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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.
11 May 2005
BØRRESEN: The Royal Guest
When this CD arrived, I had never heard of Danish composer Hakon Børresen (1876–1954). Baker’s gives him only a few lines, and a Google search didn’t turn up much information until I found a Danish site (www.samfundet.dk) with interesting biographical details to supplement the little biography in the CD notes. When I put the CD on and sat back to listen, I suddenly realized I had heard, if not heard of, Børresen before. It’s Richard Strauss! Or maybe Edward Elgar. The composer seems to have remained firmly rooted in the nineteenth century (or maybe Hans Pfitzner) until his death, three years after that of Arnold Schoenberg. That he retained his leadership of the Danish Composers’ Society during the Nazi occupation until he was ousted in 1948 may say something about his conservative nature as well.
Hakon Børresen: The Royal Guest (Den kongelige Gaest)
Tina Kiberg (Emmy Høyer), Stig Fogh Andersen (Arnold Høyer), Guido Paevatalu (the guest), Edith Guillaume (Ane), Lise-Lotte Nielsen (the servant girl)
Odense Symphony Orchestra conducted by Tamás Vetö
DACAPO 8.226020 [CD]
When this CD arrived, I had never heard of Danish composer Hakon Børresen (1876-1954). Baker's gives him only a few lines, and a Google search didn't turn up much information until I found a Danish site (www.samfundet.dk) with interesting biographical details to supplement the little biography in the CD notes. When I put the CD on and sat back to listen, I suddenly realized I had heard, if not heard of, Børresen before. It's Richard Strauss! Or maybe Edward Elgar. The composer seems to have remained firmly rooted in the nineteenth century (or maybe Hans Pfitzner) until his death, three years after that of Arnold Schoenberg. That he retained his leadership of the Danish Composers' Society during the Nazi occupation until he was ousted in 1948 may say something about his conservative nature as well.
This little conversation piece, first performed in 1919, adapts a story by Henrik Pontoppidan, another of those Nobel laureates in literature whom taste and history have forgotten. The story isn't terribly original: during Carnival, just before Ash Wednesday, a middle-aged couple is expecting guests for the holiday when a telegram arrives with the news that they won't be coming. After some brief annoyance, the couple settles back into their comfortable routine, from which passion and excitement disappeared long ago. Suddenly sleigh bells announce the arrival of a guest. An unknown man appears, claiming to be a friend of the town pastor, and begs the couple's hospitality for the evening. The lady of the house is more reluctant than her husband, but both are astonished when the strange guest asks to keep his identity anonymous, going by the name "Prince Carnival." He leaves to change into formal wear and encourages the couple to dress for dinner as well, for the first time in a long while.
Returning to the dining room first, the guest directs the servants to light all the candles and strew violets all around the room. The husband and wife quickly fall under his spell as he praises love and speaks whimsically of his adventures with cupids and satyrs and an encounter with the god Pan. As the wife begins to fall under his spell, her husband grows alarmed. The mysterious guest senses this, and announces that it is time for him to leave. Once he is gone, the husband jealously accuses his wife of unseemly behavior. He quickly regrets the accusation, however, and they make up, realizing that the evening has relit the flickering candle of their relationship. As they exit into the bedroom, sleigh bells are heard in the distance.
Børresen composed his opera a few years before Strauss wrote Intermezzo, but his conservatism keeps it from being a complete success. The opera opens with a long prelude à la Rosenkavalier. It ends with a skittering violin postlude à la Rosenkavalier. And all the music in between sounds like, well, Rosenkavalier. Børresen didn't realize that his usual symphonic, through-composed style wasn't appropriate for a conversation piece with a lot of dialogue but few set pieces, aside from the guest's song in praise of Eros. Too many scenes, particularly towards the beginning, drag on a bit long. On the other hand, the composer's gift for melody suits the magical guest and the spell of enchantment he conjures up. It is one of the most often performed operas in Denmark, though even there performances have dwindled since the death of its principal exponent.
The orchestra outshines the singers in this recording. As conducted by Tamás Vetö, the Odensee Symphony Orchestra captures all the brilliant orchestral color in Børresen's lush symphonic score. Although the singers aren't bad, some of the wit is missing that's needed to bring off this Faschingsschwank aus Copenhagen. Well-known soprano Tina Kiberg captures the wife's transformation, but tenor Stig Fogh Andersen relies on bluster for the husband, and baritone Guido Paevatalu doesn't bring enough colors in his singing to the charming magician. This recording is well worth adding to CD collections, and college opera theaters might consider this little piece as an alternative to the usual Cavs and Pags.