Recently in Recordings
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.
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.
07 Jan 2007
The cover art for the Opus Arts DVD of Wagner's Siegfried, from the Nederlandse Opera in 1999, features Mime, as impersonated by Graham Clark, in amazing make-up and costume: a bald, bulging head almost split down the middle by a furrow of anxiety, and clad in a ghastly green insect-like carapace, including wire-like hair and a bobbing tail-sack.
But that alone doesn't make Clark's Mime worthy of the cover - he simply dominates the performance due to both his own inimitable energy and commitment, and also, unfortunately, due to the lesser success of his colleagues.
Pierre Audi's production, with designs by George Tsypin, can't really be defined by locale or time period. The innovation here is a ramp between the audience and the orchestra, corralled into a modified pit and nearly always visible behind the singers, the musicians' score desks' lights making an eerie backdrop. The conventional stage area comes into play only for a few key moments, such as the awakenings of Fafner and Brunhillde (neither particularly well-staged). Singing on the ramp, before the orchestra, may have had some advantages for the singers. This DVD has refreshingly realistic sound, and all the singers at least seem capable of delivering their individual role's requirements.
Don't expect much more, however. Heinz Kruse takes on the notoriously difficult title role, and vocally, he does a decent job. His tone lacks the heroic glamour Wagner probably wished, and there are times in act one where there seem to be two Mime's on the stage. Out of respect for Kruse's capable performance, your reviewer will not belabor the fact that as a stage presence he is decidedly not the handsome young hero of the libretto.
The cycle's Wotan, John Bröcheler, makes his way through the role without touching any of the many veins of this complex character: tragic, lustful, bombastic, visionary. The final confrontation between the hero Wotan wanted to save his world, and Wotan himself, realizing his world is beyond salvation, is twice-injured: by the singers' lack of inspiration and the clumsy depiction of the spear (here a sort of metal pole hanging from who knows where).
One risky but successful venture has the Forest Bird sung and performed by a boy soprano, Stefan Pangratz. The intonation issues that usually plague such young singers are thankfully absent, and he makes an appealing figure in his brief time on stage. Henk Smit's Alberich, Carsten Stabell's Fafner, and Anne Gjevang's Erda fill out the cast adequately.
And at opera's end, of course, Brunnhilde welcomes the sun (here an enormous bank of lights looking rather like an oversized tanning bed). A beautiful and affecting Sieglinde in the Boulez Walkure from Bayreuth, Jeannnine Altemeyer has the stage charisma to portray Wotan's rebellious daughter. Her passion and fear come across, but when the music asks for ecstasy at a higher level, the tone loses strength. The final duet becomes more a test of endurance, with both singers straining.
But Clark's odious Mime saves the show, clambering, scheming, scampering, and singing with wicked delight. The star of the show gets the cover, quite naturally.