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

          
   
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  1. #61
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Following on from member Jephtha's posts above, the three benchmark Alcina recordings, in whatever format would be






  2. #62
    Senior Member Involved Member Vesteralen's Avatar
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    Thanks, everyone.

    In short, though there seem to be several good CD choices, it looks like we have to hold out for a really superior DVD. (Although, I guess that's not really a rare situation, is it?).

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    Staff Writer & Reviewer - Life-time Donor Veteran Member Jephtha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vesteralen View Post
    Thanks, everyone.

    In short, though there seem to be several good CD choices, it looks like we have to hold out for a really superior DVD. (Although, I guess that's not really a rare situation, is it?).
    I wonder if there might be a video floating aroung of the old Franco Zeffirelli production with Joan Sutherland.

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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    Facing extremely tough competition the new Curtis Cesare get a slight overall edge to become my reference Cesare.

    The two obvious challengers both from the early 1990s have many strengths, especially the Jacobs which was perhaps my favorite previous version. I especially liked the use of 2 soprano + 2 contralto + counter tenor (Tolomeo) for 5 main singers, this combination vocals works very well for me vs having a male Cesare. Schlick was very impressive Cleopatra and DL Ragin still is my preferred Tolomeo among all versions, sound quality and inspired conducting of Jacobs still sound fresh today, but.......

    20 years later using same 2 soprano + 2 contralto + counter tenor singer balance Curtis edges ahead for me. The style of baroque singing has evolved over 20 years and is more sophisticated and creative today in the ornamanted lines, the vocals more fluently describe the emotional content and Curtis is masterful in his baroque orchestration with reference quality Naive sound.....this is just a baroque treasure that will be played many times by me. There is also a warmth and richness to overall vocals here I find most appealing

    HC
    Do you agree that Curtis is now the preferred Cesare or.......????

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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dark_Angel View Post
    HC
    Do you agree that Curtis is now the preferred Cesare or.......????
    I just received my copy of it last week. I am slowly going through the Curtis recording and listening to it carefully to contrast with some of the benchmark performances. Curtis' interpretation of Handel scores rarely disappoints. It usually comes down to the singers. One thing I can unequivocally say right now is Derek Lee Ragin from the Jacobs recording is still the strongest Tolomeo I have ever heard. I shall get back to you on this one.

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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    CD 1 of Alan Curtis' Version of Giulio Cesare in Egitto

    Rather than me listening and comparing the whole recording, I thought I shall I write down my thoughts so far on CD 1 of this recording. I have yet to finish listening to CD 2 and 3.

    Overall Sound Quality
    The orchestra led by Alan Curtis was the period instrument band Il Complesso Barocco. Although the orchestra was relatively small, deploying a standard modern use of a Baroque orchestra (four 1st violins, four 2nd, two violas, two cellos and one bass), the recording had a very "big sound". The mircrophones were obviously placed both at the instruments and also surrounding it because one could hear the independent oboes and basson supporting lines in many instances, and also the violins playing their chords at the end of some arias as if the players were right in front of you. The echo of the recording location (not disclosed as far as I am aware) was actually well balanced with the microphones placed extremely close to the instruments and voices. So from the sound quality overall, like many modern studio recordings, was rather artifical in the sense that you might not hear as an audience a little distant away in an opera theatre, but technically very impressive sounding when played on a good hi-fi equipment and as if you were one of the players or even the conductor seated in front. I would give this a high distinction in terms of recorded sound, and surpassing my other favourite on sound; namely, Rene Jacobs' version on Harmonia Mundi. I have every known recorded version of this opera performed by period instrument bands released on CD and this recorded sound was the best so far.

    Marie-Nicole Lemieux
    Contralto MNL sang Cesare. My personal preference, as deployed here, was to use a contralto or mezzo-soprano instead of a countertenor to sing the demanding role of Cesare. Without getting into a debate why, I still think a non-falsettist taking this role is best; that's not to say countertenors cannot or should not do the job. But I have been more impressed by Jennifer Larmore for example and yes, even a female voice can sure sound much more masculine than a countertenor. I was extremely impressed by MNL right from the start. The great coloratura aria Presti ormai l'egizia terra (track 3) winned over Larmore's, in my humble opinion. MNL had an incredible range and she blasted through the aria apparently effortlessly and with menancing pronunciation of the words and conveyed it more dramatically than all version of this I have heard, including Sarah Connolly on DVD. Countertenors have never impressed me terribly much as they just lacked sufficient fire to blast arias like Presti ormai. Likewise the great aria Va tacito e nascosto (track 26) was tackled with regal caution and suspicion. So overall, we have a great singer here for Cesare so far.

