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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.
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.
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.