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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?
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.
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.
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.
Few people who love opera in general and bel canto in particular have never heard the comment made by Lilli Lehmann, veteran of the inaugural Ring at Bayreuth in 1876, that singing all three of Wagner’s Brünnhildes—in Die Walküre, Siegfried, and
Götterdämmerung, respectively, all of which she sang to great acclaim—pales in comparison with singing the title rôle in Bellini’s Norma.
Paul Dukas’ Ariane et Barbe-Bleue, first heard in 1907, once seemed important. Arturo Toscanini conducted the Met premiere in 1911 with Farrar and later arranged some of its music for a 1947 recording with his NBC Symphony.
26 Dec 2007
A 1979 recording originally released on LP in 1985, the CD reissue of this classic performance of Schoenberg’s 1913 cantata Gurrelieder as part of its series entitled Originals makes this fine account of this magnificent work available to another generation of listeners.
With its all-star cast and fine sonics, the Philips recording of Gurrelieder has been held in esteem for over two decades. Cast well for a festival performance at Tanglewood, it is difficult to consider a finer assemblage of musicians. In addition to the six soloists (including the speaking part assigned to the actor Werner Klemperer), the piece includes four choruses and an augmented orchestra with a scoring that calls eight flutes, seven clarinets, four harps, ten horns, six trumpets, five trombones, and six timpani. This late Romantic work is a sprawling conception of the story of the Danish King Waldemar and his love for Tove, who is mysteriously killed and for whom Waldemar desperately searches. Set around the castle of Gurre, the tragic circumstances of the ill-fated love story has some resonances with Mahler’s youthful cantata Das klagende Lied. Yet Schoenberg’s score rivals Mahler’s in scope, and requires the fine touches Ozawa brought to this recording to communicate well the nuances in the work. As fine as the sound was on the Grammy-winning LP, the transfer to CD offers some enhances in sound that merit rehearings.
Again, the fine cast featured some of the best performers of the time, and while some might quibble with the choice of singers, they all do well. In his relatively brief career James McCracken made some fine recordings, and this reading of Gurrelieder provides an opportunity to hear the tenor in a demanding and sustained role. Some listeners might prefer the sound of a later tenor, like Siegfried Jerusalem, in Chailly’s later recording of this work, but McCracken’s reading is commendable. As Waldemar, McCracken offers an impassioned portrayal of the Danish King, with the yearning implicit in the text made audible in the performance. As the Wood-Dove,Tatiana Troyanos also gave a fine performance in the brief, but critical scene at the end of the first part, which sets up the remaining portion of the story. Likewise, Jessye Norman captured the personality of Tove well, with the kind of control that has marked her performances of other Romantic heroines. Understated, but not undersung, Norman’s Tove is well thought and appropriate to the approach that Ozawa has taken in this recording, which is impressive for his fine control of the expanded orchestra that Schoenberg used in the score.
While other conductors have added their interpretations of Gurrelieder to the discography of this fascinating work, Ozawa’s endures for his solid approach and talented cast. While the sometimes massive sonorities that Schoenberg used to suggest the emotional impact of the tale are impressive, Ozawa also balances such scene painting with the attention to detail that is crucial to the more intimate sounds that are part important when Schoenberg need to bring out the text. As massive as Gurrelieder can be in terms of the forces required, the availability of such an extensive orchestra does not result in a constant assault of sound. Rather, tone colors and textures vary throughout the work, as timbre emerges as a structural device in a work that took shape as its composer worked on the famous Harmonielehre, the text in which Schoenberg outlined his approach to composition, including the idea of Klangfarbenmelodie. Ozawa was certainly sensitive to such considerations when he made this recording of Schoenberg's Gurrelieder decades ago, and it is a pleasure to return to his persuasive reading of this important score.
James L. Zychowicz