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.
09 Mar 2011
Déodat De Séverac: Le Coeur du Moulin
Interesting recordings continue to be produced in the classical music business by smaller labels with particular niche markets. For the label Timpani, their specialty tends to be rarer French repertoire.
A defining example of this specialty can be found in Timpani’s release of Le Couer du Moulin, a short opera by one Déodat de Séverac. Jacques Tchamkerten’s booklet essay (as translated into somewhat cumbersome English prose by Jeremy Drake) offers the expected testament to the composer (“
one of France’s
most naturally musical composers
”) to be found in a recording that a company has deemed worthy of producing. However, Tchamkerten is also refreshingly blunt about the work’s limitations, especially the unfortunate libretto, pointing out “the artificiality of its language”, the “fairly ill-defined” characters, and the “unconvincing” supernatural voices. Once past these negative comments, Tchamkerten’s embarks on a more detailed analysis of the score, relating the perceived felicities of Séverac’s compositional style — a blend of traditional harmony and the expanding orchestral palette of his countryman and contemporary, Claude Debussy.
Indeed, the essay begins with a quotation from Debussy, passing along — second-hand — a rather anodyne compliment about Séverac’s score (it “smells good”!). Even a casual listener will quickly pick up an aural sense of deja vu, as both the mood of the piece and many orchestral details sound very much like the master’s contemporaneous work, Pelléas et Mélisande. Tchamkerten points out that Debussy's opera had not premiered at the time of Séverac’s first version of his own opera, but that claim alone doesn’t prevent anyone from believing that Debussy’s work made a great impression on Séverac, an impression now heard in the final version of his work. In fact, for many listeners who lose patience with the free-floating ambience of Debussy masterwork, Séverac’s opera may strike them as a work that captures the best of Pelléas’s spectral beauty while being easier to follow and more superficially tuneful.
Ultimately, however, Le Coeur du Moulin is a rather slight work. The story is a tedious rural love triangle, encumbered with overly poetic language and devices, and with a story that promises conflict but never produces any. Jacques had loved Marie and then went away to serve as a soldier. His delayed return led Marie to believe herself abandoned, and she married Pierre. Jacques returns, whereupon he and Marie discover their love still beats on. However, the voices of nature and wise folk of the town manage to help Jacques realize he cannot interfere in Marie’s married life, and he leaves. By comparison, Pelléas et Mélisande comes off as red-blooded and rambunctious as Cavalleria Rusticana.
Listeners might do well then to skip or barely skim the provided English translation of the libretto and just enjoy the fine performance by the Tours company forces under the experienced baton of Jean-Yves Ossonce. The soloists are all effective, and the recorded sound clear and atmospheric. If one keeps one’s expectations modest, anyone who enjoys French music of the first half of the twentieth century — and why wouldn’t one? — will find this Timpani release a pleasant experience.