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Thread: Operas by Puccini on DVD/Blu-Ray/CD

          
   
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  1. #1
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Operas by Puccini on DVD/Blu-Ray/CD

    Puccini: Edgar on DVD


    This production takes the cake for the worst singing ever. It's risible and pathetic. And mind you, the leading soprano is Montserrat Caballé's daughter, Montserrat Martí. Apparently Mr. Bernabé Martí's (Caballé's husband) genes were stronger than Caballé's, because their daughter can't sing (even though he was a tenor). Ms. Martí, other than some singing lessons from her mother, could also use a plastic surgeon's help, to redo her nose (now I'm being mean). The other female, Halla Margret, not only can't sing, but also can't act. She is not bad looking, though (it's her, on the cover), but this can't save her. I like my cute sopranos better when they can sing.


    Halla Margret

    The tenor is amazingly bad. Name is Dario Balzanelli. Even Andrea Bocelli would have done better. Was he paid to appear, or is he some kind of amateur? He should be paying *us* for putting up with him. The minor roles are all badly sung as well.

    If an opera novice wants to understand the difference between good and bad singing, this DVD is a must buy, to get the bad singing part. It is also recommended to voice teachers. After all, students must learn how *not* to sing.

    The acting is not too hot either.

    Sound balance is terrible. When the singers start to bark and shriek you can't hear the orchestra, and you need to keep adjusting the volume. Maybe this is a good thing though, because this Orchestra Filarmonica Mediterranea is not that good either.

    The DVD has no features other than English subtitles and chapter selection (It's a Kultur product - they're often like this). Staging is traditional and not good, nor bad. It seems like the background is the Termas di Caracalla.

    Regarding the music itself, I'm not very impressed (even though there is a chance that my perception is being hindered by the annoying singing of this production). There are a few good moments, but this is far from Puccini's subsequent heights, and the plot looks to me like a poor man's Carmen. I think that if the name Puccini wasn't attached to this opera, it would have been long forgotten.

    According to Annie, the other DVD version of this opera has weak singing as well. I guess we'll have to hope that a decent opera company takes on this work at some point, and then maybe my opinion of it will improve, but for now I give it a C-.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  2. #2
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Puccini: Le Villi on DVD


    This is an opera-ballo (opera-ballet), Puccini's first.

    Mediterranean Choir and Orchestra Filarmonica Mediterranea conducted by Tamas Pal (who?)
    Albert Montserrat (Roberto), Halla Margret (Anna), Andrea Rola - wrongly credited as Montserrat Martě on the cover but his name is actually Andrea Rola (Guglielmo) are the singers
    MedEnsemble has supplied the (very pretty) dancers

    Rather unknown maestro and orchestra (I think I've seen a production with this orchestra before, but I don't remember which one), and singers.

    First of all, Halla Margret the soprano is very pretty, but is a disaster as a singer. Whether someone will enjoy this DVD or not depends a lot on the person's ability to forgive her and savor other aspects of this production. Since I'm a little biased in the matter of pretty women, I think I'll suspend my disbelief of the fact that she is supposed to be a professional soprano, and just enjoy her looks (it's like she is a very good looking actress but not a singer - one wonders if they ran out of sopranos and just got this girl from some theater company - or not, because her acting is not too hot either, poor thing). OK, I looked her up, she's a pop singer from Iceland. I knew she couldn't be an operatic singer. Oh well, like I said, she looks good. Oh wait, I've just noticed (I'm typing this while I browse the web with split windows) that she's the same one whom I saw in Edgar, and she couldn't sing there either. This settles it, it's not that she's just having a bad day.

    The tubby tenor sings a lot better; the baritone, not so well but not terribly (sorry, he looks ridiculous, no eye-candy for the ladies). The chorus is good (actually the chorus provides the best singing), and the dancers are OK and *very* pretty (the merits of this production reside more in the eye-candy department for the boys than in the singing).

