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.
19 Apr 2006
A Night to Remember: Placido Domingo & Mstislav Rostropovich
Only a few seconds after watching this DVD I was reminded of one of the great marketing failures in records. More than forty years ago, RCA brought out several glorious LP’s of young Gigli’s records and they put photographs of the sixty-five year old tenor on the sleeve.
On this DVD we
get a recent photograph of the tenor. Moreover the sleeve notes mention that
“despite his advanced age, the cellist’s control is
exemplary” as if 79-year old Rostropovich recorded this DVD some months
ago. Both gentlemen, however, look splendid, more youthful than their
advanced age would tell you. I’m sorry to report this has nothing to do
with a miraculous youth cure but more with the fact that one quick look into
Domingo’s performing career revealed he gave this concert on July 17,
1991. And, this date probably solves another small mystery. For a few minutes
I was slightly amazed the recording firm would send a review copy with less
than perfect picture quality till I remembered the concert date (not to be
found in the sleeve notes). There’s always some haziness and the
colours are a little bit whitewashed. But as a former TV producer, I remember
too well the decade between the late seventies and the late eighties. We no
longer used kinescope to record live performances as we had switched to an
amazing amount of video recording means. When we watched them a few years
later, this turned out to be a small disaster. Whereas film, and even
kinescope, kept their full colour glory, a lot of recordings on video were
almost beyond repair. By the nineties the technique once more had improved
beyond recognition; but I fear that this DVD is one of the last testimonies
of those early video years.
I’m a little bit sceptical concerning the programme. I wonder how
many admirers of Rostropovich want to hear Domingo. Vice versa, how many
Domingistes are interested in a Haydn concerto well-played though it is? This
was a big open air concert and therefore pot boilers like the Tchaikovsky and
the Verdi overtures were maybe necessary to sell tickets, but I seriously
doubt there will be many people thirsting for a Domingo conducted
Forza. The tenor is in good voice though, as often with Domingo,
there is that generalized beautiful sound in the middle register without much
characterizing and some pushing over the staff. For such concerts, he always
carefully selected arias and duets that didn’t reach high B, which by
that time was already beyond his means. The duet with Borodina is generously
sung and is one of the first documents of the later star mezzo. And one has
to admit, especially if one cannot comment on Domingo’s mastery of
Russian, that rarely Lensky aria will have sounded better. But the best piece
is the fine Massenet Élégie, which he sings more beautifully than
old Gigli or younger Corelli. This time the colours in his voice are
hauntingly plangent and Domingo himself plays the piano with Rostropovich at
the cello. I wish both gentlemen had chosen more of such pieces. And I think
that 58 minutes is rather short value.