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Thread: Operas by Rossini on DVD/Blu-ray/CD

          
   
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  1. #16
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    Great musical performance but, for me at least, hardly watchable even for few minutes. Those circus-like customes and amount of flashy colours just hurt me. At the other hand those rats - great idea, quite funny. Too bad it doesn't save it as a whole.

    It would be really great as just CD.

  2. #17
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    My review of this one is divided in two parts - first I speak about this production, and later I talk about the work itself, which I rated a B.



    It is a Châtelet production with their own stage director, but the entirely Russian cast, chorus, and orchestra came to Paris in tour from the Mariinsky Theater, complete with maestro Gergiev.

    All the singers are rather young, and are trainees of the Academy of Young Singers at the Mariinsky. The orchestra under Gergiev's excellent direction did a fine job. The singing was more uneven. While I liked a lot Anastasia Belvaeva (Madame Cortese), the beautiful Larissa Youdina (Contessa di Folleville), Vladilav Ouspenski (Baron von Trobonock); and liked moderately Irma Guigolachuili (Corinna), I didn't really care for Anna Kiknadze (Marchesa Malibea), and especially Daniil Shtoda (Counte de Libenkof) who is actually the leading tenor but mangled several of the high notes and sang off-key a number of times.

    The staging was minimalistic but tasteful, and had a long boardwalk that encircled some of the seats and permitted the singers to interact directly with the public in different occasions. Musicians were also placed in various spots among the audience, and two of the musicians from the Mariinsky Theater Orchestra were actually on the main stage interacting with the singers - a cute flautist, and a harp player. A nice touch was that the orchestra was on the back of the stage and they were all dressed up in one single color (a light beige), including Maestro Gergiev who was brought in dressed just like the other hotel guests with a light beige overall, in a funny effect (he did remove it to have freedom of movement).

    I'd say that the performance was lively and comical enough to compensate for a few weak principals, and would get an A- from me.

    ----------

    The opera is well rendered in an A- production/performance.

    It's a DVD worth having if your budget permits it, but I wouldn't go out of my way to buy it.

    ----------

    Now, about the work itself (recovered from an old, old post I authored for IMDb)

    It's a minor Rossini work, put together in rapid touches, since it was commissioned to celebrate Charles X's coronation as King of France. The opera itself is about the coronation (or more precisely, about a bunch of aristocrats stuck in a hotel, awaiting transportation to Reims where the coronation will take place), and ends by a sugary praise to Charles X (Viva il diletto, augusto regnator), filled with repeated shouts of "Viva la Francia." Rossini does seem to suck up a lot to the French, and it is interesting to notice that this was the last opera he composed in Italian, and he was already living intermittently in France until years later he moved there for good and lived in France until the end of his days. One might think that he was interested in earning the sympathy of the inhabitants of his new home.

    Apparently Rossini just intended this opera to serve the occasion and be forgotten; he canibalized it later and used half of its music in Le Comte Ory and its ballet in Le Siège de Corinthe.

    So, I approached this work with low expectations, and they were mostly confirmed, but this is not to say there aren't some hidden jewels there.

    First, the bad news, as they say.

    This opera doesn't really feel like an opera, but rather, like a concert to display some nice coloratura arias, bel canto style. There isn't much that happens, and all that does, seems to be just an excuse to present a showcase of several arias. This is clear when we see the large number of characters with singing lines - not less than 20! There are so many characters, that this opera with a single act that lasts for 2 hours and 5 minutes, is still introducing new characters at the 1 hour 23 minutes mark. It's even more clear when at a certain point, the characters who are guests at an hotel and come from everywhere in Europe are invited to sing a typical song from their home countries, and the concert feeling is reinforced as they go one by one to the front of the stage and sing their numbers.

    Another problem with the excessive number of characters is that the plot becomes confusing and irrelevant. By the time you understand who is in love with whom and who is the rival of whom, it doesn't really matter to you among the various love stories whether between two rivals it's Y or rather Z who end up getting the girl W. There is no time for any character development, so, if Y sings a love song to W and Z gets jealous and sings in protest, the feeling of the audience is - who cares? Therefore, it is the love song itself and the protest song itself that are the point - thus the 'concert' feeling.

    In terms of pace, there are problems as well. It's a single act, but it is too long an act. It is hard to keep the pace and sustain the audience's interest when you are introducing one character after the other and singing a number of mostly disconnected arias. There are particularly two points in which the action almost comes to a halt and two long and boring love duets are performed - Nel suo divin sembiante which lasts for 15 long minutes, and D'alma celeste o Dio.

    In terms of orchestration and musical structure, all is nice but nothing is particularly special. You get the usual punctuation of ariosi, the usual typical Rossini crescendo, the usual hectic ensembles ending on the typical um-pah-pah, and the usual Rossini fast tongue-twisting aria à la Largo al factotum.

    The libretto by Luigi Balocchi is based on Mme. de Staël's Corinne, ou l'Italie. While like I said it doesn't develop characters and it is confusing given the excessive number of characters, its poetry is nice enough, and it doesn't drag down the music.

    Now, the good news.

    Somehow, even with the above shortcomings, this opera is still lots of fun. It is pleasant and even though there is no entertaining plot, it does work as the intended showcase for some nice numbers.

    It is quite satirical, making wicked fun of the European aristocracy of the time, and even picking on several European countries and their stereotypical inhabitants. Rossini and Balocchi seem to be mocking everybody, especially in the hilarious aria Bravo il signor Ganimede when the buffoon Don Profondo (interesting name) literally mocks all the different foreign nationals who are hotel guests: the rigid German, the snob Frenchman, the macho-man Spaniard, the impetuous Russian, and so on and so forth.

    Another satirical part is the display of "national songs" (starting with Or che regna fra le genti) which mocks either national anthems (there's a parody of God Save the King) or typical music of, in rapid succession, Germany, Polland, Russia, Spain, England, France, and even Italy itself (although the latter gets better treatment).

    Both the arias/ensembles in the above two paragraphs are quite good, funny, and entertaining.

    Another highlight is Che miro, ah, qual sorpresa, which exaggerates the coloratura in purpose, to accentuate - with an irresistible comic effect - the bubbly personality of the most coquette of the characters, la Contessa di Folleville (another very well picked name, LOL).

    Four more numbers are pretty high quality:

    1) Your typical Rossini crescendo in Zitti! Non canta piú! has the usual attractiveness of similar pieces in his works.

    2) A spectacular, truly spectacular ensemble called Non pavento alcun periglio.

    3) Another pretty good ensemble; not as good as the one above, but very impressive with not less than 14 voices (and no, it's not a chorus piece, LOL, it's a true ensemble), Signori, ecco una lettera.

    4) The best piece of the entire opera, in my opinion: Arpa gentil, a fine example of lyrical, melodious bel canto. Very, very beautiful; this aria deserves a place in any top 100 list.

    Overall, I rate this opera a B. It never really takes off to make it into B+ or A- territory, but it is certainly pleasant and with some exquisite bits.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  4. #18
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Rossini: Guglielmo Tell (William Tell, Guillaume Tell)
    This one is a mixed bag:



    Just like Rossini's opera - which is filled with masterful outstanding bits but also too long, slow-paced, and with some silly ballets, this production has both very good and rather weak sides.

    The good:

    Riccardo Muti, the chorus and the orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala are all three stupendous in this DVD, which is musically (I mean, regarding the orchestra and the chorus - see details on the singing below) of high quality. The famous overture, and the excellent finales for each act show the orchestra in full force, with energetic and well-paced conducting. The chorus is very precise and delivered with the righ volume. The balance between voices and orchestra is very good. One regrets that the DVD only has a Dolby Stereo track with no surround sound.

    Tenor Chris Merrit is spectacular. His voice is strong, rightfully steely for this tortured role, projects very well, and can also convey emotion, as in his extraordinary rendition of the most beautiful aria in this opera in my opinion, Arnoldo's opening of the fourth act, O muto asil del pianto. This, coupled with the good orchestra and conducting, is enough to make of this cheap DVD a good deal.

    Giorgio Zancanaro, while not a good actor, sings beautifully the title role.

    Amelia Felle sings an adequate Jemmy, with no errors but no big hits either.

    Other secondary roles like Gualtiero, Melchthal, and Gesser are pretty good.

    The bad:

    Unbelievably bad staging. This is an opera that is best staged with an outdoor feel. Instead, we get a dark, stuffy and claustrophobic room, and they try to lighten it up with three large panels of videos showing outdoor scenes in Switzerland, but it doesn't work, it falls really flat. The only good moment on the screens is when they show Riccardo Muti conducting the final ensemble.

    Park and Bark with pretty minimal acting, which is demeaning for an opera that aspires to dramatic impact.

    Very, very, mediocre ballets with dreadful, unflattering costumes. I actually started to fast forward during the ballets. By the way, Rossini should never have included them. I know that he wanted to compose a Grand Opéra in the French tradition, but the ballets are not only ordinary (including musically), but also stop the action flat in an opera that is already too long and too heavy on choral music comments - which makes the plot painfully slow. A few cuts would make of Guglielmo Tell a much better opera, there just isn't enough material here to last for four hours as it does.

    Cheril Studer as Matilde was very uneven. She was capable of singing beautifully at certain moments, and obviously off-pitch in others. I thought that overall she did a poor job.

    Ludicana D'Intino as Edwige wasn't much better. Overall, the female voices were not the best in this production, but the fact that Guglielmo Tell is a predominantly male opera still saves this production because the boys generally did a much better job than the girls, except for another small role: the fisherman in Act I who also sang off-pitch.

    This is a production best enjoyed with the Chapter Selection feature, when you can listen to the well played overture, the best arias and ensembles, and the finales, which are all very enjoyable and well delivered, but you don't want to go through the whole four hours including off-pitch singing and mediocre ballets in a dreadfully bad staging.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  5. #19
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Rossini: La Gazza Ladra on DVD


    La gazza ladra by Gioacchino Rossini performed in Italian

    Conductor Bruno Bartoletti - 1987(LI)

    Orchestra - Gürzenich Orchester Köln

    Chorus - Kölner Oper
    Fabrizio Vingradito - Carlos Feller

    Lucia - Nucci Condò

    Giannetto - David Kuebler

    Ninetta - Ileana Cotrubas

    Fernando Villabella - Brent Ellis

    Gottardo - Il Podestà - Alberto Rinaldi

    Pippo - Elena Zilio

    Isacco - Erlingur Vigfusson

    Antonio - Eberhard Katz

    Giorgio - Klaus Bruch

    Ernesto - Ulrich Hielscher
    ------------------------------------------------------------------



    DVD (Video) - ArtHaus Musik 102 203 (2007)


    Rossini, the master of overtures, once more delivers a thrilling piece, very famous and well known to everybody. This is however the high point of this work, and since it naturally comes first, there is this feeling of unevenness since the rest doesn't match the punch of the overture. Still, this opera is interesting enough to justify the time spent watching it (and time it is, since it runs for almost three hours).

