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.
03 May 2005
This DVD release, taken from an RAI telecast, documents a 1991 La Scala performance of Verdi’s 1846 opera, based on the life of Attila the Hun. I’ve always felt that early Verdi is one of Riccardo Muti’s greatest strengths. When Muti was Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, I was privileged to see their concert performances of Nabucco and Macbeth. Both featured breathtaking execution, intensity, and momentum.
Giuseppe Verdi: Attila
Samuel Ramey, bass (Attila), Giorgio Zancanaro, baritone (Ezio), Cheryl Studer, soprano, (Odabella), Kaludi Kaludov, tenor (Foresto), Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Riccardo Muti, Conductor.
Opus Arte OA LS3010 D [DVD]
This DVD release, taken from an RAI telecast, documents a 1991 La Scala performance of Verdi's 1846 opera, based on the life of Attila the Hun. I've always felt that early Verdi is one of Riccardo Muti's greatest strengths. When Muti was Music Director of the Philadelphia Orchestra, I was privileged to see their concert performances of Nabucco and Macbeth. Both featured breathtaking execution, intensity, and momentum.
Those same qualities may be found in this La Scala Attila. What a pleasure it is to hear an early Verdi score treated with the same respect as his later masterpieces. Verdi's incisive rhythms and dynamic contrasts — so necessary for maintaining the tension of these early, vibrant works — are given their full due. Muti also elicits a beautiful, singing tone from the La Scala Orchestra, and conducts with a flexibility that belies the "metronome" criticism often leveled at his work. Listen, for example, to the way Muti and tenor Kaludi Kaludov sculpt the grand, ascending phrases of Foresto's Prologue aria. That kind of gratifying collaborative work is evident throughout this performance.
Leading the cast is the superb American bass, Samuel Ramey, in the prime of his career. Atilla is a role that fit Ramey's powerful and gleaming, high bass like a glove. Here, he revels in the part, both vocally and histrionically. Whenever Ramey is on stage, he commands the center of attention, as well he should. A fine document of a great singer in one of his signature roles.
The rest of the singers are a bit more uneven, but each still offers many positive attributes. Cheryl Studer copes well with the fiendish dramatic coloratura of Odabella's music in the Prologue, although the soprano is much happier in the upper reaches of her voice than in the lower, which tends to lose support and focus. The remainder of the opera features more conventional soprano writing, and here, Studer acquits herself admirably. She also brings considerable stage presence to the part.
Giorgio Zancanaro was one of the few singers of his generation who possessed the style, incisive diction, vibrant tone, and free upper register so essential for the great Verdi baritone roles. I wish Zancanaro didn't so frequently resort to aspirates instead of maintaining a true legato, but overall, I can't imagine anyone from the past few decades performing the role of Ezio better. Both the Prologue duet with Attila and Ezio's Act II scene are among the highlights of this performance.
I previously mentioned tenor Kaludi Kaludov's fine singing in the Prologue. Throughout this performance, the tenor gives a well-sung and sensitive account of Foresto. I don't think the consistently bright timbre of his voice is ideal for the role (Carlo Bergonzi once said that a Verdi tenor's voice should have "the color of blood"). But Kuladov uses his resources well, and certainly never a liability.
The video and sound quality of this DVD release are both first-rate. The DVD menu offers the option of English subtitles. The booklet contains a synopsis and Italian libretto.
Recommended particularly for the work of Muti and Ramey. Admirers of the other performers, and of this opera, may purchase this DVD with confidence as well.