20 May 2007
This recording is a souvenir in more than one sense.
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 do occur.
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.
This recording is a souvenir in more than one sense.
The enthusiasm of the public, here still clearly audible, would wane only a few years later. This was one of the last years that Italians were still a majority in the arena. Soon after, tourists staying at Lago di Garda (the Garda lake) would take over. They didn’t know the repertoire, they didn’t know the singers and they didn’t know the applause codes; they just came for an evening out. And at the same time younger Italians were staying away because they preferred ‘il rock’. This was also one of the last years where a major cast would be completely composed of Italian singers.
Of course the opera may be called Aida but the real reason for this issue is the Radamès. By 1972 Corelli’s voice had started to dry up quite a bit as is clear from some of his Met performances. This is noticeable, too, in the first act. Though his high B is still very impressive in ‘Celeste Aida’, he nevertheless has to cut short the note. He also has a tendency to sing in big outbursts, mostly to cover up the fact that his once inexhaustible breath is now far shorter. I wonder if he took the pains to warm up properly, or if he did, did his voice need a very long time to regain its juicy quality? [The same thing happened when I heard him for the last time at the arena in 1975.] By the third act, the dryness has largely gone and we once more hear a lot of glorious sound and the breath is doing better as well. There are a few impressive and long pianissimi in the big duet, yet he clearly has reserves enough for an extremely long ‘ioooooo resta a te’ at the end of the act. And contrary to some of his performances at the Met, he knows this public will not accept just posing and not singing in the ensembles.
He has some worthy partners at his side. Luisa Maragliano is not a first class soprano; more of a cross between a poor man’s Tebaldi and the same man’s Stella. But she has the volume, too, for the arena. In her first aria she proves she has a lot of chest tones and some phrasing reminding us more of Santuzza than Aida but it is true we would be happy nowadays with such a strong Italian spinto. In her second aria she leaves verismo behind her though I have a feeling this has more to do with every soprano’s fear for that horribly exposed C. She almost creeps towards the note and still it goes flat.
I remember Luisa Bordin Nave as a fine Amneris on those evenings we had to do without the wonderful Fiorenza Cossotto. The voice very much resembled Cossotto’s though without the latter’s shattering power and silvery edge but still a sound to be treasured. Gian Piero Mastromei had some of his happiest moments in the arena. His big sound was a little bit rough and not apt for the more lyrical Verdi roles but as Amonasro (and as a splendid Scarpia one year later with Domingo and Santunione) this was more a quality than a liability.
The smaller roles could still be filled by major voices. Agostino Ferrin is a splendid Ramfis with a rounded and interesting bass; so much more beautiful than the ubiquitous Bonaldo Giaotti I often had to bear with. And someone with the interesting timbre and big voice of Giovanni Foiani (the only one on scene always a few inches taller than Corelli) wouldn’t sing comprimario parts these days. Veteran Oliviero de Fabritiis has his musicians well in hands in the difficult arena acoustics (for the orchestra only, not for the singers) but is clearly aware of the fact that the public has come for Corelli and therefore indulges him in his ways. The sound picture is not perfect but better than most arena recordings I have heard.