Holiday Gift Ideas

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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.

Discography:
* 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

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About Author

Joseph K. So is Professor Emeritus at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, but his first love is music, which he studied as an undergraduate student at the State University of New York. Since seeing his first live opera – La Gioconda with Renata Tebaldi at the Met in 1967, the singing voice became his lifelong favourite instrument. In addition to his longtime contributions to La Scena Musicale and The Music Scene, he is Associate Editor of Opera Canada and a frequent contributor to Musical Toronto.

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