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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.
22 Sep 2006
MONTEVERDI: Il Sesto Libro de Madrigali
It is somewhat ironic that until recent years Italy has generally been slow to take a leading role in the historical performance movement: ironic in that historically Italy both dominates and defines the early baroque style and ironic in that that style enshrines the primacy of text— the Italian text.
One might have suspected that on grounds of national pride, to say nothing of the advantage of native fluency with the language, Italians would have been in the forefront of the “early music revival,” where early baroque repertory has been foundational. Yet, for whatever reason—the strength of the modern opera tradition, perhaps—Italy’s robust participation in the world of historical performance has developed later than others. However, the brilliant work of Concerto Italiano, under the direction of Rinaldo Alessandrini, amply and welcomingly shows how robust! With a large discography that includes eleven recordings of the works of Monteverdi already, this present recording of pieces from the Sixth Book of Madrigals is, like its predecessors, one that overwhelms with the naturalness of the performing idiom and the sensitivity of the performers.
Monteverdi’s Sixth Book of Madrigals was published in 1614, shortly after his appointment as maestro di capella at the Basilica of St. Mark’s in Venice, but the madrigals are in the main (if not totally) from Mantua, and poignantly so. Several events lend a tragic hue to Monteverdi’s later years at the Gonzaga court. In September, 1607 he suffered the loss of his wife, the singer Claudia Cattaneo, and in the next year he faced the death of the young singer Caterina Martinelli. In 1603 Martinelli had come to Mantua as a young teen, and had lived in Monteverdi’s house for several years, perhaps studying with Claudia. She died suddenly of small pox in 1608 amid preparations for the opera, Arianna, in which she was to have sung the title role.
Almost inescapably then, we tend to interpret the lamentative bent of Book Six autobiographically. Much of the volume is devoted to two large-scale works, an ensemble arrangement of the famous Lamento d’Arianna, and a Sestina (“Lagrime d”Amante al Sepolcro dell’Amata”). The first is an arrangement of the only music that survives from “Martinelli’s” opera, and the latter is a memorial work for her, requested by the Duke. In the wake of Monteverdi’s deep personal losses, these works (and others in the volume) compel us to find in them echoes of the composer’s grief.
The ensemble version of Arianna’s lament is an interesting trope of the surviving monodic version. In both forms, Arianna’s abandonment by Theseus becomes the trigger for affective music of the highest order, be it born of her despair, anger, love, or inner ambivalence. In the ensemble arrangement, however, because of the independence of the individual lines, Monteverdi’s dissonances have stronger substance than that of a single voice against the basso continuo, and this gives striking weight to a work already heavy laden. In the monodic version, however, we not only hear the vocal line as the character “Arianna,”—and thus hear things dramatically—but the solo line can claim a performance flexibility that well serves the emotional contours of the text. Concerto Italiano’s ensemble remarkably manages to sing the lament as a group with all the power, expression, and flexibility of a soloist. In fact, in hearing the ensemble, one has no doubt but that each of the singers would render the solo version with great command, and they clearly bring this understanding to a cohesive ensemble performance, wonderfully exemplified in the explosively angry sections of the fourth stanza.
Lamento d’Arianna, of course, echoes the opera. Some of the madrigals here well show the potential closeness of the madrigal and the stage, as well. “Misero Alceo,” “Batto, qui pianse Ergasto,” and :Presso un fiume tranquillo” all present scenes where the ensemble offers a narrative frame while solo or duo textures render dialogue, sometimes at great length. The degree to which the madrigal is becoming soloistic shows its continuing response to an increasingly operatic world, as does the adoption of dramatic structures. And tellingly, this development may seem to bring Monteverdi’s output into a closer unity.
It is an output that Concerto Italiano performs with stunning fluency and dramatic flair. Their sound is forward, flexible and lithe, their skill unflaggingly impressive, and their results most sensitive, dynamic and memorable.