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.
01 Jun 2005
GIORDANO: La Cena delle Beffe
The recording industry has recently been good for Umberto Giordano. We now at last have well recorded performances of Mala Vita (Bongiovanni), Siberia (Gala), Madame Sans-Gêne, Il Re and Mese Mariano (all on Dynamic). Still missing are recordings of his first opera Marina, of Regina Diaz, Marcella (Gigli recorded one aria) and Giove a Pompei. La Cena delle Beffe was somewhat better represented. There was a live performance on MRF-LP and in 1988 Bongiovanni recorded another performance (with Fabio Armiliato) in Piacenza. Both recordings however are no match for the RAI broadcast of the 14th of April 1956 (and not 1955 as the sleeve notes say). That recording was already issued several years ago by the same company (Myto 2MCD002.220). The big difference between both issues is that this first version included an Italian language-only libretto while this new issue doesn’t. That can make a difference for enjoying the recording though Sem Benelli’s Italian libretto is not exactly written in house and kitchen Italian.
Umberto Giordano: La Cena delle Beffe
Antonio Annoloro (Gianetto) ; Anselmo Colzani (Neri) ; Enzo Guagni (Gabriello and Trinca) ; Franco Calabrese (Tornaquinci) ; Arrigo Cattelani (Calandra) ; Antonio Sacchetti (Fazio) ; Aldo Corelli (Dottore) ; Walter Artoli (Lapo and Cantore) ; Gigliola Frazzoni (Ginevra) ; Mafalda Micheluzzi (Lisabetta) ; Liliano Pellegrino (Laldomine and Cintia) ; Pina Leo Tanco (Fiametta) .
Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano della RAI, Oliviero De Fabritiis (cond.)
Bonus: Gigliola Frazzoni in La Fanciulla del West (RAI Milano 1955) with Ken Neate and Mario Petri
Myto 052.H103 [2CDs]
The recording industry has recently been good for Umberto Giordano. We now at last have well recorded performances of Mala Vita (Bongiovanni), Siberia (Gala), Madame Sans-Gene, Il Re and Mese Mariano (all on Dynamic). Still missing are recordings of his first opera Marina, of Regina Diaz, Marcella (Gigli recorded one aria) and Giove a Pompei. La Cena delle Beffe was somewhat better represented. There was a live performance on MRF-LP and in 1988 Bongiovanni recorded another performance (with Fabio Armiliato) in Piacenza. Both recordings however are no match for the RAI broadcast of the 14th of April 1956 (and not 1955 as the sleeve notes say). That recording was already issued several years ago by the same company (Myto 2MCD002.220). The big difference between both issues is that this first version included an Italian language-only libretto while this new issue doesn't. That can make a difference for enjoying the recording though Sem Benelli's Italian libretto is not exactly written in house and kitchen Italian.
La Cena was created by Toscanini who clearly believed in the opera and cast it from strength with Lazaro and Melis (Tebaldi's teacher). When it reached the Met, Ruffo, Alda and Gigli sang it and one can easily agree with the tenor's fury at Gatti's decision to press such a strenuous role upon a lyric instrument. After its first rounds, La Cena gradually disappeared and one can understand why. Though the music is firmly tonal, Giordano, of course, knew the works of Zemlinsky and Strauss surely enough; and there is a lot of "meaningful" dissonance to be heard. What ultimately is lacking is the firm melodic touch the composer showed in his best work. The first part of the opera is taken in by a lot of Italian sprechgesang. From the second act on things are getting better though the melodies always sound a little laborious, a little too uninspired. And then there is that one moment of genius in the fourth act when the composer gives us a wonderful serenade (Tornato e maggio), which would be a hit in every tenor's repertoire if this had appeared in Chénier. Now there is only Alessandro Valente's recording and moreover in the opera the serenade is sung by the second tenor (one can hear Gigli sigh) and cut short in the second strophe (yes, like in Di rigori where Benelli and Giordano obviously got the idea).
The recording is a good mono one and the singers belong to that last generation that got their musical education when opera and the verismo traditions were still a living thing in Italy. Antonio Annoloro in the title role has a big, somewhat unrefined, spinto tenor that cuts easily through the thick orchestration and he is absolutely convincing as the vengeful Gianetto. He soon realized that with his less than beautiful voice there was a career to be made in unhackneyed operas and in the same RAI season he sang in the best version up to now of Franco Alfano's Sakuntala ( not on CD but well known in the collectors' circuit).
As Neri baritone Anselmo Colzani is perfect: sinister where necessary, raging when playing the madman. He too is badly underrepresented on recordings and moreover he was a good actor and he would have been terrific on the scene in this role. Tenor Walter Artioli sings the serenade quite well though one of course longs to hear a Ferruccio Tagliavini in this piece.
All comprimari combine individual sound and incisive singing and we even meet Corelli's older brother, Aldo, in a small role. Gigliola Frazzoli sings Ginevra with her big, round though not very individual voice and she, too, clearly believes in her role. In fact, the issue is somewhat centred around her as the second CD has only the short fourth act followed by Minnie's three big duets from Fanciulla, broadcast on the 13th of March 1956. Surprisingly for a radio recording, the sound is rather dull and not better than her well-known complete live recording at La Scala of the same year. As to be expected there are no great differences, either in singing or interpretation, between those two performances. Her radio tenor is Australian Ken Neate with a good solid voice, with gleaming high notes, rather rare for an Anglo-Saxon tenor, and a not very personal or Italian timbre. Though he sings well and stylishly he cannot compete with the thrilling sound of young Franco Corelli in the La Scala recording.