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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.
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.
12 Jan 2007
ARBOS: El Centro de la Tierra
Most heroes in costume drama movies speak lines directly from our own time. I’ve yet to see a cinematic Roman general, being a serious hero, look at an animal’s liver and says: “ this smells bad; no battle today”.
Nevertheless people in the past often were far more superstitious than we are, and certainly were less cynical and naïve. Even then, one sympathizes with the bafflement of the Madrid public at the first (and probably last, one is not sure) performance of ‘El Centro de la Tierra’ at its première. Rarely has a more ridiculous libretto inspired a composer. Three Madrilenos fall into a crevice and arrive in the middle of the earth where they are considered to be gods by the gnomes, the minerals (living persons) and the natives of a hidden civilisation. They succeed in stealing a huge diamond and the few natives with doubts as to their godly descent are reassured by the tenor . . . playing an accordion. Though there are some comical scenes as in all zarzuelas, the central theme is treated seriously without satirizing a society as Paul Lincke did when he sent some heroes to the moon in his ‘Frau Luna,’ where they meet all the Greek and Roman gods.
Enrique Arbos’ music cannot really save the situation. The composer was the ‘Konzertmeister’ of the Berlin Philharmonic for several years and thus no mean musician. He knew his classics, especially Wagner, very well as is proven by the use of a Tristan chord and the triumphal march of the Gods in this zarzuela. But the composer had his roots firmly planted in his own country. When he was offered the conductorship of the newly formed Madrid Symphony, he returned home and conducted it for 35 years. Conducting meant the end of his composing years. The 100th anniversary of the orchestra was duly celebrated and the whole of Arbos’ output appeared on 3 boxed sets with his one zarzuela unexpectedly being unearthed. Arbos is not another Sorozabal, Morreno Torroba, Chapi, Luna or Vives and he probably couldn’t be after only one trial. Zarzuela lovers may regret the fact that more worthwhile zarzuelas are still awaiting a complete recording. On the other hand any zarzuela from the great century between 1840 and 1940 is welcome as the music always lies easily on the ear and is often very charming. The problem, if there is one, with Arbos is the fact that he is, as could be expected, an orchestral composer. The many dancing numbers in this long score are well worth listening too. But his vocal writing is marred by his being not accustomed to writing for the voice. The singers’ solos are not very distinguished and remain dancing numbers in disguise. All the singers are fine zarzuela performers, with good though not unexceptional voices to match their numbers and ensembles. Best of them all is baritone Javier Franco as the High Priest. José Luis Temes conducts the orchestra with a lot of conviction, not lingering on some awkward moments but making the best of the agreeable and indeed somewhat forgettable music.
One complaint: once again a Spanish recording label fails to give us a fine and exact translation of the sleeve notes. In the Spanish text the composer is born in 1863, in the English one in 1963. The biography of tenor Sanchez is deleted in the English version, etc. As a lot of visitors know the ‘mañana’ mentality has not completely died out in Spain and maybe some producers think the international market is not to be taken seriously. They forget that thanks to an outstanding generation of Spanish singers zarzuela is now to be found in many a collection of non-Spanish speaking people.