Recently in Recordings
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.
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?
16 Oct 2007
Mirella Freni’s 1993 triumph in the lead of Umberto Giordani’s Fedora at La Scala has made it to DVD. In his booklet essay, Werner Pfister (translated by Stewart Spencer) admits the opera “does not enjoy the best of reputations.”
After making it straight-faced through a synopsis of
the insubstantial yet overly complex narrative, Pfister sums up with this:
“Above all, however, Fedora is an extremely effective stage vehicle
for a prima donna.”
The irony of that lies in the fact that Fedora’s main claim to
operatic fame today comes from its central tenor aria, “Amor ti Vieta.“
Without that “big tune,” no one might care at all what sort of vehicle the
opera made for a soprano. Basically, the story gives the soprano reason to
fret and wring her hands for three acts before drinking poison. In Paris,
Fedora’s lover is shot, and she identifies his killer as Count Loris.
However, he offers an explanation that mollifies her (seems her lover was
cheating on her with Loris’s wife). She falls in love with the Count, but not
before identifying him to his political enemies. They go after his family,
and he announces that he will seek out the woman who set his enemies on his
trail. In despair, Fedora admits it was herself, and drinks poison, dying in
Giordano has ample opportunity for melodramatic inspiration in Arturo
Colautti’s libretto. Neither character is very sympathetic, unfortunately,
and the supporting cast is thin on interest or even relevance to the plot.
This is an opera done fair recompense to its quality by having it live on in
the 3 minute encore for tenor recitals that “Amor ti vieta” provides.
The La Scala DVD still makes for a mildly enjoyable wallow, with its
old-fashioned backdrop sets by Luisa Spinatelli, idiomatic conducting by
Gianandrea Gavazzeni, and Freni singing gloriously. She has Placido Domingo
for her Loris, and his tasteful “Amor ti Vieta” earns a substantial ovation,
though some listeners may join your reviewer in wishing for a more visceral
delivery. Alessandro Corbelli hams it up delightfully in his rather pointless
This Fedora serves as a reminder that some operas live on the
outskirts of the standard repertory because they really don't fit in when
they make it into town.