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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.
29 Aug 2010
Like her impressive recording of Lieder by Dvořák (Harmonia Mundi CD 901824), Bernarda Fink’s recording of a selection of Lieder by Brahms not only offers a fine representation of the music, but also demonstrate the singer’s command of this repertoire.
Her sense of style is apparent from the start of the recording, with a spirited reading of “Bei dir sind meine Gedanken,” and Vignoles sensitive accompaniment supports Fink well. The nuances of musical phrasing fit well into the poetic lines, as it should be, and that, perhaps is one of the best things to say about this recording of range of Brahms’s Lieder. The “Sapphische Ode” is telling for the understated simplicity Fink offers in allowing the lines to emerge effortlessly, and with that the accompaniment comes to the fore readily. This is chamber music in the best sense, as one player hands off the line to the other, with Fink’s phrases intersecting with Vignoles, and Vignoles leading nicely to the continuation of the vocal line.
Such interplay is particularly noticeable in “Von ewiger Liebe,” with its two-part structure juxtaposing the somber opening with the affirming conclusion, a transformation that is supported by the metric change, from 3 / 4 to 6 / 8. The valediction at the conclusion suggests the kind of intensity Mahler would create in his setting of Rückert’s “Um Mitternacht.” This calls to mind the more sustained mood of this song, which Fink and Vignoles deliver with conviction, The rhythmic interplay and the vocal inflection combine well in the execution of this piece, along with the other songs in the selection.
The pieces are from various sets of Lieder that Brahms composed at various times in his career, and this results in a useful overview of the composer’s efforts in this genre. At the same time, the in wide selection requires the performers to be sensitive to the details that set the pieces apart from each other, and they meet that challenge well. The early “Liebestreu” from his Opus 3 set is effective, as are later compositions, such as “Der Jäger” (Op. 95) and “Das Mädchen spricht” (Op. 107). Throughout the recording Vignoles offers a solid and nuanced accompaniment that not only supports Fink, but also suggests the kind of partnership essential to Lieder and particularly necessary in the contributions of Brahms. The other choices from Brahms’ approximately 200 Lieder include some pieces that are heard less often, yet fit Fink’s voice quite well, like “Der Gang zum Liebchen,” while the familiar ones, like Brahms’s famous lullaby, “Wiegenlied,” is fresh and fitting, especially as the final selection on the CD.
In this Harmonia Mundi recording, the sound is sympathetic to the repertoire, with a warm resonance that lets the voice and piano work well. The result is an exemplary studio recording of Lieder which, at the same time, offer the immediate sound associated with live recitals. In addition, the booklet that accompanies the recording is conceived well, with the full texts and translations of each of the Lieder complemented with a brief essay by Walter Rösler. These elements of the CD support the excellent performances found in this recording my mezzo-soprano Bernarda Fink and pianist Roger Vignoles.
James L. Zychowicz