Recently in Recordings
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.
19 Apr 2006
Song of America: Music from the Library of Congress
In connection with the joint project by Thomas Hampson and the U.S. Library of Congress to present events about American song and other creativity at venues as varied as Kansas City, Fort Worth, and Carnegie Hall, EMI Classics has released this CD containing tracks from three earlier discs featuring Thomas Hampson.
If you already own these discs, there is nothing
new here besides the notes and the program order, but since two of the discs
are no longer in the active catalogue, this new release offers a good
sampling of the fruits of Hampson’s championship of American art song
while providing a souvenir CD for his recital tour.
For Hampson disc collectors wishing to cut to the chase, eight songs are
taken from An Old Song Resung, a 1990 recital of “American
Concert Songs”, six first appeared on From the Soul,
Hampson’s sung and recited 1997 tribute to the poetry of Walt Whitman,
and the remaining six are from American Dreamer, a 1992 collection
of Stephen Foster songs arranged for his voice and an old-time music ensemble
of violin, guitar and piano (this is the disc that is still in the active
catalogue). The songs are interspersed, although most of the Whitman songs
are heard near or at the end of the program (the exception being Ned
Rorem’s “As Adam Early in the Morning”, which opens it).
Thus, most of the Stephen Foster songs are in the company of ballads like
Haydn Wood’s “Roses of Picardy” (which is actually an
English song but was widely sung in the US after World War I) and Walter
Damrosch’s catchy, martial setting of Rudyard Kipling’s
“Danny Deever”, which was apparently Theodore Roosevelt’s
favorite song. Concert songs dominate the middle of the program, with Charles
Griffes’ “An Old Song Resung,” telling of a catastrophic
shipwreck, echoed just a bit later in the traditional “The E-ri-e
Canal”, which humorously uses shipwreck language to tell of an
ill-fated canal trip, at the end of which “the crew are all in jail,
and I’m the only sea-cook son that’s left to tell the
Hampson’s powerful and expressive voice brings these songs to life,
but, with his extensive experience with German Lieder and other European art
song he is equally at home with Erich Wolfgang Korngold’s tender
“Tomorrow (When you are Gone)”, and John Duke’s slightly
spooky “Luke Havergal” (which has been a favorite of mine since I
acquired the disc on which it first appeared). Hampson says he began studying
American art song in hope of identifying the American Mahler or Schubert, but
has come to see in the entire genre a kind of conversation among poets and
composers of what it is to be making “America”. Thus, he
approaches all the songs with directness and unpretentiousness, which he
considers an important quality of American song. So, while Hampson can bring
to Leonard Bernstein’s complex “To What You Said” the full
artistry with which he approaches Mahler’s songs, he is also fully at
home with the fiddle, piano, and backup vocals of long-time “roots
music” performers Jay Ungar and Molly Mason as they present
arrangements of Stephen Foster’s ballads, in which Hampson sees an
attempt to create an American version of Thomas Moore’s Irish ballads.
(Foster’s livelier, and possibly more controversial, minstrel songs are
not a part of this program, so we hear “Beautiful Dreamer” and
“Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair”, but not “Oh
Susannah” or “De Camptown Races”, which figure in
instrumental medleys on the American Dreamer disc.)
The program closes with settings of Walt Whitman poems about the Civil
War, including songs by Kurt Weill and Charles Naginski, and concluding with
“Ethiopia Saluting The Colors,” as set by African-American
composer Henry Thacker Burleigh. Nowhere is Hampson’s view of the
project of American song more focused than in these songs, in which serious
composers of varied ethnic backgrounds set words in which the father of
American poetry engages with the fundamental episode in America’s
development of its identity as a nation.
Information on American Art song in general and the remaining recitals in
the Library of Congress series can be found on Thomas Hampson’s website and that
of the Library of