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.
06 Feb 2007
CHARPENTIER: Judicium Salomonis, H. 422; Motet pour une longue offrande, H. 434
Neither of these late works (the Judicium Salomonis is from 1702) is new to disc – the former
has two recent recordings, from ten and from twenty years ago, and the latter one, by Herreweghe, released in 1985.
Thus the incentive for the buyer is not simply the chance to hear
unknown repertoire, but must be the innate quality of the performance. And here, surprisingly,
because one would think that Christie would be supremely at home in this repertoire, the disc is
not compelling. In part, this may be because the works themselves sound somewhat bureaucratic,
and indeed they were commissioned to flatter the members of the Parlement, provincial
magistrates, meeting in Paris at the Palais de Justice. The focus in the former is not on the intense
human drama (stolen children are a perennial subject for soap operas, and the prime focus of a
novela in Brazil based on an actual recent case), but on the brilliance of Solomon's solution, and,
by extension, the exalted intellect of the gathered magistrates. And so there is a unexpected
emphasis on the excellent government of the king, the rejoicing of the people, songs of praise
with harps, cymbals, organs, etc. Charpentier makes Solomon an haute-contre, since he must
reserve the bass voice, always the sound of mature and reasonable thought, for God. Paul Agnew seems unwarrantedly emotional as Solomon, with ever-present vibrato which detracts rather than adds to his impact. Christie goes badly wrong in allotting the part of the False Mother to a male haute-contre, something which verges on Monty-Pythonian draggery. Surely if Solomon could
tell that she were bad simply by listening to her sing, he would not have needed his wisdom to
frame a question which would identify the true mother. The motet which fills out the disc has
occasional moments (the orchestral prelude depicting the slings and arrows raining down on the
heads of sinners) but as a whole this long offertory is simply too long, without enough invention
to hold the listener's interest to the end. The sound recording does not help matters, with the solo voices considerably and unnaturally to the front of the orchestra (in the moments when
Charpentier contrasts the winds – flutes and bassoon – with the full string band the flutes are almost inaudible). A disc I wish I could like more.