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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.
08 Feb 2012
Gustav Mahler: Das Lied von der Erde
Recorded on 14 June 1964 at the Großer Saal of the Musikverein, Vienna, as part of the Wiener Festwochen, this legendary performance of Mahler’s Das Lied von der Erde was released in 2011 on Deutsche Grammophon.
Wunderlich is not unknown with this piece, since the Mahler discography includes a masterful studio recording of Das Lied with Christa Ludwig, alto, and Ottol Klemperer, conductor (an EMI recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra). While that EMI release offers the customary version of Das Lied with tenor and also, the Krips recording presents the work in the other scoring Mahler sanctioned, the one for baritone and tenor. While convention tends to favor the tenor and alto pairing, the tenor and baritone version is also effective, especially when it involves such talented performers as Wunderlich and Fischer-Dieskau, who were particularly moving in this 1964 recording.
As the culmination of Das Lied, the final song, “Der Abschied,” requires attention to the details of line and orchestration in conveying the symphonic expression of orchestral song. In this recording Fischer-Dieskau offers a moving performance, which is sensitive to the poetic and musical line. Dynamic levels and timbre are impressive in this recording, which gives a sense of leave-taking, but not resignation. The final section of “Der Abschied” merits attention for the manner in which the baritone resolves the dramatic climax of the music line in the iterations of the work “ewig” (“forever”) with which the piece concludes. While Fischer-Dieskau’s later recordings of Das Lied with Murray Dicke (conducted by Paul Kletzki) and with James King (conducted by Leonard Bernstein) have been available for years, this performance by Krips preserves the Fischer-Dieskau at an earlier point in his career. The orchestral playing is laudable in an interpretation that suggests accompanied song, without the emphasis on symphonic elements which emerges in other performances.
In addition, the close miking in “Der Einsame im Herbst” gives a sense of the precision Fischer-Dieskau brought to the concert, with well-articulated consonants, extended vowels, where necessary, and elegant phrasing. While the recording contains some stage or audience sounds, they never detract from the overall impression of this moving performance. In “Von der Schönheit” Fischer-Dieskau evinces the delicacy the piece requires, especially when the scoring involves the lower timbre of a baritone. In this song, Krips offers nice contrast in the middle section, with the fast tempo never challenging Fischer-Dieskau’s ability to enunciate the text precisely, with the accompaniment valiantly matching the vocalizing.
In the tenor songs, Wunderlich is as impressive as he is on the studio recording. The opening song “Das Trinklied von Jammer der Erde” is a tour de force. The urgent tempo with which Krips starts the piece affords Wunderlich the chance to demonstrate his facility with the musical line and the exquisite diction in rendering the text. Based on a radio broadcast, the sound is clear, but sometimes dry and less textured than found in later, stereo recordings. It is nevertheless possible apprehend Krips’ command of the orchestra, and his persuasive interpretation of the score. In “Von der Jugend,” Wunderlich is also impressive, with his phrasing of the text fitting well into Mahler’s musical line. Here the timbre is evidence of Wunderlich’s command of this piece, as he meets the demands of the song consummately. The third of Wunderlich’s pieces, “Der Trunkene im Frühling” complements the other two performances, with the interpretation giving a sense of the song without some of the overstatement which some performers bring to the sense of inebriation implicit in the text.
This release makes a famous performance of Das Lied from 1964 available in a modern release. As part of the Wiener Festwochen, the recording is evidence of the presence of Mahler’s music around the time that the general public rediscovered Mahler’s music. The solid interpretation Krips brought to the score shows the conductor’s solid grasp of the score and his solid sense of Mahler’s style. Mahlerians should appreciate this release for the contribution it offers to the composer's discography.