In his memoirs Richard Strauss had the foresight to put down what he called his “10 Golden Rules for Young Conductors.” It’s a fairly comprehensive list in spite of being so short with pithy comments like, “Never look encouragingly at the brass.” Number three has always been the one that’s fascinated me most: “Conduct Salome and Elektra as if they were by Mendelssohn: Fairy music.” Seriously, how often has that happened? The average performance of Strauss’ Elektra reaches a decibel level akin to the landing deck of a fully functional aircraft carrier. I’ve even heard rumors that the John Culshaw produced ‘sonic-stage’ spectacular Decca recording with Georg Solti conducting and Birgit Nilsson’s all-out assault on the title role can be heard from space. Read more »
Vienna never really forgave Erich Wolfgang Korngold for going to work in the movies. When the exiled composer returned from Hollywood after World War 2 to mount a comeback, he was dismissed as a has-been who all too eagerly cast off high art for the commercialism of the silver screen.
Korngold, it must be said, led with his chin by bringing for the occasion Die stumme Serenade (The Silent Serenade), an hybrid opera-Cabaret that mixes elements of golden age film music with high fructose arias, skittering orchestral accompaniments and other démodé effects as comforting as a serving of Mohr im Hemd. A city by then eager to turn the page and dabble in modernism sneered at the confection, sending Korngold sulking back to California, where he spent his final years miserable and in poor health. Read more »
Once upon a time, a man and a woman met. He could sing, she could sing. They fell in love, got married, and became a power couple to rival Billary. I’m talking, of course, of Giulia Grisi and Mario, opera’s original Love Couple. Since Giulia Grisi, many singers have met, fell in love, and married, and marketed themselves as the New Love Couple. Read more »
To some, Anne Schwanewilms will always be the soprano in the slinky black dress who replaced Deborah Voigt at Covent Garden a decade ago.
His 75-minute setting of Oedipus in Kolonos, heard in a live 2009 performance on MDR Klassik, illustrates how Mendelssohn tried to link ancient forms with Romantic-era sensibilities by fashioning harmonically adventurous chorales and believable characters instead of abstract musical representations of mythical figures.
Once again, beloveds, we approach the Milanese shrine that simultaneously attempted to cultivate and destroy the career of Maria Meneghini Callas.
“To play La Pompadour—what a delightful task! To be La Pompadour—what a gruesome fate!”
Lawrence Brownlee’s new album Virtuoso Rossini Arias demonstrate both how far the tenore di grazia has come in the operatic world.
With orchestral and choral forces that could outnumber a small European village, Arnold Schoenberg’s Gurre-Lieder is a composition designed to overwhelm.
Perhaps there are not that many people in the world who would look at a CD cover and think “Oh, goody, goody! A libretto by Eugène Scribe I’ve never come across before!”