Recently in Recordings
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.
24 May 2005
Ivan Kozlovsky: The Great Russian Tenor
This new release from Pearl presents an anthology of Russian selections, primarily operatic, performed by tenor Ivan Kozlovsky (1900-1993). Kozlovsky was one of the giants of the Russian operatic stage during its glory days in the 1940s and 50s; he recorded extensively with Melodiya, both Russian and Western repertoire. Surprisingly, however, there has apparently never been a Kozlovsky Russian anthology available prior to this release (Myto Records released a collection of the singer’s Western operatic hits in 2000). It is gratifying to see it finally here.
Ivan Kozlovsky: The Great Russian Tenor
Pearl GEM 0221
This new release from Pearl presents an anthology of Russian selections, primarily operatic, performed by tenor Ivan Kozlovsky (1900-1993). Kozlovsky was one of the giants of the Russian operatic stage during its glory days in the 1940s and 50s; he recorded extensively with Melodiya, both Russian and Western repertoire. Surprisingly, however, there has apparently never been a Kozlovsky Russian anthology available prior to this release (Myto Records released a collection of the singer's Western operatic hits in 2000). It is gratifying to see it finally here.
The singer is featured in some of his signature roles: Berendei (Rimsky-Korsakov, Snow Maiden), Sinodal (Rubinstein, Demon), Levko (Rimsky-Korsakov, May Night), Vladimir Igorevich (Borodin, Prince Igor), Bayan (Glinka, Ruslan and Liudmila), Indian Guest (Rimsky-Korsakov, Sadko), Prince (Dargomïaut;zhsky, Rusalka), Vladimir (Napravnik, Dubrovsky), and of course Lensky (Tchaikovsky, Eugene Onegin) and the Holy Fool (Mussorgsky, Boris Godunov). A rendition of Rachmaninov's popular art song "Ne poi krasavitsa" ("Oh cease thy singing, maiden fair," op. 4 no. 4), and the same composer's rarely heard setting of Pimen's monologue from Pushkin's Boris Godunov are also included.
The recordings are beautifully remastered, and date from ca. 1947-1953, when the singer was at the height of his vocal power, his fame, and his great rivalry with his colleague at the Bolshoi, Sergei Lemeshev. Perhaps the most overwhelming first impression is Kozlovsky's sound — beautifully lush, full, and rich in overtones, its endless lyrical flow rendered with astonishing flexibility and control, despite occasional tension in the upper register. His diction and phrasing are impeccable. Musical purists should not expect a meticulous approach to the score, however — tempo fluctuations, dramatic rests, and other examples of the old-style operatic "editorializing" abound. For traditional "white tenor" roles represented on Pearl's recording, see primarily the two popular selections from Eugene Onegin, "I love you" and "Whither, whither," as well as a cavatina from Rusalka and an aria from May Night.
Perhaps the most recognizable quality of Kozlovsky's timbre is its slightly narrow, almost reed-like quality, with an ever-present vibrato. An object of unkind jokes late in his life, on these early recordings this tone color is more of an idiosyncrasy that makes for some truly unique interpretations. It is particularly noticeable in the "oriental" selections the singer performs — arias and art songs that evoke an image of exotic "Asian" Russia through gently undulating harmonies, rich ornamentation, and yes, the sound of the solo reeds — oboe, bassoon, and English horn. Look especially for the "Song of the Indian Guest" extolling the treasures of the mysterious East, the aria of young Vladimir Igorevich luxuriating in love with a Polovtsian beauty, the exotic romance of Prince Sinodal, and a passionate appeal to a Georgian maiden by Rachmaninov's unnamed protagonist.
Another notable trait of Kozlovsky's talent is its remarkable versatility in handling not only lyrical, but also character parts. This comes across particularly well in an anthology of excerpts from Russian operas in which, after all, a tenor is rarely the leading man. The singer creates memorable images of old sages — the ancient bard Bayan in Ruslan, and the wise sun-worshipper Tsar Berendei in the Snow Maiden (represented, unfortunately, by his second, less interesting cavatina). The Holy Fool in Boris Godunov is perhaps Kozlovsky's most internationally acclaimed role; Pearl includes an excerpt from the St Basil Scene, complete with the choruses and an appearance by Alexander Pirogov as Boris. For those taken with this selection, the complete recording of the opera (with Nikolai Golovanov conducting) is available from Opera D'oro; Vera Stroeva's 1954 outstanding film version with the same cast is currently out on DVD.
All in all, fans of Kozlovsky's art and connoisseurs of traditional bel canto singing style will no doubt be delighted with the new recording. I would particularly encourage those who are only familiar with the singer's late records, on which his previously incredible control is weakened, while the notorious vibrato is more pronounced, to hear the Pearl selections. A truly great tenor waits to be rediscovered.
University of Missouri at Columbia