    Here we have a very traditional staging, with realistic-looking scenarios and epoch costumes. Ileana Cotrubas is less than ideal - at age 48 she doesn't look very convincing as the young Ninetta, and her singing is breathy, as well as a bit unpleasant in the highest notes. David Kuebler as Giannetto seems to suffer of the same problem with the high notes. Carlos Feller as Fabrizio does well. Elena Zilio as Pippo is funny and acts well.

    The quality of this DVD is lacking. The sound track (dolby stereo only) is noisy and poorly synchronized with the image, which is a bit imprecise and with changing colors according to what camera is in use. There are intrusive (English only) subtitles, and they can't be turned off. The format is 1.33:1. There are no menus or bonuses.

    [Edited] I first wrote down that I couldn't recommend this DVD due to its technical shortcomings and some less than stellar singing in some parts. I haven't seen the only other competition - the updated version from Pesaro - and I thought that it was probably a better version. Reading Herkku's review of it in this same thread, I'm not as sure. And I'm now thinking more favorably of this version. Another singer that does very well is Brent Ellis. And while this opera is overlong and could use some editing, it is not bad, which justifies the purchase of one of the two versions - at least for those who aim to have a more complete collection of Rossini DVDs. Overall, I'm changing my mind, and I'll say that this DVD is recommended, after all. No, not ideal, but decent, and given the limited competition, it's not a bad buy.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  6. #20
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Rossini: La Gazzetta on Blu-ray


    OK, folks, I was talking about La Gazza Ladra just a while ago, and now I've just watched another Rossini, but this one is *a lot* better.

    This relatively obscure opera buffa is a hidden gem. While the overture is not as good as many of Rossini's hallmark pieces, the opera itself is quite satisfactory, with several excellent numbers (arias, duets, ensembles in crescendo).

    The plot is the usual thing - father wants to marry girl to rich pretenders, but she loves pauper. Some mistaken identities, the works.

    The libretto is very good, lively, funny.

    The disc: spectacular technical quality, being this a blu-ray filmed at the very beautiful Gran Teatre del Liceu, with the usual sharp image and excellent sound delivered by this medium.

    Stage direction is by Dario Fo, and while mostly fine, it is the weakest link of this production. As usual, Dario Fo makes it all too busy on stage, and on occasion interferes with the music. Mr. Fo, someone needs to teach you that less is more.

    The cast - first, a word about the dancers. This is a sensual production, with gorgeous women on stage who have spectacular bodies. It's a leg feast. No boobs... but the most beautiful legs are generously displayed everywhere and all the time.

    Then, we get to the strongest point of this production: the singing. It is mostly impeccable, superlative, and I'm known for being a nitpicker. I really couldn't find any moment that didn't please me, singing-wise.

    Cinzia Forte as Lisetta was a good surprise. What a beautiful voice - nice timbre, strong projection, good agility, good technique, excellent coloratura. And she can act and dance, and looks pretty good - she suffers from the competition with the dancers who are much prettier, but she looks good enough.

    The three males are all three outstanding: Bruno Praticò as Don Pamponio, Pietro Spagnoli as Filippo, and Charles Workman as Alberto. Other than for some problems with Italian articulation, they deliver exquisite singing. The four minor roles with Agata Bienkowska, Marisa Martins, Simón Orfila, and Marc Canturri don't disappoint either. There is no weak link.

    Maestro Maurizio Barbacini is enthusiastic and gets the young musicians from the orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu to perform with gusto, and with a smile on their faces. This is another interesting aspect of this production: the maestro, the musicians, the singers, and the dancers all enjoy themselves very much, and can often be seen smiling.

    It's a very entertaining blu-ray of a good opera. Highly recommended!
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  7. #21
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Rossini: Ermione on DVD
    Whoa! This is it, folks. Anybody who has disputed the fact that Rossini was a musical genius (there was once a long thread about it) must watch this. I've finished the first act and still need to see the second and last act tonight so I'm not posting a full review yet, but this opera is truly spectacular with exquisite music and great dramatic intensity (one of the most interesting opening scenes I've seen, following the gorgeous overture of which the chorus participates - a first for me), and La Antonacci runs the show (not to forget that she looks very yummy with beautiful cleavage)!



    OK, folks, I've just finished the second (last) act.

    My verdict: OUT...STAN...DING!!!!

    This is not only the best opera Rossini has ever composed (well, OK, maybe The Barber excluded), but also one of the top 10 operas ever, in my personal ranking.

    We are faced with a master in full control of his trade, and trying hard this time (Rossini was well known for just churning out opera after opera to make money, but this one, I'm sure he put some effort into it).

    This opera is perfect in all regards. This is what opera is all about!!! There is passion and jealousy and despair and pathos and murder and vengeance... You know, your usual operatic fare.

    Spectacular atmospheric overture, incredible opening scene, phenomenal pace, great theatricality, strong dramatic intensity, masterful musical illustration, beautiful orchestration, touching duets (most numbers have at least two singers), and one of the best finales I've ever seen - the final 15 minutes are something for the ages with one of the best mad scenes in all of opera!

    Anybody who still underestimates Rossini after seeing this, is.... I won't say it. After all, I want to remain civil. But you know what I mean.

    OK, what about this production? Not ideal, but pretty good.

    Technically, it's a Kultur product, so, it can't be that good. But this is one of the least bad Kultur DVDs I've seen, technically speaking. The sound, for a change, is rather decent, in spite of some failures here and there. There are subtitles in several languages, and sound balance is rather good with a full orchestral sound, and clear recording of the singing (I don't know exactly what some Amazon.com customers were complaining about - certainly, this is no Opus Arte DVD, but for Kultur, the sound is rather decent).

    Staging - very good. It all works out pretty well. The tilted Italianate opera house is rather efficient in conveying the strangety of Andromache's situation, and it is all tasteful and appropriate. After all, Glyndebourne has a knack for tasteful stagings.

    Orchestra: phenomenal. Excellent ressonance and power and musicality. I've been thinking lately that the London Philharmonic is rather underestimated, but is one of the best opera orchestras in the world.

    Conductor: Oh boy, this guy is good! Andrew Davis. He surely has a good grip on the material, and is energetic and enthusiastic, and gets the best out of his orchestra.

    Chorus: solid, with a full, satisfying sound.

    Acting: weak. Rather static. Could have been *a lot* better for such a dramatic work.

    Singing: There are two categories of singing here.

    1) Diana Montague, Bruce Ford, Jorge Lopez-Yanez and the minor roles: always adequate, no real weak links, but not spectacular. Montague's voice is less than ideal for the coloratura passages, lacking agility. Both Ford and Lopez-Yanez misunderstood the delicacy of Belcanto and sound too forceful, too Helden, too loud.

    2) Anna Caterina Antonacci. Oh... my... God!!! She is on a completely different plane. It's almost painful to see how much better she is as compared to every one of her peers in this production. Her portrait of Ermione couldn't be any better. Her singing is stellar during the entire opera, and she completely takes over the second act to deliver one of the most thrilling singing finales ever. She is absolutely perfect on every note, looks good as hell with her generous cleavage and beautiful face, has incredibly classy gesticulation and facial expressions; brief, she delivers a masterful performance for the ages, she's on top of her artistry, and we opera lovers are grateful for the fact that this DVD has captured this exquisite operatic moment.

    Verdict: the opera itself, 10/10. The DVD, technically speaking, 7/10. Staging, 8/10. Orchestra/conductor, 9/10. Singing, we can't take it as whole; like above, we must divide it in 'everybody else' 7/10, and Antonacci, 10/10.

    Overall, 9/10, and a must buy. Highly recommended. Apparently the other DVD version of this opera released by Dynamic is good too.

    What is hard to understand is why in the hell this opera is so obscure. Rossini himself had it as one of his favorites, and has referred to it as his best effort. There is nothing that can explain such a formidable work being this badly neglected with no performances for one and a half centuries. Thankfully, now there is one CD recording and there are two DVD recordings so that modern audiences can see this incredible masterpiece.

    The Met has rescued from obscurity another great Rossini opera, Armida. I think they should present Ermione next.

    This is one of the best operas ever composed, my friends. This is pure gold.

    Paraphrasing Natalie, buy it! Buy it! Buy it!
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  8. #22
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Rossini: Le Comte Ory on DVD


    OK, folks, I was so frustrated with the fact that I bought a ticket to watch Le Comte Ory on Met in HD on 4/27/11, then completely forgot about it and didn't attend the show, that as soon as I realized my blunder I went online and bought the above DVD. It arrived yesterday.

    I'm about to start watching it. It's an opera that I don't know - although I do know Il Viaggio a Reims which has much of the same music, given that Rossini canibalized his earlier opera to compose this one.

    This product contains the 1997 Glyndebourne performance with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Andrew Davis (a conductor I very much like), with stage direction by Jérôme Savary, and video direction by our old buddy Brian Large. The cast includes:

    Ludovic Tézier - Raimbaud
    Stella Woodman - Alice
    Marc Laho - Count Ory
    Jane Shaulis - Ragonde
    Julien Robbins - Governor
    Diana Montague - Isolier
    Annick Massis - Countess Adèle
    Colin Judson - A young nobleman

    It is a Kultur product, so as usual we can't expect technical fireworks. Sound is only Dolby 2.0, no extras, picture is 4:3, but at least there are subtitles in six languages including the original French, this being Rossini's third "French" opera. Running time is 140 minutes.

    I'll continue this review as I watch it, but editing as I go. Supposedly both the opera and this production are lots of fun.

    First impression: the overture seems less enticing than most Rossinian ones, he was such a master of overtures, and I feel less excited about this one than about many of his others.

    First scene, pretty sharp and colorful image for a change (given that it is a Kultur DVD) and very charming staging with funny looking cardboard sheep and cows moving through the background.

    I know I'll have a problem with this production: I don't like baritone Ludovic Tézier very much (I think his acting is generally stiff and his voice doesn't project well). Oh well, I'll put up with him.

    Period staging with appropriate costumes (France at the time of the Crusades), but then there is a couple wearing a modern tuxedo and a party gown walking by with a bottle of champagne, what the heck? Will this be some sort of Regie? I hope not.

    On the other hand I know I'll like the eye-candy, some of these young females are quite beautiful!!!

    Ory's entrance - very nice and funny with some hilarious special effects. Marc Laho is no JDF, unfortunately, and his first passagio was a disaster. (Alma, stop lamenting the Met in HD wasted ticket, I say to myself).

    First Rossinian crescendo, Que les destins prospères accueillent vos prières, very nice, but Marc Laho is a weak tenor, definitely. The top of his voice is neither beautiful, nor accurate. He sings OK in the middle of his range, but that's about it. But he acts well and is funny.

    Julien Robbins as the Governor, on the other hand, is a good singer and actor, and delivers a nice bass aria, Je ne puis plus longtemps voyager de la sorte. This is followed by a bunch of pretty young women running around the stage in various stages of undress (Alma likes this part, although unfortunately boobs are always covered).

    Isolier (trouser role) is well sung by mezzo Diana Montague. The other mezzo, Jane Shaulis, is just as good.

    Oh, a word about conducting - like I expected, Andrew Davies is a very energetic conductor that brings up the best from his forces.

