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Thread: Miscellaneous Composers w/o their own threads - their operas on CD/DVD/Blu-Ray

          
   
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  1. #16
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Cherubini: Medea on DVD


    Tragedia in three acts - Music of Luigi Cherubini
    Originally, French libretto by François-Benoît Hoffmann, premiered in 1797 in Paris
    This is the Italian version by Carlo Zingarini which only premiered in 1909 in Milan

    Recorded live in Turin, on October 5, 2008

    Evelino Pidò conducts the Orchestra del Teatro Regio de Torino
    Hugo de Ana does stage directing, costumes, and scenarios

    Cast:

    Anna Caterina Antonacci sings the title role
    Giuseppe Filianot is Giasone
    Cinzia Forte is Glauce
    Sara Mingardo is Neris
    Giovanni Battista Parodi is Creonte
    Erika Matamoros is the first nurse
    Luisa Francesconi is the second nurse

    Hardy Classic Video, with Rai Trade
    Region code zero
    Sound PCM stereo or Dolby Digital 5.1, good quality with perfect balance
    Picture format 16:9, good quality (at times so good that it looks like blu-ray)
    Subtitles in Italian, English, French, or Spanish
    Running time 140 minutes
    Liner notes include a brief presentation (one paragraph) and a synopsis in English and Italian. No track list. No extras except for a brief introduction that appears optionally on screen.

    Staging is updated to sometime around the 1920's I suppose, given the clothes. The scenario for the first scene is a very realistic-looking beachfront. Cinzia Forte is the first singer and she disappoints, seems a bit wobbly, her voice is not as, well, forte (OK, terrible pun). She doesn't look as good as in earlier performances (still a classy-looking lady). I'm not terribly impressed with Giovanni Parodi. Nor with Giuseppe Filianoti either (weakest link so far).

    Second scene opens again to impressive, realistic scenario of a ship crashed ashore. The orchestra plays well with good resonance, energy, and perky tempo. The chorus is OK.

    Singing continues to disappoint. I'm hoping that ACA will rescue this thing, which is not an easy task given her illustrious predecessor (Callas). We'll see.

    So far what I've liked most is the rather beautiful staging, the image quality, and Cherubini's music well rendered by a good orchestra, because these performers are not that good.

    OK, ACA is on, and she is of course very good (and as usual looks great, now with her more mature beauty), although some have complained that she looks more grieving than terrifying and enraged like Callas' Medea. Another common complaint is that the tessitura for this role is a bit higher than the one she is usually more comfortable with (she's a good Carmen) and she struggles a bit with the high notes.

    I guess both objections are true. But still, Ms. Antonacci is a very glamorous artist and whether she's ideally cast for the role or not is less important to me, because she still dazzles this fan of hers. My take is, we shouldn't be demanding a Callas, she's dead. What we have here is ACA, and she is great.

    ACT I was a little bland. ACT II is starting now, and the drama is supposed to thicken.

    Sara Mingardo's Neris is excellent. So now we have two good singing actresses on stage, which improves things a lot. It's a scene with great dramatic impact. This is a good opera!

    ACT III - The storm scene that opens it is terrific. Great staging job, and the orchestra did well too, and so did ACA with her superior acting skills. Next, her mad scene is bone chilling, and one of the best I've ever seen in all of opera. Mingardo is just as good in the scene, which they both perform to perfection. I kind of pity the two young actors doing the children because this is all too realistic, they must have felt a bit terrified with this lunatic with crazed eyes singing about killing them. The cynical among us will also appreciate the fact that Antonacci's dress comes more and more undone as the scene goes on, exposing more and more her, cough cough, assets.

    Verdict: uneven, but the highs outweigh the lows, so, recommended.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); February 9th, 2013 at 03:58 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  2. #17
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Pfitzner: Palestrina on DVD


    Palestrina, musical legend in three acts, composed between 1912 and 1915, premiered in 1917 in Munich, sung in German
    Music and libretto by Hans Pfitzner (1869-1949)

    2009(LC) - Simone Young - Bayerisches Staatsorchester
    Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper

    Stage director Christian Stückl
    Stage and costume design Stefan Hageneier

    Cast

    Giovanni Pierluigi da Palestrina, choirmaster of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome - Christopher Ventris
    Pope Pius IV - Peter Rose
    Giovanni Morone and Gernardo Novagerio, Cardinal legates - Michael Volle and John Daszak
    Cardinal Christoph Madruscht, Prince-Bishop of Trent - Roland Bracht
    Carlo Borromeo, Roman cardinal - Falk Struckmann
    The Cardinal of Lorraine - Steven Humes
    Abdisu, the Patriarch of Assyria - Kenneth Robertson
    Anton Brus von Müglitz, the Archbishop of Prague - Christian Rieger
    Graf Luna, spokesman for the King of Spain - Wolfgang Koch
    Theophilus, the Bishop of Imola - Kevin Conners
    The Bishop of Budoja - Ulrich Ress
    Ighino, Palestrina's 15-year-old son - Christiane Karg
    Silla, Palestrina's 17-year-old pupil - Claudia Mahnke
    Bischof Ercole Severolus - Master of Cerimonies of the Council of Trent - Christoph Stephinger

    Plus, choristers from Santa Maria Maggiore, a few more bishops, a doctor, apparitions, angels, and finally Lukrezia, Palestrina's dead wife - Heike Götzinger.

    The story is about a fictionalized episode of Palestrina's struggle to overcome writers block after the death of his wife, and to prevent the Pope from condemning polyphony in church music and reverting to Gregorian Chant at the Council of Trent in the 16th century. Palestrina is asked by Cardinal Borromeo to compose a polyphonic Mass for the Council's appreciation and judgment; initially fails to do so thanks to his block and falls in disgrace, is thrown in jail and threatened with torture (hey, nice way to treat your composers!), but then he delivers; it's a success, he's saved, the Pope and the people are grateful, and polyphony is saved. There's a subplot about his pupil trying to get to Florence to learn the new approaches to art and music.

    Technical aspects:

    2009 release from EuroArts/Unitel Classica in two DVDs (region zero), running time 197 minutes (opera) with a 9-minute bonus film (Making Of, very good) plus trailers (of rather interesting productions of Lucrezia Borgia, Khovanshchina, Idomeneo, and Chin's Alice in Wonderland, all from Munich, I wouldn't recomment the latter for people with motion sickness since it's filmed in shaky handheld camera style). Format NTSC 16:9 with excellent definition and color. Sound PCM stereo, Dolby 5.0 and DTS 5.0, with good clarity and balance. Optional subtitles in German, English, and French. Excellent liner notes with full credits, full list of chapters with characters and duration, two short essays about the staging, and about the composer and the opera, synopsis in English, German, and French, and production photos. That is, impeccable packaging.

    Pfitzner should be the one associated with Nazism, unlike Wagner who died much before the Nazi era, in spite of what the misinformed lay public thinks. Pfitzner *was* closely associated with the Nazi leadership and was profoundly racist. Oh well, let's enjoy the music and forget about the man.

    I'm watching it as I type my review. This work has a reputation for longueurs and boring parts alternating with sublime music. We'll see. It opens exactly this way with a lengthy and theatrically unappealing arioso-style dialogue between Silla and Ighino, but with good orchestration, and following a beautiful prélude. So, unevenness will likely be the word. In this production, the dialogue is sung by the two rather unattractive females in trouser roles. Their singing is not bad, though, especially Christiane Karg's. But the length of this scene is clearly exaggerated: not less than 23 minutes until another character interrupts it! On the other hand, about one third of this scene has very beautiful vocal writing, Ich wusste whol, du würdest also reden (8 minutes long).

    Staging is visually very, very striking, with garish colors (sort of fluorescent, even), and rather interesting surrealistic imagery, judging by what I've seen so far and by the production photos. It's in contemporary costumes and furniture, minimalistic, with some visual elements evoking the 16th century. It seems appropriate to the concept of this opera which deals with tradition vs. innovation in art, and includes dream-like, delirium-like sequences.

