Recently in Recordings
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.
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.
06 Feb 2007
Walewska i przjaciele: Najpiękniejsze pieśnie, arie i. piosenki
The title Walewska i przjaciele, “Walewska and friends,” reflects the intention of the mezzo soprano Małgorzata Walewska, one of the foremost contemporary Polish singers to present herself and some of her colleagues in recording of various kinds of music.
indicated in the liner notes, to demonstrate the connections between popular song and art music,
the recording also serves as a showcase for a number of notable voices from Eastern Europe. The
juxtaposition of the arguably subjective distinctions of musical style is mitigated through the fine
performances that unite the thirty-seven selections that comprise this recording.
Some of the folk songs included in this recording are probably less well-known in the
West, and hearing them helps to dispel the stereotypical image of Polish culture that focuses too
keenly on polkas, mazurkas, and other dance forms. The bonus track on the second CD of
“Laura i Filon” (“Laura and Filon”) is a fine example of the kind the more conventional folk
music found here.
Yet selections include a number of familiar pieces, including traditional opera arias like
the “Ave Maria” from Verdi’s Otello and similar pieces. The Polish-language version of “Some Enchanted Evening” from South Pacific reflects, perhaps, the more popular side of the recording, but most of the works are art songs that reside between the musical theater and opera. The pieces
by Rodrigo, Canteloube, and others are certainly familiar. As such, they are fine choices to
exhibit the skill of this generation of Polish singers, but when sung in Polish, the pieces can be
somewhat jarring to those familiar with the original languages. The opening of the first CD,
Rodrigo’s “Czekalam wieczność” is well sung by Walewska herself, yet it is difficult not to hear the Spanish lyrics. Unfortunately the recording does not include the texts, both in the original
language and in Polish translation, to assist the listener. At times, language does not seem to
matter, as in the fine performance of one of Canteloube’s Chants d’Auvergne, the “Bailero,” as sung here by Anna Bajor.
As to the other performances, the recording has music to offer. In addition to Walewska,
the performers include the classically trained singers Zbigniew Macias (baritone), Dariusz
Stachura (tenor), Ewa Gawrońska (soprano), Wiesław Ochman (tenor), Artur Ruciński
(baritone), Anna Bajor (soprano) Bogusław Morka (tenor), Adam Zdunikowski (tenor), Jolanta
Radek (soprano), as well as Stanisław Jopek, a popular member of the internationally recognized
Mazowsze group that brings Polish culture to various places around the world. In fact, this
recording seems to serve a similar mission as that of Mazowsze in sharing Polish culture to an
For those unfamiliar with modern Polish singers, this recording is an excellent
introduction. While the balance is tipped, perhaps, more toward male voices, the selections given
to the women are quite effective, especially those sung by Walewska herself. Those familiar with
some of the recent selections from the Naxos label may have heard some of his soloists, and the
musicians represented on this Dux recording supplement the sonic image of modern Polish
culture. The voices may be unfamiliar in the West, and they are certainly deserving of more
James L. Zychowicz