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
“Few tenors today have his ringing top” and “his ringing, clear top” are not exactly qualities one associates with baritenor Placido Domingo, as he has been calling himself for the last ten years. Still, those were the exact words used by critic Peter Hoffer in his reports for Opera Magazine and Opera News on the opening of La Scala for the season 1969-1970. In all honesty, a ringing top à la Corelli is not exactly what one hears on this recording. But there is no hint of a pushed up baritone either. This is 28-year old fresh voiced Domingo with all the beauty and youthful freshness of the middle voice and quite an acceptable top always taking the higher option (A or B-flat) at the end of a solo or a duet. Mr. Domingo has been so long among us that one somewhat has forgotten how meltingly beautiful the young tenor sang, relying on his outstanding vocal gifts.
Giuseppe Verdi: Ernani
Placido Domingo (Ernani); Raina Kabaivanska (Elvira); Nicolai Ghiaurov (Don Ruy Gomez da Silva); Carlo Meliciani (Don Carlo); Giovanna (Milena Pauli); Piero De Palma (Don Riccardo)
Orchestra e Coro del Teatro alla Scala di Milano conducted by Antonino Votto
Live Registation 7.12.1969
MYTO 051304 [2CDs]
"Few tenors today have his ringing top" and "his ringing, clear top" are not exactly qualities one associates with baritenor Placido Domingo, as he has been calling himself for the last ten years. Still, those were the exact words used by critic Peter Hoffer in his reports for Opera Magazine and Opera News on the opening of La Scala for the season 1969-1970. In all honesty, a ringing top à la Corelli is not exactly what one hears on this recording. But there is no hint of a pushed up baritone either. This is 28-year old fresh voiced Domingo with all the beauty and youthful freshness of the middle voice and quite an acceptable top always taking the higher option (A or B-flat) at the end of a solo or a duet. Mr. Domingo has been so long among us that one somewhat has forgotten how meltingly beautiful the young tenor sang, relying on his outstanding vocal gifts.
Original phrasing or deep musical insights (which are barely to be found in the score) never became Domingo's forte though at the time we still had hopes. Nevertheless this is fine singing in difficult circumstances. The year before La Scala had a difficult opening with extreme left demonstrators not shy to use violence. The opening of 1969-1970 was one with a lot of police in and around the house, no flowers in the theatre and no jewelry for the ladies. Moreover this was Domingo's Scala and role début. Inevitably, he was nervous and this shows in his aria where he is at loggerheads with Votto's tempi but he soon relaxes and gives us his golden tone from beginning to end.
His partner is Raina Kabaivanska, by that time a seasoned performer at La Scala who had made her début there 9 years earlier in Beatrice di Tenda. She often has the better of him; somewhat outsinging him during duets or trios. I heard both of them one year later during an impressive Manon Lescaut and he surely didn't have the smaller voice. So this must be a question of balance and I've got the feeling that Kabaivanska with her routine knew the better spots on La Scala's scene from where to hurl her voice into the house and the mikes. Her voice too is pretty, youthful and she always knew how to respect a Verdian line.
This is one of the few recordings with baritone Carlo Meliciani. Piero Cappuccilli had succumbed to flu and he was replaced by this La Scala stalwart (ten years older than Domingo) who often sang in second casts or modern operas. The sound is not to be despised however. Somewhat hesitatingly during the first act, he clearly comes into his own from "Vieni meco" on and gives a magnificent and stylish "O dei verd'anni miei". The voice resembles Benvenuto Franci's rich sound with quite the same vibrato (which I personally like) though without the elder baritone's strength on top (no ending on G). The recording once more teaches us a lesson on the difference between real and recorded sound: Meliciano's decibels are impressive and yet the same Opera News critic writes "a voice lacking in weight for this theatre", an opinion I can only concur with as he didn't make an unforgettable impression on me when I heard him two years later at the Verona arena.
One who has the voice in both the theatre and the studio is Nicolai Ghiaurov as Silva using his fine instrument in an impressive way showing off an exemplary legato. Conductor Antonino Votto doesn't let the music go slack and lets conductor purism not get the better of his judgment; therefore we get interpolated high notes and Silva's cabaletta "Infin che un brando vindice", rousingly sung by the bass even though it is suspected that Verdi was not the composer. Muti would never have allowed it and indeed had it cut out in his 1982 recording. In the official EMI-set, Domingo and especially Ghiaurov have lost some of the sheen on their voices and therefore admirers of both singers will do well to purchase this recording under review.