the music demands a loud dynamic level, Güra does not resort to histrionics, but rather stays within the lyrical parameters that are essential to Schumann's style. Likewise, his diction is always clear, and the inflections he uses with the text contribute to the overall musicality of the performance.
All in all, the music on this CD is well chosen, and both Güra and Berner show themselves to be adept at interpreting Lieder by three composers who approach vocal music individually. Those familiar with Schumann's Lieder should find this performance of the Liederkreis, op. 24, to be engaging; likewise, the selection from Clara's songs and also Brahms' settings of folktunes make this recording worthy of attention.
James L. Zychowicz