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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.
02 Aug 2006
Mirella Freni and Cesare Siepi Live in Concert
In summer doldrums? Spend a delightful hour with two great artists in a rare joint appearance, as Fabula Classics has resurrected for DVD a 1985 Cesare Siepi and Mirelle Freni televised recital.
As with a
recently reviewed Renato Bruson concert, this event took place in
Lugano, Switzerland. Once again, Bruno Amaducci conducts the
Swiss-Italian Radio orchestra. They do a decent run-through of Otto
Nicolai's Merry Wives of Windsor curtain raiser, and later a dramatic Don Giovanni
overture. Other than that, the focus is on two great singers; one
somewhat late in his career, one in her prime, but both providing
generous listening pleasure.
Siepi appears first, and just to watch his tall, gentlemanly figure
take the stage prompts anticipation.With a modest nod to the audience,
he begins with a tasty rare morsel, Jupiter's berceuse from Gounod's Philemon et Baucis. There
can't be many bass arias as light and tuneful as this, and though
Siepi's vocal production does give evidence of the length of his
career, the handsomeness of his tone and the commanding technique
more than compensate.
Freni follows with Margherita's prison solo from Boito's Mefistofele.
The singer's innate sweetness and vulnerability make this an especially
successful aria for her. The two Puccini selections ("Vissi d'arte" and
"O mio babbino caro") are lovely enough but more generic in approach.
Siepi turns to Verdi's for Fiesco's "Il lacerato spirito" from Simon Boccanegra and the great Filippo II scene from Don Carlos. With
his characteristic restraint and dignity, Siepi underplays the hurt of
Filippo, which allows the aria to truly build in pathos. On the other
hand, the Fiesco aria could have used a little more edge.
Freni took on the role of Don Carlos's
Elisabetta around this time, and she manages the supremely challenging
"Tu che le vanita" very well, but without quite the dramatic commitment
to make the long selection (11 minutes) thoroughly captivating.
After the Don Giovanni overture,
Siepi sings a playful catalog aria; to have this great Don take on
Leporello might seem a bit odd to some, but his Don is not scanted.
Soon Freni joins him as Zerlina, and their "La ci darem la mano" caps
the concert beautifully, only leaving the wish that the program had
included more duets.
The booklet has a short essay and the texts are in their original languages. No subtitles are provided.
Los Angeles Unified School District, Secondary Literacy