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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.
The economics of the recording companies dictate much that is not ideal.
Wagner’s operas were not composed as they were in order to permit the
extraction of bleeding chunks, even on those occasions when strophic song forms
Among the recent recordings of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, Valery Gergiev’s release on the LSO Live label is an excellent addition to the discography of this work.
While not unknown, the songs of Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942) deserve to be heard more frequently.
Recorded on 5 and 6 May 2008 and 17 and 18 January 2009 at the Lisztzentrum (Raiding, Austria), this recent Bridge release makes available the piano-vocal versions of three song cycles by Gustav Mahler, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert-Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder performed by mezzo-soprano Hermine Haselböck, accompanied by Russell Ryan.
Contraltos rarely achieve the acclaim and renown of sopranos. Assigned few leading roles in opera, they are condemned to playing the villain or the grandmother, or to stealing the castrati’s trousers in en travesti roles.
Following their 2011 Decca recording of Striggio’s Mass in 40 Parts (1566), I Fagiolini continue their quest to unearth lost treasures of the High Renaissance and early Baroque, with this collection of world-premiere recordings, ‘reconstructions’ and ‘reconstitutions’ of music by Giovanni and Andrea Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Palestrina, and their less well-known compatriots Viadana, Barbarino and Soriano.
Eternal Echoes is an album of khazones [Jewish cantorial music] for cantorial soloist, solo violin and a blended instrumental ensemble comprising a small orchestra and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.
Michael Tilson Thomas’s recording of Mahler’s Third Symphony is an outstanding contribution to the composer’s discography.
Oliver Knussen burst into British music with an unprecedented flourish. In 1967, the London Symphony Orchestra premiered Knussen’s First Symphony, with István Kertész scheduled to conduct.
Based on performances given in Summer 2010 at the Lucerne Festival, this recording of Beethoven’s Fidelio is an admirable recording that captures the vitality of the work as conducted by Claudio Abbado.
Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) was one of the most popular composers of his day in Poland, and of the many works he wrote for the stage, two are performed from time to time, Halka (1848) and Strazny dwór [The Haunted Manor] (1865).
The Polish alto Jadwiga Rappé is a familiar voice in various stage and concert works, and the recent release of a selection of songs by Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) is an opportunity to hear her performing artsongs.
Originally released on multiple discs in 1981 this reissue on two CDs is a comprehensive collection of art songs by Italian and French composers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
An exciting contribution to the discography of this popular opera, the live performance of Richard Strauss’s Salome from the Festspielhaus at Baden-Baden is a compelling DVD.
Released in late 2011, Deutsche Grammophon’s DVD of the new staging of Berg’s Lulu at the Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona is an excellent contribution to the discography of this fascinating opera.
A recent release by the Metropolitan Opera, this two-disc set makes available on DVD the famous performance of Berg’s Lulu that was broadcast on 20 December 1980 as part of the PBS series “Live from the Met.”
The novels of Sinclair Lewis once shot across the American literary skies like comets, alarming and fascinating readers of that era, but their tails didn’t extend far behind them.
Once the province of only the most dedicated opera fanatics, mid-20th century recordings of privately taped live performances have become more widely available.
Flute players in opera orchestra around the world must look forward to the frequent appearances of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, knowing that while the stage spotlight in the mad scene will be on the soprano, the orchestral spotlight will be on their instrument.
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”.