Home     Content     Articles      La Scena Musicale     Search   

La Scena Musicale - Vol. 5, No. 4

Holiday Gift Ideas

December 1, 1999

Version française...

The Strauss Operas
Various Conductors/Soloists
Sawallish, Runnicles, et al.; Popp, Hass,
King, Bonney, Seiffert, et al. (AE 204)
Can be ordered at www.operaclassics.com

Is Technology the friend of Art? So might the Countess muse in some postmodern rehashing of Strauss' Capriccio. And so might the wired 90's opera fan ponder, should he come upon the Strauss CD-ROM compiled by Opera Classics and Mike Richter. Richter, long a sort of internet muse to the opera community, has used new media technology to publish several releases of recondite treasures such as the complete master classes of Callas at Juilliard (which had been long unavailable though much sought-after in certain circles).

The Strauss offering features restrained use of CD-ROM technology--no flashy visual interfaces here, beyond a few photos and some thorough, if awkwardly written performer bios. That said, Richter has used the format to pack the entire operatic output of Richard Strauss (with some works in several versions) into a single, quite affordable disc. The choices range from thrilling--Rysanek's approximate but gripping Klytamnestra; a Capriccio with Popp, at long last!--to puzzling (this Sukis woman will win no fans for poor, staid, neglected Daphne; and why so much Sabine Hass?!). But universally these are rare and intriguing records. Overlooking a few technical inconveniences, the disc is generally easy to use, and the overall sound is good if perhaps too clearly live.

- Gregory Freed

Kyra Vayne: A Voice Reborn
(London: Arcadia Books 1999)
ISBN 1-900850-27-3
(softcover, 190 pages, $15.99)

Kyra VayneThe life of soprano Kyra Vayne is the stuff of grand opera. Born eighteen months before the Bolshevik Revolution, her White Russian parents escaped Stalinist Russia in 1924 and settled in London. In her heyday in the fifties, Vayne sang with the greats such as Gigli, Bergonzi, Tagliavini, and Gobbi, and she gave concerts in Montreal and Toronto. Disaster struck when her manager committed suicide and Vayne was left penniless. She had to work as a secretary and a cook to survive. In the early nineties, she was "re-discovered" by a dedicated group of vocal cognoscenti, with led to appearances on BBC and CBS Sunday Morning. Her long-forgotten tapes were re-issued on CDs by Preiser, and recently, at age 81, she recorded an album of songs on the Eklipse label. She has been invited to give a masterclass in the soon to re-open Covent Garden.

Although the autobiography involves the efforts of writer Andrew Palmer, it is clearly in the diva's own words, often in a 'stream of consciousness' style. We are treated to amusing and sad stories about friends and colleagues, with choice comments reserved for Tito Gobbi and Ferruccio Tagliavini. On the downside, the book could use better organization and copy editing, but these are minor blemishes in an otherwise most enjoyable read. A perfect Christmas gift for opera buffs.

* Kyra Vayne (Preiser 89996)
* Kyra Vayne Volume 2 (Preiser 89993)
* Kyra Vayne (Eklipse EKR P-16)
* Nostalgia with Kyra Vayne (\Eklipse EKR P-19)

- Joseph So

My Christmas Wish List

I receive several Christmas wish-lists from children, but I must admit that I had forgotten how wonderful it was to draw one up. Records are always good gift ideas and from this year's cru I should like to suggest the following.

Karina Gauvin is one of Canada's most complete artists and this year she has released two wonderful records: Fêtes Galantes with pianist Marc-André Hamelin (Analekta), devoted to French mélodies, as well as a collection of beautiful classical Christmas songs with Michael McMahon (CBC Records). The German baritone, Mathias Goerne's superb record of Schumann lieder with Eric Schneider (piano) includes a gorgeous account of Liederkreis, Opus 39. Vivaldi opera has always been unfairly neglected by record companies, but Cecilia Bartoli's new recording of Vivaldi excerpts on Decca with the brilliant Il Giardino Armonico redresses the balance somewhat. I am a historical reissue groupie, so for an opera lover who has everything, try Myto's fabulous reissue of the Kirov's historicla recording of Mussorgsky's opera Khovanschina, starring the great Sofia Preobrazhenskaya. Finally, I would suggest that you consider buying a subscription to a music magazine - BBC Music and Opéra International are my favorites -- or even better, buy a subscription package or tickets to concerts by your favorite music organization because ultimately, there is nothing like live performances -- and I'm sure that Santa would agree.

- Richard Turp

Version française...

(c) La Scena Musicale