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

          
   
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  1. #91
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Elena on DVD



    Elena, dramma per musica in a prologue and three acts, sung in Italian, premiered at Teatro San Cassiano, Venice, 26 December 1659
    Music by Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676)
    Libretto by Nicolň Minato, based on a scenario by Giovanni Faustini

    New production of the Académie Européene de Musique du Festival d'Aix-en-Provence, in co-production with Marseille-Provence 2013, European Capital of Culture, with support of the operas of Lille, Montpellier, Angers-Nantes, and Rennes, and the Foundation Calouste Gulbenkian of Lisbon

    Orchestra: Capella Mediterranea (a period ensemble)
    Conductor: Leonardo García Alarcón (also playing the harpsichord)

    Stage Director: Jean-Yves Ruf
    Sets: Laure Pichat
    Costumes: Claudia Jenatsch
    Lighting: Christian Dubet
    Make-up and wigs: Cécile Kretschmar
    Video Director: Corentin Leconte

    Performing edition of the score by Leonardo García Alarcón, based on the critical edition by Kristin Kane

    Cast

    Elena, and Venere: Emöke Baráth
    Menelao: Valer Barna-Sabadaus
    Teseo: Fernando Guimarăes
    Ippolita, and Pallade: Solenn' Lavanant Linke
    Peritoo: Rodrigo Ferreira
    Iro: Emiliano Gonzalez Toro
    Menesteo, and La Pace: Anna Reinhold
    Tindaro, and Nettuno: Scott Conner
    Erginda, and Giunone, and Castore: Mariana Flores
    Eurite, and La Verita: Majdouline Zerari
    Diomede, and Creonte: Brendan Tuohy
    Euripilo, and La Discordia, and Polluce: Christopher Lowrey
    Antiloco: Job Tomé

    Subsets of the above singers also appear as Chorus of Hunters, Chorus of Argonauts and Slaves, and Chorus of Gods and Goddesses

    ----------

    Recorded live in Aix-en-Provence in July 2013
    Released on 2 DVDs by Ricercar in August 2014
    Runtime 177 minutes. All regions. NTSC. Aspect ratio 1.78:1. Optional subtitles in English and French only.
    There is no choice of sound tracks and no mention of what kind of sound protocol is employed. Judging by the rendition on my home theater, it seems like it is a 5.1 track.

    The documentation is exceptional, of rare quality. The discs are packaged inside a 60-page hardcover booklet. It contains numerous color illustrations of costume sketches, credits, list of acts and scenes with characters and durations, a brief introductory paragraph by Ellen Rosand, Chair of the Study Group on Seventeenth-Century Venetian Opera of the International Musicological Society, followed by a full page about the rediscovery of this piece, by Bernard Foccroulle, director of the Festival d'Aix-en-Provence. Then we have a high-quality, 3-and-a-half-page essay by Alain Perroux, Artistic Adviser and Dramaturg to the festival.

    This is followed by a full interview (4 pages) with Leonardo García Alarcón, the conductor, which is very interesting and informative about the musical aspects of the piece. Another 4-page interview is next, with the stage director (I love it when inserts do address the directorial concept). A 2-page synopsis completes the outstanding documentation, which is then repeated in French and German.

    Pay attention, video recording companies! That's how it's done!

    ---------

    Let me give you all the bottom line already: this is absolutely a MUST BUY for all lovers of Baroque opera! It is simply delightful!

    Do not expect a polished product like what we get from William Christie and Les Arts Florissants. If that's your expectation, you'll be disappointed, because this is rather a student performance with young singers from the Académie Européene de Musique, and it looks and feels a bit (or a lot) on the amateur side.

    However, rarely we see a production with this level of energy, enthusiasm, and passion. Yes, the sets are not attractive, the costumes are messy and at times downright ugly, there isn't much blocking or even any visible effect of professional stage direction, but somehow the result is still highly entertaining.

    This is due to three factors:

    1. There was a great amount of reseach and musical scholarship put together by Leonardo García Alarcón, the festival artistic direction, and the Cappella Mediterranea, which rendered Cavalli's vivacious score with verve and precision.

    2. The youthfull ardor and eagerness of the cast. While uneven in singing quality (some of the artists are very promising; others are a bit rough on the edges), these youngsters were able to put together a very compelling performance.

    3. The piece itself has a lot of merit and is a very good find for a worthy rediscovery, as it is theatrical, funny, charming, captivating, and musically enticing.

    Elena, of course, is one of the multiple operatic versions of my very favorite story, that of Helen of Troy. This light approach is more akin to the irreverence of Offenbach's La Belle Hélčne than to the solemn and melodious treatments of the legend such as Gluck's sublime Paride ed Elena, and of course we are miles away from epic masterpieces such as Berlioz's Les Troyens. Here we are rather game for a fun ride, with the usual comedic depiction of lust, jealousy, mad love, disguises, and mistaken identities.

    This cute Cavalli piece was forgotten for 350 years, until it was rediscovered ten years ago by René Jacobs, who ended up abandoning the project of reviving it. Leonardo García Alarcon took it up, and got it done, thankfully, because it definitely does have staying power.

    I won't do my usual score sheet with grades for each element of the show, because like I said this is rather a student performance and strictly speaking, grades would suffer (in terms of sets, costumes, lighting, etc.) but it hardly matters, given the overall result which is highly enjoyable.

    Don't expect countertenor quality of the likes of Philippe Jaroussky, but Valer Barna-Sabadus does a rather good job, with sufficient color and delicacy, as well as engrossing acting (and he is a handsome young man who looks the part).

    Now, Hungarian soprano Emöke Baráth is simply phenomenal. She is surely one of the most attractive young singers I've seen in the last several years (the cover picture is not flattering - she is way more beautiful and sexier than that!). Wow! I'm in love! What an incredibly bewitching and glamorous young lady! And she can sing! Her voice is full, well modulated, and resonant, with very pleasant timbre. She is one to be watched.

