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HarpsichordConcerto
December 19th, 2011, 03:55 AM
Semiramide (1823)

June Anderson, Marilyn Horne, Stanford Olsen, Samuel Ramey, Young Ok Shin, John Cheek, Michael Forest, Jeffrey Wells. Metropolitan Orchestra & Chorus, James Conlon, stage direction by John Copley, 1990.

This DVD has been sitting in my unwatched pile for too long. I now only wished I had viewed it as soon as I bought it. What a sumptuous production! Never a dull moment thanks to the effective staging, which was traditional; back to ancient Persia, and of course, the beautiful singing. Marilyn Horne up to her best in a male role, with June Anderson spoiling our senses with duets beyond description. Rossini was on the verge of early retirement with Semiramide, and a semi-curious work; almost Baroque opera seria like but brought forward a century to early Romantic.

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science
December 19th, 2011, 08:16 AM
I'm going to like this series of threads.

What is the recommendation on DVD of The Barber of Seville?

Aramis
December 19th, 2011, 11:04 AM
What is the recommendation on DVD of The Barber of Seville?

Żrżaruam:

Soave_Fanciulla
December 20th, 2011, 12:00 AM
The best one is going to be the Met version with Joyce DiDonato, Juan Diego Flórez, Peter Mattei and more. Glorious, but we are still waiting for a release on DVD. Meanwhile you can watch it on Met Player. (http://www.metoperafamily.org/met_player/catalog/detail.aspx?upc=811357011669)

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
December 20th, 2011, 04:17 AM
They are finally releasing that? Yay! It's wonderful! I saw it live and loved it! Yes, it would be difficult to beat. When is it being released?

Soave_Fanciulla
December 20th, 2011, 08:15 AM
Oh Alma, just rumours on Amazon discussion forum.

Aramis
December 20th, 2011, 02:20 PM
I'd say that even if DiDonato may be better Rosina than Dayo, Del Carlo is hardly a match for Pratico as Don Bartolo, also Mattei didn't surpass Spagnoli in my view, the latter is my favourite Figaro of all I've heard and I think I've heard all major Figaros. Both his singing and acting are top-notch. So you can freely go for Madrid DVD without waiting for this Met production to be released.

Amfortas
December 20th, 2011, 04:48 PM
Oh Alma, just rumours on Amazon discussion forum.

For what it's worth, OperaVideoCollector.com (http://sites.google.com/site/stridonolassu/) lists it among "Future and Expected Releases," though without a specific date.

Festat
December 21st, 2011, 05:26 AM
I'd say that even if DiDonato may be better Rosina than Dayo, Del Carlo is hardly a match for Pratico as Don Bartolo, also Mattei didn't surpass Spagnoli in my view, the latter is my favourite Figaro of all I've heard and I think I've heard all major Figaros. Both his singing and acting are top-notch. So you can freely go for Madrid DVD without waiting for this Met production to be released.
And you get Gelmetti being the cutest conductor on filmed opera as bonus.

Soave_Fanciulla
December 21st, 2011, 08:43 AM
For what it's worth, OperaVideoCollector.com (http://sites.google.com/site/stridonolassu/) lists it among "Future and Expected Releases," though without a specific date.

OT, but this site is no longer being updated , neither is the Facebook page. Hope he's OK.

HarpsichordConcerto
December 21st, 2011, 10:35 AM
I'm going to like this series of threads.

What is the recommendation on DVD of The Barber of Seville?

I would recommend this that I have. Katheleen Battle. Traditional staging. Can't stop laughing.

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Dark_Angel
December 21st, 2011, 01:09 PM
I would recommend this that I have. Katheleen Battle. Traditional staging. Can't stop laughing.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51-iYG90neL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

I voted for that one as favorite version at other forum until the DiDonato without wheelchair appears, another great 1980s MET production.....

Very charming Kathleen Battle and "rocky" (Rockwell Blake)

Festat
December 30th, 2011, 03:40 AM
Just watched this:
http://i.imgur.com/a9ket.jpg

While Ponnelle is a genius of the mise-en-scène — especially blocking, those sextets are wonderful! — he's not exactly a brilliant filmmaker. Of course this production has its own particularities: the camera is most of the time assuming the role of the audience, and the strongest point of the decoupage lies in the framing, which Ponnelle does very intelligently (I'd say the whole movies is about framing). However, as a stage director, he's subjected to some mannerisms, exaggerations and very doubtful aesthetic choices — that horrible overture and the circular traveling, for example.
The film is fairly photographed by Watkins, just fairly, which is a pity since the movie has such possibilities for the cinematographer to shine... Couldn't find who edited this, and that may be the reason editing is the weakest aspect of this Cenerentola. Some cuts are just gross and non-fluid — but again the concept may not intend to be seamless. It's ugly, anyways.
The cast, though, is superb. I think I'm hardly seeing better Magnifico and Dandini. Von Stade is beautiful, convincing and talented. Araiza singing is great and he looks good, but he's no actor — nothing that bothers much, though. Abbado conducting is pleasant, the music is overall very well executed and, well, it's Rossini.

I do recommend.

Aksel
December 30th, 2011, 10:36 AM
That Cenerentola is my favourite DVD'd opera ever. It's a shame Flicka never recorded the role.

And yes, the sextet is truly amazing.

HarpsichordConcerto
January 1st, 2012, 10:04 AM
La Cenerentola is a delightful opera. I have this version that I enjoy, with Cecilia Bartoli.


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Aramis
January 1st, 2012, 04:07 PM
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Great musical performance but, for me at least, hardly watchable even for few minutes. Those circus-like customes and amount of flashy colours just hurt me. At the other hand those rats - great idea, quite funny. Too bad it doesn't save it as a whole.

It would be really great as just CD.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 1st, 2012, 09:36 PM
My review of this one is divided in two parts - first I speak about this production, and later I talk about the work itself, which I rated a B.

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It is a Châtelet production with their own stage director, but the entirely Russian cast, chorus, and orchestra came to Paris in tour from the Mariinsky Theater, complete with maestro Gergiev.

All the singers are rather young, and are trainees of the Academy of Young Singers at the Mariinsky. The orchestra under Gergiev's excellent direction did a fine job. The singing was more uneven. While I liked a lot Anastasia Belvaeva (Madame Cortese), the beautiful Larissa Youdina (Contessa di Folleville), Vladilav Ouspenski (Baron von Trobonock); and liked moderately Irma Guigolachuili (Corinna), I didn't really care for Anna Kiknadze (Marchesa Malibea), and especially Daniil Shtoda (Counte de Libenkof) who is actually the leading tenor but mangled several of the high notes and sang off-key a number of times.

The staging was minimalistic but tasteful, and had a long boardwalk that encircled some of the seats and permitted the singers to interact directly with the public in different occasions. Musicians were also placed in various spots among the audience, and two of the musicians from the Mariinsky Theater Orchestra were actually on the main stage interacting with the singers - a cute flautist, and a harp player. A nice touch was that the orchestra was on the back of the stage and they were all dressed up in one single color (a light beige), including Maestro Gergiev who was brought in dressed just like the other hotel guests with a light beige overall, in a funny effect (he did remove it to have freedom of movement).

I'd say that the performance was lively and comical enough to compensate for a few weak principals, and would get an A- from me.

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The opera is well rendered in an A- production/performance.

It's a DVD worth having if your budget permits it, but I wouldn't go out of my way to buy it.

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Now, about the work itself (recovered from an old, old post I authored for IMDb)

It's a minor Rossini work, put together in rapid touches, since it was commissioned to celebrate Charles X's coronation as King of France. The opera itself is about the coronation (or more precisely, about a bunch of aristocrats stuck in a hotel, awaiting transportation to Reims where the coronation will take place), and ends by a sugary praise to Charles X (Viva il diletto, augusto regnator), filled with repeated shouts of "Viva la Francia." Rossini does seem to suck up a lot to the French, and it is interesting to notice that this was the last opera he composed in Italian, and he was already living intermittently in France until years later he moved there for good and lived in France until the end of his days. One might think that he was interested in earning the sympathy of the inhabitants of his new home.

Apparently Rossini just intended this opera to serve the occasion and be forgotten; he canibalized it later and used half of its music in Le Comte Ory and its ballet in Le Siège de Corinthe.

So, I approached this work with low expectations, and they were mostly confirmed, but this is not to say there aren't some hidden jewels there.

First, the bad news, as they say.

This opera doesn't really feel like an opera, but rather, like a concert to display some nice coloratura arias, bel canto style. There isn't much that happens, and all that does, seems to be just an excuse to present a showcase of several arias. This is clear when we see the large number of characters with singing lines - not less than 20! There are so many characters, that this opera with a single act that lasts for 2 hours and 5 minutes, is still introducing new characters at the 1 hour 23 minutes mark. It's even more clear when at a certain point, the characters who are guests at an hotel and come from everywhere in Europe are invited to sing a typical song from their home countries, and the concert feeling is reinforced as they go one by one to the front of the stage and sing their numbers.

Another problem with the excessive number of characters is that the plot becomes confusing and irrelevant. By the time you understand who is in love with whom and who is the rival of whom, it doesn't really matter to you among the various love stories whether between two rivals it's Y or rather Z who end up getting the girl W. There is no time for any character development, so, if Y sings a love song to W and Z gets jealous and sings in protest, the feeling of the audience is - who cares? Therefore, it is the love song itself and the protest song itself that are the point - thus the 'concert' feeling.

In terms of pace, there are problems as well. It's a single act, but it is too long an act. It is hard to keep the pace and sustain the audience's interest when you are introducing one character after the other and singing a number of mostly disconnected arias. There are particularly two points in which the action almost comes to a halt and two long and boring love duets are performed - Nel suo divin sembiante which lasts for 15 long minutes, and D'alma celeste o Dio.

In terms of orchestration and musical structure, all is nice but nothing is particularly special. You get the usual punctuation of ariosi, the usual typical Rossini crescendo, the usual hectic ensembles ending on the typical um-pah-pah, and the usual Rossini fast tongue-twisting aria à la Largo al factotum.

The libretto by Luigi Balocchi is based on Mme. de Staël's Corinne, ou l'Italie. While like I said it doesn't develop characters and it is confusing given the excessive number of characters, its poetry is nice enough, and it doesn't drag down the music.

Now, the good news.

Somehow, even with the above shortcomings, this opera is still lots of fun. It is pleasant and even though there is no entertaining plot, it does work as the intended showcase for some nice numbers.

It is quite satirical, making wicked fun of the European aristocracy of the time, and even picking on several European countries and their stereotypical inhabitants. Rossini and Balocchi seem to be mocking everybody, especially in the hilarious aria Bravo il signor Ganimede when the buffoon Don Profondo (interesting name) literally mocks all the different foreign nationals who are hotel guests: the rigid German, the snob Frenchman, the macho-man Spaniard, the impetuous Russian, and so on and so forth.

Another satirical part is the display of "national songs" (starting with Or che regna fra le genti) which mocks either national anthems (there's a parody of God Save the King) or typical music of, in rapid succession, Germany, Polland, Russia, Spain, England, France, and even Italy itself (although the latter gets better treatment).

Both the arias/ensembles in the above two paragraphs are quite good, funny, and entertaining.

Another highlight is Che miro, ah, qual sorpresa, which exaggerates the coloratura in purpose, to accentuate - with an irresistible comic effect - the bubbly personality of the most coquette of the characters, la Contessa di Folleville (another very well picked name, LOL).

Four more numbers are pretty high quality:

1) Your typical Rossini crescendo in Zitti! Non canta piú! has the usual attractiveness of similar pieces in his works.

2) A spectacular, truly spectacular ensemble called Non pavento alcun periglio.

3) Another pretty good ensemble; not as good as the one above, but very impressive with not less than 14 voices (and no, it's not a chorus piece, LOL, it's a true ensemble), Signori, ecco una lettera.

4) The best piece of the entire opera, in my opinion: Arpa gentil, a fine example of lyrical, melodious bel canto. Very, very beautiful; this aria deserves a place in any top 100 list.

Overall, I rate this opera a B. It never really takes off to make it into B+ or A- territory, but it is certainly pleasant and with some exquisite bits.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 1st, 2012, 09:38 PM
Rossini: Guglielmo Tell (William Tell, Guillaume Tell)
This one is a mixed bag:

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Just like Rossini's opera - which is filled with masterful outstanding bits but also too long, slow-paced, and with some silly ballets, this production has both very good and rather weak sides.

The good:

Riccardo Muti, the chorus and the orchestra of the Teatro alla Scala are all three stupendous in this DVD, which is musically (I mean, regarding the orchestra and the chorus - see details on the singing below) of high quality. The famous overture, and the excellent finales for each act show the orchestra in full force, with energetic and well-paced conducting. The chorus is very precise and delivered with the righ volume. The balance between voices and orchestra is very good. One regrets that the DVD only has a Dolby Stereo track with no surround sound.

Tenor Chris Merrit is spectacular. His voice is strong, rightfully steely for this tortured role, projects very well, and can also convey emotion, as in his extraordinary rendition of the most beautiful aria in this opera in my opinion, Arnoldo's opening of the fourth act, O muto asil del pianto. This, coupled with the good orchestra and conducting, is enough to make of this cheap DVD a good deal.

Giorgio Zancanaro, while not a good actor, sings beautifully the title role.

Amelia Felle sings an adequate Jemmy, with no errors but no big hits either.

Other secondary roles like Gualtiero, Melchthal, and Gesser are pretty good.

The bad:

Unbelievably bad staging. This is an opera that is best staged with an outdoor feel. Instead, we get a dark, stuffy and claustrophobic room, and they try to lighten it up with three large panels of videos showing outdoor scenes in Switzerland, but it doesn't work, it falls really flat. The only good moment on the screens is when they show Riccardo Muti conducting the final ensemble.

Park and Bark with pretty minimal acting, which is demeaning for an opera that aspires to dramatic impact.

Very, very, mediocre ballets with dreadful, unflattering costumes. I actually started to fast forward during the ballets. By the way, Rossini should never have included them. I know that he wanted to compose a Grand Opéra in the French tradition, but the ballets are not only ordinary (including musically), but also stop the action flat in an opera that is already too long and too heavy on choral music comments - which makes the plot painfully slow. A few cuts would make of Guglielmo Tell a much better opera, there just isn't enough material here to last for four hours as it does.

Cheril Studer as Matilde was very uneven. She was capable of singing beautifully at certain moments, and obviously off-pitch in others. I thought that overall she did a poor job.

Ludicana D'Intino as Edwige wasn't much better. Overall, the female voices were not the best in this production, but the fact that Guglielmo Tell is a predominantly male opera still saves this production because the boys generally did a much better job than the girls, except for another small role: the fisherman in Act I who also sang off-pitch.

This is a production best enjoyed with the Chapter Selection feature, when you can listen to the well played overture, the best arias and ensembles, and the finales, which are all very enjoyable and well delivered, but you don't want to go through the whole four hours including off-pitch singing and mediocre ballets in a dreadfully bad staging.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 1st, 2012, 09:40 PM
Rossini: La Gazza Ladra on DVD
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La gazza ladra by Gioacchino Rossini performed in Italian

Conductor Bruno Bartoletti - 1987(LI)

Orchestra - Gürzenich Orchester Köln

Chorus - Kölner Oper
Fabrizio Vingradito - Carlos Feller

Lucia - Nucci Condò

Giannetto - David Kuebler

Ninetta - Ileana Cotrubas

Fernando Villabella - Brent Ellis

Gottardo - Il Podestà - Alberto Rinaldi

Pippo - Elena Zilio

Isacco - Erlingur Vigfusson

Antonio - Eberhard Katz

Giorgio - Klaus Bruch

Ernesto - Ulrich Hielscher

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DVD (Video) - ArtHaus Musik 102 203 (2007)


Rossini, the master of overtures, once more delivers a thrilling piece, very famous and well known to everybody. This is however the high point of this work, and since it naturally comes first, there is this feeling of unevenness since the rest doesn't match the punch of the overture. Still, this opera is interesting enough to justify the time spent watching it (and time it is, since it runs for almost three hours).

Here we have a very traditional staging, with realistic-looking scenarios and epoch costumes. Ileana Cotrubas is less than ideal - at age 48 she doesn't look very convincing as the young Ninetta, and her singing is breathy, as well as a bit unpleasant in the highest notes. David Kuebler as Giannetto seems to suffer of the same problem with the high notes. Carlos Feller as Fabrizio does well. Elena Zilio as Pippo is funny and acts well.

The quality of this DVD is lacking. The sound track (dolby stereo only) is noisy and poorly synchronized with the image, which is a bit imprecise and with changing colors according to what camera is in use. There are intrusive (English only) subtitles, and they can't be turned off. The format is 1.33:1. There are no menus or bonuses.

[Edited] I first wrote down that I couldn't recommend this DVD due to its technical shortcomings and some less than stellar singing in some parts. I haven't seen the only other competition - the updated version from Pesaro - and I thought that it was probably a better version. Reading Herkku's review of it in this same thread, I'm not as sure. And I'm now thinking more favorably of this version. Another singer that does very well is Brent Ellis. And while this opera is overlong and could use some editing, it is not bad, which justifies the purchase of one of the two versions - at least for those who aim to have a more complete collection of Rossini DVDs. Overall, I'm changing my mind, and I'll say that this DVD is recommended, after all. No, not ideal, but decent, and given the limited competition, it's not a bad buy.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 1st, 2012, 09:40 PM
Rossini: La Gazzetta on Blu-ray
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OK, folks, I was talking about La Gazza Ladra just a while ago, and now I've just watched another Rossini, but this one is *a lot* better.

This relatively obscure opera buffa is a hidden gem. While the overture is not as good as many of Rossini's hallmark pieces, the opera itself is quite satisfactory, with several excellent numbers (arias, duets, ensembles in crescendo).

The plot is the usual thing - father wants to marry girl to rich pretenders, but she loves pauper. Some mistaken identities, the works.

The libretto is very good, lively, funny.

The disc: spectacular technical quality, being this a blu-ray filmed at the very beautiful Gran Teatre del Liceu, with the usual sharp image and excellent sound delivered by this medium.

Stage direction is by Dario Fo, and while mostly fine, it is the weakest link of this production. As usual, Dario Fo makes it all too busy on stage, and on occasion interferes with the music. Mr. Fo, someone needs to teach you that less is more.

The cast - first, a word about the dancers. This is a sensual production, with gorgeous women on stage who have spectacular bodies. It's a leg feast. No boobs... but the most beautiful legs are generously displayed everywhere and all the time.

Then, we get to the strongest point of this production: the singing. It is mostly impeccable, superlative, and I'm known for being a nitpicker. I really couldn't find any moment that didn't please me, singing-wise.

Cinzia Forte as Lisetta was a good surprise. What a beautiful voice - nice timbre, strong projection, good agility, good technique, excellent coloratura. And she can act and dance, and looks pretty good - she suffers from the competition with the dancers who are much prettier, but she looks good enough.

The three males are all three outstanding: Bruno Praticò as Don Pamponio, Pietro Spagnoli as Filippo, and Charles Workman as Alberto. Other than for some problems with Italian articulation, they deliver exquisite singing. The four minor roles with Agata Bienkowska, Marisa Martins, Simón Orfila, and Marc Canturri don't disappoint either. There is no weak link.

Maestro Maurizio Barbacini is enthusiastic and gets the young musicians from the orchestra of the Gran Teatre del Liceu to perform with gusto, and with a smile on their faces. This is another interesting aspect of this production: the maestro, the musicians, the singers, and the dancers all enjoy themselves very much, and can often be seen smiling.

It's a very entertaining blu-ray of a good opera. Highly recommended!

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 1st, 2012, 09:43 PM
Rossini: Ermione on DVD
Whoa! This is it, folks. Anybody who has disputed the fact that Rossini was a musical genius (there was once a long thread about it) must watch this. I've finished the first act and still need to see the second and last act tonight so I'm not posting a full review yet, but this opera is truly spectacular with exquisite music and great dramatic intensity (one of the most interesting opening scenes I've seen, following the gorgeous overture of which the chorus participates - a first for me), and La Antonacci runs the show (not to forget that she looks very yummy with beautiful cleavage)!

