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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.
25 Jan 2006
BRITTEN: Serenade for Tenor, Horn and Strings etc.
In an era where new studio recordings by major orchestras have dwindled to a pathetic dribble, leaving many fine institutions to start their own in-house labels, the Berlin Philharmonic still has an active contract with a major company (its conductor’s label of many years, EMI) and releases come on a regular basis. A recent one features some of Benjamin Britten’s great work for instruments and tenor.
For once, Simon Rattle’s face doesn’t dominate the cover art, nor does his name. Happily, the composer gets the largest font size, but right above his name comes that of the recording's star, Ian Bostridge, and his thin frame fills half the cover (not easy for a slender gentleman to do), photographed in the classic “pensive stare into the future” pose.
Bostridge joins a fairly extensive list of tenors – mostly British – who have recorded some or all of these pieces. The composer’s versions with his partner Peter Pears will never be eclipsed, but so great are these works than almost any version will have its merits. Not long ago Naxos re-released the Collins Classic recording with Philip Langridge singing the Serenade and Nocturne (reviewed here on Opera Today). So the most recent choice becomes one between a budget priced recording and this full-price release (the Naxos has Ann Murray singing Phaedra in place of Les Illuminations).
Your reviewer recommends acquiring both, if feasible. The Langridge/Bedford is warmly recorded and impeccably performed, all offered at low cost. This Bostridge/Rattle version, unsurprisingly, features state-of-the-art audio, and the special qualities of both vocalist and conductor are on ample display. Although some may take that as a warning.
As composed for Pears, these pieces do not require an ample voice, and Bostridge does not possess one. His lighter, sharply defined tenor settles right into the emotional ambiguity of the settings, carrying tinges of both irony and real sensitivity, even simultaneously. In “Being Beauteous” from Les Illuminations he manages some characterful low notes along with the resonant head voice many of the numbers ask for. The Serenade “Nocturne,” with its repeated refrain of “dying,” could have a little more individual color to each iteration, but the understated effect Bostridge employs has its justification as well.
Bostridge pulled another duty for the recording: he wrote a quite interesting booklet essay. He has a thorough command of each work’s creation and inspiration, and does not refrain from discussing the implications of Britten’s “attraction to young men or boys” when of possible relevance.
Conductor Rattle has shown in his career, besides a brilliance that has taken him far, an occasional tendency to wander off into details and momentary effects. In the famous shimmering opening chords of the Serenade “Nocturne,” he adopts an aggressive, slashing attack that strikes the ear at first as fresh and vital, but might come to seem arbitrary. The Berlin Philharmonic, needless to say, performs with exquisite precision, and Radek Baborak’s horn in the Serenade has a beauty others have foregone for a more sorrowful tone produced by the fragile intonation of a natural horn.
Those Berlin strings have such body and texture they begin to feel like a living organism, sighing and moaning with Bostridge’s vocal lines. Would it really be wrong to wrap oneself up in the exquisite texture they produce?
So those who have found Bostridge impressive, and the many fans apparently following all of Rattle’s recorded work with the Berlin Philharmonic, will want this disc. Most of all, lovers of these exquisite Britten scores should give a listen to these often arresting performances. The booklet essay and all texts are offered in English, French, and German.
Meanwhile, Naxos continues its re-release of Britten’s music first published on Collins Classic. The latest disc features instrumental music from two operas, Gloriana and Peter Grimes. The Sea Interludes certainly do not lack for fine recorded performances, and these have much merit, but the wonderful music from Gloriana deserves wider exposure. The suite here opens with the opera’s opening tournament scene before segueing into the courtly dances, selections that are popular on some classical radio selections. Gloriana may be a problematic opera, but the suite is a delight from start to finish, something not always easy to say about Britten’s music.
The Sinfonia da Requiem returns to the more sober, bare style commonly associated with Britten, and Bedford and the LSO offer a powerful rendition.
Thirty years ago Britten died; these two discs indicate that his music retains its power and drama, and it will as long as artists as committed and serious as Bostridge and Rattle are drawn to it.
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy