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

          
   
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  1. #16
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Otello from the Liceu



    This production was directed by Willy Decker, the guy who gave us the Salzburg Traviata. Here we have the same minimalist sets, but the dominant symbol is a cross. The chorus carries it around, Iago sneers at it, Desdemona prays to it & goes to sleep on it, and Otello eventually breaks it in half.

    Cura, as is often the case, doesn't have the technique or beauty of tone for the romantic arias (definitely missed PD for "Già nella notte densa"), but he comes into his own when he portrays Otello's slow descent into madness. This is a frightening but also weak Otello, prone to epileptic fits and a clear outsider in the Venetian populace he has been set to rule. I'd be terrified to be married to him. You can see how much this role took out of Cura at the curtain call, when he stands like a stunned mullet hugging his co-star.

    Krassimira Stoyanova is moving as Desdemona and, as always, sounds lovely, but Lado Ataneli was a little weak as Iago. I like my Iagos Really Evil . Vittorio Grigolo as Cassio does his usual hot young buck performance. His singing is accomplished, but is it just me or does anyone else find his singing irritatingly monochromatic?
    Natalie

  2. #17
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Un Ballo in Maschera

    Some good solid traditional fare:



    (chosen because I love Domingo and am not keen on Pavarotti, both from a voice and acting point of view). It’s a very faithful and opulent production, in the original Swedish setting, and sung with conviction if not great originality by the leads. I realised when I watched it that, fundamentally, Domingo always plays Domingo, he’s not very subtle. There’s heroic Domingo, anguished Domingo, ardent Domingo and lovable Domingo, and that's it. But I still love listening to him. And I got the impression it might have been under-rehearsed from a staging point of view, particularly in an unintentionally funny moment when Barstow, avowing her guilty love, flings herself enthusiastically at him and he looks astonished and staggers a little. But it is an attractive rendition of the opera, with lovely music and beautiful costumes.
    Natalie

  3. #18
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    La Traviata



    Not my favourite Traviata - I dislike the heavy-handed symbolism, and some scenes are terrible: the party at Anina's is just too brutal, those weird bull people shoving Alfredo round and then Alfredo stuffing money down Violetta's dress.

    I feel that it's pretty much sustained by the chemistry between the two leads. Netrebko plays Violetta as a woman past the point of caring, knowing that time is running out, but suddenly allowing herself to fall in love with the callow and inexperienced Alfredo. I think she's wonderful here and I love that dark Russian tinge to her voice. And of course she is at the height of her beauty in the famous Little Red Dress.
    Natalie

  4. #19
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    I Vespri Siciliani



    Was intrigued to watch this after another member put it at the top of his favourite opera list.

    There are some lovely melodies, dramatic moments and a rather brutal story which ostensibly revolves around the liberation of Sicily from the French, but which I saw as being more about a relationship between father and estranged son (hey, it's Verdi, there has to be something about Dad in there).

    La Scala have put on a totally traditional production, with a genuinely Sicilian feel (and the lighting technicians are back on the job after the deeply murky Donna del Lago). The singing is above reproach, performed by luminaries such as Furlanetto, Zancanaro and Studer. The romantic leads are rather physically unattractive (there's a hilarious near-kiss where you don't know who is more reluctant to actually get to the clinch) but the love story is not as central here as in other operas so it doesn't matter too much.

    Just make sure you fast forward through the interminable ballet which completely interrupts the action for about 20 minutes.
    Natalie

  5. #20
    Senior Member Veteran Member Aksel's Avatar
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    So, I've been planning to write this thing for a while now, but I've somehow never gotten around to it. But now I have!
    It is a review of the Teatro Verdi di Busseto production of Falstaff.




    The plot, for those not familiar with it, can be found here.


