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.
25 May 2006
NICOLAI: Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor
Klaus-Edgar Wichmann, in the booklet essay to this Capriccio recording from 2002 of Otto Nicolai's Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor, describes the work as having "asserted itself in the opera repertoire for more than a hundred years."
Well, it needs to reassert itself. In the US, at
least, and probably anywhere outside the German-speaking world,
Nicolai's vibrant, tuneful score has taken a very distant backseat to
Verdi's late masterpiece Falstaff, adapted from the same Shakespeare play (not one of his most admired, either).
By putting the focus on Sir John from the first scene, Verdi and Boito
loosened an undercurrent of human frailty that deepens the sometimes
rough comedy of Shakespeare's original. Nicolai worked with librettist
Hermann Salomon Mosenthal, and they start and end with the merry wives,
with Falstaff making a grand entrance late in act one. In its way, this
makes the comedy palatable, as the sheer outsize humanity of Verdi and
Boito's Falstaff can evoke — as it does in your reviewer — feelings of
antipathy for the bougie hausfraus who dump a foolish old man in a
river and conspire to assault him with sticks. The German rendition
focuses on good-hearted hijinks, in a lighter comic vein.
Nicolai's score has met a fate not unlike many of Rossini's early
comedies — it is best known for its overture, which sparkles with the
opera's most melodic material, tunes that reappear in act three, giving
a nice balance to the composition. Falstaff gets a rousing drinking
song, Fenton a most delightful romanza, and the whole opera is
tastefully peppered with duets, trios, and other ensembles. In other
words, the music elicits smiles as much as the story. This opera needs
to be staged more often.
Capriccio's recording has a fine cast. Juliane Banse, Andrea
Bönig, and Regina Klepper sing the title roles with good humor,
and the fine bass Franz Hawlata does a lusty take on Sir John. Dietrich
Henschel, a solid if unexciting baritone, sings Herr Fluth (Ford, in
the Verdi opera). As the young lover of Herr Fluth's daughter Anna,
Jörg Dürmüller makes no particular impression.
The problem for this worthy set? The existence of a 1963 recording on
EMI, with a cast including Gottlob Frick, Edith Mathis, and most
damaging to the Capriccio set in the field of comparison, Fritz
Wunderlich as Fenton. Just to hear his exquisite "Horch, die Lerche
singt im Hain!" makes this older set eternally fresh.
The EMI set also includes the spoken dialogue, separately tracked for
easy skipping for the dialogue-phobic. Capriccio spares such souls the
effort by omitting the dialogue altogether, shaving about 10 minutes
from each disc's running time. Helmuth Froschauer leads the Cologne
Radio orchestra on the Capriccio set, and ably, but not quite with the
verve of Robert Heger and the Munich ensemble on the EMI.
So go for the EMI set if the opera appeals, but if can't be found, the
Capriccio recording certainly offers a commendable version of this
regrettably under-performed work.
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy