Recently in Recordings
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.
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.
26 Jun 2006
Puccini: Sogno d’or
Anyone who knows Giacomo Puccini only for his operas is in for a treat. Puccini: Sogno d’or presents Puccini the songwriter, and what is fascinating about this little-known repertory is that it prefigures many of the delightful melodies that later appeared in his works for the stage.
Among the many composition assignments given students in conservatories in nineteenth-century Italy were songs and sacred pieces such as hymns and Mass movements. Young composers could then cut their teeth, so to speak, on setting texts for these more manageable works; the larger stage compositions would come later (were these young composers fortunate enough to survive in this profession).
Sixteen of Puccini’s songs and one hymn are presented on this fine album, sung exquisitely by soprano Krassimira Stoyanova with able accompaniment by pianist Maria Prinz. Both approach the songs with respect and integrity. In addition to enjoying Stoyanova’s interpretive style, there are the many delightful moments of recognition in the songs, for a young Puccini would later employ—recycle is too harsh a term—some of this materials for his operas. One may surprised, for instance, to hear the melody of “Canto d’anime” sung by a woman, for it prefigures Rinuccio’s “Firenze è come un albero fiorito” from Gianni Schicchi (with a much different text!). Other operas that appear in the midst of these songs include Manon Lescaut, Madama Butterfly, Tosca and La rondine. The earliest songs, according to their editor Michael Kaye, were composed when Puccini was in his late teens while the latest was written in Torre del Lago just five years before his death.
The songs range from the delicate miniature “Casa mia” to the formalistic “Mentìa l’avviso,” interesting since it has the composer setting recitative and aria in a much earlier style that listeners may expect from his pen. Elegant in its simplicity is the one piece of sacred music on the recording, “Salve Regina,” done both with the piano and as a bonus with organ (perhaps a far more satisfying track). Listeners should not be fooled by the song “Ave Maria Leopolda,” clearly addressed not to the Virgin but to a family friend who had obviously greeted the Puccinis as they returned from a voyage somewhere: ”We (Puccini, his wife Elvira and their daughter Fosca) greet you as a chorus as you greeted us on the deck of the ship!”.
All told, this recording will be a revelation for Puccini fans who do not know these pieces. Whether a fan of the composer’s or not, though, the soloist and accompanist together present a noteworthy selection of charming and wonderfully-performed songs.