Recently in Recordings
As the editor of Opera magazine, John Allison, notes in his editorial in the June issue, Donizetti fans are currently spoilt for choice, enjoying a ‘Donizetti revival’ with productions of several of the composer’s lesser known works cropping up in houses around the world.
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.
24 Aug 2010
Jean Sibelius: Kullervo, Op. 7.
Sibelius’s 1892 symphonic poem for soloists, chorus, and orchestra is in the tradition of the cantata-like symphonies of the nineteenth century, as found in Mendelssohn’s Lobgesang or Mahler’s Second Symphony.
Derived from Finnish mythology, the movements depict major events in the life of the hero Kullervo and found in the epic the Kalevala. This five-movement works opens with an instrumental piece that sets the stage for idiom Sibelius would explore in the work, and the reading by conductor Ari Rasilainen is convincing. The breadth of timbre, the pacing of rhythm and the placement of the percussive accents at the dramatically appropriate points support the structure of the movement. The second movement is a depiction of Kullervo’s youth and is reminiscent structurally of a Scherzo. In this movement the chordal figures in the low brass evoke well an important element of the style associated with Sibelius’s mature symphonies. At the same time, some of the colors are typical of Sibelius, the extended lines in the clarinet interacting with strings and other sections of the orchestra.
In the third movement Sibelius leave Kullervo’s story to the suggestions of instrumental writing, but incorporates voices to clarify the narrative. Kullervo’s story resembles that of Siegmund and Sieglinde in Wagner's Die Walküre, except for its tragic consequences in the Kalevala when the hero realizes that he seduced his sister. His sister commits suicide, and Kullervo resolves to become a warrior, where he meets his own tragic fate. Here the male chorus relates the lays of the Kalevala with excellent diction, which sets up the exchanges between the solo voices that convey the dialogue between Kullervo and his sister. Sibelius punctuates the choral sections with appropriate figures in the orchestra, and Rasilainen does well to allow the forces to render the sometimes dense score with admirable clarity
Of the two soloists, Juha Uusitalo should be familiar to audiences from his recent international performances, including Wotan in Zubin Mehta’s recent Ring cycle in Barcelona (released on Blu-Ray). This recording of Kullervo captures Uusitalo at an earlier point in this career, since it is based on performances given between 13 and 15 December 2005. Uusitalo is persuasive here, with his sonorous voice emerging clearly; soprano Satu Vihavainen likewise delivered a fine performance, with those voices prominent in the third movement, where Sibelius used voices to bring out the dramatic core of Kullervo’s story. Voices are absent from the fourth movement, and Rasilainen does well here bring out the evocative music to continue Sibelius’s narrative as envision in this score. The chorus is part of the final movement, which depicts the Kullervo’s death, and the text serves as a fine valediction of the Finnish hero.
This is a work that reveals much about Sibelius’s development as a symphonist and at the same time stands well on its own merits through Rasilainen’s compelling interpretation. While Sibelius is known better for his instrumental symphonies, that should not detract from the merits of the Kullervo Symphony or the symphonic poems that include voice.
This fine CPO recording includes the texts and translations of the vocal music, and the Karin Kempken’s notes offer some good background on this fine work by Sibelius. The sound is clear and rich, without excesses that detract from the nicely voiced chords. Not the first recording of this important work, this release is a solid contribution to the discography of Sibelius.
James L. Zychowicz