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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.
28 Sep 2005
The Very Best of Thomas Hampson
The Very Best of Thomas Hampson is an excellent selection on CD of Hampson’s recordings from various points in his career. The American baritone is one of the international stars of classical music for both his roles on the opera stage and his work as a recitalist.
His recordings with EMI include both studio recordings and live performances, and this CD represents him well through the depth and variety of repertoire it contains.
Of the two CDs in this set, the first CD is devoted primarily Italian and French composers, with the focus mainly on opera, while the second has mostly German composers, with many of the selections being Lieder. There are some exceptions on both CDs, with some songs by Rossini augmenting the Italian repertoire on the first one; similarly, some songs by American composers like Griffes and Foster round out the Lieder on the second.
Hampson’s work in opera includes a number of prominent Italian roles, like the character of Figaro in Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia, and his performance of “Largo al factotum” is characteristic of his clear and straightforward delivery of the text. A parallel piece not usually associated with baritones is “Von der Schönheit,” from Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde, which requires a comparable approach to diction that must also preserve the musicality implicit in the title of the piece. The latter is an excerpt from the recording of the less familiar version of Das Lied that involves two male singers (tenor and baritone), which Hampson made with Peter Seiffert and conducted by Simon Rattle.
Likewise, Hampson is part of some excellent recordings of French opera, such as Gounod’s Faust, and his interpretation of Valentin’s aria “Avant de quitter des lieux” is among the finest from recent decades. His intelligent approach to French repertoire is also represented from a selection from Massenet’s Hérodiade, another fine recording, which also calls to mind his memorable performance several years ago in the new production of the same composer’s Thaïs at the Lyric Opera of Chicago. In addition, Hampson has performed some of the French versions of Verdi’s operas, and he made an exceptional contribution in Don Carlos, which is represented here with two excerpts. For those not familiar with the recording, the selections should give an idea of its merits, not only for Hampson’s contribution, but the other performers, as well.
When it comes to the German repertoire, the selection from Weber’s Euryanthe represents Hampson’s fine diction and nuanced phrasing. Likewise the excerpt from Korngold’s Die tote Stadt is an excellent choice, and the aria “O du mein holder Abendstern” from Wagner’s Tannhaüser conveys some of the power of Hampson’s voice. Yet the baritone’s performances of Lieder are critical for an understanding of his contribution to this repertoire. Hampson’s fine, resonant tone is well suited to Lieder, and his interpretations of Schumann are outstanding, as is shown in the selection from his recording of the Dichterliebe as well as several of Mahler’s Rückert Lieder. As a Mahler interpreter, Hampson is highly respected, and those who enjoy the music included on this CD may wish to explore the singer’s interpretations of Mahler’s settings from Des Knaben Wunderhorn.
As difficult as it sometimes may be to find a representative sampling in any CD entitled “The Very Best,” this selection meets the challenge. Yet it would have been convenient to have the texts and translations of the works included. A discography would be of some assistance for this retrospective CD set and others like it, rather than the selective listings of recordings that were apparently made with EMI alone. These are minor quibbles, however, and should by no means suggest any reservations about this fine collection.
James L. Zychwoicz