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.
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.