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

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. 

Saverio Mercadante: I due Figaro

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.

Christian Thielemann’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

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. 

Cecilia Bartoli as Norma

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

Ariane et Barbe-Bleue on Blu-Ray

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

J. S. Bach.  St. John Passion
25 Sep 2006

BACH: St. John Passion

The Bach Passions combine drama, sublimity of expression, and deeply devotional reflection in such a powerful way that we invariably tend to set them apart from other liturgical works.

J. S. Bach. St. John Passion

Midori Suzuki, soprano; Robin Blaze, countertenor; Gerd Türk, tenor; Chiyuki Urano, bass baritone; Shephan MacLeod, bass; Bach Collegium Japan; Masaaki Suzuki, Conductor.

EuroArts Invitation 2050396 [DVD]

$17.99  Click to buy

And one must imagine then that performances of the Passions accordingly tend to call forth and inspire extraordinary results, in intent, at least, if not uniformly in realization: extraordinary works that we handle with extraordinary care. And extraordinary care is well manifest in this recent release of a live concert performance of the St. John Passion by Masaaki Suzuki and the Bach Collegium Japan.

The choir of sixteen singers, which includes all of the soloists except the evangelist, sings with decorous control, careful phrasing and articulation, and an over-all tidiness that serves the musical style well. Particularly dramatic moments like the “Kreuzige!” exclamations are far from constrained, but more often than not, it is a careful control that is most characteristic . . . and beautiful for it. The chorales no less than the choruses are highly polished, and show a wonderful sense of alternating strong-weak stresses in the subdivision of the pulse.

Gerd Türk brings to the evangelist’s role (and the other tenor solos) a buoyant and light sound with an easy high register, as well as a compelling dramatic sense that especially surfaces in moments of heightened expression. The Swiss bass, Stephan MacLeod, gives a beautifully contoured “Betrachte, meine Seel” that complements the poetic reflection with a memorable musical warmth. Soprano Midori Suzuki’s bright and well-focused sound is an elegant contribution to the ensemble, and her agile execution is notable in the passage work of “Ich folge dir.” The English countertenor Robin Blaze also has a well-focused sound and sensitive expression. However, his sound is somewhat small-bored, an advantage when matched with the reediness of the solo viola da gamba in “Es ist vollbracht,” though lacking in heft in the triumphant “Der Held aus Juda” section of the same aria.

I much favor the degree of integration that results from having the soloists as members of the chorus. However, in the end I would have wished there were more soloists for the roles. MacLeod sings both the part of Jesus as well as reflective poetry on the plight of Jesus; Türk similarly sings both the narrative and reflective poetry with a blurring of dramatic voice and function the result. It was welcome to hear such fine singers sing more rather than less, admittedly, but dramatic structure suggests other priorities.

Suzuki’s performance is one to savor. Bach’s extraordinary work is well met with extraordinarily stylish and sensitive execution—a beautiful combination, indeed.

Steven Plank

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):