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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.
04 Oct 2005
Konrad Jarnot is a young baritone who brings a wonderful vitality to the music he has recorded. He also has another Oehms release, a selection of Lieder by Gustav Mahler, which is engaging for the strong sense of line he brings to that repertoire, which is precisely what he brings to this collection of French vocal music.
It is ambitious for a male singer to take on Maurice Ravel’s Shéhérazade, a cycle usually performed by a female singer. In fact, a number of fine recordings by women already exist to question the need for a male version of the piece. Yet Jarnot executes the music convincingly in what is listed as the “world premiere recording” of this piece performed by a baritone. The three songs that comprise Shéhérazade, “Asie!”, “La flute enchantée,” and “L’indifférent,” are sustained pieces that require the clear presentation that Jarnot and Helmut Deutsch offer. Jarnot’s subtle execution of “Indifférent” bears attention for its extended lines and fine phrasing of the text.
The pianist Helmut Deutsch offers just the proper level of accompaniment, which supports Jarnot well with its discreet entrances and genuinely soft tone. Deutsch’s deft touch sets an appropriate tone for Ravel’s music, especially in some of the more subtle passages. When he faces more extroverted music, as in the previous song, “La flute enchantée,” Deutsch is equally convincing as he reinforces Jarnot’s careful phrasing. Yet it is the opening piece that shows the pair at their best. Jarnot’s exposed lines are full and strong, as he gives Tristan Klingsor’s texts meaningful expression. The repeated cries of “Asie!” suggest the wonder and yearning that the poet attempts to express in this celebration of all those exotic things that make up this powerful song. This is a song that requires sensitivity to work well in a recital, and even more to come off well in a recording like this. It is the remote, the other in us, that makes “Asia” so evocative and Jarnot expresses this well, not only in his inflection of the text, but his nuanced tones.
Similarly, the twelve Mélodies by Henri Duparc are the ones usually performed by a male singer, and Jarnot offers a fine interpretation of these quintessentially French songs. Baudelaire’s text for the final song, “La vie antérieure” offers a fine parallel with Ravel’s “Asie,” the song which opens this recording. In fact, some lines of Baudelaire’s poem are an apt comment on the performance:
. . . Mêlaient d’une façon solennelle et mystique
Les tout puissants accords de leur riche musique . . . .
. . . in a solemn and mystical way, mingled
the powerful chords of their rich music . . .
The performers succeed in conveying the unique sense of each of Duparc’s songs. Through the tempos he has chosen, Jarnot is able to express the text effectively, which is crucial to the settings of verse by such poets as Gautier, Baudelaire, and others. The familiar “L’invitation au voyage” is a fine collaboration between Jarnot and Deutsch, with its sinuous lines evoking the seduction described in the text. In contrast, the more emotionally direct “La vague et la cloche” is masterfully performed, with its almost raucous evocation of the waves that almost overwhelm the song’s protagonist. Between these somewhat extreme expressions of emotion, Duparc’s Mélodies involve a variety of situations that demand much from the performers. Jarnot gives these songs with insight and precision, elements that Deutsch reinforces in his meticulous accompanying. This is music for mature singers, musicians whose expressiveness goes beyond the words on the page to unearth the deeper meanings of the text and the subtleties of the musical lines.
Jarnot delivers the Duparc Mélodies consistently well, which makes this recording noteworthy for anyone interested in this music. The sound of this Oehms recording solidly conveys the nuances of expression for both the voice and piano. Unlike some other Oehms recordings, like Jarnot’s collection of Mahler’s Lieder, there is no question in this CD of French music about the placement of the microphones, which seem too close in that earlier recording. In the present one, the ambiance is appropriate to the music and performers.
As to the CD itself, the booklet includes the original texts for all the pieces on it, along with translations in German and English. With such relatively unfamiliar music, having the texts available is preferable to having listeners find them on their own. Oehms may want to provide consistently texts for fine recordings of vocal music, like this one. Overall, this is an impressive recording that bodes well for future recordings by this promising baritone.
James L. Zychowicz