Recently in Recordings
As the editor of Opera magazine, John Allison, notes in his editorial in the June issue, Donizetti fans are currently spoilt for choice, enjoying a ‘Donizetti revival’ with productions of several of the composer’s lesser known works cropping up in houses around the world.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and
Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.
This Winterreise is the final instalment of Matthias Goerne’s series of Schubert lieder for Harmonia Mundi and it brings the Matthias Goerne Schubert Edition, begun in 2008, to a dark, harrowing close.
This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.
We see the characters first in two boxes at an opera house. The five singers share a box and stare at the stage. But Konstanze’s eye is caught by a man in a box opposite: Bassa Selim (actor Tobias Moretti), who stares steadily at her and broods in voiceover at having lost her, his inspiration.
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.
14 Jun 2005
Dame Gwyneth Jones sings Wagner
This CD is a digital remastering of an original 1991 recording of Gwyneth Jones in selections from Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Tristan und Isolde and Götterdämmerung. Jones was (and is) one of the great interpreters of Wagner, and the release of this CD is a welcome event, not only to her many friends, but all of us who are fascinated by the interpretation of Wagner’s works. The recording is clearly meant to serve as a recorded monument to her artistry. Unfortunately, the CD is marred by many problems that make it less than satisfactory.
Dame Gwyneth Jones sings Wagner
Westdeutsche Rundfunk Orchestra of Cologne, Roberto Paternostro (cond.)
Chandos CHAN 10286 X [CD]
This CD is a digital remastering of an original 1991 recording of Gwyneth Jones in selections from Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Tristan und Isolde and Götterdämmerung. Jones was (and is) one of the great interpreters of Wagner, and the release of this CD is a welcome event, not only to her many friends, but all of us who are fascinated by the interpretation of Wagner's works. The recording is clearly meant to serve as a recorded monument to her artistry. Unfortunately, the CD is marred by many problems that make it less than satisfactory.
As we might expect, the sound engineers for this CD elected to foreground Jones's voice. But they also chose to "iron out" the dynamics, so that the fortes are attenuated and the pianos are amplified. Forte and piano, we might say, are no longer indicators of volume, but rather of color. This has the effect of diminishing the differences between Jones's interpretations of the individual heroines: Elsa and Isolde sound quite similar. Only in a few passages, such as the beginning of Elizabeth's prayer or the end of Brünnhilde's immolation scene, do we get a clear sense of Jones's distinctive approach to these characters.
Sound engineers might also be responsible for the quality of the orchestral sound, which is generally cold, thin, and overly bright. Part of this, however, must be laid at the door of the conductor. Paternostro goes a long way toward making Wagner's music sound banal. This reviewer found Paternostro's interpretation of the Tristan prelude (paired, as we might expect, with the Liebestod) to be the low point of the entire CD. His rather metronomic approach to the score deprives the performance of the sense of large-scale development that is so essential in Wagner. The tempi are rather quick, but somehow the performances seem too long.
One of the most distinctive things about Dame Gwyneth's voice is her approach to vibrato. She often begins a long note without any vibrato at all, adding it quickly in what we might think of as an idiomatic version of the classic mezza di voce. This can be a thrilling effect, but too often, the initial attack is under pitch. Jones's approach sometimes sounds mannered, particularly in the upper part of her range. In other sections, however, the effect is absolutely magical. The opening and the final passages of the Liebestod, for instance, are ravishing. Jones sings the final note in a bell-like pianissimo, without any trace of vibrato at all, producing what can only be called a sonic emblem of transfiguration.
The total time of this CD is only a bit over 55 minutes, and a few of the Wagnerian soprano chestnuts are missing. I would have particularly enjoyed hearing Dame Gwyneth sing Senta's ballad from Der fliegende Holländer and "Der Männer Sippe" from Die Walküre (they are absent from this CD). Despite its inadequacies, this recording is an important document of what is surely one of the great Wagnerian voices of the late twentieth century.
Dr. Stephen Meyer