    The opera itself is no La Bohčme but is enjoyable enough as a curiosity in terms of getting to know early Puccini, in spite of the very silly plot with fairies. It is made even sillier by the narration that is employed to tell us about the legend of the Villi. At least the opera is short (running time around one hour). Musically there are some very decent parts (pleasant, beautiful orchestration and a couple of good arias); not bad for a first effort by a composer.

    It's a traditional production with cheap looking but decent scenarios, nothing offensive. Some costumes and wigs are a little ridiculous (especially Guglielmo's). Technically speaking it is a Kultur product so you know what to expect, but not as bad as many other Kultur DVDs, in the sense that the image is good with sharp definition, bright colors, good lighting, and it is widescreen. You can turn off the subtitles (English only), and the sound balance is not horrible; one can hear both the singers and the orchestra very well, unlike the rule for Kultur.

    There is no DVD competition (there is a very good CD with Placido Domingo and Renata Scotto, though, and a few others), so I guess, if one absolutely wants to have a DVD of Le Villi (it is not essential to have one, in my opinion), it's recommended because it is not a disaster and the only really bad aspect is the leading lady's singing; other aspects are either not *too* bad, decent, or actually good, especially if one enjoys watching very pretty women dancing, while listening to rather nice music.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  3. #3
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    This one has more negatives than positives, which in my opinion aren't many. There is a lack of chemistry, and a sense of boredom. Yes, it does get better in acts III and IV so don't give up too early, but it is still not a choice production. Karita still steals the show in spite of her age - such an amazing lady! - and when Manon is despondent in acts III and IV her age doesn't show as much as when Manon is supposed to be young, attractive, and lively in acts I and II. Also, this production probably works better for the live audience, because the close-ups are not flattering for a 47 years old Karita trying to portray a teenager. But I forgive her for a few vocal problems given her acting ability. My verdict for this one is 'not recommended' because there are better versions of this opera on DVD.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  4. #4
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Puccini: La Bohčme on DVD


    Belatedly, I'm watching and reviewing this DVD with a young Levine, a young Pavarotti...

    I don't need to present all the details, since this is so well known. Let's just say:

    Giacomo Puccini - La Bohčme, sung in Italian
    1977, James Levine conducts live the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Luciano Pavarotti (Rodolfo), Renata Scotto (Mimi), Marallin Niska (Musetta), Ingvar Wixell (Marcello), Paul Plishka (Colline); Deutsche Grammophon 2005 DVD release, 123 minutes, 1.33:1 image, PCM, DD 5.1, DTS 5.1, multiple subtitles including Italian and English.

    March 15, 1977 - the very first Met broadcast, 34 years ago! Historic occasion. We're light years from Met in HD...

    Dark period staging, minimalistic, not the great Zeffirelli one that came later. Less than decent sound (I'd say, not decent, period). Less than sharp image (let's be frank, quite blurry).

    So-so preliminary scenes. Adequate supporting cast but nothing spectacular, although likable and not making major mistakes.

    Therefore, your average C- Bohčme, right?

    But then... but then...

    Renata comes in... Luciano melts... (he actually *can* act and move around; at least, his young not-so-fat self could).

    And operatic magic explodes... Che gelida manina....

    One of the most spectacular sequences in all of opera starts... and poor Almaviva realizes that one can't really review, evaluate, criticize greatness. This is crystalline, perfectly articulated, perfectly phrased singing by two outstanding artists at the peak of their ability. Enough said. How could I say anything other than... Highly Recommended?

    Are there better La Bohčme DVDs? Absolutely, yes. But who cares? What proper opera lover can be called such, while NOT having this historical document? Buy it. Full stop.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  5. #5
    Senior Member Involved Member AnaMendoza's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    Puccini: La Bohčme on DVD


    Belatedly, I'm watching and reviewing this DVD with a young Levine, a young Pavarotti...

    ...........