    This opera has a hallmark DG recording on CD with Kubelík conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and a star-studded cast including Nicolai Gedda, Hermann Prey, and Brigitte Fassbaender, so I'm not sure this production will be able to match it musically-wise, but it's up to a good start; the orchestra is sounding beautifully, and singing so far is satisfactory as well (we just got Cardinal Borromeo on stage and Falk Struckmann is not bad either). Christopher Ventris has just started his participation in the title role, and he certainly has a beautiful voice and interprets his role with passion, nuance, and good phrasing of the musical line. It's a demanding role with wide tessitura, and this passage - Die Kunst der Meister vieler hundert Jahre - is musically and dramatically difficult, and he's passing it with flying colors.

    Keeping up with the unevenness, this is followed by another overlong (25 minutes!!!) scene with the cardinal talking about the pros and cons of polyphonic music. A few good parts exist during this scene but it could use a pair of scissors. Falk Struckmann's voice seems tired and he is smothered by the orchestra at times. This is compensated by good acting and by the fact that the cardinal is supposed to be an old man anyway.

    In terms of musical structure, it's written-through, there are Wagnerian influences, and it is beautiful and complex, but not as good as Wagner's operas or Pfitzner's exact contemporary Richard Strauss' operas. That compelling Wagnerian sea of sounds that involves the listener is missing from the orchestration, and the soaring vocal writing of Richard Strauss is missing from the vocal music. But if one doesn't set the bar *this* high, then it's very enjoyable, especially the parts for the title role which do reach sublime proportions.

    The pace is very slow. This is the kind of work that could benefit enormously from a more compact production, like it's been done to Wagner's Rienzi which was released on blu-ray virtually cut in half. While I'm in principle against cuts, there are works here and there that get better, not worse, when judicious cuts are employed. This one is one of those, in my opinion.

    Palestrina's dream in the first act when all those apparitions and the ghost of his wife try to overcome his writers block is a *very* effective scene, both musically and theatrically, and also thanks to the interesting staging, clever black-and-white creepy make-up, and costumes in this production. Camera work and video editing are good too. Like I said, it's kind of striking to see this effective scene only coming up 1 hour and 10 minutes into the opera, after two very long-drawn-out scenes. Ventris is excellent all along this scene (it is not as vocally demanding, though - sort of a piece of cake for this excellent Wagnerian tenor who has been Parsifal before). I really *love* the creepy effect of the make-up, when the apparitions smile!

    We're getting close to the supposedly chaotic and colorful second act, which shows all the infighting and bickering among different factions during the Council of Trent, and doesn't include the title character at all (he'll only return for the final act - good break for Ventris!), but still with some 17 minutes to go, for a total duration of 1 hour 38 minutes for the first act! Oh! My! God! Someone please tell Mr. Pfitzner that some 45 minutes is the ideal duration for an operatic act.

    I shouldn't have complained. The staging for the final parts of the first act turns suddenly spectacular, with incredibly visually appealing effects of bright green, and beautiful vocal music for Palestrina's wife (which is not very well delivered by Heike Götzinger who has a small voice that doesn't project well from behind her huge mask (we can't see her face - there's a cute angel, though, the first attractive female in this production) and above the orchestra and chorus. She totally disappears (well, OK, she is a ghost anyway, I guess dead people don't have all the energy to sing above a chorus and a romantic orchestra involved in loud ominous music).

    End of the long Act I which has some very good moments but also some very dull ones - I'd have eliminated some 50 minutes of it. The final scene is impressive with the police coming to arrest Palestrina while his son hides behind a table, saving the manuscript of his Mass which he supposedly composed during his dream/delirious state. Nice.

    End of the first DVD, I'll take a break myself. So far the good outweighs the bad, and if one just endures the longueurs, it is a rewarding experience. I expect the next two acts to be theatrically better since they are shorter in duration, should be more dynamic, we'll see. Pause to eat. I'll be back. By the way, I've just watched the Making Of, and it is quite interesting with the appropriate explanations of the staging focus and concept and interviews with the artists (including stage director, conductor, etc.).

    I'm back.

    Terrific prélude to the second act, really powerful. Again, long scene between cardinals preparing for the Council of Trent. Spectacular singing by John Daszak as Novagerio. Nice staging with good effects achieved with black-and-white colors and make-up. So far, so good.

    My admiration for this staging is growing by the minute. There just isn't a better way to stage this work. It is quite impressive what Munich did here. This opera has dozens of characters, requires a huge orchestra, has lots of nontheatrical moments, is darn difficult to stage, and they pull it off with aplomb. Acting is exquisite, a simple facial expression conveys the conflicting sentiments of the Council of Trent, the costumes couldn't be more effective, the striking images are so fascinating that they keep the spectator's attention even during the dull moments. This is a masterful staging. It should figure in teaching environments of theatrical arts, as an example of how to balance Regie concepts with the music and the historical context of the work to almost perfection (OK, there isn't a point in showing one of the cardinals eating an ice-cream cone, but I didn't mind Graf Luna getting there in a stretch limousine - by the way, he looks uncannily like Jack Nicholson! - but other than a glitch or two, this is modern staging of opera, folks, and it is darn good!

    Maybe it's not time for a verdict yet (I'm still in the middle of act two), but it is rather clear to me, the way this is going:

    Superb, exquisite, spectacular staging, something to be taught in staging classes. This in itself recommends this DVD. Flawless packaging, of the highest technical quality and completeness. Very good singing and acting, a phenomenally successful effort by the Bayerischen Staatsoper. So, regarding what Bayerischen Staatsoper and EuroArts/Unitel Classica did, this *product* couldn't be more highly recommended.

    But then, there is the work itself, the opera.

    If I recommended this to a novice, it would turn him/her off opera for a lifetime.
    This opera is *only* recommended to the seasoned viewer/listener.

    It's long, non-theatrical, complex, challenging, and the rewards are there but require lots of patience. Is it a masterpiece? Yes in some senses, but no in others. I think the main problem here is that Pfitzner was his own librettist. He should have associated himself for this project with someone who possessed a sense of theatrical arts, and could trim down this sprawling libretto into half of its length, and say, "maestro, this is all very nice but doesn't work on stage. Save your best bits of music for some main scenes, eliminate others, make of this a compact, fast pacing work, and we'll have an opera for the ages! We'll have an astounding success and will conquer a place in the repertory forever. They way it is right now, only the most sophisticated listeners will enjoy it."

    So, all things consider, I'll just say "recommended."

    That's about it, and if I don't change my mind during the third act, I'll leave it at this. If I do change my mind, I'll add to this post later.

    Edit:

    OK, I'll add to it, to increase the praise for the staging.

    Terrific prélude to the third act as usual (all three préludes are very good), and the third act is the most dynamic of the three. The way the Pope is presented is very clever. It conveys power and other-worldliness, sort of the presence of the Divine on Earth, singing is a very good match for the scene, colors are sublime, everything works. Musically the orchestration for the third act is the most appealing of the three acts - this act is genuinely beautiful throughout it, and provides a rather nice ending to this uneven work. There is a certain aspect of love for music at the end, when Palestrina son's says "your works will be performed forever" and he says that he doesn't rejoice as much on surface but indirectly indicates by facial expression and all that he feels the joy of music in his heart. It is a touching ending, very beautiful and delicate.

    I thought that Act III was finally theatrically effective like acts I and II could not be, and after all is said and done, I must say that I've immensely enjoyed this DVD.

    So, OK, I'll change my verdict to "highly recommended" and if some novice approaches this and gets turned off, oh well, said novice doesn't deserve to have access to the joys of opera.
    "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. #18
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Paisiello: Nina, o sia la pazza per amore on DVD
    Nina, o sia la pazza per amore (Nina, or the girl driven mad by love)



    Opera buffa in prose and verse in two acts, 1790 revision, sung in Italian, premiered in first version (one act) on June 25, 1789, and in revised version (two acts) in Naples in the autumn of 1790. A third version with recitatives not authored by Paisiello exists, but the current production goes back to the more authentic second version with spoken dialogue.

