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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.
14 Jan 2006
SCHEIDT: Ludi musici I, II, III & IV
I suspect that when we survey the musical landscape of the early seventeenth century, it is opera, monody, and madrigal that come most quickly and lastingly into view, and given the contemporaneous attention given to the relationship between music and word, it is unsurprising that this would be the case.
However, a significant aspect of the early seventeenth century concerns the flourishing of instrumental music, much of which is vocally inspired, much of which is in continuity with sixteenth-century forms, but at the same time a repertory that is increasingly moving towards independence, sophistication, and idiomatic style.
One of the major composers of early seventeenth-century instrumental music is Samuel Scheidt, a pupil of Sweelinck, and a court musician at Halle in the service of the Margrave Christian Wilhelm of Brandenburg. Scheidt’s four volumes of Ludi musici appeared between 1621 and 1627—collections of dances, intradas, and canzonas—and it is the music of these collections that Musica Fiata, under the direction of the virtuoso cornettist, Roland Wilson, performs with stunning flair and sense of style. Bringing this music to life in this case involved more than the performing of the pieces, for a substantial portion survives only in parts; Wilson has thus had to be adept at reconstruction, and has handled that task with convincing results.
As the majority of this music has no specified instrumentation, Wilson has taken the liberty to put together the recording with an ear towards timbral variety: cornetts, trumpets, dulzians and trombones are joined by violins, viols, lutes, and organs, with diversity of configurations the order of the day. Particularly striking and memorable are the several pieces performed by four dulzians or four trombones, all in close, low-register voicings. And if the timbres are diverse, so too are the nature of the pieces themselves. Some are explicitly dolorous, some are extended variations on popular melodies, some are animated dances. To the seasoned ear, it is a satisfying program; however, the language and musical idiom at first blush may seem rather uniform, and some may find the recording more a collection to sample than a “concert program” to hear at one sitting.
In any event, the performances are stellar. All the works show a characteristic close attention to style, especially in the gracefully suave shaping of phrases and the command of fluidly “verbal” articulation. The playing is often wonderfully spirited—the opening intrada is the epitome of buoyancy—and impressively virtuosic. Never more so, perhaps, than in Scheidt’s famous “Galliard Battaglia." Here “dueling” violins and cornets display a vigor in the exchange of figuration that transforms a genre piece that sometimes lapses into predictability into a thrilling tour de force. Scheidt dedicated this piece to the court cornettist, who hopefully enjoyed the workout as much as Wilson and his colleagues seem to do!