    Are there better La Bohčme DVDs? Absolutely, yes. But who cares? What proper opera lover can be called such, while NOT having this historical document? Buy it. Full stop.
    This review woke some nostalgia in me. I'd almost forgotten that I watched this broadcast in a music professor's living room. She'd invited a bunch of students over, and even though I wasn't a voice student, I got an invitation. By then, I definitely knew I loved opera, but I knew very little about it. I imagine I'd heard of Pavarotti; definitely had never heard of Scotto, and had no idea that this was a significant event. Looking back, I'd say that I enjoyed it a lot, but wasn't awestruck.

    One amusing memory--believe it or not, I remember reading a review of the performance at the time. The reviewer thought that the Met, reaching out to a wider audience than they had ever reached before, should have paid more attention to the visual aspects of the performance, and cast singers who, while their voices might not have the perfection of Pavarotti and Scotto, were more fitted to play a pair of young lovers. Plus ça change...

  6. #6
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Puccini: Tosca on Blu-ray



    This is a bargain. $8.99 on Amazon.com, plus 2 hours and 20 minutes of highlights from 47 other productions of opera and ballet.

    Clicky (to buy it).

    2006, Daniel Oren, Orchestra and Chorus of the Arena di Verona
    Stage director, sets, costumes, and lighting: Hugo de Ana

    Floria Tosca - Fiorenza Cedolins
    Mario Cavaradossi - Marcelo Álvarez
    Il Barone Scarpia - Ruggero Raimondi
    Cesare Angelotti - Marco Spotti
    Il Sagrestano - Fabio Previati
    Spoletta - Enrico Facini
    Sciarrone - Giuliano Pelizon
    Un carceriere - Angelo Nardinocchi
    Un pastorello - Ottavia Dorruci

    Image - format 16:9, resolution 1080i full HD
    Sound - PCM Stereo, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
    Region - worldwide
    Running time - 119 minutes (opera) - 140 minutes (trailers)

    Unitel Classica release, in co-production with ArtHaus Musik, RAI Trade, TDK, and Fondazione Arena di Verona

    Packaging only includes an insert with a brief essay (4 paragraphes) - the first one about the opera, the next two a sort of synopsis, and the last one about the singers. There is a list of arias with duration but it doesn't include the characters. That's it. Then, a TDK/Arthaus blu-ray catalogue.

    Optional subtitles are in Italian, English, German, French, and Spanish.

    -----------

    The visuals are excellent - impressive setting with nice shots of the Arena di Verona; beautiful and grandiose sets, helped by the clear, bright, precise blu-ray image that highlights very well Tosca's beautiful costumes and the large and rich sets.

    The sound is as good as it can get in such a large open-air setting, but the orchestra does seem flat and distant given the unfavorable acoustics, in spite of the fact that they attack the score with gusto, keeping a lively pace.

    Marco Spotti as Angelotti is weak, his acting is cold, and his voice is small.
    Fabio Previati as the sacristan is barely correct.
    Enrico Facini as Spoletta is mediocre.

    Argentinian tenor Marcelo Álvarez has a beautiful voice. He sings well his lines, his shouts of Victoria! are impressive, and so is his E lucevan le stelle. Of all singers, he is the one that doesn't really suffer from the fact that the venue is open-air, his voice is powerful enough to do well in this setting. His acting is a lot less developeded (this performance was only his second international showing after his debut at Covent Gargen) and unfortunately he has a funny face.

    Veteran Ruggero Raimondi is very good here. He looks mean and bitter, angry and vile, and his acting is convincing. He looks exactly like I imagine Scarpia. He has some trouble singing above the orchestra and the real cannons that keep firing (to great effect) during Tre sbirri, una carroza. But then, the Arena di Verona with its customary grandiosity and excess would make the voice of any singer have some trouble here. I think he did very well and it was a great scene.

