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

          
   
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  1. #76
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    Last night, we watched the new SFO Blu ray of i Capuleti ei Montecchi. The "abstract" staging (according to Joyce DiDonato) was a bit off putting at first, but became irrelevant once the singing started. There are a lot of en travesti parts, going back to Monteverdi, and while a few folks get their knickers in a twist over women in mens' parts (I'm speaking of drama here!), I don't. The sound of soprano/mezzo harmonies can be phenominal, and it is so here. At the risk of being accused of hyperbole, when DiDonato and Cabell get together the sound approaches the celestial.

    I have and enjoy the two CD versions of this opera, but with the recent addition of a HD TV, I spend my opera time watching as well as listening.

    This is one hell of a performance, kiddies. Get it.

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnGerald View Post
    Last night, we watched the new SFO Blu ray of i Capuleti ei Montecchi. The "abstract" staging (according to Joyce DiDonato) was a bit off putting at first, but became irrelevant once the singing started. There are a lot of en travesti parts, going back to Monteverdi, and while a few folks get their knickers in a twist over women in mens' parts (I'm speaking of drama here!), I don't. The sound of soprano/mezzo harmonies can be phenominal, and it is so here. At the risk of being accused of hyperbole, when DiDonato and Cabell get together the sound approaches the celestial.

    I have and enjoy the two CD versions of this opera, but with the recent addition of a HD TV, I spend my opera time watching as well as listening.

    This is one hell of a performance, kiddies. Get it.
    Waiting for the friendly postie to deliver it.
    Natalie

  3. #78
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnGerald View Post
    Last night, we watched the new SFO Blu ray of i Capuleti ei Montecchi. The "abstract" staging (according to Joyce DiDonato) was a bit off putting at first, but became irrelevant once the singing started. There are a lot of en travesti parts, going back to Monteverdi, and while a few folks get their knickers in a twist over women in mens' parts (I'm speaking of drama here!), I don't. The sound of soprano/mezzo harmonies can be phenominal, and it is so here. At the risk of being accused of hyperbole, when DiDonato and Cabell get together the sound approaches the celestial.

    I have and enjoy the two CD versions of this opera, but with the recent addition of a HD TV, I spend my opera time watching as well as listening.

    This is one hell of a performance, kiddies. Get it.
    Waiting for the Christmas presents

  4. #79
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    I Capuleti e i Montecchi on DVD



    I Capuleti e i Montecchi, tragedia lirica in two acts, sung in Italian, premiered on 11 March 1830 at Teatro La Fenice in Venice
    Music by Vincenzo Bellini
    Libretto by Felice Romani, based on the play of the same name by Luigi Scevola (1818) and not on Shakespeare's The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. Scevola recovered the early Italian legends on the topic which go back to Antiquity, via Renaissance author Matteo Bandello, while Shakespeare based his play on Arthur Brooke and William Painter, who had translated into English earlier Italian texts; so, it is important to understand that Bellini's opera, unlike Gounod's Roméo et Juliette, is *not* an adaptation of Shakespeare. Also, unlike Gounod's opera which has 13 singing characters, Bellini's is shorter and more economic in its means, with only 5 singing roles.

    Recorded Live at the War Memorial Theater in San Francisco, California, in October 2012

    Co-Production San Francisco Opera and Bavarian State Opera

    San Francisco Opera Orchestra and Chorus, conducted by Riccardo Friza; acting concertmaster Laura Albers
    San Francisco Opera Chorus, chorus master Ian Robertson
    Stage Director Vincent Boussard
    Set Designer Vincent Lemaire
    Costume Designer Christian Lacroix
    Lighting Designer Guido Levi
    Directed for the screen by Franco Zamacona

    Cast

    Giulietta - Nicole Cabell
    Romeo - Joyce DiDonato (an Opera Lively interviewee)
    Tebaldo - Saimir Pirgu (an Opera Lively interviewee)
    Capellio - Eric Owens
    Lorenzo - Ao Li

    The insert and packaging contain no fewer than 11 production pictures in color (they are gorgeous), credits, list of musical numbers with titles, characters, and duration, a 2-page synopsis, a 1-page statement by the stage director explaining the concept (this is a very nice touch - I wish other DVDs would have the same), and this is all repeated in English, German, and French.

