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.
29 May 2005
TCHAIKOVSKY: Eugene Onegin
Recently released by TDK, this version of a Tchaikovsky classic was recorded at the Bolshoi Theater in October 2000. Directed by Boris Pokrovsky and conducted by Mark Ermler, the production features Maria Gavrilova as Tatiana, Nikolai Baskov as Lensky, Vladimir Redkin as Onegin, Yelena Novak as Olga, and Aik Martirosyan as Gremin. It is very much a live recording, complete with curtain calls and screaming fans who cheer their favorites after practically every number (to the performers’ credit, there are no encores!).
Peter Tchaikovsky: Eugene Onegin
Maria Gavrilova (Tatyana), Vladimir Redkin (Eugene Onegin), Nikolay Baskov (Lensky), Aik Martirosyan (Prince Gremin), Yelena Novak (Olga), Urina Udalova (Larina), Alexander Arkhipov (Triquet)
Orchestra and Chrus of the Bolshoi Theatre, Mark Ermler (cond.)
Recently released by TDK, this version of a Tchaikovsky classic was recorded at the Bolshoi Theater in October 2000. Directed by Boris Pokrovsky and conducted by Mark Ermler, the production features Maria Gavrilova as Tatiana, Nikolai Baskov as Lensky, Vladimir Redkin as Onegin, Yelena Novak as Olga, and Aik Martirosyan as Gremin. It is very much a live recording, complete with curtain calls and screaming fans who cheer their favorites after practically every number (to the performers' credit, there are no encores!).
Billed as a remake of the 1944 Bolshoi production (conducted by Alexander Melik-Pashaev, it is currently available on CD from Naxos), this is perhaps the most traditional of the four Onegin DVDs that will be available this year. Sets and costumes of the duel scene in particular may remind some viewers of the old black-and-white photographs that feature Kozlovsky as the tenor lead. Boris Pokrovsky's work is typical of this director: his Onegin is a realistic costumed drama with lively crowd scenes and plenty of stage business. There are some nice touches: for instance, in the opening scene, Madame Larina, all aflutter at the arrival of unexpected guests, pretends to read a book while holding it upside down, which Olga promptly corrects. Very few directing ideas are what one would consider revisionist. The only significant one occurs at the end of the duel scene, when Lensky appears to make a gesture of reconciliation, walking toward his opponent with his arms outstretched; Onegin, without noticing, fires the fatal shot.
Overall, Onegin's coldness and indifference are perhaps over-emphasized throughout Acts 1 and 2 (after his "sermon" to Tatiana in Tableau 3 he looks positively smug), which makes his sudden transformation into a passionate lover in the final scenes rather unconvincing. The fault may not lie with the director here, however: Redkin's stage presence is stiff and reserved, while the voice is adequate but hardly memorable. Gavrilova's Tatiana is more likable. Her voice is pleasant, with clear, pure tone in the high register; projection is sometimes an issue in the middle and low ones. On stage, the singer seems more comfortable as the dignified and refined St Petersburg socialite of Act 3 than as the shy country girl of the opening tableaux. In the latter, her repetitive gestures and perpetually ecstatic facial expression tend to get tiresome, although there are some nice moments with the Nurse just before the Letter Scene.
Novak's Olga and Baskin's Lensky sing well and look their parts. Novak is young, blond, coquettish, and carefree; her strong, deep contralto is as surprising a contradiction to her image now as it must have been at the opera's 1879 premiere. Baskin is striking, mannered, and just a touch melodramatic, which Lensky's music frankly invites. One only wishes that in the ball scene the singer would refrain from smiling so sweetly at his audience as he complains about his girlfriend's betraying him with his best friend. Martirosyan as Prince Gremin shines in his single aria in Tableau 6. Other minor characters support the ensemble well, although the acting varies from stereotypical but acceptable (Udalova's Larina) to truly atrocious (Borisova's Nurse).
In a recent and most unfortunate Bolshoi tradition, the orchestral sound is heavy and loud, with the musicians occasionally finding it hard to stay in tune and in time. Equally predictably, the choristers seem constantly on the lookout both for each other and the beat. The ballet is as fine as ever; in the 4th-tableau ball sequence, Pokrovsky does a nice job mixing the corps with the singing characters, which provides lively action, albeit mostly by way of comic relief.
As for the technical aspects of the release, the DVD features include an easy-to-navigate menu with a select-a-scene option, a choice of different sound formats, and subtitles in multiple languages. Overall, this is a decent enough traditional introduction to Tchaikovsky's opera for those unfamiliar with it (say, for a class of college students); for a connoisseur, I would suggest checking out the new version with Dyadkova and Leiferkus, which will be out on Kultur label later this month.
University of Missouri at Columbia