Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail @ Hangar-7

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: Notturno

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 Sings Mahler Lieder

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.

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Hänsel und Gretel

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.

Magdalena Kožená: Love and Longing

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 Magdalena Kožená.

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon

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.

Amore e Tormento

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.’ 

Rivals—Arias for Farinelli & Co.

In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi. 

Verdi at the Old MET

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.

Italo Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre re

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. 

Così fan tutte from DG

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. 

Heart’s Delight: The Songs of Richard Tauber

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.

Adriana Lecouvreur from Decca

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.

Lawrence Brownlee’s Spiritual Sketches

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.

Great Wagner Conductors from DG

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 archives.

Great Wagner Singers from DG

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.

Adding Movie Magic to The Magic Flute

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?

L’Incoronazione di Poppea from Virgin Classics

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. 

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Hans Hotter & Birgit Nilsson sing Wagner & Schubert
26 Oct 2006

Hans Hotter & Birgit Nilsson sing Wagner & Schubert

Two of the most famous Wagner interpreters of the twentieth century, Hans Hotter and Birgit Nilsson, are always worth hearing in their studio recordings, and the live recordings capture the spontaneity of an actual performance with such accomplished singers.

Hans Hotter & Birgit Nilsson sing Wagner & Schubert

Hans Hotter, Birgit Nilsson, Gerald Moore, Philharmonia Orchestra, Leopold Ludwig (cond.)

Archipel Records ARPCD 0334 [CD]

$11.98  Click to buy

This CD includes restored recordings of selected performances from London in 1955 for the Wagner performances, with the Schubert Lieder from London in 1949. A bonus track contains an excerpt of Hotter singing the Holländer's entrance aria "Die Frist ist um" from a concert of the Concertgebouw from 1936 and conducted by Bruno Walter. The 1955 performances are with the Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Leopold Ludwig, and the Schubert selections are accompanied by Gerald Moore.

The extended scene from the second act of Der Fliegende Holländer is remarkable for its clarity of sound and fine precision. The lack of audience sounds suggests the logistics of a radio broadcast, but the recording has the ambiance of the concert hall. Both Hotter and Nilsson are prominent sonically, and the intensity of their ensemble near the end of this passionate duet conveys a sense of physical proximity that assures the audience of finely wrought execution. Left as a single long band (approximately fifteen minutes long), the excerpt is memorable for its emotional pitch.

With the excerpt from the concluding scene of Die Walküre, the sound is equally clean and resonant, with both Nilsson and Hotter sounding as if they were standing in front of the orchestra. Again, the recording connotes the isolation of a radio broadcast, since the sound is devoid of ambient noises. Nilsson opens the scene with the fresh and resonant sound for which she was known, and her precision is matched by Hotter's deeply etched bass sounds in his famous interpretation of Wotan. Recorded just two years after Clemens Kraus's Bayreuth Ring cycle with Hotter in the role, the 1955 recording affords a better sound which may be the result of the restoration implicitly made for this Archipel release. Moreover, the commanding sound of Hotter and the ringing tone of Nilsson are exciting in a performance that predates their famous recording of the same work conducted by Sir Georg Solti in his famous studio recording of Wagner's Ring der Nibelungen (on Decca/London). Like a full-length opera recording, this 1955 performance is banded into separable units, thus making it possible to return easily various memorable sections easily. Ludwig Leopold's approach to Wagner may be seen to differ from Solti's for its sparer treatment of the orchestra so as to allow the vocal lines to predominate. The perspective that comes with such a textural emphasis may seem dated, especially when the sonics Solti demanded a decade later set a different standard for Wagner recordings and is not far removed from the way that Bruno Walter treated Der fliegende Holländer in the bonus track of "Die Frist ist um" from 1936. In the latter it is possible hear Hotter from almost two decades earlier in his career. In that band Hotter's resilient bass sound is clear, with this diction punctuating the finely placed line. More than a curiosity, this band offers a point of reference that demonstrates the quality of Hotter's musicianship almost twenty years before audiences almost relied on him for this role.

As rich a selection of Wagner performances that are on this CD, the producer included four Lieder, presumably from a longer recital that Hotter gave with Gerald Moore in 1949. The microphone may be a little close, as the sound is surprisingly loud in comparison to what precedes it on the CD. Yet these tracks offer a chance to hear the famous bass singing Lieder with the idiomatic presentation one would expect of such an accomplished musician. The selections include four well-known Lieder: "An die Musik," "Meeresstille," "Am Bach im Frühling, and "Im Frühling," all performed with aplomb, as would be expected of performances accompanied by Gerald Moore.

This selection of performances by Hans Hotter is an excellent to become reacquainted with the work of this legendary baritone, or, for those unfamiliar with his voice, it can serve as an introduction. Nilsson's performances are equally strong, and her work with Hotter conveys to modern audiences the vibrancy that they brought to their Wagner performances. As to the recording itself, the reconstructed sound is remarkably clear and conveys the sonic images without introducing any distractions. Live performances like those preserved on this CD are always of interest, and the quality of those chosen for this recording makes it all the more notable.

James L. Zychowicz

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):