    The staging is very traditional. It is a reproduction of a production done at Teatro Verdi in 1913. It's also very small, which I think fits this opera very well. The sets are gorgeous, light and open, which is good since I find other traditional stagings of this opera a bit stuffy and dark. Also, it's an impressive feat since the stage is so small. When all the chorus and the soloists are onstage, it seems stuffed, but it does add to the intimate mood of the opera. The costumes are glorious, especially Falstaff's formal attire in the second act.

    The conducting is done by Riccardo Muti and he does a fine job. The tempi seem very natural and I think Maestro Muti is one of the greatest conductors of this opera that exist on record.
    I especially adore how he manages to turn the duet scenes between Fenton and Nannetta into oases of calm and tender love in between all the chaos of the wooed wives, jealous husbands and hunky knights.
    The orchestra is also brilliant.

    Now on to the singing.

    The fat knight/mountain of lard (best line of the opera)/whale beached on the shore of Windsor is sung by Ambrogio Maestri, and he does a fine job indeed. He is funny and seems to fit the role of Falstaff, ultimate Shakespeare hunk so easily. He also sings the honour monologue very well and his acting is great. The beginning of the first scene with Ernesto Gavazzi's Doctor Cajus is quite frankly hilarious.
    I kind of picture Doctor Cajus as a Lemming in that scene, storming into the Garter Inn in a rage without being really able to do anything, and Gavazzi does that almost perfectly.

    Roberto Frontali's Ford is also amazing. Especially his aria in the second act. He certainly helps get the first scene of the second act along. I find it has a tendency to drag on after Mrs. Quickly leaves and Brook enters.

    Bardolfo and Pistola, Falstaff's henchmen (at least in the beginning) are brilliantly sung by Paolo Barbacini and Luigi Roni respectively. They are hilarious, both in their acting and in their singing, especially Barbacini's Bardolfo, who has a voice that is perfectly suited for singing that kind of role.

    The young tenor love interest of the opera (Doctor Cajus being the old tenor love interest), Fenton is played by Juan Diego Flórez, and he does it, unsurprisingly, beautifully.

    As Nannetta, the object of Fenton and Doctor Cajus' attentions, there is Inva Mula, who sings the part seemingly effortlessly and very beautifully. She especially shines in her duets with JDF's Fenton.

    The merry wives of Windsor are led by Barbara Frittoli's Alice Ford with Anna Caterina Antonacci's Meg Page and Bernadette Manca di Nissa's Mrs. Quickly. Especially di Nissa's Mrs. Quickly is excellent with her dark timbre being perfect for the older slightly maternal neighbour.

    Now, the merry wives lead us on to a word or two about the ensembles. For those not in the know, Falstaff is a seemingly endless string of glorious, glorious ensembles; a quartet here, a quintet there, and before you know it, it's turned into a nonet. The opera contains only about four arias (Falstaff's honour monologue, Ford's jealousy aria (it's what it's called. Promise), Falstaff's aria at the beginning of the third act and Nannetta's fairy song), but it contains at least as many ensemble numbers.
    Some of these are fiendishly difficult, like the act 1 nonet where the singers not only have different texts to sing, but they also sing it in different times. The five men sing in 4/4 and the four women sing in 6/8. The ensembles are also, at least in my opinion, what makes this opera so funny. With the Ford and Dr. Cajus' lemming-like rage and the women's chattering, hen-like scheming. The cast here does an amazing job indeed with these ensembles. Especially the women. I would have liked some more clarity in the men's ensembles.
    But perhaps the most impressive of all the ensembles is the 10-or-so-part fugue that ends it all. In all its dense formality, it's really a thing of genuine comedy.


    And so I say to you all, that if you haven't seen this this production of Falstaff, you should go do so as soon as possible. It's amazing.

  6. #21
    Senior Member Veteran Member Aksel's Avatar
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    So I just watched Verdi's Macbeth and I have the following to say about it:



    For anyone wondering about the plot, click here.

