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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.
24 Jan 2008
Wagner: Orchestral Hightlights from the Operas
As much as Richard Wagner espoused opera reform in his theoretical writings by bringing to his works for the stage a closer unity between music and text, his actual means of doing so at times involved the use of orchestral forces that sometimes overwhelmed the sung word.
With the veritable lexicons of motives that occur in his overtures and preludes, as well as thematic summaries in various interludes, the famous orchestral excerpts performed in concert communicate some aspects of the operas well. Yet under the baton of a solid Wagnerian likethe late Klaus Tennstedt, the music takes on added dimensions that convey the passionate expression found in the scores. This is already evident in the legacy of recordings that Tennstedt left, and this recently released DVD of a concert of the London Philharmonic on tour at Suntory Hall, Tokyo, on 18 October 1988, captures some of the dynamic aspects of the conductor on the podium.
While Tennstedt’s involvement with Wagner’s music is evident in the recordings that are already available, a concert video like this helps to document the artist interacting with his orchestra. Through a combination of shots that varying in size, this film shows the orchestra as a whole, various sections, and also close-ups of the conductor himself, in works Tennstedt was regarded highly as one of the finest interpreters of his time. As familiar as this music can be, a master like Tennstedt contributes nuance to the well-known overture to Wagner’s opera Tannhaüser with the subtle variations in tempo. At times the intensity emanates from the podium, with Tennstedt’s baton almost vibrating in his hands. Elsewhere, it is the facial expression that brings about the appropriate response, as in the evocative Bacchanale that follows the Overture in this concert. The fine sonics of this recording demonstrate the unified playing that Tennstedt did not demand, but drew out of the exceptional players of the London Philharmonic.
With an earlier work like Rienzi, the elements of grand opera emerge clearly in Tennstedt’s interpretation. Here the broad strokes are necessary, as the longer themes that Wagner used in this relatively early opera are stylistically removed from the idiom he would use in Tannhaüser or, later in Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. With some of the longer note values and sustained pitches that are characteristic of Rienzi Tennstedt creates some tension that evoke the charged situations in the opera. Familiar in the concert hall, the overture to Rienzi receives a solid interpretation with Tennstedt, who makes the most of the score without overly emoting.
Yet it is in the excerpts from Wagner’s Ring der Nibelungen that Tennstedt seems to have been in his idiom, and the selections included in this concert represent his music-making very well. With “Dawn and Siegfried’s Rhine Journey” and “Siegfried’s Funeral Music,” Tennstedt connotes the sense of the scene painting that is a crucial element in the opera Götterdämmerung, from which they are taken. While maintaining decorum, Tennstedt brings out an almost raucous jubilation that stands in contrast to the somber and intense tone of the “Funeral Music” that follows the hero’s murder. Here the London Philharmonic plays passionately while rendering the score with an almost classic precision.
After such intensive music, Tennstedt included two further selections, the overture to the comic opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg, and the final piece on the concert, the famous “Ride of the Valykyries” from Die Walküre. Well known as it is, the placement of the “Ride” at the end of the program precludes any kind of encore – what could possibly follow that would not be anticlimactic. And it is appropriate for the video to end with the visage of Tennstedt in freeze-frame, an image that remains in memory long after hearing this well-played concert of the London Philharmonic on tour in Japan. The liner notes include Tennstedt’s comment that he is not on the podium just to “beat time,” and the craft that he brought to his work as conductor is evident in this filmed concert.
James L. Zychowicz