Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

John Joubert's Jane Eyre

Librettists have long mined the literature shelves for narratives that are ripe for musico-dramatic embodiment. On the whole, it’s the short stories and poems - The Turn of the Screw, Eugene Onegin or Death in Venice, for example - that best lend themselves to operatic adaptation.

Through Life and Love: Louise Alder sings Strauss

Soprano Louise Alder has had an eventful few months. Declared ‘Young Singer of the Year’ at the 2017 International Opera Awards in May, the following month she won the Dame Joan Sutherland Audience Prize at the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World.

A Master Baritone in Recital: Sesto Bruscantini, 1981

This is the only disc ever devoted to the art of Sesto Bruscantini (1919–2003). Record collectors value his performance of major baritone roles, especially comic but also serious ones, on many complete opera recordings, such as Il barbiere di Siviglia (with Victoria de los Angeles). He continued to perform at major houses until at least 1985 and even recorded Mozart's Don Alfonso in 1991, when he was 72.

Emalie Savoy: A Portrait

Since 1952, the ARD—the organization of German radio stations—has run an annual competition for young musicians. Winners have included Jessye Norman, Maurice André, Heinz Holliger, and Mitsuko Uchida. Starting in 2015, the CD firm GENUIN has offered, as a separate award, the chance for one of the prize winners to make a CD that can serve as a kind of calling card to the larger musical and music-loving world. In 2016, the second such CD award was given to the Aris Quartett (second-prize winner in the “string quartet” category).

Detlev Glanert : Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch

Detlev Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch should be a huge hit. Just as Carl Orff's Carmina Burana appeals to audiences who don't listen to early music (or even to much classical music), Glanert's Requiem for Hieronymus Bosch has all the elements for instant popular success.

A Falstaff Opera in Shakespeare’s Words: Sir John in Love

Only one Shakespeare play has resulted in three operas that get performed today (whether internationally or primarily in one language-region). Perhaps surprisingly, the play in question is a comedy that is sometimes considered a lesser work by the Bard: The Merry Wives of Windsor.

A Resplendent Régine Crespin in Tosca

There have to be special reasons to release a monophonic live recording of a much-recorded opera. Often it can give us the opportunity to hear a singer in a major role that he or she never recorded commercially—or did record on some later occasion, when the voice was no longer fresh. Often a live recording catches the dramatic flow better than certain studio recordings that may be more perfect technically.

Karine Deshayes’s Astonishing New Rossini Recording

Critic and scholar John Barker has several times complained, in the pages of American Record Guide, about Baroque vocal recitals that add instrumental works or movements as supposed relief or (as he nicely calls them) “spacers.”

Knappertsbusch’s Only Recording of Lohengrin Released for the First Time

Hans Knappertsbusch was one of the most renowned Wagner conductors who ever lived. His recordings of Parsifal, especially, are near-legendary among confirmed Wagnerians.

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered

Kathleen Ferrier Remembered, from SOMM Recordings, makes available on CD archive broadcasts of British and German song. All come from BBC broadcasts made between 1947 and 1952. Of the 26 tracks in this collection, 19 are "new", not having been commercially released. The remaining seven have been remastered by sound restoration engineer Ted Kendall. Something here even for those who already own the complete recordings.

Color and Drama in Two Choral Requiems from Post-Napoleonic France

The Requiem text has brought out the best in many composers. Requiem settings by Mozart, Verdi, and Fauré are among the most beloved works among singers and listeners alike, and there are equally wondrous settings by Berlioz and Duruflé, as well as composers from before 1750, notably Jean Gilles.

Matthias Goerne - late Schumann songs, revealed

Matthias Goerne Schumann Lieder, with Markus Hinterhäuser, a new recording from Harmonia Mundi. Singers, especially baritones, often come into their prime as they approach 50, and Goerne, who has been a star since his 20's is now formidably impressive. The colours in his voice have matured, with even greater richness and depth than before.

LALO and COQUARD: La Jacquerie

La Jacquerie—here recorded for the first time—proves to be a wonderful opera, bringing delight upon delight.

Urania Remasters Marriage of Figaro

Good news for lovers of Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro: the famous Living Stereo recording, a co-production of RCA Victor and English Decca, is now available again, well remastered, on Urania.

Opera Rara: new recording of Bellini's Adelson e Salvini

In May 2016, Opera Rara gave Bellini aficionados a treat when they gave a concert performance of Vincenzo Bellini’s first opera, Adelson e Salvini, at the Barbican Hall. The preceding week had been spent in the BBC’s Maida Vale Studios, and this recording, released last month, is a very welcome addition to Opera Rara’s bel canto catalogue.

Jonas Kaufmann : Mahler Das Lied von der Erde

Jonas Kaufmann Mahler Das Lied von der Erde is utterly unique but also works surprisingly well as a musical experience. This won't appeal to superficial listeners, but will reward those who take Mahler seriously enough to value the challenge of new perspectives.

The "Lost" Songs of Morfydd Owen

A new recording, made late last year, Morfydd Owen : Portrait of a Lost Icon, from Tŷ Cerdd, specialists in Welsh music, reveals Owen as one of the more distinctive voices in British music of her era : a grand claim but not without foundation. To this day, Owen's tally of prizes awarded by the Royal Academy of Music remains unrivalled.

Early Swedish opera - Stenhammer world premiere

The Feast at Solhaug : Henrik Ibsen's play Gildet paa Solhaug (1856) inspired Wilhelm Stenhammer's opera Gillet på Solhaug. The world premiere recording is now available via Sterling CD, in a 3 disc set which includes full libretto and background history.