    Music by Giovanni Paisiello
    Libretto by Giuseppe Antonio Carpani, expanded by Giovanni Battista Lorenzi, based on Nicolas Dalayrac's earlier (1786) one-act French opera Nina ou La Folle Par Amour, which set to music an original libretto by Benoît-Joseph Marsollier.

    2002(LI) - Adam Fischer - Orchestra of the Opernhaus Zürich
    Chorus of the Opernhaus Zürich
    Stage direction by Cesare Lievi
    Video direction by Thomas Grimm

    Cast

    Nina - Cecilia Bartoli
    Lindoro - Jonas Kaufmann
    Il Conte - László Polgár
    Susanna - Juliette Galstian
    Giorgio - Angelo Veccia
    Un pastore - Jonas Kaufmann
    Villanelle - Federica Bartoli and Golda Fischer

    Technical stuff:

    ATTENTION, the NTSC version of this DVD is out of print. It can still be found with outrageous prices above $100 for used copies. My version is an import from Europe in PAL version, which gets shipped to the US with reasonable/average price, but to play it you'll need a PAL compatible, region free DVD player (I do have one, and they can be found very cheap for $60, which is a purchase I have repeatedly recommended because it will free you from a single-country market and will pay for itself given some good prices on imports). As a matter of fact for this particular product just a PAL compatible player will do because it is region zero. It should play on your laptop as well with no problem.

    This is an ArtHaus Musik release, with the usual high quality we find in products from this company. The insert has three different and very complete essays - a different essay for each language - in German, English, and French (I can't read the German one), as well as synopsis and biography of the main artists. The track list does contain character names, aria names, and duration.

    There is a good extra: a 46-minute documentary called "Giovanni Paisiello - A Forgotten Genius."

    Sound format is PCM Stereo and DTS 5.1
    Picture format is 16:9, PAL standard
    Menu languages are provided in English, German, French, and Spanish, and optional subtitles are provided in the above 4 languages plus original Italian.

    Running time is 120 minutes for the opera, and like I said, 46 minutes for the bonus feature, all in region code zero.

    Paisiello was a contemporary of Mozart's, who added an aria to another one of Paisiello's operas, the 1974 opera seria Andromeda. It's DV277, composed in 1777 and called Ah, lo previdi.

    This version of Nina incorporates Mozart's aria in act 1, when, following the shepherd's canzone, Nina is asked by Susanna to sing something that matches her mood, and Nina sings this aria that talks about Andromeda accusing her rescuer, Perseus, over the death of her lover.

    This aria fits well in the plot because Nina sings it addressing her father, whom she holds responsible for the death of her betrothed.

    Although this aria was not part of Paisiello's Nina, the insertion recovers the common practice in the 18th century of inserting the so-called "cuckoo arias" in live opera performances, according to the taste of the conductor, the singer, or an important patron.

    Another interesting fact about this opera is that it contained one of the earliest mad scenes, which became so popular in subsequent works. It was also one of the first Italian operas to blend elements of opera buffa and opera seria, with its lachrymose heroine that adds some pathos to the comedy (a sort of sentimental comedy). This, added to Paisiello's lasting influence until Rossini's clique started to take over (after some wicked battles between the two sets of fans), makes of this opera a historically important one.

    Paisiello's mad scene in Nina is impressive in terms of orchestration. To convey the young woman's confusion of mind, Paisiello uses abruptly interrupted melodies, plaintif winds, unexpected pauses and modulations into minor keys.

    An earlier brief review by one of our members (Gaston) mentioned that one doesn't feel that Mozart's aria inserted here is completely out of place regarding the surrounding music, which is an attestation to the fact that while Paisiello was no Mozart, he wasn't too shabby either.

    Instead of re-writing the plot, I'll borrow from a very good description by an Amazon.com reviewer called J. Scott Morrison (true name):

    "The story is fairly simple. Nina loves Lindoro, but her father, the Count, wants her to marry a wealthy rival. Lindoro and the rival duel, in Nina's presence, and Lindoro is killed. Nina goes mad immediately. All this occurs before the curtain rises. In Act I we meet Nina, who is under the care of her duenna, Susanna, on the grounds of the Count's castle. She is under the illusion that Lindoro is not dead and she awaits his return eagerly. This delusion is fostered by Susanna in order to spare Nina's delicate nerves. The Count is very sad for his daughter and regrets his earlier tyrannical behavior. But Nina doesn't even recognize her father. A shepherd appears, accompanied by a bagpiper, and sings a pastoral air. Nina remarks that he sounds like her beloved Lindoro and is reminded of her cruel fate. She becomes agitated and sings an interpolated rage aria by Mozart, 'Ah, io previdi!'. Susanna prevails upon her to go into the village and bring presents to the peasants. Act II opens with the Count thanking Susanna for taking such good care of Nina when the major domo, Giorgio, arrives breathlessly to announce that Lindoro hadn't died after all, that he has returned in disguise as a shepherd, because although he cannot marry her, he wants to be near his beloved Nina. So it turns out Nina was not wrong to think the shepherd sounded like her dear Lindoro. The Count encounters Lindoro, greets him as a son, accepts him as a prospective son-in-law. Nina enters but takes a while to recognize that the stranger is her long-lost lover. They reunite and a happy finale ensues, but not before--in a clever touch--Lindoro begins acting like the lord of the manor and one gets some sense that all may not live happily ever after. "

    This is of course Bartoli's show, and she had a fundamental role in having this revival produced by Zürich. She was the one who had the idea and pushed it through, because she wanted to give Nina's role a try. Some reviewers complain of her over-acting (we know that Ms. Bartoli likes grimaces) but all seem to be unanimous in praising her singing, as well as those of JK and Polgár.

    OK, folks, I wrote all of the above based on my pre-performance homework. Now I'll watch the DVD and come back for my own take on the staging, orchestra, and singing.

    Full review to follow, see you in about two and a half hours.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  5. #19
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    OK, folks. First act is over. I want to post this separately, because I want you all to be able to get this post as part of the unread highlights, because I believe it is pretty important that you hear this (not that my reviews are essential, but this product is, and I want you all to get the full information about how good this DVD is).

    Technically, we get the usual sharp colors of PAL DVDs, given that the joking acronym for NTSC is "Not Too Sharp Colors." The sound balance is one of the best I've ever seen. We get strong, clear sounds from the singers coming from the center speaker, and an admirably rich and well distributed orchestral track from the other surround speakers, which is helped by my Yamaha receiver's ability to transform the 5.1 sound into 7.1 sound with added concert hall effects, but is almost as good when I push the "direct" button and get the regular 5.1 DTS effects. This is involving, exquisite sound, a true aural pleasure. The only downside is that there is some stage noise and occasionally you can hear the prompter, which always pisses me off - this is a DVD that you shouldn't hear with top level amplifiers and high performance earphones because you'll be likely to get a lot more of the prompter's whispering.

    Staging - couldn't be more perfect. It is traditional, tasteful, with no Eurotrash elements, with good use of space, and beautiful and atmospheric effects like the sun coming out of windows and projecting shadows, or the hint of woods outside the windows.

    Video direction - again, perfect. The close-ups are extremely clever and done at the right moments. Video edition is top notch.

    Orchestra - they are very good and conducting is simply sublime. One does miss the more delicate period instruments which this piece truly asks for, leaving a certain impression of heavy-handed playing that is not the musicians' or the conductor's fault, it's just that they can't get from the modern instruments the kind of sound we got used to, for these earlier operas. Anyway, they still do a superb job.

    Acting - no, I didn't notice any wooden acting like other TC members have mentioned. It's just that Nina is given lots of space to display her madness, and the other characters prudently stay away, press themselves against the walls and the background, kind of afraid of getting close to her bubbling and disturbed actions.

    Singing - Oh! My! God!

    STOP THE PRESS, FOLKS!!! HEAR, HEAR!!!

    El Guapo is wonderful, so is Polgár, and Galstian is simply spectacular. Even secondary roles like Veccia's are extraordinary.

