Each week, the crew from Saturday Afternoon at the Opera chooses a hot new opera release that you need to know about. Here's your opera spotlight for April 27, 2013.
Album: Romantische Arien.
Artists: Baritone Christian Gerhaher with the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and conductor Daniel Harding.
Repertoire: Operatic arias from Weber to Wagner.
Label: Sony Classical.
Gerhaher is not best known as an opera singer. Rather, he has built his reputation and career as an interpreter of lieder (German art song). So this recital disc of German opera arias comes a bit out of the blue. It’s not as though opera doesn’t play a part in Gerhaher's career — he’s set to sing a Don Carlo in Toulouse in June — it’s just that he’s known as one of the finest lieder singers of his time.
Gerhaher is a fascinating singer; an intellectual of the stage. He was 23 years old when he decided to make music his career. At the time, in addition to studying voice, he was also going to medical school and studying philosophy. He completed his medical degree as a backup, but his career has never needed the insurance plan.
As a leading exponent of lieder, Gerhaher is used to making every word heard and understood. His diction is outstanding and his voice is clear, bell-like and pure.
All too often, singers record music that’s been trotted out again and again. But this disc explores some lesser known operatic gems. Apart from a couple of operatic staples (Wolfram's arias from Wagner's Tannhäuser), Gerhaher sings excerpts from forgotten stage works by Schumann, Schubert, Nicolai and Weber. Their operas are rarely performed today, but contain some truly magnificent music.
The aria from Schubert's Alfonso und Estrella is particularly interesting. It seems closely aligned to the lied writing of Schubert, exhibiting great melody with a strong orchestral backdrop and a colourful musical palate. It makes you wonder why we've not heard more from Schubert as opera composer.
LISTEN “Sei mir gegrüst, o sonne” from Alfonso und Estrella.
For those unfamiliar with opera, this is a perfect gateway disc. For opera fanatics, it's a fascinating album that shows the form in another light.
Opera spotlight: countertenor Xavier Sabata sings Handel arias
Opera spotlight: soprano Aleksandra Kurzak sings Rossini
Christian Gerhaher sings Mahler's Des Knaben Wunderhorn
on May 02, 2013