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

Richard Strauss: Notturno

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 Sings Mahler Lieder

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.

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. 

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Playing Elizabeth’s Tune: The Tallis Scholars sing William Byrd.
23 Sep 2007

Playing Elizabeth’s Tune

The 2004 DVD "Playing Elizabeth’s Tune," originating in a BBC television production, features concert performances of Byrd’s sacred music sung by the Tallis Scholars along with documentary material treating the composer and his time.

Playing Elizabeth’s Tune: The Tallis Scholars sing William Byrd.

The Tallis Scholars; Peter Phillips, Director.

Gimell CDGIM 992 [CD]

$18.49  Click to buy

The present CD presents the “concert” material from the BBC television program, and though absent the sights of a candle-lit Tewkesbury Abbey, the sounds are sumptuous, often exquisite, and leave one without any suspicion that anything is “missing.”

The program is a diverse sampling of Byrd’s music, ranging from Latin mass and motet to Anglican anthem and canticle, from dense counterpoint to stunningly beautiful chordal homophony, from celebrative tones to the dark hues of poignant lamentation. Byrd’s music takes the Tallis Scholars only a short jog from their eponymous home base, and to no one’s surprise, they sing this program with the natural confidence and expertise born of decades’ experience. Their performances are alternately suave, alternately animated, and unflaggingly fluent. From an ensemble that has been one of the standard bearers for the modern performance of this repertory, one would expect nothing less.

The Scholars’ sound is distinctively vibrant and free, a tone that is particularly well-suited to exuberant passages, such as arise in the motet “Vigilate” and the “Gloria” and “Credo” from the Mass for Four Voices. The exuberance is exciting and they continue to explore the animated potential of lines with notable flair. The sound also is well-suited to contrapuntal independence of line. However, the lower-voice blend on occasion seems to suffer a bit from the degree of timbral freedom, as in the dark opening of “Ne irascaris,” but softer passages--Sion deserta” in the same motet, for instance--show a warm blendability that surfaces elsewhere, too, as in the moving anthem, “Prevent us, O Lord.”

The text underlay of the vernacular works requires a sensitivity to period pronunciation—a one-syllable Spirit in the “Magnificat” from the Great Service, for example—and these adjustments are rendered with ease here. The ensemble’s Latin, however, persists in being Italianate “church Latin,” and one wonders what so accomplished a group might do with the inflections of sixteenth-century Anglo-Latin as part of their verbal palette.

The program here is admittedly one of “favorites,” most, if not all, well known and well represented in the recorded catalogue. Among favorites, I find “O Lord, Make thy Servant Elizabeth” an irresistible gem, complete with an “Amen” that packs a rose-window’s worth of blossom into just a few measures’ length. The plea at the end of the anthem is that God will grant the Queen a long life; given the beauty of the singing on this recording, one might easily wish the same for those who here sing “Elizabeth’s Tune.” A splendid recording.

Steven Plank

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):