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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.
27 Jan 2006
ROSSINI: Il Turco in Italia
Clearly someone at Naxos loves Rossini. The label only recently released a good Cenerentola with the most excellent Joyce Di Donato, and the back catalog contains many titles, including highly praised sets of Barbieri (with Ramon Vargas) and Tancredi (featuring Ewa Podles).
Many of these operas have been recorded live. This latest set, Il Turco in Italia, comes from October 2003, and though the back cover of the CD identifies the recording location as the Teatro Marrucino, no audience is heard. However, the aural perspective suggests a live recording, not a studio affair with its more pristine balance.
An understandable misconception places Il Turco as a companion piece, even sequel, to the more popular L’Italiana in Algieri. In truth, the libretto for Turco predates Rossini’s L’Italiana, and the operas share no characters. Turco’s wild, almost modern plot device centers on a poet watching the interactions of the natives of Naples with a Turkish prince, and gathering material for his next play. The romantic complications verge on the chaotic; unsurprisingly, all are resolved for an extended ensemble finale.
Turco may lack an aria or two of a melodic distinction that would make the opera a more frequently performed part of the repertory, but that is not to say that the score is lesser Rossini. It bubbles and percolates with wit, and it has delightfully odd set pieces for variety, such as the act one choral number, “Voga, voga, a terra, a terra.” That piece even features a string accompaniment that resembles the opening of Smetana’s wandering Moldau.
Naxos has a energetic, skillful crew of musicians and singers for its recording. The Teatro Marrucino forces, led by Marzio Conti, may sound a bit thin in the overture, but as support for the singers, they embody all the fun of the score.
Natale de Carolis gets top billing, as Selim, the Turkish prince. His biographical note in the booklet suggests he had a burgeoning career in the late ‘80s, early ‘90s, including a Mozart Figaro at the Metropolitan Opera. His voice retains a charismatic quality, while also showing evidence of wear. Myrto Papatanasiu, whose career began more recently, sings the soprano role of Donna Fiorilla. She doesn’t overplay Fiorilla’s shrewishness, but the opera being a comedy, a touch more color wouldn’t be out of place. Other than that, she uses her appealing voice to fine effect.
In other roles, Amadeo Moretti’s sharp-edged and high-lying tenor makes a good impression singing as Don Narciso (what a tenor character name!), and baritone Massimiliano Gagliardo brings a solid technique to the role of Fiorella’s put-upon spouse.
The booklet has a very brief note on the opera and then a track by track synopsis, along with artists’ notes, all offered only in English. The booklet offers a weblink for an Italian libretto. How much help that will be to non-Italian speaking listeners is questionable.
The Turco recording catalog is not extensive. The Callas recording does not seem to be available at the moment; her admirers will surely be undeterred by that inconvenience. However, the 1998 Decca recording, winner of a Gramophone award, can still be found. Still at full price, the set boasts the leadership of Ricardo Chailly and Cecilia Bartoli’s Fiorella. Miss Bartoli also appears in a recent DVD from Zurich, and she starred in a Covent Garden production last season that earned rave notices.
So perhaps Il Turco in Italia is on the comeback trail. For those who prefer to save a few dollars but who would like to know the opera better, this Naxos set has fortuitously appeared.
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy