Opera arias by Carl Heinrich Graun

lezhnevaCarl Heinrich Graun isn’t exactly a household name today but he was court composer to the extremely musical Frederick the Great who was fond of both his flute and the opera when he wasn’t too busy being beastly to the Austrians.  Anyway, Graun composed a ton of opera and based on the arias on this disk it’s surprising that they are almost completely neglected.  The only Graun opera I have seen is Montezuma which got a video recording in Bayreuth about thirty five years ago so I was quite keen to see what else he had done.

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Baby Kintyre

kintyreAll families, they say, have secrets.  Few perhaps are as lurid as what came to light at 27 Kintyre Avenue, Toronto (about 2km from here) in the summer of 2007 when a contractor renovating the house discovered the mummified body of an infant wrapped in a 1925 newspaper.  Incredibly, the CBC was able to track down the last surviving member of the household from that era, a 92 year old woman living in a retirement home in up-state New York.  Her recollections, which formed the subject of a short two part radio documentary, provided a lot of context and background but few hard facts.  Who the baby was and how it came to be under the floorboards remains very much a mystery.

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Netrebko’s Manon

manonlescautNot too many CDs of new opera recordings, at least of mainstream repertoire, come my way these days.  Studio recordings have become rare and the usual medium is a video recording, itself a spin off from a live broadcast; TV, cinema or web, of a live performance.  This makes sense to me.  Just listening to an opera has always seemed a second best.  Anyway, that’s all by way of saying that I was a bit surprised to find myself listening to a CD edition of a live recording of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut from the 2016 Salzburg Festival.  How did this recording happen you ask?  The answer is on the box, where Anna Netrebko in the title role, gets top billing, even over the composer.

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Dark Star Requiem

darkstarAn email just in from Tapestry informs me that:

Dark Star Requiem by Andrew Staniland and Jill Battson has been nominated for TWO JUNO Awards! Produced by Tapestry in the 2010 Luminato Festival, it is up for Classical Album of the Year: Vocal or Choral Performance (for Tapestry Opera, the Gryphon Trio, and the Elmer Iseler Singers), and for Classical Composition of the Year (for Andrew Staniland)! Congrats to all involved in this landmark recording!

I’d echo that.  Here’s the review that I wrote that appeared in a recent edition of Opera Canada. Continue reading

Aida Garifullina

garifullinaAida Garifullina is a young lyric soprano of Tatar origin who already has some interesting achievements under her belt.  She played Lily Pons in the Florence Foster Jenkins movie, placed first at Operalia in 2013, has sung a string of -ina roles at the Marinsky and is currently a member of the ensemble at the Wiener Staatsoper.  She’s also done concert work with the likes of Dmitri Hvostorovsky and Andrea Bocelli.  Now she’s released a debut CD called Aida Garifullina recorded with the ORF Radio-Symponieorchester Wien and Cornelius Meister.

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Three Worlds

threeworldsIn some ways listening to ballet music without the visuals is even weirder than listening to opera without them but at least it’s easier to rearrange and abridge ballet music for concert purposes.  That’s the case with Max Richter’s Three Worlds: Music from Woolf Works which is his condensation of Woolf Works which he wrote for Wayne McGregor and the Royal Ballet.  As the name suggests it’s inspired by the works of Virginia Woolf and has three movements based on three of the novels; Mrs. Dalloway, Orlando and The Waves.

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Distant Light

distantlightRenée Fleming’s new CD Distant Light is quite unusual for a “diva disc”.  It’s definitely not “Opera’s Greatest Hits” territory.  Rather, it’s in three quite contrasting parts though all are linked by the idea of “emotional landscapes”.  It starts off with Samuel Barber’s Knoxville: Summer of 1915, follows it with settings of Mark Strand poems by Anders Hillborg and finishes up with arrangements of Björk songs.  She’s accompanied throughout by the Royal Stockholm Philharmonic Orchestra with Sakari Oramo conducting.

The Barber piece sets a text by James Agee which is quite fragmentary and not obviously singable.  Barber gives it a setting that varies quite a lot in mood and is full of melodic and rhythmic invention.  It’s very Barber actually.  Fleming is good here.  Her voice is true and clean with no harshness in the upper register and her diction is excellent.  It’s not often that the text in a high soprano setting is this comprehensible.

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