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.
19 Sep 2007
Psalms for the Spirit
Psalmody, be it in the form of chanted recitations or anthem settings, lies close to the heart of liturgical singing, and this collection, “Psalms for the Spirit” brings together an engaging variety of both long familiar and recent psalms that celebrates the traditions and explores new directions.
Noel Edison’s forces offer highly polished renditions that show great care in preparation and skill in execution. (As a side note, it is not entirely clear just who “Noel Edison’s forces” are—the disc and cover material identify them as the Choir of St. John’s, Elora; the liner notes, however, describe them as the professional Elora Festival Singers. One imagines a degree of overlap, in any event, but the editorial slip is irksome.) The choir’s chanting is richly controlled, nicely articulate, and sensitively inflected. However, the price paid in order to achieve this level of control is an occasional trace of “undersinging” and constraint. With the Anglican chants this is not particularly problematic as their verbal priority invites a lightness and ease of production. Similarly, in anthems such as the introspective “O Pray for the Peace of Jerusalem” by Herbert Howells, the intimacy of the setting is well served by the close control. But despite all the good things—wonderful blend, subtlety of inflection and articulation—it remains hard to shake the occasional trace of constraint and the wish for more freedom of sound. This is most apparent in Parry’s war horse, “I was Glad,” trotted out as a rousing conclusion to the program; it is well sung, but also a bit underwhelming. Or in William Matthias’s sprightly “Let the Peoples Praise Thee, O God,” written for the 1981 wedding of the Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer, the choir never yields to throw some unbuttoned caution to the wind, and the frolicsome lines are less rollicking for it.
The program itself is a well-crafted anthology of both anthems and chants, chestnuts (Garrett, Goss, and Samuel Wesley) and newer works (Chlicott, Larkin, and Edison). Of the newer pieces, Robert Chilcott’s “My Prayer” is particularly notable. Combining interesting textures, harmonies, and evocations of Purcell’s famous “Hear my prayer,” it is a challenging and welcome addition to a repertory that sometimes finds the shackle of tradition difficult to break.