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OK, folks, I've just finished the second (last) act.

My verdict: OUT...STAN...DING!!!!

This is not only the best opera Rossini has ever composed (well, OK, maybe The Barber excluded), but also one of the top 10 operas ever, in my personal ranking.

We are faced with a master in full control of his trade, and trying hard this time (Rossini was well known for just churning out opera after opera to make money, but this one, I'm sure he put some effort into it).

This opera is perfect in all regards. This is what opera is all about!!! There is passion and jealousy and despair and pathos and murder and vengeance... You know, your usual operatic fare.http://www.talkclassical.com/images/smilies/lol.gif

Spectacular atmospheric overture, incredible opening scene, phenomenal pace, great theatricality, strong dramatic intensity, masterful musical illustration, beautiful orchestration, touching duets (most numbers have at least two singers), and one of the best finales I've ever seen - the final 15 minutes are something for the ages with one of the best mad scenes in all of opera!

Anybody who still underestimates Rossini after seeing this, is.... I won't say it. After all, I want to remain civil. But you know what I mean.

OK, what about this production? Not ideal, but pretty good.

Technically, it's a Kultur product, so, it can't be that good. But this is one of the least bad Kultur DVDs I've seen, technically speaking. The sound, for a change, is rather decent, in spite of some failures here and there. There are subtitles in several languages, and sound balance is rather good with a full orchestral sound, and clear recording of the singing (I don't know exactly what some Amazon.com customers were complaining about - certainly, this is no Opus Arte DVD, but for Kultur, the sound is rather decent).

Staging - very good. It all works out pretty well. The tilted Italianate opera house is rather efficient in conveying the strangety of Andromache's situation, and it is all tasteful and appropriate. After all, Glyndebourne has a knack for tasteful stagings.

Orchestra: phenomenal. Excellent ressonance and power and musicality. I've been thinking lately that the London Philharmonic is rather underestimated, but is one of the best opera orchestras in the world.

Conductor: Oh boy, this guy is good! Andrew Davis. He surely has a good grip on the material, and is energetic and enthusiastic, and gets the best out of his orchestra.

Chorus: solid, with a full, satisfying sound.

Acting: weak. Rather static. Could have been *a lot* better for such a dramatic work.

Singing: There are two categories of singing here.

1) Diana Montague, Bruce Ford, Jorge Lopez-Yanez and the minor roles: always adequate, no real weak links, but not spectacular. Montague's voice is less than ideal for the coloratura passages, lacking agility. Both Ford and Lopez-Yanez misunderstood the delicacy of Belcanto and sound too forceful, too Helden, too loud.

2) Anna Caterina Antonacci. Oh... my... God!!! She is on a completely different plane. It's almost painful to see how much better she is as compared to every one of her peers in this production. Her portrait of Ermione couldn't be any better. Her singing is stellar during the entire opera, and she completely takes over the second act to deliver one of the most thrilling singing finales ever. She is absolutely perfect on every note, looks good as hell with her generous cleavage and beautiful face, has incredibly classy gesticulation and facial expressions; brief, she delivers a masterful performance for the ages, she's on top of her artistry, and we opera lovers are grateful for the fact that this DVD has captured this exquisite operatic moment.

Verdict: the opera itself, 10/10. The DVD, technically speaking, 7/10. Staging, 8/10. Orchestra/conductor, 9/10. Singing, we can't take it as whole; like above, we must divide it in 'everybody else' 7/10, and Antonacci, 10/10.

Overall, 9/10, and a must buy. Highly recommended. Apparently the other DVD version of this opera released by Dynamic is good too.

What is hard to understand is why in the hell this opera is so obscure. Rossini himself had it as one of his favorites, and has referred to it as his best effort. There is nothing that can explain such a formidable work being this badly neglected with no performances for one and a half centuries. Thankfully, now there is one CD recording and there are two DVD recordings so that modern audiences can see this incredible masterpiece.

The Met has rescued from obscurity another great Rossini opera, Armida. I think they should present Ermione next.

This is one of the best operas ever composed, my friends. This is pure gold.

Paraphrasing Natalie, buy it! Buy it! Buy it!

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 1st, 2012, 09:44 PM
Rossini: Le Comte Ory on DVD
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OK, folks, I was so frustrated with the fact that I bought a ticket to watch Le Comte Ory on Met in HD on 4/27/11, then completely forgot about it and didn't attend the show, that as soon as I realized my blunder I went online and bought the above DVD. It arrived yesterday.

I'm about to start watching it. It's an opera that I don't know - although I do know Il Viaggio a Reims which has much of the same music, given that Rossini canibalized his earlier opera to compose this one.

This product contains the 1997 Glyndebourne performance with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Andrew Davis (a conductor I very much like), with stage direction by Jérôme Savary, and video direction by our old buddy Brian Large. The cast includes:

Ludovic Tézier - Raimbaud
Stella Woodman - Alice
Marc Laho - Count Ory
Jane Shaulis - Ragonde
Julien Robbins - Governor
Diana Montague - Isolier
Annick Massis - Countess Adèle
Colin Judson - A young nobleman

It is a Kultur product, so as usual we can't expect technical fireworks. Sound is only Dolby 2.0, no extras, picture is 4:3, but at least there are subtitles in six languages including the original French, this being Rossini's third "French" opera. Running time is 140 minutes.

I'll continue this review as I watch it, but editing as I go. Supposedly both the opera and this production are lots of fun.

First impression: the overture seems less enticing than most Rossinian ones, he was such a master of overtures, and I feel less excited about this one than about many of his others.

First scene, pretty sharp and colorful image for a change (given that it is a Kultur DVD) and very charming staging with funny looking cardboard sheep and cows moving through the background.

I know I'll have a problem with this production: I don't like baritone Ludovic Tézier very much (I think his acting is generally stiff and his voice doesn't project well). Oh well, I'll put up with him.

Period staging with appropriate costumes (France at the time of the Crusades), but then there is a couple wearing a modern tuxedo and a party gown walking by with a bottle of champagne, what the heck? Will this be some sort of Regie? I hope not.

On the other hand I know I'll like the eye-candy, some of these young females are quite beautiful!!!

Ory's entrance - very nice and funny with some hilarious special effects. Marc Laho is no JDF, unfortunately, and his first passagio was a disaster. (Alma, stop lamenting the Met in HD wasted ticket, I say to myself).

First Rossinian crescendo, Que les destins prospères accueillent vos prières, very nice, but Marc Laho is a weak tenor, definitely. The top of his voice is neither beautiful, nor accurate. He sings OK in the middle of his range, but that's about it. But he acts well and is funny.

Julien Robbins as the Governor, on the other hand, is a good singer and actor, and delivers a nice bass aria, Je ne puis plus longtemps voyager de la sorte. This is followed by a bunch of pretty young women running around the stage in various stages of undress (Alma likes this part, although unfortunately boobs are always covered).

Isolier (trouser role) is well sung by mezzo Diana Montague. The other mezzo, Jane Shaulis, is just as good.

Oh, a word about conducting - like I expected, Andrew Davies is a very energetic conductor that brings up the best from his forces.

OK, now the Countess makes her entrance. Annick Massis is beautiful, in a classy way. And she can sing too, immediately raising significantly the level of singing we've had so far. Very agile and tuneful coloratura!

Her aria of lamentations (I didn't catch the name and the list of chapters doesn't help as it is listed by her first words in a recitative) is the best moment of the opera so far.

Annick Massis continues to steal the show. I already know that I'll say "recommended" at the end of this review, because just her singing justifies the purchase of this DVD.

The female singers in this production are definitely better than the male singers. Oh well, and they look better too.http://operalively.com/forums/images/smilies/tongue.gif

Hehehe, once Ory is caught and removes his disguise, we realize that Marc Laho could be Roberto Alagna's brother, they're look-alikes.http://www.talkclassical.com/images/smilies/lol.gif But Alagna sings better.

Oh wow, Glyndebourne put a real horse on stage. Impressive.

End of first act, of course another signature Rossinian ensemble in crescendo, always very nicely done by the master: Cet écrit, noble châtelaine. I half-recognize it from Il Viaggio a Reims.

Long break, snack, household chores, and I'm back for act II, and guess what? It opens with a scene that includes naked boobs!!! Not frontal, side boobs, but nice nevertheless! OK, I'm not regretting the Met performance any longer!http://operalively.com/forums/images/smilies/biggrin.gif

And the ensemble that opens the second act, Dans ce séjour calme et tranquille is *very* beautiful. The tempest scene follows, and it is very well staged and sung (with some very funny moments too). This is getting better and better.

Now Ory and his gang return disguised as nuns.

The music for the final scenes is very pleasant, more hilarious scenes, curtain, to make a long story short.

I liked the opera and the production. Recommended, but a little below highly recommended thanks to less than ideal male casting.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 1st, 2012, 09:45 PM
Rossini: Elisabetta Regina d'Inghilterra on DVD
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Cast:
Lella Cuberli - Elisabetta
Antonio Savastano - Leicester
Daniela Dessi - Matilde
Rockwell Blade - Norfolk
Adriana Cigogna - Enrico
Mario Bolognesi - Guglielmo

1985 live; Gabriele Ferro, conductor; Orchestra del Teatro Regio di Torino; Antonio Savastano, stage director.

Traditional staging with cheap-looking scnearios (painted murals). Decent costumes.

Technical quality of the DVD: horrible, one of the worst I've ever seen in a commercial product. Mono sound, quite distorted; dark blurry hazy 1.3:1 image that seems rather that of a bootleg. At least there are subtitles in Italian, English, and French (although there are long stretches of singing with no subtitles - and not merely repetions of the same lines. here are no real competitors: except for an obscure VHS done in Argentina, and a bootleg DVD from Naples, it's the only recording of this opera on visual media.

The overture is the one Rossini canibalized to place it as the Barbiere overture, and it's identical here (it actually belongs to an even earlier opera, Aureliano in Palmira; Rossini was such a cannibal!). The melody for the aria Una Voce Poco Fa from the Barbiere was also recovered from this earlier opera (he wrote this one 4 months before Il Barbiere), but is not identical here (but pretty close). The source for it comes early in the first act (first aria from Elisabetta)and is quite beautiful.

This is musically enticing. It's Rossini in good form, composing an opera seria that is not overlong and is full of beautiful melodies for single voice, chorus, and ensembles. It sounds more delicate, more slow-paced than other intense and almost over-the-top Rossini operas. It reminds me a lot of the melodious Queen operas from Donizetti - I'm not talking influence, but just a similar style since these operas all share the Bel Canto opera seria style with female queens in the title roles.

The acting here is park and bark. The orchestra has a slow tempo and sounds anemic, but it may have to do with the very poor mono sound that actually gets worse as time goes by.

Singing is uneven. The title role looks cute and sings well. Others are of variable quality, some quite bad.

In summary, this is a weak performance of a good opera, poorly recorded on a low-quality DVD.

Not recommended. Granted, it's for all practical purposes the only recording of this opera on visual media, except for an obscure VHS done in Argentina, and a bootleg DVD from a staging in Naples. But still, purchasing this DVD is not justified except for the very thorough Rossini colector.

Others most likely would be better off with a CD version like this one:

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61HOYoXPxDL._SL500_AA300_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/B00006FN1K/ref=dp_image_0?ie=UTF8&n=5174&s=music)

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 1st, 2012, 09:45 PM
Rossini: L'Equivoco Stravagante on DVD
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Another absolute winner!

I've been seeing a number of exquisite opera DVDs lately, of off-the-beaten-path operas done by unknown singers in absolutely breath-taking performances, and this is another one of these.

Rossini's second opera is absolute genius, and shows all the elements that made of him one of the major composers of extremely rewarding pieces. You get excellent theatricality and pace, lively and funny situations, great rhythm with his hallmark crescendi, very melodic bel canto moments, comic flair, uplifting music, excellent libretto; all expertly put together by this master entertainer.

This is a rather risqué piece that got chopped off by the censors after just three performances. It is astoundingly modern and daring. The libretto is full of innuendo, and is quite sexy and delightfully over-the-top. It talks about the usual situation of the young woman who is supposed to marry the rich bore but loves the exciting pauper. The twist here is that in order to drive away the annoying fiancé, the two cunning servants come up with the idea of pretending that the young bride is actually a man, who was castrated by her father in order to become an opera singer. Well, she *is* a woman, but the plan succeeds, and she is able to marry her philosophy tutor whom she loves. Great fun!

Hear, hear, folks, this is a spectacular opera DVD of a formidable production! Everything works. Singing is absolutely stellar across the board, to a point that again, one wonders why in the hell these young singers are not being booked by the main opera houses, and instead are doing these quasi-amateur performances in some small regional Italian opera company.

Six characters, five exceptional singers, plus one in a minor role who, while not as extraordinary, doesn't do anything wrong.

Ernestina, the young woman, is Marina Prudenskaja, with a beautiful coloratura soprano that has agility and a pleasant timbre. Bruno de Simone is Gamberotto, a classy baritone. Marco Vinco is Buralicchio, a very comic over-the-top actor with excellent basso voice. Dmitry Korchak is the young lover Ermanno, and his tenor voice is so natural and fluid that he is definitely one to watch. He makes it seem easy, his voice is never strained, is always precise and agreeable. Amanda Forsythe as Rosalia is a mezzo who almost steals the show, if not for the fact that her colleagues are all equally good. Ricardo Mirabelli as Frontini is the only one who is not as accomplished as his five peers, but like I said, he does OK and doesn't sink the ship at all.

All six characters look their parts and act very well.

Staging is imaginative, interesting, and amusingly kitsch. Stage direction and video direction are just perfect, with the scenes rolling in with good fluidity, skillful use of space, and unobtrusive camera work.

The period orchestra does a wonderful job, and the chorus is particularly good. I had never heard of these forces, but oh boy, they don't disappoint. We get some eye candy in the silent roles with some very cute scantly clad young women.

The production is from the Rossini Opera Festival. I have browsed and browsed the insert and the covers and found no information regarding the year of the performance. The DVD was released by Dynamic in 2009. Edit - I learned from Wikipedia that the production was staged in 2008.

Umberto Benedetti Michelangeli conducts the Orchestra Haydn di Bolzano e Trento.
Pavel Vanek is the chorus master for the Prague Chamber Choir.
Stage direction is by Emilio Sagi, and set design is by Francesco Calcagnini.
Video direction is by Davide Mancini.

Technically speaking, as usual Dynamic puts together a polished product with 16:9 image of excellent color and definition, LPCM 2.0 and Dolbi 5.1 sound with good balance and fullness, a proper insert with an essay and synopsis in four languages, and optional subtitles in five languages including original Italian. No extras.

Highly recommended. This is another one that gets my seal of excellence based on Natalie's consumers war cry: Buy it! Buy it! Buy it! But maybe don't by it from Amazon with the scary price of $40, while some marketplace vendors have it new for half as much.

PS - Don't miss the curtain calls. They are rather amusing, and provide a fitting finale for this spectacular production.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 1st, 2012, 09:46 PM
Rossini: Tancredi on DVD
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1992 (LI) - Gianluigi Gelmetti - Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgard
Schwetzinger Festpiele
Stage direction - Pizzi
Bernadette Manca di Nissa (contralto) - Tancredi
Maria Bayo (soprano) - Amenaide
Raul Gimenez (tenor) - Argirio
Ildebrando D'Arcangelo (bass-baritone) - Orbazzano

Rossini's serious operas are often a treat. Those among us who don't recognize Rossini's genius ought to get more familiar with his serious ones, to drive away the accusation, based on his comedic operas, that his music is superficial and aimed at easy entertainment (and if it were, I wouldn't care, I find that entertaining operas are just fine). Ermione is a fine example of a more obscure Rossini opera that is simply phenomenal, and while Tancredi is not as spectacular as Ermione, it is very very close in terms of overall quality. While the overture is less good than the usual Rossini masterful one, the vocal writing is very beautiful, with some outstanding duets (the contralto-soprano duets are spectacular), nice choruses, a couple of very good ensembles and some choice arias.

This DVD is a good rendition of Tancredi: the traditional staging is deficient (surprisingly for a Pizzi staging; Pizzi is often visually striking, but this time it looks like the let the ball drop, it all looks rather uninteresting and tacky), acting is rather static, but singing is sublime, by a very talented team of excellent singers in most roles. Contralto Manca di Nissa is very impressive, and cute soprano Bayo (it's her on the cover) is very good as well. Both have beautiful voices and have what it takes for dramatic belcanto. Tenor Gimenez has a very limpid and powerful voice. The orchestra and conducting, while not unpleasant, could use some fine tuning and slightly faster tempi.

It is nice to have an opera with the title role sung by a contralto. It gives it a pleasant Handelian quality so to speak (I know, I know, I don't really mean it literally). Dramatically it is a good libretto, based on Voltaire. Another plus of this production is that they present both endings; the tragic one, and the happy one as an encore after curtain calls.

Technically this DVD is limited, with only LPCM sound, 1.33:1 image with poor definition, and less than ideal sound balance, with the orchestra smothering the singers at times. Subtitles are provided in five languages. There are no extras.

In spite of technical problems, weak staging, poor acting, and less than impressive orchestra, the exquisite singing in this production, helped by the undeniable beauty of this opera, makes of the verdict for this DVD an easy "recommended."

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 1st, 2012, 09:46 PM
Rossini: La Cambiale di Matrimonio on DVD
1989(LI) - Gianluigi Gelmetti - Radio Sinfonieorchester Stuttgart

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This is one of Rossini's first, folks, in 1810. It's billed as a Farsa Comica in un atto.

The production is from the Schwetzinger Festival, recorded live at the beautiful, small, ancient Rokokotheater in May of 1989. Traditional staging with a beautiful realistic-looking one-room scenario and period costumes. It is presented on DVD by Euroarts, and they do a decent job for something that has been filmed 22 years ago. The image is 1.33:1 but quite sharp and with good definition. Sound is pretty excellent with a choice of PCM stereo, Dolby Digital 5.1, and DTS 5.1. The latter has pretty good surround field with perfect balance and fullness. Optional subtitles are presented in five languages including original Italian. Region zero, running time 82 minutes. No extras, but they do provide good liner notes with an essay in three languages, synopsis, and chapter list with the names of the arias/ensembles, characters, and duration.

The small orchestra plays very well under the expressive, energetic conductor. Singing is first rate across the board, with reasonably good acting from most artists (some of them, weaker, with some stock acting). We get to see formidable John Del Carlo at a much younger age than at the occasion of his latest (and very successful) Met appearances. Amelia Felle is a cute Clarina, unfortunately with very little stage time. Janice Hall is very pleasant as Fanni, although with deficient acting. Alberto Rinaldi not only has a beautiful voice, but also acts well as the over-the-top Canadian, Mr. Slook. Carlos Feller is particularly good vocally as Norton, and David Kuebler is adequate as Edoardo, although probably the weakest link in singing and acting, but this is so rather because he suffers a bit when compared to his excellent peers: the other three males steal the show.

The opera itself: while no masterpiece, this is pretty good for an early effort, and one can see several elements of Rossini's later style already sprouting, from the pleasant overture, to the colorful orchestral accompaniment with use of fast parlando, up to the zany final ensemble. I feel that the weakest part of this opera is its libretto by Gaetano Rossi, which is not that funny or theatrical enough. I think that Rossini makes the best out of it, but he is not given a lot to work with.

Regardless of the relative theatrical weakness of this opera, I still think that this is an obligatory buy for Rossini fans, and also for John Del Carlo fans for that matter. It is nice to see that Rossini at age 18 has started his career so well, and it is a luxury to see three gifted basses interacting on stage (Del Carlo, Rinaldi, and Feller). In addition to this, we get a good orchestra, a good conductor, and tasteful traditional staging, all packaged in a good quality DVD regarding image and sound. A winner, in my opinion.

