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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.
02 Mar 2008
Juan Diego Florez: Voce D'Italia - Arias for Rubini
The handsome face of tenor Juan Diego Florez naturally gets the cover of his latest CD, and his arguably unusually slim physique is on view too: on the inside cover of the booklet, on both the interior and rear of the jewel case, and on the back of the booklet.
And in an interior photo the singer, apparently tired of looking at the cameraman, stalks away, hands in suit pockets. In almost all these photos, Florez adopts an impassive affect, with only the slightest hint of a smile on his tightly pressed lips.
The vocal performances on the disc demonstrate what all the star's recordings have to date. His remarkable instrument has agility, a solid top extension, and an appealing tone, neither too sweet nor too tangy. With the exception of his previous disc, an over-orchestrated hodgepodge of lighter material called "Sentimiento Latino," Decca has primarily offered Florez in his trademark bel canto repertoire. Both his Rigoletto Duke and Gianni Schicchi Rinuccio, on the CD "Great Tenor Arias," indicated that his voice can stretch a bit into Verdi and Puccini, but some of the charm of his voice is lost.
Putting aide the awkward double title (Voce D'Italia - Arias for Rubini), this latest disc finds Florez comfortably at home in his beloved Bellini, Rossini, and Donizetti. The disc's repertoire covers arias from operas that made Giovanni Battista Rubini a (if not "the") leading tenor of his generation. Philip Gossett's booklet essay argues that Florez "is the acknowledged master of this type of vocalism." And no moment appears when, on a technical level, that judgment can be seriously challenged. On track after track, Florez leaps up to high notes and slides silkily around fast runs, all while maintaining an elegant composure. It's that same composure seen in the photos described above.
But what proves elusive in those photos - a sense of the singer's personality - also evades the ears in these performances. The lead roles in Bellini's Il Pirata, Donizetti's Mariano Falliero, and Rossini's Guglielmo Tell all sound pretty much the same here. And dramatically, perhaps not that much difference exists. However, to listen to Marcello Giordani singing the Pirata arias on a Naxos release of a few years back, one hears more of the hero, the dangerous sea brigand, than one does in the smoother, more secure singing that Florez provides.
But then over 70 minutes of tenor music from bel canto operas may not be the ideal continuous listening experience. Any of these tracks, heard by itself, would amaze and delight the ear. And that is due not only to Florez's great gifts, but also to the excellent support from the Academia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia, under the leadership of Roberto Abbado. As a showcase for contemporary operatic singing, this Decca CD is an often stupendous affair. For at least one listener, a bit more individual expressiveness would have made it even more special.