Recently in Recordings
As the editor of Opera magazine, John Allison, notes in his editorial in the June issue, Donizetti fans are currently spoilt for choice, enjoying a ‘Donizetti revival’ with productions of several of the composer’s lesser known works cropping up in houses around the world.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and
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.
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.