Recommended.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 1st, 2012, 09:47 PM
Rossini: La Scala di Seta on DVD
This comes from the same boxset that contained La Cambiale di Matrimonio above, and shares the exact same technical characteristics so I won't comment on those. It also comes from the same festival, same theater, orchestra, and conductor (see above), one year later (1990) and also recorded live. Running time is 100 minutes. Again, it's just one act.

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David Kuebler and Alberto Rinaldi are also back, respectively as Dorvil and Blansac. The other singers are different: David Griffith as Dormont, Luciana Serra as Giulia, Jane Brunnell as Lucilla, and Alessandro Corbelli as Germano.

We get a Rossini two years older, since this one premiered in 1812, and musically the two works are similar (this one is a bit more lyrical and has more extended belcanto style coloraturas). The librettist this time is Giuseppe Foppa, and he does a much better job than his predecessor in the earlier opera, since this one is a lot more eventful, with more interesting situations, achieving a better comic and theatrical impact, with the various situations of people hiding in the room, etc.

Again, we get a tasteful scenario with the same general set-up: a room with large windows that open to a Parisian street scene (we can see L'Arc du Triomphe), period furniture, and period costumes (Schwetzingen is known for traditional productions - some will say, lacking imagination, others will like the beautiful costumes and scenarios).

This DVD is marred by the presence of Luciana Serra, not the most successful of choices for the role of the leading female. She is unattractive, too old for the role, and her voice is not that beautiful in spite of good technique.

While the others are adequate (David Kuebler actually doing better than before - well, here he's not as smothered by the competition - and Alberto Rinaldi doing just as well, and leading the pack as the best singer here), we don't have the stellar presence of John Del Carlo - although we do have an excellent Alessandro Corbelli in a funny deadpan performance as Germano, also very well sung. So what we have here as compared to the very similar previous DVD, is a better and longer opera that is more substantial from the theatrical standpoint (again, far from being a masterpiece like those authored by the later Rossini), but a bit less well performed from the singing standpoint. The acting could get a little more spicy - this opera deserves it. Unlike the first one, this one does have competition on DVD, and while I don't know the other production released by Opus Arte, it's got good reviews, so, chances are that Rossini lovers may want to check it out before buying this one.

Still, there's nothing really seriously wrong with this one except for those who can't stand Luciana Serra, so, I guess I can still say "recommended" for those who want to be complete when collecting Rossini DVDs.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 1st, 2012, 09:47 PM
Rossini: Il Signor Bruschino on DVD
This is my third serving of Rossini today, as antidote for the depressing Klinghoffer.
Same festival, conductor, orchestra, theater, same Euroarts boxset, same technical qualities, so no need to comment on those. Same sets too - they just change the outside landscape behind the central window (London in the first one, Paris in the second one, and here the Italian countryside) and repaint the walls, change the furniture. Period costumes, etc., all similar. Running time 98 minutes. This is the only DVD of this opera that premiered in 1813 when Rossini was 22. The libretto is by the same Giuseppe Foppa from La Scala di Seta.

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Many of the singers from the other two DVDs I've reviewed above are back for this production. We get repeats from:

Alessandro Corbelli - Gaudenzio
Amelia Felle - Sofia
Alberto Rinaldi - Bruschino padre
David Kuebler - Florville
Janice Hall - Marianna

Then, we get some others who weren't in the previous productions:

Vito Gobbi - Bruschino figlio
Oslavio di Credico - Un comissario di polizia
Carlos Feller - Filiberto

I like both Ms. Felle and Ms. Hall, so we get a welcome break from Ms. Serra. Generally speaking, the high level of singing is back, like in La Cambiale di Matrimonio. Ms. Felle though looks significantly less cute here, I guess it's the hairdo and a less flattering outfit.

The opera was not well received by critics as compared to Rossini's earlier efforts (two of which reviewed above, and also the equally successful L'Occasione fa il ladro - also in this boxset but I won't be reviewing it today since I've seen it a while back - and L'Inganno Felice which is not in the boxset), but the composer himself was happy with it, having said at age 66 that he was glad he had committed this "youthful folly." In great part, however, the bad reviews came from the fact that everybody seemed to be outraged at Rossini for having made the string players beat their bows on their music stands during the overture. Oh wow, I guess they didn't want anything to do with this novelty, which I find charming.

Another problem for the critics and the public is that these operas are described as farces, and they were supposed to be uncomplicated. Foppa, however, wrote this time a more convoluted libretto that did not please the people who attended these farces seeking easy entertainment that didn't require them to think.

I actually would rather agree with Rossini himself on this one. This opera is interesting and its libretto is quite ingenious, with a sort of original take on the traditional mistaken identity plot. Musically it is run-of-the-mill Rossini, but pleasant enough. The fast parlando here acquires more clearly the characteristics of the signature Rossini crescendo that we'll see used to perfection in his later operas. We also have here a more composed pace, with a bit more character development, with some lyrical moments that take their time to evolve; it all feels less rushed than the earlier efforts, and it alternates well with the fast moments. We can feel the composer getting more experienced, with a better sense of the theatrical aspects of his work. Good finale, with the ode to love.

I must be going against the current because still today this one is considered to be a more minor work than La Scala di Seta for example, and I actually like this one better, but at least I'm in the good company of the composer.

Recommended.

Aksel
January 5th, 2012, 05:35 PM
The opera in question is La cenerentola by Rossini (who'da thunk it?). This is the 1981 film directed by Jean-Pierre Ponelle and conducted by Claudio Abbado.

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I think I should preface this whole thing with saying that this is my favourite of Rossini's comic operas. I think it has something to do with the crazy amounts of ensembles.
There, it's out. I don't even really care much for Barbiere. But we're wasting bytes here. Let's move on.

The plot, for those who don't already know it, can be read here (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Cenerentola), or summarized as Cinderella with a philosopher, evil paternal relations and matching bracelets. I know, it's all very exiting.

The staging for this opera is just about as traditional as you get it. It is very much a fairy tale approach, but not as childish as some more recent interpretations (like the DiDonato/JDF one). The sets are very much like you would expect to find in an actual opera house, and indeed, the sets are based on the La Scala Cenerentola sets. But what is very striking about these sets is just how beautiful they are. It seems like nothing has been left to chance, and even don Magnifico's run-down mansion has its own kind of charm. Some do, however object to the fact that the sets look like enlarged opera sets, since this is a film, but I think it works very well for this opera. The very apparent artifice of the opera house of it all is a constant reminder of the fairy tale the story of Cinderella actually is.
Also, the staging of the 2nd act sextet is just genius.

The acting is very good in this production. The singers are actually lip-synching, and thus can devote more of their energy to acting. Flicka is innocence and goodness personified and she delivers such a moving performance, especially in the first half of the first act. Francisco Araiza is really just his usual handsome self, but does deliver a fine performance.
The two acting performances that do stand out, in addition to Flicka's, are those of Paolo Montarsolo and Claudio Desderi, singing the parts of don Magnifico and Dandini, respectively. They perfectly overact.

The orchestra and chorus of La Scala are lead masterfully by Claudio Abbado. 'Nuff said.

Now, let's get down to singing, shall we?

In the role of Angelina, Cinderella, Cenerentola, whatever you might want to call her, is Frederica von Stade. In addition to looking the part to such an extent that she is the most believable Cenerentola I've seen, she can sing rather well too. This role has just about all of the difficultest coloratura of the whole opera, and Flicka nails it all. Her Naqui all'affanno and Non piú mesta are truly among the best ever recorded. I get so amazed at how she manages to convey such much emotion, especially in Naqui all'affanno.

Francisco Araiza sings the role of don Ramiro, our Prince Charming. As well as also looking the part (OK, they all look their parts. I'll stop saying that now), his singing is amazing. It is another one of those Rossini tenor roles with machine gun coloratura and loads of high notes, and Araiza really does it to perfection. Also, I find him more suited to the part than for instance JDF and Lawrence Brownlee. I adore them both, but I like Araiza better here.

Dandini, the prince's valet is sung by Claudio Desderi. Remember the coloratura that Flicka didn't sing? Well, Desderi got it. It is just about the most athletic Rossini baritone role I've come across. His coloratura is very exaggerated with aiches flying at you from every angle, but I find it suits the part, especially when he is disguised as the prince. Overall, I'm very pleased with his singing.

Don Magnifico, the evil stepfather is sung by Paolo Montarsolo. He sings this role very well. The role is a typical buffo bass role with syllables flying out of the singer's mouth at the speed of sound, and I just get astonished at how fast Montarsolo gets them out.

The two sisters, Clorinda and Tisbe (teehee) are sung by Laura Zannini and Margherita Guglielmi. Again, they sing these roles absolutely wonderfully.

Alidoro, the prince's tutor is sung by Paul Plishka, and he also sings his part very well.


In total: Amazing production with a stellar cast, orchestra, chorus and conductor. Get it. Now.

Also, video:

Naqui all'affanno and Non piú mesta:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J67vh5DRURY

The act two sextet:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NB14yuKef1s

Aramis
January 5th, 2012, 05:45 PM
They perfectly overact

I think that half of Dandini's greatness in this movie is thanks to ideas of J.P.P (at least I assume they came from director himself) - acting is one thing but the way he shows characters on screen is special. Like in the sextet which you praise, when other characters express their confusement and then you suddenly get Dandini standing in the middle of the screen in silence, saying (after a pause) his "marvelous!"

HarpsichordConcerto
February 7th, 2012, 11:21 PM
Rossini, L'Inganno Felice (1812), opera in one act. Marc Minkowski directing.

Budget price version, no libretto but comes with synopsis.
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Full price version.
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An early one act opera by Rossini. Signs of talent most apparent, containing good arias that show Mozartian influences but undeniably Rossini. I bought the budget version (not knowing there was a full price version), which came without libretto but a decent synopsis. All numbers were very enjoyable and played with stylish late Classical interpretation under Minkowski. Much recommended.

Dark_Angel
February 11th, 2012, 08:04 PM
Rossini: Le Comte Ory on DVD
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OK, folks, I was so frustrated with the fact that I bought a ticket to watch Le Comte Ory on Met in HD on 4/27/11, then completely forgot about it and didn't attend the show, that as soon as I realized my blunder I went online and bought the above DVD. It arrived yesterday.

I'm about to start watching it. It's an opera that I don't know - although I do know Il Viaggio a Reims which has much of the same music, given that Rossini canibalized his earlier opera to compose this one.

This product contains the 1997 Glyndebourne performance with the London Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Andrew Davis (a conductor I very much like), with stage direction by Jérôme Savary, and video direction by our old buddy Brian Large. The cast includes:

Ludovic Tézier - Raimbaud
Stella Woodman - Alice
Marc Laho - Count Ory
Jane Shaulis - Ragonde
Julien Robbins - Governor
Diana Montague - Isolier
Annick Massis - Countess Adèle
Colin Judson - A young nobleman

I liked the opera and the production. Recommended, but a little below highly recommended thanks to less than ideal male casting.


I did not feel strongly about this DVD, but was blown away by the MET player Le Comte Ory with JDF, Damrau, and especially trouser role of DiDonato.....far superior for me as I await any future release on DVD / blu ray

Have you seen it by chance, your take

HarpsichordConcerto
February 19th, 2012, 05:39 AM
I enjoyed that version of Le Comte Ory reviewed by Almaviva above. Some funny moments, solid staging that was play-like in many ways, which I guess was kept rather "light" for its comical undertones. Very good singing overall. (I bought it cheap that came with Barber of Seville and La Cenerentola).

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
February 19th, 2012, 08:59 AM
I did not feel strongly about this DVD, but was blown away by the MET player Le Comte Ory with JDF, Damrau, and especially trouser role of DiDonato.....far superior for me as I await any future release on DVD / blu ray

Have you seen it by chance, your take

No, I haven't seen the Met one yet, but I'll get it as soon as it is released on DVD.

Dark_Angel
March 19th, 2012, 02:04 AM
Semiramide (1823)

June Anderson, Marilyn Horne, Stanford Olsen, Samuel Ramey, Young Ok Shin, John Cheek, Michael Forest, Jeffrey Wells. Metropolitan Orchestra & Chorus, James Conlon, stage direction by John Copley, 1990.

This DVD has been sitting in my unwatched pile for too long. I now only wished I had viewed it as soon as I bought it. What a sumptuous production! Never a dull moment thanks to the effective staging, which was traditional; back to ancient Persia, and of course, the beautiful singing. Marilyn Horne up to her best in a male role, with June Anderson spoiling our senses with duets beyond description. Rossini was on the verge of early retirement with Semiramide, and a semi-curious work; almost Baroque opera seria like but brought forward a century to early Romantic.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51pHwL5kfGL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

I just viewed this recently and was very impressed also, a great production that would be stunning in a blu ray release staging and costumes were richly detailed. The story has some real extreme plot twists that makes for an entertaining exciting story.

I was really a bit let down by Horne, she went through all the motions but there should have been much more passion and emotion in her key role as lover, lost son and avenger of fathers murder.....a bit too generic and safe for me. Ramey and the other hand was his usual bombastic dynamic larger than life figure, dominates the stage with his persona, a great performance. June Anderson was very good and rest of cast was up to the task, had a very good time watching this.

Soave_Fanciulla
March 19th, 2012, 02:43 AM
I just viewed this recently and was very impressed also, a great production that would be stunning in a blu ray release staging and costumes were richly detailed. The story has some real extreme plot twists that makes for an entertaining exciting story.

I was really a bit let down by Horne, she went through all the motions but there should have been much more passion and emotion in her key role as lover, lost son and avenger of fathers murder.....a bit too generic and safe for me. Ramey and the other hand was his usual bombastic dynamic larger than life figure, dominates the stage with his persona, a great performance. June Anderson was very good and rest of cast was up to the task, had a very good time watching this.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=P9bd_BPCH8k

Oooh do I see the Chest, better promote this up the UWP.

HarpsichordConcerto
March 24th, 2012, 09:41 AM
Torvaldo e Dorlisk (premiered 1815)

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51XyFb-CC0L._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Darina Takova, Michele Pertusi, Francesco Meli, Bruno Praticò, Jeanette Fischer & Simone Alberghini. Prague Chamber Choir & Orchestra Haydn di Bolzano e Trento, Víctor Pablo Pérez. Pesaro, August 2006 (2 DVDs).

Rossini wrote Torvaldo e Dorlisk between Elisabetta regina d'Inghiterra (a serious opera), and Il barbiere di Siviglia (comic). Torvaldo was intended as a semi-serious opera! This production capitvated that semi-serious mood I think. The staging was traditional in a small theatre, and there were a limited few moments when the singers moved off the stage and sang in the rows of the audience bringing about this semi-serious "relaxation" of an otherwise serious plot. I don't know of many semi-serious operas by Rossini and it appears this opera is not terribly well known because of it. Anyway, who cares. Glad that this DVD came about. The music is fairly relaxed with typical Rossinian melody and flow that you would recognise, and the orchestra played through with ease. The best numbers were the ensemble pieces for trio, quartet and quintet. (Interestingly, it used a fortepiano as the continuo instrument, despite being a modern instrument orchestra otherwise).

Schigolch
March 24th, 2012, 10:34 AM
It was the first work together for Rossini and Cesare Sterbini, just before the Barbiere, as you said. It was not a success, and it dissapeared from the repertory since the 1830s until it was rescued during the Rossini Renaissance by Alberto Zedda with a cast including Lella Cuberli, Enzo Dara and Lucia Valentini Terrani.

I also like this DVD, and Abbado's production. The use of a fortepiano to play the continuo along with the bass, is something relatively common at the Rossini Opera Festival, in Pesaro.

Dark_Angel
April 21st, 2012, 01:26 PM
http://ecsmedia.pl/c/la-cenerentola-florez-b-iext3677355.jpg

Great musical performance but, for me at least, hardly watchable even for few minutes. Those circus-like customes and amount of flashy colours just hurt me. At the other hand those rats - great idea, quite funny. Too bad it doesn't save it as a whole.

It would be really great as just CD.

I will have to give a contrary very positive view.....although this should not be your first or only Cenerentola. (this was finally purchased to complete my JDF library)

First the combo of JDF and DiDonato is the very best on DVD, JDF is masterful here as you would expect and DiDonato for me is better than all rivals like Bartoli, Von Stade etc both technically exciting vocals and great character acting, so much fun to watch......it all works great for me if you take off your "must be serious" opera hat for a couple hours.

The production is visually daring and flamboyant, this is a fairy tale and we are allowed to have fun and let your imagination run wild. Bright colors, exaggerated playful costumes, friendly giant mice that double as stagehands to move props around all in the service of creating a fun magical production (they work cheap for a bit of cheese). Quite a contrast to the typical routine production.

The Garanca/Brownlee MET procution employs some of these fantasy elements, but here it is taken to its full fantasy potential (or absurd excess depending on your taste) I really like this daring production........



http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=226-s4A3Tlk

HarpsichordConcerto
April 22nd, 2012, 09:57 AM
L'Equivoco Stravagante (October 1811)

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51DnhaGZuvL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Marina Prudenskja, Bruno De Simone, Marco Vinco, Dmitry Korchak, Amanda Forsythe & Ricardo Mirabelli. Coro Da Camera Di Praga, Maestro Del Coro Pavel Vanek & Orchestra Haydn of Bolzano E Trento, Umberto Benedetti Michelangeli (conductor) & Emilio Sagi (direction). Recorded at the Pesaro Rossini Opera Festival, August 2008

Rossini's first two-act comic opera, written by the then nineteen year old. Delighful score, full of wit and hint of genius that would come with his later grand comic operas. The libretto was perhaps a little silly here and there but I guess that was the boldness of it, and it apparently caused a bit of a stir with the censorship authorities. The production recorded here was recognisably modern (not avant-garde) with much bright colours and supporting ladies wearing mini-skirts :) . The orchestra was succint and the pace was brisk under the agreeable baton of its maestro. Capable singing by the leads, and simple acting that married well with the easy sense of humour that accompanied the music. A nice one to add to the Rossini collection.



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PqO845Q2gO8&feature=player_embedded

Dark_Angel
April 22nd, 2012, 01:46 PM
L'Equivoco Stravagante (October 1811)

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51DnhaGZuvL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Marina Prudenskja, Bruno De Simone, Marco Vinco, Dmitry Korchak, Amanda Forsythe & Ricardo Mirabelli. Coro Da Camera Di Praga, Maestro Del Coro Pavel Vanek & Orchestra Haydn of Bolzano E Trento, Umberto Benedetti Michelangeli (conductor) & Emilio Sagi (direction). Recorded at the Pesaro Rossini Opera Festival, August 2008

I am close to buying that (very close) as it does seem to be very entertaining fun time, Alma first reported on this work here earlier.

That older man in cover photo reminds me of comedic actor Phil Silvers with the heavy black frame glasses

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
April 22nd, 2012, 08:59 PM
Yes, it's a lovely production, great fun, in a well-packaged and technically good DVD. It's a winner; in my book it's a must-have.

Aksel
May 23rd, 2012, 08:14 AM
Norwegian puclic television recently aired the recent Met Comte Ory, and here are my two cents or so about it.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/517rhf5PigL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

I really, really liked this opera, although the production left me on the side somewhat annoyed.

Singing-wise, this is as close to perfect as you'll get in this day and age. All three main characters sang extraordinarily throughout, which didn't really come to me as a great surprise. The three arguably greatest Rossini singers alive today on the same stage can't really go wrong.

Juan Diego Flórez, straight from his home where his wife thirty minutes or so prior to curtain had just given birth to the couple's first(?) son, sings the crap out of what must be one of the toughest Rossini parts I've heard so far. It's super high, with C's, D flats and D's flying out everywhere. How this man makes it all sound so easy, I cannot fathom. Generally a good acting performance as well. There are also some really great facial expressions when he starts touching the more inappropriate bits of Diana Damrau. Also, J-Flo in a nun's habit is almost as adorable as J-Flo in Lederhosen.

