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German baritone Olaf Bär’s final (and excellent) recording for EMI pairs him with German soprano Juliane Banse. Both are singers of impeccable taste and musicianship. Schumann wrote Myrten in 1840, during a “manic” period of tremendous creative activity. Myrten is more of an anthology than a true cycle, but the 26 songs are some of the greatest lieder extant. An added bonus is Zwölf Gedichte aus Ruckert’s Liebesfrühling, twelve songs set to texts by the poet Ruckert. This composition was a collaboration between Robert Schumann and his beloved wife Clara. Bär brings much experience and musical wisdom to his interpretations,…

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Rossini: Il barbiere di Siviglia National Arts Center Orchestra / Opera Lyra Ottawa Male Chorus Donna Brown (Rosina), Theodore Baerg (Figaro), Allan Monk (Doctor Bartolo), Torin Chiles (Count Almaviva), Alexander Savtchenko (Don Basilio), Christina Harvey-Finlay (Berta), Doug MacNaughton (Fiorello). Susan Haig (conductor). National Arts Center. March 14, 1998. Opera Lyra recently treated the Ottawa public to a fine production of Rossini’s Il barbiere di Siviglia, the second and final staged operatic production of its 1997-98 season. That production also marked the company debut of the Ottawa-based soprano Donna Brown (see interview in La Scena Musicale Feb./March 1998), and she was…

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Chinese soprano Ying Huang burst onto the scene last year with an exquisite portrayal of the title role in Frédéric Mitterand’s film version of Madama Butterfly. Trained in the Shanghai Conservatory and with little prior stage experience, Huang was chosen out of a field of several hundred Asian sopranos by conductor James Conlon, who saw in her a rare combination of talent, looks, and charisma that was perfect for the fifteen-year old geisha. He coached her intensively for six months, and the result was a movie universally praised for the singing and acting of its heroine. Their collaboration continues with…

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Montréal audiences still remember Canadian baritone Desmond Byrne’s powerful portrayal of the title role in Alban Berg’s Wozzeck, a co-production of the Banff Centre for the Arts and the Nouvel Ensemble Moderne, staged at the Monument National two years ago. In October of 1996 Byrne went to the Kammeroper, Vienna, to sing the role of Olin Blitch in the Austrian premiere of Carlisle Floyd’s Susannah. Early in 1997 American bass-baritone Dean Peterson, who was scheduled to sing Blitch at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, fell ill. Byrne was called to Berlin to cover the role. While in the German capital he…

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Following recent appearances at the Met as Desdemona (1995), Fiordiligi, and Marguerite (both 1996), American soprano Renée Fleming has suddenly become the darling of Met audiences. Her final performance of Rusalka on May 10, 1997 was quite simply the most gorgeous singing I have ever heard. Fleming is a fine, naturally stately actress, as ravishing to the eye as to the ear. But it is her voice – and what a voice! – that by its sheer purity and cathartic power pushes one to emotional extremes. Though the musical world is reacting as if Renée Fleming just fell from the…

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For all the talk about the “magic of opera”, really successful performances are so rare that dedicated operaphiles have grown accustomed to waiting long – and travelling far – in search of a sublime theatrical experience. Productions and performances that succeed in creating the illusion of a believable parallel world (even for a few minutes, let alone a whole evening) are the exception to the rule. For every minute of Art we endure countless hours of pretentious, banal, incompetent singing and acting. But when that transcendental moment occurs, the floodgates of feeling open. One’s patience is rewarded and life suddenly…

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