I’ve given up trying to figure out why divas gravitate to certain roles and not others. Years ago, Shirley Verrett told me with an entirely serious expression that her true role in Don Carlo was Elisabetta, “not the one with the eye patch.” For years, Anna Netrebko seemed destined to become the great Desdemona, Manon Lescaut and Madama Butterfly of her generation. But no: the roles do not “speak” to her and Netrebko has bypassed what seems like obvious repertoire in favor of some real head-turning operas, including Norma and Macbeth. Her new CD of Verdi arias seems to be a bold, defiant, “in your face” statement about the direction she is taking with her career. Read more »
Everything about Aleksandra Kurzak’s new disc is a variation on the term “fioritura.” From the fuchsia-colored album design, with the decoratively curvaceous soprano brandishing a bouquet of flowers wearing a patterned ensemble of similar hue, to a collection of arias and scenes that bloom through her spectacular coloratura facility, Bel Raggio is a thing of beauty.
While her first album was a “calling card” recital, designed to showcase her talent across a continuum of popular repertoire, Bel Raggio is devoted exclusively to the work of Gioacchino Rossini. The soprano has made the works of the “master from Pesaro” something of a specialty and his operas have figured prominently in her European career. She adds yet another Rossini heroine to her repertoire when she essays Countess Adele in Le Comte Ory for La Scala in July 2014. Read more »
The last of the Strauss-Hofmannsthal collaborations, Arabella, is a real problem child. The librettist died before significant revisions could be made to the opera and the composer set what remained in dutiful homage to his artistic partner. Intended to evoke the heyday of Vienna and Hapsburg culture, the opera usually benefits from a lovingly traditional approach which reflects the nostalgic heart of the piece.
That is not to say that a radical re-interpretation with the ability to surface something meaningful about the work, its characters or their creators would not be welcome. Unfortunately, this 2012 DVD from the Wiener Staatsoper is neither fish nor fowl. Read more »
Let’s start with some refreshing news: Poèmes is the finest thing Renée Fleming has recorded in many a season.
It is hard to know just who is the intended audience for this release of Pelléas and Mélisande.
“Gioia!” is the title of Aleksandra Kurzak‘s debut aria recital, her first international release under a new exclusive contract with Decca Music Group, and—not surprisingly—this writer’s response to the soprano’s sparkling vocalism. In the liner notes, the Polish soprano explains that the title of this recording was her agent’s suggestion: “He said that he can see the joy on my face when I’m singing. I’ve also heard from fans that listening to me sing makes them smile, because they can tell how much I enjoy performing.”
In this new Decca DVD of Tosca we find a highly intellectual, even fascinating staging at odds with the visceral nature of the original melodrama but one that inspires its cast to great heights. Robert Carsen is a clever producer with an elegant visual palette. He employs the same directorial strategy as his famous Mefistofele staging, a Pirandello-like theatrical alienation that distances his audience from easy engagement with the material, all the while utilizing familiar production elements to challenge and stimulate our perception.
When handing out the goodies, the gods weren’t stingy with Shirley Verrett. Few opera singers were as prodigiously gifted as Verrett: the perfect amalgam of Kunst and Stimm housed in a frame of voluptuous allure. In addition to an instrument of stunning natural beauty and easy range, Verrett displayed superior musicianship, dramatic intelligence and searing interpretative commitment.
According to Mary Garden’s autobiography, Claude Debussy first encountered the Scottish-born diva at the Opéra Comique. After rehearsing her at the piano in a few scenes from his newly completed opera, Debussy said to Garden: “To think that you had to come from the cold far North to create my Mélisande.” He then turned to the theater’s impresario and exclaimed: “I have nothing to tell her.” This 1983 Met broadcast of Pelléas et Mélisande (included in James Levine: Celebrating 40 Years at the Met – CD Box Set), features an Egyptian-Greek enchantress whom Debussy may also have found similarly beyond [...]