Speaking of DD, she was truly great. I really, really enjoyed her in the part of the Countess, and her huge act 1 aria was truly the highlight of the evening. Also, boobs.
But one does wonder whether she should be singing Rossini much longer. Her vibrato seems to get wider, and the coloratura is not as precise as it has been. But, that said, I would still very much like her to do some serious Rossini, like Semiramide or Armida (I think I've heard something about the Met remounting that production they did with Fleming for Damrau, but not until 2015 or so).

The evening's pants role, Isolier, was sung by the infallible Joyce DiDonato (who, incidentally, I also want to see doing more serious Rossini). Unsurprisingly, the singing was amazing, as was the acting.

Costumes were good. Loads and loads of girly colours, with sheer fabrics and silks flying around all over the place, at least with the girls. I still cannot figure out why they decided it was a good idea to put J-Flo in leather pants.

The orchestra was really good, and the action moved along very nicely. The recitatives were surprisingly good. I previously thought that accompanied recitative wouldn't work for comedy, but lo and behold, it did.

Now, the production it self was rather annoying. The Konzept wasn't too bad (hardly groundbreaking, but one does not count on Bartlett Sher to go new and exiting ways), but instead of the 'theatre within a theatre' enhancing the action on the stage proper, it just got in the way and garnered but a few cheap laughs along the way. Totally unnecessary.
That said, there were some nice touches, like the birds attatched to the long metal rods people kept waving about around the countess in the 1st act.
Rather amazingly, some of the opera's funniest moments, like Comte Ory and his pals dressing up as nuns, and acting pious whilst at the same time trying to have a right old party, were very down-played. I feel it has much to do with the fact that the set having no walls, and so the transition between prayer and partying becomes undistinct, as people just stood on the side of the stage, waiting to climb onto it. In the end, it was a rather baffling production, as it is, in my opinion, one of Rossini's funniest operas. If only Sher had spent his time paying attention to the things happening onstage, and not faffing about doing silly things instead.

Also, the 2nd act trio - the most bisexual moment in opera ever.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
May 23rd, 2012, 08:28 AM
Nice review. I have it, it's sitting on my UWP. I have the other DVD and it is excellent. Like you said this opera is phenomenal.
In our interview with Joyce DiDonato by email, I have asked her why she hasn't done more serious Rossini. She did do La Donna del Lago.
I can't wait for her answers.

Aksel
May 23rd, 2012, 08:38 AM
Nice review. I have it, it's sitting on my UWP. I have the other DVD and it is excellent. Like you said this opera is phenomenal.
In our interview with Joyce DiDonato by email, I have asked her why she hasn't done more serious Rossini. She did do La Donna del Lago.
I can't wait for her answers.

Yes. I'll be most anxious for a Donna del Lago DVD. I think the La Scala one was taped. And possibly the one they're doing (or have done, not sure) at ROH.

And she sang the crap out of the Armida arias on that Rossini aria CD of hers. Best D'amor al dolce impero since Callas, or thereabouts. The same with the Semiramide excerpt.

Dark_Angel
May 23rd, 2012, 06:45 PM
Also, the 2nd act trio - the most bisexual moment in opera ever.

The elevated bed scence was great, both visually and vocally.......check below starting 8:30 mark


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Hx3_Wc6erw&feature=player_detailpage

Aramis
May 23rd, 2012, 07:00 PM
The elevated bed scence was great, both visually and vocally.......check below starting 8:30 mark

I don't like how audience laughed at this part. The music was more sublime to listen than their acting was funny to laugh at.

Dark_Angel
May 23rd, 2012, 08:13 PM
I don't like how audience laughed at this part. The music was more sublime to listen than their acting was funny to laugh at.

Not everyday you get three horny sexy opera stars in bed together, must enjoy the moment
(for the love of art naturally)

Amfortas
May 24th, 2012, 03:37 PM
Not everyday you get three horny sexy opera stars in bed together . . .

Though I try. I try.

Dark_Angel
May 25th, 2012, 02:40 AM
Though I try. I try.

Did you not learn your lesson foolish one being tempted by the flower maidens only then to be speared by evil Klingsor......

Only the "perfect fool" can resist :sarcastic:

Amfortas
May 25th, 2012, 06:06 PM
Only the "perfect fool" can resist :sarcastic:

I may not be perfect, but I'm pretty damn close.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
May 25th, 2012, 07:54 PM
I may not be perfect, but I'm pretty damn close.

Pftt... flawed mortal. *I* am perfect!:stupid:

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
May 26th, 2012, 11:57 PM
Norwegian public television recently aired the recent Met Comte Ory, and here are my two cents or so about it.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/517rhf5PigL._SL500_AA300_.jpg



Aksel is a very observant reviewer. I have just watched this production, and he was spot on.
Yes, the singing was close to perfect. These three singers are just too good. It's exhilarating to see three singers having their prime moments in their careers, on the same stage, with spectacular technique, treating us to sublime music and fabulous acting. Oh my, JDF, DD, and JDD are so good! Not just good, great!!!

And yes, the production is lackluster. This is a very funny opera, and the three formidable singing actors still managed to make it funny, but not thanks to Mr. Sher.

This other production, while not blessed with the same level of almost perfect singing (although not bad at all) has infinitely more comic flair:

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/513VJN2YV-L._SL500_AA300_.jpg

HarpsichordConcerto
June 3rd, 2012, 01:59 AM
L'Occasione fa il ladro ossia Il cambio della valigia (1812)

Susan Patterson, Robert Gambill, Natale de Carolis, Monica Bacelli, Alessandro Corbelli & Stuart Kale, Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orchestra, Gianluigi Gelmetti; May 1992.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/414Zocxxo4L._SL500_AA300_.jpg

An early and short opera buffa from the young genius (total running time just under 100 minutes). The English title is Opportunity Makes a Thief or The Exhange of Luggage. Despite its rather silly plot, but on the whole suitable for a buffa, early Rossini consistently showed his genius in handling the orchestral part that made an opera sound truely buffa (not just the vocal parts necessarily). Classical influence from Mozart and perhaps late Haydn, were audible with beautiful and tuneful duets and ensemble pieces. There were more arias for duets and ensemble than there were for solo arias. I couldn't fault any of the singing by the singers, with experienced Rossinian names like Robert Gambill. Staging was traditional on a relatively smaller stage. Continuo was on a fortepiano.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxxM8a8Savs&feature=player_embedded

Dark_Angel
June 3rd, 2012, 11:59 AM
Aksel is a very observant reviewer. I have just watched this production, and he was spot on.
Yes, the singing was close to perfect. These three singers are just too good. It's exhilarating to see three singers having their prime moments in their careers, on the same stage, with spectacular technique, treating us to sublime music and fabulous acting. Oh my, JDF, DD, and JDD are so good! Not just good, great!!!

And yes, the production is lackluster. This is a very funny opera, and the three formidable singing actors still managed to make it funny, but not thanks to Mr. Sher.

This other production, while not blessed with the same level of almost perfect singing (although not bad at all) has infinitely more comic flair:

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/513VJN2YV-L._SL500_AA300_.jpg

We have a divided camp here since I much prefer the new MET version....including the production which worked very well for me. I actually sold that version above I was so pleased with MET, if only there was a blu ray version......

Natalie will take note that her "cold fish" Tezier stars in the older one :laugh4:

Aramis
June 3rd, 2012, 12:14 PM
Staging was traditional on a relatively smaller stage

This DVD is part of three-DVDs cycle, all staged this way by same people. I didn't watch them yet but I look forward to it - one of other two is La Gazza Ladra, including Contrubas. Hot stuff.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
June 3rd, 2012, 09:05 PM
This DVD is part of three-DVDs cycle, all staged this way by same people. I didn't watch them yet but I look forward to it - one of other two is La Gazza Ladra, including Contrubas. Hot stuff.

It's actually four. I reviewed the other three above, posts 26, 27, and 28.

Amfortas
June 3rd, 2012, 10:28 PM
We have a divided camp here since I much prefer the new MET version....including the production which worked very well for me. I actually sold that version above I was so pleased with MET, if only there was a blu ray version......

I guess the only way to make up my mind about the Met Comte Ory (http://www.amazon.com/Rossini-Comte-Juan-Diego-Florez/dp/B006ZRAF0C/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1338762400&sr=1-1) is to buy it myself.

And hey, I hear that if I click on the link above to do it, good things happen.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
June 4th, 2012, 12:30 AM
I guess the only way to make up my mind about the Met Comte Ory (http://www.amazon.com/Rossini-Comte-Juan-Diego-Florez/dp/B006ZRAF0C/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1338762400&sr=1-1) is to buy it myself.

And hey, I hear that if I click on the link above to do it, good things happen.

They do. I wish all our prolific buyers (cough cough Dark_Angel cough cough) did the same.:greedy_dollars:

Ann Lander (sospiro)
June 4th, 2012, 08:39 AM
I guess the only way to make up my mind about the Met Comte Ory (http://www.amazon.com/Rossini-Comte-Juan-Diego-Florez/dp/B006ZRAF0C/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1338762400&sr=1-1) is to buy it myself.

And hey, I hear that if I click on the link above to do it, good things happen.

I think this has already been mentioned but if I click on that link, it takes me to Amazon.com & I use Amazon.co.uk (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Rossini-Comte-Metropolitan-Opera-2011/dp/B006ZRAF0C/ref=sr_1_1?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1338799017&sr=1-1).

Does the site get a small amount just by my clicking on the link even if I don't buy?

HarpsichordConcerto
June 4th, 2012, 10:47 AM
This DVD is part of three-DVDs cycle, all staged this way by same people. I didn't watch them yet but I look forward to it - one of other two is La Gazza Ladra, including Contrubas. Hot stuff.

That's right - part of four as suggested by Almaviva. Nicely done.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51vprZQvYRL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/519mFDew-xL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51r0M44633L._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
June 5th, 2012, 11:48 AM
No. Unlike the Google AdSense ads, Skimlinks only pays us a commission if you buy.

But since Amazon.co.uk is also part of the Skimlinks program, if you post a link to the same DVD on Amazon.co.uk then you click on your link and buy, we do get paid.

Ann Lander (sospiro)
June 5th, 2012, 12:12 PM
No. Unlike the Google AdSense ads, Skimlinks only pays us a commission if you buy.

But since Amazon.co.uk is also part of the Skimlinks program, if you post a link to the same DVD on Amazon.co.uk then you click on your link and buy, we do get paid.

OK. I'll do that in future.

HarpsichordConcerto
July 1st, 2012, 01:27 AM
Tancredi (1813)

Short note on this version of Tancredi. I viewed this again. Beautiful arias for all especially the lead soprano done movingly in several numbers by Maria Bayo, including a couple of duets with the contralto. Intimate staging done with simple traditional means in the Scholsstheater in the Schwetzingen Palance. I like these small period theatres, often motivating a small and intimate feel of the production.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51a9E7iMeGL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Aramis
July 25th, 2012, 07:09 PM
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51QAH4QMWEL.jpg

Fine cast (Antonacci and Ford especially), late XIXth century customes doesn't work but it's alright at least. The opera itself has big moments - unusual overture with chorus and strong final scene. All in all worth of watching, unless you don't want to see another opera by Rossini where he ends every single piece with that typical cadence that I don't even need to describe because everybody knows WHAT-WHAT-I-MEAN, WHAT-WHAT-I-MEAN, WHAT, WHAT I MEAAAAAAAAAN.

I also liked when at the very end the Greeks depart and the column starts rotating, it takes them away as they sing those last three staccato chords I've got the impression that it's some children TV series ending and they are saying THE MAGICAL COLUMN TAKES US AWAY GOOD NIGHT FRIENDS SEE YOU NEXT WEEK IN ANOTHER EPISODE OF "ORESTE'S MAGICAL ADVENTURES"

HarpsichordConcerto
August 7th, 2012, 09:19 AM
Il barbiere di Siviglia

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51MwqBpAT4L._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Vesselina Kasarova (Rosina), Manuel Lanza (Figaro), Reinaldo Macias (Il Conte Almaviva), Nicolai Ghiaurov (Don Basilio), Carlos Chausson (Bartolo), Nicolai Ghiaurov (Basilio), Elizabeth Rae Magnuson (Berta), Valery Murga (Fiorillo/Un Ufficiale), Orchester & Chor Opernhaus Zürich, Nello Santi. Recorded live at the Opernhaus Zürich, April 2001.


I bought this one cheap, paid about US$9 including freight. For that money, it was an adequate production. The staging was more or less recognisably set in the 1950s with lots of bright colours and generally superfluous items that had little to do with what was going on. But at least it looked "good", not ugly and not weird. The singing was good all round, which was perhaps the best part of the entire production. Nothing irked me but nothing took me over the moon either compared with say the Kathleen Battle version from label DG. So, in all, I wouldn't pay full price for this production but considering I bought it at deep discount, it was well worth it.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S0LcZndLAS4

Aramis
August 7th, 2012, 09:24 AM
Vesselina Kasarova (Rosina), Manuel Lanza (Figaro), Reinaldo Macias (Il Conte Almaviva), Nicolai Ghiaurov (Don Basilio), Carlos Chausson (Bartolo), Nicolai Ghiaurov (Basilio), Elizabeth Rae Magnuson (Berta), Valery Murga (Fiorillo/Un Ufficiale), Orchester & Chor Opernhaus Zürich, Nello Santi. Recorded live at the Opernhaus Zürich, April 2001.

Must be low-budget production, they got one singer to sing two characters.

Aramis
August 9th, 2012, 06:53 PM
http://getafix.almasi.hu/dvd/images/2292b.jpg

Rich staging, few exceptional singers (Cotrubas, her stage father, perhaps the mayor too) but you can't do much when music is poor. It's almost 3-hours long opera and it's full of forced numbers with banal motives, poor accompaniement etc. Few valueable ones are Act I tenor piece that Flórez included on his Rossini Arias album and brilliant opening of last scene with funeral march, that one is one of best serious Rossini moments I recall, truely striking when compared with rest of the work. If you have time and possibility, you can dig it just for sake of it.

HarpsichordConcerto
September 23rd, 2012, 04:11 AM
Le Comte Ory (1828)

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51s8nFaJxcL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Juan Diego Flórez (Comte Ory), Diana Damrau (Comtesse Adèle), Joyce DiDonato (Isolier), Susanne Resmark (Ragonde), Michele Pertusi (Tutor), Stéphane Degout (Raimbaud); Orchestra and Chorus of the Metropolitan Opera, Maurizio Benini. Production by Bartlett Sher; recorded in 2011

Recently released by Virgin of a new production with Juan Diego Flórez taking the lead role. Really, I had nothing to spot to fault. Lovely singing by the stars, more or less traditional staging all the way but with some modern sense of humour. The DVD was exceptionally clear and the sound was balanced. This production was head and shoulders above the other DVD recording that I have (released by Warner; London Philharmonic, Andrew Davis).


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FEkgUqUeF5c

HarpsichordConcerto
January 2nd, 2013, 03:14 AM
Moïse et Pharaon (1827, French and "augmented" version of Mosè in Egitto)

1447

Rossini first wrote the opera Mosè in Egitto in 1818 for Naples. (A new recording of that was released very recently by Opus Arte). Nine years later, he enlarged the work in 1827 to a French libretto. I bought this DVD over a year ago and only just listened to it. It might sound like a rather boring subject for an opera, with oratorio-like undertones (Rossini himself first described Mosè in Egitto as an oratorio, interestingly enough) but this was more than compensated for by the music and the first class performance under Riccardo Muti, with a strong cast of singers; in particular, the bass singing Moïse. I also liked the staging and sets, which was quite traditional in direction without being entirely so (like you might expect from the old movie The Ten Commandments). The music was not typical of Rossinian opera, perhaps because of significant "religosity" (Rossini wrote a beautiful Stabat Mater a few years later). I have just ordered Mosè in Egitto a few weeks ago before Christmas and so look forward to discover what the composer did with these two versions.

Yashin
January 2nd, 2013, 12:01 PM
This thread made me realise how many Rossini Operas i have yet to hear!

What about the wonderful La pietra del paragone!

I only have the DVD with Alberto Zedda conducting and Pier Luigi Pizzi directing. It stars the wonderful Raul Gimenez as Giocondo. It really is a wonderful DVD - very refreshing.

I have yet to sample Le Comte Ory, Zelmira, Mose in Egitto and La Scala di seta to name a few (to my shame!)

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 26th, 2013, 01:16 PM
This thread made me realise how many Rossini Operas i have yet to hear!

What about the wonderful La pietra del paragone!

I only have the DVD with Alberto Zedda conducting and Pier Luigi Pizzi directing. It stars the wonderful Raul Gimenez as Giocondo. It really is a wonderful DVD - very refreshing.

I have yet to sample Le Comte Ory, Zelmira, Mose in Egitto and La Scala di seta to name a few (to my shame!)

Yes, La Pietra del Paragone is very good. I highly recommend this imaginative DVD with dazzling visual effects and excellent singing and acting (it features Sonia Prina, a very good singer), a pleasure all the way, and very well packaged:

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51LROFoBWPL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Available on Amazon.com for $31.49, [here (http://www.amazon.com/Rossini-Pietra-Paragone-Sonia-Prina/dp/B000V9M0IK/)]; expensive, but worth it, since it comes with a delightful booklet.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 26th, 2013, 01:42 PM
Zelmira on DVD (also available on Blu-ray disc)

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51hvdt79lDL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Zelmira, dramma per musica (opera seria) in two acts, 1822
Music by Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)
Libretto by Andrea Leone Tottola, after the French play Zelmire by De Belloy
Premiere - Naples, 16 February 1822
The present DVD has the Paris version, 14 March 1826, modified by Rossini for the Théatre Royal Italien, in which he added an aria to the finale and re-wrote it to accommodate the new material and to expand the music for the two leading singers.
Sung in Italian.

Recorded live at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, IT, 2009, at the Adriatic Arena (a basketball arena)
Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Comunale di Bologna
Roberto Abbado, conductor
Paolo Vero, chorus master

The score used for this production came out of the Fondazione Rossini critical edition by Helen Greenwald and Kathleen Kuzmick Hansell, the latter from the group of our esteemed friend Dr. Philip Gossett [read his interview (here (http://operalively.com/forums/content.php/536-dr-philip-gossett-opera-scholar))] from the University of Chicago.

Giorgio Barberio Corsetti, stage director and set designer
Cristian Taraborrelli, set designer and costume designer
Angela Buscemi, costume designer
Gianluca Cappelletti, lighting designer
Tiziano Mancini, video director

Cast

Polidoro, king of Lesbos - Alex Esposito
Zelmira - Kate Aldrich
Ilo, prince of Troy - Juan Diego Flórez
Antenore - Gregory Kunde
Emma - Marianna Pizzolato
Leucippo - Mirco Palazzi
Gran Sacerdote di Giove (Jupiter) - Sávio Sperandio

DECCA release 2012 of a Unitel Classica film of 2010 on 2 DVDs, catalog number B0017182-09
Available on Amazon.com for $24.99 DVD [here (http://www.amazon.com/Rossini-Zelmira-Juan-Diego-Florez/dp/B008HC9982/)], also available on Blu-ray for $35.98, [here (http://www.amazon.com/Rossini-Zelmira-Juan-Diego-Florez/dp/B008H29Z18/)]
NTSC, Region code zero (worldwide), format 16:9, sharp, with good definition and color

Sound format LPCM stereo or DTS 5.1 - This performance was given in an arena, not a classical opera house, so, they had to use microphones attached to the singers' faces to deal with the bad acoustics. This results in very good sound from the singers, but not as good from the chorus, and the sound track feels a bit unbalanced in this regard, with trebble sounds predominating when the chorus is singing, with some strident effect.

Running time 200 minutes (opera) + 25 minutes (Bonus feature: "Zelmira: Behind the Scenes" on DVD2)
Optional subtitles for both the opera and the bonus feature: Italian (original language), English, French, German, Spanish

The booklet includes two production pictures (one in color, one in black and white; credits; track list with number title, roles singing it, and duration; an excellent 6-page essay in English containing circumstances of composition, notes on the first performance and its reception, and notes on the music, by Kathleen Kuzmick Hansell; complete synopsis).

