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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.
The economics of the recording companies dictate much that is not ideal.
Wagner’s operas were not composed as they were in order to permit the
extraction of bleeding chunks, even on those occasions when strophic song forms
Among the recent recordings of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, Valery Gergiev’s release on the LSO Live label is an excellent addition to the discography of this work.
While not unknown, the songs of Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942) deserve to be heard more frequently.
Recorded on 5 and 6 May 2008 and 17 and 18 January 2009 at the Lisztzentrum (Raiding, Austria), this recent Bridge release makes available the piano-vocal versions of three song cycles by Gustav Mahler, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert-Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder performed by mezzo-soprano Hermine Haselböck, accompanied by Russell Ryan.
Contraltos rarely achieve the acclaim and renown of sopranos. Assigned few leading roles in opera, they are condemned to playing the villain or the grandmother, or to stealing the castrati’s trousers in en travesti roles.
Following their 2011 Decca recording of Striggio’s Mass in 40 Parts (1566), I Fagiolini continue their quest to unearth lost treasures of the High Renaissance and early Baroque, with this collection of world-premiere recordings, ‘reconstructions’ and ‘reconstitutions’ of music by Giovanni and Andrea Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Palestrina, and their less well-known compatriots Viadana, Barbarino and Soriano.
Eternal Echoes is an album of khazones [Jewish cantorial music] for cantorial soloist, solo violin and a blended instrumental ensemble comprising a small orchestra and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.
Michael Tilson Thomas’s recording of Mahler’s Third Symphony is an outstanding contribution to the composer’s discography.
Oliver Knussen burst into British music with an unprecedented flourish. In 1967, the London Symphony Orchestra premiered Knussen’s First Symphony, with István Kertész scheduled to conduct.
Based on performances given in Summer 2010 at the Lucerne Festival, this recording of Beethoven’s Fidelio is an admirable recording that captures the vitality of the work as conducted by Claudio Abbado.
Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) was one of the most popular composers of his day in Poland, and of the many works he wrote for the stage, two are performed from time to time, Halka (1848) and Strazny dwór [The Haunted Manor] (1865).
The Polish alto Jadwiga Rappé is a familiar voice in various stage and concert works, and the recent release of a selection of songs by Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) is an opportunity to hear her performing artsongs.
Originally released on multiple discs in 1981 this reissue on two CDs is a comprehensive collection of art songs by Italian and French composers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
An exciting contribution to the discography of this popular opera, the live performance of Richard Strauss’s Salome from the Festspielhaus at Baden-Baden is a compelling DVD.
19 Jul 2006
BEETHOVEN: Missa Solemnis
This excellent performance of Beethoven's mammoth sacred work, Missa Solemnis, served as part of the
celebration of the reopening (after reconstruction) of the Dresden Frauenkirche, which suffered devastating damage in the same bombing raid that destroyed much of the city and so many of its inhabitants near the end of WWII.
The DVD offers a bonus feature, admirable in its restraint and brevity,
detailing this story. Viewing it before the performance would be a good
strategy, as the camera work in the DVD spends so much time gliding along the
walls and sliding off the musicians in order to focus on some aspect of the
interior. If one does not appreciate the occasion, this might irritate many
viewers (and some may not find the occasion sufficient rationale either).
Camera technology has developed so that the constant movement and birds-eye
view angles can become a distraction.
The hall does have much to enjoy, visually. With its ornate friezes and
blocks of pastel blues and pinks, the impression is as if a very traditional
wedding cake had been inverted and we are inside it. The recorded sound,
remarkably clear and not at all rattled by loud crescendos, suggests that the
church will make a fine venue for more musical performances.
Fabio Luisi leads this one, looking quite aware of the profundity of the
occasion, even tense, yet managing a fervent, detailed job of leading the
Dresden Staatskapelle. The four soloists stand before the chorus and behind
the orchestra. Contralto Birgit Remmert lacks a distinctive tone but never
offers less than a competent performance. Tenor Christian Elsner also has
somewhat of an anonymous tenor sound, and when the tessitura climbs, some
strain becomes noticeable.
A gorgeous woman, Camilla Nylund also impresses with her ability to sustain
the challenging soprano line without letting the effort mar her rich tone.
Surely the most well-known of the four singers, bass René Pape shows why he
has made a world-wide reputation for himself. He sounds beautiful, relaxed
and yet urgent as necessary.
The long credits play over several minutes of ovations for the musicians from
the audience, who made hardly any sound during the performance, based on the
DVD's audio. So for those who want to watch the effort that goes into making
Beethoven's massive mass come to life, while enjoying the architecture of the
new Frauenkirche, this Euroarts set can be highly recommended.
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy