Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Richard Strauss: Notturno

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 Sings Mahler Lieder

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.

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Hänsel und Gretel

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.

Magdalena Kožená: Love and Longing

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 Magdalena Kožená.

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon

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.

Amore e Tormento

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.’ 

Rivals—Arias for Farinelli & Co.

In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi. 

Verdi at the Old MET

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.

Italo Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre re

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. 

Così fan tutte from DG

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. 

Heart’s Delight: The Songs of Richard Tauber

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.

Adriana Lecouvreur from Decca

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.

Lawrence Brownlee’s Spiritual Sketches

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.

Great Wagner Conductors from DG

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 archives.

Great Wagner Singers from DG

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.

Adding Movie Magic to The Magic Flute

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?

L’Incoronazione di Poppea from Virgin Classics

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. 

Saverio Mercadante: I due Figaro

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.

Christian Thielemann’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

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. 

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Natalie Dessay: Mozart Concert Arias
06 Jan 2006

Natalie Dessay: Mozart Concert Arias

I wonder how Natalie Dessay would comment on this CD made more than 10 years ago when she was barely thirty? The lady is a dream for every interviewer.

Natalie Dessay: Mozart Concert Arias

Natalie Dessay, Orchestre de l'Opéra de Lyon, Theodor Guschlbauer (cond.)

EMI Classics 7243 5 55386 2 8 [CD]

 

She discusses her work passionately and at the same time she dissects her failures without pity. She is probably the only prima donna who has no problem with a sleeve note writer discussing her vocal problems due to nodes on the cords as happens here. One month ago she told an interviewer of the French monthly Opéra-Magazine (successor of the defunct Opéra International) that all troubles were not over after a two-year absence as another node was discovered in the tissue. I have a TV interview made a few years ago where she literally freezes when confronted with some of her earlier high voltage singing, pulls horrified faces and then bursts out in a stream of curses over her youthful sins. So I can easily imagine her nowadays deriding this CD as one more example of bad advice and youthful hubris, especially because she recently said she still has to wait a few years before singing Konstanze; and, one could easily imagine each one of these arias taking the place of “Martern aller Arten”.

When the CD first appeared, the British Gramophone wrote that “though Dessay’s range extends upward far into the ledger lines, she has a sylph’s grace and lightness, and her timbre or character of voice is thoroughly human.” True, very true though I cannot remember a prima donna making inhuman sounds like the roar of a lion or the neighing of a horse (with the exception of Rossini’s cat duet of course). But it’s the timbre that’s the problem with me. It is rather white, even opaque. There are no true distinctive colours in the voice. Often at first hearing one wonders for a moment whose voice this is before it slowly dawns on you: if it’s somewhat plain, then it must be Dessay. In the theatre she is such a committed performer, such a stage animal (after all she was discovered singing a song during her actor studies) that one is less concerned by the lack of richness in the voice. But on CD this works less well. It has nothing to do with her kind of light leggiero voice as she nowadays defines herself. Mado Robin, Rita Streich, Erika Köth, Barbara Hendricks and Kathleen Battle all had that same kind of voice; but they were better endowed by Mother Nature with a more personal sound. As a consequence, this kind of recital — and it’s the same with all Dessay recitals — start to distract me after a few tracks. I lose interest and have to concentrate more than normal.

I know she is technically proficient and she succeeds most of the time very well higher than high C, though there are some shrill sounds in track 5 “Popolo di Tessaglia.” There are no problems with her legato and it’s all nice and fleeting. She surely does not have that small stiffness in the voice that mars many of Gruberova’s work but still she cannot move me much. Lucia Popp who followed the same soprano horse race as Dessay, succeeds far better in keeping our attention in this kind of repertoire because, apart from some fabulous high notes, there is more body, more colour and a better awareness of what many of these arias are about. Every one of the arias on this CD is about betrayal, lost love, bereavement, ungratefulness and suffering; but I wonder how many people would know that without the text before their eyes. Maybe I am rather dour; but I have a feeling that nowadays Natalie Dessay would even be more severe.

Jan Neckers

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):