    Romina Basso
    The only relatively "weak" performance I think, on CD 1 was Cornelia's aria Priva son d'ogni conforto (track 7). This was sung by contralto Romina Basso. This was a beautiful aria and the only tragic character in the entire opera who sang the most beautiful tragic arias. But I thought the accompaniment was a little dry and as if performing note for note. Patricia Bardon (Glyndebourne/William Christie production) sang this aria most movingly that I can recall from all the versions I have listened to at first instance.

    I shall post more later, especially about Karina Gauvin as Cleopatra's best arias appear after Act One when her character gains more momentum in development.

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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    Keep going HC, love it!

    One critic on Amazon also mentioned Cornelia's opening aria in Curtis Cesare as being a let down, will have to revisit this. In the mean time I discovered I have another Cesare CD set that I had forgotten about.



    This is really a female dominated cast with Cesare and even Tolomeo sung by mezzo, time to dust it off and give it another listen

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    Senior Member Involved Member Vesteralen's Avatar
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    I guess this really wasn't an opera originially, and the story is a bit static. So, the addition of dancers mirroring the lyrical content makes sense. I had no problems with the vocals. I guess my problem was with the lyrics. I don't care if partial credit went to Alexander Pope or not, but silly lyrics like "Happy We" repeated over and over made me long for Italian, French or even Urdu. Anything but English.

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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HarpsichordConcerto View Post
    CD 1 of Alan Curtis' Version of Giulio Cesare in Egitto

    Rather than me listening and comparing the whole recording, I thought I shall I write down my thoughts so far on CD 1 of this recording. I have yet to finish listening to CD 2 and 3.

    Overall Sound Quality
    The orchestra led by Alan Curtis was the period instrument band Il Complesso Barocco. Although the orchestra was relatively small, deploying a standard modern use of a Baroque orchestra (four 1st violins, four 2nd, two violas, two cellos and one bass), the recording had a very "big sound". The mircrophones were obviously placed both at the instruments and also surrounding it because one could hear the independent oboes and basson supporting lines in many instances, and also the violins playing their chords at the end of some arias as if the players were right in front of you. The echo of the recording location (not disclosed as far as I am aware) was actually well balanced with the microphones placed extremely close to the instruments and voices. So from the sound quality overall, like many modern studio recordings, was rather artifical in the sense that you might not hear as an audience a little distant away in an opera theatre, but technically very impressive sounding when played on a good hi-fi equipment and as if you were one of the players or even the conductor seated in front. I would give this a high distinction in terms of recorded sound, and surpassing my other favourite on sound; namely, Rene Jacobs' version on Harmonia Mundi. I have every known recorded version of this opera performed by period instrument bands released on CD and this recorded sound was the best so far.

    Marie-Nicole Lemieux
    Contralto MNL sang Cesare. My personal preference, as deployed here, was to use a contralto or mezzo-soprano instead of a countertenor to sing the demanding role of Cesare. Without getting into a debate why, I still think a non-falsettist taking this role is best; that's not to say countertenors cannot or should not do the job. But I have been more impressed by Jennifer Larmore for example and yes, even a female voice can sure sound much more masculine than a countertenor. I was extremely impressed by MNL right from the start. The great coloratura aria Presti ormai l'egizia terra (track 3) winned over Larmore's, in my humble opinion. MNL had an incredible range and she blasted through the aria apparently effortlessly and with menancing pronunciation of the words and conveyed it more dramatically than all version of this I have heard, including Sarah Connolly on DVD. Countertenors have never impressed me terribly much as they just lacked sufficient fire to blast arias like Presti ormai. Likewise the great aria Va tacito e nascosto (track 26) was tackled with regal caution and suspicion. So overall, we have a great singer here for Cesare so far.

    Romina Basso
    The only relatively "weak" performance I think, on CD 1 was Cornelia's aria Priva son d'ogni conforto (track 7). This was sung by contralto Romina Basso. This was a beautiful aria and the only tragic character in the entire opera who sang the most beautiful tragic arias. But I thought the accompaniment was a little dry and as if performing note for note. Patricia Bardon (Glyndebourne/William Christie production) sang this aria most movingly that I can recall from all the versions I have listened to at first instance.