    OK, now the Countess makes her entrance. Annick Massis is beautiful, in a classy way. And she can sing too, immediately raising significantly the level of singing we've had so far. Very agile and tuneful coloratura!

    Her aria of lamentations (I didn't catch the name and the list of chapters doesn't help as it is listed by her first words in a recitative) is the best moment of the opera so far.

    Annick Massis continues to steal the show. I already know that I'll say "recommended" at the end of this review, because just her singing justifies the purchase of this DVD.

    The female singers in this production are definitely better than the male singers. Oh well, and they look better too.

    Hehehe, once Ory is caught and removes his disguise, we realize that Marc Laho could be Roberto Alagna's brother, they're look-alikes. But Alagna sings better.

    Oh wow, Glyndebourne put a real horse on stage. Impressive.

    End of first act, of course another signature Rossinian ensemble in crescendo, always very nicely done by the master: Cet écrit, noble châtelaine. I half-recognize it from Il Viaggio a Reims.

    Long break, snack, household chores, and I'm back for act II, and guess what? It opens with a scene that includes naked boobs!!! Not frontal, side boobs, but nice nevertheless! OK, I'm not regretting the Met performance any longer!

    And the ensemble that opens the second act, Dans ce séjour calme et tranquille is *very* beautiful. The tempest scene follows, and it is very well staged and sung (with some very funny moments too). This is getting better and better.

    Now Ory and his gang return disguised as nuns.

    The music for the final scenes is very pleasant, more hilarious scenes, curtain, to make a long story short.

    I liked the opera and the production. Recommended, but a little below highly recommended thanks to less than ideal male casting.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  9. #23
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Rossini: Elisabetta Regina d'Inghilterra on DVD


    Cast:
    Lella Cuberli - Elisabetta
    Antonio Savastano - Leicester
    Daniela Dessi - Matilde
    Rockwell Blade - Norfolk
    Adriana Cigogna - Enrico
    Mario Bolognesi - Guglielmo

    1985 live; Gabriele Ferro, conductor; Orchestra del Teatro Regio di Torino; Antonio Savastano, stage director.

    Traditional staging with cheap-looking scnearios (painted murals). Decent costumes.

    Technical quality of the DVD: horrible, one of the worst I've ever seen in a commercial product. Mono sound, quite distorted; dark blurry hazy 1.3:1 image that seems rather that of a bootleg. At least there are subtitles in Italian, English, and French (although there are long stretches of singing with no subtitles - and not merely repetions of the same lines. here are no real competitors: except for an obscure VHS done in Argentina, and a bootleg DVD from Naples, it's the only recording of this opera on visual media.

    The overture is the one Rossini canibalized to place it as the Barbiere overture, and it's identical here (it actually belongs to an even earlier opera, Aureliano in Palmira; Rossini was such a cannibal!). The melody for the aria Una Voce Poco Fa from the Barbiere was also recovered from this earlier opera (he wrote this one 4 months before Il Barbiere), but is not identical here (but pretty close). The source for it comes early in the first act (first aria from Elisabetta)and is quite beautiful.

    This is musically enticing. It's Rossini in good form, composing an opera seria that is not overlong and is full of beautiful melodies for single voice, chorus, and ensembles. It sounds more delicate, more slow-paced than other intense and almost over-the-top Rossini operas. It reminds me a lot of the melodious Queen operas from Donizetti - I'm not talking influence, but just a similar style since these operas all share the Bel Canto opera seria style with female queens in the title roles.

    The acting here is park and bark. The orchestra has a slow tempo and sounds anemic, but it may have to do with the very poor mono sound that actually gets worse as time goes by.

    Singing is uneven. The title role looks cute and sings well. Others are of variable quality, some quite bad.

    In summary, this is a weak performance of a good opera, poorly recorded on a low-quality DVD.

    Not recommended. Granted, it's for all practical purposes the only recording of this opera on visual media, except for an obscure VHS done in Argentina, and a bootleg DVD from a staging in Naples. But still, purchasing this DVD is not justified except for the very thorough Rossini colector.

    Others most likely would be better off with a CD version like this one:

    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  11. #24
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Rossini: L'Equivoco Stravagante on DVD


    Another absolute winner!

    I've been seeing a number of exquisite opera DVDs lately, of off-the-beaten-path operas done by unknown singers in absolutely breath-taking performances, and this is another one of these.

    Rossini's second opera is absolute genius, and shows all the elements that made of him one of the major composers of extremely rewarding pieces. You get excellent theatricality and pace, lively and funny situations, great rhythm with his hallmark crescendi, very melodic bel canto moments, comic flair, uplifting music, excellent libretto; all expertly put together by this master entertainer.

    This is a rather risqué piece that got chopped off by the censors after just three performances. It is astoundingly modern and daring. The libretto is full of innuendo, and is quite sexy and delightfully over-the-top. It talks about the usual situation of the young woman who is supposed to marry the rich bore but loves the exciting pauper. The twist here is that in order to drive away the annoying fiancé, the two cunning servants come up with the idea of pretending that the young bride is actually a man, who was castrated by her father in order to become an opera singer. Well, she *is* a woman, but the plan succeeds, and she is able to marry her philosophy tutor whom she loves. Great fun!

    Hear, hear, folks, this is a spectacular opera DVD of a formidable production! Everything works. Singing is absolutely stellar across the board, to a point that again, one wonders why in the hell these young singers are not being booked by the main opera houses, and instead are doing these quasi-amateur performances in some small regional Italian opera company.

    Six characters, five exceptional singers, plus one in a minor role who, while not as extraordinary, doesn't do anything wrong.

