Recently in Recordings
Carolyn Sampson has long avoided the harsh glare of stardom but become a favourite singer for “those in the know” — and if you are not one of those it is about time you were.
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.
25 May 2012
Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge: Serate Musicali
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.
At the core of the compilation is Rossini’s Serate musicali, a set of eight pieces, which the composer put forward for the study of Italian song, and Joan Sutherland offers a fine interpretation of the set, with her husband Richard Bonynge. These pieces set the tone, with exemplary phrasing. At times it is difficult not to think of Sutherland's operatic accomplishments while listening to her performances of more intimate literature from the nineteenth century. Some might hold that Sutherland’s voice is darker here than on recordings of similar literature that she made earlier in her career, it is nonetheless useful to hear the mature interpretations of these songs. More than that, the other Italian artsongs merit attention for the perspectives they offer on the genre, with rarely recorded works by Leoncavallo, Respighi, Ponchielli, and others.
The remarkable feature of the release is the breadth of styles that the pair execute. With the character pieces of the Serate musicali serving as a point of departure, the recording includes some moving songs by Bellini, which deserve attention for the concise expression the composer brings to such a piece as Dolente imagine di Fille mia and Maliconia, ninfa gentile. Bellini’s Vaga luna, che inargenti is another fine piece, which Sutherland and Bonynge offer seemingly effortlessly. The unique contribution by Verdi, Il poveretto, is charming for what it is, but those unfamiliar with the contributions of Donizetti will find some attractive pieces in this collection, which also demonstrates Sutherland’s command of the genre.
Of the French literature collected in this set, Sutherland’s interpretations of pieces by Massenet demonstrates the qualities in Massenet’s mélodies, as well as selected works by Bizet, Thomas, Adam, and Delibes. Cécile Chaminade is also represented here with her Berceuse, which Sutherland renders persuasively. The Iberian tones of some of the French pieces offer another aspect of literature, as found in Lalo’s L’esclave and Delibes’ Les filles de Cadix.
The studio recordings have a spacious sound, albeit with a somewhat dry acoustic. The voice is prominent, as it should be, with Bonynge supporting with fine style. Sutherland is clear and resonant, as evident in some of the elaborate melismas of the opening set of songs by Rossini. Her glissandi are clean and effective, never out of place or affected. For both performers, the dynamic ranges is appropriate to the music and captured well on the recordings. The well-produced set includes a detailed booklet with not only the full track listings, but also texts and translations of each piece, along with a short commentary on the works. This recording offers not only a different side of the contributions Sutherland and Bonynge made during their careers, but brings to life music that represents an outpouring the romanticism in the over forty pieces in this impressive set.