Roundup of local classical discs, in time for gift-giving

"A Coffin in Egypt" by composer Ricky Ian Gordon and librettist Leonard Foglia, Houston Grand Opera. Mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade came out of retirement to portray Myrtle Bledsoe, the central character in a chamber opera based on a play by Texan Horton Foote.

The 80-minute work, recorded during the premiere run in March, keeps the character, a 90-year-old widow, almost constantly in the spotlight as she recounts her life's many frustrations and occasional delights. Gordon's music tells the story economically and colorfully, with dashes of melody that evoke the beauties of the Texas prairie and the optimism Myrtle yearns to find within herself. Though von Stade's voice isn't as firm as it once was, the commitment that has always been her hallmark prevails. Myrtle's pride, wistfulness and humor shine through on this Albany Records disc. Available from iTunes and other websites.
- Steven Brown, Houston Chronicle, 18 December 2014