Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Hänsel und Gretel

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.

Magdalena Kožená: Love and Longing

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 Magdalena Kožená.

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon

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.

Amore e Tormento

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.’ 

Rivals—Arias for Farinelli & Co.

In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi. 

Verdi at the Old MET

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.

Italo Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre re

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. 

Così fan tutte from DG

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. 

Heart’s Delight: The Songs of Richard Tauber

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.

Adriana Lecouvreur from Decca

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.

Lawrence Brownlee’s Spiritual Sketches

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.

Great Wagner Conductors from DG

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 archives.

Great Wagner Singers from DG

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.

Adding Movie Magic to The Magic Flute

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?

L’Incoronazione di Poppea from Virgin Classics

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. 

Saverio Mercadante: I due Figaro

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.

Christian Thielemann’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

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. 

Cecilia Bartoli as Norma

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

Ariane et Barbe-Bleue on Blu-Ray

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.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Beverly Sills and Friends
25 Apr 2007

Beverly Sills & Placido Domingo

More than ever, compilations of previously released material fill the shelves of those stores still selling classical music.

Beverly Sills and Friends
Works by Adam, Arne, Bellini, Bishop, Caldara, Donizetti, Handel, Lehár, Massenet, Moore, Offenbach, Schubert

Beverly Sills and others

Deutsche Grammophon 477 6304 [2CDs]

$14.99  Click to buy

For vocal artists, this often means a career retrospective. Deutsche Grammophon has the “Portrait of the Artist” series, double-CD sets promoting mostly its current roster of artists — including a relatively new star, such as Magdalena Kozena. Each set has its own title, possibly leading the unwary to think the release contains new material. Kozena’s, for example, is called “Enchantment.” For tenor Placido Domingo, the marketers promise his fans “Truly Domingo.” DG has also brought forth a set of Beverly Sills excerpts, though not designated as part of the “Portrait” series, with the number of other fine artists featured acknowledged in the title: “Beverly Sills and Friends.”

Domingo’s career started around the same time as Sills’, but he still commands a top-rank position in the opera world, while she has been retired for some years. The cover of Domingo’s set features his handsome face, with the silver hair more than any lines on his face identifying his age. The Sills cover photo looks to come from the 1970s, with a blouse as full of ruffles as her hair is brilliant and towering. The freshness of the performances inside the two sets, however, prompts a different response.

Domingo.pngDomingo has always been praised, and rightly so, for his impeccable musicianship and handsome tone. He is not a tenor to sob, stretch out climaxes, or glory in the top notes (seldom easy for him). The booklet essay maintains that his greatest contributions came in Verdi, and each of the two discs starts with several selections from that composer. Though always tasteful and committed, in none of the more familiar selections does Domingo offer a strong individual reading. His Duke in “La donna è mobile” has little swagger. His Alfredo in the act two Traviata aria lacks an impetuous edge to the passion expressed. The “Di quella pira” feels tame, and much too slow (under Carlo Maria Giulini’s baton). Only in the Otello selections, from the Myung-When Chung set, does Domingo bring forth a solid interpretation. The two Puccini selections, “Donna non vidi mai” and “Nessun dorma,” boast the rewards of Domingo’s warm middle voice, but the tight top compromises the effect. Domingo would have been better served with selections from the Mehta La Fanciulla del West set, one of the tenor’s stronger performances.

Disc one ends, after an ardent “flower aria” from Carmen and a slice of the Kubelik Oberon, with Wagner, where Domingo’s handsome tone can pour out and his top is less often called upon.

Disc two starts with some rarer Verdi, from the large DG set of a few years back covering all the major Verdi tenor roles. In this lesser-known material, Domingo’s firm grasp of the melodic line is much appreciated. Regrettably, the dramatic introduction to Luisa Miller’s “Quando la sere al placido” is not included. Ending the set are some rather bland selections from a disc of “spiritual”-themed music of a few years ago, and some much more enjoyable and idiomatic singing of songs and zarzuela selections.

The Sills set features large sections from her complete opera recordings, and ends with a wonderful potpourri of numbers with Charles Wadsworth accompanying her, from Schubert and Handel to Arne and Adam. By the end of the second disc, a more through and detailed “Portrait of the Artist” has been drawn than the Domingo set provides. In Manon and Lucia, Sills’s soprano has a wonderfully brilliant lightness, yet the dark edges of each character also come through . Then, in selections from her three Donizetti queens, she takes on a more dramatic thrust, while maintaining her control of florid passages. These longer excerpts, featuring such fine other singers as Shirley Verrett and Eileen Ferrell, provide time for a fuller view of the dimensions of Sills’ s art than Domingo can convey in his aria-intensive overview.

Disc two opens with Ms. Sills’s sensual Giulietta from Les Contes d’Hoffman and then offers her Baby Doe from Douglas Moore’s opera. Your reviewer is among those who find the music, and especially the libretto, unfortunately dated and old-fashioned, but Ms. Sills does sound impressively lovely in the “Willow song.”

The last half of the second disc is an uninterrupted stream of delights, with rare material, from baroque to early classical era. The style pre-dates the onset so-called “historically-informed performances,” but anyone who can resist the charm of Ms. Sills’s singing here is, well, over-informed. A lively aria from Lehar’s Der Zarewitsch closes the set.

Domingo might have been better served by a different set of selections, but DG has done wonderfully by Ms. Sills. For those who have had limited exposure to her achievements, Beverly Sills and Friends deserves a strong recommendation.

Chris Mullins

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):