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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.
03 Oct 2005
CONRADI: Die schöne und getreue Ariadne
Since its inception in 1980, the biennial Boston Early Music Festival has grown to international stature of the first rank, and while its programming is diverse in scale and repertory, its focus in recent years has been on full-scale productions of baroque opera, including Monteverdi’s L’Orfeo, Rossi’s Orfeo, Cavalli’s Ercole Amante, Lully’s Thésée, and this past summer, Mattheson’s Boris Goudenouw.
Amply underscoring the internationalism of the Festival, the opera for 2003, Johann Georg Conradi’s Ariadne, was later recorded in Bremen in a collaboration between BEMF, Westdeutscher Rundfunk Köln, and Radio Bremen.
Conradi’s Ariadne (1691) is the earliest surviving opera from the Theater am Gänsemarkt in Hamburg, and its own diversity of national influences suggests a symbolic precursor of the modern collaborative sponsorship. George Buelow brought the score of Ariadne to light in the 1970s, and describes it as a “highly expressive and cosmopolitan mixture of Venetian, German, and French styles.” The Lullian echoes here are easily heard in the overture, the dance movements, and the divertissements—Act I concludes, for instance, with a scene for dancing and singing scissors grinders; Act III concludes with a lengthy Passacaille for Venus, the Graces, Bacchus, and a Satyr; both scenes recall the entertainments of tragedies en musique. (The dancing scissors grinders, as Terpsichorean tradesmen, seem “cousins,” as well, to the dancing tailors of Lully’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme.) The Lullian influence derives in part from Conradi’s time as Kapellmeister at Ansbach in the 1680’s, where French opera was frequently performed and the orchestra included Johann Fischer, Lully’s one-time copyist.
Italian accents are clear in the airs and recitatives, but also in the comic character of Pamphilius, sung with imaginative flair here by Jan Kobow. Pamphilius has a philosophizing bent and a capacity for deflating the elevated feelings of his “betters” that one recognizes immediately in Monteverdi’s Iro from Il Ritorno Ulisse or later in Handel’s Elviro from Serse.
Conradi’s Ariadne, though a long work at around three hours, gives the impression of being fast-paced, with its many arias moving ahead without tarrying in lengthy development. And Christian Heinrich Postel’s libretto places the story of Ariadne in a rich weave of characters and circumstance that also helps propel things forward with interest. In the end, Ariadne’s emotionally textured third-act lament underscores that it is indeed her story that is the central one, but the love of her sister Phaedra for Theseus, the shame of their mother Pasiphæ in having conceived the monstrous Minotaur, and the love of Evanthes (Bacchus) for Ariadne are all compelling story-lines in their own right, and are given due attention in the opera. Through the modern prominence of works like Monteverdi’s “Lamento d’Arianna” we have come to see Arianna as something of a poster girl for abandonment. Significantly, in Conradi’s opera, the abandonment is given appropriate weight in Ariadne’s moving lament, but she in turn rather quickly abandons her lamentative state to unite happily with Bacchus. In the end, if she is to be a poster girl, it is in the cause of love’s ultimate fulfillment.
The performance is an unflaggingly gratifying one, sung by a uniformly accomplished cast. And significantly, the singers, though cohesive in ensemble, maintain an interesting interplay of vocal individuality that itself underscores the number of story-lines in the libretto. For example, Karina Gauvin brings to her Ariadne a vibrant sound and rhetorical flair, but also, especially in Act II’s “Ihr Augen die der Himmel zieret,” a strikingly flexible lightness. Barbara Borden’s lithe tone, contoured phrasing, and impressive articulation on rapid passage work are much to be savored in her Phaedra. And Ellen Hargis’ Pasiphæ gives wonderful evidence of both the elegance and power of her singing and the rare beauty of her finely controlled sound. The individuality of voice brings the richness of character to the fore, and it is one of the most gratifying aspects of this sterling performance. Surely the BEMF Ariadne is one that no one will want to abandon.