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.
03 Jul 2005
Claudio Abbado: Hearing the Silence — Sketches for a Portrait
Five minutes into this DVD there has been a lot of talk on Abbado’s aura, his aristocratic reserve and the fact that he is a private thinker. With a deep sigh I was reminded of some of those dreadful documentaries on Arte (a German-French arts channel which I have on cable) that have promising titles and then soon lose themselves in a lot of philosophical treatises without any real content. And what was almost the last image of this documentary?: “In collaboration with Arte”
Claudio Abbado: Hearing the Silence — Sketches for a Portrait
Produced and directed by Paul Smaczny
TDK Euroarts 2053278 [DVD]
Five minutes into this DVD there has been a lot of talk on Abbado's aura, his aristocratic reserve and the fact that he is a private thinker. With a deep sigh I was reminded of some of those dreadful documentaries on Arte (a German-French arts channel which I have on cable) that have promising titles and then soon lose themselves in a lot of philosophical treatises without any real content. And what was almost the last image of this documentary?: "In collaboration with Arte"
Subtitles like "hearing the silence" and "sketches" and not a portrait itself should have warned me and they keep their promises: lots and lots of vague high-minded talk with some hidden nuggets. After ten minutes into this experience we get some footage of 1968 in an interview with Marcel Prawy, the recently deceased grand old man of opera in Austria. Prawy asks some simple but really interesting questions and so we learn that Abbado as a young music student in Vienna was not allowed to attend rehearsals with the great conductors on the roster. His solution was simple: with his good bass-baritone he became a temporary member of the chorus and saw the great men in action. End of the historical footage. But an interviewer really interested in Abbado's art would have asked what he learned, if indeed he learned anything, by watching Karajan and Walter. And another inevitable question would have been: how did his own singing experiences influence his behaviour towards his singers in his many operatic performances? Nothing of this at all. The only moment we see Abbado conducting an opera is during a less typical performance of Elektra and there is no comment at all on the problems of that difficult relationship between stage and pit, of Abbado's vision on "Das Regietheater."
Of course there are a lot of interviews with some of his players and here too it is strange to note that nobody offers hard facts on Abbado's stick technique, his downbeat or other important signs of music making. We learn that everybody calls him Claudio and not maestro, that he is very democratic, charismatic, etc. but what does that tell us? Indeed, the only really interesting details are given by Abbado himself for 30 seconds and strangely enough by his friend and actor Bruno Ganz who has studied Abbado's gestures during a concert. In exchange Ganz may expand on every question of life and death, recite German poems of Hölderlin (admired by Abbado) so that the director can show some landscapes and tell us there were problems with composer Luigi Nono. What kind of problems? That's not for us to know. Ganz has almost as much to tell as Abbado himself and we should not forget that the actor is "hot" as he played (not too well in my opinion) the title role in "Der Untergang," the movie about Hitler's last days.
There is a lot of footage on Abbado's concerts and there at last we can see for ourselves how he leads with his eyes and the "pa, pa, pa" sounds he makes. But it is not clear why this or that piece is chosen. No one ever asks the conductor which kind of composers he prefers or why he conducts this and not that. It comes as a kind of surprise in this philosophical entertainment that such worldly themes as his illness — he was diagnosed with cancer 4 years ago — pop up though he now distinctly looks better than a few years ago when, with superhuman strength, he continued conducting and one feared he would not finish some concerts. We also learn that he left the Berliner Symphoniker of his own accord in 2002, though it is a lifetime post. Of course everybody deeply regrets his decision and there is no dissenting voice to tell some of the less savoury stories. The orchestra deeply loved its maestro but it loved something more: money. For one or another reason (a saturated market; Abbado's simplicity and humility compared with his predecessor's incessant marketing of himself) Abbado's records didn't sell well: often only a few thousand copies were sold worldwide. At one time, the Berliner and Abbado were even relegated to accompanying the love couple's (Alagna-Gheorgiu) Verdi duets. That didn't sit well with an orchestra that remembered too well the rich pickings on the record market during Karajan's era. The grumbling and his illness were reasons enough for Abbado to keep the honour of resigning to himself. All in all, this DVD is a missed chance.