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.
23 Jun 2006
“Gypsies! Filthy, dirty, thieving gypsies!” cried Amy Sedaris as Jerri Blank from one delightful Strangers With Candy episode years back. For those who have experienced a forced ‘chance’ meeting with one of these colorful characters in say, Granada, Spain, they may have espoused a similar belief in recent years.
These feisty and caustic travelers who polkadot
their way across continental Europe grow ever more peculiar as time passes.
As most members of society grow and change with culture and technology, the
gypsies remain seemingly dormant or frozen in time. Interacting with gypsies
is much like Dorian Gray gazing at his own contorted painting: As we remain
in touch with the changes of the world, the gypsies become ever more so
pesky and grotesque.
In the mid to late 19th century there was a fascination with the lifestyles
of these now begrudged people. Adolf Heyduk, a Czech poet, had in 1859
published an anthology titled, Ciganske melodie (Gypsy Melodies) which
quickly inspired composers Karel Bendl and Antonin Dvorak, (both Czech) to
set his words to music. The Suprahon label (which shares its homeland with
the aforementioned artists) has uniquely compiled four composers (including
Johannes Brahms and Vitezslav Novak) who had in the 1880’s and 90’s adapted
their music to Heyduk’s poetry.
These songs capture gypsies as the unfettered and passionate people they
once were conceived to be. In a distant time when they differed far less
from the average citizen than they do now, their lifestyles were possibly
viewed as more exuberant than the perceived nuisance they are today. This
album simply titled, “Gypsy Melodies” consists of baritone Roman Janal and
pianist Karel Kosarek breathing a new life into these seldom heard
Janal and Kosarek shift deftly through the four set of songs almost
seamlessly. The pieces by Karel Bendl are the shortest and most epigrammatic
of all of the Heyduk passages and prove to sound the most exotic of all four
composers. The piano is used to evoke the authentic gypsy ensemble by acting
as the triangle and cimbalon at several points. This gives the first
fourteen pieces a flavorful almost non-western feel which is contrasted to
the romantiscm of the Vitezslav Novak set.
Johannes Brahms’ set consists of text translated from Hungarian and prove
to sound thicker and more like Brahms than non-western music. However, his
pieces are lightly sprinkled with a few subtleties of gypsy music. Pianist
Kosarek elegantly handles the change of style from the Bendl’s ethnological
yearnings to Dvorak’s and Novak’s more lyrical sounds. Baritone Janal is
superb in handling the upper tenor reaches of Novak’s pieces. He performs
with a boundless and flawless air that enhances these recordings and
provides the listener with a masterful range of emotion and sound. Together
with Kosarek’s piano playing they make a truly magnificent record.
Overall, “Gypsy Melodies” captures a historical moment in time when the
burgeoning middle class began to react with an estranged population. Though,
more than a mere document of 19th century social class differences, the
music and poetry revived here is thoughtfully fashioned with attention to
detail and beauty. This album provides more weight than one imagines there
to be. And even if you have ever haggled with the gypsies while vacationing
in Paris it may bring a new perspective and adoration to those commonly
regarded as vile and plunderous beings.