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.
29 Mar 2006
Franz Schubert: The Trout • The Greatest Love and The Greatest Sorrow
In this compelling documentary, Christopher Nupen has captured rare and wondrous collaborations by some of the greatest twentieth century performers as they pay tribute to an early nineteenth century musical treasure, Franz Schubert.
Recognizing the enormous talent of the relatively unknown musicians (at the time), in the first film, Nupen documented the rehearsals and an inspired performance of a young chamber ensemble as they discover the enormous musical potential of Schubert’s Trout Quintet. The ensemble comprised of Daniel Barenboim, Itzhak Perlman, Pinchas Zukerman, Jacqueline du Pré, and Zubin Mehta clearly demonstrated through their enlightened interactions and mutual respect for each other’s abilities why each is now regarded as a musical giant of their generation.
From watching their fun-loving bantering, one truly gets the sense that this chamber ensemble brought together by Barenboim is made up of the best of friends, and that this video recording represents an enormously joyous time in their lives. Audiences today are fortunate at having this glimpse at their personal and professional lives while they express such delight in putting together Schubert’s most famous piano quintet. Unbeknownst to any of the performers at the time, this film was destined to be one of the most frequently broadcast classical music performances of the twentieth century. In a lot of ways, some of the highly artistic moments represented by the performers in this documentary mirror Schubert’s own talents as a composer who possessed enormous musical maturity at such a young age when he composed the Trout, as well as a endless devotion towards his family and friends.
As the personalities of the players unfold in the first film of the recording, so does that of Schubert in the second film, The Greatest Love and the Greatest Sorrow. Although Schubert only reached the age of 31, while his life was short in years, it was abundantly rich in accomplishments with close to a thousand known works to his credit. It seems Nupen produced this film with the intent to lay bare Schubert’s life so that modern-day listeners can truly appreciate the remarkable undertakings of this prodigious musician of humble means. Rather than offering the usual historical narrative one would expect from a biographical documentary, Nupen shares with audiences Schubert’s intimate letters to his family and friends, his poetry, even a dream Schubert had written down. As the film progresses, audiences begin to understand Franz Schubert the human being, his motivations and inspirations, and on some level, get to know him for the gentle soul made transparent through his writings. Christopher Nupen has in essence revived Schubert through a well-crafted audio/visual medium.
Recommended to all musicians and music lovers, it is important to note that the music itself is a fundamental element of the two films that make up this commendable video recording. While audiences today recognize the significant value of Schubert’s intellectual output, it is equally important when discussing this film to recognize the ingenious vision of Christopher Nupen, and the talents of the performers whose conscientious interpretations honor the composer’s legacy. Bass-baritone Andreas Schmidt was featured several times throughout the film, interpreting Schubert’s songs with appropriate drama and meticulous phrasing. His rich tone seemed added a profundity to his interpretations that reflected Schubert’s musical substance.
University of Tennessee