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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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
17 Jun 2007
Mahler: Urlicht is a recording of selected songs for voice and piano from various collections of
the composer’s Lieder, including his early settings from Des Knaben Wunderhorn, the later Wunderhorn Lieder that Mahler set in the 1890s in versions with both orchestral and keyboard accompaniment, and also his Rűckert-Lieder, performed by the young mezzo soprano Christianne Stotijn accompanied by Julius Drake.
The liner notes indicate that this is the first
recording made in the Menuhin Hall at Stoke D’Aberdon in the UK, which took place between
10 and 13 April 2006. While Eveline Nikkels’ comments about the Lieder are prominent in the
booklet, it is unfortunate that it lacks information about the criteria for the selection and, more
importantly, any background on the talented performers involved. Stotijn has much to
recommend, and audience are just learning her fine talent as she takes on increasingly more roles
in opera and continues to perform Lieder recitals that include the kind of repertoire found in this
In “Zu Strassburg auf der Schanz” Stotijn has some moments of dramatic intensity that set Stotijn
apart from others. Her approach is reminiscent of Ferrier’s effective declamation in some
passages of “Von der Schőnheit” in Das Lied von der Erde. In other pieces, though, Stotijn
reveals a rich contralto, as in “Der Schildwache Nachtlied,” with the full voice effectively
moving in the lower register. That song also contains some remarkably lighter sounds, as Stotijn
captures the drama and lyricism of that well-known song in ways that certainly exceed some
conventional interpretations of the song. Yet the apparently closely placed microphone
overemphasizes the vibrato that Stotijn used in this song. It begs the question of how differently
the voice and performance would appear with another recording configuration.
“Nicht Wiedershen” is another song in which the expressive palette of Stotijn’s voice becomes
apparent, with some of the iterations of “Ade” rendered in a fully supported half voice. With
“Urlicht,” the song used as the title of this collection, Stotijn is equally effective, and the upper
part of her voice is as solid in softer dynamic levels as it can be in the more boisterous passages
of some of the other songs recorded here. Her fervent interpretation of “Urlicht” has a parallel in
“Um Mitternacht,” which is appropriately intense. “Um Mitternacht” fits Stotijn’s voice well,
and gives a fine sense of the capacity of this young singer.
Julius Drake is a fine accompanist, who gives Stotijn excellent support in “Um Mitternacht” and
all the songs in this collection. The attention that characterizes some of his earlier recordings
with such singers as Sophie Daneman is present in this set of Mahler’s Lieder. His pauses and
careful placement of sonorities suggests a performer who knows not only the literature but the
singer with whom he is working. His chamber-music approach to “Ich bin der Welt abhanden
gekommen,” with its interplay between voice and piano is highly effective. In these and other
pieces, Drake does not only set the tone, but helps the singer to achieve it as he subtly brings out
various nuances in the piano part.
This recording of Mahler’s Lieder should introduce Stotijn to an international audience. With a
solidly conceived program of songs that fit her voice, the selection has much to recommend. She
clearly has an affinity for Mahler’s music that bears hearing in additional performances of the
composer’s Second Symphony, something she has done to good effect already in her career.
While the literature performed on this recording is known, the freshness of interpretation that
Stotijn and Drake offer here bears rehearing.