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

          
   
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  1. #61
    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Aramis View Post
    Studio, naturally. That's one of it's greatest advantages.
    Thanks Aramis. The only copy I've found so far is a bit expensive but I've put it on my wish list.
    "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

  2. #62
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Verdi: La Traviata on DVD (Langrée - Dessay - Aix-en-Provence)

    La Traviata, opera in three acts (1853), music by Giuseppe Verdi, libretto by Francesco Maria Piave



    Virgin Classics release, April 3, 2012, region-free, co-produced by Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, Arte and BelAir Media
    NTSC, 16:9, good color and definition
    Running time 139 minutes, 1 DVD-9
    Sound formats LPCM Stereo, DTS 5.1 (good quality but I had to turn down the subwoofer volume; too much bass)
    Optional subtitles in English, French, German, Spanish, and Italian
    Available from Amazon.com, click [here]

    New co-production of Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, Wiener Staatsoper, Opéra de Dijon, and Théâtre de Caen
    London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Louis Langrée
    Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir, choir master Mikk Üleoja
    Filmed at the Théâtre de l'Archevêché, live, 2011, film direction Don Kent

    Stage director Jean-François Sivadier
    Settings Alexandre de Dardel
    Costumes Virginie Gervaise
    Lighting Philippe Berthomé

    Cast

    Violetta Valéry - Natalie Dessay
    Giorgio Germont - Ludovic Tézier
    Alfredo Germont - Charles Castronovo
    Annina - Adelina Scarabelli
    Flora Bervoix - Silvia de La Muela
    Gastone de Letorières - Manuel Nunez Camelino
    Barone Douphol - Kostas Smoriginas

    ----------

    The ouverture is *very* well rendered by the orchestra, which is not always the case in many of the existing Traviata DVDs, including my favorite (Anna Netrebko's, in Willy Decker's production). Lush, vivid, energetic sound (although a bit much, since the overture is, of course, a very melancholic piece).

    The opening scene is very clever, with Ms. Dessay looking good and showing her acting talent from the very beginning. Settings and costumes are current-day, simple, but what they do with a large blue curtain at the beginning is interesting.

    Very good acting in this production. Alfredo has the physique-du-rôle, and looks like a shy and awkward youngster. The entire opening party scene is very well done with good dynamic use of the space. The orchestra and chorus do well. So far, very satisfactory.

    Unlike her fragile and full of pathos first scene at the Met recently, Ms. Dessay here looks very flirtatious and lively. She is the kind of singing-actress who can impact whatever approach she feels more fitting for each production. Impressive (but expected, we all know how good an actress she is).

    Some reviews have praised Mr. Charles Castronovo's singing as Alfredo. I find it only correct, coming fresh from Mr. Matthew Polenzani's spectacular rendition at the Met. Beautiful lyric tenor voice, but nothing remarkable about it. The problem is that he doesn't "act with his voice" in terms of interpretative phrasing as well as Mr. Polenzani did. Also, his high C cracked in Act II.

    What about Ms. Dessay's voice? Well, it is not what it used to be a few years back. Volume and projection are hard to gauge on DVD but by comparison with the other singers, she does produce a softer sound. This is of course helped by the recording / sound engineering, with a better end-user result than when I heard her at the cavernous Met three weeks ago.

    Agility, her hallmark, is also slightly diminished (although better than when I saw her at the Met and she was recovering from illness - but still less than her meteoric speed that I've seen in the past). But there is no doubt that her voice remains beautiful, and any difficulties are more than compensated by her spectacular acting. Watching a Dessay Violetta in close-ups provided by the DVD medium is a pleasure, with her incredibly well-managed and nuanced facial expressions and body language. Furthermore, this experienced and accomplished artist is intelligent enough to take her performance where she wants it, and she is able to administer quite nicely a voice that is not as brilliant now as it was at her very vocal peak. Anyway, give me Ms. Dessay slightly passed her vocal peak any day, she is still great to see and hear.

    One interesting thing to notice in her Sempre Libera scene: oh my, the lady has very toned biceps. Ms. Dessay must hit the gym quite frequently and is in excellent shape!

    Great, great acting decision: when Alfredo serenades her from outside during Sempre Libera, she mouths silently his words.

    I like the settings for the first scene of the second act - simple panels with a spring scene, blu sky with clouds.

    OK, we get to what generates most complaints about this production: Ludovic Tézier's acting abilities, or rather, lack thereof, with his traditional approach to acting that is as nuanced as the one produced by a fish in a bowl.

    In spite of Verdi's and Piave's spectacular first act, I've always considered the Violetta-Giorgio Germont scene in second act to be the core of this opera, with the most psychological impact, and the pivotal moment of the story. Well, if you get a Giorgio Germont who can't act, no matter how well he sings, it is a problem. And I confess that I'm not even very fond of Mr. Tézier's singing either (it is technically correct but I don't like his timbre), and have never been. So, his presence in this production takes down several notches the overall quality.

    So we get one of the most (or *the* most) gifted acting artist(s) in the current operatic field, alongside with a cold fish. The contrast is simply mind boggling, when Ms. Dessay's Violetta reacts strongly to Mr. Tézier's Giorgio, while the latter keeps bringing down the tension with his nonexistent acting.

