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.
28 Dec 2006
MUSSORGSKY: Boris Godunov
One of the best opera DVDs released in 2006 was the Salzburg La Traviata, with Rolando Villazon and Anna Netrebko able to make full use of their vocal charisma and acting skills in Willy Decker's sharp, sexy production.
Now TDK has released another fine Decker effort, Boris Godunov, with sets and costumes designed by John MacFarlane. Recorded in October 2004 at the Liceu in Barcelona, the staging displays all of Decker's strengths, from the preference for contemporary costumes and a spare set with a few well-chosen props to, most importantly, a great talent for dramatic, involving stage movement.
In a short pantomime as the opera begins, the son of Tsar Ivan, Dmitri, plays with a crown as he sits on the frame of a huge, over-turned golden chair. Three sinister men approach him, surround him, and leave his murdered body on the ground, as the chorus streams in from the rear to call for Boris to take the throne. That huge chair dominates the action in most scenes, carried in and out, sometimes with Boris astride it. Decker also uses painted images of Dmitri as a constant reminder of the guilt secret behind Boris's rise to power. Decker manages to employ these devices without making overt, symbolic statements - the images truly highlight the action, rather than simply interpret it. The resulting effect makes the drama all the more involving, where a more plush, traditional approach can distance some audiences from the story.
Matti Salminen surely deserves a showcase performance opportunity such as this opera provides. A strong, commanding bass, he is also an imposing stage presence, never overplaying but always finding the heart of each moment. The roar of respect and affection at his solo curtain call shows that the Barcelona audience knew what a great singer had just performed for them.
Among the more well-known members of the strong supporting cast, special commendation must go to the wonderfully slimy Shuisky of Philip Langridge, Eric Halfvarson's conflicted Pimen, and Brian Asawa's amazingly effective Fyodor (Boris's adolescent son). Tenor Pär Lindskog makes an impressive contribution as the Pretender who claims to be Dmitri.
The production uses Mussorgsky's first version, with no intermission. Conductor Sebastian Weigle revels in the raw power of the composer's scoring, sometimes letting it ride over the singers.
Decker takes the work seriously, as a story that resonates with a contemporary audience, and that may be the greatest tribute that can be paid to Mussorgsky's masterwork. Visually entrancing and nobly sung, this Boris Godunov also ranks as one of the best of 2006. And those who want more of Matti Salminen after viewing this DVD are urged to view his devastating work in Einojuhani Rautavaara's Rasputin, also available on DVD.