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The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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A holiday guide to classical gifts

By Christie Franke

It’s that time of year again, where everyone scrambles to get presents for friends and family, enduring (or enjoying) the thrill and madness of holiday shopping. The same gifts are given every year: music, DVDs, books, bath stuff and video games. With this in mind, here are some suggestions for buying Christmas gifts for music lovers:

Thomas Hampson8212;Des Knaben Wunderhorn: Hampson is the thinking man’s opera singer, and this album showcases the intellect that goes on behind the singing. Mahler’s Des Knaben Wunderhorn is a collection of German children’s stories put to music in the leider song form. The album also includes leider by Brahms, Mendelssohn and Strauss, spanning nearly 150 years of the German song form. A gem in any collection.

Gluck8212;Iphigénie en Tauride: This opera was written in the late 1770s in France, at the behest of Marie Antoinette. The plot originates from the Greek myth of Orestes, who tries to get his sanity back after killing his mother by performing an impossible feat (short version of the backstory: Agamemnon sacrificed Iphigenia to go fight the Trojan Wars, his wife killed him to avenge her daughter and Orestes killed her to avenge his father. Of course this whole time Iphigenia is living on an island far, far away, waiting for the opera to begin). It isn’t too long, has gorgeous music and has one of the most hilarious plot lines available to tragic opera. Orestes has a death wish, Iphigenia is always moping, the king is murderous and Pylades has to rescue them all before they die of emo. Good times. Look for the recording from the 2000 Salzburg Festival, starring Susan Graham.

Donizetti8212;”La Fille du Regiment”: Look for the version starring Juan Diego Flórez and Natalie Dessay. This hilarious opera is a DVD recording of the Covent Garden production, and is set more modernly during World War 1. Flórez nails all of the high Cs in the opera’s most famous aria, “Ah! Mes amies!”, with extreme ease, securing his place as Pavarotti’s heir. The opera is about a young woman raised by an army regiment, who falls in love but is sent to live with her overbearing aunt who is intent on making her into a lady. Chaos and comedy abound. Natalie Dessay is a perfect comic actress, and comedian Dawn French in the role of the Duchess pretty much steals the show.

Susan Graham8212;Il tenero momento: This is a compilation of arias by Mozart and his predecessor, Gluck. Graham is another American opera singer who managed to conquer the world. This album is filled with completely romantic music, suited to Graham’s mezzo-soprano voice. The operas range from comic to tragic to heroic, and they encompass some of the best of both composers. Graham weaves a spell8212;her voice is at once strong, passionate, melancholy and sobbing. She’s fantastic.

Bryn Terfel8212;Tutto Mozart: Terfel is a Welsh opera singer, widely acknowledged around the world as one of the finest bass-baritones of this generation. In this album he sings a mixture of operatic and concert arias. It’s a great mix of songs, ranging from extremely well-known pieces to lesser-known arias. Terfel has a voice like pure seduction. He has been known to induce temporary paralysis and flailing.

Hilary Hahn8212;The Essential Hilary Hahn: Hilary Hahn is an amazing violinist who can make anything sound good8212;probably even screaming cats. This album consists of pieces by Beethoven, Bach, Mendelssohn, Stravinsky and many more. Actually, any Hilary Hahn album is great, but this is a good starting point.

This is naturally only a starter for Christmas gifts, but the world of classical music is wide and fathomless. Good luck exploring it.

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