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.
04 Jan 2006
Régine Crespin: Wagner and Berlioz Opera Arias
For those who want to possess every single TV appearance of Régine Crespin, this issue will not suffice. Only four items of the EMI DVD devoted to the soprano are to be found on the short DVD that is included with this CD.
But for a lot of others, twenty minutes of Crespin singing on TV will probably satisfy their curiosity and they will be quite happy with this nice Bonus, which is in reality mostly devoted to publicity for all the classic EMI-DVD’s at the moment. So, if you want to have a look at Menuhin, Oistrakh, Richter, Rubinstein playing their instruments for a few minutes, you won’t be disappointed before you once more return to those gent’s CD’s where the sound is much better. And if you are only interested in Callas singing “Vissi d’arte” in London 1964, this too is an interesting extra as EMI gives you the whole aria as a teaser for the purchase of the DVD.
There is something nostalgic in the televised Crespin performances. The pianist has still to turn the pages of the score himself, though most of the time the camera fully concentrates on the soprano, either in close-up or panning. The director evidently still thought that the soprano was the “raison d’être” of the programme and didn’t think it necessary to illustrate her singing by inserting all kinds of unnecessary pictures. In 1964 Crespin was at the height of her powers and the ease of her singing is remarkable — no deep breathing but fully relaxed singing. The sound, too, has one sitting up. There is one mike and there were probably no engineers all over the place to produce a sterile but beautiful sound. Crespin literally blazes away everything in front of her and this DVD probably gives a better impression of the formidably sized voice than most of her commercial recordings and this not even in operatic arias.
But of course the main course is the CD with Wesendonck-lieder, some Wagner arias (which already appeared on an earlier CD together with some Verdi-arias) and Berlioz arias. What is there left to be said that has not been said of the soprano’s recordings? Little, very little, unless it is with some regret one notes that her world career as a soprano was rather short. This was not her own fault. When she made her début in 1950, France was still embarrassingly rich in opera theatres (it still is) and most good French singers could make a big career in their own country, singing in their own language with only a venture to the French speaking parts of Switzerland and Belgium. They were well paid and the French railway system allowed them to return home regularly so that they didn’t have to absent themselves for months in South America or the US. France, too, had its own record companies, sometimes very independent subsidiaries of the international majors and a lot of singers recorded prolifically, Crespin included. I take offence to the cliché in the booklet stating that in those days French singing was generally perceived to be in decline. Boué, Robin, Montmart, Juyol, Le Bris, Doria, Sarroca, Cumia, Micheau and Jaumillot each could have had a world career. And with Blanc, Massard, Bianco, Bacquier, Cambon, Borthayre, Legros, France was as rich in baritones as Italy. What other country ever yielded a tenor crop as the Cannes singing contest of 1954 that gave us Tony Poncet, Roger Gardes, Guy Chauvet, Gustave Botiaux and Alain Vanzo?
Crespin came to the world’s attention in 1958 with a Bayreuth Kundry at the time when that festival still had some influence. She went on to Vienna and Milan and arrived at the Met in 1962, one year after she had recorded the Wesendonck-lieder which are to be found on this CD. She first proves how idiomatic her German is long before Pollet and Dessay would show that the language is no stumbling block for French sopranos. But there is far more than the perfect pronunciation. The voice is fresh, warm, all-enveloping and breathtakingly beautiful that brings with it ten years experience of legato in French and Italian roles. Her female warmth in Lohengrin and Walküre makes these recordings some of the best Wagner singing ever. In 1958 she had recorded the two soprano arias from Tannhäuser as well, plus the Marguerite aria from La Damnation, which she could easily sing as she always had the low notes and probably realized that her voice was rather a short one. Although the 1970 Decca recording of the same Berlioz aria is not too despised, the younger version wins hands out. The Didon arias from Les Troyens are often sung by either a dramatic soprano or a mezzo and they suit Crespin’s voice extremely well. It is interesting to note that by 1965, when these last arias were recorded, there still was not a vocal problem in sight and the voice sounded as beautiful as seven years earlier. The problems would only start two years later with a combination of personal problems and the ill fated venture as Karajan’s Brünnhilde in Salzburg. But for lovers of a velvety rich voice this is an issue to treasure.