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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 Nov 2005
Watching this DVD, your reviewer suddenly recalled a brief exchange from the film Reversal of Fortune, when the Ron Silver/Alan Dershowitz character says to the Jeremy Irons/Claus von Bulow one, “You are a very strange man, “ and Irons, in the moment that may have won him the Academy Award, replies with eerie blandness, “You have no idea.”
And until the gentle readers of Opera Today avail themselves of the experience of viewing Rued Langgaard’s Antikrist, they will have no idea how strange it is.
It is very, very strange. But more importantly — it fascinates on a deeper level than mere stunned incomprehension could ever effect.
The production comes from 2002, from the Royal Danish Opera and the Danish Broadcasting Corporation. An American citizen has the right to let his mind reel contemplating the Metropolitan Opera and PBS putting on a similar show…
Briefly, Langgaard created a “religious mystery opera,” an allegory of the Antikrist wreaking havoc in the despoiled realm of modern society. Many a singer has a Rodolfo or Mimi or Marcello on his/her resume. How many have “The Mouth Speaking Great Things” or “Spirit of Mystery.” Camilla Nylund takes on the demanding role of “The Great Whore.” Before this production perhaps no other soprano had ever ventured this role on stage. How many have assayed it offstage is a very different matter.
The accompanying booklet has two extensive, well-written essays. Bendt Vinholt Nielsen’s introduction gives the sources and inspiration for Langgaard’s work, and Jorgen I. Jensen offers a more analytical approach to the work and its meaning. Your reviewer read these AFTER viewing the DVD, and can vouch that they both clarify some matters, but that the opera as performed here works well on its own, on its own very, very odd terms.
Nielsen succinctly describes the opera’s form: “There are no recurrent characters, there is no plot in the traditional sense, and the opera consists to a great extent of monologues.” Almost an oratorio? But an oratorio, with a row of singers in tidy eveningwear, would belie the composer’s vision. This production, with a fine cast of actor/singers, lands us in his surreal landscape from the first moment and keeps us there, willing prisoners, until the end. At the very least, the repeated references to our modern world as “the church- ruin of noise” provides a useful epithet for flinging at the TV when watching the nightly news.
Not much set is required. The bare stage suggests the austere interior of a Protestant church, and the singers at first look dressed for Sunday service. Sten Bryiel’s wild-eyed Lucifer calls forth the antichrist, and off we go. No film director is listed, so perhaps stage director Staffan Valdemar Holm decided to include a roving on-stage cameraperson (unseen), who zooms in for close-ups and follows the stage action closely. This heightens the immediacy of the production, not to mention its oddness.
And the music? One might think the score would be some harsh, modernistic screech-and -scream affair. Not at all. Langgaard’s textures are thick and at times streaked through with bi- or polytonality. For the most part, however, the music is recognizably tonal, but driven and nervous, hardly starting off on one theme before scattering off onto another idea. It makes for brilliant, unsettling listening, and Thomas Dausgaard leads the Danish Symphony orchestra with confidence, as if this were another “Turandot” or possibly “Salome.” The hall might have been unfriendly to voices, or the orchestration; for one or both of those reasons, the singers have been provided with unobtrusive microphones. The sound suffers a bit, therefore, from a lack of real focus as to origin. But better to have heard the music than to have it swallowed up by the acoustics.
So who should seek out this DVD? Obviously, fans of twentieth century should consider this an essential purchase. But at only 95 minutes, the opera has something for even those usually averse to more progressive works. At the very least, they will be able to say they have seen “The Great Whore” on DVD.
But who hasn’t?
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy