Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Remember Those Recordings I Was Going To Buy? Well...

...I ordered them yesterday! As I promised in a recent entry, I finally bought some recordings to enliven my already brimming collection of opera CD's and MP3's. Before I spread this good cheer, let me taint it with a speck of ill news: I did not purchase a single full-length recording. Oh, well, maybe next time.

Here is what I dreamed about getting: Renee Fleming's latest Four Last Songs, Daphne, which was $5.oo when I last checked before today, Sacred Songs DVD, Susan Graham's Un Frisson Francais, Natalie Dessay's Bach Cantatas, Lamenti, Italian Opera Arias, Delirio, and Lakme, Juan Diego Florez's Bel Canto Spectacular, Cecilia Bartoli's La Sonnambula and limited edition Maria, Diana Damrau's Arie di Bravura and Mozart Donnas amidst several others, but I think that gives my readers an adequate display in my taste in music. Things that were not opera related but were still within the realm of classical vocal music were anything (not a title) by Anonymous 4, something by Chanticleer, and the Five Browns' Browns in Blue recording. However, after checking updated prices on the items available used, I did not get anything listed here.

Here is what I ordered: Renee Fleming's Bel Canto and Handel, which I have wanted since it was released some four years ago (Has it really been that long, Renee?), Susan Graham's version of Berlioz's Les nuits d'ete, Cecilia Bartoli's Opera Proibita, and The 5 Browns' Browns In Blue, which has the most beautiful, relaxing, mesmerizing... you get the general idea, recording of Sergei Rachmaninoff's 18th Variation of a Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini I have ever heard.

How I made my choices: this was not quite so hard as it might seem. I had intended to get Strauss's Daphne, but when I saw that it had doubled in price from the unbelievable price it was, I decided to forego getting a complete opera, for I did not have time to scan other complete recordings to check their prices because my mother was ordering all of this and some things for her, so I made some hasty decisions. Cost can be a great determining factor in these types of decisions, too. For instance, I was going to get Natalie Dessay's Delirio, which I had dreamed of getting ever since I saw dozens of donated copies of it at my library sytem's annual sale (AND they were for sale for the paltry sum of fifty cents each; well, I did not know very much about opera, nor had I heard of Natalie Dessay, so I passed them by without so much as a second glance.), but when I saw that it was going to cost me ten dollars with shipping and everything, I did a quick search, and I exchanged it for Renee Fleming's Bel Canto, which many critics and audiences did not really enjoy, but I like it anyway, and I got it for about four dollars including shipping, which I would be inclined to say is a good deal.

As for Cecilia Bartoli's Maria, I was this close to buying it, but my mother walked into the room and brought me to my frugal senses when she said "Are you sure you want that? It's $12.34!" As soon as she said that, I did not care what the review said about how great of an album this was; I said no without the least bit of regret. I decided to go with her Opera Proibita recording instead since I had read favorable reviews for it in Opera News some years before. As an aside, it was welcomed warmly opposite criticism of Renee Fleming's Haunted Heart, for which I did not especially care very much; however, I do not think that Renee should not be able to sing jazz music if she wants to do so. I just will not be listening for very long because I do not really like jazz and blues music styles.

I really, really wanted Bartoli's recent recording of La Sonnambula, but when I saw the price of seventeen dollars, I easily overlooked it. I hope it goes down in price soon, however. This recording of La Sonnambula appears to be an excellent foray of artistry into interpretative liberty or loyalty to the composer's original intent, whichever you care to believe. I shall devote a future post to a performance history of Bellini's gem of vocal beauty.

As for The 5 Browns' CD, aside from the track I previously mentioned, there are so many other piano compositions played with such beauty and elegance on it that I could not have given it up at the reasonable price for which I purchased it. Browns in Blue is their most recent recording, and some think it is their best so far. On their website I have a profile which has seen much inactivity, but if you are ever in need of people who have some moderate expertise in piano playing to offer you tips for your playing, I would say that you may as well get advice from one of their forums as from anywhere else. Had I known that their book, Life Between the Keys, had been released, I would have paid the twelve dollars and cents to peruse it.

As For Renee Fleming's Handel, that was easy. I had wanted it since it was released. Just so you know, the cover of the CD sold it for me! The picture on the front is the very epitomy of elegance. I cannot wait to hear it, and at the price of $3.85 plus shipping, I do not care if I only listen to Ombra mai fu from Serse.

As for Suasan Graham's recording of Hector Berlioz's Les nuits d'ete, I decided that her latest offering, Un frisson Francais, was too expensive for me. When I finally was allowed to watch the Spectacle program featuring Renee Fleming, I heard Rufus Wainright sing L'abscence from the cycle, and it sounded terrible; however, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt when he said it was beautiful, and I could not think of any artist who could better display its beauty than Susan Graham. Besides, it was cheap enough for me.

When all of these jewels arrive, I shall offer reviews of each CD for the benefit of my readers.

Did anyone know that Saturday, February 28th, was Geraldine Farrar's birthday? My classical radio station, with whom I am both delighted and disappointed, played some selections of hers for us to hear that day. I enjoyed them, but the recordings were of less quality than what we are expectant today, so they were garbled in some instances. For all of the Gerryflappers out there, happy birthday, Geraldine. It is worth mentioning that she was one of the star sopranos at the Met in the teens and twenties of the previous century. Be that as it may, Puccini, who was still alive when she was performing, did not like her interpretation of Cio Cio San, and when he composed La Fanciulla Del West for the Met, Emmy Destinn sang opposite Enrico Caruso for its world premiere. Farrar was devestated that she would not be allowed to sing the heroine, and this began years of strenuous relations with the Met; in fact, Arturo Toscaninni, who was the music director at the time did not like her very much either. I am sure that the management would have fired her numerous times if she had not been a box office draw. Nevertheless, she was on hand to host the Met's radio broadcast intermissions at their inception or shortly thereafter, so relations must not have been too strained.

Thank you all for reading, and may God continue to bless you.

1 comment:

Kim said...

Cecilia Bartoli's Opera Proibita is one of my all-time favorite CDs. It is really incredible; it's definitely a better choice than Maria. That's just me though; I prefer Baroque over Bel Canto.

As for Bartoli's La Sonnambula: how funny! I just bought it Tuesday night when I saw her (review will be up shortly); she signed it for me. I bought it for $20 and I thought that was a really great price because how often do you get an entire opera for $20? I have to commando-scavenger-hunt for an opera for $20. The last one I bought for 20 (not incl shipping) was Massenet's Cherubin; and that's rather unknown. Unfortunately, I haven't listened to it yet :( The CD player in my car is broken (double :( ) and I've been too busy studying for my music history test to take time to listen to it at home. However, I'm very excited about it; it's a great cast and an even better concept. Besides, I love period instrument recordings.

Fleming's Last Four Songs album is totally worth getting but only if you like Richard Strauss. Otherwise, I'd suggest just downloading the actual "four songs" off Amazon or something and forgetting about the rest of the album. It's a heavy dose of Strauss. :)

It's fun to read your musings on this subject; it's something I think about all the time and no one really ever talks about it.

Oh, g2g!