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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.
05 May 2005
The Very Best of Beverly Sills
EMI Classics’ release of The Very Best of Bevery Sills is a mixed bag. Unlike similar EMI compilations of Maria Callas, Mirella Freni, or Lucia Popp, who all present an array of signature arias or art songs, this release should be re-titled Some of Beverly Sills’ Opera Scenes and a Few Arias. Though Sills performs with an impressive cast, including Alfredo Kraus, Nicolai Gedda, Sherrill Milnes, and Samuel Ramey, this recording would be much more satisfying if is showcased more of signature Sills.
The Very Best of Beverly Sills
Beverly Sills (soprano) sings arias from Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia; Verdi's Rigoletto; Donizetti's Don Pasquale; Lehar's Merry Widow; Massenet's Thais; Rossini's L'assedio di Corinto; Verdi's La traviata.
The Very Best of the Singers series.
EMI Classics 863172 [2CDs]
EMI Classics' release of The Very Best of Bevery Sills is a mixed bag. Unlike similar EMI compilations of Maria Callas, Mirella Freni, or Lucia Popp, who all present an array of signature arias or art songs, this release should be re-titled Some of Beverly Sills' Opera Scenes and a Few Arias. Though Sills performs with an impressive cast, including Alfredo Kraus, Nicolai Gedda, Sherrill Milnes, and Samuel Ramey, this recording would be much more satisfying if is showcased more of signature Sills.
The CD is divided into a few of her famous roles, featuring an aria or two from each role as well as several pivotal scenes from the opera. Highlighted roles include Rosina of Il barbiere di Siviglia, Gilda of Rigoletto, Norina of Don Pasquale, and Violetta of La traviata. A few arias are randomly included on the second CD, such as "Vilia", "Dis-moi que je suis belle", and "Cielo! Che diverro?... Ah! Che spiegar."
If this recording's intention was to focus on bel canto repertoire, it has made a grave mistake forgetting Sill's premier roles in Lucia Di Lammermoor, Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda and Roberto Devereux. What about her excellent interpretation of French repertoire — Manon, Faust, La Fille Du Regiment, or The Tales of Hoffman? What about her world premier role Baby Doe? This is hardly The Best of Beverly Sills.
Despite faults in recording choices, Sills still exhibits vocal mastery and sensitive musicianship. The recordings span from 1972-1979, from the height of her career toward retirement. Changes in suppleness of her voice are apparent throughout the disc. Her Rosina and Violetta, recorded in 1975 and 1972 respectively, reveal a silvery line, crystalline tone, appropriate weight of the voice, and masterful phrasing. Her coloratura in "Una voce poco fa" is very impressive, especially when executing scalar runs from a well-endowed chest voice to the stratosphere. Everything from her La traviata excerpts is magnificent, from the buoyant line in "Sempre libre" to her audible distraught phrasing in "Ah! Dite alla giovine."
Recordings from the end of her career reveal reasons why the end was coming. Excerpts from Rigoletto expose a more brittle sound, wider vibrato, and a less brilliant top. However, her "Caro Nome" still stuns the listener with virtuosic trilling, masterful messa di voce, silky lyricism, and impeccable staccato. The vocal weight in this aria brings back memories of an earlier, more youthful Sills, and is entirely appropriate for the role of Gilda. Only in the final cadenza does she punch the coloratura and add too much weight.
There are many compilations of Beverly Sill's best recordings, and this is not one of them. Fortunately, EMI has a previous release entitled The Art of Beverly Sills which features all of her signature arias from the height of her career.