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Zelmira is Rossini's last Neapolitan opera, closing the period that gave us masterpieces such as Ermione and Maometto II.

The DVD opens with beautiful scenes of Pesaro and the Adriatic coast. After the very short opening bars (can't call it an overture) we get the chorus in updated attire (modern military uniforms and weaponry) singing in a bit of a strident tone (hard to know if it's their fault, or the sound balance problem's, as commented above), but then we're immediately treated to Gregory Kunde's excellent singing in the tenor role of Antenore. My opinion of him improves sharply after hearing this. From his Les Troyens recording under Sir John Eliot Gardiner one gets the feeling that the singer was overwhelmed by the difficult music. No such thing here, it seems like the tessitura fits his voice well and he delivers precise and beautiful notes in Rossini's ornamented writing that is very compelling and indicates that we are in for a treat. Bass-baritone Mirco Palazzi as Leucippo is convincing as well.a

The girls come next. Mezzo-soprano Marianna Pizzolato as Emma (a role written for contralto) only correctly renders her part (she loses volume in the lower notes), with some stock acting. Soprano Kate Aldrich as Zelmira on the other hand is a very attractive lady with a beautiful, well modulated voice, in a role that is not very demanding in terms of top notes (it was written for Isabella Colbran, soon to be Rossini's first wife, who was notorious for not navigating very well the highest notes) but is very rich in coloratura, which Ms. Aldrich navigates quite well. Her attractiveness is greatly helped by the fact that she actively unbuttons the first few buttons of her bodice during an aria, and from that point on treats the public to some very compelling cleavage - this is interesting. Obviously sex sells. So, the stage director added this fairly unnecessary action that has nothing to do with what is going on in the libretto (she is at this point singing with her father). Well, I won't complain. PS - OK, the stage director did explain in the bonus feature why he did this - and it is sort of convincing, see below.

Polidoro, a bass role, gets very good singing from Alex Esposito, who also acts it impressively. This is all going very well, and we haven't even seen the big star JDF yet.

A trio featuring Polidoro, Emma, and Zelmira gives us the opportunity to hear some more gorgeous Rossini-style vocal writing.

Sets are on the minimalist side, with some interesting imagery in these opening scenes: large Greek statues are progressively unearthed and are pulled up, and end up hanging over the stage. Dark lighting adds to the oppressive atmosphere.

Conducting and orchestral playing are very satisfactory, full and resonant, with appropriate pace and livelihood.

OK, here we go. JDF makes his entrance, and attacks superbly the high tessitura of his opening aria Terra Amica. Oh boy, this guy is good! This is well known fact and dispenses commentary, but it is always very pleasant to hear this extraordinary Rossinian tenor. I mean, we need to understand (I guess we all do, but I'm just saying) that we are in the presence of greatness. Sometimes it is difficult to have the full grasp of the historical importance of some singers, when they are our contemporaries. But Juan Diego Flórez's mastery of this repertory is on a plane that is rarely matched by other current singers in their respective repertories. JDF has a perfect command of these roles, and in 100 years when people look back, his name will be in the company of other spectacular light lyrical tenors of the past, and we're privileged to see it all roll in front of our eyes and ears.

The aria lasts for 9'41", has a huge number of high Cs, and at the end the demanding Italian public erupts in enthusiastic ovation. We are just at the 47' mark of this 200' opera, but I can already say that this DVD is highly recommended, because even if everything went downhill from now on (I don't think it will, but just hypothetically), these precious 9'41" of gorgeous JDF singing already justify the purchase. Wow!!! During the prolonged applause with people going crazy and tapping on the floor and shouting "bravo!", the singer sports a nice self-satisfied smile that breaks protocol in this dramatic scene, but he is fully excused after what he's just presented to us. I bet he is thinking "Oh boy, yeah, I'm goooood!!!" - and, Mr. Flórez, we agree! The public won't stop applauding, to the point that the Maestro puts down his baton and waits. Oh wow, this was one of the best moments on DVD in the last several dozens I've seen.

The staging is interesting too in this scene; it uses mirrors hanging from the top, showing dead bodies of soldiers in dirt, mud, water, with wives rolling over the bodies, in grief. This continues over the next scene (parts of this display light up in alternation). I've read customer comments complaining of this staging being distracting. I don't really think so. The darkness of the lighting (done in purpose) does bring focus to whoever is singing. I like it, so far.
Kate Aldrich comes back, this time fully buttoned up, bummer!:love2: This is the scene that is on the cover picture. It's actually an unfortunate picture of her face; it gives the impression of rough skin on the left side - no such thing exists in Kate's beautiful face. I don't understand why the people who do cover art engage in such blunders...

Her duet with JDF, cleavage or not (in this case, not), is very well sung by both artists - "Oh cielo! Egli è fra' suoi ... A che quei tronchi accenti?"

Things continue in the same vein. This opera has a long, long first act and its libretto is not that good (it can sound confusing if one doesn't get informed, beforehand, of the very convoluted events that precede the story, which starts abruptly with little explanation of what went on before), but it may very well be one of those operas that will beef up the claims from some among us, who value much more the music than the remaining theatrical aspects of the art form. Musically, Zelmira is very good. There is dazzling coloratura acrobatics, and the orchestration is beautiful - especially in the winds. The opera features some of the advanced harmonic and rhythmic experimentation Rossini was allowed to do in Naples, and a good deal of chorus music, which are characteristics that equally enrich his other great operas in this period - and they are among my favorites in Rossini's body of work.

So, I see myself paying little attention to the story, and enjoying the spectacular music. Kunde has another big number next, and does very, very well again.

We then get a very delicate duet in minor key, between Zelmira and Emma ("Perché mi guardi, e piangi"), when the former is enrolling the latter to take care of her baby son during the political turmoil that is going on. This tender and intimate music with plucked strings on the harp and beautiful English horn is a nice contrast to the sound intensity shown in the previous scenes. Both Kate and Marianna do very well here. And it's followed by another contrasting piece - a militaristic march - to great effect. Bravo, Rossini. You're one of my favorite composers for a reason.

The staging takes on more lights and more colors, with bright red costume for Jupiter's high priest, and a golden panel with the word Lesbos in Greek. I do like this staging. Kunde now looks handsome and elegant, wearing contemporary suit and tie. The chorus downs Orthodox Greek attire. We're getting to the musically impressive finale to act I. Drama gets intensified as well with the effective confrontation scene in which Zelmira is falsely accused of trying to murder her husband Ilo. Rossini very strikingly tone-paints the dramatic events with drums, and it's all very well done, with Kate showing good acting. While JDF is not the best actor around (who cares, with his gorgeous singing?) and Marianna continues to be a notch below her peers in the acting department, the scene is globally well done, thanks mostly to Kate, Gregory, and Mirco. The use of choral music is fantastic!

End of Act I, all very satisfactory.

Giving myself a little break, I was reading the essay that comes with the insert, and found a very interesting citation by a journalist from the time of the premiere, that Rossini was treating this opera with a convoluted libretto, as a concert. This is confirmed by a contemporary scholar (John Rosselli), who says that this was in no small measure due to "that shifting of the opera's vital center, determined by Rossini, towards the music at the expense of the words."

Yes, this opera *is* a good example of superb music that more than compensates for the fact that the libretto is not top-notch. By the way, I don't think it is that bad, if one reads up on the events going on before the curtain rises (the DVD insert does update the reader on it, so, no problem).

In any case, apparently the premiere and subsequent performances were an unqualified success, with the public highly appreciating the quality of Rossini's music.

The opera went from Naples to Vienna and achieved just as big a success over there. The insert doesn't specify how it was received in Paris in 1826. It went on to be presented in several Italian cities, and it even had a single showing in the United States, in New Orleans, circa 1835.

Then it disappeared from the repertory for more than a century - which is hard to understand, given its excellent music. It's been, thankfully, revived in Naples in 1965 (to no great acclaim), in Rome in 1989, in Venice in 1998, and finally it got its first recording on visual media in 2009, the one we are presently examining.

What makes this opera's music so compelling is that it very sparingly uses recitative, and most of its main numbers are fully orchestrated and feature the entrance of more than one character and the chorus, accounting for great musical pace and variety. Also, Rossini provides to his principal singers several long cavatinas that are shock-full of vocal pyrotecnics. He alternates major and minor keys quite often - there isn't a single boring moment! Finally, the fact that Rossini could count on the excellent and large orchestra of the Teatro San Carlo (78 players) encouraged him to write very densily packed music that takes full advantage of all the sections.

One bizarre point is that this master of overtures didn't provide one for this piece. He certainly missed an opportunity to write a great one, given the large orchestra he was working with.

OK, act II.

We get more Greek statues, some green color in a large backstage projection with Zelmira's image, during Ilo's and Polidoro's duet. Great effect! Ilo is finally understanding that his wife is innocent, and her image projected on stage adds pathos to the scene. Yes, I do like a lot this staging! Go figure, why have people complained of it so much on Amazon.com???

And video direction is good too, with none of the annoyances we've seen recently in other products. The camera steadily focuses on the artist who is singing, most of the time, except for brief illustrations of other artists who interact with the singing one by facial expressions and all. Panoramic views are sufficiently provided to understand the staging; there is no abuse of close-ups; it's all good. Stage direction and blocking are all adequate in this production, with good acting being coached out of most singers and comprimarios, with the exceptions above noted.

Continuing the musical qualities, the duet we were talking about, "A che difendi una sleale" is very good, and very well sung by JDF and Alex Esposito. Another noted number is the quintet "Ne' lacci miei cadesti," very solemn and ominous.

The camera pans to the large mirrors on the back that then reflect the orchestra in the pit and the back of the singers plus the red lights that are adding some warm colors to the scene; again, a beautiful effect. Next, we get blue projections - and they are simultaneous with the scene - they feature Zelmira and Polidoro who are about to be killed, while the chorus enters in bluish military uniforms. The lighting designer is slowly going through the spectrum of colors, and I like it, because he matches well the moods depicted by the music and the libretto.

Next, Kate Aldrich is given a nice opportunity to shine, in a long and pungent aria, and shine she does. She looks great in this scene, and works very well the musical line with crescendos and diminuendos. Unfortunately Rossini didn't give her any time to be applauded, since the music picks up right after she finishes, and the well-informed and respectful Italian public remains appropriately silent.

The next scene is highly dramatically effective, and provides forceful loud music to both Kunde and Aldrich - they don't disappoint when they need to push up the dynamics. This is followed by two other characters joining them in a great quartet - "Da te spero, o ciel clemente, sol conforto a' mali miei."

Now we get to the happy ending. Ilo comes to rescue his wife and his father-in-law. The baby is brought back and is reunited with the parents. Rossini provides tender music that evolves into happy coloratura for Kate and JDF, with the brass providing fanfare-style joyful accompaniment. The final trio with Ilo, Zelmira, and Polidoro ensues, "Riedi al soglio" - in which JDF treats us to some more high notes, with a choral apotheosis. JDF gets to kiss beautiful Kate Aldrich on the lips. Oh, the good life of an opera singer!:cool:

Curtain. Wild applause from the public, rewarding a great production with great artists.

The bonus feature is very good. It contains statements by JDF, in Italian, with the same choice of subtitles of the main feature, and statements from several other artists including the conductor and the artistic director of the Rossini Festival. It also shows beautiful street scenes from Pesaro, including Rossini's house. It indicates how they tried to manage the acoustics in this basketball arena by building internal walls to reproduce a more enclosed theater. The stage director is given an opportunity to explain his concept - one of highlighting the tyranny, the oppression in the story, and the poetic effect of showing through the mirrors, the fallen soldiers, prisoners, wounded heroes being mourned or washed by their wives - I thought he did very well with his concept. He talked about the updating, with the Greek statues functioning as anchor for the original timeline, but showing as well that these issues of power and oppression span humankind's history until our days. They also demonstrate the musical merits of Rossini's writing for this opera, in one of the best Making Of featuretes I've seen - very informative.

By the way, the stage director explains the cleavage scene by saying that he wanted to portray Zelmira as the mother of them all on the island, where her breasts feed the people, even her father. Hm... OK. I guess. In any case, thanks for the beautiful display, Mr. Corsetti - with a name like this, it's destiny!:laugh4:

I *loved* this opera, and this DVD. :applause: Highly recommended, A++ for musical values (and they are to be commended for not only using, but also quoting a critical edition, something we rarely see), A+ for staging, A+ for informative packaging (one only regrets the fact that the very good essay in English was not translated into other languages). This product only suffers a bit in sound balance (I only tested the DTS track), but given the circumstances (an opera given in a round sports arena), they did what they could with the sound. Hopefully sound engineering is better on the blu-ray product (sometimes they re-engineer the sound to take advantage of the superior sound capacities of the blu-ray format).

Busy as I've been with Opera Lively journalism, it was a great Saturday morning for me, relaxedly enjoying at home a high-quality opera DVD. It's been a while!

Yashin
January 27th, 2013, 02:13 PM
I went off JDF after that awful I Puritani DVD that came out a year or two ago. This one might invigorate my interest!

Dark_Angel
January 27th, 2013, 02:48 PM
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51hvdt79lDL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Does not take much of a push to buy any JDF bel canto opera, so Alma has suceeded in making the sale

This youtube showcases use of rear mirror images during opera (looks like aftermath of some battle), JDF does his "thang" spinning out those difficult golden toned tenor runs with confidence and ease, yesssssss


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kr4_ZiIMrCM&feature=player_detailpage

Aramis
January 27th, 2013, 03:16 PM
A+ for staging

F- for the review with such rating

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 27th, 2013, 03:22 PM
F- for the review with such rating

Hey, I'm extensively praising your beloved JDF, and you give me an F- because I also liked the staging?:mad5426:
You know, Aramis, even your Regie aversion will need to get suppressed, because you MUST buy this DVD. Your JDF does one of his best showings ever. It's essential to have this, for a fan like you.:laugh4:

Hear, hear, folks! This is the DVD that will shatter to pieces Aramis' resistance to Regietheater!!:biggrin:

Aramis
January 27th, 2013, 03:36 PM
I have seen this DVD and though that musically it was compareable to similiar project from Pesaro festival, Matilde di Shabran. Some nice moments, but a lot of mediocre music that seems like written in five minutes, certainly not truely great opera by Rossini. We already had Terra Amica on Rossini Arias CD and no other fragment of this opera that Flórez sings here feels like something that had to be drawn out of oblivion. I have commented on the other thread about the staging, I think it's plain bad and you seem to see the stupidity of director's idea too, judging from your rather ironic remark about "mother of island" thing. How is it that I'm over two times younger than you and still you are the one who gets excited for any display of breasts and don't care for anything else if only he can see some, I don't know, but for me that was just sad to watch, again realizing how common idiocy can be in charge of prestigeous festival and feeling disappointed by singer who agreed to perform such deplorable scene putting her dignity at stake.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 27th, 2013, 03:53 PM
I have seen this DVD and though that musically it was compareable to similiar project from Pesaro festival, Matilde di Shabran. Some nice moments, but a lot of mediocre music that seems like written in five minutes, certainly not truely great opera by Rossini.

I'm kind of disappointed that you, of all people, fail to see that my breast obsession is mostly for comedic effect.
As for this opera having mediocre music... well, well, well.
Are we getting back to our old discussion that Rossini is a mediocre composer?
I thought you had been convinced of the opposite, already.
I hate to pull expert opinion, because every person in the world is entitled to his/her opinion regardless of what the experts say, but when you get a scholar like Philip Gossett (the world's unanimously recognized leading authority in Rossini) to praise the music of Zelmira (see what he says in his interview with us), and the author of the critical edition to say the same (see her essay), and the conductor to say the same (see the bonus feature), I don't know, maybe there are some good odds that I'm kind of on the right track when I praise it as well. In any case, I loved it. You didn't. Well, good for me, I'll say. It means that I was able to spend some 200' having lots of fun. What is opera for, anyway? Just for this kind of enjoyment. I'm glad that I was able to have it. And no, it wasn't because of Ms. Aldrich's, erm, cough, cough, assets. It was rather thanks to Rossini.

Aramis
January 27th, 2013, 04:28 PM
Are we getting back to our old discussion that Rossini is a mediocre composer?
I thought you had been convinced of the opposite, already.

Surely I have, but great composer can write mediocre music, his greatness is like inner artistic peak on which he has to climb everytime he creates something and it takes a struggle. He may refuse doing so and remain at the foot of it, creating something below his abilities. Verdi wrote lots of bad music too in his early period and Rossini was even more liable to it with his personality and attitudes. In Zelmira I've heard much of simplicity of low order, basic accompaniaments and strained melodic material. Much of this music consists of empty pattern. Rossini happened to combine patterns with inspiration and loftiness in his great works, in many of his less known operas though, he fills the score with patterns alone. Zelmira is one of these.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 27th, 2013, 04:42 PM
Surely I have, but great composer can write mediocre music, his greatness is like inner artistic peak on which he has to climb everytime he creates something and it takes a struggle. He may refuse doing so and remain at the foot of it, creating something below his abilities. Verdi wrote lots of bad music too in his early period and Rossini was even more liable to it with his personality and attitudes. In Zelmira I've heard much of simplicity of low order, basic accompaniaments and strained melodic material. Much of this music consists of empty pattern. Rossini happened to combine patterns with inspiration and loftiness in his great works, in many of his less known operas though, he fills the score with patterns alone. Zelmira is one of these.

Well, I disagree, and so do Philip Gossett, Kathleen Kuzmick Hansell, and Roberto Abbado who all highly praise Rossini's score for Zelmira in terms of advanced harmonic and rhythmic writing, so, at least I'm in good company.

As for your previous comment about my age, if you think that as straight men age, they lose interest for such gorgeous representatives of the opposite gender as Ms. Kate Aldrich (see below), you're in for a rude (well, maybe sweet) awakening.:laugh4:

1559
Photo Credit Fadil Berisha

1560

Aramis
January 27th, 2013, 05:09 PM
As for your previous comment about my age, if you think that as straight men age, they lose interest for such gorgeous representatives of the opposite gender as Ms. Kate Aldrich (see below), you're in for a rude (well, maybe sweet) awakening.:laugh4:

Anybody in interest for such representatives should be enraged upon seeing them being used to present pretentious symbolics made up by bad regie director. I mean, if you love something you don't want it to get profaned. If Kate Aldrich can't use her representatives properly she clearly isn't fit to own them and I suggest that she entrusts them to me as her breast manager who will decide when and in what way they can be used without endangering their honour.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 27th, 2013, 05:15 PM
Anybody in interest for such representatives should be enraged upon seeing them being used to present pretentious symbolics made up by bad regie director. I mean, if you love something you don't want it to get profaned. If Kate Aldrich can't use her representatives properly she clearly isn't fit to own them and I suggest that she entrusts them to me as her breast manager who will decide when and in what way they can be used without endangering their honour.

Yes, like you noticed yourself, I was taken aback by the scene, and did say that it appeared gratuitous. But again, like I said, I'm not complaining, since, well... they're beautiful!!!:love2:

If I ever get to meet this lady, I'll make sure to pass on to her your idea of becoming her breast manager. So that I can properly convey to her the business proposition you are making, do you charge a fee for this management, or do you do it for free, for the cause?

Do you require close inspection of these assets before you accept to manage them, or are you already convinced by photographic and video evidence that they are worthy of your managerial skills?

HarpsichordConcerto
January 28th, 2013, 05:10 AM
I bought a copy of Zelmira. Haven't watch it yet.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
March 17th, 2013, 02:33 AM
Rossini's Adelaide di Borgogna on blu-ray

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/512O5sVclHL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Adelaide di Bourgogna, dramma per musica in two acts (1817), music by Gioachino Rossini (with some parts by Michele Carafa), libretto by Giovanni federico Schmidt.

