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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.
20 May 2005
FAURÉ: The Complete Songs - 1 — Au bord de l’eau
The songs of Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) are some of the finest works examples of the genre and they represent the mature French mélodie in the hands of a composer who knew both the voice and the piano quite well. This release is the first of four discs that include all of Fauré’s songs for voice and piano within Hyperion’s series of French Song editions. Like those other collections from Hyperion, this volume of the Fauré set involves excellent performers who know the literature well.
Gabriel Fauré: The Complete Songs - 1 — Au bord de l'eau
Felicity Lott (Soprano), Jennifer Smith (Soprano), Geraldine McGreevy (Soprano), Stella Doufexis (Soprano), John Mark Ainsley (Tenor), Christopher Maltman (Baritone), Stephen Varcoe (Baritone), Graham Johnson (Piano).
Hyperion A67333 [CD]
The songs of Gabriel Fauré (1845-1924) are some of the finest works examples of the genre and they represent the mature French mélodie in the hands of a composer who knew both the voice and the piano quite well. This release is the first of four discs that include all of Fauré's songs for voice and piano within Hyperion's series of French Song editions. Like those other collections from Hyperion, this volume of the Fauré set involves excellent performers who know the literature well.
By using a variety of singers, Hyperion creates the impression that performing Fauré's music is not limited to selected personalities, but rather is music that a number of performers do well. Such a stance automatically makes the works more accessible to a wide audience. Unlike the limitations that might be perceived for a particular Wagner tenor or Verdi soprano, Fauré's music lends itself to good musicianship, rather than a specific, unique voice type, and this is demonstrated clearly in the recording through the talents of several fine performers. The singers on this disc vary from those who have a depth of experience with the genre as a whole, like Felicity Lott, as well as other performers whose repertoire is more focused. Lott's interpretation of Fauré's Cinq melodies is masterful for its appropriate tone she gives the music and the text, as required by settings of Verlaine. Of the women involved with the recording, Jennifer Smith provides a fine reading of a late song, C'est la pax (Op. 114), and the duet "Tarantelle" (Op. 10, no. 2) benefits from the crisp and well-matched voices of Geraldine McGreevy and Stella Doufexis, their only piece on the disc.
For those who know "Les berceaux" (op. 23, no. 1) and "Au cimetière" (op. 51, no. 2) from the frequent appearance of those songs on recital programs, the performances by Ainsley and Christopher Maltman are anything but routine. It is also refreshing to hear the impassioned "Chanson du pécheur" (op. 4, no. 1), which Fauré composed earlier in his life. The latter song is performed on this recording by Maltman, whose rich voice is particularly notable in this selection. Likewise, the "Barcarolle" (Op. 7, no. 3) contains elements Fauré would take up in some of his later songs, with its subtly crafted accompaniment that Graham Johnson executes effectively. Again, the unorthodox arrangement of this disc, with its recital-like focus on theme, offers listeners the opportunity to explore this repertoire from a new perspective and, thus, to hear the music with fresh ears.
While Hyperion's other vocal collections often present music in chronological order, the songs of Fauré are organized thematically. This first volume takes its title from the song Au bord de l'eau ("At the water's edge") and collects songs that deal with water or have aquatic settings. In addition to individual songs, this disc features several entire sets of mélodies, including Fauré's Cinq melodies, op. 58, Mirage, op. 113, and L'horizon chimérique, op. 118, and the pieces selected for this recording are presented in chronological order, from early to later works. While the arrangement by theme may seem unorthodox, if not somewhat arbitrary, it is an effective concept for showing how an idea inspired the composer throughout his career. After all, other similar approaches have been used for years to present traditional German Lieder and other kinds of vocal music.
As to Hyperion's efforts to preserve the complete songs of Fauré, the other volumes of this projected set include "Un paysage choisi" (vol. 2), "Chanson d'amour" (vol. 3), and "Les jardins de la nuit" (vol. 4). One hopes to find the singers included in the first disc on the rest of the set, so that the spirit and musicianship so evident in this volume may continue through all the music. For those who know Fauré's works, this "edition intégrale" of his songs is a welcome event which makes his body of work accessible to a broad audience. Those less familiar with this repertoire may find this first volume to be a fine introduction to them.
James L. Zychowicz