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Thread: Operas by Handel on DVD, Blu-ray, and CD

          
   
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  1. #46
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HarpsichordConcerto View Post
    I think it's more about Claus Guth and his interpretation of the Biblical themes. Remember, the libretto of The Messiah was skillfully compiled by Charles Jennens from scriptures straight out of his version of the Bible, and The Messiah was a very atypical Handel oratorio because of its Biblical libretto that contained no drama (compared with Handel's other English dramatic oratorios). Almaviva made an excellent point I think, that this production was really a Regietheatre. I do not yet have a copy but from the many parts that I have watched on Youtube, I do not think the underlying Messianic themes come through much at all. This version probably is probably a standout from its staged elements more than anything else.

    As I have many excellent versions of The Messiah on CD, I won't be in hurry to buy this staged version, but from the many parts that I have listened to, staging aside, the orchestral performance and singing appeared quite capable.
    Well, no doubt that it was Mr. Guth's interpretation - it does feel like parallel process; you have the music on one hand, and the stage events on the other hand. But the thing it, it's not that they match and overlap entirely, but rather, that they do *make sense* together - inasmuch as faith and redemption brought up to humankind by the Messiah, in this context, can lead humanity through difficult times (I'm saying this from the standpoint of the themes depicted in the work; no inference is to be made in terms of my personal beliefs or lack thereof, which I won't comment upon, given that we made the choice on OL to keep these subjects out of our discussions). The story unfolding in front of your eyes is an appropriate story to be witnessing while the music of Messiah unfolds in front of your ears - and this is why this staging is clever.

    By the way, I said no weak links - but the boy soprano is not among the best of his kind I've heard. One of the sopranos is merely adequate while the other one is outstanding - right now I don't remember which one since I don't have the insert in front of me to go fish her out by name and to match her to a scene in which she is singing. But anyway, neither of these comparatively less gifted singers sink the ship, and the other phenomenal singers more than compensate for it - and the chorus is also first rate.

    Another interesting fact is that the Hallelujah chorus is sort of subdued and not the peak of the piece - given the scene it paradoxically illustrates (a funeral). The final chorus is the one that really explodes, a refreshing take for those who listen to the Messiah just waiting for the Hallelujah chorus, failing to appreciate the various other sublime musical moments of this piece.

    In terms of Regietheater, the reason why this blu-ray pushes the limits of my general dislike for it is that while of course I love the Messiah (who doesn't?), I came to love it more after I saw this production, which is something that can not be attributed to anybody other than Mr. Claus Guth, kind of proving the point that good Regie indeed *adds* to the artistic value of a piece. And see, I don't always like Mr. Guth's work... I've liked some of his productions but have strongly disliked others.

    It all comes back to quality, after all - a view I've been taking more and more in our debates. Any theoretical approach to an issue, any question of principle, any matter of prejudice, fades away when one is confronted with a piece of high-quality work, regardless of the trend being expressed by the artists and creative teams - be it traditionalism, minimalism, Regie, even what I've been calling "extreme Regie." When one encounters superior quality, it takes over and overrules other considerations.

    So, after seeing this, I was reminded that I am in general uncomfortable with extreme Regie trends.... unless it's brilliantly done!
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  3. #47
    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
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    Can someone suggest a Handel opera for me which contains a good mix of voice types? Sopranos and counter-tenors seem to predominate in the ones I've looked at.

    Thank you
    "The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and storytellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland."
    Lucy Maud Montgomery

  4. #48
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sospiro View Post
    Can someone suggest a Handel opera for me which contains a good mix of voice types? Sopranos and counter-tenors seem to predominate in the ones I've looked at.

    Thank you
    That will be the case in most Handel operas, because he wrote for castrati and female singers (who were not categorised as mezzos or sopranos). However you might like to try Tamerlano which has a tenor in the principal role of Bajazet, or Hercules which has a bass as Hercules and a tenor as his son. Semele is good fun and has a tenor as Jupiter.
    Natalie

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  6. #49
    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soave_Fanciulla View Post
    That will be the case in most Handel operas, because he wrote for castrati and female singers (who were not categorised as mezzos or sopranos). However you might like to try Tamerlano which has a tenor in the principal role of Bajazet, or Hercules which has a bass as Hercules and a tenor as his son. Semele is good fun and has a tenor as Jupiter.
    Thanks Nat.
    "The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and storytellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland."
    Lucy Maud Montgomery

  7. #50
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    Watched the new Dessay Cesare, bottom line a delightful production that ranks near the top of all baroque opera productions but does not unseat the McVicar Cesare overall. Unfortunately Vigin does not offer blu ray which gives another edge to McVicar's excellent Cesare, still this is a strong buy for baroque opera fans.

    Very fun, inventive, clever production using "night at the museum" theme where opera takes place in back storage rooms of large museum, impressed with many scences as props come to life and museum workers seamlessly interact with main characters. Emmanuelle Haim leads a rousing HIP orchestral performance from keyboard she is one of the very best today, picture and sound quality as as good as any modern DVD is capable of.

    Zazzo as Cesare was perhaps weak spot of production, about average acting and singing, I hated his costume which was worn in every scence.....light grey roman soldier gear with heavy white face make-up, seemed to be a ghost of some sort instead of most powerful Roman general

    Dessay as Cleopatra was her usual dynamic exciting self, very entertaining artist that is big plus for any opera. Her energized performance perhaps also made Zazzo look weaker and pale in comparison

    The biggest upside surprise was young son Sesto played by Isabel Leonard, a great performance with wonderful vocals and passionate acting, her short pixie haircut matched her character well, his mother Cornelia was also a big positive upside surprise and helped elevate the overall performance.....I think Sesto even got bigger applause than Cleopatra at curtain call, bravo

    See if you like Sesto as much as me, duet with his mother Cornelia:


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  9. #51
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Some of the ornamentation in that production really put me off. Went too far. Dessay says they were Haïm's idea.

