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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.
31 May 2011
Bach Cantatas, volume 11
Pilgrimages, I suspect, derive a degree of their fruitfulness from the slowness of the journey, a pace born of desire or necessity, that removes the journey from the quotidian, brings the purpose into greater focus, and allows for a richer savoring of the experience.
John Eliot Gardiner’s remarkable Bach Cantata Pilgrimage during the anniversary year of 2000 was in a sense leisurely—a year-long feast of cantatas—and yet also quick-paced, with each week requiring the performance of several new works in different venues. As if to underscore the characteristic slowness of pilgrimages, however, the pace of the release of the live recordings from the Pilgrimage has been unhurried—the complete run of twenty-seven volumes has taken a decade, only completed in 2010. Thus, years after the event, we still have the pleasant discovery of new offerings, as in the 2010 release of the cantatas for the Twentieth and Twenty-first Sundays after Trinity (vol. 11).
With a decade’s worth of recordings at hand, by this time it comes as no surprise that there is little to surprise, except perhaps that the ensemble was able to maintain such high quality throughout the run. In this present volume, the characteristic touches are amply present: an often high-energy exuberance, remarkable stylistic fluency, an impressive command of 18th century performance idioms, and a rich sound palette. Whatever languages they may have encountered on their geographical pilgrimage, it is clear that the language of Bach is one they speak with the natural ease of a mother tongue.
The two liturgical days represented here focus on two themes: the parable of the wedding feast (Matthew 22), harnessed as an anticipation of the heavenly banquet in BWV 162, 49, and 180, and Jesus’s healing of the son of a nobleman (John 4), the prompt for musical essays on faith, doubt, and trust in BWV 109, 38, 98, and 188. Some of the cantatas remind of the degree to which the language and the form were conventionalized. “Ach, ich sehe,” BWV 162, for instance, features the kind of musical-word association that was standard, with fluid melodic and rhythmic motion to suggest the “fountain of all mercy” in the soprano aria, “Jesu, Brunnquell aller Gnaden,” or a rollicking bass line and melismatic prolixity to underscore the rejoicing in the alto-tenor duet, “In meinem Gott bin ich erfreut,” sung with admirable tidiness by Sara Mingardo and Christoph Genz. Yet, there is a significant amount of material that also underscores the range of variety and special touches that Bach brought to his sometimes weekly fare. For example, “Ich geh und suche mit Verlangen,” BWV 49, offers love duets between Jesus and the Christian Soul—more familiarly explored in BWV 21—enriched by the orchestrational additions of obligato organ and violoncello piccolo. “Ich glaube, lieber Herr,” BWV 109, offers a stunningly psychological monologue in the tenor recitative “Des Herren Hand,” in which the inner voices of faith and doubt spar one with the other, sung with expressive depth by Paul Agnew. Not all the variety is innovative, of course. The first chorus of “Aus tiefer Not,” BWV 38 is an old-styled motet, though with modern harmony intact.
Most notable among the solo singers are soprano Joanne Lunn, whose clarity and purity of sound is an unalloyed delight, and countertenor William Towers, whose ease in the high range is remarkable, as is the elegance of his contoured phrasing. The ensemble is uniformly in fine form, but perhaps most memorably so in the opening chorus of “Was Gott tut das ist wohlgetan,” BWV 98, where the instrumental playing is particularly refined and the choral sound at its best—admirably clear and free of constraint. Ten years is a long time from recording to release, but, as in the pilgrimage experience, good things are often well worth the wait.