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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.
13 Nov 2005
This is the third re-issue (in Europe anyway) on CD of the only existing studio recording of Stiffelio. Luckily it is a rather good one as its live competitors are not recordings for eternity. Neither Limarilli in 1968 nor Del Monaco (at his coarsest in 1972) have much sense of style, let alone a knack for true Verdi-phrasing. Not that José Carreras is flawless.
At the time of recording (June 1979) he was at the height of his powers; a mere two years before early deterioration first slowly but soon rather quickly set in many years before his bout with illness. No, he doesn’t sob like Del Monaco and he keeps a firm line unless Limarilli but he pushes his voice without mercy in a role a shade too heavy. Less charitable souls would call it yelling from time to time as he sings as if he’s permanently overexcited. Maybe it wouldn’t matter less if there would be flashes of insight, memorable phrases with an unexpected pianissimo here and there but it remains most of the time a very beautiful voice rolling along rather musically. One regrets that Philips didn’t ask Carlo Bergonzi to record the role. True by 1979 there was no way the 55-year old tenor could have hidden the permanent flatness above the stave but even in his 1983 Oberto-recording he gave every other tenor an object lesson in noble Verdi-phrasing.
The female lead is sung by another early burn-out: Sylvia Sass; the difference with Carreras in this recording being twofold. First the 28-year old soprano is in splendid voice and contrary to the tenor there are no warning signs she is singing a role less suited to her means and secondly she brings the role of Lina to live with appropriate musical means. Though never making an ugly sound she phrases deliciously in her aria and her duets with baritone and tenor convincingly portraying the anguish and hopes in great flights of sound or mere whispers. Matteo Manuguerra is a distinguished Stankar. His is not the most beautiful or smooth voice but the voice has character and the unmistakeable brown sound of the true Italian Verdi baritone. The voice is homogeneous and manly though he too can be a little bland in his phrasing. The big aria could have done with a little more anguish and the cabaletta with a little more fury. Giulio Fioravanti on the Del Monaco-recording has a slightly better grasp on the agonies of Lina’s father. By the time of the recording Vladimiro Ganzarolli, once one of the great hopes of La Scala, was already reduced to a small bit player but he has still voice enough to be an impressive Jorg. Ezio Di Cesare sings well in probably the most ungrateful Verdi-tenor-part; neither a comprimario nor a title role.
The sound is still fine and the Vienna Radio Orchestra doesn’t have to feel inferior to their more famous Wiener Symphoniker-brethren. Lamberto Gardelli was for many years a stalwart in the conducting business of less known Verdi-operas. And more than once he was reviled as being pedestrian (Carlo Rizzi nowadays suffers the same fate most of the time). Well, I cannot hear anything pedestrian in his sure-footed approach; his respect for Verdi’s markings and his assisting his singers without unduly hurrying them for effect. All in all, a satisfying recording of an opera that grows more and more on you the more you play it. And once you know this once almost forgotten score, you’ll be eager to see a production as a Stiffelio-performance (I saw productions in Amsterdam and Liège) is immensely rewarding in the theatre.