Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

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.

Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail @ Hangar-7

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: Notturno

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 Sings Mahler Lieder

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.

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Hänsel und Gretel

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.

Magdalena Kožená: Love and Longing

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 Magdalena Kožená.

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon

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.

Amore e Tormento

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.’ 

Rivals—Arias for Farinelli & Co.

In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi. 

Verdi at the Old MET

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.

Italo Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre re

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. 

Così fan tutte from DG

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. 

Heart’s Delight: The Songs of Richard Tauber

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.

Adriana Lecouvreur from Decca

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.

Lawrence Brownlee’s Spiritual Sketches

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.

Great Wagner Conductors from DG

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 archives.

Great Wagner Singers from DG

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.

Adding Movie Magic to The Magic Flute

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?

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Alfredo Kraus and Renata Scotto: Villancicos
18 Apr 2006

Alfredo Kraus and Renata Scotto: Villancicos

I fear this is a CD strictly reserved for fans of both singers or for collectors of Christmas albums by classical singers.

Alfredo Kraus and Renata Scotto: Villancicos
Religious arias and Christmas Songs

Alfredo Kraus, Renata Scotto, Chamber Orchestra of Bratislava and Chorus Conservatorio de Badajoz, Erich Binder (cond.)

RTVE Musica 65018 [CD]

$16.99  Click to buy

[They really exist. I know at least one charming, well-known American lady.] The sleeve notes tell us the CD was recorded in 1991. At the time Kraus was 64 and Scotto 58. The tenor’s voice is clearly in better shape than the soprano’s. Still, if one knows the young tenor’s many recordings on his own label, Carillon (now mostly available at Bongiovanni), it is clear that the voice has become far drier and a little bit wooden. Nevertheless it still impressively shows how a good technique and careful husbanding of one’s means keep a great voice in shape after a career of 37 years. Kraus kept his splendid top notes till the very end of his life, which he was not shy of showing off, and this is one of the disturbing things on this CD. Several times he interpolates or ends with blazing high C’s where the flow of the music goes completely the other way. Even a shameless top note hunter like myself thinks a high C too much and rather unmusical at the end of Adeste fidelis (Come all you faithful) or the disguised Agnus Dei of Bizet’s Arlésienne that no tenor can leave in peace. Kraus is at his best in a few simple Spanish Christmas ditties that follow well-known paths but his Ave Maria’s or Brahm’s Wiegenlied are not records for eternity unless one wants to hear the tenor sing in German.

Still, compared to Scotto this is more than decent singing. The soprano’s voice was in shreds by the nineties. She is, of course, an old pro and tries to hide it as much as possible. One way she does it is by transposing so heavily that she has to go to the bottom of her voice and then resorts to a kind of growl. Almost all the time she sings in the lower middle of the voice where there is still roundness of sound. But sometimes she has to sing a weeny teeny bit higher and then trouble starts. Most of the time for a few measures she uses crooning or a thin piano and when that is not allowed as in Adam’s Cantique de Noël (O Holy Night) she gives a small shriek (mercifully, one verse only). She, too, introduces some lesser known carols; but one is too much fixed on the remains of a once great voice to pay attention to the repertory. As I said, strictly for those who want any note recorded by one of these singers.

Jan Neckers

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):