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

Schubert’s Winterreise by Matthias Goerne

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.

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?

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Theofandis: Symphony No. 1 & Lieberson: Neruda Songs
05 Nov 2011

Lieberson’s Neruda Songs and Theofandis’s Symphony No. 1

In 2006 classical music lost one of its great singers — American mezzo-soprano Lorraine Hunt Lieberson, taken at the height of her career.

Christopher Theofandis: Symphony No. 1; Peter Lieberson: Neruda Songs

Kelley O’Connor, mezzo-soprano. Atlanta Symphony Orchestra. Conductor: Robert Spano.

ASO Media CD-1002 [CD]

$16.99  Click to buy

Before she had to stop performing as the cancer that took her life progressed, she had the opportunity to debut a major piece by her husband, the composer Peter Lieberson. As a sort of love offering to his wife, composer Lieberson set a series of 5 poems by Pablo Neruda for mezzo and orchestra, and titled the group “Neruda Songs.” Sadly, Peter Lieberson himself succumbed to cancer in April 2011, and so the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra has dedicated to him its new release (on the orchestra’s own label) of “Neruda Songs,” as well as the first symphony of the American composer Christopher Theofanidis.

Kelley O’Connor takes on the formidable task of singing “Neruda Songs” — formidable mostly because of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson’s storied reputation and the emotional context of a composition written for her by her husband, and which Hunt Lieberson only sang a few times before her death. The actual vocal lines of the five poem settings don’t pose much challenge to Ms. O’Connor’s substantial, handsome mezzo instrument. Each of the settings runs to at least 5 minutes, so that the entire performance reaches over 30 minutes in length. Composer Lieberson’s textures are tastefully adorned with Latinate touches, and the vocal line is consistently supported. Neruda’s poems cover a range of moods within their forms, rather like lengthy paragraphs. Lieberson finds some variety, then, within each piece; overall, however, a mood of contrasting sensuality and melancholy dominates. Lieberson might have considered that some have complained that the “Les nuits d’été” of Berlioz, after the energetic opening piece, settles down into an almost claustrophobic monochromatic texture. Not much really distinguishes one Lieberson setting of a Neruda poem from another. Certainly more melodic distinctiveness would be appreciated. Some more individual coloring from Ms. O'Connor would have been of benefit as well. Nevertheless, there is beauty here, and that increasingly rare quality makes “Neruda Songs” special.

As for the disc's opening tracks of the four movements of Christopher Theofandis’s Symphony No. 1, just imagine an impeccably performed and recorded score to a mid-century documentary on American industrial and business might. The excited, quick figures might accompany scenes of busy pedestrian traffic or speedy assembly lines. Occasional dark textures would suggest the ongoing tensions below the surface of the bustling, active pursuit of the American dream. The music would be interesting enough to bring context and meaning to the images, yet not so distinctive as to draw too much attention to itself. But this is not a documentary score - it’s a symphony. By the end of its thirty minutes, one may feel as if hurried along by an over-excited conductor to a not particularly interesting destination.

Speaking of conductors, Robert Spano is a fine one, and his Atlanta Symphony Orchestra sounds fantastic. However, for those most interested in “Neruda Songs,” the recording with Hunt Lieberson singing would be the way to go.

Chris Mullins

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):