Recently in Recordings
We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.
Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but
this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas
Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings
can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.
Bernarda Fink’s recording of Gustav Mahler’s Lieder is an important new release that includes outstanding performances of the composer’s well-known songs, along with compelling readings of some less-familiar ones.
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.
24 Mar 2005
Leontyne Price & Samuel Barber: Historic Performances (1938 - 1953)
Among the leading figures in music in twentieth-century America, the composer Samuel Barber and the soprano Leontyne Price are notable for various reasons, not the least of which is the fact that they worked together at various times.
This CD preserves a landmark recital in which Barber accompanied Price in a program of art songs at the Library of Congress, which was given on 30 October 1953 in honor of Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. Part of that recital was the premiere of Barber's Hermit Songs, op. 29, a work commissioned by the Coolidge Foundation of the Library of Congress.
This recital was broadcast at the time and some may know the performance of the Hermit Songs found on this release from its earlier release on CD (RCA Victor Gold Seal 61983). Yet the concert is available in its entirety only with this recording, which includes the other music Price and Barber performed then: Quatre Poèmes de Paul Eluard by Francis Poulenc, La Voyante by Henri Sauget, along with several other songs by Poulenc, Fauré, and Barber. The choice of music for the recital is excellent, with Sauget's La Voyante ("the medium," which evokes Menotti's opera of the same name) emerging as a particularly memorable cycle. In 1953 American modernism had not yet taken its cues as strongly from serialism as would occur in the next decade. At this point, modern American composers like Barber benefited from their strong association with French modernism as embodied by the composers found in this program.
The recording shows the young Price as a nuanced interpreter of song. Those who know Price from her work in opera should appreciate the details she brings to this recital of almost chamber-music intensity. The evenness of register and clarity of line, two qualities of Price's voice throughout her career, are clearly present in this relatively early recital. At this early in her career Price approached the music for this recital with assuredness and finesse, which adds to the attraction of this CD. At the same time, Barber shows himself to be a fine interpreter of his own music and also a memorable accompanist. Barber does not merely attend to the details of his own works at the expense of the others, but rather treats the other composers in the program in the same meticulous way.
In addition to Leontyne Price's recital, this recording includes a program of songs that was broadcast on 26 December 1938 (through the Curtis Institute of Music, Philadelphia) in which Barber accompanies himself. This recital shows the composer's own voice well, as he performs six folk songs and six Lieder, roughly half an hour of music. As much as a recording like this may be regarded as a curiosity of sorts with the composer as performer, the fine singing and playing by Barber shows the high-level of musicianship he conveyed.
This CD is a wonderful addition to the series of Great Performances from the Library of Congress. The series already includes some remarkable chamber music, as found in the first CD in the series, a program by the Budapest String Quartet with George Szell as pianist and other memorable performances. The prospect of other such releases makes this a series worth watching. For now, this release of these performances by Price and Barber merits interest as an historic recording and also for the high quality of performance it preserves.
James L. Zychowicz