Recently in Recordings
As the editor of Opera magazine, John Allison, notes in his editorial in the June issue, Donizetti fans are currently spoilt for choice, enjoying a ‘Donizetti revival’ with productions of several of the composer’s lesser known works cropping up in houses around the world.
Philippe Jaroussky lends poetry and poise to the sounds of nineteenth- and
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.
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