The Verdi Collection: Warner Classics celebrates Riccardo Muti's 75th birthday
The greatest living interpreter of Verdi’s music, lauded by critics and audiences all over the world, Maestro Riccardo Muti celebrates his 75th birthday on 28 July, 2016. Warner Classics marks the occasion with The Verdi Collection, a 28-CD + DVD boxed set bringing together for the first time Muti’s milestone recordings of 11 complete operas, the Requiem and the Four Sacred Pieces.
His extraordinary Verdi legacy is also explored in detail in the boxed set’s DVD documentary Riccardo Muti conducts Giuseppe Verdi, in which Maestro Muti himself takes viewers behind the scenes in rehearsals and on to thrilling concert performances, on his personal journey through the passion and drama expressed in music by the Italian greatest opera composer.
Drawn from the EMI catalogues (now part of Warner Classics) and spanning more than 20 years of collaboration between Muti and the label, each recording in The Verdi Collection is a benchmark interpretation, featuring opera legends Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo,José Carreras, Mirella Freni, Montserrat Caballé and Renata Scotto at the height of their powers.
No composer is closer than Verdi to Muti’s heart, and the conductor’s dedication and integrity have led The New York Times to declare him “the king of Verdi conductors…For more than 40 years; the one who most makes you feel you are hearing the composer’s operas for the very first time”.
Riccardo Muti will spend his 75th birthday, 28 July 2016, working with young conductors, répétiteurs and singers at the second edition of the Riccardo Muti Italian Opera Academy, which he founded last year in Ravenna.
DVD RICCARDO MUTI CONDUCTS GIUSEPPE VERDI (film documentary)
Coming soon: The Verdi Collection, 28CD+DVD box of legendary recordings with a special documentary film. More information: www.riccardomutimusic.com
21 January 2016
Happy 75th birthday, Plácido Domingo!
It was not in an opera by Verdi or Puccini that Plácido Domingo made his major and decisive breakthrough in New York, in 1966 at the age of 25. It was in fact in a work by the Argentinian composer Alberto Ginastera (1916-1983), whose centenary is celebrated with this album of operatic excerpts and concert music for voice.
The performers on Ginastera – The Vocal Album are Domingo, the sopranos Ana-Maria Martínez and Virginia Tola (both past prizewinners in Domingo’s Operalia competition) and California’s Santa Barbara Symphony under its conductor laureate, Gisèle Ben-Dor. She is a native of Uruguay, one of Argentina’s closest neighbours, and a notable champion of Latin American music. In 2004 – in collaboration with Ginastera’s daughter Georgina – she staged the Tango and Malambo Festival in Santa Barbara.
In his autobiographical book My First Forty Years, Domingo – whose 75th birthday falls on 21 January 2016 – recounts his experience with Ginastera’s first opera. “In New York I embarked on the double adventure of singing the title role in the North American premiere of Ginastera’s Don Rodrigo and, with it, the opening of the City Opera’s new home at the New York State Theater in Lincoln Center … The opening night – 22 February 1966 – was a special occasion and therefore received considerable attention … For the public it was an exciting evening: they had not seen a contemporary opera of that stature in a long time. For a young Spaniard to be able to sing, on such an occasion, the role of a Spanish king, and in Spanish, was an unforgettable experience. There was much praise for the work, for the production and, fortunately, for my singing. I did not realize at that moment what it all meant for my future.”
Don Rodrigo is set in Spain in the 8th century. The title character, also known historically as Roderic, is the last of the country’s Visigoth kings, and the opera – which, musically and structurally speaking, takes Alban Berg’s masterpiece Wozzeck as its model – recounts a gripping tale of pride, passion and downfall. As The New York Times wrote after its world premiere in Buenos Aires in 1964: “The music is powerful, direct, compelling — at times almost overwhelming in its dynamic intensity.”
If Don Rodrigo can be classified musically as a piece of atonal expressionism, the Cinco Canciones Populares Argentinas, dating from some 20 years earlier and written as a response to political turmoil in Argentina, draw directly on the country’s folk music and are full of Latin colours and inflections. Ana-Maria Martínez, born in Puerto Rico, lends her rich and mellow vocal texture to their evocative lines.
The Old World is the focus of the dramatic cantata Milena, composed in 1971 and performed with characteristic intensity by Virginia Tola, who is from Argentina. The cantata’s text is a Spanish translation of letters that Frank Kafka wrote (in German) to Milena Jesenská, who was the first person to translate his work into Czech. Kafka and Jesenská – who was married – met only twice, but, in the course of 1919 and 1920, they conducted an intense relationship via correspondence. The cantata, which makes use of both sung and spoken text, is composed in an uncompromisingly modern style, but includes a haunting musical quotation from Der Leiermann, the concluding song of Schubert’s gloomy song cycle Winterreise.