    But Cecilia's Nina... wow. I can't express as much admiration as she deserves.

    I believe that her rendition of Mozart's aria is this gifted artist's finest moment, ever.

    JUST HER RENDITION OF AH, LO PREVIDI IS WORTH ANY TROUBLE YOU GUYS MAY GO THROUGH TO GET THIS DVD. I KIND OF UNDERSTAND NOW WHY USED COPIES ARE GOING FOR ONE HUNDRED BUCKS!

    It's sublime! Outstanding! Spectacular!

    It's simply one of the best operatic DVD moments I've seen in my life. This is the stuff of legends. This is of Maria Callas caliber.

    Jonas Kaufmann was sitting there, looking at Cecilia with loving eyes as his character was supposed to show, but one can feel that he was experiencing more emotion than what is asked of his character.

    I bet that Jonas was thinking - "Wow, oh boy, am I privileged to witness from a distance of two yards one of the best operatic performances of all times???"

    What Ms. Bartoli did is worth of a BUY IT! BUY! BUY IT! double recommendation.

    "Highly recommended" is too little for this.

    She had me with watery eyes. It's simply extraordinary.

    I was thinking of our current gifted singing actresses.

    We have Ms. Fleming with a noble and classy career, but she rarely gets to these heights.

    We have Ms. Dessay but her voice is not as good as her acting.

    We have Ms. Netrebko who combines great looks with great acting and a great voice and should be considered as at least the second best of our time.

    But then we have Ms. Bartoli who definitely doesn't look as good as Ms. Fleming, Ms. Netrebko, and even Ms. Dessay when the latter tries harder to get her feminine charm going - but Ms. Bartoli can light up a production like few can.

    I'm thinking of her Il Turco in Italia, her Clari, and now her Nina.

    What an EXTRAORDINARY artist!

    Boobs talk apart, and more limited repertoire apart (she can't venture much farther away than baroque and early romantic), Ms. Bartoli - this Netrebko fan must confess - is arguably the best singer-actress of her generation.

    If she had the looks of Ms. Netrebko, Ms. Bartoli would be the dominant figure of late 20th - early 21st century operatic singing/acting.

    This is simply spectacular, folks. You gotta see this.

    My score is 11 out of 10; essential buy, one of the best operatic DVDs of all times, combining exquisite singers and actors with a good conductor and orchestra, good staging, excellent technical quality, perfect packaging and insert - it is a rather perfect product.

    PS - I saw the second act and my admiration didn't drop at all. For fans of Mr. Kaufmann, we get a lot more of him in the second act, and he delivers, flawlessly. While Paisiello's music is not as brilliant as Mozart's and Rossini's, it is more than good enough (we can't set the bar this high, there are plenty of composers who are not as good as these but are still pretty good), and I profoundly enjoyed this opera and this performance. In time: the spoken dialogue works well, it gives the opera a more theatrical aspect.

    I had two very satisfactory hours of formidable opera watching. Buy it with no hesitation, folks, whatever the cost.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  6. #20
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Franz von Suppé: Boccaccio, or the Prince of Palermo copied from an old TV broadcast
    Boccaccio, or the Prince of Palermo
    Operetta in three acts, originally sung in German
    Music by Franz von Suppé (1819-1895)
    Libretto by Camillo Walzel (under the pen name of Friedrich Zell) and Richard Genée, based on the play by Jean-François-Antoine Bayard and three other authors, very loosely based in turn on the Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio
    Premiered in Vienna, February 1, 1879

    1991(LI) - Frank Bernd Gottschalk - Orchestra, Chorus, and Ballet of the Teatro Comunale di Trieste "G. Verdi" - version sung in Italian

    Giovanni Boccacio, a novelist and poet - Armando Ariostini
    Pietro, Prince of Palermo - giovanni Guarino
    Scalza, a barber - Graziano Polidori
    Beatrice, Scalza's daughter - Antonella Bandelli
    Lotteringhi, a cooper - Max René Cosotti
    Isabella, Lotteringhi's wife - Cosetta Tosetti
    Lambertuccio, a grocer - Saverio Bambi
    Peronella, Lambertuccio's sister - Francesca Arnone
    Fiammetta, Lambertuccio's adopted daugher - Simona Bertini
    Leonetto, Boccacio's student friend - Marco Canastra
    Checco, a beggar - Enrico Rotoli
    Fresco, the cooper's apprentice - Giorgio Amodeo
    A vendor - Paolo Rumetz
    A stranger - Giovanni Sancin
    Chichibio - Riccardo Maranzana
    Filippa - Maddalena Lubini

    Stage director - Alfred Eschwe
    Choreography - Giuliana Barabaschi
    Scenarios and costumes - Jurgen Aue
    Chorus master - Ine Maisters

    Running time, approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes

    Set in Florence, 1331

    This is a version with no subtitles. I should better get a detailed synopsis to be able to follow it. Here goes, copied from some obscure site in the Internet called Old and Sold. As you'll see, this doesn't exactly come from Decameron which is very briefly mentioned, but rather depicts a fictional episode in Boccaccio's life:

    --------------------

    Boccaccio, the hero of this tale, is a novelist and poet whose virile pen deals with truth not romance, and who has brought down upon his head the hatred of many of the Florentines, who are portrayed in his novels with really embarrassing fidelity. They vow vengeance upon him and his life, or at least his safety, is in peril. Boccaccio has found time in the midst of his literary labors to fall in love with Fiammetta, the adopted daughter of Lambertuccio, the grocer. He, as well as Lambertuccio, is unaware of the fact that the girl is the daughter of the Duke of Tuscany, who for political reasons has had her brought up in this humble fashion. Her father has destined her for a fitting marriage and he sends to Florence at this time, Pietro, Prince of Palmero, to claim as his wife, Fiammetta, who has been betrothed to him in infancy. Pietro is acting in accordance with the wishes of his father and not because he desires to assume marital ties, for, as ,he himself confesses, he is far too fond of wine and flirting to care to take on himself the role of husband.

    Upon his arrival in the city, he joins in several adventures with the students and meets Boccaccio, for whom he has had, for some time, a profound admiration. He fancies that by his adventures he may gain such experience that he, too, may write of life as Boccaccio does. But his literary ardor is somewhat cooled when, on account of a resemblance which he bears to Boccaccio, he is seized by Florentine citizens who have figured unpleasantly in the novels of " the miserable scribbler " and given a sound drubbing.

    Boccaccio, who has learned that Fiammetta is to marry, succeeds in stealing interviews with her in the disguises of a beggar and a simpleton, and finds that his love is returned. Meantime Pietro's adventures go on merrily. He is introduced to Isabella, the wife of the drunken cooper, Lotteringhi, and proceeds to fall in love with her, for the students represent that she is the cooper's niece. On one occasion, when Lotteringhi returns before he is expected, the lady hides her princely lover in a barrel and when he is discovered, glibly explains his presence by saying that he had purchased the barrel and had gone in to examine it.

    To be brief, after much flirting and serenading, Pietro accomplishes the business for which he has set out and meets Fiammetta whose foster-father is overcome with awe to learn her true identity.
    In the last act, Fiammetta is found at the ducal palace in Palmero, about to be solemnly betrothed to Pietro. Boccaccio, for whom the Prince has a profound liking, comes as a guest to the festivities. He knows well that his love is reciprocated, and he has Pietro's own admission that he feels only indifference for Fiammetta, so he decides to help fate to a more gallant role. He is asked to arrange a play for the evening and, in the impromptu affair he illustrates the situation with such fidelity and shows up the follies of Pietro so vividly, that the young man who looks it over previous to its performance decides not to have it played and instead surrenders the hand of Fiammetta to the one who truly loves her. Fiammetta is better pleased to wed a professor of the University of Florence, for such Boccaccio is now made, than to be Princess of Palmero and the happy Boccaccio promises that it shall be quite the last of his literary practical jokes.

    The opera is full of genuine comedy which is generously furnished by the superstitious Lambertuccio, who sees dreadful signs and portents in every occurrence; by Checco the beggar and by Peronella, the elderly sister of Lambertuccio, who is engaged in hunting a rich husband.

