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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.
The economics of the recording companies dictate much that is not ideal.
Wagner’s operas were not composed as they were in order to permit the
extraction of bleeding chunks, even on those occasions when strophic song forms
Among the recent recordings of Mahler’s Eighth Symphony, Valery Gergiev’s release on the LSO Live label is an excellent addition to the discography of this work.
While not unknown, the songs of Alexander von Zemlinsky (1871-1942) deserve to be heard more frequently.
Recorded on 5 and 6 May 2008 and 17 and 18 January 2009 at the Lisztzentrum (Raiding, Austria), this recent Bridge release makes available the piano-vocal versions of three song cycles by Gustav Mahler, Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert-Lieder, and Kindertotenlieder performed by mezzo-soprano Hermine Haselböck, accompanied by Russell Ryan.
Contraltos rarely achieve the acclaim and renown of sopranos. Assigned few leading roles in opera, they are condemned to playing the villain or the grandmother, or to stealing the castrati’s trousers in en travesti roles.
Following their 2011 Decca recording of Striggio’s Mass in 40 Parts (1566), I Fagiolini continue their quest to unearth lost treasures of the High Renaissance and early Baroque, with this collection of world-premiere recordings, ‘reconstructions’ and ‘reconstitutions’ of music by Giovanni and Andrea Gabrieli, Monteverdi, Palestrina, and their less well-known compatriots Viadana, Barbarino and Soriano.
Eternal Echoes is an album of khazones [Jewish cantorial music] for cantorial soloist, solo violin and a blended instrumental ensemble comprising a small orchestra and the Klezmer Conservatory Band.
Michael Tilson Thomas’s recording of Mahler’s Third Symphony is an outstanding contribution to the composer’s discography.
Oliver Knussen burst into British music with an unprecedented flourish. In 1967, the London Symphony Orchestra premiered Knussen’s First Symphony, with István Kertész scheduled to conduct.
Based on performances given in Summer 2010 at the Lucerne Festival, this recording of Beethoven’s Fidelio is an admirable recording that captures the vitality of the work as conducted by Claudio Abbado.
Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) was one of the most popular composers of his day in Poland, and of the many works he wrote for the stage, two are performed from time to time, Halka (1848) and Strazny dwór [The Haunted Manor] (1865).
The Polish alto Jadwiga Rappé is a familiar voice in various stage and concert works, and the recent release of a selection of songs by Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) is an opportunity to hear her performing artsongs.
Originally released on multiple discs in 1981 this reissue on two CDs is a comprehensive collection of art songs by Italian and French composers from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
An exciting contribution to the discography of this popular opera, the live performance of Richard Strauss’s Salome from the Festspielhaus at Baden-Baden is a compelling DVD.
Released in late 2011, Deutsche Grammophon’s DVD of the new staging of Berg’s Lulu at the Gran Teatro del Liceu, Barcelona is an excellent contribution to the discography of this fascinating opera.
A recent release by the Metropolitan Opera, this two-disc set makes available on DVD the famous performance of Berg’s Lulu that was broadcast on 20 December 1980 as part of the PBS series “Live from the Met.”
The novels of Sinclair Lewis once shot across the American literary skies like comets, alarming and fascinating readers of that era, but their tails didn’t extend far behind them.
Once the province of only the most dedicated opera fanatics, mid-20th century recordings of privately taped live performances have become more widely available.
Flute players in opera orchestra around the world must look forward to the frequent appearances of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, knowing that while the stage spotlight in the mad scene will be on the soprano, the orchestral spotlight will be on their instrument.
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