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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.
25 May 2005
BACH: Cantatas, Vol. 14 & 15
These two sets of three CDs each are the current installment in Ton Koopman’s monumental complete cycle of J.S. Bach’s cantatas, performed by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir, and produced by his wife, Tini Mathot. The cycle started out in 1995 on the Erato label, but only twelve volumes had been published when Erato was disbanded by its parent company, Time Warner. After searching for another label that would take over his cycle project, Koopman finally applied for a loan and started his own label, Antoine Marchand, which is distributed by Challenge Classics and Allegro. Koopman’s cycle has loosely followed Bach’s original chronological order of performance for the volumes appearing so far (vol. 1-13.) Appearing after a gap of two years since vol. 13, the current two volumes cover cantatas from Bach’s second to third yearly cycles of cantatas for Leipzig (chorale cantatas.)
J. S. Bach: Cantatas, vol. 14.
Deborah York, Annette Markert, Lisa Larsson - Soprano
Bogna Bartosz, Franziska Gottwald - Alto
Jörg Dürmüller, Christoph Prégardien, Paul Agnew - Tenor
Klaus Mertens - Bass
The Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir, Ton Koopman.
Antoine Marchand CC72214 [3CDs]
Click image for contents.
J. S. Bach: Cantatas, vol. 15.
Deborah York, Sandrine Piau, Johannette Zomer, Sibylla Rubens - Soprano
Bogna Bartosz - Alto
Jörg Dürmüller, Christoph Prégardien, Paul Agnew, James Gilchrist - Tenor
Klaus Mertens - Bass
The Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir, Ton Koopman.
Antoine Marchand CC72215 [3CDs]
Click image for contents.
These two sets of three CDs each are the current installment in Ton Koopman's monumental complete cycle of J.S. Bach's cantatas, performed by the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra and Choir, and produced by his wife, Tini Mathot. The cycle started out in 1995 on the Erato label, but only twelve volumes had been published when Erato was disbanded by its parent company, Time Warner. After searching for another label that would take over his cycle project, Koopman finally applied for a loan and started his own label, Antoine Marchand, which is distributed by Challenge Classics and Allegro. Koopman's cycle has loosely followed Bach's original chronological order of performance for the volumes appearing so far (vol. 1-13.) Appearing after a gap of two years since vol. 13, the current two volumes cover cantatas from Bach's second to third yearly cycles of cantatas for Leipzig (chorale cantatas.)
There are three other Bach cantata cycles out there, many of which are now out of print. The earliest was Harnoncourt and Leonhardt's series on Teldec, which used only boys and men as vocalists and an orchestra of period instruments (Koopman actually played organ on some of these). What we would now call the "early music" style was employed in these recordings, and in fact was at least in part probably gelled by these sessions. Helmut Rilling's more or less contemporaneous series on Hänssler Classic used a mixed chorus and soloists of adult women and men with less attention to the "early music" style. Sir John Eliot Gardiner's newer series on Deutsche Grammophon, now on his own label Soli Deo Gloria, again uses a mixed chorus and soloists of adults singing in "early music" style and a period instrument orchestra. For practical reasons, Koopman also uses adult women and men choristers and soloists singing in "early music" with a period instrument orchestra.
Unlike the early volumes in this cycle, which were pitched at a very high A of 465 cycles per second (modern concert pitch is at A=440 cps), these two volumes employ the more usual early-music standard of A=415 cps. The chorus of 18 men and women sings cleanly and stylistically for the most part, except for a few spots where vibrato stands out in the soprano section. Choral trills are clean, diction is good, and the blend very nice. The large group of soloists is for the most very good, although there is some struggling on the part of tenor Jörg Dürmüller, and the lowered pitch adversely affects the low notes of bass Klaus Mertens. All of the soloists have agile and clear voices and exquisite diction. The orchestra of period instruments sounds very good, and the occasional organ solos by Koopman are wonderful.
Each volume includes appendices with alternate versions of movements or entire cantatas. Brief program notes by Bach scholar, Christoph Wolff (who also consulted with Koopman on score sources), provide background information for each cantata, and accurate translations from the original German to English and French are provided. All in all, this series (as published so far, anyway) provides a wonderful rendition of Bach's cantata cycle in historically aware performances.