    Another positive aspect of this production is that they have included a few stanzas that are often cut from other shows, so I got some nice surprises along the ride.

    The lady doing Flora is great eye candy (Silvia de La Muela - I've seen her before in Lulu with Patricia Petibon).



    Supporting roles in general are OK; nothing remarkable or terrible.

    The main problem - and also main quality - of this production is that Ms. Dessay is so much better than everybody else here! Certainly a regional opera festival in the countryside of France doesn't have the same casting power of the major houses, so what we have here is a star of the first magnitude with some second stringers and unknowns. The orchestra is good, though. Overall this is still a good production, I suppose (I haven't finished watching it yet, may edit this later).

    Very anemic "Di Provenza il mar, il suol" by Tézier. Another major bummer, since this is one of my favorite moments in this opera.

    The two musical reliefs provided by Verdi - the gypsy and the matador scenes - are extremely well done and interesting in this production - including with very beautiful young people (not all of them, but still) with slightly revealing clothes. I liked these scenes a lot (this production is proving to be uneven).

    By the way, in the matter of eye candy, the ladies will like Mr. Kostas Smoriginas as much as I liked Ms. Silvia de La Muela, I guess.

    Ms. Dessay's wig in the second act is not flattering, but her singing and Mr. Castronovo's are more solid in Act II, with proper warming of the voice. The orchestra continues to produce beautiful, lush, resonant sounds - certainly a high point of this show.

    Great opening for the third act, with Annina removing Violetta's outfit, wig, and make-up while the orchestra plays the pungent introduction, and Ms. Dessay switching effortlessly to a sick and despondent figure (what an actress!).

    The letter scene is great, "Addio del passato" is equally good, with Ms. Dessay making good use of the fact that these scenes have a quieter orchestra. A clever staging detail is that while she sings of her pain, a man silently washes out the happy words that characters had written on a wall during the party scenes, and slowly erases the words Violetta and Traviata.

    Scenery is the falling-apart loft kind with some dirt (leaves, flower pieces) on the ground, very low chandeliers, very atmospheric.

    Alfredo's arrival is another powerful scene from the acting standpoint - Mr. Castronovo shows good acting here. This is proving to be a very successful act III.

    It continues rather well. The death scene is magnificent, with her final fall to the ground being slightly delayed.

    The end.

    Certainly this third act went a long way in increasing the desirability of this DVD.

    Overall, recommended, A-. It looked like a B or B+ all along, but when one factors in the great orchestra, Ms. Dessay's fabulous acting and beautiful (although aging) voice, Mr. Castronovo's very decent singing and good acting, some eye candy, and good staging, it does reach A territory, in spite of Mr. Tézier's fishy acting with prevents this from being A+. Funny enough Mr. Tézier seems to have a big following in Aix-en-Provence, drawing lots of applause during the curtain calls. Go figure! Only Ms. Dessay got more applause than him.

    Anyway, a good Traviata. Not essential, but a nice recommended buy (and quite obligatory for Ms. Dessay's fans).
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); April 29th, 2012 at 09:40 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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  4. #63
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    This modern Rigoletto completes my JDF collection, and overall a very good modern production that has visually interesting scences and some clever abstraction of physical settings.

    Right off the opening prelude has stage action (a plus for director) instead of orchestra generic footage, the jester Rigoletto prepares for another day in the dukes service dressing and smearing on his buffon face, let the orgy begin.....

    Great fantasy costumes for act 1 orgy patrons, partial nudity and a fascination for birds seems the theme, nice visual touches seems like a groovy time for all. JDF as the duke appears (with silly mullet hair piece) and causes trouble immediately pursuing married women. Rigoletto incurs the curse of a protective father thus sealing the fate of his own daughter Gilda eventually. This was most effective act of this production for me, great start......

    JDF singing is commanding as expected, I wish he was a bit more evil and lecherous in his acting, almost seemed like a nice guy. Lucic as Rigoletto was good without being great, but he acted the part well as the unwitting fool that brought about his own misfortune. Damrau is very good Gilda and can easliy sing the part to very high standards as well as great sympathetic acting as the lovestruck innocent.

    Interesting abstract visuals for act 2 as we have light blue room with single bed and many "x" figures all over the walls, a small room next door is also used during some shots. As the act progresses in time to night the room darkens and the "x" are backlit to become stars, nice effective visuals. The vengeful patrons now exchange fantasy costumes for partial devil masks when abducting gilda, another nice visual and symbolic touch.

    Act 3 has some problems with temptress Maddalena being neither beautiful nor very good acting having little seductive chemistry with the duke, brother asassin Sparafulcie much better portrayal and effective acting. You had to use quite a bit of imagination during murder/discovery of gilda scence, lost some visual impact of more traditional production....but overall this works well as modern production.

    I prefer the Pavarotti and Domingo traditional productions over this, but as an alternative to add to a collection well worth getting. Virgin unfortunately does not offer blu ray option

    Act 1 orgy with cool costumes:


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  6. #64
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    Just listened to 6-7 famous versions of Rigoletto this week and came away again with greatest appreciation for this recording.

