Recently in Recordings
As the editor of Opera magazine, John Allison, notes in his editorial in the June issue, Donizetti fans are currently spoilt for choice, enjoying a ‘Donizetti revival’ with productions of several of the composer’s lesser known works cropping up in houses around the world.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and
Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.
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.
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.