Recently in Recordings
Richard Strauss may be most closely associated with the soprano voice but
this recording of a selection of the composer’s lieder by baritone Thomas
Hampson is a welcome reminder that the rapt lyricism of Strauss’s settings
can be rendered with equal beauty and character by the low male voice.
Bernarda Fink’s recording of Gustav Mahler’s Lieder is an important new release that includes outstanding performances of the composer’s well-known songs, along with compelling readings of some less-familiar ones.
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.
08 Jun 2005
Boris Christoff — Lugano Recital 1976
Boris Christoff was, together with Cesare Siepi, the most prominent bass during The New Golden Age of Singing (1945-1975). At the time of this television recording, he was considered somewhat old hat as he had been singing for more than 30 years. During the mid-sixties he was superseded by Nicolai Ghiaurov who, due to his rolling voice and bigger volume, quickly became the hottest ticket in town. Both men were Bulgarians and there was pure hate between them; especially from Christoff’s side. Christoff was a protégé of the deceased king Boris. He studied in Italy and was not allowed to return home after the war when the communists had snatched power. He didn’t even get a visa to attend his father’s funeral. Ghiaurov was sent to Italy by the communists for further study. Their confrontations as Filippo and Grande Inquisitore in a La Scala Don Carlos are still legendary. Nobody had ever witnessed such (real) hatred in that scene. Afterwards, Christoff demanded that Ghiaurov be ousted but sovrintende Ghiringhelli sided with the younger bass and Christoff’s career at La Scala was finished.
Boris Christoff — Lugano Recital 1976.
Arias and Songs by Mussorgski, Rossini, Mozart and Verdi.
Orchestra della Svizzera italiana, Bruno Amaducci (cond.).
Introduction and interviews by Giorgio Gualerzi.
Dynamic 33476 [DVD]
Boris Christoff was, together with Cesare Siepi, the most prominent bass during The New Golden Age of Singing (1945-1975). At the time of this television recording, he was considered somewhat old hat as he had been singing for more than 30 years. During the mid-sixties, he was superseded by Nicolai Ghiaurov who, due to his rolling voice and bigger volume, quickly became the hottest ticket in town. Both men were Bulgarians and there was pure hate between them; especially from Christoff's side. Christoff was a protégé of the deceased king Boris. He studied in Italy and was not allowed to return home after the war when the communists had snatched power. He didn't even get a visa to attend his father's funeral. Ghiaurov was sent to Italy by the communists for further study. Their confrontations as Filippo and Grande Inquisitore in a La Scala Don Carlos are still legendary. Nobody had ever witnessed such (real) hatred in that scene. Afterwards, Christoff demanded that Ghiaurov be ousted but sovrintende Ghiringhelli sided with the younger bass and Christoff's career at La Scala was finished.
Now that both men are deceased (Christoff died in 1993 and Ghiaurov in 2004), historical perspective has taken its place and it is clear that Christoff was the more imaginative singer and a better one as well, as he kept his voice in better shape far longer than did Ghiaurov. At the time of this live Lugano recital for Swiss television, the older singer was already 62 and, though he cannot quite hide his age, there is still a lot to enjoy. At first there is a somewhat hollow sound and it seems as if higher notes come easier than lower ones. The characteristic timbre, which was Christoff's glory, is somewhat absent. This could be any good Slav bass.
Things improve a bit in "La calunnia" but it's only in "Wer ein Liebchen" that the old, well-known black sound to our relief (and probably Christoff's as well) is back. His great monologue from Don Carlos is very fine though he sometimes has to take an extra breath (In "Amor per me non ha" he takes three); but there is the noble uttering and an even more rounded and finer pianissimo than in his many commercial recordings.
His death of Boris is still the yard stick with which other singers are measured. There is something strange in that scene. He is clearly singing with all his force (no synchro) but nevertheless one hears a chorus that is not on the scene and indeed not even mentioned. So I wonder if this was mixed in later. It's well possible as this is a European TV-broadcast. TV-directors in those times still thought of themselves as artists instead of craftsmen (indeed, a lot of them still do) and they would always try to apply their artistic touch and so-called sensitivity. (I was a TV reporter and producer at Flemish Public TV at that time and I remember too well the many fights as I wanted these gentlemen to do my bidding instead of theirs). There are a few fine examples to be found in this recording. During the climactic phrases of King Philip's aria, the camera is fixed for almost twenty seconds on the conductor instead of the singer. The moment Christoff has sung his last utterances in Boris, we get a fake 19th-Century drawing of the Tsar during the postlude and the ensuing applause and we are not allowed to see Christoff during his well-deserved bows.
At the occasion of this concert, young Giorgio Gualerzi interviewed Christoff and I'm fairly sure it was the original director, and not Dynamic, who mixed parts of this interview during the concert proper. Half an hour of singing in one stretch was probably not artistic enough. Gualerzi proves himself to be a pedantic and bad interviewer, always ready to interrupt Christoff. The bass himself has some interesting things to say on older singers ("our professors" he calls their recordings) and modern composers (a hilarious story on Hindemith) who he clearly despised.
The sound of this DVD is excellent and the images are acceptable for the times: not too well focused and a little bit whitewashed. This is not Dynamic's fault. The seventies and eighties are a disaster for TV-archives. When we switched from film to video, we used all kinds of sizes and we didn't take precautions for storing. Theoretically, each recording ought to have been copied and recopied each year to keep the colour quality. No broadcasting company ever thought of doing this (and it would have been horrendously expensive) and so five or ten years later the images of many historical happenings had almost deteriorated into oblivion.
Compared with those sad losses, this DVD is still eminently viable. As there are so few documents available on this giant of a singer (the Napoli Forza and a few B/W features), even this registration of an older Christoff is a must.