    Ernestina, the young woman, is Marina Prudenskaja, with a beautiful coloratura soprano that has agility and a pleasant timbre. Bruno de Simone is Gamberotto, a classy baritone. Marco Vinco is Buralicchio, a very comic over-the-top actor with excellent basso voice. Dmitry Korchak is the young lover Ermanno, and his tenor voice is so natural and fluid that he is definitely one to watch. He makes it seem easy, his voice is never strained, is always precise and agreeable. Amanda Forsythe as Rosalia is a mezzo who almost steals the show, if not for the fact that her colleagues are all equally good. Ricardo Mirabelli as Frontini is the only one who is not as accomplished as his five peers, but like I said, he does OK and doesn't sink the ship at all.

    All six characters look their parts and act very well.

    Staging is imaginative, interesting, and amusingly kitsch. Stage direction and video direction are just perfect, with the scenes rolling in with good fluidity, skillful use of space, and unobtrusive camera work.

    The period orchestra does a wonderful job, and the chorus is particularly good. I had never heard of these forces, but oh boy, they don't disappoint. We get some eye candy in the silent roles with some very cute scantly clad young women.

    The production is from the Rossini Opera Festival. I have browsed and browsed the insert and the covers and found no information regarding the year of the performance. The DVD was released by Dynamic in 2009. Edit - I learned from Wikipedia that the production was staged in 2008.

    Umberto Benedetti Michelangeli conducts the Orchestra Haydn di Bolzano e Trento.
    Pavel Vanek is the chorus master for the Prague Chamber Choir.
    Stage direction is by Emilio Sagi, and set design is by Francesco Calcagnini.
    Video direction is by Davide Mancini.

    Technically speaking, as usual Dynamic puts together a polished product with 16:9 image of excellent color and definition, LPCM 2.0 and Dolbi 5.1 sound with good balance and fullness, a proper insert with an essay and synopsis in four languages, and optional subtitles in five languages including original Italian. No extras.

    Highly recommended. This is another one that gets my seal of excellence based on Natalie's consumers war cry: Buy it! Buy it! Buy it! But maybe don't by it from Amazon with the scary price of $40, while some marketplace vendors have it new for half as much.

    PS - Don't miss the curtain calls. They are rather amusing, and provide a fitting finale for this spectacular production.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  12. #25
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Rossini: Tancredi on DVD


    1992 (LI) - Gianluigi Gelmetti - Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgard
    Schwetzinger Festpiele
    Stage direction - Pizzi
    Bernadette Manca di Nissa (contralto) - Tancredi
    Maria Bayo (soprano) - Amenaide
    Raul Gimenez (tenor) - Argirio
    Ildebrando D'Arcangelo (bass-baritone) - Orbazzano

    Rossini's serious operas are often a treat. Those among us who don't recognize Rossini's genius ought to get more familiar with his serious ones, to drive away the accusation, based on his comedic operas, that his music is superficial and aimed at easy entertainment (and if it were, I wouldn't care, I find that entertaining operas are just fine). Ermione is a fine example of a more obscure Rossini opera that is simply phenomenal, and while Tancredi is not as spectacular as Ermione, it is very very close in terms of overall quality. While the overture is less good than the usual Rossini masterful one, the vocal writing is very beautiful, with some outstanding duets (the contralto-soprano duets are spectacular), nice choruses, a couple of very good ensembles and some choice arias.

    This DVD is a good rendition of Tancredi: the traditional staging is deficient (surprisingly for a Pizzi staging; Pizzi is often visually striking, but this time it looks like the let the ball drop, it all looks rather uninteresting and tacky), acting is rather static, but singing is sublime, by a very talented team of excellent singers in most roles. Contralto Manca di Nissa is very impressive, and cute soprano Bayo (it's her on the cover) is very good as well. Both have beautiful voices and have what it takes for dramatic belcanto. Tenor Gimenez has a very limpid and powerful voice. The orchestra and conducting, while not unpleasant, could use some fine tuning and slightly faster tempi.

    It is nice to have an opera with the title role sung by a contralto. It gives it a pleasant Handelian quality so to speak (I know, I know, I don't really mean it literally). Dramatically it is a good libretto, based on Voltaire. Another plus of this production is that they present both endings; the tragic one, and the happy one as an encore after curtain calls.

    Technically this DVD is limited, with only LPCM sound, 1.33:1 image with poor definition, and less than ideal sound balance, with the orchestra smothering the singers at times. Subtitles are provided in five languages. There are no extras.

    In spite of technical problems, weak staging, poor acting, and less than impressive orchestra, the exquisite singing in this production, helped by the undeniable beauty of this opera, makes of the verdict for this DVD an easy "recommended."
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  14. #26
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Rossini: La Cambiale di Matrimonio on DVD
    1989(LI) - Gianluigi Gelmetti - Radio Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart



    This is one of Rossini's first, folks, in 1810. It's billed as a Farsa Comica in un atto.

    The production is from the Schwetzinger Festival, recorded live at the beautiful, small, ancient Rokokotheater in May of 1989. Traditional staging with a beautiful realistic-looking one-room scenario and period costumes. It is presented on DVD by Euroarts, and they do a decent job for something that has been filmed 22 years ago. The image is 1.33:1 but quite sharp and with good definition. Sound is pretty excellent with a choice of PCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, and DTS 5.1. The latter has pretty good surround field with perfect balance and fullness. Optional subtitles are presented in five languages including original Italian. Region zero, running time 82 minutes. No extras, but they do provide good liner notes with an essay in three languages, synopsis, and chapter list with the names of the arias/ensembles, characters, and duration.

