Recently in Recordings
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?
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.
08 Jan 2006
For a work that is known as a one-aria-opera, four official (this one included) recordings is not a bad record. And of course most opera-lovers have not only “E la solita storia” in their many tenor recitals but know the baritone aria “Come due tizzi” and the mezzo’s “Esser madre è un inferno” as well.
Still there is more to be discovered in the score like Vivetta’s aria, the fine intermezzo or the big duet between Federico and Vivetta in the second act. Cilea started his career as an opera composer with Gina as a 23-year old in 1889 and finished it 18 years later with Gloria as a 41-year old (Bongiovanni’s recordings of both operas can be warmly recommended). He lived for another 43 years without composing a major work.
Soon after the premières his operas sank into oblivion but in the twenties there was a renewed interest and his best known work Adriana Lecouvreur became a staple of the repertory in Italy. L’Arlesiana, too, once more made the rounds of the theatres. By that time, Cilea was probably too old and the onslaught of modern composing techniques was so great that he didn’t show an inclination to return to the stage. Still he started revising some of his older works; especially this Arlesiana, which only got its final version in 1937. By then the older versions were already much ingrained and the two first recordings didn’t use the definitive version.
I’ve never heard the Pederzini/Oncina/Protti recording but it seems the sound is not really state of the art. Rodolfo Celetti in his “Teatro d’opera in disco” has some good words for Pederzini and Protti but thinks the Cetra version to be superior. Of course Ferruccio Tagliavini was the reason behind this recording and he is easily the best Federico on record. Still, for those who know his hauntingly beautiful “E la solita storia” recorded in June 1940, the complete set will be a little disappointing as some of the wonderful sweetness and bloom had gone out of the voice eleven years later. We had to wait another 41 years before we got the first really complete version but Kelen/Anderson/Spacagna didn’t really give us an idiomatic version.
This latest, newest and most complete version has at least an all-Italian cast who know their trade. Lyric soprano Daria Masiero as Vivetta is a discovery: a lovely voice and a vivacious singer who clearly supersedes all her predecessors. Mezzo Elisabetta Fiorillo brings along a rich somewhat tremulous but convincing voice; and her “Esser madre” is a success with the public. Pia Tassinara in the Cetra-set (at the time Tagliavini’s wife before he threw her out and married a young lady 24 years his junior) had recently converted to mezzo-soprano. Yet she remains, however, a soprano who has lost her top; and the voice has not the fullness of Fiorillo. Stefano Antonucci in this latest version but a poor substitute for Cetra’s Paolo Silveri. The sound is indistinct and he has difficulties in his high register. Most opera lovers will have Giuseppe Taddei’s fine version of “Come due tizzi” in their memory and Antonucci is simply no match.
And then there is the fly in the ointment. A good version of L’Arlesiana falls or sinks with the tenor. Joseph Calleja is the only tenor around who could have outsung Tagliavini as he has exactly the beauty and youthfulness that is required in this role but alas he is not in the cast (and is probably already too expensive for a small theatre and recording company). Still I wonder if it wasn’t possible to find older singers like Salvatore Fisichella or younger ones like Giuseppe Filianote for the role. Of course, the tenor in this recording didn’t have to learn the part as he had already sung the role during his career. But listening to Luca Canonici, one wouldn’t presume that he made his début only 18 years before this recording. His was never a big voice and he didn’t always choose his roles wisely and this shows. The voice sounds a bit worn and dry. He never had a big spectrum of colours in his sound, as is proven by his solo CD (a reward for substituting for José Carreras in the Bohème movie) but the freshness has now gone out of the voice. His “E la solita storia” is not bad as he sings with style and sensitivity and doesn’t try to emulate Gigli’s bleaty sobbing. But after all, the role was written for young Enrico Caruso, never a tenore di grazia, and Canonici’s small voice is no match for the role. Reynaldo Giovanninetti has his forces well in hand and gives a sterling interpretation of overture and intermezzo. I hope Bongiovanni will keep up the good work and give us one day Cilea’s Tilda; his only opera that is still completely unknown.