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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.
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.