Recently in Recordings
As the editor of Opera magazine, John Allison, notes in his editorial in the June issue, Donizetti fans are currently spoilt for choice, enjoying a ‘Donizetti revival’ with productions of several of the composer’s lesser known works cropping up in houses around the world.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and
Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.
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.
09 Nov 2006
Franco Corelli: The 1971 Tokyo Concert
A friend who bought this issue grumbled that Dynamic had swindled him out off his money as the whitewashed, less than sharp picture quality is not much better than the pirate issue he once received from a correspondent.
He didn’t believe for a moment that Dynamic had used the original Japanese NHK tapes though the sleeve mentions ‘licensed by NHK’. I’m not sure this less than pristine quality is Dynamic’s fault. By the early seventies filming a broadcast (kinescope) was replaced by early video taping. I remember one old pro at my own company (Flemish Public TV) saying that such a video needed to be recopied each year or otherwise it would lose its quality. Of course no TV-station had the money and the people necessary for such an operation and ten years later the results were clearly there for everybody to see or, more exactly, not to see.
I yield to no one in my admiration of Franco Corelli. After all, he clinched my musical future on that day of April the 20th 1958 when, together with Sarah Vaughan and Vico Torriani (a Swiss pop singer), ‘a young promising Italian tenor’ as Flemish Public Radio announced, would end the Opening Concert of the Brussels World Exhibition. I was 14 and liked Lanza and Schmidt; but I was still susceptible enough to listen to popular singers like Vera Lynn, Edith Piaf and especially Freddy Quin (a fine German popular singer). That went all out of the window with Corelli’s ‘E lucevan le stelle’, ‘Una vergin’,’Nessun dorma’ and ‘Granada’ as an encore. That ‘young promising tenor’ already proved to have the most exciting tenor sound of the last fifty years. That doesn’t mean I'm blind or deaf. Corelli often attacked a high note from below; he was not always a paragon of style; and, during his later years, the conductor had two choices: either indulging the tenor in everything (as does Alberto Ventura on this tape) or lay down his baton.
The Corelli voice evolved a lot during his twenty years at the top. The pronounced vibrato disappeared completely by the second decade of his career. When he disappeared after his Verona performances in 1975 to emerge only for two last Bohèmes one year later, there was (and there still is) talk of a singer who couldn’t stand the heat any more, whose nerves had melted down and who disappeared at the height of his career. This is simply not true. Loretta Di Lelio recorded every performance of her husband and Corelli clearly knew that his voice was going down the drain. There were still some good days (my Verona Carmen in August 1975 was one) but the bad days were far more numerous. There seem to be two important dates. In 1969 he stopped singing for six months altogether due to the Metropolitan strike and I wonder if he kept up his daily exercises. In his live recordings dating from the end of 1969 there are some dry patches. But the real watershed came three years later. His Werthers of 1971 still give us a lot of Franco Corelli of yore. The live recordings of 1972 give us a voice in difficulties: the big sound is still there but the tenor sings in short guffaws of explosive sound and there is no longer beauty on the voice which has dried out remarkably.
This is quite an introduction to discuss the well-known Tokyo concert of 1971; recorded (lucky for us) during the last months of his better though not of his great days. By that time he had a lot of experience in resting his voice: at the Met he often lipped instead of singing during ensembles. In a concert like this Tokyo one he prefers very short arias like ‘Questa o quella’ or ‘Ch’ella mi creda’; he cuts the recitative to ‘Un di all’azurro’ and his four encores of famous Neapolitan songs are extremely shortened versions. Though he is in excellent voice, he cuts notes short and makes grating noises in his lower register due to his lowered larynx technique. ‘Che gelida manina’ is transposed one full tone and ‘O Paradiso’ needs an extra breath here and there. On the other hand, there is still the incomparable power of the voice. The sheen is still there. He is at his best in the Chénier piece and he makes some magnificent noises in some of the Italian songs. The well-known nervousness is there too and it lasts some arias before he relaxes and smiles. Remarkable is his use of ‘stolen breath’ or ‘fiato rubato’. For someone with a shattering volume, Corelli almost imperceptibly catches his breath. Apart from the tremendous live Forza of 1958 there are almost no live recordings of the great tenor (most are synchronized ones) and therefore this is still an important issue.