    Many other singers do well - Scott Conner is impressive, Anna Reinhold is convincing in her acting, and Solenn' Lavanant Linke has a good voice, just like Emiliano Gonzales Toro - while others are more generic, such as Majdouline Zerari (she has a couple of striking pitch control failures) and Rodrigo Ferreira. Anna Reinhold is also good-looking, but not as vocally impressive as Emöke Baráth.

    Technically speaking these two DVDs are not good. Image is blurry and more of the VHS quality than the HD one. Sound balance is poor. While the singers can be heard loud and clear, the orchestra is muted. This is not entirely bad because Cavalli's vocal writing is actually more interesting than his orchestration, but still, sound engineering here is not of the sophisticated kind. There is clearly a gap in quality in terms of packaging/booklet (like I said, one of the best in years) and the image/sound on the DVDs. Video direction is also not ideal with too manu close-ups (I don't really care for this much detail of the dental works these singers have received from their dentists). It is also regrettable that subtitles in original language (Italian) were not included, for a better appreciation of the libretto - and like I said, there is no choice of sound track.

    Again, these shortcomings do not bring down this product. One just needs to have a degree of tolerance for the amateur-like aspects, because overall this is great!

    Highly recommended for lovers of Baroque opera!

    Me, I'm likely to buy from now on anything that has Emöke Baráth in it! I hope she comes at some point to this side of the pond, for an interview!

    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); February 18th, 2015 at 02:46 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  3. #92
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    L'Arlesiana, dramma lirico in tre atti, sung in Italian, on blu-ray disc
    Music by Francesco Cilea (1866-1950)
    Libretto by Leopoldo Marenco, based on the play L'Arlesienne (1872) by Alphonse Daudet
    Premiered on 27 November 1897 at the Teatro Lirico di Milano in four acts, revised to three acts in 1898. The present product includes the latter version, but also incorporates to it the aria "Una Mattina" from the original four-act version.



    Orchestra Filarmonica Marchigiana conducted by Francesco Cilluffo
    Coro Lirico Marchigiano V. Bellini; chorus master Carlo Morganti
    Production by the Fondazione Pergolesi Spontini, in co-production with the Oxford Festival, recorded/filmed live at the Teatro G. B. Pergolesi in Jesi, Italy, in September of 2013.
    Stage director Rosetta Cucchi
    Light designer Martin McLachlan
    Set designer Sarah Bacon
    Costume designer Claudia Pernigotti
    Video director Tiziano Mancini

    Cast

    Rosa Mamai - Annunziata Vestri
    Federico - Dmitry Golovnin
    Vivetta - Mariangela Sicilia
    Baldassarre - Stefano Antonucci
    Metifio - Christian Saitta
    L'Innocente - Ricardo Angelo Strano
    Extras - Orla Shine, Roberto Lori

    Released on blu-ray disc by Dynamic on July 31, 2015
    All regions, PCM stereo 2.0 and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Image 1080i60. Notes and synopsis in Italian and English. Subtitles in Italian, English, German, French, Japanese, and Korean. Runtime 105 minutes. No extras.

    The insert contains a list of musical numbers with their singing characters (but no duration times), credits, an in-depth 4-page, unusually good essay that includes a half-page by the director explaining the concept, and a 2-page synopsis - this is all in Italian and repeated in English translation. There are five color production pictures.

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

    L'Arlesiana's claim to fame is based on the extraordinary tenor aria "Č la solita storia del pastore" a.k.a. Il Lamento di Federico, one of Caruso's favorites, and a persistent recital piece. This first modern video recording of the full opera is welcome, since the music is very good and there is enough merit in this Verismo piece to warrant its full staging, beyond its famous fragment. Hopefully, with L'Arlesiana getting more exposure, it will find a place closer to Cilea's much better known piece, Adriana Lecouvreur.

    Unlike what happens in most Italian regional opera houses that tend to spouse a traditionalist approach, here we get a rather concept-driven staging, with a number of symbolic elements making an appearance.

    Sets and costumes are realistic and dark, rendering very well the oppressive atmosphere of this opera that deals with obsessions, pathological relationships, and insanity.

    Stefano Antonucci is a remarkably good Baldassarre, and Rosa Mammai, the deranged mother, is sung very effectively by an excellent Annunziata Vestri. Unfortunately Federico is not as well taken care of, with Dmitry Golovnin's tenor instrument being a bit thin. He is otherwise not bad at all and his acting in the famous aria is impressive, but one would like to have someone like Jonas Kaufmann in this role for a meatier rendition.

    Mariangela Sicilia is OK as Vivetta.

    Overall, this is a good, recommended product with an A- grade.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); December 5th, 2015 at 05:46 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  5. #93
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Leonardo Vinci's Artaserse on DVD
    Artaserse, dramma per musica in three acts, sung in Italian
    Music by Leonardo Vinci
    Libretto by Metastasio
    Premiered on February 4, 1730 at the Teatro delle Dame in Rome, Italy



    Concerto Köln conducted by Diego Fasolis
    A production of Opéra National de Lorraine, filmed live in Lorraine, France, on November 10, 2012
    Stage director Silviu Purcarete
    Sets, costumes and lighting by Helmut Stürmer (lighting also by Jerry Skelton)
    Choreography and Baroque gestures by Nathalie van Parys
    Wigs by Cécile Kretschmar
    Produced by Louise Narboni
    Video capture by Ozanog, Mezzo, Opéra National de Lorraine, and Parnassus Art Productions in partnership with Mirabelle TV - Alsace 20

    Cast

    Artaserse - Philippe Jaroussky
    Arbace - Franco Fagioli
    Mandane - Max Emanuel Cencic
    Semira - Valer Barna-Sabadus
    Megabise - Yuriy Mynenko
    Artabano - Juan Sancho

    An Erato 2014 DVD release

    Running time 201 minutes. 2 DVDs 9, NTSC color 16:9, sound PCM 2.0 and Dolby Digital 5.1. Subtitles in English, French, German, an Italian. Region zero, worldwide. No extras. The booklet contains 10 color production pictures, credits, and shame! No list of musical numbers and characters!! No essays!! The only text is the synopsis in French, English, and German.

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

    Vinci was the first composer who set to music Metastasio's extremely successful text about the Persian kings, which was made into no fewer than 80 operas! So, this is the original Artaserse. How good is it? Not that great. There is A LOT of recitative, with the rare aria here and there. It is very verbose with not that much music. The arias that do exist are not as spectacular as the ones written by Handel or Vivaldi in similar works. As far as Baroque goes, there are plenty of other operas that are better than Vinci's Artaserse. I mean, it's not that it is bad. It's just that it is not in the same league with Handel.

    This opera faded into obscurity after Vinci's death, and this is the first modern revival of it. Faithfully to how it was initially staged with castrati in a time when women were not allowed on the operatic stage, this Lorraine production uses an all-male cast, with five countertenors taking on the castrati roles.

    So we get three hours and twenty minutes of long, long recitatives, and some arias.

    Still, the plot is kind of interesting. It's not for nothing that it got set to music 80 times. And then, while Vinci's music is not as compelling as Handel's or Vivaldi's, it gets highlighted by the EXCELLENT singers who populate this production, and the very good HIP orchestra Concert Köln.

    Add to this a very beautiful and compelling staging with interesting sets and costumes (lots of feathers and big wigs), and good acting across the board, and you have a winner (as long as you like Baroque music, and love the countertenor voice).

    Well, I happen to really, really love the countertenor voice, and there are five of them in this production, together with one tenor.

    All six singers are simply excellent. They are all accomplished singers and actors. We get the VERY BEST male singer in activity in my opinion, the fabulous Philippe Jaroussky in the title role. The beauty of his voice is uncanny, and here he puts together one of his best performances ever. Oh boy, this is such a display of precise technique! Talk about pitch control! There isn't a single note out of place. Everything is sustained with the same pitch for as long as it needs to be sustained, and all transitions are just perfect. Philippe is out of this world!

    So, OK, Jaroussky is still the best. He is brilliant. When he sings, one can immediately feel the stratospheric quality. But his colleagues on this DVD are not that far behind, surprisingly. Often when Jaroussky is singing in other shows there is a painful difference between him and his counterparts, but this time, it's great singing all along. The one tenor, Juan Sancho, also does a great job as Artabano. Pay attention to what he does around 20' into the second DVD! Whoa! That's some fine tenor singing!

    I really love Valer Barna-Sabadus who not only has a divine voice, but interprets Semira so convincingly that one forgets that he is a male. Franco Fagioli does justice to Natalie's praise - he is truly phenomenal! But really, there is no need to single out anybody. They all sing with A++ ratings. OK, I *will* single out someone. Jaroussky deserves an A+++ rating, which doesn't exist in my system, but hey, the VERY BEST singer in the world should have a special rating category for him, right? I'd give to Anna Netrebko the same rating - the best female singer (she definitely got that rank after her Macbeth at the Met), rated as highly as the best male singer. Composers, please write an opera that will ask for the two protagonists to be Netrebko and Jaroussky!

    Ok, enough dreaming. Back to this show. The lighting, sets and costumes are great! Rather simple sets, the same ones for the entire opera, but still, they manage to be visually pleasing, in this rather original production, in the fact that they show on stage the backbone of the show. Make-up artists walk by, stuff gets set up under our gaze, we see the conductor a few times, the stagehands, and then singers walk around and sing/act the piece. Lighting adds incredibly beautiful hues to the staging, and it is arguably the best one I've seen in the last few years, with winners such as a long, neon-like blueshih/greenish scene that was very successful.

    Even though the opera itself isn't among the best Baroque works out there, this production, this orchestra, and especially this cast are absolutely first rate. They make Vinci's music sound better than it is.

    The 5.1 track is good (the PCM one is even better, with great clarity), image is good - the one blunder is the lack of a list with musical numbers, characters, and duration. I hate when it happens. Is it too much to ask for? No extras, either. It's a bare-bones product, and this superb show deserves better. I mean, just the synopsis in the booklet???

    Overall, A++, very, very highly recommended, rather perfect (the lack of a list of musical numbers won't decrease the score given that everything else is so good), especially if you like Baroque, and even more, if you love the countertenor voice like I do. This is very, very, very fine singing, acting, playing, and staging. Wow! Not to forget, camera work is truly beautiful. It is sober, poised, and smart, with a great sense of when to do close-ups, when to slowly move the view to another character, and how to compose the shots with nice framing.

    And so, who are these folks at Opéra National de Lorraine? I had never even heard of them before. It is really impressive that a small French local opera house can do such a spectacular, world-class show!

    This is one of the very best opera DVDs I've ever seen in my life, with every element, from staging to playing to singing to acting to sets to costumes, very close to absolute perfection. And to think that it got forgotten for almost two years in a drawer! I bought it, tossed it there, and only today got it out of its plastic wrap.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); April 16th, 2016 at 12:21 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    I'm so glad you liked it, and that you also singled out my favourite counter-tenor for praise - Valer Sabadus. I just adore his voice!
    Natalie

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  8. #95
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Il Flaminio on blu-ray disc



    Il Flaminio, commedia per musica in three acts, sung in Italian (with some words in Neapolitan)
    Premiered at the Teatro Nuovo di Napoli, Naples, Italy, in 1735
    Music by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736)
    Libretto by Gennarantonio Federico

    This recording uses the critical edition by Francesco Degrada (Edizioni Fondazione Pergolese Spontini)

    Recorded live at the Teatro Valeria Moriconi in Jesi, Italy, in 2010, in a production by the Fondazione Pergolese Spontini

    Accademia Bizantina conducted by Ottavio Dantone
    Stage director and lighting designer - Michal Znaniecki
    Set designer - Benito Leonori
    Costume designer - Klaudia Konnieczny
    Video director - Tiziano Mancini

    Cast

    Polidoro - Juan Francisco Gatelli
    Flaminio (Giulio) - Laura Polverelli
    Giustina - Marina de Liso
    Agata - Sonya Yoncheva
    Ferdinando - Serena Malfi
    Checca - Laura Cherici
    Vastiano - Vito Priante

    A 2012 ArtHaus Musik / Unitel Classica release on a dual-layer blu-ray disc 1080i full HD, region worldwide, subtitles in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, and Korean. Running time 183 minutes. Sound formats PCM Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The booklet contains two color pictures and six black-and-white production pictures, credits, list of musical numbers with characters and duration, and a 2-and-a-half-page essay (short but informative) in English, French, and German. No synopsis.

