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
JONES: The Geisha
Should Opera Today readers want to test where they would place themselves on a spectrum ranging from “completely politically incorrect” to “utterly politically correct,” the Hyperion Helios re-release of Sidney Jones “Japanese musical play” The Geisha surely will do the trick.
Whether one does or does not have a taste for this
genre — basically music hall Gilbert and Sullivan — the Asian
stereotyping and parody here will either strike one as innocuous,
perhaps at worst an unfortunate residue of a different time or place —
or as completely beyond the bounds of civil etiquette.
From “Chon Kina”:
I’m the smartest little geisha in Japan
And the people call me Roli Poli San....
Chon kina, chon kina
Chon kina, chon kina
Nagasaki, Yokohama, Hakodaate ho!
From “Jolly young Jacks are we”:
We’ve seen all sorts and sizes too-
Some rather quaintly dress’d ones;
But give me eyes of English blue-
Believe me, they’re the best ones!
And — hold on — from “The Toy Monkey”:
Nobody doubts that this horrid Japanese
Wives — orientally has got;
One, two, three, or as many as you please....
Click! Click! he’s a monkey on a stick....
So I’ll keep him alive
Till my English friends arrive-
When I’ll wish him a polite good-day.
That number — written by a Lionel Monckton and inserted into
Sidney Jones’s score — precedes the charming ditty,
“Ching-a-ring-a-ree.” We will not go there.
Hyperion evidently has no compunctions recording — and then
re-releasing — this material. The well-written booklet essay elaborates
on Jones’s career and times, but never ventures a word regarding the
material, other than to explain that Jones’s hit followed on the
success of The Mikado. The
score couldn’t hope for a better performance; Ronald Corp leads the New
London Orchestra and a fine cast of singers, including Christopher
Maltman and Sarah Walker.
Basically this is a series of songs, mostly relentlessly upbeat, in the
“toe-tapping” mode, but with a weepy ballad or two thrown in. Most all
the tunes start on the tonic and return there as often as possible.
After about 10 minutes, how good some of Wagner’s knottiest chromaticism
would sound. After 30 minutes, one longs for Wozzeck, some Moses und Aron, Die Soldaten. As the 75-minute mark approaches, keep any sharp objects away — the threat to do damage to one’s own eardrums is very real.
Evidently there is an audience for this music, as Hyperion has found
the original recording worthy of re-release on its “budget” label, Helios. If Jack Bauer, during next season’s 24,
must refrain from the more physical methods of extracting information
from hideous terrorists, perhaps he will avail himself of a boombox and
this recording, press the “repeat” button, sit back, and wait for the screaming to start. The world will be safe soon enough.
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy