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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.
The economics of the recording companies dictate much that is not ideal.
Wagner’s operas were not composed as they were in order to permit the
extraction of bleeding chunks, even on those occasions when strophic song forms
Among the recent recordings of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, Valery Gergiev’s release on the LSO Live label is an excellent addition to the discography of this work.
While not unknown, the songs of Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942) deserve to be heard more frequently.
Recorded on 5 and 6 May 2008 and 17 and 18 January 2009 at the Lisztzentrum (Raiding, Austria), this recent Bridge release makes available the piano-vocal versions of three song cycles by Gustav Mahler, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert-Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder performed by mezzo-soprano Hermine Haselböck, accompanied by Russell Ryan.
Contraltos rarely achieve the acclaim and renown of sopranos. Assigned few leading roles in opera, they are condemned to playing the villain or the grandmother, or to stealing the castrati’s trousers in en travesti roles.
Following their 2011 Decca recording of Striggio’s Mass in 40 Parts (1566), I Fagiolini continue their quest to unearth lost treasures of the High Renaissance and early Baroque, with this collection of world-premiere recordings, ‘reconstructions’ and ‘reconstitutions’ of music by Giovanni and Andrea Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Palestrina, and their less well-known compatriots Viadana, Barbarino and Soriano.
Eternal Echoes is an album of khazones [Jewish cantorial music] for cantorial soloist, solo violin and a blended instrumental ensemble comprising a small orchestra and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.
Michael Tilson Thomas’s recording of Mahler’s Third Symphony is an outstanding contribution to the composer’s discography.
Oliver Knussen burst into British music with an unprecedented flourish. In 1967, the London Symphony Orchestra premiered Knussen’s First Symphony, with István Kertész scheduled to conduct.
Based on performances given in Summer 2010 at the Lucerne Festival, this recording of Beethoven’s Fidelio is an admirable recording that captures the vitality of the work as conducted by Claudio Abbado.
Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) was one of the most popular composers of his day in Poland, and of the many works he wrote for the stage, two are performed from time to time, Halka (1848) and Strazny dwór [The Haunted Manor] (1865).
The Polish alto Jadwiga Rappé is a familiar voice in various stage and concert works, and the recent release of a selection of songs by Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) is an opportunity to hear her performing artsongs.
Originally released on multiple discs in 1981 this reissue on two CDs is a comprehensive collection of art songs by Italian and French composers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
An exciting contribution to the discography of this popular opera, the live performance of Richard Strauss’s Salome from the Festspielhaus at Baden-Baden is a compelling DVD.
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.