Available on Amazon.com for $34.99 (the DVD is actually one dollar more expensive), click [here (http://www.amazon.com/Rossini-Adelaide-Borgogna-Daniela-Barcellona/dp/B00ARWDRE2/)]

Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Communale di Bologna conducted by Dmitri Jurowski, recorded live at the 2011 Rossini Festival in Pesaro, stage direction by Pier' Alli (who doubles as set, lighting, and costume designer, as well as video projection designer). The score comes out of a critical edition by Gabriele Gravagna and Alberto Zedda, by courtesy of the Fondazione Rossini in collaboration with Casa Ricordi.

2013 release on DVD and blu-ray by ArtHaus Musik/Unitel Classica, sung in Italian with subtitles in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, and Korean. This review is of the blu-ray product, region worldwide, with picture format 16:9, 1080i HD, sound tracks PCM stereo, and DTS Master Audio 5.1 (excellent quality of image and sound, with perfect balance). Running time is 137 minutes for the opera, with a Making Of bonus feature of 17-minute duration, and trailers. The insert has a very brief synopsis (one paragraph), a brief essay that mentions stage direction values and describes the cast a bit, then in one page and a half, addresses the opera's history and composition style. It is authored by Reto Müller and is reproduced in English, French, and German. There are six production pictures (two of them, in color). Credits and a full list of tracks with duration, number names, and roles is provided.

The two principal singers are Jessica Pratt in the title role, and Daniella Barcelona in the trouser role of Ottone. Other singers include Nicola Ulivieri as Berengario, Bogdan Mihai as Adelberto, Jeannette Fischer as Eurice, Francesca Pierpaoli as Iroldo, and Clemente Antonio Daliotti as Ernesto.

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This opera seria that Rossini himself liked but was never successful from the time of its première at the Teatro Argentina in Rome up to present day (it has a rather limited performing history), is a huge bel canto showpiece. There are numerous arias and duets that follow this tradition. Unlike his Naples operas, it has secco recitatives, and theatrically it can be said to be rather uninteresting and somewhat boring, which is likely to be the root cause of its meager success. The nice overture is recycled (a bit expanded) from La Cambiale di Matrimonio.

This Pesaro/Bologna production tried its best to make it more interesting, with very beautiful sets and costumes, including extensive use of backstage projections. It is filmed in straightforward ways, and the mostly sober and dark background gets from time to time some sparkling bursts of bright colors, somehow undoing the notion that in Italy these days, productions are not as creative as those from other European countries. This staging updates the action from the original time of Otto I of Germany's campaign in Italy in the mid 900's, to the time of the Italian wars of independence. In spite of the striking visuals, the production still suffers from being a bit static (or maybe, it's the opera's fault).

Singing is rather first rate. Jessica Pratt delivers an astounding sound with dazzling coloratura and perfect pitch control and dynamics. Her acting however is a bit cold and I might have wanted some more colors in her overall performance (this may be in function of the fact that this entire production seems oddly reserved and restrained). Daniela Barcellona sings very well this Rossinian trouser role, given that she is an expert in this kind of repertory. The comprimarios are all homogeneously good, especially young tenor Bogdan Mihai. The orchestra is correct, without major fireworks.

The bonus feature contains pleasant views of the city of Pesaro, and interviews with the conductor, the stage director, the director of the Rossini festival, and the singers in the main roles of Adelaide, Ottone, and Adelberto.

The stage director correctly identifies this piece as a work with limited theatrical potential and a confusing libretto, and it is understandable that he was trying to do his best to liven up things - a rather successful effort given the beauty of his projections and costumes. Similarly, the conductor highlights the fact that there is masterful music in this piece, but also moments when the composer seems to be a bit lost.

In summary, this is a compelling product, given the perfect technical quality of image and sound, decent insert, rather beautiful staging, and two excellent singers in the principal roles. However, the downside is that one will have to put up with a rather minor Rossini work, that functions best as an opportunity to listen to some beautiful bel canto singing rather than as an opera with theatrical merits. These nice folks from Pesaro and Bologna tried hard, and partially succeeded in making of this a nice product, but this same opera, with less gifted singers and unimaginative staging would have been utterly boring.

So, given the "A" grade production and singing values and the "C" opera, this product gets a verdict of "B," recommended to bel canto fans.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
July 13th, 2013, 02:52 AM
Sigismondo on blu-ray disc, sung in Italian

Dramma per musica (in two acts - premiered at La Fenice on December 26, 1814)
Music by Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)
Libretto by Giuseppe Foppa

This version: recorded live at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, 2010
It uses the critical edition by Paolo Pinamonti, by courtesy of Fondazione Rossini, and the Ricordi publishing house

Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna conducted by Michele Mariotti, chorus master Paolo Vero
Fortepiano Giulio Zappan, violoncello continuo Sara Nanni
Stage direction by Damiano Michieletto
Stage design by Paolo Fantin
Costume design by Carla Teti
Lighting design by Alessandro Carletti

Cast

Sigismondo, king of Poland - Daniela Barcellona
Ulderico, King of Bohemia / Zenovito, Polish nobleman - Andrea Concetti
Aldimira, Ulderico's daughter and Sigismondo's wife - Olga Peretyatko
Ladislao, Sigismondo's First Minister - Antonino Siragusa
Anagilda, Ladislao's sister - Manuela Bisceglie
Radoski, Ladislao's confidant - Enea Scata

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51nkpCtoPnL._SY300_.jpg

This product:

ArtHaus Musik / Unitel Classica blu-ray disc
Image 1080i full HD 16:9
Sound Formats LPCM Stereo, DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1
Optional subtitles in original Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, and Korean
Region Worldwide
Running time 164 minutes (opera) + 19 minutes (Making Of featurette)
Released in 2011

Insert: Credits/Cast, list of tracks with number titles, duration, and characters. A brief 4-page essay with two paragraphs summarizing the plot, and some words about the directorial concept (an insane asylum), repeated in English, French, and German. Two production pictures in color, three in black-and-white. There is also an ArtHaus Musik blu-ray catalog.

The image is of disappointing quality for a blu-ray disc - it plays more like a regular DVD. Sound has adequate balance and clarity with no fireworks.

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Well, to put it mildly, this is not one of Rossini's successes. At age 22 he had already composed 14 operas, some of them extremely well received, but this Sigismondo in its premiere could only be called a flop, and it was greeted with boos from the bored audience. The creative team in this production gushes enthusiastically about its qualities, praising for instance the "experimental' quality of the duet "Tomba di morte" in act 2, with the protagonists revealing different psychological states by engaging in different melodic lines (something Verdi later used extensively in La Traviata). Yeah, yeah, sure. But as a matter of fact, I tend to agree with the booing public in the premiere. What this crew calls the "rich melodic inventiveness" to me sounds rather conventional, and not a good sample of Rossini's indeed spectacular inventiveness that he displayed in other works. He was in transition phase, ending his Northern Italian contracts and getting ready to move to Naples where his talent flourished much more brightly, and I can't help but listen in Sigismondo to a composer who is getting tired of his own beginner style, and is doing one more piece for the Northern Italians before taking on the much more ambitious and fertile environment of the Teatro San Carlo in Naples, where he started to write some of his true masterpieces.

Take the overture, for instance. It is very un-Rossinian. This master of overtures this time produced an overlong piece that sounds rather mundane, with no thrills. The most enjoyment I got from it, came to me thanks to some very cute Italian instrumentalists in the orchestra. Oh boy, Italian women are attractive!

By the way, young and energetic maestro Michele Mariotti is very good in this show, and the Orchestra of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna responds to him in kind, making for one of the high points of this product: we get treated to compelling sounds from the pit.

The singers: Daniella Barcellona is outstanding in her portrayal of the mad king, both vocally and in her acting. Antonio Siragusa is a phenomenal surprise. What gorgeous timbre this tenor has! His delivery is just about perfect, with great musicality, artsy working of the musical line, exquisite pitch control, complete mastery of both the upper and lower ends of his register, and I've already mentioned it, but it is so good that it is worth mentioning it again: a very, very pleasant timbre. Listening to him is one good reason to buy this product. Sometimes we get these incredible Italian tenors from the regional houses, and they are so fabulous! I don't understand why most of the time, they remain local and do not go on to an international career. I'd certainly want to listen live to Mr. Siragusa this side of the pond!

OK, I confess that I bought this blu-ray because I was curious about Ms. Olga Peretyatko. She's been getting those great reviews, and she is oh so attractive! This young lady is really, really pretty, and one wonders what exactly happens in Russia with the human genome, that they are able to churn out one gorgeous woman after the other. I've mentioned the cute Italian instrumentalists, and of course the Brazilians are tough competition as well, but I'd say that these three countries - Russia, Italy, and Brazil, are incredible for the beauty of their women.

Then, sure, it comes with the territory - the inevitable comparison with Anna Netrebko, the prototype and doyenne of this sub-species: the extremely beautiful Russian soprano.

How does Ms. Peretyatko measure up? Well, I'm likely biased, because our fellow Opera Lively members here know very well of my committed admiration for Ms. Netrebko.

So, it's not a surprise that I'll say: Olga doesn't measure up all that well. Oh yes, she is pretty. And yes, she has rather excellent technique. Where is it that she falls flat when compared to Ms. Netrebko? Timbre. Yes, this subjective, pleasant vs. not pleasant quality of a voice that escapes technical analysis, and is a result of a the interaction between depth and resonance and purity of tone and an ethereal aural quality that mix together and deliver this experience that can't be really described in words, and is most responsible for the pleasure that the listener gets from good singing.

I hadn't listened to Ms. Peretyatko yet, so I was looking forward to it. Oh well. I'm disappointed. Her timbre sounds rather generic to me, as opposed to her fellow Russian's voice's exquisite and unique quality.

You know, if you haven't done it yet, you need to sit in the orchestra, center section, and listen to Ms. Netrebko's unamplified, natural voice live in the opera house. I'll tell you, it's an impressive experience. That voice is so beautiful! It has such a unique, blissful timbre!

I actually would say that regardless of technique, timbre is the most fundamental characteristic of a voice.

Sure, I'm listening to Ms. Peretyatko on a blu-ray, not live in the theater, but still, I'm definitely not getting the same experience. Sorry if I'm mean, Ms. Peretyatko, but there is only one Anna Netrebko.

Then, after I've exercised my well known bias, let me address the staging.

Oh boy. I refused to buy this product for a long, long time (until the curiosity about Ms. Peretyatko got the best of me) given that the way this staging depicts mental illness *profoundly* irritates me.

Again, I'm being very biased. This review must be one of the least professional, most partial I've ever published. I realize it; OK, you don't need to remind me of it. I know that what I'm saying is unlikely to match what other opera livers will feel.

But see, I'm a psychiatrist. I've worked in the mental health field for the last 33 years (this is not counting medical school, which would add a few more since my first psychiatric clerkship was in my second year in school). OK, grossly, 35 years. I currently work in a hospital unit with 76 beds.

This staging transposes the action to an asylum for lunatics, and it shows all the twisting, jerking, drooling stereotypes that Hollywood (and bad opera staging) imposes onto the lay public in terms of imagery associated with mental illness.

Guess what? In these 35 years, I've rarely seen such things, in real life. Currently, among the 76 patients in my unit, I'd count 4 that once in a blue moon (more specifically, maybe for three and a half minutes every three months) even remotely behave like the actors in this production do, while depicting mentally ill people. All the other 72 have never engaged in such behaviors. They're just people. Regular people, rather normal-looking people, who happen to have a brain chemistry imbalance, just like other people have imbalances in their pancreas (a.k.a. diabetes) or their lungs (a.k.a. asthma) and so on and so forth. Nice people. Who profoundly suffer from this stigma.

I'm serious about it. Real people in real life get actually hurt by this kind of depiction. Anytime they get discharged and try to resume regular (normal) community living, they face barriers, rejection, and mistrust, because people assume they'll sooner or later behave like these weirdos depicted in this staging, and will be drooling and twitching and will likely turn violent (actually violence among the mentally ill is just a tiny fraction higher - you know, something like 0.5% more or 1 case in 200 - than in the general population).

Anybody who doubts me, feel free to come visit. In the hospital where I work we have a volunteer program; you can come and chat with our patients. If you're seeking some sort of sensational experience, you'll be disappointed. They're just people. Like you and me. They just happen to suffer from some unfortunate conditions, and they are in pain, but they're trying hard to get over it.

So, anyway, enough of a rant. But I can't help but be profoundly irritated by this staging. It is probably tainting my whole appreciation of this, and is spilling over my judgment of other characteristics of this performance, and resulting in this "unimpressed" feeling.

But not entirely. Yes, the maestro, the orchestra, the tenor, and Ms. Barcellona are very good, and Ms. Peretyeatko is candy for the (male) eyes.

But I'm very tempted to cave in to my idyosincratic bias on this one, and say Not Recommended!

Oh well, I haven't even finished watching it yet, but I've experienced the need to come here and vent. To be continued. Maybe I'll change my mind.

OK, further ahead: there are some very good duets. The Rossini aficionado will recognize music that he cannibalized and used in other operas. Olga is *devastatingly* beautiful in second act.

Still, for me, it doesn't do it, but I acknowledge that it's just me.

So, the final verdict is: Not Recommended, if you are me. If you are not me, maybe you'll enjoy it.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
October 26th, 2013, 02:35 AM
Demetrio e Polibio on blu-ray disc

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Demetrio e Polibio, dramma serio in two acts - composition estimated to have happened at some point between 1807 and 1810 - Premiere in Rome on May 18, 1812. Music by Gioachino Rossini. Libretto by Vincenzina Vigano Mombelli.

This is the first performance and recording in the modern era, of Rossini's first opera.

Production of the Rossini Opera Festival 2010
Orchestra Sinfonica G. Rossini, conducted by Corrado Rovaris, using the critical edition by Daniele Carnini (Fondazione Rossini / Ricordi)
Prague Chamber Choir, chorus master Lubomír Mátl
Stage Director Davide Livermore
Video Director Tiziano Mancini
Costumes, props, sets by the Accademia di Belle Arti di Urbino

Cast

María José Moreno - Lisinga
Victoria Zaytseva - Demetrio/Siveno
Yijie Shi - Demetrio/Eumene
Mirco Palazzi - Polibio

A 2011 blu-ray release by Unitel Classica / ArtHaus Musik / Rossini Opera Festival
Picture format 16:9 1080i full HD
Sound formats PCM Stereo, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Region Worldwide
Subtitles Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, Korean
Running time 115 minutes (opera) + 14 mins "Making Of" bonus feature + trailers
Insert with brief essay, synopsis, list of numbers with roles and durations, in English, French, and German

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As far as first operas go, musically this is not bad. Rossini composed this at some point between the ages of 13 and 16, and was paid some change money by the family of singers who "commissioned" it, the Mombelli family. Dad was a tenor, the two daughters were a soprano and a contralto, and the adopted son was a bass. Mom wrote the libretto. Not all of the music is Rossini's, given that Dad also doubled as composer and added some snippets. So, it was called a "family" opera and Rossini didn't take it very seriously, being a little surprised when it premiered as a full opera a few years later.

Given that the above product has no competitor (it's the only recording of this opera), I'd say the Rossini lover should get acquainted with it. But don't expect fireworks. Not only this thing is a bit boring, but the singers are nothing to write home about (generally the two males are a little better than the two females - but all four, while correct, are not extraordinary - one wonders how much better this would be, with a Joyce DiDonato and a Lawrence Brownlee).

Stage direction falls a bit flat. Watching the "Making Of" documentary, one would expect a nice production, but when you go see the real thing, it doesn't translate as well as they expected. Basically they give to characters, doppelgangers who are "ghosts of the opera" and represent the Mombelli family. This complicates matters unnecessarily and gets old fast. If you want to be phantasmagorical with things like floating candles, it's advisable not to let the wires holding the candles in the air be so conspicuous (a problem of the blu-ray disc medium). Also, the flames coming from people's hands get old pretty fast, as well.

The libretto is quite ridiculous, full of disguised identities that make no sense. The King of Syria, Demetrio, wants to recover his son - he had shipped the boy to the neighboring kingdom of Parthia, to keep the boy safe during riots. His envoy died before having the chance of telling Polibio, King of Parthia, of the boy's true identity. Polibio then adopts the boy as his own son. Demetrius comes to Parthia disguised as his own ambassador (why?), and so on and so forth.

Basically, in logical terms this whole mess could have happened in a simpler way:

"Hey, my colleague King Polibio, I'm King Demetrio, and it turns out that the boy you adopted is actually my son. I'd like to have him back."

"Oops," says Polibio, "I wanted to marry him to my biological daughter Lisinga; they love each other, you know?"

"Cool. Lets marry the youngsters, then, and enjoy the perks of becoming two in-law families, which should be good for the ties between our two countries."

"Great idea."

End of the story. Well, instead of this simple state of affairs, we get almost two hours of shenanigans, just to achieve the exact same result above described, at the end.

Sets and the artists themselves are rather unattractive. Costumes are OK. Blocking is sort of confusing. One good point is that the conductor and the orchestra are good. Technically speaking (sound, image), the product is correct.

In summary, a C+ product, only recommended to those who want to be complete in their knowledge of Rossini and want to get acquainted with his first opera.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
November 24th, 2013, 12:27 AM
Mosè in Egitto on blu-ray disc

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Mosè in Egitto, azione tragico-sacra in three acts (March 5, 1818)
Music by Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)
Libretto by Andrea Leone Tottola after the Old Testament and Francesco Ringhieri's L'Osiride

This production is from the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, August 11, 2011
It uses the critical edition by Charles S. Brauner, in collaboration with Ricordi

Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro Comunale di Bologna, conducted by Roberto Abbado; chorus master Lorenzo Fratini
Stage director Graham Vick
Set and costumes Stuart Nunn
Lighting Giuseppe di Lorio
Video Director Tiziano Mancini

Cast

Mosè - Riccardo Zanellato
Faraone, King of Egypt - Alex Esposito
Amaltea, the King's Consort - Olga Senderskaya
Osiride, heir to the throne - Dmitry Korchak
Elcia, a Hebrew young woman - Sonia Ganassi
Mambre, the high priest - Enea Scala
Amenofi, Mosè's sister - Chiara Amarù

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This product is a 2012 release by Opus Arte and Unitel Classica
It can be found on Amazon.com for $25.98 [clicky (http://www.amazon.com/Egitto-Rossini-Opera-Festival-Blu-ray/dp/B009F7YTC4/)] Also available on DVD for $26.99
All regions. Running time 150 minutes (opera) + 20 minutes of bonus features (a cast gallery and a Making Of documentary)
16:9 1081i HD image; LPCM 2.0 and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound tracks
Sung in Italian, with subtitles in English, French, and German (I hate it when there aren't subtitles in original language! Come on, Opus Arte! Lately their products are coming with this horrible flaw!)

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Wow, this is a new (for me) opera by Rossini, one I've never heard or seen before, so I approach it with trepidation. I'm always excited when I encounter for the first time an opera by one of my favorite composers. Mosè in Egitto is said by the great maestro Riccardo Muti to be just a sketch for the better, longer, greatly enhanced Moïse et Pharaon of 1827, the French version with a libretto by by Luigi Balocchi and Victor-Joseph Étienne de Jouy. The French opera which was far preferred by the composer himself, is said to be one of Rossini's greatest accomplishments, and includes another act, ballet music, and so many changes that most scholars consider that it qualifies as a different opera. I do own it as well, but it is also unknown to me thus far, as it sits on my "unlistened to" pile. I intend to listen to it soon, but will start by the original Italian version, given that I have it on blu-ray disc, while the French opera, I only have in audio format (a DVD of it conducted by Muti does exist, I'm tempted - it features, other than the fabulous Barbara Fritolli, two of Opera Lively's interviewees, Abdrazakov and Schrott - on Amazon for 28.96 - [clicky (http://www.amazon.com/Gioachino-Rossini-Pharaon-Riccardo-Muti/dp/B003IP2YFS/)]).

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Wow!

