Recently in Recordings
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.
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?
29 Sep 2005
FALLA: El amor brujo; El sombrero de tres picos; La vida breve
With this CD, Naxos continues its well deserved reputation for producing recordings at affordable prices, and more often than not, but not limited to, music that is rarely performed, or with a limited audience.
Falla’s output, though well respected, lacks the popularity it deserves among vocal enthusiasts. One reason may well be Falla’s overall limited output. He composed mainly for piano and orchestra, though he wrote several songs, six zarzuelas, a full scale opera, La vida breve (Brief Life), and the posthumous Atlántida, which occupied him the last nineteen years of his life. Another reason may be that, though Fallas’s music is forward looking and tinged with the influence of the French composers he met in Paris between 1905 and 1914, it is very esoteric in the composer’s use of the haunting melodies of his youth—Spanish folk music—part flamenco, part gypsy, and Cante jondo. However, that in itself is what makes his music so interesting and unique.
The vocal line in the two pieces on this disc is minimal but crucial to the story, especially in El amor brujo (Love, the Magician).
El amor brujo which premiered in 1915, and later revised, is the story of thwarted love between Candelas and her new lover, Carmelo, who cannot kiss her to break the spell of Cadelas’ dead lover. Alicia Nafé delivers a solid performance, at once eerie and intoxicating. Her dark, yet unmistakably feminine voice comes from the depths of a bottomless well to, at once, become all four characters in the story. The music too is intoxicating, with several very definite Andalusian folk themes woven in. The Danza ritual del fuego is probably the best known segment of the ballet, with its images of fire and doom, however the Introducción y escena, a bright outburst of sound and fanfare in contrast to the dark mood of the piece, is also worthy of praise.
El sombrero de tres picos (The Three-Cornered Hat) is a much lighter work: the stereotypical corrupt government official trying to take advantage of the simple people, but the plan backfires. The name of the piece derives from the three cornered hat that the Corregidor (magistrate) wears to signify his position. Soprano María José Martos gets little chance to display her instrument but when she does, it is a beautiful, secure lyric voice. The Jota is a lively dance at the end of the piece with many “Spanish” themes, one of which foretells Ravel’s La Valse composed two years after the premiere of Falla’s work.
Danza, from La vida breve, is thoroughly “Spanish” and quintessential Falla. Considered to be one of the finest moments of the opera, it takes place during a wedding celebration.
Maximiano Valdés knows the orchestra well and brings out the best from his players without neglecting or compromising the vocal parts.