    The small orchestra plays very well under the expressive, energetic conductor. Singing is first rate across the board, with reasonably good acting from most artists (some of them, weaker, with some stock acting). We get to see formidable John Del Carlo at a much younger age than at the occasion of his latest (and very successful) Met appearances. Amelia Felle is a cute Clarina, unfortunately with very little stage time. Janice Hall is very pleasant as Fanni, although with deficient acting. Alberto Rinaldi not only has a beautiful voice, but also acts well as the over-the-top Canadian, Mr. Slook. Carlos Feller is particularly good vocally as Norton, and David Kuebler is adequate as Edoardo, although probably the weakest link in singing and acting, but this is so rather because he suffers a bit when compared to his excellent peers: the other three males steal the show.

    The opera itself: while no masterpiece, this is pretty good for an early effort, and one can see several elements of Rossini's later style already sprouting, from the pleasant overture, to the colorful orchestral accompaniment with use of fast parlando, up to the zany final ensemble. I feel that the weakest part of this opera is its libretto by Gaetano Rossi, which is not that funny or theatrical enough. I think that Rossini makes the best out of it, but he is not given a lot to work with.

    Regardless of the relative theatrical weakness of this opera, I still think that this is an obligatory buy for Rossini fans, and also for John Del Carlo fans for that matter. It is nice to see that Rossini at age 18 has started his career so well, and it is a luxury to see three gifted basses interacting on stage (Del Carlo, Rinaldi, and Feller). In addition to this, we get a good orchestra, a good conductor, and tasteful traditional staging, all packaged in a good quality DVD regarding image and sound. A winner, in my opinion.

    Recommended.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); December 5th, 2013 at 07:06 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  15. #27
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Rossini: La Scala di Seta on DVD
    This comes from the same boxset that contained La Cambiale di Matrimonio above, and shares the exact same technical characteristics so I won't comment on those. It also comes from the same festival, same theater, orchestra, and conductor (see above), one year later (1990) and also recorded live. Running time is 100 minutes. Again, it's just one act.



    David Kuebler and Alberto Rinaldi are also back, respectively as Dorvil and Blansac. The other singers are different: David Griffith as Dormont, Luciana Serra as Giulia, Jane Brunnell as Lucilla, and Alessandro Corbelli as Germano.

    We get a Rossini two years older, since this one premiered in 1812, and musically the two works are similar (this one is a bit more lyrical and has more extended belcanto style coloraturas). The librettist this time is Giuseppe Foppa, and he does a much better job than his predecessor in the earlier opera, since this one is a lot more eventful, with more interesting situations, achieving a better comic and theatrical impact, with the various situations of people hiding in the room, etc.

    Again, we get a tasteful scenario with the same general set-up: a room with large windows that open to a Parisian street scene (we can see L'Arc du Triomphe), period furniture, and period costumes (Schwetzingen is known for traditional productions - some will say, lacking imagination, others will like the beautiful costumes and scenarios).

    This DVD is marred by the presence of Luciana Serra, not the most successful of choices for the role of the leading female. She is unattractive, too old for the role, and her voice is not that beautiful in spite of good technique.

    While the others are adequate (David Kuebler actually doing better than before - well, here he's not as smothered by the competition - and Alberto Rinaldi doing just as well, and leading the pack as the best singer here), we don't have the stellar presence of John Del Carlo - although we do have an excellent Alessandro Corbelli in a funny deadpan performance as Germano, also very well sung. So what we have here as compared to the very similar previous DVD, is a better and longer opera that is more substantial from the theatrical standpoint (again, far from being a masterpiece like those authored by the later Rossini), but a bit less well performed from the singing standpoint. The acting could get a little more spicy - this opera deserves it. Unlike the first one, this one does have competition on DVD, and while I don't know the other production released by Opus Arte, it's got good reviews, so, chances are that Rossini lovers may want to check it out before buying this one.

    Still, there's nothing really seriously wrong with this one except for those who can't stand Luciana Serra, so, I guess I can still say "recommended" for those who want to be complete when collecting Rossini DVDs.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  16. #28
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Rossini: Il Signor Bruschino on DVD
    This is my third serving of Rossini today, as antidote for the depressing Klinghoffer.
    Same festival, conductor, orchestra, theater, same Euroarts boxset, same technical qualities, so no need to comment on those. Same sets too - they just change the outside landscape behind the central window (London in the first one, Paris in the second one, and here the Italian countryside) and repaint the walls, change the furniture. Period costumes, etc., all similar. Running time 98 minutes. This is the only DVD of this opera that premiered in 1813 when Rossini was 22. The libretto is by the same Giuseppe Foppa from La Scala di Seta.



    Many of the singers from the other two DVDs I've reviewed above are back for this production. We get repeats from:

    Alessandro Corbelli - Gaudenzio
    Amelia Felle - Sofia
    Alberto Rinaldi - Bruschino padre
    David Kuebler - Florville
    Janice Hall - Marianna

    Then, we get some others who weren't in the previous productions:

    Vito Gobbi - Bruschino figlio
    Oslavio di Credico - Un comissario di polizia
    Carlos Feller - Filiberto

    I like both Ms. Felle and Ms. Hall, so we get a welcome break from Ms. Serra. Generally speaking, the high level of singing is back, like in La Cambiale di Matrimonio. Ms. Felle though looks significantly less cute here, I guess it's the hairdo and a less flattering outfit.