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

    This is my sixth contact with operas by Pergolesi. I confess that the only one I had liked so far was Adriano in Siria. Not even La Serva Padrona reallly tickled my fancy. Lo Frato 'nnamorato, Livietta e Tracollo, and La Salustia didn't get me highly excited either. So, I wasn't expecting much from this piece, including because our dear Natalie had already mentioned a bit of boredom, and our tastes usually overlap.

    Oh well, maybe boredom will still settle in since so far I've only seen one third of this long, 3-hour work.

    But so far, so good. This one seems a lot more compelling than most Pergolesi pieces.

    This product on blu-ray is helped by some extraordinary assets. First of all, I've rarely heard such good sound! I'm listening to the PCM Stereo track on earphones, and it is just incredibly beautiful and resonant. I feel like I'm right there in the opera house. The track has perfect balance between orchestra and singers, and the sound engineers were able to capture everything so well probably also because of the small Teatro Valeria Moriconi with sets that use abundant wood. No, seriously, this is such a treat! Image is very sharp and colorful too. Video direction is good, with close-ups and full stage views that are nice at rendering well the production (including a close view of Sonya's wiggling toes, LOL).

    Second, the sets are very, very clever. It's the simplest thing: ropes, leaves, wood, and extensions of the stage to the sides, using the balconies. The sets are tall and have openings up there where sometimes characters are perched. And it all works! Lighting design is also of the best possible kind, from the first scene that explodes in green color, and with many other beautiful effects. The orchestra is on stage but is kept mostly dark, in a niche behind the singers. Blocking is good too - at times the singers mingle walk down the aisle, they show up on the balconies, and so forth. Costumes and props work well (updated vaguely to mid-20th century).

    Third, oh my God, these are really, really, really good singers. Wow! They can act too, and they look their parts. Seven singers, each one better than the next. Perfect. All seven have great articulation and phrasing (they even make the recits very musical with a lot of italianitá). Their voices are deep, full, and beautiful. Their technique is precise. Most of them are regional singers (well, Serena Malfi has had some good international appearances, including Covent Garden and the Met). The only one who is very well known is Sonya Yoncheva, and oh boy, does she look beautiful and sexy in this! Six years ago she wasn't a star yet, so her name is not even on the cover. I'm not her biggest fan but I did like her a lot on this bu-ray disc. By the way pay attentiion to the wiggling toes, because it's when she steals the show with a gorgeous aria that she sings exceedingly well, "Da rio funesto turbine." It's track 22, and thing of beauty (1h 43' mark). She is also great in track 31, "Ad annientarmi."

    Finally, the Accademia Bizantina is out of this world. What a great sound they make! Ottavio Dantone keep things rolling with good vitality and pace.

    In summary, this is very well produced and performed, with uncanny professionalism.

    I'm at the half mark and not bored at all. Much the opposite, I have a constant smile on my face and I'm really enjoying this ride!

    It's hard to fault a single element in this product. It is sort of weird that there is no synopsis, and it's a pitty that no bonus feature is given: I'd like to listen to what the creative team has to say about this excellent show. But that's about it. Everything else is rather maximum score.

    So, with no doubt, this is an A++, highly recommended disc.

    -----------

    PS - Now I finally understand why audiences in Europe are crazy about Sonya Yoncheva. She never really convinced me much... because I've always seen her at the cavernous, 4,000-seat Met, and wasn't impressed with her rather small voice. Here in a very small theater (and in Europe they are usually small) she shines as a first-rank star. By now I've watched three times in a row her great track 22 that I mentioned above. What a performance! Fantastic agility, pitch control, phrasing, and a lot of charm (she couldn't be any sexier in this scene).

    Not to be missed is what I'd call The Meow Aria, hilarious. "Quanno voi vi arrosseggiate" - Track 24, 1h 54' mark. Pay attention and you'll see that the conductor is meowing as well, which makes the singers laugh at the end. Nice!

    Another funny detail: at one point Agata is pouting, has the back to the other singers, up there in the balcony, and they are calling her "Agata! Agata!" Since she continues to ignore them, the whole orchestra then shouts "Agata!"

    More surprises, the puppet theater on tracks 27 and 28 (shown with picture-in-picture), super nice. This is around the 2h 15' mark.

    Even the curtain calls are original and interesting.

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

    Bravo, Fondazione Pergolesi Spontini. This is how one plays, sings, and stages Baroque opera!
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); June 10th, 2017 at 02:29 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  10. #96
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Il prigionier superbo and La serva padrona on blu-ray disc



    La Fede, Ernelinda, ovvero Il Prigionier Superbo, dramma per musica in three acts, sung in Italian
    Premiered at Teatro San Bartolomeon in Naples, Italy, on 5 September 1733
    Music by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736)
    Libretto by Gennarantonio Federico, based on an earlier libretto by Silvani for Gasparini's opera, La fede tradita e vendicata

    A production of the Fondazione Pergolesi Spontini at the Teatro G. B. Pergolesi in Jesi, Italy, 2009, using the critical edition by Claudio Toscani

    Accademia Barocca de I Virtuosi Italiani conducted by Corrado Rovaris
    Stage Director and Set Designer Henning Brockhaus
    Costume Designer Giancarlo Colis
    Lighting Designers Henning Brockhaus and Fabrizio Gobbi
    Marionettes by Teatro Pirata

    Cast

    Sostrate - Antonio Lozano
    Rosmene - Marina Rodríguez Cusí
    Metalce - Marina de Liso
    Ericlea - Ruth Rosique
    Viridate - Marina Comparato
    Micisda - Giacinta Nicotra

    A 2012 ArtHaus Musik / Unitel Classica release on 50 GB dual layer blu-ray disc, region worldwide, sound formats PCM Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, resolution 1080i full HD, running time 177 minutes, subtitles in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, and Korean. Booklet with credits, 2 color pictures, 4 black-and-white pictures, credits, musical numbers with duration and characters, a VERY good 4-page essay by Bianca de Mario repeated in English, French, and German, no synopsis, no extras (except for trailers).

