Recently in Recordings
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.
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
21 Apr 2008
This production offers a different view of Norma. As Stage Director Guy Joosten explains in the introduction on the first of a 2-disc set, he wanted to give the audience “more” of what he believes the modern audience expects.
The video opens with an Italian tenor arriving at the opera house to sing
Pollione. He is dressed in mid-20th century garb. When he turns on the
speaker in his “dressing room,” we hear the familiar opening notes of
Norma. Our tenor proceeds to unpack his makeup bag and to gaze
happily at an opera fan magazine on which his face graces the cover. His
female dresser comes in leaving the armor that he will wear on the stage as
Pollione, along with some red roses that apparently have been sent to him.
Others arrive and chat with him as well and, of course, they all get to see
the magazine cover picture.
A large fallen tree dominates the stage, with its tall root structure
resting on a shiny black floor. The older soprano arrives in all her Diva
glory…..dark glasses, a fur wrap over her silver trench coat. She poses for
pictures and signs autographs for her adoring fans.
Our younger singer comes in and begins to prepare to sing Adalgisa only to
find a bouquet of red roses on her dressing table. It is the same bunch of
flowers that our tenor had received which he left for her after removing the
card. Do we begin to get the picture ….. our Italian tenor is a bit of a
But this is a production of Norma and little by little our
principals don at least partial period costumes as they begin to take their
places in the opera. With the trappings of the modern day story always
present in things like the ultra-modern looking dressing tables and racks of
street clothes visible, the traditional opera unfolds.
As Pollione’s problems—his affairs with two women—inevitably come to
light, we finally see Hugh Smith as Pollione and not as the Italian tenor. It
took him awhile to warm up, which resulted in a strained top. But his sound
improved as the performance proceeded.
Romanian-born Nelly Miricioui was cast to perform the role of Norma;
however, for a variety of reasons, Hasmik Papian assumed the part on short
notice. Her Casta Diva is not a show-stopper; but it nicely sets the
stage for what is to come. Norma is a demanding role, which Papian performed
with aplomb. She clearly understood Norma (the traditional Norma). She could
be angry, remorseful, sad and regal when it was called for and seemed to move
through the moods of this complicated woman with grace both vocally and as an
Irini Tsirakidis, Adalgisa, was a nice surprise. New to me, Tsirakidis
brought this character to life. Adalgisa is in the most impossible position,
with her challenging role being both musically and dramatically interesting.
It is important to me that this role work well for this opera to achieve its
full dramatic impact.
Giorgio Giuseppini as Orovesco was a bit woolly and wobbly. Nevertheless,
this fit his character as an elderly gentleman. And, of course, he does not
have much to do other than stand around and sing.
Carol Bosi as Flavio performed well, although the part is little more than
window dressing. His presence is only necessary so Pollione can talk about
his women problems but not much else. Bosi possesses a pretty sounding
So the tale moves on to its sad ending when Norma and Pollione are to die
together by mutual consent. The scene is beautifully sung by all. As Norma
and Pollione are about to walk into the fire, they are back in their Italian
tenor and aging soprano clothes. Why? Who knows. Instead of going off with
Norma, Pollione takes one last step back toward Adalgisa. But Norma proceeds
to walk off stage to her plight and the curtain comes down. Strange….yes.
Are we supposed to think that he might not follow Norma?
If you are interested in this DVD I suggest viewing the introduction on
Disc 1 first. The discussion by the stage director and conductor Julian
Reynolds makes all the difference in attempting to understand what they were
trying to do with this bel canto masterpiece.
Norma stands alone for me. It does not need updating or additions to
sustain it. But this is not an uninteresting reading of Bellini’s work. I
wonder how he might have felt about such a production.