Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail @ Hangar-7

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: Notturno

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 Sings Mahler Lieder

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.

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Hänsel und Gretel

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.

Magdalena Kožená: Love and Longing

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 Magdalena Kožená.

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon

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.

Amore e Tormento

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.’ 

Rivals—Arias for Farinelli & Co.

In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi. 

Verdi at the Old MET

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.

Italo Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre re

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. 

Così fan tutte from DG

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. 

Heart’s Delight: The Songs of Richard Tauber

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.

Adriana Lecouvreur from Decca

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.

Lawrence Brownlee’s Spiritual Sketches

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.

Great Wagner Conductors from DG

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 archives.

Great Wagner Singers from DG

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.

Adding Movie Magic to The Magic Flute

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?

L’Incoronazione di Poppea from Virgin Classics

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. 

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Leyla Gencer in Concert
19 Jul 2006

Leyla Gencer in Concert

There are lieder-recitals and there are lieder-recitals. In my experience Lucia Popp, Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and Margaret Price stuck to their Lieder-guns till the last item, sometimes offering Strauss’ Zueignung as an encore.

Leyla Gencer in Concert

Leyla Gencer, soprano, Walter Baracchi, piano.

Myto Historical 062112 [CD]

$10.99  Click to buy

And then there are the more, shall I say, ‘modern’ singers, usually not from Central Europe, who know all too well the public is there for the voice and less for high art. When the official programme is over, the public sighs a bit and waits for the real meat: some unabashed opera aria where the singer can finally lash out. Grace Bumbry was one of the first to use the method. Studer, Kasarova and Hvorostovsky refined it by often choosing such lieder (often by Strauss or Tchaikovsky) that could easily have been an aria. And Renée Fleming really found the solution to it all by carefully choosing a theme, like music inspired by Goethe so that she could hop from Gretchen am Spinrade to “Roi de Thulé – Ah! Je ris de me voir si belle” from Gounod’s Faust a long time before the encores were on.

This Gencer-recital still goes back to the time when opera was reserved for the encores but make no mistake. The La Scala public puts up with the music out of love for the soprano and not out of reverence for Bartok or Liszt. Though the Hungarian songs are divided into groups according to a theme, Gencer already gets a hearty applause after the first song while the second one goes without though it concludes the theme. If anyone should still have doubts, try track 3; a slow Transylvanian dancing song. Gencer finishes it with her trade mark: an ascending pianissimo that seems to last for eternity and the house comes down as this is the exact thing they came to hear. Not that the record’s worth is limited to Gencer’s famous head voice. She is in fabulous voice: warm and charming and at her best behaviour. The many glottal attacks she often used and which sometimes marred her operatic performances are almost completely absent. The voice stands like a house and there is no trace of a wobble. With her peculiar sound, she is of course at her best in slow melancholy songs like the Lamento Panaze (track 8). I cannot judge her Hungarian but she is probably one of the few non-native speakers at the time to get away with it as Hungarian is not a European but an Asian language that adapted a lot of Turkish words; and Gencer is, after all, the most famous Turkish singer.

In the Liszt songs she is even better, especially in Pace non trovo (track 18) where she can mix pathos with her virtuosic agility borne out from long experience with Donizetti. And then it’s time for the public to sit back and relax and listen to her encores: a noble rendering of Roberto Devereux, a heart warming ‘Ah non credea’ from Sonnambula, a role she had only sung twice in her long career. And, being an old pro, she refrains from adding the cabaletta ‘Ah! Non giunge’ which probably would have put too much strain on the voice after such a long career. She ends with an aria from Les Martyrs, the reworked version of Poliuto which she had created in modern times and which she would sing once again two months after this La Scala recital (available on CD; a must). I would advise to have the sleeve notes in hand when purchasing this record. They are really informative and are written by Franca Cella, who wrote a big Italian-language biography of the soprano (which was sadly never translated into another language).

Jan Neckers

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):