First of all, Rossini's opera is absolutely beautiful! What an intensity of sound, what a pace! What a thrilling ride! Jesus, if the French version is even better than this one like Maestro Muti says, it must be indeed extraordinary! It's hard to imagine how one can improve on this. Well, if someone can, it's Rossini, the under-rated musical genius (people keep forgetting to list him with the greatest composers of all time - I mean, great he is and people do accept this fact - but he is rarely listed among the very greatest, meaning Wagner, Verdi, and Mozart. But I'd say, he belongs there (and Handel does too, of course) especially when one pays attention to his opera seria production (Ermione, Maometto II, Guillaume Tell, La Donna del Lago, etc., and now, I'd include Mosè in Egitto).

Then, what we have in our hands here, folks, is Regie brilliance. Remember, I'm generally prudent about Regie, and I'm very weary of extremes. But of course, there are Regie productions that get it right and enhance the opera.

This production places the action in current-day Middle East, complete with terrorists, suicide bombers, and what not. Risqué, sure, but it does manage to do it right. The result is that instead of a dusty Biblical story, we get dramatic, pungent, relevant impact.

Given that the actors walk around the seats, we see the public quite a lot, and they are nervous, anxious, wide-eyed, because this thing does have emotional punch. When they can get some reprieve, they erupt in wild applause.

Oh well, I like my Regie under three gallons of blood, and this one has a lot more than three gallons. Dear stage directors, please, if you use more than three gallons, the whole affair gets a bit too, well, bloody. A bit over the top. Anyway, nothing is perfect, but I'll take the several gallons of blood when everything else clicks. (PS - The bloody opening scenes did quiet down as the opera went on; maybe they did use less than three gallons, after all, LOL).

This is staged in a basketball arena (one of the venues the Pisaro festival uses - I've seen other productions there), so, there isn't exactly a pit for the orchestra; the musicians are very close to the action, and when these powerful images are superimposed on harps and violins, the effect is very striking. It's hard for me to describe it. It's like, we get all this contemporary relevance, and in between images as crude as the ones in the Death of Klinghoffer DVD, we see the musicians reminding us that this is all being told through Rossini's spectacular music. That's opera, folks!

Add to this, a stunning ensemble performance from these very gifted singers, and you have bliss.

Oh my God, where do they get these incredible singers? Pisaro has this knack for local talent, for these Italian singers who have perfect phrasing, beautiful timbre, great projection, who were born and raised in this operatic environment, and don't go elsewhere. They don't get famous outside Italy, but can put together a spectacular performance when they are home, celebrating their own culture, in the city where Rossini was born.

Singers in all roles are simply phenomenal. Acting is rather good.

I'm very impressed. This is an A++ opera, in an A++ production.

It's not for all tastes. Mosè like many people have said looks like Osama bin Laden. The king of Egypt and his charming queen (another very cute Russian) look like the king of Jordan and his wife. It's all a bit too close for comfort, with these suicidal bomber vests, Jihad-like video messages, machine guns. There is even a scene of torture, and bloody children.

But what a fascinating ride! I'm being highly entertained.

Now, the last one I've reviewed was Meyerbeer's Robert le Diable. Laurent Pelly did his best to make it interesting. But at the risk of comparing apples and oranges, one only needs to listen to this to get the abysmal difference between Rossini's incredibly impressive and thrilling music which conveys true emotion, and Meyerbeer's boring and bombastic style that ends up vapid and empty.

Technically it's all very good - crystalline sound (the 5.1 track provides good immersion and is very well-balanced). The no-nonsense video direction captures very well the important details in this vast stage within a basketball arena. Like I said, one laments the absence of Italian subtitles, and the liner notes don't have a list of numbers and characters, and have a mostly uninformative short essay. But these are pretty much the only aspects one would not like. OK, I'll take one of the + signs from my score, given these technical shortcomings (I really can't start to comprehend, in this day and age, why a major production company like Opus Arte won't include original language subtitles). We're still left with A+. Highly recommended. The Making Of bonus feature is very good, though.

Mind you, I'm still at the exact middle - but I really doubt I'll change my mind about the excellence of this production. If I do, I'll update this post, but it's rather unlikely.

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One thing that I don't understand: in many sources, people refer to this opera as a quasi-Oratorio (even Rossini said something similar). Whaaat? This is extremely theatrical, intense, varied, lively, pulsating. Yes, the topic is biblical, but this is very operatic, not really what I think of, when I think of oratorios. It's rather a roller-coaster ride with several interesting characters and thrilling music, not your usual contemplative church music.

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Wow, what a divine quartet in Act II at about the 1h 38' mark (bummer, no number titles in the liner notes like I said, so I don't know how it's called, but it is gorgeous).

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It's interesting to notice how many times I opened phrases in my review with the word "wow." I could take them down for the sake of a better written review, but no. It conveys my admiration for this opera and this production.

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Powerful, controversial ending for this daring staging, with an Israeli soldier and an Egyptian boy (equipped with bombs).

Sublime music, great staging, phenomenal singers; A+, highly recommended it is, for sure.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
November 28th, 2013, 03:31 AM
Adina on YouTube

Bologna 1981, conductor Tito Gotti
Adina: Carmen Lavani
Il Califfo: Angelo Romero
Mustafà: Mario Chiappi
Selimo: Ernesto Palacio
Alì: Giuseppe Fallisi


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nQ-hXcIE3WA


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4uhWO0jvJWo

Kareol has the libretto: [clicky (http://www.kareol.es/obras/adina/acto1.htm)]

This is not the review of a CD but rather some comments on this obscure Rossini opera. By default I'm placing it here because this is where it can be most useful to other members trying to explore Rossini's output - they'd be more likely to look here for information on this opera.

Adina, ossia Il Califfo di Bagdad, farsa in one act (June 22, 1826, Teatro São Carlos, Lisbon, Portugal, but actually composed 8 years earlier in 1818 when Rossini visited his parents in Bologna)
Music by Gioachino Rossini
Libretto by Marchese Gherardo Bevilacqua-Aldobrandini, based on the libretto by Felice Romano for an opera by Francesco Basilio, Il Califfo e la Schiava.

This is for sure one of the most obscure Rossini operas - it had only one performance in Portugal in 1826 - this is right, only one night! - and then wasn't revived until... 1963, in Siena! Rossini never saw it, since he didn't attend the premiere in Lisbon. It was given again at the Oxford Festival in 1968, in Bologna in 1981, and in Rome in 1992. It has never been performed in the United States.

Rossini cannibalized music from Sigismondo for half of it, composed the other half, plus a couple of arias by other composers. There is no overture, because his contract with the São Carlos didn't specify one, so, he didn't give himself the trouble of composing one. Rossini took little interest on this, and the reason for the delay between completion and premiere is unknown. One of his biographers mentions that this was a "worthless comic opera" that he "incidentally" composed while visiting his parents.

Obviously the biographer never listened to the opera, because it is not worthless, and is not comic. Rossini called it a farse, but it is rather a semi-serious opera, and is in my opinion quite compelling and beautiful.

The plot is very simple and similar to those of Mozart's Seraglio and Glück's La Rencontre Imprévue - Selimo goes to Bagdad with his servant Mustafà to rescue his lover Adina who is about to be married to the Caliph in his harem. The lovers are discovered, Selimo is sentenced to death, but the Caliph sees a medallion in Adina's necklace and realizes that she is his lost daughter. He pardons Selimo and allows the two lovers to get married. Running time is approximately one hour and fifteen minutes, with 14 scenes.

These are the arias / ensembles I liked the most:

Scene IX

Selimo

S'alza la notte. Ascosa
La luna è in ciel. Già copre i passi miei.
Del bell'astro il favor compite, oh Dei!
Salva ed illesa guida a queste braccia
L'adorato mio ben, la bella Adina,
Lei per cui solo respirar desio,
Datele voi coraggio eguale al mio.
Giusto Ciel, che i dubbi miei
Tu conosci e appien intendi,
L'idol mio, deh! a me tu rendi,
Deh! mi calma, per pietà.
Ah! se al sen per un momento
Il mio ben mi stringerà,
Palpitar di bel contento
Questo core allor potrà.

Scena X

Adina

Nel lasciarti, o caro albergo
Di quell'anima ben nata,
Una voce ascolto a tergo
Che mi grida e chiama ingrata!
Ah! parlò con più potenza
Altra voce a questo cor.
Della mia riconoscenza
Trionfò più forte amor.

Scena XI

Califfo

Tu pregar ancor mi puoi?...
Tu per lui?... perfidia estrema!
Va', non t'odo: iniqua, trema,
D'ambedue vendetta avrò!

Also Scena XI

Adina, Selimo, Califfo

Oh qual notte orrenda è questa!
Qual momento, oh Dei! d'orrore.
Fiera in sen mi fan tempesta
Tra l'affanno, sdegno, amore,
E a vicenda, a brani a brani,
Io gli sento il cor spezzar.

Scena XIII

Adina

Dove sono? Ancor respiro?
Egli è spento, oppur deliro?
Ah dov'è l'amante mio?
Chi dal sen me lo strappò?
Voi tacete... intendo... oh Dio!
Il tiranno lo immolò.
Ah! che per piangerlo
Com'io vorrei
Non han più lagrime
Questi occhi miei.
Non basta il pianto
Al mio dolor.

Scena ultima (the 14th and last one, a nice coloratura piece):

Adina

Oh Dio! che comprendere
Sì lieti momenti
Non sanno quell'anime
Avvezze ai contenti,
Che mai compresero
Che cosa è penar.
Per poco lasciatemi
Almen respirar.

Pretty much the entire thing has nice melodies, except for a dull Aria di Sorbetto which is not by Rossini. The libretto is rather lame, but the music is good. This opera is no masterpiece, of course, but could be a good companion for a double bill and in my opinion is worth performing. I give it a score of B+.

The YouTube audio file above has very bad sound quality and seems to be an amateur live recording. It was obviously recorded from one of the front rows in the middle of the public, because there is a lot of coughing, and the orchestra is too loud, with the voices being muffled. The singers are very decent, though, and it does give to the curious Rossini fan an opportunity to get acquainted with this nice little piece.

The opera does exist on CD.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61lGdQY3boL._SL500_SY300_.jpg

It is available from Amazon marketplace vendors for the steep price of $49.95 [clicky (http://www.amazon.com/Rossini-Adina-G/dp/B00000DDF1/)] No references exist that I can find, about the quality of this CD. Judging by the cover, it seems to be a German version. I wouldn't recommend a purchase for this price; I think the YouTube file in spite of its frustrating lack of good sound quality, is enough to display the opera. If this gets republished at a decent price though, I'd buy it, since I did like the work.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
November 29th, 2013, 09:43 PM
Matilde di Shabran on blu-ray disc

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51CP9PxxrCL._SY300_.jpg

Matilde di Shabran, o sia Bellezza, e Cuor di Ferro, melodramma giocoso in two acts, sung in Italian (with parts in Neapolitan dialect in this version), premiered at the Teatro Apollo in Rome, February 24, 1921 with some of the music by Pacini, redone in Naples in December of the same year with Pacini's music cut off and rewritten by Rossini, and a modified libretto.

Music by Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)
Libretto by Giacomo [a.k.a. Jacopo] Ferretti

This production is from the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, August 2012, and uses a new critical edition by Jürgen Selk for the Fondazione Rossini and Casa Ricordi
Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Comunale di Bologna conducted by Michele Mariotti
Chorus Master Lorenzo Fratini; Giulio Zappa repetiteur and fortepiano; Roberto Cima cello continuo

Stage Director Mario Martone
Set Designer Sergio Tramonti
Costume Designer Ursula Patzak
Lighting Designer Pasquale Mari
Directed for video by Tiziano Mancini

Cast

Corradino Cuor di Ferro - Juan Diego Flórez (tenor)
Matilde di Shabran - Olga Peretyatko (soprano)
Raimondo Lopez - Marco Filippo Romano (bass)
Edoardo - Anna Goryachova (trouser role - written for contralto - she is a mezzo)
Aliprando (physician) - Nicola Alaimo (baritone)
Isodoro (poet) - Paolo Bordogna (written for a bass - he is a baritone)
Contessa d'Arco - Chiara Chiali (mezzo)
Ginardo (tower-keeper) - Simon Orfila (bass)
Egoldo (leader of the peasants) - Giorgio Misseri (tenor)
Rodrigo (captain of the guards) - Ugo Rosati (tenor)
Udolfo (gaoler - non-speaking role) - Dario Sallustro

2013 Unitel Classica / DECCA release, a co-production of Unitel Classica, Classica Italia, and the Rossini Opera Festival
(Olga Peretyatko appears courtesy of Sony)
Picture format 1080i60 HD 16:9; sound tracks LPCM 24-bit stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 24-bit Surround
Subtitles in Italian, English, French, and German
All regions
Runtime 220 minutes

Liner notes include credits, a very detailed and comprehensive number list with titles, characters, and duration; a very detailed synopsis with track numbers for each part, a 4-page, in-depth essay on the circumstances of composition, the style (opera semi-seria), and the music by Jürgen Selk that is the abridged version of the Pesaro playbill - the text in English is repeated in French and German. Two color production pictures are on the front and back cover. This documentation is stellar and one of the most complete to be found in recent products.

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This opera semi-seria with elements of comedy and drama has a very convoluted history, even for Rossini who was always getting in this kind of trouble. He had signed a contract to compose an opera called Matilde, setting to music a libretto by an unnamed Neapolitan poet, for the opening night of the Carnival season at the Teatro Apollo in Roma. It turns out that the poet was behind and had only delivered bits and pieces of the libretto. Rossini had composed five numbers for the piece. With the opening night getting closer and with Rossini being unhappy with both the low quality of the libretto and the delay in getting the complete piece, he dropped the Neapolitan poet and contacted his trusted librettist Giacomo Ferretti, with whom he had done La Cenerentola.

Ferretti told him he didn't have the time to restart from scratch on the Matilde storyline, given that he was involved in two other simultaneous projects. He then offered to Rossini the work he had been doing on a play called Corradino il terribile, which was based on a libretto by French playwright François-Benoît Hoffmann for Étienne Méhul's opera Euphrosine et Coradin, ou le Tyran Corrigé (1790). Well, it turns out that Rossini's new opera had already been announced as Matilde, so Euphrosine wouldn't do. No problem, said Ferretti, and he changed the name of the leading female character from Euphrosine to Matilde Shabran (later the "di" in between the two names made an entrance).

Now, Rossini himself, as usual, was behind with the music. So he enrolled the composer Giovanni Pacini to help out and compose some of the numbers, and also recycled some of his own music. The overture came straight from Eduardo e Cristina, and a chorus on Act I as well as the opera's penultimate number "Anima mia, Matilde" came from Ricciardo e Zoraide.

Mishaps continued to happen. Right before opening night, the conductor who was supposed to be at the podium died of stroke, and the French horn player fell ill. Rossini scrambled to find a replacement, and got a young man called... Nicolò Paganini! The latter conducted the premiere *and* played the French horn.

With all this mess, public reaction was mixed, and a street fight broke out at the end of the perform outside of the theater, between Rossini's supporters and detractors. The management got upset and refused to pay Rossini the promised 500 scudi, claiming that the music wasn't all new and wasn't all Rossini's. The composer withdrew his score and appealed to the governor of Rome. Apparently an agreement was reached, since the run was allowed to continue.

Later that year and with more time in his hands, Rossini reworked the score, eliminating and re-writing all the parts by Pacini, and tightening up things a bit with some other cuts. The libretto got some parts adapted to the Neapolitan dialect (notably Isidoro's buffa part), and the recitatives were re-written. Rossini then took the opera to Naples, where it was better received. After the successful Neapolitan run, the improved piece was given in Parma, Florence, and Milan. Vienna soon followed, and London got it the next year, in 1823. It continued to be well performed, and reached Paris in 1829 and New York in 1834. It remained in Paris for many years, and Meyerbeer reported having attended a performance in 1849.

Stendhal said of this opera: "execrable libretto, but pretty music." Indeed the plot is quite convoluted. Local nobleman Corradino is a rather irascible tyrant who hates women and strangers - he is in the habit of killing people who wander into his castle's surroundings. This is exactly what a hungry and thirsty poet - Isidoro - does, and he is promptly aprehended and emprisoned. Meanwhile, Matilde, an orfan whose father on his deathbed entrusted to Corradino as his ward, asks to speak with him. Unlike the romantic heroines of serious operas - remember, this is opera semi-seria - she is cunning and wants to seduce Corradino. The latter has also emprisoned Edoardo, his main enemy Raimondo's son. It turns out that another woman has her sights on Corradino - the Contessa d'Arco, who joins the party trying to chase Matilde away. The two women square up to one another and Matilde gets the upper hand, succeeding in attracting the tyrant's attention. He falls in love with her. She plays the part but seems to have eyes for the prisoner, Edoardo. When the women leave, his personal doctor diagnoses Corradino as being loveskick. He feels he's been bewtched, and enlists the help of the poet Isidoro to do something about it, who proceeds to recite a sonet praising the master. Matilde returns and declares that she loves Corradino - the two of them engage in a love scene that is interrupted by news that Raimondo is coming to rescue his son, not before noticing that the lady also has sympathy for his prisoner Edoardo. He leaves her in charge of the castle and goes to battle. The Contessa bribes Edoardo's guard to release him, hoping that the blame will fall on Matilde, who was after all in charge. That's exactly what happens - while Corradino is confronting Raimondo he sees Edoardo roaming free. He returns to the castle and accuses Matilde, sentencing her to death - she is to be thrown by Isidoro from a mountainside into a torrent. Isidoro doesn't do it but pretends that he did, coming back to the castle and reporting that she is dead. Meanwhile Edoardo shows up claiming that Matilde is innocent, and accusing the Countess. Full or remorse, Corradino wants to throw himself into the torrent. He is stopped by Edoardo who shows up with the still alive Matilde. She forgives him, as long as he promises never to fight Raimondo again. A sonnet is commissioned of Isidoro to celebrate the couple's wedding, and Matilde issues the moral of the story: "Women are born to conquer and rule."

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First impression: not very favorable. This thing is slow. 38' into it, we haven't even seen the two main characters yet, and the pseudo-Figaro buffo character Isidoro is much less interesting than his more successful counterpart, complete with a pseudo-Factotum aria that falls way short of its famous cousin. The recycled overture is not one of Rossini's best.

A bit over-long, I bet, when I think of the 220' running time - OK, here we go, JDF finally shows up so hopefully things will brighten up.

They do. JDF can light any stage on fire. His virtuoso delivery is as good as ever, and immediately it all gets more interesting, which is helped by the fact that another character enters the scene right away, the excellent Nicola Alaimo. We get to a quartet that is quite beautiful, with Corradino, Aliprando, Isidoro, and Ginardo, and all four singers do well.

Sets are simply two large spiral staircases and lighting is of the dark kind. Edoardo's costume is a bit funny - a trouser role with a lot of facial hair - poor Ms. Goryachova does look a bit ridiculous in this. The tessitura of this role does fall a bit low for her, and the lower notes seem strained. Again, Rossini's theatricality and sense of pace seem a bit off in this opera - Edoardo's recitativo and cavatina go on and on, forever.

Hehehe, she certainly looks a lot better without the facial hair:

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And now, finally, with 1 hour, 6 minutes, and 30 seconds into the opera, we get to meet the title role - certainly one of the most delayed entrances I've seen - the lovely Olga Peretyatko, who sings well but looks even better (like my assessment of her in Sigismondo, I'd still say that she has Anna Netrebko-grade looks but doesn't have Anna Netrebko-grade timbre of voice):

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Now we are talking. Olga and Nicola perform with great charm and excellent singing the exquisite duetto "Di capricci, di smorfiette, di sospiri, di graziette" where the stunning soprano gets to praise her own feminine assets, which the doctor is happy to endorse and confirm. Lovely number! It goes on for ten delightful minutes and draws prolonged applause from the public. A curiosity: this beautiful artist is married to the conductor for this performance, maestro Mariotti.

We are at 1h 20' and we meet now the Contessa. Mezzo Chiara Chiali is very good as well, and funny. The scene in which the two ladies exchange verbal jabs at each other, punctuated by coloratura passages, has good comedic potential and is musically pleasant.

