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.
05 Jun 2005
SCHUBERT: Die Schöne Müllerin
In some circles, Bostridge isn’t fashionable, perhaps because he achieved success so early, because he didn’t come up through the choirboy route, and, perhaps, most of all because he is so startlingly different. But those with a real interest in intelligent music making would do well to ignore the clichés and really listen to this. It’s an experience to change most perceptions of the cycle, and indeed of Schubert. This is no quaint bucolic romp. The protagonist kills himself, doomed even before he meets the girl. As Bostridge points out, the poet Wilhelm Müller said it should be “im Winter zu lessen.” The songs refer to Maytime and blossoms, but since Nature itself is destructive, this is just seductive sham. This cycle is to read in the spirit of a harsh Prussian winter, not an innocent Austrian spring. Schubert picked up on the inner meaning of Müller’s poetry because he had himself just been diagnosed with syphilis — the AIDS of his era. He had no bucolic delusions. He knew only too well that Nature can turn love into death.
Franz Schubert : Die Schöne Müllerin.
Ian Bostridge, tenor; Mitsuko Uchida, piano.
Recorded December 2003, Lyndhurst Hall, London.
EMI Classics 5 57827 2 [CD]
In some circles, Bostridge isn't fashionable, perhaps because he achieved success so early, because he didn't come up through the choirboy route, and, perhaps most of all, because he is so startlingly different. But those with a real interest in intelligent music making would do well to ignore the clichés and really listen to this. It's an experience to change most perceptions of the cycle, and indeed of Schubert. This is no quaint bucolic romp. The protagonist kills himself, doomed even before he meets the girl. As Bostridge points out, the poet Wilhelm Müller said it should be "im Winter zu lessen." The songs refer to Maytime and blossoms, but since Nature itself is destructive, this is just seductive sham. This cycle is to read in the spirit of a harsh Prussian winter, not an innocent Austrian spring. Schubert picked up on the inner meaning of Müller's poetry because he had himself just been diagnosed with syphilis — the AIDS of his era. He had no bucolic delusions. He knew only too well that Nature can turn love into death.
Bostridge has gone far beyond tradition, back to the root issues in the music. No wonder he disturbs the conventional! Yet his understanding of the background is authoritative, well researched and psychologically unassailable. This is the version that comes closest perhaps to what Schubert and Müller might have felt, yet also resounds for us, who live in the 21st century. The only precedent is the recording by Matthias Goerne and Alfred Brendel, which scandalised many. Goerne's reading focussed on the psychopathology of the teenage suicide, a haunting analysis into the depths of a broken mind — a Wozzeck Schöne Müllerin, perhaps. Bostridge keeps scrupulously faithful to the score, and his interpretation fits better with the period. Romanticism, with its interest in the irrational, swept away the certainties of the Age of Reason. Gothic horror was an attempt to deal with the subconscious, the beginnings of a more questioning sensibility. The Romantics hadn't discovered "psychology" as such but expressed dark feelings in terms of the supernatural. Bostridge appreciates the link between this cycle and Erlkönig. Nobody does supernatural better than Bostridge. Hans Werner Henze was so fascinated by Bostridge's ability to express wild, transfixed emotion intuitively, he wrote the remarkable Sechs Gesänge aus dem Arabischen for him. Others have performed that cycle, but none come anywhere near its horrifying, otherworldly mystery.
Uchida's playing may seem dominant in comparison with more self effacing accompanists, but this is precisely the point, in this interpretation. The brook is a malevolent, elemental entity, with a will of its own, far stronger than any mortal. Her playing is, appropriately, demonic, despite the deliberately coy moments of lyricism. Bostridge has journeyed far from his seminal Die Schöne Müllerin for Hyperion so many years ago. His voice has deepened and rounded out in the lower ranges, and he is more assured. The last few years have brought out a steely firmness of character, which shows in his decisive diction and phrasing. He's learned not to push emphases too far, and to let the innate musical line shine through, as his recent Winterreise with Leif Ove Andsnes shows. He is singing better than ever. Combined with perhaps the most intuitive understanding of repertoire in the business, he is a force to be taken seriously and respected. Uchida pushes him and he responds. Her brook is Nature's capriciousness personified. But Bostridge's miller fights back. I've never heard such a defiant "Eifersucht und Stolz." In the final "Wiegenlied," the brook cradles its quarry, with twisted, psychotic love. Nonetheless, this miller has stood up to it with dignity. Frankly, a version performed with such intelligence, commitment and insight deserves being listened to with insight.