    EuroArts release (2014) - 2 DVDs, NTSC 16:9, region 0 (worldwide), running time 135 minutes, sound PCM Stereo, DD 5.1, and DTS 5.1, subtitles in English, German, French, and Italian; 16 minutes of bonus materials include an interview with Joyce DiDonato, an interview with Nicole Cabell, and a 2-minute talk about Joyce's early career in San Francisco as an apprentice at the Merola program. The DVD opens with scenes of the city of San Francisco and the facade of the opera house. Also included are four extensive trailers for other shows, and they are fun to watch. Very well produced DVD!

    The entire opera is on DVD 1, and DVD 2 only contains the bonus materials.

    This product is available from Amazon for $31.50 [clicky] - also available on blu-ray disc for $36

    ----------

    The orchestra performs very well the overture. The musicians look like veterans of the trade, if one gauges by their age. The first scene is in the stables of the Capulet's palace, and set design renders the location by suspending from the roof several horse saddles. The background and costumes are all bluish (very tasteful) and lighting has red and green hues, on what looks like polished metal. Costumes for all characters and the chorus are done in black leather and blue scarves.

    We get in the first scene all three male singers, and it is very, very impressive how good they are. Saimir Pirgu in my opinion is rapidly dominating the field as one of the top five tenors in activity in the world, today. Eric Owens dispenses introduction, and remains as good as ever. I did not know Ao Li but he certainly doesn't disappoint.

    Soon enough Saimir dispels any possible doubt one might have regarding my assertion above, when he delivers a spectacular "È serbato a questo acciaro" (misspelled in the insert as "serbata") with beautiful high notes, phrasing, and potent volume. I give myself an encore, playing again the track. Bravo!

    I'm listening to the PCM track on headphones, and the sound is crystal clear, with good balance. Image is of very good definition and color.

    The Saimir show continues with "L'amo tanto, e m'è si cara" - which includes a high C in the bridge between the two sections. Again, the tenor is perfect in his execution. The chorus is doing very well too.

    So far so good; this seems to be a very polished product, with very good musical values. I think I'm in for a treat.

    Romeo makes his entrance, and in spite of this not being a comedy at all, I almost break out laughing, so convincing Joyce is a male, in her body language! We get a good piece of blocking with the chorus leaving the scene by each half of it crossing to the opposite side, very precisely.

    Then, we get to listen to Joyce's acrobatics in "Ascolta - Se Romeo túccise un figlio," which she delivers with her exquisite and flawless technique - it doesn't get any better than that! The chorus then wraps itself around Joyce using the same kind of blocking.

    The second scene is in Giulietta's room, which only has a square white sink attached to the wall on red background, and there is a suspended white marble statue. Again, very visually striking. Cabell is vocally formidable in her Giulietta - what a beautiful "Oh! Quante volte"! - and she looks sexy in her strapless white gown. She climbs on the sink and tries to reach the marble statue, while lighting goes changing hues - what in the hell were the Amazon reviewers thinking when they called this staging "ugly"??? It's visually very successful. (Edit - I should have said "so far" because it does get worse, later)

    Video direction is well done, with brief close-ups merging into zoomed out views.

    The third scene has extremely colorful costumes for the chorus and a bit of - literally - on-you-face symbolism with the women being silent and having huge flowers on their mouths. Generally I dislike symbolism that is too obvious (with the exception of the big clock in Willy Decker's Traviata which I did like). The stage is filled with bleachers. The general effect is, well, weird. This is not a visually successful scene. We get stovepipe hats - it all looks like mid-19th century London, for no good reason.

    My take on the abstract staging in scenes 1 and 2, seeing it in a positive light, had to do with its visual beauty. Scene 3 has no beauty whatsoever. Reviewers got upset with the singing while perched on top of the sink in Scene 2. It didn't bother me. Giulietta was trying to reach the marble statue. This longing attempt to reach an ideal was symbolically appropriate, I think. The bleachers, stovepipe hats, flowers on the mouth got all to look frankly ridiculous, without the redeeming quality of visual beauty.

