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.
17 Oct 2010
Haendel: Water Music; Music for The Royal Fireworks
The “popular” Handel is firmly entrenched in the collective
culture with a handful of pieces: the Christmas portion of Messiah,
the “Largo” from Serse (in fact, “Larghetto,”
but collective culture is hard to convince), and instrumental suites of the
Water Music and Music for the Royal Fireworks come
immediately to mind.
Their popularity and frequent arrangement have given them,
I suspect, an awkward familiarity, the kind of familiarity that keeps us from
attending to them with attentive and respectful ear. Yet, their familiar
ubiquity should not blind us to the fact that they are popular, in part,
because they are very good pieces. Jordi Savall’s remastered 1993
recording of the Water Music and Music for the Royal
Fireworks is precisely the sort of recording that breaks through the fog
of familiarity and reanimates the hearing.
The pedigree of the suites, of course, needs no special pleading. The
Water Music’s association with royal entertainment on the Thames
is well known through the early Handel biographer, John Mainwaring, who gives
us the unsubstantiated and unlikely notion of a reconciliation between Handel
and George I via the beauty of the works at hand. The story is a false start,
but the royal esteem for the works survives intact. And with thousands of
people creating an eighteenth-century traffic jam on London Bridge en
route to hear a public rehearsal of the Music for the Royal
Fireworks in Vauxhall Gardens in 1749, we can have but little doubt of the
public interest in Handel and his celebrative music for the Treaty of
Savall’s splendid period performance offers the opportunity to relish
anew the amazing range of pieces in these collections: elegance, exuberance,
energy, and regality, all in a captivating procession of musical style. At each
turn, the musicians of Le Concert des Nations command such stylistic fluency
that, whether a wafting Lentement, a rhapsodic oboe Adagio,
or a spirited bassoon gigue, the familiar pieces emerge with a new and very
gratifying polish, and our newly awakened ear finds much to respect and enjoy,
indeed. To that, as Handel famously and familiarly put it elsewhere, we might