    This product also comes with the comic intermezzo La Serva Padrona, reviewed separately.

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

    In one of the best essays to ever accompany an opera blu-ray disc, the author wonders why such a masterpiece (in her opinon) like Il Prigionier Superbo fell into oblivion while its intermezzo La Serva Padrona went on to continuous success.

    The answer is simple: in spite of Ms. de Mario's best efforts to present this work as a masterpiece, it is no such thing. Il Prigioner Superbo is a rather conventional, run-of-the-mill Baroque opera that in spite of some upsides, fails to make a compelling musical argument. It is actually not for lack of theatricality: this piece is one of the rare cases in Baroque opera in which the plot is actually more interesting than the music. The libretto is not bad. There are striking moments - such as the heroine having to choose between saving the life of her father or that of her lover (she decides for the former) - and the Nordic story is unusual. The last act is a bit rushed - one would think "oh wait, is it over already?"

    Anyway, the libretto is an asset rather than hindrance, however Pergolesi here fails to develop the imaginative and melodious music that he wrote for Il Flaminio (see my review of it, above). Sure, there are isolated arias that are fine. I'd highlight for example "Un'aura di speranza" and the very good "Del mio valore al lampo" which although very nice, both pale in comparison to the superb, extremely beautiful, goosebumping "Ombre mute, oscuri orrori" which in itself makes it worth buying a copy of this opera, and is one of those arias I'd listen to over and over.

    Still, the whole thing can't shake off a monotonous, boring sameness.

    Then, there is the issue of this production, its concept, and its stage direction. The overall idea is not bad: it recovers the aftermath of the earthquake in Naples, which in real life did delay the premiere of this opera. I like the sets. Now, where the production falls flat on its face is in the idea of doubling the number of "people" on stage by providing to each character a life-size puppet. So, here it is how it is done: all singers are dressed in contemporary, formal gala attire (party gowns, tuxedos which are by the way not that well designed and are rather unflattering to the otherwise shapely ladies who sing this piece) and then each has a doppelganger who is a puppet dressed in period costumes and reflecting the character's stance (the king with his royal crown and attire, etc.). A couple of figures in black gowns/masks are needed to operate each puppet.

    So the end result, Mr. Stage Director, is *too many darn people/puppets on stage!* It gets to be distracting and unfocused, with awful blocking. While a character sings, the camera needs to go back and forth between the singer and the puppet. Meanwhile all the contemporary-looking singers keep boozing and boozing all the time. They carry bottles of liquor and champagne around and drink constantly from the bottles. Erm... why?

    While the puppets are visually nice and the the whole atmosphere with the bluish lighting is kind of pleasant (not to forget that some of these lady singers display some hot cleavage ), the overall effect is just too darn busy and distracting, taking away from the music.

    Opera stage directors (modesty be damned and I'll allow myself to be arrogant) should consult with people like me and others here on Opera Lively for this kind of thing. We could easily tell these people what works and what doesn't.

    The same organization did Il Flaminio in a way that worked incredibly well, and this time they did Il Prigionier Superbo in a way that didn't work at all. Opera is a difficult medium. There must be balance between all aspects (singing, orchestra, sets, costumes, acting, concept, etc.) and the good productions are the ones that achieve this equilibrium. Put too much emphasis on only one aspect as clever as you think it will be, and the result is that you ruin the whole thing.

    So, what about the musical aspects of the performance? Well, again, while it's nice to see that now there are Italian HIP ensembles (which wasn't the case some ten to fifteen years ago), they are not all equally good. Unfortunately the musicians in I Virtuosi Italiani are definitely not as fabulous as the ones in Accademia Bizantina. This performance never takes off, and is rather subdued. Some people find the Accademia Bizantina to be a bit over-the-top in their aggressive, rhythmic approach to Italian Baroque, but I much prefer their liveliness to the sleepy style of I Virtuosi Italiani.

    Singing: I'd say that most likely these singers share my opinions above, because they don't seem to be having a lot of fun, unlike the superb cast of seven outstanding artists who performed in Il Flaminio, including the one that overlaps (Marina de Liso is in both productions). So, they are all correct. There is no failure to be noticed. They do a good job, execute all notes with good pitch control, and have beautiful and pleasant voices. What is lacking is enthusiasm.

    Marina de Liso does sing very well, while hindered by her awful Goth costume and wig (well, the story does touch on the Goth invasion of Norway). She is particularly good in the difficult "Trema il cor, s'oscura il ciglio" which is forceful and has a wide range.

    Sound does capture the orchestra too strongly, smothering the singers, otherwise production values and technical aspects are good.

    Cons include too busy a staging and lackluster musical performance of a not-so-good opera. Pros include a good essay in the booklet, and some nice arias.

    Overall, B-, not recommended.

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

    In the same product, La Serva Padrona, intermezzo in two parts, sung in Italian
    (Same premiere, same composer, same librettist)
    Critical edition by Francesco Degrada - same technical aspects of the blu-ray disc

    Same producers, orchestra and conductor, and same stage director
    Set designer Benito Leonori
    Costume designer Giancarlo Colis
    Lighting designer Alessandro Carletti

    Cast

    Serpina - Alessandra Marianelli
    Uberto - Carlo Lepore
    Vespone (silent role) - Jean Méningue

    OK, no more busy staging with puppets, what a relief! The sets are updated to a circus with relatively contemporary (30's-50's) props and costumes (including vintage Gilera motorcycles). They look nice and pleasant, and overall the feeling is much improved from the previous piece.

