Recently in Recordings
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.
20 Jul 2008
Villazón on Deutsche Grammophon
The opera world, always ravenous for talented, charismatic tenors, felt desperate hunger pains last summer, when Rolando Villazón canceled dates with an explanation that a health crisis necessitated a sabbatical from singing.
Only recently he returned to the opera stage, earning cautiously positive notices at Covent Garden in the title role of Verdi's Don Carlos.
One signpost of his career's advancement before the crisis had been his signing with Deutsche Grammophon, often considered (rightly or wrongly) the premiere label for classical artists. So it was in March of 2007 that the tenor recorded the Italian recital disc, Cielo e Mar, and participated in live performances of La Bohème with Anna Netrebko in Munich the following month, which DG recorded.
The recital disc covers a wide range of 19th century Italian opera composers, including the Brazilian-born Antônio Carlos Gomes. The pieces reflect Villazón's questing intelligence, with the more well-known arias, such as the title "Cielo e mar," and two arias from Saverio Mercadante, as well as one from the afore-mentioned Gomes. Giuseppe Pietri's romanza from Maristella may not seem like a known item, but its warm melody struck your reviewer's ears as familiar. Some may claim to hear evidence of the tenor's coming crisis, but where exactly? The studio recording captures the tenor's instrument in strong, handsome form. The occasional resemblance to Domingo remains (including some tightness of high notes), yet Villazón's personality shines through - warmer, more romantic than Domingo's pained heroism. Daniele Callegari supports the singer well, with the increasingly busy Orchestra Sinfonica di Milano Giuseppe Verdi.
The live recording of Bohème does find Villazon's instrument a tad raspy, and the tightness a bit more worrying on the highest notes. It was a NYCO television broadcast of the tenor as Rodolfo that first brought him renown in the USA, and he still has the youthful, poetic soul for the role. Arguably the true star of this performance, however, is Anna Netrebko's Mimi. From start to finish, she is in fine form, full-bodied, sensitive, unapologetically gorgeous. Despite the fullness of her delivery, she still manages to characterize Mimi's growing fragility. DG assembled a cast of younger singers of note for the other Bohemians; the refreshingly smaller-scaled Musetta of Nicole Cabell, paired with Boaz Daniel as Marcello, alongside Stéphane Degout and Vitalij Kowaljow, doing excellent work as Schaunard and Colline.
Conducting the Bayerischen Rundfunk forces, Bertrand de Billy enforces some odd pauses, perhaps to facilitate aspects of the live performance. Whether to accommodate the singers or simply his own interpretation, he pushes the tempo a bit at times, possibly to effect greater excitement, then slows down to highlight the drama. It's not an erratic performance, and certainly the musicians play well. A listen to Beecham on his classic set might make some listeners wish for the same confidence from de Billy in Puccini's music.
The booklet note claims that this CD will also serve as a soundtrack to a film version. Your reviewer has no other information, but the photo stills in the booklet, if from such a film, suggest a very handsome production.
Many an opera fan may feel that his/her collection has enough sets of the Puccini classic. The recital disc contains enough that is rare, and is of such high quality overall, that any fan of fine tenor singing needs to give it a listen. As well as to wish Mr. Villazón continued good health.