Kiri Te Kanawa does well by these songs, avoiding the billowing excesses of sentiment that in other hands (or vocal chords) can make them sound much too soggy. Although Berlioz gathered them all together under the present title, all of the songs were composed at different times for different singers, so they aren't really a cycle at all. I seldom listen to all of them at once, and you should feel free to take them in any order that suits you. "The Death of Cleopatra" is an early cantata that perfectly suits Jessye Norman's stately delivery. She's always at her best playing royalty, and if they're dying in mortal agony, so much the better.
While Kiri Te Kanawa was still preparing for that career-defining debut as the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, she made her first Mozart disc under Colin Davis: a collection of sacred music, including the Solemn Vespers, KV 339, with its serene setting of ‘Laudate Dominum’, and Exsultate, jubilate. The Countess became the singer’s calling-card, and she repeated the role immediately in San Francisco and at Glyndebourne. The thwarted Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni followed, again under Davis at Covent Garden, before Kiri took her Countess to the Met in New York in February 1976, and sang her first Fiordiligi in Paris, in a production by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle. The Paris Opera was also the location of Kiri’s debut as Pamina in Die Zauberflöte in 1977. Her leap into superstardom came when she sang at the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana in July 1981…
Original arrangements of Gershwin tunes are rare these days, but that's what you'll hear in this album by Kiri Te Kanawa. Granted, the arrangements sound somewhat dated according to 21st century tastes, but that's what makes them fascinating. These were like nothing anyone else was writing when the George and Ira first brought them to life. Kiri uses a different, somewhat breathier voice than you might be used to on her classical albums, probably not the type of voice Gershwin had in mind, but I think it generally works pretty well.By Dennis Brightwell
Dame Kiri Janette Te Kanawa ONZ DBE AC (born 6 March 1944) is a New Zealand/Māori soprano who has had a highly successful international opera career since 1968. Acclaimed as one of the most beloved sopranos in both the United States and Britain she possesses a warm full lyric soprano voice, singing a wide array of works in multiple languages from the 17th to the 20th centuries. She is particularly associated with the works of Mozart, Strauss, Verdi, Handel and Puccini…
These two disks present a 1982 performance of the Metropolitan Opera's beloved production of Der Rosenkavalier. The staging, directed by Nathaniel Merrill and designed by Robert O'Hearn, is lavishly elegant. James Levine leads a cast that could hardly be bettered. As fanfare's reviewer has written, "No one has ever looked and acted more the Marschallin than Kiri Te Kanawa." Other stars include Tatiana Troyanos as Octavian, Judith Blegen as Sophie, Kurt Moll as Baron Ochs, and Luciano Pavarotti as the Italian tenor.
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa's magnificent soprano breathes a fresh spirit into operatic favorites by Mozart, Puccini and Wagner in this collection of arias and other songs. Per Piate, Ben Mio, O Mio Bambino Caro and Vissi D'Arte are joined by Gustav Holst's In the Bleak Midwinter and the pop classic "The Windmills of Your Mind," among others. A diverse and exciting collection from one of the finest voices of our age.
The operetta Die Fledermaus is Johann Strauss' most brilliant and best-known stage work. It's a glittering comedy packed with Viennese music that has become a firm favourite in opera houses all over the world. A top international cast really have a ball in this highly-acclaimed 1984 New Year's Eve performance from the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, in which Placido Domingo makes a very stylish British conducting debut. Kiri Te Kanawa stars with her celebrated performance as Rosalinde, and the charismatic Austrian baritone Hermann Prey is Eisenstein, one of his trademark roles. The cast also includes Benjamin Luxon as Dr Falke and Hildegarde Heichele as Adele. The magnificent stage designs by Julia Trevelyan Oman recreate all the style and opulence of Viennese society in its golden period before the First World War. This production also features some very surprising celebrity guests at Prince Orlofsky's special gala performance party including comedians Hinge and Bracket, French singer Charles Aznavour and Merle Park and Wayne Eagling in Sir Frederick Ashton's specially choreographed pas de deux.
Simon Boccanegra is one of Verdi's most difficult operas to pull of successfully. First of all, unlike most operas, it is not a love story. Though the relationship between Amelia and Gabrielle is profiled here, it is not the focal point of the plot. Furthermore, there is a constant somber mood that covers the entire opera. Still, this opera is Verdi at his best. The music is haunting and powerful, the plot interesting and touching… By Rochambeau Fan
Maazel's performances appear not only on audio recordings but on film - he was the conductor for film versions of Don Giovanni (Joseph Losey's award-winning adaptation, mentioned below), Carmen and Franco Zeffirelli's interpretation of Otello.
Although primarily known as a conductor, Maazel was no stranger to composition himself, arranging material from Wagner's Ring Cycle into a 75-minute suite, The Ring Without Words, and composing an opera based on George Orwell's dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four; and as if this were not enough, he was also an accomplished violinist (see below for a recording of his performance of Vivaldi's Four Seasons)…
The discography of Strauss’s last opera is not exactly crowded, but the two existing accounts provide formidable competition for any newcomer. First there was Sawallisch, conducting the Philharmonia for EMI in 1957 (unfortunately in mono) and a cast led by Schwarzkopf, Ludwig and Fischer-Dieskau. Then, in 1971, came that other supreme Straussian, Karl Böhm, with Janowitz, Troyanos and (again) Fischer-Dieskau, recorded in Munich for DG. The new Decca set brings together many of today’s leading exponents of Strauss’s roles, dominated, for me, by the unsurpassed Clairon of Brigitte Fassbaender, now alas, never to be heard on stage again following her retirement. Heilmann and Bär make an ardent pair of rival suitors, Hagegård an admirable Count and Halem a sonorous, characterful La Roche. (There is a delightful link with the past history of the opera in the person of Hans Hotter: he sang Olivier in the 1942 premiere, La Roche in the 1957 Sawallisch set, and here, at 84 when recorded in December 1993, a one-line cameo as a servant.) For many, though, the set’s desirability will rest on Te Kanawa’s Countess.