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.
14 Jun 2005
VIVALDI: Arsilda, Regina di Ponto
Antonio Vivaldi composed Arsilda, Regina di Ponto for the Venetian theater of Sant’Angelo in the fall of 1716. While Vivaldi had, by its debut, been an important member of Venetian musical culture for over a decade as a violinist and composer, he had begun composing only three years earlier. Domenico Lalli, his librettist, who settled in Venice in 1710 after fleeing his native Naples upon being charged with embezzlement, was one of the most important librettists of the first decades of the eighteenth century.
Antonio Vivaldi: Arsilda, Regina di Ponto (RV 700)
Simonetta Cavalli (Arsilda); Lucia Sciannimanico (Lisea); Elena Cecchi Fedi (Mirinda); Nicky Kennedy (Barzane); Joseph Cornwell (Tamese); Sergio foresti (Cisardo); Alessandra Rossi (Nicandro).
Modo Antiquo and the Coro da Camera Italiano, Federico Maria Sardelli (cond.)
cpo 999 740-2 [3CDs]
Antonio Vivaldi composed Arsilda, Regina di Ponto for the Venetian theater of Sant'Angelo in the fall of 1716. While Vivaldi had, by its debut, been an important member of Venetian musical culture for over a decade as a violinist and composer, he had begun composing only three years earlier. Domenico Lalli, his librettist, who settled in Venice in 1710 after fleeing his native Naples upon being charged with embezzlement, was one of the most important librettists of the first decades of the eighteenth century.
This recording features the Baroque orchestra of Modo Antiquo, an ensemble with particular expertise in the music of Vivaldi and his contemporaries. Founded in 1984 under the direction of Sardelli, the group has made several recordings with Amadeus, cpo and Tactus, including the first complete recording of Vivaldi's cantatas. They have also performed at many European early music festivals, including the Italian festival Opera Barga, for which this production of Arsilda was prepared in 2001. Sardelli is working on a critical edition of Arsilda for Istituto Antonio Vivaldi; in his authored excerpt in the liner notes, he points out his intention to implement both a musical and a musicological approach towards Vivaldi's operas. The music in this recording is based on the autograph of the work and is described as a "reconstruction of the original version" that emphasizes the first arias written rather than the composer's later changes and additions for the 1716 performances.
Arsilda is a typical early eighteenth-century plot in its use of love intrigues, mistaken identities, and musical features such as simile arias. As such, it perfectly encapsulates the contemporary Pier Jacopo Martello's tongue-in-cheek satire of opera of the day, which argued that opera, in order to be entertaining, should avoid following Aristotelian rules of drama and instead feature favored scenic conventions, such as prison and sleep scenes. Arsilda employs several such scenarios, including a hunt that takes place in a verdant forest and a dungeon scene. Moreover, its story hinges on concealed identities. Reliant on a pair of twins for its main intrigue--one male and one female--the story opens with Lisea, disguised as her brother Tamese and posing as King, and Arsilda, engaged to be married to "Tamese." We learn that Tamese has been lost at sea and is presumed dead, and in order to preserve the throne, Lisea has adopted his identity. Arsilda is puzzled and disappointed by "Tamese's" lack of interest, while Lisea/Tamese, for her part, is angry when she learns that her true fiancé, Barzane, has betrayed her and instead pursues Arsilda. The true Tamese, meanwhile, is disguised as the palace gardener, and both Arsilda and Lisea have an unexplained attraction to him.
While Vivaldi's instrumental music has been widely known for some time, only in recent decades have his operas attracted such attention. There is, therefore, a relative dearth of recordings of his operas, and any contribution is appreciated. Modo Antiquo's contibution is a quality recording, done on period instruments with highly competent singers. While at times the sound quality of the recording could be more focused, with low frequencies at times overwhelming the vocal lines and occasionally making comprehension of the text difficult, the recording overall gives wonderful insight into Vivaldi's characterizations and skill at both instrumental and vocal writing. Thanks to the efforts of Sardelli and Modo Antiquo, scholars, Vivaldi fans, and opera lovers in general now have an additional example of Vivaldi's early operatic style.
Many of the arias employ striking instrumentation to help convey the sense of the text. Fipple-flutes are used for pastoral settings, for example, while horns are used for the hunting scenes. Simile arias appear in abundance, such as Arsilda's Act 2, sc. 12 aria "Son come farfalletta" where muted violins and fast arpeggios imitate the fluttering of wings, and Mirinda's "Io son quel Gelsomino" in Act 1, Sc. 15, which imitates the blowing of wind through leafy branches with imitation between voice and strings. All of the singers on this recording convey the individual characterizations with knowledgeable awareness of performance practice and attention to phrasing, dynamics, and ornamentation. Particularly charming are the arias for Mirinda, the naïaut;ve maid, sung by Elena Cecchi Fedi who has a flexible voice perfectly suited to the virtuosic arias often given to this character. Equally pleasing is Lucia Sciannimanico as Lisea and Sergio Foresti as Cisardo.
Dr. Mary Macklem
University of Central Florida