    I shall post more later, especially about Karina Gauvin as Cleopatra's best arias appear after Act One when her character gains more momentum in development.
    CD 2 & 3

    Karina Gauvin
    A Cleopatra with a strong voice and with a bit more vibrato than I am used to but all in good measure. One of my favourite arias was Piangerò la sorte mia (CD3 track 7) and was expressed quite nicely. It was one of those arias that tested the abilities of the soprano lamenting her feelings but with a fiery middle section of the da capo aria. Likewise, no complaints with Da tempeste il legno infranto (CD3 track 15). A minor reservation concerned Cleopatra's seduction scene where I thought the orchestra could have played with a bit more legato during the sinfonia that connected to her famous aria V'adoro, pupille or to "warm up" the seduction a little more, as it was one of the best scenes in the whole opera. Gauvin's voice overall had the maturity lacking in Danielle de Niese's, although this might be questionable consideration the character in the opera was supposedly to be a lot more younger than Cesare.

    Other Singers
    Emoke Barath
    Sesto's arias are full of fire, except the beautiful lamenting duet Son nata/o a lagrimar/sospirar with Cornelia that closed Act One. The latter was one of the most moving arias of the whole opera but again, I thought there were better alternatives including the popular Glyndebourne/Christie. Barath conveyed the firey and vengeful undertones of her character but I have heard stronger versions of some arias elsewhere.

    Filippo Mineccia
    The only countertenor in the recording singing a substantial role. Adequate but the strongest Tolomeo I have ever heard was Derek Lee Ragin (Harmonia Mundi/Rene Jacobs) who often sang true staccato, which in a role like Tolomeo's, I thought would better depict the character's treachery. Mineccia's vice was a lot stronger however than other countertenors, such as Christopher Robson's (Harmonia Mundi DVD/Blu-ray/Lars Ulrik Mortensen).

    Johannes Weisser
    A strong baritone who sang Achilla, which I enjoyed. I often think Achilla got better arias than Tolomeo and in all the versions that I have the baritones never failed to impress.

    Overall, I think singers are well up to the standards, and my favourite is Marie-Nicole Lemieux singing the hero. The singers sing with a touch more vibrato but in good measure and taste. My only reservations are a couple of lamenting arias of Cornelia's that could perhaps be expressed with a bit more legato. These arias must look very "sparse" on the physical score but Handel was utterly a composer of the human voice and both conductor/leader and singer would need to bring it out with a little more. First rate recorded "big sound" overall. Note that this version excluded the single lovely aria of Nireno's that was included in Jacob's by way of appendix and Christie's by way of introduction to Act Two.

    Yes, this is an essential version of Giulio Cesare in Egitto to have for any lover of opera and of course, fellow Handelians.

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  13. #70
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HarpsichordConcerto View Post
    Yes, this is an essential version of Giulio Cesare in Egitto to have for any lover of opera and of course, fellow Handelians.
    A reason to celebrate, one of the great italian baroque operas with over 30 arias in excellent modern sound.

    I don't like to be too generalized but the "art" of baroque singing and orchestral playing has advanced in last 20 years since Jacobs and Minkowski versions, the singing is often more sophisticated and inspired, the recitative lines and music continuo are more varied and interesting etc

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    Staff Writer & Reviewer - Life-time Donor Veteran Member Jephtha's Avatar
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    It is still a source of great sadness to me that Nikolaus Harnoncourt was not allowed to complete the recording of Giulio Cesare that he began in the 1980's; a CD of highlights is all that remains. While Paul Esswood is nowhere near firm enough in the title role(like HarpsichordConcerto, I also prefer a strong mezzo as Cesare), the rest of the cast was superlative. The most impressive are perhaps the two mezzos Ann Murray and Marjana Lipovsek, as Sextus and Cornelia, respectively. Murray's 'Cara speme' is the best I have heard(she sings the entire da capo sotto voce, with devastating emotional effect), and Lipovsek's 'Priva son d'ogni conforto' is quite moving, due to the intense emotion conjured by both singer and conductor. Roberta Alexander is not the first soprano that comes to mind when Cleopatra is mentioned, but her 'Da tempeste' is very good, and 'Se pieta di me non senti' is quite beautiful. And to my ear, the Vienna Concentus Musicus are the ideal orchestra for this score, with their ability to portray the widest range of emotions in tones now sumptuous and rich, now dry and keening. What might have been!
    Last edited by Jephtha; December 24th, 2012 at 07:00 PM. Reason: To insert the name of one of Cleopatra's arias

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  17. #72
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    During my seasonal traversal of my Messiah CD sets I was reminded again why I love the Christie/HM version so much, such a wonderful set of soloists and warm sound blossoms very nicely, sometimes the choral forces float above like a heavenly choir of angels.

    The counter tenor used here is Andreas Scholl and he has the most sublimely beautiful sung passages, velvetly smooth voice that glows like tupelo honey.......not the most dramatic counter tenor but the sheer beauty of his angelic voice is mesmerizing

    I sold my older CD version to buy the newest "digibook" release (pix 2) which comes in a handsome hardbound cover with 100+ pages of nice photos and background info




    Andreas Scholl from above version:


  18. #73
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    I'll be watching this shortly, and will be posting a review. For now I'm watching ice hockey on TV... low brow vs. high brow entertainment, what to pick?

