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.
10 Jan 2007
MOZART: Così fan tutte
The booklet essay by Gottfried Kraus (translated from the German by Stewart Spencer) for this TDK release of the 1983 Salzburg Così fan tutte presents an intriguing history of the opera, with the Austrian festival taking in a central role in the work’s return to the standard repertory.
Kraus also suggests that this 1983 production turned out to be the last truly successful one in Salzburg, without detailing why Così fan tuttes since then have failed to find success in his eyes.
Michael Hampe’s handsome production moves quickly, with a white curtain descending for scene changes in acts during recitatives. The muted colors, detailed costumes, and tasteful furnishings give a sense of realism to the goings-on — not necessarily a good thing for this opera with its plot of two sisters in love with two men whom they are unable to recognize when they appear under disguise, to test the women’s virtue in a gambit proposed by the elder, cynical Don Alfonso. However, it is also best not to ham up the comic aspects, as the emotional repercussions of the stupid game begin to cut deeply in act two. Hampe directs intelligently, keeping each moment true to that scene’s shade of the story’s shifting tones (sets and costumes are by Mauro Pagano).
TDK has chosen as its star the conductor, Riccardo Muti. He has a large cover shot on the case, another on the rear (the men are only seen in their “Albanian” disguise, and the Don and Despina the maid, not at all). Open the booklet, and there is Muti again, looking handsome and vaguely satanic, all in black amongst the brilliant red seats of the auditorium. The brisk, emphatic overture reveals the maestro in full control. There may be more tender Mozart, or more majestic, but for detail and precision, Muti is hard to beat.
The cast lacks star glamour, but certainly not talent. The sisters receive strong portrayals from Margaret Marshall (Fiordiligi) and Ann Murray (Dorabella). Each captures the essence of her role (Fiordiligi’s wavering pride and Dorabella’s sensual flightiness). However, a more sumptuous soprano could bring more to Fiordiligi’s music, and as Dorabella, Murray’s dark instrument lays on a certain heaviness.
The “boys” are a youthful, strong James Morris (Guglielmo) and the dependable lyric tenor Francisco Araiza. Morris’s second act solo scene earns him the strongest ovation of the night.
Veteran Sesto Bruscantini so far underplays his character’s cynicism and misanthropy that it becomes unclear why he bothers with his nasty little ploy. At least he does not growl his way through the role, as has been known to happen. And stealing the show every time she appears, Kathleen Battle’s Despina sings and act with charm and wit and most gratefully, allows us a few moments away from the opera’s claustrophobic focus on its leads.
So as essay writer Gottfried Kraus suggests, this traditional production has classical elegance. For those looking for a more contemporary approach, check out the recent Berlin production set in the Swinging Sixties.