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.
19 Sep 2005
All My Heart — Deborah Voigt sings American Songs
“I send my heart up to thee, all my heart in this, my singing” Robert Browning.
The title of this CD is taken from the text of one of Amy Beach’s Three Browning Songs, which close the program. Given Deborah Voigt’s ability to sing this program with completely natural expression and crystal clear diction while maintaining a consistently high standard of vocal production and musicianship, it is easy to believe that in her singing she shares with us something of what is most dear to her own heart. Fortunately for us, in doing this she is also giving us a fine recording of American art songs, some of which will be quite familiar to many listeners, others of which will be wonderful new discoveries.
The program begins with seven songs of Charles Ives, followed by three by Leonard Bernstein. Interestingly, these very complex composers are represented by songs of innocence and nostalgia, generally easy to listen to, although not necessarily easy to perform well. “Two Little Flowers,” for instance, sets its charming little text about the composer’s young daughter and her friend to an accompaniment whose phrasing is half a beat off from that of the voice; and “The Side Show”, which opens the program, alternates triple and duple meter in imitation of a waltz tune being produced by a faulty mechanism. In these songs we can appreciate the artists’ impeccable rhythm and phrasing. “Down East” and “At the River” pass familiar tunes through the distorting power of memory, while “Berceuse” and “The Children’s Hour” share a sense of childhood viewed through adult eyes. This gentle nostalgia is set off by the liveliness of “The Circus Band”, that challenging rite of passage for any aspiring American accompanist. While Deborah Voigt sings it skillfully, pianist Brian Zeger is the real star in this song, bringing off the dense accompaniment with admirable energy and clarity. At first I was disappointed that the performers chose not to speak Ives’s written comment “hear the trombones” at the end of the bravura final interlude but, without the words to distract me, I realized just how well Zeger was in fact allowing me to hear the trombones in the bass line of Ives’s passing parade.
The short set of songs by Bernstein continues the evocation of childhood (or perhaps of second childhood, as in the playful “Piccola Serenata” written for the occasion of Karl Böhm’s eighty-fifth birthday). “Greeting,” which tells of the wonder around the birth of a new child, and “So Pretty,” which expresses a child’s bewilderment at the human cost of war, are both presented in a simple and heartfelt way. Without having to modify her large voice, Voigt is able to scale it back to sound childlike but not childish.
At the heart of the program is a fine set of art songs by the contemporary composer Ben Moore, who has composed several musical shows and cabaret pieces as well as humorous encore pieces for classical singers. While the songs earlier in the program evoked childhood, in many of Moore’s songs we see the dilemmas of people coming to terms with romantic love and the choices it invites them to make. These songs are all melodic, with interesting and singable texts, and harmonies and accompaniments that reinforce the poetry. It is fortunate that such talented artists have chosen to devote at least half of the recording to Moore’s songs, since they deserve to be heard. A particularly memorable song at first hearing is the setting of Thomas Hardy’s “The Ivy Wife,” which deflates the Victorian metaphor of the wife as clinging vine, faithful to the strong tree who is her husband. In a setting of great energy which eschews the delicacy and gentleness associated with that image, we hear a woman on a mission, telling us of how she set out to find the man whom she could cling to and eventually completely contain, and of the resultant destruction to them both.
From these most contemporary of songs, the program moves to the early twentieth century for a short but well-chosen set of songs by the often under-recognized Charles Tomlinson Griffes. The simplicity of “The Half-Ring Moon” and “Pierrot” are as well presented as the complex rhythms of “Cleopatra to the Asp” and the soaring passion of “Evening Song”, which recalls the late Romantic arias of Voigt’s debut recording. But for unabashed Romanticism, nothing on this disk can top the “Three Browning Songs” of Amy Beach, and in this case particularly it seems that the singer and songs were made for each other. The extended swelling phrases, culminating in notes held for multiple measures above the staff, the dynamic range, the skips between registers, all of these in support of the straightforward expression of emotion deeply felt and believed, cry out for the capabilities of a dramatic operatic voice like Voigt’s, and she navigates them with aplomb, as always fully and capably supported by Zeger. The order of the songs is modified slightly, placing “The Year’s at the Spring” at the end, so that the last thing we hear on the recording is the ecstatic declaration “All’s right, all’s right with the world!” Yes, indeed.