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.
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.