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.
24 Jul 2006
The Italian Dramatic Lament
Its foundational interest in affective response made the early Baroque era a time rich in the nurture of highly impassioned music and text. Little surprise then that laments, with their characteristic emotional intensity, were particularly at home on the early seventeenth-century stage and in the chambers of the nobility.
“The Italian Dramatic Lament,”
performed by the award-winning Catacoustic Consort, brings together assorted
laments by a trio of composers who figure prominently in any consideration of
early opera: Claudio Monteverdi, Jacopo Peri, and Giulio Caccini. While not
all of the works on the recording are operatic—there are some
“unattached” songs as well as instrumental music—the
collection richly evokes the highly emotional and highly stylized music that
comprised the stilo rappresentativo.
Soprano Catherine Webster is an impressive singer with a commanding
dramatic range, equally adept at impassioned verbalism and lyrical singing.
This range famously comes into play in works like Monteverdi’s
“Lamento d’Arianna,” a work that Webster handles with
notable vocal flexibility and a compelling sense of style. Throughout the
recording she sings with a mature understanding of the dynamics at play in
the works, and the result is unflaggingly convincing. That which ultimately
sets this recording apart, however, is the beguiling contribution of the
instrumentalists. The interplay of lirone (a chordal bowed-string instrument
with regrettably few modern practitioners), harp, and theorbo is unusually
rich here, adopting a freely improvisational approach, full of dynamism and
responsiveness. It is brilliant continuo playing, and the collaborative color
and spontaneity do much to make the performances wondrously alive.
Several instrumental works by Hieronymus Kapsberger give the ensemble a
chance to extend the lamentative theme. Tellingly, all are grounds, including
a large-scale Passacaglia. The ground bass form is often associated with
laments in the seventeenth century, where their descents became emblematic of
falling tears and their obstinate repetitions seem to embody the
inescapability of fate.
This is a stunning recording by a young ensemble well worth watching in
the future. The performances here dramatically underscore the degree to which
early seventeenth-century style is collaborative, and the
“Catacousticians” amply show the rewards of a heightened
collaborative approach. But moreover, the performances here remind as well of
the degree to which manner of performance lies close to the heart of
this repertory. And in this case, the heart is well served, indeed.