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

  19. #74
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    I'll be watching this shortly, and will be posting a review. For now I'm watching ice hockey on TV... low brow vs. high brow entertainment, what to pick?

    Hockey schmokey, watch the Teseo, it's rather cute.
    Natalie

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soave_Fanciulla View Post
    Hockey schmokey, watch the Teseo, it's rather cute.


    Teseo on DVD, opera seria in five acts by Handel premiered in 1713, to an Italian libretto by Niccolo Francesco Haym.

    Oh well, the hockey game went to overtime, it got too late, I got tired. Today I am watching the Teseo. Oh! My! God! This is some seriously good HIP ensemble, and these are some seriously good singers!!! And all unknown names. It goes to show how fame is a question of luck sometimes, because these people could be singing to great success in any major house!

    As it is, it comes from a small theater, the Schlosstheater im Neuen Palais, in Potsdam, Germany (apparently, a gorgeous, newly restored ancient theater). The HIP ensemble is the Lautten Compangney Berlin, conducted by Wolfgang Katschner.

    Technically awkward product. You pop it in, it starts playing right away without a menu to select sound track and subtitles. They are available, though. You have to hit the pop-up menu key on your DVD player's remote, and then the menu does show. I've selected LPCM and French subtitles, since I've been warned that the 5.1 track is unbalanced, and that the English subtitles are awful. Still, the LPCM track is also unbalanced. I think it's a question of microphone placement. Singers aren't heard very well once they move to certain parts of the stage. Colors and image definition are OK but not great. So, it's a technically limited product. But oh wow, what great singing and playing!

    Image is 1.78:1, running time is 166 minutes. ArtHaus Musik release of 2005, region 1 only (USA and Canada). Subtitles in original Italian, English, French, Spanish, and Chinese. There is a feature that allows you to display the score while you watch the opera but I did not make use of it (our musician friends may like this feature). Addendum - OK, I did restart with this feature on after I finished seeing the opera and it is very intrusive, it occupies all of the screen, and everything else can only be seenunder a translucent film. Anyway, maybe this is good for student singers or student conductors, so I guess it's a plus that it is there, but it's definitely not something regular opera lovers will want to turn on).

    Jacek Laszczkowski is Teseo (with a less meaty, thinner, smaller voice and pitch control problems in his top - but his timbre is pleasant). All males are sopranists. Martin Wölfell is Egeo and he does very well, has a voice a bit darker than your usual countertenor. Thomas Diestler is Arcane (also with a darker but less impressive voice). Maria Riccarda Wesseling is Medea (excellent, a force of nature; she nails the role perfectly both in singing and acting, and what a beautiful voice!). The other two females are Miriam Meyer as Clizia (good) and Sharon Rostorf-Zamir as Agilea (also excellent). Overall, this cast is great (since even the singers who don't perform technically as well at least have pleasant voice timbre). Acting is nice, a bit over-the-top in purpose with some rather funny comic relief at times. Looks-wise, these people are not atractive (except for a cute and sexy Miriam Meyer), but it doesn't get in the way, given the good singing and acting - see for instance, Teseo's and Medea's duet in Act II, very nicely done. There is a small and good chorus.

    Here is a picture of Miriam (she is the protagonist of a rather sexy and funny scene, in bed with Arcane):



    The staging directed by Alex Köhler is with simple and minimalist sets designed by Stephan Dietrich - some sliding panels, a large black bed, dark chairs, not much more than that. Costumes are also simple - some gowns, breast plates, some jewelry and golden crowns, and not exactly set to Ancient Greece which is when the opera is set. There are some fun weird touches, like Medea's costume (it's made of... hair! and the bed covers are hair as well) and her red-colored arm. The ending has some nice touches too ("tuto finito" displayed by two cute women). So, it's a limited budget production, but with great musicians and singers, and some inventiveness. Makes one wonder what else is done in these small German opera companies that we never get to see; we're probably missing out on some good quality opera by these regional ensembles in the multiple German houses.

    The opera itself, his fifth, is not considered to be a major Handel work. Regardless, it's pleasant enough, since nothing composed by Handel fails to sound beautiful, especially when well played and well sung like here.

    Recommended, a grade A musical performance with modest means (a B staging, technically deficient as a DVD). Just the opportunity to hear how well this HIP ensemble plays is worth the purchase, in spite of a relatively spicy price of $28.18 on Amazon.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); May 12th, 2013 at 05:27 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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