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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.
21 Mar 2006
VERDI: La forza del destino
After issuing recordings of Les Vêpres Siciliennes, Simon Boccanegra, and Macbeth, Opera Rara continues it series of Verdi Originals—first versions of operas the composer later revised—with La forza del destino.
Recorded in 1981 and broadcast by the BBC two years later, the performance features Martina Arroyo as Leonora, Kenneth Collins as Don Alvaro, Peter Glossop as Don Carlo, and Janet Coster as Preziosilla. This “original” Forza, proposed as such first by the BBC (although no score or source is identified in the recording), replicates the first version of the opera written for the Imperial Theatre in St. Petersburg in 1862. It differs in several ways from the traditionally-performed revision made for La Scala some seven years later. First, it features a preludio, more concise than the familiar overture but based on the same themes that foreshadow the action. Furthermore, the order of events in Act 3 is different, but the most significant contrast between the Russian and Italian Forzas involves the three deaths at the opera’s conclusion. Perhaps more brutal but clearly more in line with the Spanish drama that served as the libretto’s source was the initial version’s onstage demise of all three main characters (Alvaro mortally wounds Carlo, who in turn stabs Leonora, his own sister. A distraught Alvaro then throws himself off a cliff). However, claiming that one is hearing the “original” Forza is a bit more complicated than simply pointing out how versions differ.
Verdi began to revise his score even while he was in St. Petersburg; these materials were (and still are) located in the archives of the Mariinsky Theatre.* It is these sources (along with a piano/vocal score, as this author was told in a visit to the archive) that furnished the version produced at the Mariinsky and recorded by Valery Gergiev. The publication of the long-awaited scholarly edition of Forza, done under the auspices of The University of Chicago and Ricordi’s The Works of Giuseppe Verdi, is imminent, though, so it soon will be possible to see precisely how true to the original this BBC production (and indeed Gergiev’s) was.
The remastering of the BBC’s production results in an impressive recording. The singers, however, were all “of an age” when it was made and unfortunately, this shows. Arroyo’s Leonora is strong, vibrant and rich in tone. Equally pairing her is Collins, who sings with a pure, clear voice. The disappointment is Glossop. This legendary performer seems beyond the point of performing a role like Carlo; indeed his rendering of the “student” aria, “Son Pereda, son ricco d’onore” is outright implausible. His pairing with Collins in “Amici in vita e in morte” sounds more like a father-and-son duet rather than one sung by two friends. Coster is notable as Preziosilla, although she seems to have a problem with some of the lower pitches in the “Rataplan.” The rest of the cast, including Derek Hammond-Stroud as Fra Melitone, is impressive and right on the mark. The BBC Chorus, as usual, is perfection, but one wonders if the BBC Orchestra, under the direction of John Matheson, did not use a little too much “fire power.” At times, it has more “forza” than the Petersburg orchestra certainly would have had. Although it ably builds the atmosphere and excitement of this dynamic score, it often overwhelms. Of course, the recordings—both the original and the remastering—were not aimed at authentic practice but at representing an “original” masterpiece.
*Those interested in reading about these revisions are referred to William C. Holmes’ article “The Earliest Revisions of La forza del destino” in Studi Verdiani, Vol. 6, 1990.
**Author: Opera: The Basics (New York and London: Routledge, 2006)