    The opera was not well received by critics as compared to Rossini's earlier efforts (two of which reviewed above, and also the equally successful L'Occasione fa il ladro - also in this boxset but I won't be reviewing it today since I've seen it a while back - and L'Inganno Felice which is not in the boxset), but the composer himself was happy with it, having said at age 66 that he was glad he had committed this "youthful folly." In great part, however, the bad reviews came from the fact that everybody seemed to be outraged at Rossini for having made the string players beat their bows on their music stands during the overture. Oh wow, I guess they didn't want anything to do with this novelty, which I find charming.

    Another problem for the critics and the public is that these operas are described as farces, and they were supposed to be uncomplicated. Foppa, however, wrote this time a more convoluted libretto that did not please the people who attended these farces seeking easy entertainment that didn't require them to think.

    I actually would rather agree with Rossini himself on this one. This opera is interesting and its libretto is quite ingenious, with a sort of original take on the traditional mistaken identity plot. Musically it is run-of-the-mill Rossini, but pleasant enough. The fast parlando here acquires more clearly the characteristics of the signature Rossini crescendo that we'll see used to perfection in his later operas. We also have here a more composed pace, with a bit more character development, with some lyrical moments that take their time to evolve; it all feels less rushed than the earlier efforts, and it alternates well with the fast moments. We can feel the composer getting more experienced, with a better sense of the theatrical aspects of his work. Good finale, with the ode to love.

    I must be going against the current because still today this one is considered to be a more minor work than La Scala di Seta for example, and I actually like this one better, but at least I'm in the good company of the composer.

    Recommended.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); December 5th, 2013 at 07:13 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  17. #29
    Senior Member Veteran Member Aksel's Avatar
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    The opera in question is La cenerentola by Rossini (who'da thunk it?). This is the 1981 film directed by Jean-Pierre Ponelle and conducted by Claudio Abbado.



    I think I should preface this whole thing with saying that this is my favourite of Rossini's comic operas. I think it has something to do with the crazy amounts of ensembles.
    There, it's out. I don't even really care much for Barbiere. But we're wasting bytes here. Let's move on.

    The plot, for those who don't already know it, can be read here, or summarized as Cinderella with a philosopher, evil paternal relations and matching bracelets. I know, it's all very exiting.

    The staging for this opera is just about as traditional as you get it. It is very much a fairy tale approach, but not as childish as some more recent interpretations (like the DiDonato/JDF one). The sets are very much like you would expect to find in an actual opera house, and indeed, the sets are based on the La Scala Cenerentola sets. But what is very striking about these sets is just how beautiful they are. It seems like nothing has been left to chance, and even don Magnifico's run-down mansion has its own kind of charm. Some do, however object to the fact that the sets look like enlarged opera sets, since this is a film, but I think it works very well for this opera. The very apparent artifice of the opera house of it all is a constant reminder of the fairy tale the story of Cinderella actually is.
    Also, the staging of the 2nd act sextet is just genius.

    The acting is very good in this production. The singers are actually lip-synching, and thus can devote more of their energy to acting. Flicka is innocence and goodness personified and she delivers such a moving performance, especially in the first half of the first act. Francisco Araiza is really just his usual handsome self, but does deliver a fine performance.
    The two acting performances that do stand out, in addition to Flicka's, are those of Paolo Montarsolo and Claudio Desderi, singing the parts of don Magnifico and Dandini, respectively. They perfectly overact.

    The orchestra and chorus of La Scala are lead masterfully by Claudio Abbado. 'Nuff said.

    Now, let's get down to singing, shall we?

    In the role of Angelina, Cinderella, Cenerentola, whatever you might want to call her, is Frederica von Stade. In addition to looking the part to such an extent that she is the most believable Cenerentola I've seen, she can sing rather well too. This role has just about all of the difficultest coloratura of the whole opera, and Flicka nails it all. Her Naqui all'affanno and Non piú mesta are truly among the best ever recorded. I get so amazed at how she manages to convey such much emotion, especially in Naqui all'affanno.

    Francisco Araiza sings the role of don Ramiro, our Prince Charming. As well as also looking the part (OK, they all look their parts. I'll stop saying that now), his singing is amazing. It is another one of those Rossini tenor roles with machine gun coloratura and loads of high notes, and Araiza really does it to perfection. Also, I find him more suited to the part than for instance JDF and Lawrence Brownlee. I adore them both, but I like Araiza better here.

    Dandini, the prince's valet is sung by Claudio Desderi. Remember the coloratura that Flicka didn't sing? Well, Desderi got it. It is just about the most athletic Rossini baritone role I've come across. His coloratura is very exaggerated with aiches flying at you from every angle, but I find it suits the part, especially when he is disguised as the prince. Overall, I'm very pleased with his singing.

    Don Magnifico, the evil stepfather is sung by Paolo Montarsolo. He sings this role very well. The role is a typical buffo bass role with syllables flying out of the singer's mouth at the speed of sound, and I just get astonished at how fast Montarsolo gets them out.

    The two sisters, Clorinda and Tisbe (teehee) are sung by Laura Zannini and Margherita Guglielmi. Again, they sing these roles absolutely wonderfully.

    Alidoro, the prince's tutor is sung by Paul Plishka, and he also sings his part very well.


    In total: Amazing production with a stellar cast, orchestra, chorus and conductor. Get it. Now.

    Also, video:

    Naqui all'affanno and Non piú mesta:


    The act two sextet:

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  19. #30
    Banned Top Contributor Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aksel View Post
    They perfectly overact
    I think that half of Dandini's greatness in this movie is thanks to ideas of J.P.P (at least I assume they came from director himself) - acting is one thing but the way he shows characters on screen is special. Like in the sextet which you praise, when other characters express their confusement and then you suddenly get Dandini standing in the middle of the screen in silence, saying (after a pause) his "marvelous!"

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