Recently in Recordings
As the editor of Opera magazine, John Allison, notes in his editorial in the June issue, Donizetti fans are currently spoilt for choice, enjoying a ‘Donizetti revival’ with productions of several of the composer’s lesser known works cropping up in houses around the world.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and
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.
24 Jun 2007
ROSSINI: Il Viaggio a Reims
Il Viaggio a Reims was a pièce d’occasion, part of the official tributes to Charles X of France on his coronation in 1825, but unlike most such creations – which tend to dreary platitudes of the Oscar speech variety – Viaggio has a cheeky personality and delicious music from Rossini at the top of his game, music he planned to recycle in subsequent operas – which he did.
arrived in Paris (lured from Naples by a huge stipend), he wanted to convince the powers that be,
from King Charles to the opera-goer in the street, that he was an excellent investment. In fact,
after Charles’s downfall in 1830, he had to sue the next regime to keep his income, and he
stopped writing operas altogether.
Viaggio has no plot to speak of. An inn-full of aristocratic tourists heading for Reims for the
coronation are stranded (no horses) and decide to celebrate the event right where they are. We
follow a series of amorous intrigues combined with political in-jokes – the Russian count
suspects his Polish marchesa, but the Austrian baron (a student of harmony) reconciles these
lovers; the English milord conceals his passion for the Roman chanteuse (that is, the possibility
that Britain might return to Catholicism), and the Parisian cares more about the safety of her
wardrobe than a lover’s doubtful fidelity.
But the stock political one-liners become delicious when turned into Rossini arias and duets.
(Why isn’t this guy writing for Saturday Night Live?) To everyone’s surprise (including, no
doubt, Rossini’s, wherever he is), Viaggio has lately become an international hit – perhaps
because it gives so many singers a chance to shine, however briefly. Its huge number of more or
less equal soloists makes Viaggio ideal for conservatories with bel canto studies – Rossini does
not damage immature voices, as Wagner or Verdi easily may. Too, any Viaggio gives costume
designers opportunities to be as silly as they like, and Mireille Dessingy has gone for it here:
purple stripes, leather dusters, crazy bustles and hats, plaid suits of outlandish hue. Behind the
action, Maestro Gergiev conducts “under cover” in a slouch hat and trench coat.
Though these performances were given at the Châtelet in Paris, the singers hail from the
Academy of Young Singers at St. Petersburg’s Mariinsky Theatre (aka Kirov), and since singers
from Russia’s many nationalities are nowadays flooding west, we may glimpse here some of the
stars of tomorrow. Gergiev clearly intends to train the next generation to a better feel for Italian
style than Russian singers used to have, and the results are commendable if imperfect: while few
of these youngsters screech or whine as older Russians often did, and their fioritura is often
superb, many of them run out of breath before their melodies do, and bark rather than conclude
the line musically. Most of them sing Italian clearly, though, all of them are agile comic actors,
and the Parisian audience is appreciative.
The most attractive and able voices belong to Anna Kiknadze as the Polish marchesa, whose low
mezzo, a ripe Rossini sound, resembles Borodina's, Irma Guigolachvili’s gracious lyric
soprano as Corinna, Larissa Youdina’s flamboyant coloratura as the fashion-conscious Parisian,
Anastasia Belyaeva’s pleasing light soprano as the chic innkeeper, Daniil Shtoda’s exciting but
sometimes breathless tenor as the jealous Russian, and Alexei Safiouline’s castanetted “Spanish”