    Carlo Lepore is an excellent singer. Alessandra Marianelli is *super cute.* She is on the cover, in a picture that actually doesn't do her justice. She is prettier and sexier than that. Her voice however is not that great - rather small and under-powered although musically accurate. She compensates with very good acting and *lots* of charm (I'm in love! ).

    In terms of eye candy we also get a very beautiful brunette ballerina who dances on stage to accompany Serpina here and there. Vespone, the silent role, is rendered by an Arlecchino kind of character who follows Uberto around - he is not intrusive and adds comic touches.

    Again, one easily understands why La Serva Padrona endured while Il Prigionier Superbo didn't. The former is way better than the latter. This production/performance is superior to the previous version I had, from the Teatro Massimo Bellini di Catania. Recommended, A-

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

    So, since these two pieces come together on the same disc, is this a good buy? I think it is. Not great, but good, with an enjoyable Serva Padrona and some beautiful musical numbers in Il Prigionier Superbo in spite of the latter's flawed staging. Available on Amazon for $28.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); May 27th, 2016 at 07:47 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  12. #97
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Europa Riconosciuta on DVD



    Dramma per musica in due atti, sung in Italian
    Music by Antonio Salieri (1750-1825)
    Libretto by Mattia Verazi
    Revised by Eric Hull (Teatro alla Scala Foundation)
    Premiered at Nuovo Regio Ducal Teatro di Milano in Milan, Italy, in August 1778.

    Recorded at Teatro alla Scala on December 7, 2004 - New production, opening the season after the theater was closed for renovations (the opening scenes show celebrities coming in including Sophia Loren).

    Orchestra e Coro del Teatro alla Scala conducted by Riccardo Muti, Bruno Casoni chorus master
    Oboe concertante Francesco Di Rosa; basso continuo by James Vaughan (cembalo) and Simone Groppo (cello)
    New production by Luca Ronconi with sets and costumes by Pier Luigi Pizzi
    Choreographer Heinz Spörtli
    Directed for TV (RAI) by Pierre Cavassilas

    Cast

    Europa - Diana Damrau
    Semele - Désirée Rancatore
    Asterio - Genia Kühmeier
    Isséo - Daniela Barcellona
    Egisto - Giuseppe Sabbatini
    Picciolo (non-singing role) - Alessandro Ruggiero
    Dancers - Alessandra Ferri and Roberto Bolle + Corpo di Ballo del Teatro alla Scala, directed by Frédéric Olivieri

    Insert - eight color production pictures, no track list, long synopsis (two full pages in small print) repeated in Italian, English, French, and German. Nothing else. Running time 133 minutes, color, NTSC, 16:9, sound tracks PCM 2.0 or DD 5.1; subtitles in Italian, English, French, and German. Region free. Released by Warner Classics / Erato / Teatro all Scala / RAI Trade in 2016. Originally produced for broadcast on Rai Tre, 2004.

    Available on Amazon for $15.47 (Prime).

    Pretty impressive overture. Kühmeier opens the singing and does a superb job with the first aria, beautiful timbre, powerful voice. The always excellent Damrau follows. Giuseppe Sabattini is also in the first scene and is fine.

    We get soldiers dressed in black leather/armor (sort of Batman like without the cape) and black motorcycle helmets, with oversized, plastic-looking swords. Not one of the most successful visuals by Pizzi (disappointing for his standards).

    The next singer to make an entrance is Ms. Rancatore - apparently this is a very good, homogeneous cast, given that she performs well too, although she could use some agility in her coloratura.

    Muti evidently is great and gets lots of sonority from the orchestra. The chorus is exquisite. Musically even though I'm only 15' into this performance, I can tell that we are facing a good product.

    At the 23' mark on the DVD, Egisto (Sabbatini) treats us to sublime dynamic variations, singing very well in low volume.

    Pizzi's visuals come back to his usual beautiful pieces when an army of red-clad soldiers on wooden horses enter the stage. Barcellona has her first aria, and does not disappoint. Minimalist sets are made of flights of stairs on both sides of the stage.

    Salieri's music is beautiful if we think of one specific fragment but the problem is that it tends to repeat and lack imagination so as similar pieces go on and on, the score overstays its welcome. He seems to do better when he writes for the orchestra and the chorus, but the vocal lines for the singers are kind of bland.

    The chorus seats immobile under the stage in two rows, and anytime they are singing, the musical value of the piece jumps sharply up.

    But then, other boring, recitative parts follow, and they could use some cuts.

    What comes next is a great scene - the quintet when Europa is recognized (the chorus also jumps in). This was the best part so far. Then silver mirrors are dropped down and a long ballet ensues. Again, Salieri's instrumental music is not bad. The sets on the sides reproduce a theater or opera house in trompe-l'oeil, and they are kind of ugly. Pizzi should have left just the background mirrors on stage, sticking with the minimalist look.

    Oh boy, this ballet is looooong; about 20 minutes, so the first act is about 40 minutes of opera and 20 of ballet. It's danced classic style and I already don't like classical ballet that much (give me modern ballet any day), so it's a pain, and I'm about to skip ahead but the status bar says it's about to end, so, OK, I'll soldier on.

    Like I said, the music is beautiful. Salieri could have more success composing for ballet and for chorus, rather than opera.

    Act II starting now.

    Sabbatini delivers another great show in his act II opening, with a forceful and difficult aria. I actually think that these two less known singers, Sabbatini and Kühmeier, are stealing the show against their more famous counterparts Damrau and Barcellona.

    Sabbatini is particularly good. He had his US debut in 1992 at Chicago Lyric where he returned many times, and he sung in 2001 at the Met (leading male role in Manon - wrongly listed on Wikipedia as NYCO but it was the Met). Apparently he was based at La Scala and performed often in Vienna as well. He won some impressive prizes. Great singer - I didn't know him (or don't remember him). He stopped singing in 2010 and turned his carrer to conduting.


