Recently in Recordings
The economics of the recording companies dictate much that is not ideal.
Wagner’s operas were not composed as they were in order to permit the
extraction of bleeding chunks, even on those occasions when strophic song forms
Among the recent recordings of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, Valery Gergiev’s release on the LSO Live label is an excellent addition to the discography of this work.
While not unknown, the songs of Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942) deserve to be heard more frequently.
Recorded on 5 and 6 May 2008 and 17 and 18 January 2009 at the Lisztzentrum (Raiding, Austria), this recent Bridge release makes available the piano-vocal versions of three song cycles by Gustav Mahler, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert-Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder performed by mezzo-soprano Hermine Haselböck, accompanied by Russell Ryan.
Contraltos rarely achieve the acclaim and renown of sopranos. Assigned few leading roles in opera, they are condemned to playing the villain or the grandmother, or to stealing the castrati’s trousers in en travesti roles.
Following their 2011 Decca recording of Striggio’s Mass in 40 Parts (1566), I Fagiolini continue their quest to unearth lost treasures of the High Renaissance and early Baroque, with this collection of world-premiere recordings, ‘reconstructions’ and ‘reconstitutions’ of music by Giovanni and Andrea Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Palestrina, and their less well-known compatriots Viadana, Barbarino and Soriano.
Eternal Echoes is an album of khazones [Jewish cantorial music] for cantorial soloist, solo violin and a blended instrumental ensemble comprising a small orchestra and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.
Michael Tilson Thomas’s recording of Mahler’s Third Symphony is an outstanding contribution to the composer’s discography.
Oliver Knussen burst into British music with an unprecedented flourish. In 1967, the London Symphony Orchestra premiered Knussen’s First Symphony, with István Kertész scheduled to conduct.
Based on performances given in Summer 2010 at the Lucerne Festival, this recording of Beethoven’s Fidelio is an admirable recording that captures the vitality of the work as conducted by Claudio Abbado.
Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) was one of the most popular composers of his day in Poland, and of the many works he wrote for the stage, two are performed from time to time, Halka (1848) and Strazny dwór [The Haunted Manor] (1865).
The Polish alto Jadwiga Rappé is a familiar voice in various stage and concert works, and the recent release of a selection of songs by Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) is an opportunity to hear her performing artsongs.
Originally released on multiple discs in 1981 this reissue on two CDs is a comprehensive collection of art songs by Italian and French composers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
An exciting contribution to the discography of this popular opera, the live performance of Richard Strauss’s Salome from the Festspielhaus at Baden-Baden is a compelling DVD.
Released in late 2011, Deutsche Grammophon’s DVD of the new staging of Berg’s Lulu at the Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona is an excellent contribution to the discography of this fascinating opera.
A recent release by the Metropolitan Opera, this two-disc set makes available on DVD the famous performance of Berg’s Lulu that was broadcast on 20 December 1980 as part of the PBS series “Live from the Met.”
The novels of Sinclair Lewis once shot across the American literary skies like comets, alarming and fascinating readers of that era, but their tails didn’t extend far behind them.
Once the province of only the most dedicated opera fanatics, mid-20th century recordings of privately taped live performances have become more widely available.
Flute players in opera orchestra around the world must look forward to the frequent appearances of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, knowing that while the stage spotlight in the mad scene will be on the soprano, the orchestral spotlight will be on their instrument.
Since his debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1971, conductor James Levine has come to represent the house’s commitment to artistic excellence — reliable, professional, and immaculately presented.
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.