Stabat Mater is a 13th-century Roman Catholic hymn to Mary. It has been variously attributed to the Franciscan Jacopone da Todi and to Innocent III. There are two Stabat Mater hymns, one the Stabat Mater Dolorosa is about the Sorrows of Mary, the other, Stabat Mater Speciosa joyfully refers to the Nativity of Jesus. The title of the sorrowful hymn is an incipit of the first line, Stabat mater dolorosa ("The sorrowful mother stood"). The joyful hymn refers to "The beautiful mother stood". The Dolorosa hymn, one of the most powerful and immediate of extant medieval poems, meditates on the suffering of Mary, Jesus Christ's mother, during his crucifixion. It is sung at the liturgy on the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows…
Certainly the somber beauty of Pergolesi's Stabat Mater for soprano, alto, and strings has a lot to do with its popularity. But it must be said that the story of the 26-year-old composer completing the work on his deathbed has always been too romantic for the public–or the music business–to resist. "The instant his death was known," wrote the famous 18th-century traveler Dr. Burney, "all Italy manifested an eager desire to hear and possess his productions." And so it's been ever since. In spite of the competition already on the market, it seems Decca just had to get its prize lyric soprano and hotshot young countertenor together to record the piece. –Matthew Westphal
Countertenor star Andreas Scholl leads an outstanding cast in Handel’s 'Partenope', presented in Francisco Negrin’s stylish, modern-dress staging from The Royal Danish Opera. Scholl gives an outstanding performance, with several contrasting arias that collectively display his unique purity of tone, his virtuosic technique and his sensuous lyricism. Concerto Copenhagen and conductor Lars Ulrik Mortensen are unsung heroes of period-instrument performance, and they make a wonderfully spirited and polished contribution to the production.
Renée Fleming and Andreas Scholl lead a superb cast in Stephen Wadsworth’s celebrated production of Handel’s Rodelinda from the Metropolitan Opera – based on the "Live in HD" transmission to cinemas worldwide. The title role is unique in featuring no less than eight magnificent arias. Renée Fleming’s triumph in the first run of the production was hailed by The New York Times, "Ms Fleming draws on every resource of her artistry in this portrayal: luminous sound, exquisite ornamentation, floating high notes, emotional volatility."
Partenope wasn't a success upon its premiere in 1730. It doesn't have the drama of Giulio Cesare or Serse or the magic of Alcina or Orlando. But this sophisticated comedy has recently come into its own. Sigiswald Kuijken and La Petite Bande kicked off the revival with a path-breaking audio recording in 1979. Since 1998 it has been a staple of the repertory at the New York City Opera. This wonderful DVD from Copenhagen's Royal Theater will solidify Partenope's modern reputation…
German poet and musician Oswald von Wolkenstein (circa 1377-1445) made sure his legacy was secure by having his works compiled into collections during his lifetime. While he was certainly the author of the texts, it is less clear how many of the pieces, which number over 130, include his original music, and how many had his texts applied to preexisting works. In any case, it's an intriguing and attractive body of work, and this collection of 18 of his pieces, plus three other works, makes a fine introduction to his legacy. Von Wolkenstein was a versatile poet, whose topics include his own fascinating biography, courtly love, erotic love, and religious devotion.
. . . vocal subtleties achieve their own high definition, and we can better appreciate the period theorbo and recorders that conductor Harry Bicket adds for flavoring in the pit. Via this medium, characters give every sign of communicating with one another, while the producer's agile camera focuses tightly on individual expressions to register the characterizations that are so crucial to Baroque opera's theater of personality. It also helps that this matinée in December 2011 finds Renée Fleming, as Rodelinda, and countertenor Andreas Scholl, as the deposed king Bertarido, in stronger vocal form than when the revival opened a month earlier. The soprano invests her high-speed passagework with convincing venom in arias such as "Morrai, sì" and, when the occasion demands, spins a subtle line, easing effortlessly in and out of trills . . . David J. Baker, Opera News
More than many opera seria, Handel's 1725 Italian opera, "Rodelinda", provides such a palpable story of jealousy, revenge and undying devotion that it is no wonder the opera itself has been given such widely diverse translations over the years. I was fortunate to experience two wonderful productions of "Rodelinda" just this past year. The first was Stephen Wadsworth's elaborate Metropolitan Opera production set on a beautiful 18th-century country estate, starring superstar soprano Renée Fleming in the title role and the extraordinary countertenor David Daniels as her husband Bertarido. The second also starred Daniels but with rising soprano Catherine Naglestad in David Alden's expressionistic film noir adaptation at the San Francisco Opera (first staged by Munich's Bavarian State Opera)… By Ed Uyeshima