    Giuseppe Sabbatini

    Above, the picture is exactly from this performance of Europa Riconosciuta - you can see the Batman-like costume. He has lots of CD recordings to his name, and three other opera DVDs (Luisa Miller, L'Elisir d'Amore, and Roberto Devereux) - plus a Macbeth DVD as the conductor.

    Kühmeier, also unknown to me up to today, is quite impressive too, and she is still in activity (currently in Dresden at the Semperoper as Micaëla; sang the same role at the Bavarian State Opera in January 2017). Apparently she last sang at the Met in Arabella in 2014.


    Genia Kühmeier

    Don't read me wrong, Daniela and Diana did very well too; it's just that I'm impressed with these singers who were not known to me before (by the way Rancatore also has a beautiful voice - all five singers did a superb job in this production).

    I must have seen Rancatore somewhere because she has no fewer than 11 opera DVDs and has been around as well, including in the US (San Fran). Latest, Violetta at the Royal Danish Opera (2016). I changed my mind - she doesn't lack agility, she was just not warmed up yet, because at the end of the opera she delivers a spectacular coloratura aria.


    Désirée Rancatore

    By now I'm in the middle of act II and I'm getting tired of the repetitious nature of Salieri's vocal writing.

    Oh no they killed Egisto, so gone is the best singer in the production, LOL.

    Pizzi's sets get to be very beautiful towards the end of the opera with a black block of stairs and mirrors again on the background.

    The last scene is a nice quartet with the chorus on stage and it is worth repeat listening.

    The exigent La Scala public strongly rewarded these excellent singers with extremely enthusiastic applause at the end, like I haven't seen in this theater, ever! La Scala patrons know what good singing is, and when all five singing roles in an opera are so superbly staffed, they do respond accordingly.

    This is a well-sung show, with great singers and chorus, and the orchestra under Muti is beautiful, so musically it is quite good; the opera itself has lots of ups and downs and suffers from longueurs, monotony, and pacing problems, but does have several beautiful moments (the quintet in first act, the choral pieces, the final quartet, some arias).

    Overall it is recommended. The bottom line is that these very good artists made of a somewhat mediocre opera, something more compelling than it deserves. With the bargain price and some very nice singing, it's a good buy, but it is something to be watched only once in its entirety (one might want to replay the quintet in act I, the first tenor aria in Act II, the final quartet, the soprano coloratura aria before the final quartet, and some of the choral numbers from time to time - a pity that there is no written chapter list to make this easier - but the DVD does have a chapter feature and we learn for example that the superb quintet is track # 15 and is called "Qual silenzio!" - I just heard it again, such a pleasure!). The first tenor aria in Act II is track #2 - "Vantar di salda fede" - it starts at 2'55" after some introduction (time resets to zero at the beginning of act II).

    There are clips of this production on YouTube.

    Act II track 2 is there (low definition and volume is soft):



    The scene I visually liked with the black block of stairs is there too (Rancatore does some nice coloratura):



    While I couldn't immediately find a clip from Europa Riconosciuta on YouTube featuring only Genia Kühmeier (we do get her in ensemble pieces), we do get a sample of her stupendous voice as Pamina in the Salzburg 2006 production of The Magic Flute:

    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); June 10th, 2017 at 05:34 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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  14. #98
    Opera Lively News Coordinator Top Contributor Member MAuer's Avatar
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    I was familiar with Kühmeier from Sir Simon Rattle's CD recording of Carmen; I think she and JK are the best of the four principals.

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  16. #99
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Well I am quite pleased that I have this one ordered. Ordered it on a whim and then stumbled across your review. Now considering your comments on La Serva Padrona and Sonia Yoncheva,

    Not even La Serva Padrona reallly tickled my fancy.
    ...
    The only one who is very well known is Sonya Yoncheva, and oh boy, does she look beautiful and sexy in this!
    I think you will like this La Serva Padrona production:




    Quote Originally Posted by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) View Post
    Il Flaminio on blu-ray disc



    Il Flaminio, commedia per musica in three acts, sung in Italian (with some words in Neapolitan)
    Premiered at the Teatro Nuovo di Napoli, Naples, Italy, in 1735
    Music by Giovanni Battista Pergolesi (1710-1736)
    Libretto by Gennarantonio Federico

    This recording uses the critical edition by Francesco Degrada (Edizioni Fondazione Pergolese Spontini)

    Recorded live at the Teatro Valeria Moriconi in Jesi, Italy, in 2010, in a production by the Fondazione Pergolese Spontini

    Accademia Bizantina conducted by Ottavio Dantone
    Stage director and lighting designer - Michal Znaniecki
    Set designer - Benito Leonori
    Costume designer - Klaudia Konnieczny
    Video director - Tiziano Mancini

    Cast

    Polidoro - Juan Francisco Gatelli
    Flaminio (Giulio) - Laura Polverelli
    Giustina - Marina de Liso
    Agata - Sonya Yoncheva
    Ferdinando - Serena Malfi
    Checca - Laura Cherici
    Vastiano - Vito Priante

    A 2012 ArtHaus Musik / Unitel Classica release on a dual-layer blu-ray disc 1080i full HD, region worldwide, subtitles in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, and Korean. Running time 183 minutes. Sound formats PCM Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. The booklet contains two color pictures and six black-and-white production pictures, credits, list of musical numbers with characters and duration, and a 2-and-a-half-page essay (short but informative) in English, French, and German. No synopsis.

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

    This is my sixth contact with operas by Pergolesi. I confess that the only one I had liked so far was Adriano in Siria. Not even La Serva Padrona reallly tickled my fancy. Lo Frato 'nnamorato, Livietta e Tracollo, and La Salustia didn't get me highly excited either. So, I wasn't expecting much from this piece, including because our dear Natalie had already mentioned a bit of boredom, and our tastes usually overlap.

