Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail @ Hangar-7

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: Notturno

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 Sings Mahler Lieder

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.

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Hänsel und Gretel

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.

Magdalena Kožená: Love and Longing

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 Magdalena Kožená.

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon

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.

Amore e Tormento

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.’ 

Rivals—Arias for Farinelli & Co.

In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi. 

Verdi at the Old MET

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.

Italo Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre re

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. 

Così fan tutte from DG

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. 

Heart’s Delight: The Songs of Richard Tauber

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.

Adriana Lecouvreur from Decca

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.

Lawrence Brownlee’s Spiritual Sketches

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.

Great Wagner Conductors from DG

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 archives.

Great Wagner Singers from DG

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.

Adding Movie Magic to The Magic Flute

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?

L’Incoronazione di Poppea from Virgin Classics

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. 

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Mark Adamo: Little Women
31 Jan 2011

Mark Adamo, Little Women

Mark Adamo’s opera, based on the famous novel by Louisa May Alcott, contains one extraordinary scene, a model of how to adapt fiction into opera.

Mark Adamo: Little Women

Jo: Stephanie Novacek; Meg: Joyce DiDonato; Laurie: Chad Shelton; Beth: Stacey Tappan; Amy: Margaret Lloyd; John Brooke: Daniel Belcher; Friedrich Bhaer: Chen-Ye Yuan; Cecilia March: Katherine Ciesinski; Gideon Marche: James Maddalena; Alma March: Gwendolyn Jones; Mr Dashwood: Derrick Parker. Houston Grand Opera Orchestra. Patrick Summers, conductor. Peter Webster, stage director. Christopher McCollum, set designer. Melissa Graff, costume designer. David M. Plevan, lighting designer. Directed for TV by Brian Large. Recorded live from the Cullen Theatre, Wortham Theater Center, Houston, Texas, 17-18 March 2000.

Naxos NBD0007 [Blu-Ray]

$39.99  Click to buy

This is the second scene of act 2, in which the four sisters are all on stage at once even though they are supposed to be in different corners of the world: Adamo has beautifully synchronized the drama-counterpoint between the four different theatres, so that at the same instant that Jo, the independent author-heroine, is singing to Professor Bhaer of her coldness to the idea of marriage, Amy is warming to the same idea; in another division of the stage space the dying Beth is playing a clunky emphatic tune on the piano, ending with a smash on the keyboard. In a novel such events are usually strung out into separate narratives; here they attain something of the co-presence of important events as they meld in our memories. The music unites, but also differentiates the scenes: the piano smash is poised against the finely sustained and punctuated melody to which Professor Bhaer recites Goethe’s “Kennst du das Land,” a melody that has a number of harmonic touches characteristic of the German Lied. It might be objected that by making Bhaer such an attractive character Adamo fails to register Alcott’s own doubt about the propriety of marrying off her main character—Alcott felt that she was giving in to her readers’ wishes, and that Jo should have remained a literary spinster; but this is a tiny objection in a scene worked out with great dramatic and compositional care.

Elsewhere, the text and the dramaturgy remain effective, but the music is not so good. There is a good aria, Meg’s “Things change,” Jo, in which she insists on her right to marry despite Jo’s fear of breaking up the family. But there is a fatal lack of contrast, which leads to insipidity, in the absence of more melodic invention than Adamo can muster. He speaks in his program note of the contrast between the tonal music that accompanies presentation of character, versus the dodecaphonic music that accompanies narrative. But if there is dodecaphony, it is the most harmless and unobtrusive dodecaphony I’ve ever heard. Everywhere the music is pallidly peppy for the cheerful scenes, pallidly swoony for the romantical scenes, and pallidly droopy for the sad scenes. Everything in this innocuous music says, “Nothing At Stake Here.”

There is, however, one glorious musical moment, near the beginning, when the sisters sing, in subtle and potent four-part harmony, the word sorority; and again, at the end, when Beth is resurrected in order to complete the four-part harmony on the term One soul. Here the family feeling to which Jo desperately tries to retain through most of the opera is given intense expression.

The singing is good throughout, though the acting is generally bland, a condition not easy to overcome given the blandness of so much of the music. But the remarkably gifted Jo, Stephanie Novacek, registers in facial expression and physical gesture and shifts of voice-color the full range of the opera’s drama—maybe an even fuller range than Adamo himself provides.

Daniel Albright

 

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):