    I'm reading some reviews and I don't know where these people get their knowledge of what constitutes good singing. Someone said that Joyce has an unpleasant wobble and forces her notes. What what whaaaaattt??? Really? Where in the hell is Joyce showing an unpleasant wobble???? The same clueless reviewer bashes Saimir's singing as well. OK. No more reading of this misguided person; back to enjoying the *excellent* singing by all involved.

    Nicole Cabell is *really* impressive. It's the first time I see her, beyond some YouTube clips. This is a truly excellent singer. Both her and Joyce do very well the bel canto coloratura, and they are agile and precise, both with beautiful timbre of voice, and musicality.

    Let me include several pictures of the staging - these are not the Cory Weaver pictures we see on the web but rather screen captures from YouTube clips, which I made using the snipping tool for fair promotional use. In case these clips have in their turn used Cory Weaver's pictures, then the photographer is hereby credited. They follow the sequence of acts and scenes.

    Act 1 Scene 1

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    Act 1 Scene 2

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    I must say, the visual beauty of this scene is more than what this screen capture shows, because unfortunately the clip did not contain the more beautiful take, with splashes of red color and green shoes all making a rather good visual composition.

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    Act 1 Scene 3

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    Act 2 Scene 1

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    Curtain calls

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    The duel scene (act 2, scene 2) is done with choreography only, no swords. I like it, and singing and acting are good by Joyce and Saimir.

    Act 2 scene 3 is well done and recovers beauty.

    Bonus materials: Joyce explains the staging concept quite efficiently. She undoes much of the criticism I read, regarding the staging. Joyce is a very intelligent artist as we know from her interview with us, so listening to her take is very helpful in getting the viewer more favorably impressed by the staging. Joyce is, as usual, lovely, and I like what she said about being a good girl that would have been a bad boy, if she were born a boy (talking about her pant roles). Nicole looks very pretty in her interview, in her regular clothes, and she addresses a bit the vocal and emotional demands of the role. It's a good interview, too; she describes the technical side of the singing in more detail than Joyce did, and she is obviously in awe of Joyce (so am I). Then there is a 2-minute piece with Joyce talking about the Merola program that she did in San Fran as a young artist. There is a black-and-white picture of one of the productions she did while an apprentice at the Merola, and a picture of the young Joyce singing in a master class.

    Then, there are trailers for three San Fran DVDs: Lucrezia Borgia, Moby Dick, Porgy and Bess, and an EuroArts DVD of Die Meistersinger. We get Renée Fleming singing very well as Lucrezia, with Michael Fabiano as Gennaro. Weird costumes but good voices! The Moby Dick has our friend Jay Hunter Morris - we've seen this production on PBS and it is *very* good! These trailers are longish and do give an idea of the productions. Other than Jay, Stephen Costello does very well in this production. The Porgy and Bess, I've purchased too but it is still in my unwatched pile. It looks good. We get Eric Owens again as Porgy, and a charming Laquita Mitchells as Bess. The Meistersinger trailer seems less compelling. This production with the Wiener Philharmoniker conducted by Daniele Gatti in a staging by Stefan Herhelm seems a bit bland and I wasn't impressed with the singing either (Bohinec/Gabler/Saccà/Sonn/Volle/Werba/Seppenfeld - from this sample, I'd say not recommended).

    Verdict:

    Staging B+ I generally like it but it does get weird and with forceful symbolism.
    Set design A- Visually beautiful in two thirds of the scenes, not as much in the bleachers part
    Costumes B- The London look doesn't seem to make much sense
    Blocking A Generally efficient for the chorus, and I did like the duel without swords
    Orchestra and conducting A+ Very competent
    Singing A++ Those who dislike the abstract staging can still close their eyes and listen - it's gorgeously sung
    Acting A Joyce and Nicole very good; the males were a bit stiff
    Packaging and insert A+
    Bonus Materials A+
    Technical quality of the recording (audio/video) A++ entirely flawless

    Overall A (the extremes cancel each other and the average ends up being grade A, recommended)
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); December 15th, 2014 at 05:33 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  6. #80
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    Whew!! I am SO glad that my amazon review did not use the word "ugly", but Joyce DiDonato said in her interview that the staging was supposed to be "abstract". I did not like it, but the singing is exquisite, and in the HD MA mode on the Blu ray it makes the staging immaterial. We've watched it 6 -7 times since getting it and will do so again soon.