    I really liked the staging and the updating of the plot. I though it showed the link between Macbeth's usurping of the throne in 11th century Scotland and the dictators of the 20th. The witches as 1950's women clutching their handbags were a nice touch, although I though the whole spinning-around-gyrating-pelvises thing a tad too much. I also found the "flow" in the first two acts to be a bit lacking, but it worked. A thing I really, really liked, was the sleepwalking scene, in which Lady Macbeth confesses her and her husband's crimes. In this production, she is standing on the remains of her now rather torn-apart kingdom, the chairs from the ball-room scene of the 2nd act, and the witches are all putting one chair in front of the other while Lady Macbeth walks on them, finally walking down and losing her kingdom when she starts to sing. It is a rather obvious touch, I admit, but I liked it.


    Singing-wise, it's a bit of both worlds.
    Zeljko Lucic sings Macbeth rather well. His voice was secure and is well-suited for the part, but I did not find his performance especially extraordinary. Very good, but not great. But his acting was very good.

    Lady Macbeth, sung by Maria Guleghina is truly one of the most challenging roles in the whole repertory, and it requires a whole lot of the soprano; she needs to have good high notes, good low notes and some kick-*** coloratura skills to boot. Sadly, Ms. Guleghina does not have all these skills. Her coloratura did leave me rather wanting, and some of the more demanding passages seemed more like they were glissando than the almost euporic screams of a increasingly mad, not to mention blood-thirsty queen-in-waiting. In addition, some of the high notes required a bit too much "stepping into", as it were. The role of Lady Macbeth was meant to be shouted, but I think there are more effective ways of achieving that rather than skipping coloratura. But apart from this (and I do admit that this might seem like a lot, but bear with me), I do think that she does do a very wonderful job. And all of the crazy positions she is singing from certainly do complicate things. Her acting performance is utterly wonderful, and it does, to a very large extent, make up for her somewhat lacking vocal performance.
    (Yes, I know it's long, but I do think Lady Macbeth is the most important role of the whole opera, and the one performance of this production with the most things to say about it)

    Banquo was superbly sung by John Relyea. His singing was very good, and his acting was great. Really one of the, if not the best singing of the whole production.

    Macduff was sung by Dimtri Pittas, rather well, although I didn't really care for his voice. Another thing that bothered me about his performance was the fact that his face in the final scene, when he was supposed to be all sad, his only facial expression was that of a five-year old boy hearing his hamster has been drowned.
    (As a side note, Macduff's confession in that very scene; how's that for a plot twist, or what?)

    Both the MET orchestra under James Levine and the chorus were spectacular.

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  8. #22
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    Not greatly in love with Te Kanawa in title role but it's overally very good recording. Not that Kiri would be somehow terrible here, it's just I couldn't connect her voice with Violetta in first act, my fault perhaps. She sings very well though. But this performance is all for male characters - Kraus gives one of most impressing examples of well preserved voice. Few high notes didn't sound as easy and clear as when he was younger but that's all, other than that his Alfredo here is beyond most of other tenor's abilities when they are on their prime. Hvorostovsky could be son of Kraus and Te Kanawa but don't think about it and he will be most fitting older Germont. The orchestral score is very well executed.

  9. #23
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    I don't think I need to praise Verdi, Pavarotti or Gruberova, not even Wixell. Everybody knows Verdi writes great operas (not always though) and these three sing them wonderfully. And that Chailly supports them properly.

    But Ponnelle. What a brillance. The third act is all visual masterpiece hardly to be matched with any other non-Ponnelle movie version of opera. Since the storm begins you get the peak of what can be done with visual side of the work to enrich the musical experience as much as possible. The lights when Gilda enters and gets killed, also the scenes of argument between bandit couple with her listening to it outside and contemplating her sacrifice. And finally the scene on the river during gray, sombre dawn.

    Take away Ponnelle's DVDs and the invention of filming won't be of great worth in terms of opera anymore.

