Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Gluck: Orfeo ed Euridice

This elegant, smartly-paced film turns Gluck’s Orfeo into a Dostoevskian study of a guilt-wracked misanthrope, portrayed by American countertenor Bejun Mehta.

Die Entführung aus dem Serail @ Hangar-7

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: Notturno

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 Sings Mahler Lieder

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.

Gergiev’s Das Rheingold

Das Rheingold launches what is perhaps the single most ambitious project in opera, Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen

Hänsel und Gretel

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.

Magdalena Kožená: Love and Longing

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 Magdalena Kožená.

Once I was: Songs by Ricky Ian Gordon

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.

Amore e Tormento

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.’ 

Rivals—Arias for Farinelli & Co.

In generations past, an important singer’s first recording of Italian arias would almost invariably have included the music of Verdi. 

Verdi at the Old MET

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.

Italo Montemezzi: L’amore dei tre re

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. 

Così fan tutte from DG

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. 

Heart’s Delight: The Songs of Richard Tauber

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.

Adriana Lecouvreur from Decca

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.

Lawrence Brownlee’s Spiritual Sketches

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.

Great Wagner Conductors from DG

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 archives.

Great Wagner Singers from DG

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.

Adding Movie Magic to The Magic Flute

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?

L’Incoronazione di Poppea from Virgin Classics

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. 

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Oliver Knussen: Symphonien Nr.2 & 3
10 Aug 2012

Oliver Knussen’s Symphonies from NMC

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.

Oliver Knussen: Symphony No 2 and No 3, Ophelia Dances, Trumpets, Coursing for chamber orchestra, Op. 17, Cantata for oboe & string trio, Op. 15.

Elaine Barry, Linda Hurst, sopranos. The Nash Ensemble, The Philharmonia Orchestra. Conductor: Michael Tilson Thomas. The London Sinfonietta, Conductor: Oliver Knussen.

NMC D175 [CD]

$14.99  Click to buy

Kertész was unwell, so 15-year-old Oliver Knussen conducted it himself. Two weeks later, Daniel Barenboim conducted the New York premiere

What an illustrious start to any career ! Yet, in a gesture of artistic maturity, Knussen soon disowned his first big success. Still in his teens, he left London and his many connections, and went to the United States to start afresh. America was the making of Oliver Knussen, who is now one of the most important composers, conductors and all-round mentors of British music. This recording, released by independent British music specialists NMC Records, commemorates Knussen's early years at Tanglewood, where he would later become Head of Contemporary Music. It's the first in a planned restrospective of Knussen's career.

Knussen's Symphony no 2 (1970) is thus his first major work, written at the age of 18. It's a surprisingly adventurous work, given his age, but already the germs of Knussen's style are present. This is a song symphony, inspired by poems by Sylvia Plath and Georg Trakl, with oblique but unsettling images of unpeaceful dreams. Knussen even combines the two poets in the first movement, further blurring boundaries. In the second movement, the soprano ((Elaine Barry), sings long, arching lines, and the orchestra is "drone-like", as Knussen has said himself. Rather than building density, Knussen lightens texture, pairs oif instruments dancing briefly, then go quiet, leaving two flutes alone in a final, whimsical cadenza. Does Knussen's Songs For Sue(2006) have its origins in his first "real" symphony, completed when he first went to America?

Knussen's sojourn in the United States also resulted in his Symphony No 3 (1973-79). Knussen took his cue from Shakespeare's Ophelia, distraught with grief, singing "mad songs" in Hamlet. The symphony is abstract, but Knussen has referred to its "cinematic" nature and "the potential relationship in film between a tough and fluid narrative form and detail which can be frozen or 'blown up' at any point." Without words, Knussen creates drama, in the shifting layers and tempi. Each permutation unfolds like a frenzied dance, or perhaps processional, given the size of these orchestral forces. Michael Tilson-Thomas, the dedicatee, conducts on this recording, made in 1981. Knussen's Third Symphony is rarely heard live so when Knussen himself conducts it at the BBC Prom 56 on 25th August 2012, it should be a major occasion. Already, I'm contemplating how Knussen will conduct it then, with the BBC SO.

From this same period, Ophelia Dances and Trumpets arise like offshoots from the Third Symphony. In Trumpets, the soprano stretches like a trumpet call, three clarinets in attendance. Ophelia Dances reiterates the concept of fragmented dance-like motifs in confluence. Coursing (1979), isn't connected to the symphony but its surging flow relates to the image of Ophelia, dead and no longer singing, borne along the river. It was written to honour Elliott Carter's 70th birthday. Carter is now 103, and Knussen turns 60 this year.

Anne Ozorio

For more information on this recording, please visit the NMC website.

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):