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.
07 Jan 2008
This disc is well worth the price for the first track alone: the opening measures of Jean-Féry Rebel’s “Cahos,” (Chaos), written in 1737 or 1738, may cause you to wonder if you accidentally left a Stockhausen or Ligeti disc in the changer.
According to the composer’s preface to the
published score, the opening fortissimo chord, containing all seven notes of
the scale, represents “that confusion which reigned between the elements
before the moment when . . . they took the places prescribed for them by the
nature’s order.” What follows is literally chaotic: each of the elements
has its own leitmotif and key, and they clash and conflict in nearly random
fashion. A throbbing bass note represents Earth; Water is a flute scale; Air
is a series of flute trills, and Fire is represented by high, rapid violin
notes; they resolve themselves into a coherent and dramatic D minor tonality
only at the end of the movement. What follows is a pleasant, but far more
pedestrian, ballet suite in D major, intended for the Paris Opéra.
Although Les Élémens was originally written for an orchestra of
about fifty players, the published version is set up to permit concert
performance by two violins, two flutes and a bass, or private performance by
violin and harpsichord, or by harpsichord alone. Christopher Hogwood and the
Academy of Ancient Music, in this digital remastering of an analog recording
that won the French Grand prix du disque in the early days of the
historical performance movement, thus fall somewhere in the middle, with an
ensemble of about twenty which includes future superstars Monica Huggett and
Simon Standage. Two all-digital recordings of Les Élémens are
currently available from Les Musiciens du Louvre (1993) and Musica Antiqua
Köln (1995); both of them use approximately the same performing forces. To
hear the chamber version, one must track down the hard-to-get recording by
the Palladian Ensemble (Linn Records, U.K., 2003).
The other work on this CD is a suite of excerpts from another ballet, also
entitled Les Élémens. Rebel was probably familiar it, since the
six-year-old King Louis XV danced in its first performance in 1721. The
booklet lists it as being composed by André Cardinal Destouches, who was at
that time the Inspector General of the Paris Opéra, but many of the
movements were actually among the last works of court composer Michel-Richard
de Lalande. The recording includes the overture, the “Air” numbers, and
the “Water” numbers, and the “Fire” chaconne. Unlike the Rebel piece,
little attempt is made to represent the elements programmatically. Lalande
and Destouches rely on the scenery and costumes; the overture contains no
vestige of the “fire spouting from volcanoes” that would have been
visible onstage. Although this work is far more conventional than the Rebel
piece, it is still well worth hearing, and the Academy’s recording appears
to be the only one currently available.
University of California, Davis