    ----------------

    I did find a pdf that contains the images of the Italian libretto, but in several attempts, the download freezes in the middle and I just get the first few pages [edit] I got the pages from act II on, but the middle pages before that are a blank:

    http://musicologia.unipv.it/collezio...f/ghisi036.pdf

    ----------------

    Image from this bootleg DVD is very poor, filmed from the audience with a single camera that does zoom in as needed. Sound however is reasonably clear.

    The text in Italian during the spoken dialogues is easy to understand for those who speak Italian, thanks to the good articulation of the all-Italian cast. The lyrics of the arias are harder to get, but one should be able to follow the story quite well with the above synopsis as a helper.

    Staging is traditional, with period costumes. Scenarios are simple and reproduce street scenes in Florence. Orchestral tempi are lively and they seem to play well - not brilliant but they don't disappoint.

    This regional opera company with unknown singers does very well in this production. Singing is of very decent quality across the board in spite of the very numerous cast. Nothing spectacular overall, but nothing dreadful either like sometimes we hear from these small Italian houses. They also have a good sense of comic acting and make good use of the rather large stage (again, unlike we often see in Italian regional companies that tend to perform in tiny stages). The whole thing is quite pleasant in terms of stage movement and singing. Strange is the fact that the original used a trouser role for the title character, but here we're given a high-sounding baritone, who sings well. Simona Bertini is quite cute except that her profile is less comely thanks to a long nose. She sings OK, with a sweet voice and nice timbre, but she doesn't project very well.

    The operetta itself, von Suppé's most successful one, is OK, but not something I'd go out of my way to see again. There are some nice numbers, like among others, an aria when Boccaccio explains his source materials (I couldn't catch its first line), the student's song (Assieme all'amante), Leonetto's serenade for Peronella (Mio dolce amor), the Lotteringhi song with his guild (Mia moglie sempre grida), a waltz trio with Fiammetta, Isabella, and Peronella (O gentil momento, scritto amato), which is given again in the finale of act II - this waltz, I must say, does not have the verve of those by J. Strauss II - Lambertuccio's song Per scansare del prence l'ira, and finally the most famous piece, the duet between Boccaccio and Fiammetta (Mia Bella Fiorentina) - a good number. The orchestration is a bit more heavy-handed than one would expect for an operetta, but does liven up as the piece goes on.

    I found an YouTube of the same performance, with the Boccacio-Fiametta duet:





    It's an interesting work for fans of the subgenre, but not essential, IMHO, and not as good as Lehár's and J. Strauss II's operettas.

    Kudos however to this regional Italian opera company; they did quite well in this production, in many regards (lively, well acted, good dynamic use of space, well sung even in minor roles in spite of the large number of characters, decent budget costumes, good comedic sense - scenarios could have been better). They actually in my opinion made this work feel better than it is - or at least, they explored well its possibilities. This was not an amateurish performance at all.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  7. #21
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Carlos Gomes: Fosca on DVD
    This poorly known composer outside of Italy and his native Brazil is actually quite good.
    His best known opera is Il Guarany, which Verdi liked and I have reviewed elsewhere.

    Gomes studied in Milan and was a contemporary of Verdi's. While his operas are good, they aren't very original - they pretty much follow the existing style of the time.

    This is a broadcast recorded from Brazilian TV, with an introduction that details Gomes' life and career, narrated in Portuguese, with no subtitles. Running total time with the introductory mini-documentary and credits is 154 minutes so the opera is probably some 2 hours and 20 minutes.

    The production is from November 1997, live from the Sofia National Opera, with Brazilian cultural and financial backing - as part of a project to produce and record all operas by Carlos Gomes. The title role gets Gail Gilmore, an American singer.

    Fosca, opera seria in four acts, sung in Italian, premiered at La Scala on February 16, 1873; revised version (described as melodramma) premiered also at La Scala on February 7, 1878.
    Music by Antonio Carlos Gomes
    Libretto by Antonio Ghislanzoni, based on Luigi Capranica's 1869 novel La Festa delle Marie
    Brazilian conductor Luiz Fernando Malheiro is at the helm of the Orchestra of the Sofia National Opera
    Stage direction Plamen Kartaloff
    Scenarios and costumes Salvatore Russo

    Fosca, Gajolo's sister - Gail Gilmore
    Paolo, a venetian prisoner of Gajolo's - Roumen Doykov
    Gajolo, leader of a band of pirates - Svetozar Ranguelov
    Delia, betrothed to Paolo - Krassimira Stoyanova
    Cambro, a Venetian deserter, Gajolo's servant - Niko Issakov
    The Doge of Venice - Stoil Gueorguiev
    Michele Giota, a Venetian senator, Paolo's father - Peter Bakardzhiev
    Pirates, citizens of Venice

    Production director Rosana Caramaschi
    Overall direction Cleber Papa (I don't know what they mean by this)

    The opera tanked in its premiere, but after Gomes revised it, it was fairly successful, but now it is rarely given outside of Brazil.

    Synopsis:

    Place: Istria and Venice, 10th century

    Act I - Gajolo is planning to kidnap women who are participating of the Feast of the Marys (a sort of multi-bride wedding feast) in Venice, for ransom. The band learns that the rich father of one of their existing male prisoners, Paolo, is offering to pay ransom for his son's return. Fosca who is in love with Paolo wants to double-cross his father and keep both the money and her beloved. The pirates however balk at this dishonorable idea (hehehe, operatic pirates have honor). They leave. Fosca brings Paolo out of his cell and declares her love for him. He is not interested and tells her that he loves his fiancée Delia. Paolo's father shows up with Gajolo, pays up the ransom, and leaves with Paolo. Fosca promises to marry Cambro if he abducts Delia for her.

    Act II - Paolo and Delia are about to marry although she is jealous and suspicious that he may love Fosca who nurtured him back to health when he was wounded by his captors. He reassures her. Cambro, disguised as a Turkish merchant, wants to sell jewelry to Delia in other to be alone with her and kidnap her, but she declines. Paolo and Delia leave each other to prepare for the wedding. Fosca also shows up in disguise and enters the church where the Feast of the Marys was supposed to happen, where she learns from Cambro that Paolo indeed loves Delia (duh!). She is enraged and invoke demons. Gajolo is surprised to find his sister there. When the processional comes in, Fosca attacks Paolo, but is stopped by the pirates, who then kidnap Delia and capture Paolo again - double dipping? However a group of Venetian nobles capture Gajolo.

    Act III - Paolo is back to his cell in the pirate's headquarters. Delia begs Fosca to free him and offers to die in his place or become Fosca's slave. Fosca is moved, and decides that she won't carry on her vendetta. Instead, she vouches for freeing Gajolo, and fulfilling her promise to Cambro that she'll marry him (nice girl, after all).

    Act IV - The Doge sets Gajolo free and tells him to go free Paolo, with the condition that if his sister has killed Paolo, Gajolo will be pursued again to the end of Earth if necessary. Oh well, meanwhile in the pirate's lair almost nice girl Fosca turns evil again, produces Delia and tells Paolo that she'll kill him unless Delia drinks poison. Delia wants to do it but Gajolo arrives and orders the pirates to free Paolo. He discloses the fact that Cambro tried to kill him in Venice (why?) and he had to kill Cambro. He tells them about the Doge's threat, and says that Paolo and Delia must be returned to Venice otherwise Gajolo himself will end up dead. Fosca begs for forgiveness, Paolo and Delia promise to pray for her, they depart, Fosca drinks the poison herself, and as she dies the pirates rage about how the Venetians got the upper hand.

    The beautiful overture with emphasis on strings starts melodious and delicate and turns intense, with drums and brass, then becomes mild again with winds and strings, and ends majestic. I quite like it, although it is a bit lengthy and unfocused.

    The maestro seems to know well his material and gets energetic playing from his forces.

