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.
31 May 2006
Delectatio angeli — Music of love, longing & lament
Catherine Bott is an English soprano in her fifties with decades of career and an extensive discography, but even in the world of early music, where she has spent most of her time, one could not say she is a marquee name.
Among her many recordings there are only a few where she is the headliner, rather than a soloist among other musicians in ensemble. All the more surprising, then, that Hyperion has launched a sort of "early music top of the pops", where she surveys a variety of late-medieval repertoire, among which the most well-known are three songs of Dufay.
If it should be surprising, more's the pity, for this is one of the most consistent enjoyable and diverting discs that has come my way for a while. It begins with an unaccompanied English song from the 13th century, for which Bott adopts a breathy sound popular with "new-age" Celtic pop singers. Is it appropriate here? For me it connotes an ersatz and superficial look back at the past, which is not the message that I imagine Bott wants to send.
The soprano goes on to show what she is capable of in a beautifully spun-out "O Rosa Bella", lyrical, controlled, and passionate, which shows the listener why this was one of the most popular songs of the mid-fifteenth century. Here, and throughout most of the disc, she is accompanied ably by Pavlo Besnosiuk and Mark Levy on medieval fiddles, whether in notated polyphony or in improvised settings for monophonic originals.
My taste lies particularly toward the two works from the French Ars Subtilior, "Par maintes foy" by Vaillant, with its virtuoso coloratura in shifting rhythms delivered with verve and accuracy, and the dreamy "Le Greygnour bien" by Matheus de Perusio. This period of utmost complexity from the late fourteenth was followed by increasing simplification of rhythm and construction through the two centuries to follow, and Bott's readings give an idea of what was lost in moving in another direction. (If I am not mistaken, the listener can find thes e tunes sung by Bott on a Linn disc by the New London Consort which is devoted exclusively to this period). Bott is also heard to good advantage in three Dufay songs, including the warhorse Vergene Bella.
Bott is one of those singers who seems most at home in early music or in contemporary music (an area she has also been exploring), perhaps because her sound and intelligence is more appropriate for intimate, complex, and inward repertoire such as she presents here (rather than the big "bow-wow" that is often the ticket to success in the vocal world). Not so long ago she recorded an entire disc of troubadour song, which is now out-of-print. If you value a first-rate reading of some delightful repertoire, snap this one up while you still can.