    Now, Fiorenza Cedolins. She is one of the reasons why this blu-ray is a good buy (especially considering how cheap it is). While I didn't like her Norma where she seemed to be trying too hard, I mostly loved her Tosca. Ms. Cedolins here looks very attractive and very classy at the same time, fierce and proud but also feminine, like a good Tosca must look. Her acting is fine in some parts, less so in others (not very nuanced). She seems nevertheless very comfortable in this role, the tessitura fits her well; she is reasonably convincing when depicting jealousy, passion, disgust, contempt (could be better, though). Her singing is beautiful even though, like the others (except Álvarez), projecting to such a large open-air venue gests to be difficult at times. Interesting enough, Vissi d'Arte is not really her best moment. She is better in the assassination scene, and the finale (weird, she doesn't jump).

    Overall this blu-ray is on the winning side. Pros include very good technical aspects (image, sound) in beautiful settings, very spectacular sets and costumes, a good Tosca, a very good Scarpia, and a vocally good Cavaradossi. Cons include very weak supporting cast, poor acoustics, weak acting from Cavaradossi, a weak Angelotti. Since I believe that a Tosca production lives or dies on the shoulders of Tosca and Scarpia, I mind less the fact that Cavaradossi has acting flaws and Angelotti is just plain bad.

    While this blu-ray is far from being the best Tosca out there, it is pleasant enough to justify paying 9 bucks for it, not to forget the 47 trailers which are a nice touch. Productions at the Arena di Verona are often better visually than musically, but this one is a notch above most, since it does have some good musical aspects in the singing of the three principals.

    B, recommended (I mean the blu-ray).
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); January 28th, 2012 at 04:58 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  7. #7
    Senior Member Involved Member Nervous Gentleman's Avatar
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    In response to Almaviva's review of the "Le Villi" DVD on page 1 of this thread:

    Ai-yi-yi. I just watched this production for the first time. Correction: I've watched exactly half of it. That's all I could take for the present.
    I was most interested in reading opinions of the soprano. You said just about all that needs to be said: absolutely dreadful, real wobbly and her pitch was atrocious. Mind you, I had just listened to the classic 1954 Cetra recording with the breathtakingly beautiful singing of Elisabetta Fusco,



    so maybe I'm being unduly harsh (but I don't think so). Halla Margret actually succeeded in transforming that gorgeous opening aria into something well nigh unlistenable. This is probably the only instance I can remember in which the tinnitus from which I suffer was actually preferable to what I was listening to. Another distraction that you didn't mention in your review of several years ago was that she looked sickly, indeed anorexic (that is, when her character is still very much alive). I actually thought to make certain that the singer had not been battling cancer or some other dreadful illness, before I put my foot into it and posted anything critical. Can't find anything to suggest that she was. The poor woman was thinner than the ballet dancers, only without their look of healthy vigor. The choreography, by the way, was the production's saving grace (certainly much better than the rather aimless and endless dancing exhibited in an amateur production from 2012 posted in its entirety to YouTube). All that said, I love this short opera, along with the original short story by Alphonse Karr on which it is based (and which can be found at archive.org).

  8. #8
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Clayton's Avatar
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    Hey NG! Don't be a stranger for too long!

  9. #9
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Incredible, La Fanciulla del West was never reviewed here. I'm re-watching it in anticipation of Opera Carolina's production about to start, over the next two weeks.



    La Fanciulla del West, opera in three acts, sung in Italian, on DVD
    Music by Giacomo Puccini
    Libretto by G. Civinini and C. Zangarini, after the play The Girl of the Golden West by David Belasco
    Premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City on Decembeer 10, 1910

    Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro alla Scala
    Conductor - Lorin Maazel
    Stage Director - Jonathan Miller
    Set Design - Stefanos Lazaridis
    Costumes - Sue Blane
    Lighting - Vannio Vanni

    Cast

    Minnie - Mara Zampieri
    Jack Rance - Juan Pons
    Dick Johnson (Ramerrez) - Plácido Domingo
    Nick - Sergio Bertocchi
    Ashby - Luigi Roni
    Billy Jackrabbit - Aldo Bramante
    Wowkle - Nella Verri
    Jake Wallace - Marco Chingari
    José Castro - Claudio Giombi
    Sonora - Antonio Salvadori
    (and several miners)