    Oh well, maybe boredom will still settle in since so far I've only seen one third of this long, 3-hour work.

    But so far, so good. This one seems a lot more compelling than most Pergolesi pieces.

    This product on blu-ray is helped by some extraordinary assets. First of all, I've rarely heard such good sound! I'm listening to the PCM Stereo track on earphones, and it is just incredibly beautiful and resonant. I feel like I'm right there in the opera house. The track has perfect balance between orchestra and singers, and the sound engineers were able to capture everything so well probably also because of the small Teatro Valeria Moriconi with sets that use abundant wood. No, seriously, this is such a treat! Image is very sharp and colorful too. Video direction is good, with close-ups and full stage views that are nice at rendering well the production (including a close view of Sonya's wiggling toes, LOL).

    Second, the sets are very, very clever. It's the simplest thing: ropes, leaves, wood, and extensions of the stage to the sides, using the balconies. The sets are tall and have openings up there where sometimes characters are perched. And it all works! Lighting design is also of the best possible kind, from the first scene that explodes in green color, and with many other beautiful effects. The orchestra is on stage but is kept mostly dark, in a niche behind the singers. Blocking is good too - at times the singers mingle walk down the aisle, they show up on the balconies, and so forth. Costumes and props work well (updated vaguely to mid-20th century).

    Third, oh my God, these are really, really, really good singers. Wow! They can act too, and they look their parts. Seven singers, each one better than the next. Perfect. All seven have great articulation and phrasing (they even make the recits very musical with a lot of italianitá). Their voices are deep, full, and beautiful. Their technique is precise. Most of them are regional singers (well, Serena Malfi has had some good international appearances, including Covent Garden and the Met). The only one who is very well known is Sonya Yoncheva, and oh boy, does she look beautiful and sexy in this! Six years ago she wasn't a star yet, so her name is not even on the cover. I'm not her biggest fan but I did like her a lot on this bu-ray disc. By the way pay attentiion to the wiggling toes, because it's when she steals the show with a gorgeous aria that she sings exceedingly well, "Da rio funesto turbine." It's track 22, and thing of beauty (1h 43' mark). She is also great in track 31, "Ad annientarmi."

    Finally, the Accademia Bizantina is out of this world. What a great sound they make! Ottavio Dantone keep things rolling with good vitality and pace.

    In summary, this is very well produced and performed, with uncanny professionalism.

    I'm at the half mark and not bored at all. Much the opposite, I have a constant smile on my face and I'm really enjoying this ride!

    It's hard to fault a single element in this product. It is sort of weird that there is no synopsis, and it's a pitty that no bonus feature is given: I'd like to listen to what the creative team has to say about this excellent show. But that's about it. Everything else is rather maximum score.

    So, with no doubt, this is an A++, highly recommended disc.

    -----------

    PS - Now I finally understand why audiences in Europe are crazy about Sonya Yoncheva. She never really convinced me much... because I've always seen her at the cavernous, 4,000-seat Met, and wasn't impressed with her rather small voice. Here in a very small theater (and in Europe they are usually small) she shines as a first-rank star. By now I've watched three times in a row her great track 22 that I mentioned above. What a performance! Fantastic agility, pitch control, phrasing, and a lot of charm (she couldn't be any sexier in this scene).

    Not to be missed is what I'd call The Meow Aria, hilarious. "Quanno voi vi arrosseggiate" - Track 24, 1h 54' mark. Pay attention and you'll see that the conductor is meowing as well, which makes the singers laugh at the end. Nice!

    Another funny detail: at one point Agata is pouting, has the back to the other singers, up there in the balcony, and they are calling her "Agata! Agata!" Since she continues to ignore them, the whole orchestra then shouts "Agata!"

    More surprises, the puppet theater on tracks 27 and 28 (shown with picture-in-picture), super nice. This is around the 2h 15' mark.

    Even the curtain calls are original and interesting.

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

    Bravo, Fondazione Pergolesi Spontini. This is how one plays, sings, and stages Baroque opera!
    Necessities of life: food, water, air, shelter, and opera.

  17. #100
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Florestan's Avatar
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    Regarding your review below, I watched a different one and while the opera can drag on a bit, all the singers and their acting were quite good and quite engaging to me:




    Quote Originally Posted by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva) View Post
    I watched this today:



    Apparently it got universal praise, including from posters here.
    I liked it, but just moderately.

    First, the opera itself: it is a good one, but in my humble opinion, not the masterpiece it's said to be.
    I find that it has OK melody, OK orchestration, OK pace... but it doesn't shine in any of these areas.

    Second, the production.
    It's pleasant enough, traditional staging, appropriately small orchestra with period instruments.
    But I have the impression that it lacks punch, somehow.
    The tenor who sings Paolino is too old for the role and his acting is not convincing.
    Carolina is good looking but not as lively; the soprano singing her doesn't portray all the turmoil of a young woman in love.
    The cast does a good job overall and there are some delightful moments (especially the witty fast dialogues between Geronimo and the Count - both are more convincing actors than the leading couple - and Carolina's hilarious aria about why the count shouldn't marry her, just as good as the Count's similar account of why Elisetta should reject him). Elisetta and Fidalma do an OK job; again, nothing special.

    This opera came to existence right after the Mozart era, and premiered in Vienna 2 months after Mozart's passing, so it's hard not to compare, which may explain why I'm a little underwhelmed. I guess what is missing is Mozart's brilliant orchestration.

    The libretto has an interesting story that is not too absurd or incredible, but the problem is with the poetry, and again, what is missing is Da Ponte.

    Cimarosa is said to be a nice tavern for a stopover in your way from Mozart to Rossini, and I think that the definition is appropriate, judging by this - although I don't know any of his other works.

    In summary, a good opera, especially if one manages NOT to compare it to Mozart's operas. I'd rank it a B. The production above in my opinion is a B as well. Enjoyable, worth having, but not one that I'd be going back to very often.
    Necessities of life: food, water, air, shelter, and opera.

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