    Impressive first scene with period costumes and quite elaborate scenarios with fake marble columns and all, and with the pirates pulling in a huge golden ship. However the scenarios still manage to look cheap and visually unappealing.

    Oh wow, as the choral music starts I see that there *are* subtitles after all, and they are in Portuguese. This certainly will make it easier for me to follow. I knew that my Portuguese would come in handy some day, for my operatic pursuits.

    Gajolo's first line sounds like Otello's Esultate! This is very Verdian, and I can see why they say that Gomes operas are nice, but not original.

    Mr. Ranguelov sings impressively enough, makes a good baddy with a potent bass voice.
    Ms. Gilmore on the other hand is uneven with some shaky high notes, and may very well sink this thing. Her acting is stiff. She is not attractive.
    Cambro is well sung by chubby Mr. Issakov, also a nice baddy with a fairly beautiful baritone voice.
    Paolo gets a rather ridiculous-looking chubby tenor. His voice is good, though - Mr. Doykov. I see that looks-wise, we'll need good doses of suspension of disbelief. I hope that Delia looks the part, we'll see.

    There is a fairly interesting duo with Fosca and Paolo, but it's quite conventional. The vocal writing tends to be melodramatic in the bad sense, and made of lots of yelling, nothing subtle. The finale to act I is a little more melodic.

    So far I don't like this opera. The overture was the least bad part, but this is definitely not as good as the other two I know from Mr. Gomes - Il Guarany and Salvator Rosa. But we'll see, I've been known for changing my opinion in the middle of a performance.

    Act II starts, and indeed Ms. Stoyanova looks her Delia part, is fairly attractive and doesn't sing poorly. The duo between her and Paolo is the most melodious vocal part so far - it gets a bit belcanto-ish, so this is getting better. The orchestration for this scene is beautiful.

    ----

    OK, I got completely derailed, defending Anna Netrebko from a comment that she is "a joke" and stopped paying attention. The opera became background music (which doesn't bode well for its force and impact). By now I'm half an hour from the end, and I don't feel like rewinding this, since I'm not liking it very much.

    Maybe it's the weak leading soprano, the unconvincing looks, or the inferior acting with tacky-looking scenarios. Theatrically it's not that good either, with this thing of Paolo is captured, Paolo is free, Paolo is captured again, Paolo is free again. Messy, over-the-top, and melodramatic. Maybe a better production would do more justice to this work. But it is uncreative, not very melodious with lots of loud yelling, and the redeeming qualities are few and in-between (mostly, the orchestral parts which are nice - and in this performance, some nice male voice singing). A disappointment, since I liked a lot more this composer's other two efforts that I know.

    Not recommended.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  8. #22
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Carlos Gomes: Lo Ischiavo on DVD
    Lo Schiavo, opera séria in four acts, premiered in Rio de Janeiro on September 27, 1889
    Music by Antonio Carlos Gomes
    Libretto (in Italian) by Rodolfo Paravicini, after a play by Alfredo Taunay.

    This is my fourth Carlos Gomes opera, and I won't be posting a full review, for the good reason that I don't have a full version of it.

    I got a Brazilian TV show about the opera, half the opera (or rather, less than half). This is a production from TVE (Televisão Educativa, the Brazilian equivalent to our PBS). There is no indication of the year of production.

    The way they proceed is this: they film all the recitative parts on location, with silent actors, while a voice-over narrator describes the action. They go over large chunks of the opera like this, and then stop for the highlights - the best vocal numbers - and sing them fully, with rather good local operatic singers (it's all done by Brazilian TV, with artists from the opera house in the state of Paraná, in co-production with Teatro Municipal do Rio de Janeiro, Brazil's elite opera company). The voice-over is quite poetic, and the young cast is good-looking. But obviously it's all very abridged.

    Voice-overs are narrated in Portuguese, and the arias and duos (and the one trio at the end) are sung in Italian, with subtitles in Portuguese.

    I can't form a full opinion because of course this method eliminates any possible longueurs so it may be the case that any shortcomings are being hidden by the way this is being shown. By jumping directly to the best numbers, one gets the impression that it is all very beautiful.

    The bootleg has appallingly bad image, almost unwatchable. The sound is a bit hissy and interrupted by distortions - another reason why it'd be difficult to properly rate this - but is a lot better than the image. I'd rate the image as a 1/5 and the sound as a 2.5/5.

    However abridged or not, I must say that the fragments they show are indeed quite beautiful, a lot more vocally enticing than what I heard in Fosca reviewed above. The orchestration seems more adventurous as well, incorporating some folk music.

    Most likely this improved originality is because rather than trying to tackle an Italian subject like in Fosca or Salvatore Rosa, here Carlos Gomes is setting to music something of his own culture and geographically set to his native Brazil in the 16th century, instead of Venice like in Fosca. This is also the formula that he used to considerable success in his masterpiece Il Guarany (about Brazilian indians).

    Nice short and sweet overture, which plays over shots of the beautiful Teatro Municipal in Rio de Janeiro while the credits roll. The plot here has to do with a love story between Américo the son of a white farmer - Count Rodrigo - and a young black slave girl Ilára. Rich woman Countess de Boissy who also wants the young man tries do seduce him, but he refuses her for the love of the young slave, to his father's despair. Another slave - Iberê - who also loves the girl - is jealous and tries to stab Ilára, but recovers his wits in time and doesn't do it. He is actually an escaped slave who has started a community of other free, ex-slave warriors. He is the chief there, and plots an attack on the farm. However he is depressed over the fact that the girl doesn't love him but rather loves the white son of his enemy, and by being despondent and not up to the task of commanding them, he loses his warriors' respect for him. Then there is a nice instrumental part called Prélude to Dawn. It recovers sounds of nature in the orchestra and we're miles away from Gomes' conventional orchestration in Fosca. This is matched in this TV show to images of the Brazilian Pantanal region and other nature shots. Sunlight comes up to reveal that the warriors have attacked during the night and have captured Américo. He is taken to the presence of Iberê. They argue, while Ilára tries to mediate and begs for mercy. Iberê is convinced and allows the two lovers to embrace each other, promises to set them free. However the other warriors are not happy with this outcome. Iberê encourages the two youngsters to flee and remains to confront his own warriors. He removes his insignias of chief, and kills himself in front of his horrified warriors, over lamenting horns. Quite beautiful, and very theatrically sound.

    I just looked up the CD on Amazon.com, and while last year I saw it there but didn't buy it because it was too expensive (collectors price, like $100 and up), now it shows as unavailable. So, I guess I won't be listening to this opera complete for quite some time.

    It does seem interesting, though. I hope someone re-releases this, eventually, or maybe I'll get lucky and will come across some used copy.

    The Wikipedia page for this opera is very short, but does say that locally it is considered to be Gomes' best opera (while Il Guarany is more internationally recognized, having received a recording with Plácido Domingo, and Salvator Rosa was one of Caruso's favorites). I'm not sure how reliable this is - I mean, the part about this one being considered his best - given that the Wikipedia page seems clueless, since they give the wrong synopsis by saying that Ilára was forced to marry Iberê (no such thing in the opera unless it was in one of the omitted parts).

    OK, this performance has ended. It was done by the Orquestra Sinfónica do Paraná, under the direction of maestro Alceo Bocellino. The chorus is the Coral Sinfónico do Paraná. Antonio Lotti, tenor, is Américo; Bruce Mack (in spite of the name, he sounds Brazilian in terms of accent while singing in Italian), baritone, is Iberê, and Ivonete Rigot-Mulley, soprano, is Ilára. Viviane Farias, soprano (very cute), is the Countess de Boissy. The voice-over narrator is prestigious Brazilian cinema and TV actor Milton Gonçalves. Director Sonia Garcia.

    Running time of this abridged version, one hour and seven minutes.

