Recently in Recordings
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?
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.
14 Nov 2006
BELLINI: I Capuleti e i Montecchi
It only takes a few moments for the overture to Vincenzo Bellini's I Capuleti e i Montecchi to establish that this opera takes a very different approach to the classic story than does Shakespeare's play.
Indeed, though most of the plot elements remain the same, this bel canto treasure springs from a different source than that used by Shakespeare. Sprightly and melodic, even as the story moves inexorably toward its tragic climax, composer Bellini's music focuses on the beauty in the pathos. And where the first audiences for Shakespeare's play would have seen male actors as both Romeo and Juliet, Bellini makes Romeo a pants role, bringing to the writing the same exquisite combination of female voices employed in his greatest work Norma, with the title character and Adalgisa.
In a brief note in the booklet of this Dynamic set, Sergio Segalini (director of the Festival della Valle d'Itria di Martina Franca where this production was staged) posits that Bellini's later revision of this opera (for La Scala) deserved staging, and so the front cover proclaims this CD a "first recording." Segalini points to the major difference, a revision that moves Romeo from a mezzo-ish Romeo to a more feminine soprano sound. For this staging the festival chose for Giulietta Patricia Ciofi, who has established herself well in Europe, if less so in the US. Carla Polito sings the soprano Romeo. The live audience came primed for the performance, by the sound of things - Dynamic has included extensive applause throughout the recording, peppered with fervent cries of brava.
Ciofi shines, if occasionally hard metallic glints burst through at the top of her range. Polito, no less distinctive, manages to differentiate her performance so that the ear does not become confused as to which of the two lovers is singing at any given moment. In the tenor role of Tebaldo, Danilo Formaggio impresses most in his recitative, delivered with force yet still attractively presented. In his arias the legato could be smoother.
Luciano Acocella conducts the Orchestra Internazionale D'Italia. Dynamic's sound does not favor the orchestra, which comes off as unsubtle, especially in the overture. As accompaniment for the singers, they serve well enough.
After initial success in its 1830 debut, I Capuleti e i Montecchi gradually sank below Bellini's three mature masterpieces, Norma, La Sonnambula, and I Puritani. In recent years the opera has enjoyed reemergence, for both its familiar story and many opportunities for lovely, florid singing. Fans of the composer will want this set for the fresh take of this edition. For others, the extra edge of excitement of a live recording may make this set preferable to the small number of studio sets, if they can be located. Dynamic continues to be a resourceful and interesting label for opera lovers.