Recently in Recordings
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
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?
19 Jun 2008
Mozart and Lortzing from Hamburg Opera on film
A nostalgic charm permeates these filmed productions from the early 1970s of Lortzing's Zar und Zimmerman and Mozart's Die Zauberflöte, collaborations between the Hamburg State Opera and German TV director Joachim Hess.
Cinematography, hair, costumes: all are redolent of a proud stage tradition adapted - not always with subtlety - to the needs of the camera, circa 1970. In 2008, what might have seemed hopelessly dated, even musty, actually carries a sort of "toy world" appeal.
The chief drawback of most filmed opera, especially from this era, is that the intimacy and varied perspective of the camera cannot mitigate the artificiality of the sound, which not only relies on lip syncing but also maintains a consistently flat audio stage, belying the naturalistic movements of the both camera and actors. To the credit of both the Lortzing and Mozart sets, excellent conductors lead energetic performances from the Hamburg Philharmonic State Orchestra. Charles Mackerras deals with Lortzing's perky - perhaps excessively perky - score to the comic Zar und Zimmerman with flair and good spirits. An entire opera based on a series of mistaken identities (Peter the Great has gone "undercover" to learn more about the world), Zar und Zimmerman has never really established itself outside of its home country. This video doesn't exactly make one regret that fact, but it does offer an extremely attractive cast doing their best to make the time pass pleasantly. Lucia Popp's absolutely sweet Marie stands out, with Raymond Wolansky as Peter the Great right behind her. In the tenor role of Peter Ivanov, Peter Haage's chubby male ingenue may annoy some as much as he did your reviewer.
Hans Sotin has the comic villain role in the Lortzing, and he reappears in Die Zauberflöte as Sarastro. Veteran Horst Stein leads an old-fashioned performance, appropriately enough for this production, directed with a disappointingly scant amount of invention by Sir Peter Ustinov. The illustrious cast included Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau as the Speaker, Nicolai Gedda as Tamino, Edith Mathis as Pamina, Cristina Deutekom as the Queen of the night, and William Workman as Papageno. Their vocal contributions are all solid, but Ustinov fails to inspire them to offer more than perfunctory acting. Deutekom sings a fearsome Queen while her face remains entirely impassive. No one lip syncs all that well, but Workman in particular barely seems to be trying. The three boys compete to find pitch, with no winner. Monostatos appears in blackface. All in all, despite the camera, the opera remains stagebound and rarely shows sign of life.
The Lortzing DVD preserves a charming performance of an opera little known in the US, so it is worth a look. Fine DVDs of Die Zauberflöte, however, can easily be acquired, so anyone thinking of this set should either be a fan of the cast or a devotee of mediocre TV direction.