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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.
17 Jan 2007
Some interesting repertory choices and the participation of some of today's most attractive singers make this particular "gala" evening of "walk on-sing-walk off" entertainment more consistently enjoyable than these affairs often are.
The evening is a fund-raiser for the German
AIDS foundation, and after a brief (and strangely awkward) filmed statement in English from
soprano Michèle Crider, the show gets underway with an exciting "Entry of the Guests" from
Tannhäuser, with Marcus Stenz leading the Opera Cologne orchestra and its excellent chorus (all
sporting the familiar red ribbon).
The contribution of the emcee, a "cabaret artist" named Konrad Beikircher, may damage the
enjoyment of some viewers. Clearly reading from notes, with an unmotivated chuckle behind
much of his spiel, the emcee's palaver should have been separately tracked for easy skipping.
Instead, the "fast forward" button will have to be exercised in order to avoid mostly old and
tiresome anecdotes and such gratuitous commentary as an unctuous trashing of the Forza libretto.
Perhaps in his native environment this gentleman puts on quite a show; here, the cameraman
pans the audience anxiously to find the occasional audience member breaking a smile.
The singing, fortunately, makes up for this annoyance. Thomas Quastoff appears first, with a
"Lied an den Abendstern" of rare handsomeness and sensitivity. Much later in the show he comes
back with a delightful rarity, "O sancta justitia" from Lortzing's Zar und Zimmerman. After
Quastoff's Wagner, the show then shifts to bel canto, with young tenor Saimur Pirgu delivering
an able "Una Furtiva Lagrima," his tone only lacking that mysterious charismatic quality that
tenors such as Rolando Villazon and Juan-Diego Florez possess. But Pirgu may yet attain that
status; towards show's end he sings a very sweet "Non ti scordar di me."
Vivica Genaux appears after Pirgu's Donizetti to give a demonstration of impeccable technique
in "Nacqui all'affanno" from Cenerentola, which Isabel Bayrakdarian has to follow. She imparts a
sense of drama into Semiramide's "Bel raggio lusinghier," though she is not in Genaux's class as
a Rossinian. Genaux is just as exciting later with a surprising choice, a zarzuela number about a
tarantula from Jerónimo Giménez.
Upstaging the females in the "hair" department, Carlos Alvarez's wild black lion's mane
impresses just as much as his forceful "Leonore, viens" from La Favorite. The vibrato will either
appeal or come across as a touch too heavy, depending on taste. Tamar Iveri's healthy soprano
may be a touch too strong to deliver a truly tender "Dove sono." Later in the program, however,
she does very well by the exquisite "Chi il bel sogno di Doretta" from Puccini's Rondine. Ms.
Crider, a reliable if unexciting singer, works earnestly through "Pace pace mio Dio." Her
"Summertime" (which also serves as the inexplicable "theme" of the gala) finds her approach
much too overbearing for a lullaby.
Neil Shicoff sings the two big Tosca tenor arias, with distractingly strenuous facial exertions.
The "Recondita armonia" doesn't quite come off, but "E lucevan le stelle" earns him one of the
evening's most lively audience responses. The tenor also seems to have found his way to
Pavarotti's hair colorist.
In the middle of the program Edda Moser and two young singers, Claudia Rohrbach and Regina
Richter, perform the Rosenkavalier trio. Unfortunately, Ms. Moser's experienced (to put it
kindly) voice doesn't blend well with the freshness of the two others. Once again, to put it
The last solo appearance has Carlos Alvarez reappear for the rarest of the evening's repertory
choices, "Bless your beautiful hide" from the Gene de Paul score for Seven Brides for Seven
Brothers. Without necessarily forgoing his operatic training, Alvarez imbues the song with easy
masculine charm, making for a delightful performance.
Then most of the singers (Shicoff noticeably absent) trot on to perform "Tonight" from West
Side Story as an ensemble piece. Odd, but enjoyable nonetheless.
The disc also offers as bonus items a speech thankfully cut from the main DVD program, a short
documentary of some of the work the German AIDS foundation has done in South Africa, and a
bizarre trailer for this very gala. All in all, the ratio of fine performances to those less so and
some innovative repertory choices make this one of the better gala DVDs, if one can tolerate the