Walter Braunfels Orchestral Songs Vol 2

Honours yet again to Oehms Classics who understand the importance of excellence. A composer as good, and as individual, as Walter Braunfels deserves nothing less.

The Tallis Scholars: Josquin's Missa Di dadi

‘Can great music be inspired by the throw of the dice?’ asks Peter Phillips, director of The Tallis Scholars, in his liner notes to the ensemble’s new recording of Josquin’s Missa Di dadi (The Dice Mass). The fifteenth-century artist certainly had an abundant supply of devotional imagery. As one scholar has put it, during this age there was neither ‘an object nor an action, however trivial, that [was] not constantly correlated with Christ or salvation’.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

My Name is Barbara
17 Mar 2006

My Name is Barbara

Barbara Bonney’s discography is extensive and wide-ranging, including opera and oratorio, as well as lieder recitals from Mozart and Mendelssohn through the major Romantics to Zemlinsky.

My Name is Barbara

Barbara Bonney, soprano, and Malcolm Martineau, piano.

Onyx Classics ONYX4003 [CD]

$18.99  Click to buy

In English she has recorded two volumes of Purcell songs, as well as a lovely recital for Decca in 1998 of American art songs: Sallie Chisum remembers Billy the Kid, which included works by Copland, Barber, and Argento, and the title work commissioned from André Previn, who accompanied her on that disc. Her recent recital disc with Malcolm Martineau, My Name is Barbara, could be considered a follow-on to that disc, in that it also includes works by Barber and Copland, Quilter’s “Seven Elizabethan Lyrics” (echoing the “Six Elizabethan Songs” of Argento on the earlier disc), and a work by a composer who has also made a name as a conductor, in this case Leonard Bernstein. To these are added sets by Griffes and Britten, offering a satisfying selection of major composers of English-language art songs from the first half of the twentieth century.

The most striking contrast between the 1998 recital and this one is that the delicate clarity of Bonney’s voice has given way to a sound with a richer vibrato (heard somewhat in the Barber Hermit Songs on the earlier disc), which serves her very well here in the sonorous colors of Griffes’ Three Poems of Fiona Macleod, the word-painting in Aaron Copland’s Four Early Songs, and the Op. 13 songs of Samuel Barber. Particular admirers of that more bell-like sound are most likely to miss it in the coloratura passage of Britten’s “Let the florid music praise,” which is performed with perfectly good breath control, intonation, articulation, and energy, but has a warmer sound in which some of the detail is not as readily apparent. Another notable difference is that Bonney’s English diction has evolved such that some diphthongs (for instance in “clouds”) sound distorted to me. With the increased vibrato it can also be a little harder to understand the texts than it was on the earlier disc, where every word was crystal-clear, so the texts included in the CD booklet are welcome.

The program itself has a satisfying symmetry and progression. In each half of the recital a set of songs by a British composer is followed by two sets by American composers. The order is roughly chronological by date of composition, although Bernstein’s 1943 I Hate Music precedes Barber’s 1940 Four songs, op. 13. The first three sets date from the first quarter of the twentieth century, while the last three sets were all composed in or within a few years of 1940. We are drawn in gently by Roger Quilter’s skillfully tasteful and harmonically rich settings of seven Elizabethan poems, mostly anonymous and fairly simple in their language. Bonney’s performance of these songs is quite effective, bringing out the simple and gently haunting melody of “The faithless shepherdess” and beautifully floating the more complex phrases of “By a fountainside.” With Charles Griffes’ Three poems of Fiona Macleod, we move at once to a more primitive past evoked by the texts, a product of the early twentieth-century Celtic Renaissance movement, and a more complex musical future informed by Impressionism. In addition to the warm sonority mentioned above, I found an almost hollow sound in her low register particularly effective in “The rose of the night”. Like Griffes, the composer of the next set, Aaron Copland, studied in Europe, but even these four early songs of his sound more American than those of Griffes, although two of the texts have a kind of parallel exoticism. “My heart is in the East”, by the composer’s friend, Aaron Schaffer, is in the voice of a Sephardic Jew exiled from the Promised Land, and regretting the fact that it is under “Arab’s bond”. This is followed by “Alone”, which is a translation of a text written in Arabic by the Scotsman John Duncan, who went to live among Arab nomads to escape an unhappy love affair, and wrote love poetry in Arabic to the Arab woman he eventually married.

From here we make a clear step into the modern with Britten’s On this island, which sets five rather unsettling poems by W. H. Auden. I particularly like “Nocturne”, with extended phrases that alternate ascending arpeggios and gradual coasting back down to the starting pitch, rather like the slow breathing of a sleeper. Bonney’s voice moves smoothly up and down the registers in this song, resting solidly in the low register as on a single pitch the dangers to the sleeper are enumerated (from “traction engine” to “revolting succubus”). I only wish that the high pitch at the climax of the final up-and-down pattern could float more exquisitely (instead it just seems to grow thinner).

We recross the Atlantic to the simpler texts and tricky rhythms of Bernstein’s I Hate Music, a piece that is often given to young singers with good musicianship and vivacious personalities. Bonney’s richer sound adds an interesting maturity to this set, in which the ten-year old person speaking (after announcing that “my name is Barbara”) makes the discovery that she is “a person too”. The final set of songs is Barber’s Opus 13, which includes the very famous “Sure on this Shining Night” and ends with a “Nocturne”, to a completely different text from the “Nocturne” in the Britten set, with a restless accompaniment which, rather than imitating sleep itself, evokes a night of sleepless energy.

More information, including sample excerpts and purchasable MP3 downloads, can be found on the Onyx classics website here.

Barbara Miller

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):