    1955 mono studio recording with EMI "alpha" trio of Callas - Stephano - Gobbi, we catch all three at near peak performance in a gift from the opera gods. Gobbi is the gold standard for the jester Rigoletto, he goes where no others can go show us the dark soul of this tormented character, such masterful insights. Stephano gives us a darker edge to the duke, and his forte tenor is in full display. Callas gives a heartbreaking soulful performance, such deep realistic emotional feeling are painted by this great artist....they leap from your speakers and demand your full attention!

    Listen to this duet with Callas/Gobbi to close act 2, mercurial Maria takes full flight at 1:47


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  8. #65
    Banned Top Contributor Member
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    I just listened to a new Rigoletto, too:



    Class. I already had two studio Rigolettos with Alfredo Kraus and I can't compare which is the best, but here he certainly doesn't fall behind these two other creations, at least. Then there's Bastianini for which I've picted this up. Being one of greatest recorded baritones he provides extraordinary interpretation, though I think that his voice sounds a bit too powerful at times for the role - you would think that he will beat up all those courtiers who try to keep him away from duke's chamber. Then there's Scotto. I liked her best of other three Gildas from Kraus Rigolettos, the other two being Moffo and Sills. The only complain is orchestra, very much like the Callas/Stefano mono studio recordings and choose of tempos, lots of fragments seemd to me as taken too slow (finale of 1st scene, Possente Amor cabaletta, Duke/Madalena duettino preceding the quintet...) and therefore lacking much of it's qualities. But all in all it's recording to be mentioned among greatest Verdi CDs, with four absolute legends of singing together it couldn't be much diffrent.

  9. #66
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    Aida CDs all week...........










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  11. #67
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    While still fresh in my mind the Solti goes to the top of the list of extremely strong field, the sound quality of this is amazing with Solti's brilliant brass section capturing the "italianate" horn sound perfectly as Verdi would have wanted. Individually the cast seems to be outclassed by others but in actual performance overall it goes to the top of my list.

    Available as budget priced 2 CD set or the older 3 CD release......



    Karajan made a couple attempts at recording the ideal Aida, but Solti is so much more expressive and powerful that he wins me over. Muti version is loved by many including me but I cannot deny the overall excellence of Solti....

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  13. #68
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    The best Aida most are not aware of is the 1961 Tucci / Del Monaco performance, live but sound quality is so good you will think it is a studio performance, any serious Aida fan really needs this (you must trust me on this)

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  15. #69
    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dark_Angel View Post
    While still fresh in my mind the Solti goes to the top of the list of extremely strong field, the sound quality of this is amazing with Solti's brilliant brass section capturing the "italianate" horn sound perfectly as Verdi would have wanted. Individually the cast seems to be outclassed by others but in actual performance overall it goes to the top of my list.

    Available as budget priced 2 CD set or the older 3 CD release......


    Karajan made a couple attempts at recording the ideal Aida, but Solti is so much more expressive and powerful that he wins me over. Muti version is loved by many including me but I cannot deny the overall excellence of Solti....
    Thanks D_A. As you say a budget price! Ordered today.
    "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

  16. #70
    Schigolch
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    This is recorded in German, but glorious singing from Rosvaenge, and very solid performances from the rest of the cast. Interesting for Aida's dedicated fans:


  17. #71
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Festat's Avatar
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    Wow, Aida in German must really be something.

  18. #72
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    Verdi MacBeth CDs all week..........








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  20. #73
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    While still fresh in my mind two overall favorites here are Muti and Schippers:



    Both of these are thrilling bold dramatic performances, Schippers even tops Muti here in the manic sections going all out when needed and Decca has a fabulous sound quality recording. Great cast for Muti and his Lady MacBeth (Fiorenza Cossotto) is delightfully devious and dark, such dramatic flashes of energy...the best modern stereo Lady M for me. The men for Muti are also extremely strong cast making this overall best modern version....

    Nilsson has never really impressed me outside of her Wagner roles, but this can make me a believer...what a performance! Men not quite as strong as Muti but Schippers conducts a commanding performance in spectacular stereo sound.....this is OOP so you must buy used or a CDR re-issue at Arkiv Music

    Shirley Verrett would seem to be a natural Lady M but I am not really thrilled overall by either the famous Abbado or later Chailly sets...if she was in the Schippers set it could take over top spot.
    Souliotis is excellent Lady M and Gardelli has spirited conducting, just misses the top spot overall

    Special mention of the greatest Lady MacBeth I have heard.....Callas
    This is live 1952 in decent sound and Callas is unstoppable here, like a supernova blazing in the heavens, fabulous!
    Conductor De Sabata would next year work again with Callas for her legendary 1953 studio Tosca


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  22. #74
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    BTW I despise the cheesey artwork used for these two budget opera series.....sometimes I will make my own artwork to use instead



  23. #75
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Festat's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dark_Angel View Post
    BTW I despise the cheesey artwork used for these two budget opera series.....sometimes I will make my own artwork to use instead
    YES. That EMI Classics series is criminal! Drop-shadowed text!

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