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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.
12 Jun 2005
SCHUMANN: Dichterliebe & Kerner-Lieder
Ulf Bästlein’s recent compilation of Lieder by Schumann presents fine performances of the works listed in the title, the cycle Dichterliebe (to texts by Heinrich Heine) and the Liederreihe usually referred to as the Kerner-Lieder for the twelve settings of poetry by author Justinus Kerner. It also contains some songs that may be less familiar, including several other settings of Heine: “Der arme Peter,” op. 53, no. 3, “Die beiden Grenadiere,” op. 49, no 1, and the late work “Dein Angesicht,” op. 127, no. 2. This is a rich and focused program that offers some of Schumann’s finest Lieder on a single disc.
Robert Schumann: Dichterliebe & Kerner-Lieder.
Ulf Bästlein, baritone, Stefan Laux, piano.
Hänssler Classic 98.452 [CD]
Ulf Bästlein's recent compilation of Lieder by Schumann presents fine performances of the works listed in the title, the cycle Dichterliebe (to texts by Heinrich Heine) and the Liederreihe usually referred to as the Kerner-Lieder for the twelve settings of poetry by author Justinus Kerner. It also contains some songs that may be less familiar, including several other settings of Heine: "Der arme Peter," op. 53, no. 3, "Die beiden Grenadiere," op. 49, no 1, and the late work "Dein Angesicht," op. 127, no. 2. This is a rich and focused program that offers some of Schumann's finest Lieder on a single disc.
The bass-baritone Bästlein is well known for his work with Lieder, since he has explored the repertoire widely in his own performances, as well as in his teaching. He is involved with the Lieder Festival in the city of Husom, and other efforts to further the genre. It is rare to find such an informed musician, whose interests span the gamut of the Lied, from its origins in the eighteenth century to modern expressions of German song in the twentieth century. In fact, Bästlein's accompanist, Stefan Laux, may be regarded as a kindred spirit because of his own broad interest in Lieder, which also spans a similar range of music in this genre and, especially, pieces by composers of the New Viennese School. Thus, a recording by these two gifted and informed individuals is very welcome.
The performances are, in general, thoughtful and sensitive. Both musicians let the music speak for itself and refrain from affections that bespeak an individual approach that is calculated to make a mark. Rather, the tempos fit the sense of text, and this aspect of performances emerges clearly in all the Lieder, from the pensive "Im wunderschönen Monat Mai" that opens the Dichterliebe to lighter pieces, like "Die beiden Grenadiere," with its Teutonic evocation of the Marsellaise. Dynamics reflect the score well and, again, nothing is excessive such that the text is ever obscured or, worse, misrepresented by the performers. A telling point is "Ich grolle nicht," the crucial song at the center of Schumann's Dichterliebe, which Bästlein presents with admirable intensity and accuracy. The evenness of his vocal tone is evident in this familiar piece. Likewise, the song that follows it in the cycle, "Und wüssten's die Blumen" requires a deft pianist, whose facility must not obscure the voice, but rather support it with his own musicianship, and Laux does this well. The outburst of virtuosity at the song's conclusion is appropriate and wholly in the spirit the work as a whole.
While most of the Lieder recorded here are settings of Heinrich Heine's poetry, the Kerner-Lieder are notable because these well-written pieces are sometimes overshadowed by Schumann's other song collections. In his notes to this recording, Joachim Draheim mentions how closely Schumann's settings of these poems recalls in some ways Schubert's music, and this becomes apparent in the subtle way the two performers execute the songs. Songs like "Wanderlied" and "Wanderung" make use of triadic figures that recollect some aspects of Schubert's style and also anticipate some the style Mahler would use for some of his settings from Des Knaben Wunderhorn. At the same time some of the Kerner-Lieder anticipate the elegiac character that Schumann would refine in some of his later vocal music. "Alte Laute," the last of the set, anticipates in some ways the reflective quality that makes the Dichterliebe memorable. One does not have to look for far to hear such connections, since the performers make them elegantly clear in this recording.
James L. Zychowicz