    Recorded live in 1991 at Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Italy
    DVD released by Opus Arte in 2004
    NTSC 16/9 anamorphic, standard definition
    Sound DD 2.0 only
    Subtitles - English only (optional)
    Running time 144 minutes, no extras
    Insert - Credits only, synopsis, the full libretto in Italian, no translation. No production pictures; the back cover of the insert has the poster for the performance of January 31, 1991.
    Available on Amazon for the bargain price of $14, Prime shipping [clicky]

    This is one of Puccini's hardest-to-please operas for the general public given its written-through score with little in the realm of Puccini-like melodies. It is a precursor to modern and contemporary operas that are heavy in recitative and drama more than in singable arias. The score is beautiful, though, and like is often the case in operas by Puccini, illustrates well the plot, with a cinematic quality. Even though this Italian vision of the American Wild West is a bit off and stereotypical (in spite of being based on an American source - for example the broken Italian when the two Native American characters are speaking is a bit hilarious), there is good storytelling and pace. Overall it is a good opera and it deserves more popularity.

    It is not particularly easy to stage, given that the role of Minnie is difficult with spinto/dramatic qualities and long stage presence; it also takes a very numerous ensemble of singers.

    This production by Miller at La Scala has merits. For one thing, we can actually see the stage, yay! La Scala has a penchant for dark lighting and here we do get some brighter scenes. The production is straightforward, which means that it doesn't get in the way. Sets are large and functional although not especially charming (act I looks more like an industrial space than a saloon), and no-frills costumes are appropriate for the setting. Blocking is handled well. In other words, the physical production is fine without being brilliant. The opera is filmed well with a good mix of close-ups and stage-wide takes.

    The chorus and the orchestra do very well, with secure conducting by Maazel.

    Plácido Domingo is in excellent voice in this, at peak in his career. He is without doubt the strongest point of this DVD. The problem is our Minnie. Mara Zampieri's voice is just not pleasant, and she tends to scream the high notes, at times getting off-key. She does act the role reasonably but looks miscast as well, giving a matronly impression that doesn't really match the character. To complete the trio of principal singers, Juan Pons, I'm usually not a fan, but here he is very vocally correct and does express some colors with his voice, in spite of non-nuanced acting. Comprimarios are generally vocally good but a bit stiff in their acting.

    The DVD employs dated technology with standard definition and stereo-only sound, but nothing horrible. Subtitles in English only are annoying for those who like to follow the original language but fortunately the Italian libretto comes fully printed in the insert, a rarity these days. One laments the absence of a track list, and the lack of essays commenting upon the production.

    All in all, this product is recommended for Domingo's singing, for the good orchestra, chorus, and conducting, and the non-obtrusive production, in spite of the title character's flaws. For this bargain price of $14, there isn't much to risk anyway.

    Now there is a blu-ray disc of this opera, recorded in 2013 with Nina Stemme and Jonas Kaufmann, from the Vienna State Opera. I haven't seen it. I hope someone else here will publish a review of it.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); April 16th, 2017 at 07:01 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  10. #10
    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    Of the three recordings of this opera I have, the Met version with Barbara Daniels, Plácido Domingo, and Sherrill Milnes remains my overall favorite. The Vienna production with Stemme, Kaufmann, and Tomasz Konieczny has its pluses -- chiefly, the singing of Kaufmann and Stemme. Konieczny seems to be the Wiener Staatsoper's all-purpose baritone, and while he certainly isn't a poor Rance, for me he's not on a par with Milnes. Marco Arturo Marelli's updated staging usually works (the Polka saloon becomes a food truck), with the exception of that hideous red fright wig Stemme is required to wear. It makes her look like a complete frump and causes the viewer to wonder why she inspires such passion in Johnson/Ramerrez and Rance. (The first recording I purchased was the audio version with Carol Neblett, Domingo, and Milnes as the principals, and it's also very good.)

  11. #11
    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    For those who are interested, here is the Vienna State Opera Fanciulla with Stemme and Kaufmann.

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