Recently in Recordings
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.
The economics of the recording companies dictate much that is not ideal.
Wagner’s operas were not composed as they were in order to permit the
extraction of bleeding chunks, even on those occasions when strophic song forms
Among the recent recordings of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, Valery Gergiev’s release on the LSO Live label is an excellent addition to the discography of this work.
While not unknown, the songs of Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942) deserve to be heard more frequently.
Recorded on 5 and 6 May 2008 and 17 and 18 January 2009 at the Lisztzentrum (Raiding, Austria), this recent Bridge release makes available the piano-vocal versions of three song cycles by Gustav Mahler, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert-Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder performed by mezzo-soprano Hermine Haselböck, accompanied by Russell Ryan.
Contraltos rarely achieve the acclaim and renown of sopranos. Assigned few leading roles in opera, they are condemned to playing the villain or the grandmother, or to stealing the castrati’s trousers in en travesti roles.
Following their 2011 Decca recording of Striggio’s Mass in 40 Parts (1566), I Fagiolini continue their quest to unearth lost treasures of the High Renaissance and early Baroque, with this collection of world-premiere recordings, ‘reconstructions’ and ‘reconstitutions’ of music by Giovanni and Andrea Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Palestrina, and their less well-known compatriots Viadana, Barbarino and Soriano.
Eternal Echoes is an album of khazones [Jewish cantorial music] for cantorial soloist, solo violin and a blended instrumental ensemble comprising a small orchestra and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.
Michael Tilson Thomas’s recording of Mahler’s Third Symphony is an outstanding contribution to the composer’s discography.
Oliver Knussen burst into British music with an unprecedented flourish. In 1967, the London Symphony Orchestra premiered Knussen’s First Symphony, with István Kertész scheduled to conduct.
Based on performances given in Summer 2010 at the Lucerne Festival, this recording of Beethoven’s Fidelio is an admirable recording that captures the vitality of the work as conducted by Claudio Abbado.
Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) was one of the most popular composers of his day in Poland, and of the many works he wrote for the stage, two are performed from time to time, Halka (1848) and Strazny dwór [The Haunted Manor] (1865).
The Polish alto Jadwiga Rappé is a familiar voice in various stage and concert works, and the recent release of a selection of songs by Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) is an opportunity to hear her performing artsongs.
Originally released on multiple discs in 1981 this reissue on two CDs is a comprehensive collection of art songs by Italian and French composers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
An exciting contribution to the discography of this popular opera, the live performance of Richard Strauss’s Salome from the Festspielhaus at Baden-Baden is a compelling DVD.
Released in late 2011, Deutsche Grammophon’s DVD of the new staging of Berg’s Lulu at the Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona is an excellent contribution to the discography of this fascinating opera.
A recent release by the Metropolitan Opera, this two-disc set makes available on DVD the famous performance of Berg’s Lulu that was broadcast on 20 December 1980 as part of the PBS series “Live from the Met.”
The novels of Sinclair Lewis once shot across the American literary skies like comets, alarming and fascinating readers of that era, but their tails didn’t extend far behind them.
Once the province of only the most dedicated opera fanatics, mid-20th century recordings of privately taped live performances have become more widely available.
Flute players in opera orchestra around the world must look forward to the frequent appearances of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, knowing that while the stage spotlight in the mad scene will be on the soprano, the orchestral spotlight will be on their instrument.
09 May 2007
In the countless performances of Leoncavallo’s masterpiece Pagliacci since its 1892 premiere, there must have been times when the light tenor singing Beppe watched the other tenor, of heavier voice, in the lead role of Canio and wondered if someday he (the Beppe) would take on the dramatic role of the homicidal clown.
Listening to Andrea Bocelli attempt the role of Canio prompted the above thought, of course. His
soft (if not unsupported), sweet voice has made him a recording star, and the millions of CDs of
more pop-oriented material he has sold have enabled him to pursue his dream, at least in the
recording studio, of attempting some of opera’s greatest tenor roles. Tosca, Trovatore, Werther
— Bocelli may well be the last singer to take those great tenor roles into the recording studio.
Vocal connoisseurs may weep and wail — but Decca keeps churning them out. Somebody is
buying the sets...
This Pagliacci, the most recent release (although actually recorded in 2002) finds Bocelli
recorded in a bathroom stall acoustic, at times even sounding as if his vocals have been
double-recorded to give added weight. But it’s simply not enough. The only way Bocelli can
effect force is to bark, which loses all the appeal of his voice. Although the top sounds tight, for
the most part, Bocelli has the notes. He simply doesn't have the character. “Vesti la giubba” ends
with exaggerated sobs that cap an inauthentic reading; “No, Pagliaccio non son” has never
sounded more accurate.
And truthfully, Bocelli probably wouldn't even be as strong a Beppe as Francesco Piccoli, who
doesn't have as distinctive a voice but manages to convey a sense of character in his brief
appearances, including a fine serenade. Ana Maria Martinez is a pretty enough Nedda, but neither
her Canio or Silvio (Roberto Accurso) prompt her to dramatic distinction. Stefano Antonucci’s
Tonio also lacks a sharp profile.
A frequent artistic companion to Mr. Bocelli, Steven Mercurio leads the orchestra and chorus of
the Teatro Massimo Bellini di Catania in a reading that favors the lyrical sections as opposed to
the verismo edges. All in all, a tamer Pagliacci is hard to imagine, and why would one want to?