    Like I said, I'll be looking forward to an opportunity to listen to the whole thing, if it's not too expensive. Then I'll be able to say if it is recommended or not, but given what I heard today, chances are that it is recommended.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  9. #23
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Both operas are available complete on YouTube:

    Fosca: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WRzBlKIsBN8

    Lo Schiavo: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UqZhhO1FNEA
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  10. #24
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Manuel de Falla: El Retablo de Maese Pedro on DVD
    El Retablo de Maese Pedro
    Puppet-opera in one act, premiered in 1923 in Seville, Spain, sung in Spanish.
    Music by Manuel de Falla (1876-1946)
    Libretto: Chapter 26, second part of Manuel de Cervante's Don Quixote, adapted by Manuel de Falla

    I feel I can't write up a coherent review, I'm too stunned.
    This work is O-U-T-S-T-A-N-D-I-N-G!!!!

    This is so pleasurable, so lyrical, so interesting, so pretty darn GOOD that anything I may say here pales by comparison to this lively, enjoyable, formidable, melodic, enticing piece.

    Running time - 27 minutes of pure magic. 27 minutes of bliss.

    Singing characters are Don Quixote (bass), Maese Pedro (Master Peter), tenor, and Trujamán, the boy, treble or boy soprano. Non-singing characters include Sancho Pancha, the innkeeper, a student, and a page.

    Plot, etc., I won't even comment upon. It's all good, trust me. Look it up on Wikipedia. It's that part of Don Quixote when the title character watches a puppet show and then destroys the whole thing. But the plot is hardly important (one can read Cervante's formidable work instead), but here, in terms of operatic pleasure, it's the delightful music that matters. The only downside is that we want more of the same after only 27 minutes.

    After watching this, my comment is, VIVA ESPAÑA!!!!

    Orchestra, conductor, and all artists do a formidable job; no weak links, everything clicks.

    This spectacular short opera comes on this DVD with two more pieces of Spanish classical music, packaged in a product called "Nights in the Gardens of Spain." (1.33:1 pretty good image, LPCM and DTS sound of perfect clarity and balance, no subtitles - wow, big no-no!! - I was able to manage, I do speak Spanish, but oh my God, DECCA, why???; no extras).



    The Montreal Symphony Orchestra, conductor Charles Dutoit
    Don Quixote - Justino Diaz
    Master Peter - Joan Cabero
    The Boy - Xavier Cabero

    This is a formidable DVD produced by DECCA, the BBC, and the Canadian Broadcast Company and Radio-Canada, released in 2007 (obviously the recording is a lot older, but funny enough, we never get the information, I don't know when these pieces were played/recorded).

    On top of this incredibly beautiful short opera, we're treated to two other marvelous pieces, for a total running time of 82 minutes.

    Alicia de Larrocha, pianist, performs Nights in the Gardens of Spain, by Manuel de Falla, with beautiful images of The Alhambra alternating with shots of this old lady with arthritic hands who can still play the piano with energy and verve.

    Pepe Romero plays beautifully his acoustic guitar with the same orchestra and conductor, performing Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez.

    And get this, folks: we're treated to not only shots of the city of Aranjuez and its beautiful palace, but also to footage of Rodrigo himself and his wife, very very old, still in love with each other in very moving scenes, and we get to know from Pepe Romero (after what he heard from Rodrigo himself) that the Concierto de Aranjuez has its familiar shift in mood from first to second movement because the first movement intends to tell us about Rodrigo's and his wife's honeymoon in Aranjuez, while the melancholic, superb second movement was composed in the middle of a crisis, when Rodrigo's wife miscarried their first child and almost died herself. Pepe explains how Rodrigo composed the second movement to express his sorrow for the loss of his son, and his dread and fear that his beloved wife would die as well. Then we have the gorgeous finale to signal that she survived, and that life was still good and they should be able to recover and go on. That, they did, as expressed by these gorgeous images of these two senior people who still hold each others' hands and look at each other with admiration and love and gratitude.

    I was almost in tears...

    Even though I've seen better performances of the Concierto de Aranjuez (Narciso Yepes comes to mind), this is a phenomenal DVD.

    Highly recommended.

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

  11. #25
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Salieri: Falstaff, osia le tre burle on DVD
    There are three successful operas with the theme of Shakespeare's comedy The Merry Wives of Windsor, among a dozen that weren't as enduring.

    The best known is of course Verdi's, second comes Otto Nicolai's, and this one by Salieri got several revivals recently after a fairly successful first run followed by centuries of neglect (still better than the other dozen which were often retired after one performance - by prestigious composers no less, such as Ambroise Thomas, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Adolphe Adam, and Saverio Mercadante.

    At some future point I'll be reviewing Nicolai's, which I just got in the mail today.

    Salieri's is notable for a streamlined plot. Unlike other versions, there are no young lovers Fenton and Anne. Mrs. Page becomes Mrs. Slender. His librettist did add a scene that is not in Shakespeare, in which Mrs. Ford disguises herself as a German lady. This opera is closer to opera buffa traditions than to Shakespeare. Some say that Salieri when composing this one was clearly influenced by Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro which was successfully being given exactly at the time of composition.

    Falstaff, osia le tre burle (Falstaff, or the three tricks) - 1799 (premiered in Vienna)
    Dramma giocoso in two acts, sung in Italian
    Music by Antonio Salieri (1750-1825)
    Libretto by Carlo Prospero Defranceschi, after Shakespeare



    1995(LI) - Arnold Östmann - Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra
    Choir of the Theater im Pfalzbau Ludwigshafen
    Filmed at the Schwetzinger Festspiele

    Stage director - Michael Hampe
    Sets and costumes - Carlo Tommasi

    Sir John Falstaff - John Del Carlo
    Mrs. Ford - Thereza Ringholz
    Mr. Ford - Richard Croft
    Bardolfo - Carlos Feller
    Mr. Slender - Jake Gardner
    Mrs. Slender - Delores Ziegler
    Betty - Darla Brooks

    DVD release by ArtHaus Musik in 2000
    NTSC, all regions, Picture format 1.33:1
    Sound track PCM stereo only
    Subtitles in English and Japanese only
    Running time 144 minutes

    This DVD has good, sharp image and clear sound.

    I love John del Carlo and he starts very well in the first scene - and continues to steal the show, although one problem is that he doesn't really look as ridiculous as other Falstaffs. Singing from other principals seems more than adequate - I'd actually say that this is a rather good cast, with homogenously good singing from the males, and OK+ singing from the females (who could use a bit of more agility and ornamentation). Acting is good overall, and funny in certain parts. The orchestra however is underwhelming. Sometimes the singers run ahead of it.
    Period staging. Scenarios are sparse and not particularly accomplished.

    Interesting... I found a review of this opera authored by Salieri himself!

    Here, I'll paste it:

    -----------

    This is my opinion on the music of my opera: Act I
    The Sinfonia (Overture) is certainly one which conveys clearly the subject if compared to other works; in fact it could be said that the subject stems from the Sinfonia. The first scene depicts a grand private party, in the home of wealthy merchants. After the opening compliments of good luck, the husband and wife say ‘Now I think it is time for more dancing, and there’s plenty more eating and drinking’. This second verse is meant to convey the idea that the party has already been dancing, and so I thought of writing a Sinfonia as a collection of several dances: the public appreciated the effect and applauded it.
    The Introduction ‘Viva il commune amico’ is varied and lively, and although it is quite long for the quantity of things it contains, it arouses interest in the work, especially if Falstaff is dressed in character and acts his part well. As we shall see, the good effect of the whole opera depends on this.
    The aria ‘Vendetta, sì vendetta’ …. makes a good effect when sung by a mezzo-soprano with a clear, strong, and energetic voice.
    The quartet ‘Oh quanto vogliam ridere’ depends entirely on the scene, and requires much comic action, well-acted.
    The aria ‘Oh die Männer kenn ich schon’ couldn’t fail to be appreciated for the way it was sung and acted. The music is very suitable for this type of joke.
    The aria ‘Nell’impero di Cupido’ has more merit than the music of the preceding one, and has an excellent effect.
    The finale ‘Bricconcella, alfin t’ho colta’ is interesting at the beginning, but could appear slightly too long and verbose by the end; but if the scene is well-acted, its length isn’t felt. The end, from the words ‘Così va’, is an excellent piece of music, and makes a scene in itself.
    Act II
    The fugato Trio ‘Prima ancor che Mastro venga’ is a piece which always wins applause if performed with fire.
    The aria ‘Reca in amor la gelosia’ has a metre not often used in music… the public would probably have been indifferent to it if it hadn’t been for the echo. I had this idea after the first rehearsals, and it seemed natural as the setting is a wood at night. The Echo attracted much attention and approbation for the aria.
    The finale ‘Siete già qui’ is all action, and the music is simply an accompaniment.


