Recently in Recordings
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.
16 Nov 2012
Gustav Mahler: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen, Rückert-Lieder, Kindertotenlieder.
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.
While the orchestral versions of all three cycles are performed often, it is good to have the keyboard versions of these works, which give appropriate emphasis to the vocal line in the intimate collaboration between the vocalist and her accompanist. All solid performances, the engineering of this recording does not always serve the balances well, with the piano sometimes sounding distant from the voice. This is not an impediment in the recording itself, but detracts from some of the more extroverted passages in the second and third songs of the Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen. Ging’ heut morgen über’s Feld should have a robust quality, which does not emerge in the recording, and the following song, Ich hab’ ein glühend Messer needs an explosive, almost percussive opening, which is recorded at a somewhat low volume in this release. Nevertheless, the intimacy between the voice and piano is effective in the final song of the cycle, Die zwei blauen Augen, which benefits from the elegiac approach Haselböck gives the song. Never maudlin or indulgent, this interpretation gives a sense of the text, with phrasing that offers a sense of the poetic line within the larger context of the vocal structure.
With the Rückert-Lieder, though, the tempos are an issue, with Liebst du um Schönheit and Ich bin der Welt abhanden gekommen sometimes falling short of the direction of the line that works admirably in Um Mitternacht. In the latter song, the intensity that some singers reserve for the final strophe is present throughout, as Haselböck shapes the work with solid phrasing and outstanding diction. The first song in this recording of the cycle, Blicke mir nicht in die Lieder seems somewhat detached, despite the intense and masterful accompaniment that never flags in this performance. Here, as elsewhere in the recording Ryan evinces a meticulous quality, with clean articulations and precise rhythms to bring out the line and define the textures.
The Kindertotenlieder are effective though, and marred only sometimes weak acoustics. In performing this cycle Haselböck has excellent focus in the first and last songs of the cycle, with a solid interpretation of Nun will die Sonn’ so hell aufgeh’n setting the tone appropriately. This familiar piece is appealing in this performance, as is the subsequent one, Nun seh’ ich wohl, warum so dunkle Flammen, in the somewhat introspective reading of the piece. Yet the final song of the cycle stands out for the convincing interpretation that the performers bring to In diesem Wetter, which has admirable intensity and narrative drive. This recording gives a sense of Haselböck’s fine mezzo, which stands well with some of the other recordings of this important song cycle from Mahler’s maturity. Haselböck has a range which fits this cycle particularly well, with resonant low notes, where needed, and a solid upper range that distinguishes her mezzo-soprano voice. Russell Ryan’s deft touch is a strong part of the recording, as he brings out lines, shapes the counterpoint, and supports the performance without competing with the singer in presenting the important Lieder from the turn of the last century.
James L. Zychowicz