Recently in Recordings
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.
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?
12 Mar 2012
Netrebko and Garanča in Donizetti’s Anna Bolena
The cinema world has given us “star vehicle,” a term used to describe a movie that may not have the best script or direction but which suits a popular actor’s persona so well the film can fairly be called a successful entertainment.
Gaetano Donizetti’s first big success, Anna Bolena, serves as a
“star vehicle” in the 2011 production from the Vienna State Opera, with
Anna Netrebko in the title role and Elīna Garanča as Giovanna Seymour,
Bolena’s rival for the attention of King Enrico VIII. As one of the
composer’s longer operas, Anna Bolena tends to be something of a
drag. The title character is unhappy from start to finish, and while the tragic
conclusion has real power, too much of the rest of the score fails to rise
above the workmanlike.
The female leads easily overshadow the two male leads, both very capable
(Ildebrando D’Arcangelo as Enrico and Francesco Meli as Bolena’s supposed
partner in royal infidelity, Lord Percy). The male roles only help to set up
the opera’s other highlight, the confrontation between the doomed Queen and
Seymour. In that scene Netrebko and Garanča bring a production to fierce life
that, to that point, had been gliding along in somewhat perfunctory, if
glamorous, fashion. For Netrebko, the role requires some of the bel
canto dexterity that many critics find her lacking in. She shines in long
lines and soaring passion, where her large voice can dominate the orchestra.
Dramatically, she seems disengaged until the opera’s last scenes, however.
Garanča’s Seymour earns the audience’s sympathy with her initial
reluctance to accept the King’s favors, and the singer’s beauty helps as
well, of course. While her voice certainly has a darker tinge than that of a
soprano, Garanča is a careful, almost inhibited singer and not the sort of
mezzo voice exhibited by a Marilyn Horne or Dolora Zajick. Those who want a bit
more heat or even grit to the voice will be disappointed.
The production is either all meat, no potatoes, or vice versa,
depending on one’s gustatory disposition. For some reason it took two
designers (Jacques Gabel and Claire Sternberg) to come up with the stark and
simple sets. The visual attraction all comes from Luisa Spinatelli’s
luxurious period costumes. Eric Génovèse’s direction offers nothing new,
even ending with Netrebko’s preferred pose of lying on her back (with a
descending wall partition symbolizing the ax, one supposes).
Singer’s conductor Evelino Pidò maintains a strong pulse, and the female
chorus at the start of act two is particularly beautiful. The only bonus
features the set offers are brief spoken act summaries from Ms. Garanča. As a
“star vehicle” then, Anna Bolena is done fine service by this
Deutsche Grammophon DVD. Those who adjust their expectations will have a fine