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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.
The economics of the recording companies dictate much that is not ideal.
Wagner’s operas were not composed as they were in order to permit the
extraction of bleeding chunks, even on those occasions when strophic song forms
Among the recent recordings of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, Valery Gergiev’s release on the LSO Live label is an excellent addition to the discography of this work.
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.
Oliver Knussen burst into British music with an unprecedented flourish. In 1967, the London Symphony Orchestra premiered Knussen’s First Symphony, with István Kertész scheduled to conduct.
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).
The Polish alto Jadwiga Rappé is a familiar voice in various stage and concert works, and the recent release of a selection of songs by Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) is an opportunity to hear her performing artsongs.
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.
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.