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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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    Yes, this is a great version, Aramis. I totally agree with you.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  12. #25
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    Rigoletto Met Levine. They met in the bar they drive a car.

    Some say Domingo doesn't fit the role. That Duca is not for his voice because it's more for "bel cantists". I'm not sure, if he sung Bellini and Donizetti, why wouldn't he make it for earlier Verdi? I didn't notice any stretching and no part made him sound out of place. Actually, I think he fits the role very well because of his voice timbre and presence. I was entirely conviced by his creation. Cotrubas is great Gilda, she had to play "pure" girl and how could she fail with her pure, heavenly voice? Finally MacNeil - splendid voice (which doesn't spoil character's meritum, Rigoletto doesn't have to sound creepy) and very proper appearance. Hear this ending sung powerfully and with strong dramatic gesture:



    The only flaw I can think of is occasionally bad sound from orchestra, but I suspect it may be more because of recording than the actual performance. Sometimes it doesn't sound full and clear enough, especially it striked me on the beginning (festive music).

    Overally it's great DVD with all-magnificent cast of singers and very solid staging. Recommended for all who enjoy this work even a little bit (it will make them enjoy it a greater little bit).

  13. #26
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aramis View Post

    Some say Domingo doesn't fit the role. That Duca is not for his voice because it's more for "bel cantists". I'm not sure, if he sung Bellini and Donizetti, why wouldn't he make it for earlier Verdi? I didn't notice any stretching and no part made him sound out of place. Actually, I think he fits the role very well because of his voice timbre and presence. I was entirely conviced by his creation. Cotrubas is great Gilda, she had to play "pure" girl and how could she fail with her pure, heavenly voice? Finally MacNail - splendid voice (which doesn't spoil character's meritum, Rigoletto doesn't have to sound creepy) and very proper appearance. Hear this ending sung powerfully and with strong dramatic gesture:

    The only flaw I can think of is occasionally bad sound from orchestra, but I suspect it may be more because of recording than the actual performance. Sometimes it doesn't sound full and clear enough, especially it striked me on the beginning (festive music).

    Overally it's great DVD with all-magnificent cast of singers and very solid staging. Recommended for all who enjoy this work even a little bit (it will make them enjoy it a greater little bit).
    Yes that is classic MET material, quality all the way in every aspect.........and I agree 100% that Cotrubas is a near perfect Gilda, the naive innocent who pays for the sins of others

  14. #27
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    Okay, now I'm really pissed off. Why nobody told me there is Falstaff with Flórez? Why, at first place, his official site didn't tell me? There is nothing about this position in his DVD discography.

  15. #28
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Aramis, if we ever get a face-to-face interview with JDF, we'll need a fund raiser to pay for your ticket and fly you in from Poland to conduct the interview!

    Do you plan on writing your first opera with vocal lines that are made for him?
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  16. #29
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aramis View Post
    The only flaw I can think of is occasionally bad sound from orchestra, but I suspect it may be more because of recording than the actual performance. Sometimes it doesn't sound full and clear enough, especially it striked me on the beginning (festive music).
    I agree. It has that "1980's recorded live sound" feel. But otherwise an excellent production. I like these traditional staging that don't leave us guessing what the hell just happened.

  17. #30
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    Aramis, if we ever get a face-to-face interview with JDF, we'll need a fund raiser to pay for your ticket and fly you in from Poland to conduct the interview!
    Or I'll just rob the bank. After they catch me, I shall have alibi because one of interview's questions will be "what do you think I did yesterday?" and Flórez certainly will give diffrent answer than "you robbed bank to get cash for tickets, I'm sure".

    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    Do you plan on writing your first opera with vocal lines that are made for him?
    Certainly, I mean: if I want to be XXIst century Bellini, shouldn't I write for XXIst century Rubini? But that's just fantasy, if I'll ever write first opera it probably will not be performed at all or performed by mediocre crew and before provincial audience.

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