  7. #81
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JohnGerald View Post
    Whew!! I am SO glad that my amazon review did not use the word "ugly", but Joyce DiDonato said in her interview that the staging was supposed to be "abstract". I did not like it, but the singing is exquisite, and in the HD MA mode on the Blu ray it makes the staging immaterial. We've watched it 6 -7 times since getting it and will do so again soon.
    As you can see, I did edit my post, and I did it before I saw this post of yours (which doesn't show on the time stamp since I kept editing). I kind of changed my mind about the staging and even inserted a line up there saying that I should have said visually beautiful "so far, because it does get worse later" - and in the "later" part I even used "frankly ridiculous" so now I get what the Amazon reviewers were getting at.

    Now, I read several reviews on opera magazines and blogs. About the bashing of the singing, it didn't come from Amazon. The "ugly" part did come from Amazon - not your review, but the third one, the one with one star.

    Even though I got less impressed with the staging as it went on, Joyce DiDonato in her interview does advocate a lot for the staging, and she explains some of the ideas behind it.

    PS - I was silly, I didn't notice when I bought the DVD that there was a blu-ray version. Anyway, I guess the PCM track is as good on DVD as on blu-ray since it is linear, non-compressed sound, and with the Sennheiser headphones, I guess I didn't miss much.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); December 15th, 2014 at 05:35 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  8. #82
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    I would say, Luiz, for the benefits of readers who question getting this recording to do so. A fellow amazon reviewer with whom I exchange e mails on a regular basis saw the production and advised me to pass on the purchase. I am very happy that I did not. As you note, the singing is nearly perfect and (to me, at least) it trumps the deficiencies in staging. The same is true (again, for me, at least) with Mary Zimmerman's staging of Sonnambula and Lucia: the quality of the singing makes the dramatic deficiencies almost immaterial.

  9. #83
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    I just got this and it is wonderful. Also, it occupies three CDs (and average 41 minutes longer) whereas I see many of the I Capuleti e i Montecchi recordings are only two disks suggesting an incomplete performance.

    Kasarova/Mei set: 2 Hours 51 Minutes
    Garanca/Netrebko set: 2 hours 7 minutes
    Baltsa/Gruberova set: 2 hours 9 minutes
    Baker/Sills set: 2 hours 14 minutes
    Larmore/Hong: 2 hours 5 minutes

    So based on total time alone, this is the set to get, but regardless of that, it is worth it for Kasarova alone!

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  10. #84
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Florestan View Post
    Kasarova/Mei set: 2 Hours 51 Minutes (3 disks)
    Garanca/Netrebko set: 2 hours 7 minutes (2 disks)
    Baltsa/Gruberova set: 2 hours 9 minutes (2 disks)
    Baker/Sills set: 2 hours 14 minutes (2 disks)
    Larmore/Hong: 2 hours 5 minutes (2 disks)
    Mystery solved! And as my mother used to say, if it were a dog it would have bit me. All I had to do is read the booklet that came with the Kasarova/Mei set.

    Kasarova/Mei is 2 hours 12 minutes (2 disks). The third disk is the finale of Nicola Vaccai's Giulietta e Romeo, which was sometimes substituted for Bellini's ending. This practice began with Maria Malibran who felt Bellini's score did not provide adequate opportunity for her to display her vocal skills, so she began using the more dramatic Vaccai ending. So at this point, we might wonder if any of the recordings have done that. Something to look out for. At least with the Kasarova/Mei set it is an appendix on a third disk. And that is a nice bonus as it does provide some great drama.

    Vaccai's Giulietta e Romeo is also available on CD and there are sound clips available here.
    Necessities of life: food, water, air, shelter, and opera.

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