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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.
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extraction of bleeding chunks, even on those occasions when strophic song forms
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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.
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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).
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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.
Released in late 2011, Deutsche Grammophon’s DVD of the new staging of Berg’s Lulu at the Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona is an excellent contribution to the discography of this fascinating opera.
A recent release by the Metropolitan Opera, this two-disc set makes available on DVD the famous performance of Berg’s Lulu that was broadcast on 20 December 1980 as part of the PBS series “Live from the Met.”
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Once the province of only the most dedicated opera fanatics, mid-20th century recordings of privately taped live performances have become more widely available.
Flute players in opera orchestra around the world must look forward to the frequent appearances of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, knowing that while the stage spotlight in the mad scene will be on the soprano, the orchestral spotlight will be on their instrument.
26 Sep 2006
LEHAR: Schön is die Welt
CPO has recently given us a lot of wonderful Lehar recordings like Eva, Der Rastelbinder or Der Sterngucker (admired by Hofmannsthal who exclaimed after a performance: ‘I wish, Lehar had composed Rosenkavalier’).
Some of these recordings are from radio sources or made in collaboration with German broadcasting companies as this performance of Schön ist die Welt, originally produced at Bavarian Radio. Contrary to the aforementioned operettas this issue comes in with one disadvantage: very stiff competition. On the inexpensive Walhall label there is a fine 1954 performance with Schock and Schlemm and above all (on different labels) there is the magnificent 1942 performance conducted by the composer himself. And that last performance has such eminent singers as the young Anton Dermota, the best Mozart tenor before the advent of Wunderlich, and the admirable Adele Kern, a great Zerbinetta, Sophie and Despina. And to top it all we are lucky to have the creators of this version of the operetta (there was an earlier version ‘Endlich allein’) Gitta Alpar and Richard Tauber in the most important arias. And as everybody knows, Lehar didn’t only tailor his roles to Tauber’s voice, he even allowed the gifted tenor to make some compositional suggestions, too, so we sometimes don’t know for sure where Lehar finished and Tauber took over.
In short, this means that this modern version is up to formidable competition. Of course it is good to hear Lehar’s rich and luscious orchestration like the pastoral motive at the start of the second act which consists of one long love duet; Lehar’s not so subtle hint at Tristan. And the orchestra, ably conducted by Ulf Schirmer, has the necessary ‘schwung’ often more found by eclectic radio orchestras than with great symphonic ensembles who ‘deign’ to steep down a step. But in the end the singers will decide the issue and I don’t think they can compete with their predecessors.
Every operetta cliché is to be found in this 1930 version (the first 1914 one was more original) and this includes a second couple. It is somewhat strange that Bavarian Radio didn’t have the money or didn’t take the pains to engage the right singers for the part but simply asked the two main singers to double in these roles. Now even Tauber was not above recording a few of the songs of the second couple in a Lehar operetta but I doubt he would have sung that second tenor role as well on a complete recording (he didn’t in his movie recording of Das Land des Lächelns) as this makes dramatic nonsense of the whole operetta. The second couple has to have an extra dose of lightness and charm which is definitely lacking with tenor Zoran Todorovich. To put it plainly, he is somewhat a fly in the ointment. Tauber, Dermota and even Schock were fine Mozart tenors and they brought their art to Lehar. Todorovich is a Pollione, a Turiddu (and not a good one at Amsterdam) and the voice is not only too heavy, too charmless and too strident with some ugly fermata but it lacks sweetness, pianissimi and above all an exemplary legato. Every bawler with a few decibels can more or less succeed in ‘Recondita armonia’ but will fall through in Lehar as his operettas will never tolerate just decibels but need lightness and impeccable knitting of beautiful tone; indeed, only the best of Mozart singing will do.
Elena Mosuç is better than her male partner though she, too, was not born in the operetta tradition. She has behind her an impressive amount of Lucias, Olympias, Donna Annas and Violettas and the voice is no longer as fresh as some years ago. At the beginning of the recording there is a wobble that slowly disappears during the recording. She is at her very best in the great aria ‘ich bin verliebt’ where she modulates her voice very well and sings with charm and conviction, proving too that she has studied the role while listening to Adele Kerns elder recording as she uses the same effects. As the second soprano she makes less heavy weather of her role than does Todorovich. But I wonder who decided to change her tango song ‘Mein Buenos Aires’ into a ‘Rio de Janeiro’. Maybe the words are easier to sing but the Brazilian city was not known as the world capital of tango as did the Argentinean capital.