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?
09 Nov 2005
Khachaturian was one of the few Soviet composers of the Stalin regime to overcome his public demotion in 1948. Even though he was removed from his job and his works disappeared from the theatres, Khachaturian moved to the world of film music and waited for the storm to blow over.
Early in 1950, he was allowed to travel to Italy with a Soviet delegation, where he was inspired by the Roman Coliseum to compose a ballet on the life of Spartacus. Working with the author and critic Nikolai D. Volkov (1894-1965), Khachaturian assisted in the construction of a libretto that was based on two main sources, which had also been consulted by Karl Marx: the Roman civil war history by the Alexandrian civil servant and barrister Appian (2 A.D.), and the biography of Crassus by Plutarch (1 A.D.). These two sources described the story of a Thracian prisoner of war who led an uprising out of a gladiator school in 73 B.C., raised an army of peasants and other marginal societal groups, and defeated nine Roman legions and generals before finally being defeated by Roman general Crassus. Volkov gave Spartacus a fictional lover named Phrygia, and Crassus a fictional lover named Aegina. Aegina embodies the moral depravity of the Roman Empire, while Phrygia stands for the freedom and good of the common people. Khachaturian finished the score in 1954, but the original has never been performed. At its premiere in 1956 in the Kirov Theatre, the choreographer Leonid Jacobson (1904-1975) cut the work into a series of friezes, using a pantomime-like style of movement similar to the Isadora Duncan school. The production staged by Igor Moiseyev in 1958 with a huge ballet corps and three extra scenes won Khachaturian the Lenin Prize in 1959. The staging most often used for performances today is the one by Yuri Grigorovich in 1968, and it is the one performed on this DVD.
The ballet is divided into three major acts. The first act has 20 scenes, and centers around the introduction of Crassus, Spartacus, Phrygia, and Aegina as the main characters. The plot focuses on the slave market, where Phrygia and Spartacus are separated and sold. Act 1 ends with Spartacus initiating the revolt in the gladiator’s barracks, and the oath they all take to fight the Romans. Act 2 centers around one of the two major battle scenes in the ballet, where Crassus and Spartacus fight each other, but both survive the encounter. Spartacus’s election as the revolt leader, and Aegina’s depravity towards the revolution, are also depicted. Act 3 is the huge final battle scene between Spartacus and Crassus, where Aegina is able to seduce some of Spartacus’s lieutenants and discover his battle plans. At the end of the ballet, Spartacus is killed and there is a huge victory celebration for Crassus in Rome.
The performance on the DVD was magnificent. The costumes, staging, scenery and dancing were wonderful to watch. Given that most people remember the excellent movie version of this story which starred Kirk Douglas, this ballet version is also a visual experience and adventure. The four main dancers/characters kept the attention and focus of the drama, supported by the supporting cast of dancers. It is a dramatic retelling of an actual historical event, recreated by a Soviet composer which attempts to depict the continual trials and repression of the common people by bureaucratic and depraved governments.
Dr. Brad Eden
University of Nevada, Las Vegas