Recently in Recordings
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.
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?
25 Sep 2006
Pilar Lorengar: Prima Donna in Vienna
Maybe a looking glass will help you to decipher the reprint in this CD’s inside cover of a small article on the soprano by Terry McEwen, who was Manager of the Classical Divison of London Records at the time of recording.
Still it’s worth taking the trouble as the writer defines the art of Lorengar in a few and extremely well-chosen words. ‘Luminous’ and ‘a ray of sunlight’ are the apt terms used for this wonderful record. I know that not everybody is so enamoured as McEwen (or myself) by the rapid vibrato of the Spanish soprano (vibrant sheen he calls it), by that pretty fluttery sound with the incredibly beautiful silvery edge but the loss is theirs.
Lorengar is of course fully at home in Le Nozze where she displays the charm and the tear (that too was in the voice) necessary in the aria, incidentally the only one in Italian as all the other pieces are in German; a language she felt at ease in as she lived in Berlin where her home theatre was. She is outstanding as Marzelline and Agathe thanks to her warmth and vocal assuredness in florid music, witness of her zarzuela past. ‘Dich , teure Halle’ is fine too though one has the impression she is overparted and the voice doesn’t quite ride over the orchestra as it ought too. Maybe a richer lower voice à la Lehmann is more apt for Korngold’s ‘Glück, das mir verblieb’ but by track 6 the real jewels shine brighter than ever. What a joy it is to hear a Mediterranean voice with all its colours and incisiveness as well to hear in ‘Aber der Richtige’, the operetta written by Hofmannsthal for Richard Strauss (I wonder if Kalman, Fall or lehar would have accepted so many co-incidences). And when the real operetta-arias start one can only sigh at the beauty in delivery. Such a ferm line, no over sentimentalizing but utter conviction make the arias from Zigeunerbaron and Vogelhändler a delight.
Maybe only that other silvery voice, Lucia Popp, could rival with Lorengar but she recorded pitifully few operetta arias in her prime and had to wait till she was 48 before she could record a full operetta CD. Schwarzkopf, Rothenberger, Moffo, Muszely, Streich are no match for Lorengar. Moreover this CD includes two miracles: the wonderful aria from Lehar’s Eva (a minor work it is called in the sleeve notes by someone who had probably never heard the only complete version, in Spanish and with young Alfredo Kraus) and then there is the aria from Die Csardasfürstin, a recording that I’ll take to my desert island. “Making the music better than it actually is” was the condescending phrase often used by British critics at the time. “Revealing the stunning melodic inventiveness of Kalman by a singer of genius” would be my reply. For Eva and Csardasfürstin alone this CD should be in every collection.