    Agree about Isabel Leonard though.
    Natalie

  10. #52
    Senior Member Involved Member Vesteralen's Avatar
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    I have a question for you knowledgeable people:

    I recently finished watching this Alcina from my local library:

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    The staging was a bit boring at times, but it wasn't as distracting as the Nagelstad version reviewed earlier on this thread. The singers were not of the eye-candy variety, but vocally, some of them were outstanding. Anja Harteros as Alcina and Veronica Cangemi as Morgana were particularly awesome.

    HOWEVER, the singer who played the part of Ruggerio I found almost intolerable. I ended up fast forwarding through her arias more than I listened to them in their entirety.

    So, my question is - for those of you who have seen both DVD versions, which is the all-round better choice vocally?

    And, is there another DVD option out there that should be in the discussion?


    Thanks

  11. #53
    Senior Member Veteran Member Aksel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vesteralen View Post
    HOWEVER, the singer who played the part of Ruggerio I found almost intolerable. I ended up fast forwarding through her arias more than I listened to them in their entirety.
    Ah, yes. La Kasarova. She's a special flower.

  12. #54
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    She was vocally pretty shocking in this - totally uneven register. Give me Alice Coote any day. Better actress, too, and none of those hamster faces.
    Natalie

  13. #55
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    The majority of Handel staged productions that make it to DVD/Blu-ray do no justice to the opera. The Harteros/Minkowski production has a lacklustre staging (though not outrageous as some others), the singing is not nearly as adequate as CD studio versions (namely Alan Curtis, William Christie). Alcina is one of Handel's finest later operas and it clearly deserves better. I have listened to parts of the Coote/Hacker version and it is far worse - wrong tempi all over, wrong pitch, cuts everywhere and strange staging. Alan Hacker is not a regular conductor of any repertoire let alone Baroque opera. I would prefer the Minkowski version as far as DVD/Blu-ray is concerned. Alcina is a Baroque magic opera. Drawing an analogy, would you make a Lord of the Rings movie in modern day costumes?

    Failing that, go for either or both of these instead.




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  15. #56
    Staff Writer & Reviewer - Life-time Donor Veteran Member Jephtha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HarpsichordConcerto View Post
    The majority of Handel staged productions that make it to DVD/Blu-ray do no justice to the opera. The Harteros/Minkowski production has a lacklustre staging (though not outrageous as some others), the singing is not nearly as adequate as CD studio versions (namely Alan Curtis, William Christie). Alcina is one of Handel's finest later operas and it clearly deserves better. I have listened to parts of the Coote/Hacker version and it is far worse - wrong tempi all over, wrong pitch, cuts everywhere and strange staging. Alan Hacker is not a regular conductor of any repertoire let alone Baroque opera. I would prefer the Minkowski version as far as DVD/Blu-ray is concerned. Alcina is a Baroque magic opera. Drawing an analogy, would you make a Lord of the Rings movie in modern day costumes?

    Failing that, go for either or both of these instead.



    HC, what do you think of the Hickox Alcina on EMI? Despite prosaic conducting and inadequate performers in the secondary roles (especially a shrill, hard-toned Eiddwen Harrhy as Morgana), I find Auger and Jones near-ideal in the roles of Alcina and Ruggiero: vocally impeccable and inhabiting the characters to a T. Would you recommend the above performances over the Hickox?

  16. #57
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jephtha View Post
    HC, what do you think of the Hickox Alcina on EMI? Despite prosaic conducting and inadequate performers in the secondary roles (especially a shrill, hard-toned Eiddwen Harrhy as Morgana), I find Auger and Jones near-ideal in the roles of Alcina and Ruggiero: vocally impeccable and inhabiting the characters to a T. Would you recommend the above performances over the Hickox?
    Richard Hickox is a very fine conductor. I have not listened to his version of Alcina entirely. But from the parts that I have listened to, it was quite enjoyable. Arlene Augér is a very, very capable Alcina. (I have Arlene Augér in quite a few other recordings and I do like her voice).

  17. #58
    Staff Writer & Reviewer - Life-time Donor Veteran Member Jephtha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HarpsichordConcerto View Post
    Richard Hickox is a very fine conductor. I have not listened to his version of Alcina entirely. But from the parts that I have listened to, it was quite enjoyable. Arlene Augér is a very, very capable Alcina.
    If you've not yet heard it, please listen to Della Jones' rendition of 'Sta nell'Ircana'. I think it is well-nigh perfect. And she's not bad in 'Verdi prati', either.

  18. #59
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jephtha View Post
    If you've not yet heard it, please listen to Della Jones' rendition of 'Sta nell'Ircana'. I think it is well-nigh perfect. And she's not bad in 'Verdi prati', either.
    Very warm, I recall. You have tempted me to get a copy of it. It has been re-released on budget EMI label.

  19. #60
    Staff Writer & Reviewer - Life-time Donor Veteran Member Jephtha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HarpsichordConcerto View Post
    Very warm, I recall. You have tempted me to get a copy of it. It has been re-released on budget EMI label.
    Oh, I almost forgot Ruggiero's 'Mi lusinga un dolce affetto' in Act II. This is a surefire number anyway, but Jones will bring you to tears. This aria alone will be worth whatever price you pay for the set.

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