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
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