Recently in Recordings
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.
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.
03 Apr 2006
Nine German Arias—An Urban Baroque Film
It’s always interesting when one’s own opinion about a work varies violently from others’ views, even if they are to date minimal in number. In this case, it is not the music per se that is under discussion but the way it is represented, or in my opinion, mis-represented by this film.
It is introduced with the words: “Filmed entirely in London in the year 2000, on video, and premiered at the 22nd Moscow International Film Festival, this award winning and groundbreaking first feature by opera director Peter Shayne is a conceptual dramatisation of Handel’s Nine Arias, composed in London c1725.”
So far so good. Handel and the poet Barthold Brockes were students at the same time in Halle, and it's often assumed that they knew each other and were perhaps even friends. Brockes wrote a nine-volume anthology, from the first volume of which Handel set his Nine German Arias around 1725. In translation, the Brockes work is titled "Earthly Delight in God, Consisting of Physical and Moral Poems," the texts reflecting pleasure in the glory of God's natural creation. If one needs reassurance as to the quality of these works, then there are several excellent audio versions available - with Dorothea Roschmann’s on Harmonia Mundi an excellent example.
Reading the advertising for Peter Shayne’s work, made in 2000 but only just released on DVD last December, it sounds an interesting enough visual accompaniment to these last works the master wrote in the German language: “Three haunting apparition-like female figures wander the city singing three arias each. They extol the glories of nature and the divine, transporting us to a world of baroque ideals.”
Unfortunately, the realisation comes woefully short of the aspiration in a mass of crass and insensitive visuals that are obviously desperately trying to do something novel and challenging, yet end up just causing this reviewer to seriously consider throwing the DVD box at the screen. There are a few good ideas - but then they are endlessly repeated, ad nauseum. The film itself as a whole - tricksy “arty” shots included - reminded me of something a third-year Film Making student might produce - on a bad day. If the incessantly repeated shots were meant to be an ironic comment on the baroque aria form, then I can only say that Mr. Handel is poorly served by someone who doesn’t seem to have any real affection for, or understanding of, his music. The musicians (some first rate ones are listed) do their best and my heart goes out to the three sopranos who must be wondering now why they ever agreed to take part in this caricature.
S.C. Loder © 2006