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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.
19 Jan 2006
The Diva Live — Wilhelmenia Fernandez & Bruno Fontaine
In 1981 Wilhelminia Fernandez became somewhat of a cult figure when the French thriller “Diva” appeared on the screens. For a time her “Ebben, ne andro lontano” from La Wally almost became a hit and several commercials used a small part of the aria.
The stunning beauty of the lady no doubt helped her as well but her career never really took flight. The reason was a simple one. The boss of the Paris Opéra had her make her début in La Bohème as ….Musetta and right he was. But a lot of his colleagues preferred to type-cast her as Aida. I heard her myself in the role and felt that the voice was simply not suited. She probably realized it herself as for two years she sang “Carmen Jones” at the Old Vic.
But thanks to that movie she is still somewhat of a star in France and this CD is a reminder of the 2002 live concert she gave in the Grand Théâtre of Reims, a magnificent historic city in the North of France, known for its cathedral and as the capital of champagne. But as the city has only 200,000 inhabitants its opera is unimportant (13 performances in the whole season 2005-2006). The programme is a hybrid one: some art songs by Barber and Copland surrounded by popular songs by Gershwin, three hits of West Side Story, successes of Richard Rogers and four Negro spirituals.
The programme starts rather badly. Since Leontyne Price, as long ago as 1967 with her “Right as the Rain” album, decided that scooping and gliding was the way to perform some of these popular songs, most of her successors took the same road. Farrell, Te Kanawa, Hendricks and recently Fleming followed her lead, thereby disillusioning jazz-lovers for whom they remained opera-singers and opera-lovers who detested their abuse of their voices. Fernandez clearly thinks that “I’ve got a crush on you” and “Summertime” (a real opera aria after all) ought to be crooned. By the third track “Love walked in” she all at once remembers she is an opera singer after all and to my relief starts singing straight on.
Neither her Barber or her Copland songs make a deep impression and probably she didn’t want to bore her public too much with it. So, most of these songs last less than three minutes, while her popular numbers easily go over five. With West Side Story one sits up and pays more attention. After all those abusive Aidas she still has a really fine girlish sound somewhat reminiscent of Kathy Battle, though a little bit less pure. The same fresh sound serves her well in South Pacific and The Sound of Music and there is nothing wrong with the enthusiasm she brings to her four spirituals. It is only when she goes above the stave that one hears that the voice has suffered and is not young anymore. Every top note above A is shrill and not pleasant to hear. Pianist Bruno Fontaine is allowed some leeway to improvise a bit now and then but he clearly knows how to support the former “Diva”.