    -------------------


    So, yes, we can hear Mozart's influence... but Salieri is not as good a melodist, and tends to repeat over and over his melodic formulae, such as the recurring descent from F down to G in the key of E flat. Curiously, Mozart adopted the same descent for Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni, in her first aria, Ah chi mi dice mai. Mozart did it in order to impact upon Elvira a sort of stiff and old-fashioned character, knowing that his listeners would recognize Salieri's device, and confirming that Mozart thought of Salieri as old-fashioned.

    The recitativo secco over the harpsichord is not as sparkling as in Mozart's operas and gets to be too long at times. But then, we must appreciate Salieri on his own terms, and stop comparing him to Mozart. Who can withstand a comparison with Mozart, anyway? So let's not be unfair to poor Salieri. Of course, it can't be compared with Verdi's Falstaff either, thanks to the latter's completely different musical structure, and to Boito's excellent libretto.

    However if we don't get too caught up on the comparisons, we'll realize that the above shortcomings are not terrible. This is still a pleasant work, funny, with good pace, and the performances on this DVD by the singers/actors are very good. One could use a better orchestra, though.

    It's not a masterpiece, but it's not bad either. I'll say "Recommended" - although the other opera by Salieri that I know, Tarare, is superior. I got Europa Riconosciuta in my UWP so soon I'll have 3 Salieri's under my belt.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  12. #26
    Schigolch
    Guest
    As verismo Opera goes, few pieces are more in style than I Gioielli della Madonna, by German-Italian composer Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari.





    The opera premiered in Berlin, in 1911, in a German language version by the title of Der Schmuck der Madonna. The Italian premiere was in 1953, with Wolf-Ferrari already dead.

    Nevertheless, in the original Italian version (Wolf-Ferrari was inspired by a real story, at the end of the 19th century, in Naples), the opera was hailed as a success in the US, first in Chicago, sung by great stars like Rosa Raisa or Claudia Muzio, and then also in New York, sung by Maria Jeritza.




    Rosa Raisa in the role of Maliella


    A beautiful afternoon in Naples, the town is holding its annual festival dedicated to 'la Madonna'. Maliella (soprano) leave in a rush the home of her stepmother, Carmela (mezzo), to watch the procession. His stepbrother, Gennaro (tenor), desperately in love with the young Maliella, works in his forge. Maliella was adopted by Carmela, after a promise to the Madonna when Gennaro was very ill, and about to die.

    Maliella is being wooed by a young 'camorrista', Rafaele (baritone) that declares himself ready to steal the jewels from the cloak of the Madonna, just to humor the girl. Gennaro, angrily, advised Maliella to stay apart from the criminal guy.

    As anyone can predict, Maliella ignores Gennaro, and when Rafale sings a serenade beside her window, she agrees to meet him. The frenzied Gennaro enters the church, and steals the jewels from the cloak of the Madonna. He presents this trophy to her sister, that mistook him from Rafaele, and consent to make love.

    In the meanwhile, Rafaele explains to his fellow 'camorristi' that he doesn't love Maliella, and he is only interested in taking her virginity. When the girl arrives, crying and explaining how she bedded Gennaro by mistake, Rafale despises her. Maliella reveals the jewels of the Madonna and the "camorristi", stunned by the sacrilege, just go away. Maliella, in desperation, commits suicide by drowning in the sea, and Gennaro, asking for the Madonna's forgiveness, stabs himself in the heart.

    It's a gruesome plot, but the music is quite good.


    Some highlights:

    Intermezzo:



    Rafaele's serenade, "Aprila o bella":



    Gennaro's aria, "Madonna, con sospiri"

    Madonna, con sospiri

    Maliella singing "Diceva Cannetella"

    Diceva Cannetella vedendosi inserata

    The end of the opera

    Finale

    Overall: B. The cast could be better, but it's a reasonably good recording of an otherwise impossible to hear nice opera. Recommended to all Opera lovers.

  13. #27
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    If anyone wants a way into zarzuela, this is it - soaring and catchy melodies with a real Spanish flavour; luscious orchestration; passionate dialogue making the most of the eloquent language; romantic intrigues; political upheavals and the defense of liberty; a minimalist but brilliantly inventive set; beautiful costumes in shades of cream, white and black; lovely choreography; a gorgeous feisty heroine; and a handsome Plácido Domingo singing music that is literally in his blood (his mother sang Luisa Fernanda over 1000 times).

    Highly recommended.
    Natalie

  14. #28
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Cherubini - Medea



    This starts off as a perfectly good if rather predictable opera. The production is updated from ancient times to the 1920s (why?) and is set quite recognisably in Greece; the set being dominated by a shipwreck on the beach. Glauce (Patricia Ciofi) has a picnic, sings of her concerns about her impending nuptials with Jason, (Giuseppe Filianoti) who has traded in his previous wife for a younger model (plus ça change...). Jason and Glauce sing of their love. All very pleasant if a little dull.

    Then Medea the rejected wife hoves into sight. My gosh then it takes off, and this is due to the electrifying performance of Anna Caterina Antonacci as she endures banishment from the city and rejection by the rather slimy Jason. As she gradually works her way up to from heartbreak to terrible retribution and infanticide, Antonacci is with Medea every step of the way, tragic emotions revealed in her beautiful face, eloquent acting and fantastic singing. It's a tour de force. Recommended.
    Natalie

  15. #29
    Schigolch
    Guest
    Quote Originally Posted by Soave_Fanciulla View Post

    If anyone wants a way into zarzuela, this is it - soaring and catchy melodies with a real Spanish flavour; luscious orchestration; passionate dialogue making the most of the eloquent language; romantic intrigues; political upheavals and the defense of liberty; a minimalist but brilliantly inventive set; beautiful costumes in shades of cream, white and black; lovely choreography; a gorgeous feisty heroine; and a handsome Plácido Domingo singing music that is literally in his blood (his mother sang Luisa Fernanda over 1000 times).

    Highly recommended.
    Just to point out that chronologically speaking this is the first Domingo's venture into baritone territory, as he always sung the tenor, Javier, but in this production from Teatro Real, he is the baritone, Vidal.

    On a personal note, my grandfather and my grandmother attended the world premiere of this zarzuela, back in 1932.

  16. Likes Soave_Fanciulla liked this post
  17. #30
    Schigolch
    Guest


    WIN-SHI Richard Van Allan
    CHIN-FEN Tito Gobbi
    HU-TSIN Clifford Grant
    AH-JOE Joan Sutherland
    L`INDOVINO Ian Caley
    WIN-SAN Ryland Davies
    HUA-QUI Huguette Tourangeau
    National Philharmonic Orchestra
    RICHARD BONYNGE

    This is an opera that was received very well in London and New York, at the beginning of the 20th century, but fell out of favor after the First World War, and since then had been restaged just occasionally. I was able to attend one performance in Frankfurt Opera a couple of years ago, in a double bill with Puccini's Le Villi.

    However, there is a quite good recording. The story is set in San Francisco's Chinatown, in 1900, among Chinese immigrants. It involves a kidnapping, two murders and a woman turned crazy in just about one hour. The orchestration is quite interesting (it's almost magical the way the listener is inmersed in this end of century Chinatown, in just a few bars of music), as well as the vocal lines, though the role of the soprano is short enough, and we can not really enjoy Ms. Sutherland's singing a lot of time.

    Sutherland / Ah-Joe's aria

    Graciela de Gyldenfeldt / Ferito! L'hanno ferito!

    Overall: B, recommended for all Opera lovers.

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