A word about acting - Chiara and Olga are very convincing. Juan Diego on the other hand seems less interested than in other roles (perfect singing but sort of disengaged acting). I would have liked an Isidoro with a bit more comic flair: Paolo Bordogna is effectively the weak link in this performance - he really doesn't pull it off. His character is sort of Papageno, and it requires a funny actor. Mr. Bordogna is not funny. Most of the time he is just awkward there, and his singing is so-so. He almost sinks this thing, because it is the main buffo role in a semi-seria opera so he should be carrying on his shoulders the comedic part, but he doesn't. It could have been so much better! At one point I'm starting to get really irritated with him.

Just to remind us of Rossini's bel canto credentials, we get to a rather impressive quintet scene with four musical numbers - it's very beautiful but has the whooping duration of 22 minutes! Dear Rossini, have your left home your pair of scissors? And it also starts very ponderous, but then lightens up. This is the problem with the opera semi-seria sub-genre: as the name indicates, this kind of piece is always indecisive between comedy and drama, and frankly, I prefer the all-comedy kind or the all-drama kind, so I'm quite sure that while I'll find a lot to enjoy in Matilde di Shabran, it likely won't be listed among my favorite Rossinis. The last part of the quintet gets your standard Rossini crescendo in rapid-fire patter mode. It is always uncanny to see how well the master deals with this kind of number.

What follows is well into buffo territory. Incidentally, for those among us who appreciate ladies' cough cough assets cough cough, we get on track 31, "Piacere ugual gli Dei non ponno immaginar," a very generous display of Ms. Peretyatko's considerable strengths in this area, which is exactly what Corradino is singing about - that such pleasures one can get from these cough cough female assets cough cough not even the gods can imagine (I wholeheartedly agree). Still, Mr. Flórez seems curiously unfazed and the chemistry between the two artists never flares up, which I can understand because three yards from him, the real-life husband of his gorgeous companion is there frenetically waving his arms, and I can imagine, staring coldly at him and implying "beware, buddy, I'm watching you."

The Act I finale is beyond what Rossini can do. The very, very, very long act I is over. 2 hours, 16 minutes! This is preposterous in terms of act duration. Thankfully, act II is shorter. We'll see. As of now, I'm not impressed.

Act II opens with a pleasant chorus, after some recitative that unfunny Paolo Bordogna as usual manages to ruin. Gosh, I hate this guy. I guess, I said his singing is so-so just because I'm irritated with his lack of comic flair in such a fundamental role (hey, Pesaro, look more carefully at your casting!), but I was kind of biased. The guy can sing, I'll give him that. It's just that he can't act and has this constant sad face that is expressionless, while he's supposed to be making us laugh! Not!

OK, now, this is incredible. At 2 hours and 25 minutes we are getting a new character, Raimondo. Whoa. Talk about slow-moving plot! Nice, decent singer.

I can't believe there is still 1h, 10' to go.

I'm ready to give my verdict, and of course if I change my mind I'll edit, but I don't think I will.

The opera: a mess. Rossini this time got into more trouble than he's known for. See, Guillaume Tell is really long and it's almost impossible to perform without cuts (or else you'll have to pay the orchestra a lot of overtime and you'll go broke), but then, the music is so sublime that it is hard to see what to cut. Over here, that's not the situation. There is compelling music, but most of the time there are boring fillers and it's *way too long!* This opera could use 40% of cuts (it would then drop to about two hours and ten minutes) and the boring music wouldn't be missed.

Now, this said, and because the composer is a genius, there are still very good bits! For example, other than the ones I've already commented upon, the dramatic parts in Act II when Matilde is being blamed and condemned to death are very good both dramatically and musically. The second act's (and opera) finale is very good.

The production: I usually like minimalist stagings, but this one is just too generic, doesn't add anything to the opera. The costumes are nice, though - and I love the simplicity and sensuality of Olga's red gown.

The cast: Basically we get an *outstanding* bel canto tenor who is a pleasure to hear, and a *stunningly* beautiful soprano (of course this is only a compelling reason to like this production if you are a member - like me - of the chunk of humankind that loves women), plus some other very interesting artists (Alamo for sure, Chiali too, and Goryacheva a bit less) and good comprimarios - but you also have a train wreck in Paolo Bordogna (not in his singing, but in his incredibly miscast acting).

The product: Impeccable, with phenomenal documentation, image, and sound.

So, it's a bit hard to give a verdict - is this recommended or not?

I'll say, it is. Anytime you can hear the fabulous voice of Juan Diego Flórez, see eye candy like Olga Peretyatko, and on top of this, you get good support from someone like Nicola Alaimo, some (very) nice Rossini numbers (even though they are drowned in over-long less good fillers), and it's all packaged with flawless documentation and technical specs, you won't really waste your money. So, yes, buy it. B+ - although the price on Amazon is a bit stiff for what it offers ($38) - [clicky (http://www.amazon.com/Rossini-Matilde-Di-Shabran-Blu-ray/dp/B00DGPHKAO/)].

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
November 30th, 2013, 03:30 AM
Torvaldo e Dorliska on DVD

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Torvaldo e Dorliska, dramma semiserio in two acts, sung in Italian (premiered at the Teatro Valle in Rome, December 26, 1815)
Music by Gioachino Rossini
Libretto by Cesare Sterbini, based on Les amours du chevalier de Faublas by Jean-Baptiste Louvet de Couvrai

This production is from the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, recorded live in August 2006, and it uses the critical edition by Francesco paolo Russo for the Fondazione Rossini and Casa Ricordi

Orchestra Haydn di Bolzano e Trento, conducted by Víctor Pablo Pérez
Prague Chamber Chorus, chorus master Lubomír Mátl
Fortepiano Giulio Zappa; cello continuo David Ethève
Stage director Mario Martone
Set designer Sergio Tramonti
Costume designer Ursula Patzak
Light designer Cesare Accetta

Cast

Dorliska - soprano - Darina Takova
Duca d'Ordow - bass - Michele Pertusi
Torvaldo - tenor - Francesco Meli
Giorgio - baritone - Bruno Praticò
Carlotta - mezzo - Jeanette Fischer
Ormondo - bass - Simone Alberghini

2007 release by Dynamic SRL Italy
Image format NTSC 16:9; sound tracks Linear PCM 2.0 and DD 5.1
Subtitles in Italian, English, German, French, and Spanish
All regions
Runtime 157 minutes - no extras
Liner notes in Italian, English, German, and French with two production pictures in color and one in black-and-white plus pictures of five artists; credits; track list with the names of musical numbers and characters but no durations; 2-page essay and 2-page synopsis in four languages

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Unlike the opera I've just reviewed above, this one moves a lot faster and is tighter and more polished. It's a "rescue" opera with the usual triangle - the soprano loves her tenor husband (the two title characters); the evil Russian duke wants her, and plots to kill the husband, which he believes he has accomplished, but the husband survived. Both separately wash out in the Duke's castle and are imprisoned; various servants try to help her; at the end villagers storm the castle, free them and take the Duke to be killed elsewhere.

Even though the plot is conventional and trite, the libretto has good literary quality, and it must be noticed that this collaboration between Rossini and Sterbini shortly afterwards resulted in the great Il Barbiere di Siviglia.

I'm fatigued after having tackled the 220 minutes of Matilde di Shabran, so I won't publish a detailed review.

This Pesaro production is very good. Sets are a little garish but period costumes are nice. Singers are *very* good across the board with no weak links - an admirable ensemble job, with local, unknown singers who nevertheless perform exquisitely will well modulated and powerful voices, nice Italianate phrasing, above-average acting, and the leading lady is good-looking. The orchestra, chorus, and conductor do well (the fortepiano + cello for the recitatives instead of just one instrument add some nice color).

This work is entirely satisfactory with good pace and dramatic intensity, and the music moves along in lively and rousing fashion. There are crescendi done for dramatic build-up rather than for comic purposes - the score is typical Rossini.

This is not one of the dozen or so of Rossini's masterpieces, but is not among the bottom dwellers either. It's a solid middle-range Rossini work. It can be called a sleeper, given that it is stage-worthy but rarely given - for example, it has never made it to London or New York although most major European capitals have seen productions of it. Modern productions include 1987 in Vienna, 1989 in Savona, and this one in Pesaro in 2006.

The product itself has relatively poor image, but good sound. The liner notes are short but decent. It's a product with no frills, but nothing essential is missing, either.

It is priced at $36 on Amazon [clicky (http://www.amazon.com/Torvaldo-E-Dorliska-Darina-Takova/dp/B000WPJ806/)] and is a recommended purchase, grade A-.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
December 2nd, 2013, 11:39 PM
Aureliano in Palmira on DVD

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Aureliano in Palmira, dramma serio in two acts, sung in Italian (December26, 1813 – Teatro alla Scala, Milan)
Music by Gioachino Rossini
Libretto by Giuseppe Felice Romani

This product contains the recording of a live performance at the 37th Valle d’Itria Festival
Recorded at the Palazzo Ducale in Martina Franca, July 17, 2011
Orchestra Internazionale d’Italia conducted by Giacomo Sagripanti
Slovak Choir from Bratislava – Chorus master Pavol Procházka
Continuo Daniela Pellegrino, fortepiano
Stage director Timothy Nelson
Sets Tiziano Santi
Costumes Michelle Cantwell
Choreography Nikos Lagousakos

Cast
Aureliano – Bogdan Mihai (tenor)
Arsace – Franco Fagioli (countertenor)
Zenobia – Maria Aleida (soprano)
Publia – Asude Karayavuz (mezzo)
Oraspe – Mert Süngü (tenor)
Licinio – Masashi Mori (bass)
Gran Sacerdote d’Iside – Luca Tittoto (bass)
Vecchia Zenobia – Louise Frank

2012 release by Bongiovanni
Liner notes include credits, list of numbers with characters, a 4-page essay in Italian and English, a 2-page synopsis in Italian, English, and Japanese; and another 2-page essay by the artistic director of the Valle d’Itria Festival, 5 black-and-white and 2 color production pictures, and the artistic biographies of the conductor and the stage director. The essays and the biographies are in Italian and English; no Japanese.
Subtitles in Italian and English
Picture 16:9 NTSC, sound PCM stereo only.
All regions
Running time 176 minutes; no extras
Available on Amazon.com for $30 [clicky (http://www.amazon.com/Rossini-Aureliano-Palmira-Bogdan-Mihai/dp/B009L4DT7W/)]

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This is an obscure Rossini opera that has never been staged in the United States, and wasn’t well received in its premiere in Milan either. It was deemed boring by the local press (although this is disputable, given that it does contain some beautiful parts). The initial run had 14 performances, and it did make it into Vicenza, Venice, Barcelona, Lisbon, Corfu, Buenos Aires, and London. The first modern revival was in 1980 in Genoa, followed by Lucca in 1990, 1996 in Wildbad, and in London in 2010.

Its claim to fame, however, is based on two characteristics:
1) Iit is the only Rossini opera with a role written for a castrato, Giovani Battista Velluti who sang Arsace in the premiere.
2) It contains the original overture that was to later be recycled for Elisabetta, Regina d’Inghilterra, and more famously, for Il Barbiere di Siviglia. It also contains more music that was recycled for the Barber, including the first few bars of Rosina’s ‘Una voce poco fa’ which comes from Arsace’s coloratura rondò about mid-way into Act II ‘Non lasciarmi in tal momento,’ and also Almaviva’s ‘Ecco ridente in cielo’ which derives from a chorus number called ‘Sposa del grande Osiride’ which is the opera’s opening scene.

Part of the Milanese press’ negative take on this opera could have been due to comparisons with Rossini’s very successful efforts that preceded this opera: Tancredi, L’Italiana in Algeri, and La Pietra del Paragone. It was based on the spectacular reception by public and critics alike for these three pieces that La Scala commissioned Aureliano in Palmira, and they were disappointed as it didn’t live up to the high quality of its predecessors. It is not considered to be so bad, these days, and it is deemed stage-worthy for the occasional revival, such as this one in 2011 in Martina Franca, Italy. Rossini himself obviously thought that some of his music for this opera was very good and did not deserve ostracism, which prompted him to recycle it into his Barbiere.

There are two wild stories about it – that it was actually written by a lesser librettist called Gian Francesco Romanelli (as the libretto was just signed G.F.R.) like one of my sources says (but this is strongly denied by the liner notes on this DVD), and that Rossini was turned off by the coloratura variations that Velluti impacted on his part, to the point that the composer from that point on took the trouble of writing the coloratura parts in full in his future scores – this story which was started by Stendhal is strongly denied by both my sources, and by the essay in the liner notes, which insist that nothing supports this version, given that there is no demonstrable difference in Rossini’s scores before and after this opera, regarding his settling of the coloratura.

The plot is set in Syria circa 271-272 AD, and based on historical facts, when the Roman Emperor Lucius Domitius Aurelianus defeated and captured the Syrian queen Zenobia, and laid waste to her country of Palmira in the Syrian desert. Arsace, prince of Persia, is in love with Zenobia, and at the end of the opera Aureliano magnanimously frees Zenobia and Arsace, who then proclaim their loyalty to Rome.

It is interesting to notice that one of the artists in this DVD, Maria Aleida, was interviewed by Opera Lively a few months ago on the occasion of her appearance in a production of The Magic Flute by Opera Carolina [clicky (http://operalively.com/forums/content.php/745-The-Queen-of-the-Night-at-Opera-Carolina-Maria-Aleida)].

This production is by very young people: the average age of the artists including all singers, the conductor, and the stage director is 27. The video recording was not originally intended for DVD release, but apparently the performance drew so much applause that this Italian company decided to publish it commercially. No critical edition of this opera exists yet – one is in preparation by the Fondazione Rossini and Casa Ricordi – therefore the conductor makes no claim of authenticity for some parts, given that the score he had at his disposition was somewhat incomplete.

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The sound for this DVD does confirm the notice that this recording was never intended for commercialization, given that it does appear a bit amateurish, with microphones that are too sensitive and pick up a lot of stage and audience noise, including the shuffling of score pages. Image is also a bit dark and lacking crisp definition – but nothing too bad that would impact on the enjoyment of the performance. Set design is simple – it uses the real stairs and façade of the Palazzo Ducale, with some Roman columns. But then, warriors have modern machine guns – a tired cliché in stage direction.

The overture is conducted on the slow side (although I don’t know if Rossini later accelerated the tempo for his Barbiere) but with enthusiasm, by this orchestra that seems rather decent.

The first singer to enter the stage after the opening choral number (performed very well by this Slovak chorus) is Luca Tittoto, and his voice is powerful and well modulated. Next we hear Maria Aleida who has a beautiful timbre and does well although with a somewhat small instrument. Then, we listen to Franco Fagioli and I definitely do not like his delivery (maybe I’ve been spoiled by listening to countertenors of superior quality). Mert Süngü soon makes his entrance, and he also holds promise as a singer.

The impression of an amateur performance continues, as the make-up in Tittoto’s neck is peeling off and we can see plastic sheets. But let’s not be picky; I do enjoy his singing quite a lot.

The Roman soldiers have Scottish kilts (why, oh why? See, this is the kind of touch by these stage directors that I find quite ridiculous). So, we get costumes that are all over the place. Zenobia is dressed in a traditional Arab white gown, but Publia comes in a modern, Western night dress. Anyway, what is saving these staging shortcomings is that most singers are very good – young Bogdan Mihai is truly excellent and the best singer so far.

Aureliano’s cavatina ‘Cara patria! Il mondo trema’ is quite beautiful, and the second best number so far, after the exquisite opening chorus (well, not counting the superb overture).

Indeed the libretto could use some tightening. Aureliano and Arsace engage in a long dialogue where the former asks the latter to abandon Zenobia, in which case he will be freed; Arsace declines and says he is ready to die for his beloved. Well, then, the whole thing is displayed again (with different words and music – the two characters go again over the same points they had just made): only one such scene would be enough. On the upside, the countertenor seems to be warming up and his delivery is improving. He does overact, with lots of grimacing.

Comprimario roles are also well sung by Mr. Mori and Ms. Karayavuz. This young cast in general is very good (more in voice than in acting). Musically this DVD is quite compelling, in spite of the so-so staging and a couple of technical shortcomings in audio and lighting.

By now Maria Aleida is also warming up and she actually is doing a lot better than when I saw her live in Charlotte – although it is hard to say because these singers in this production all have microphones for the capture of the sound track. She also looks very cute. Her high notes are pure and crystalline. She does a mightily beautiful high E at the end of ‘Arsace, Arsace mio.’

The Act I finale is quite beautiful, recovering music from the overture. I generally like this opera although indeed it is long and has slow pace, but it seems better than what I anticipated when I read its description in some books. It is ponderous. It could use shortening and a more dynamic pace. But there is no doubt that most of the music is very beautiful.

Aureliano by now is wearing a contemporary suit and tie. Sigh…

Into about one third of act II there is a sublime chorus, ‘L’Asia in faville è volta’ – one of the most beautiful by Rossini, in my opinion. It is followed by the familiar overture music, and this moment in itself is worth the revival of this opera. Two numbers later we get the melody that survived as ‘Una voce poco fa.’ Here our countertenor who started poorly, warmed out and did well, now is declining again, appearing fatigued and his coloratura ornamentations aren’t the most pleasant, and he has agility trouble – the orchestra needs to slow down considerably, to rescue him.

The two other leading singers continue to impress – Aleida and particularly Mihai, who is someone whose career should be followed. The role of Zenobia is a bit too lachrymose; poor Maria Aleida has to constantly engage in lamentations and this can be a bit tiresome and repetitive – but in each individual piece, she does well.

Sets in the second act evolve a bit, with more walls and even trees being added to the stage. By the way, I forgot to comment upon the silent presence of an older woman who is supposed to represent Zenobia in her old age, looking back at these events (a directorial touch not in the libretto).

OK, the opera continues with more of the same (for example, a nice love duet with Arsace and Zenobia, ‘Mille sospiri e lacrime’).

Curiously, the joyous scene at the end is not that joyful. It’s like this opera is so ponderous, that it was difficult for Rossini to turn all ‘happy ending’ all of a sudden (not to forget that the emperor’s change of heart in the last minute after three hours of hateful speech seems quite unconvincing – oh well, that’s opera for ya).

There’s a member of the audience who shouts ‘brava’ to the countertenor and ‘bravo’ to the soprano, during the curtain calls. Go figure…

What is the verdict?

There is no doubt in my mind that this is a recommended buy. In spite of the opera’s slow pace, repetitious situations, and over-long libretto clocking at almost three hours of basically the same situation repeated over and over (yes, we get it, Zenobia and Arsace love each other and they are not giving it up, Aureliano feels enraged and jealous; the two lovers are constantly either wishing for death or being threatened with death, until the improbable change of heart by the title character which comes as a Deus ex machine), it contains very beautiful music, and it is historically important as the origin of some of Rossini’s most memorable tunes. It is also curious to see a Rossini opera with a castrato role, now performed by a countertenor. Besides, this performance is musically very good, with a talented cast of young singers who are all between good and great (even the countertenor who struggles in several parts, does have his good moments as well). The documentation is good. The technical aspects are not ideal but one can forgive them, given that this recording was for internal use and was not supposed to have been released commercially: in these circumstances, the quality is quite acceptable.

I’d say, this product ranks between B and A-, depending on what aspects one values most. If you like good singing and beautiful music, it’s A-. If you want your operas to be tighter with better pace, and your stagings and technical packages to be a bit more polished, then it’s B.

A good compromise would be to call it B+, which sounds about right because it still falls on the “recommended” range.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
December 4th, 2013, 05:01 AM
L'Inganno Felice on CD

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L'Inganno Felice, Farsa in musica in un atto, sung in Italian (premiered January 8, 1812 at the Teatro San Moisè in Venice)
Music by Gioachino Rossini
Libretto by Giuseppe Foppa after Giuseppe Palomba's libretto for an opera of the same name by Paisiello
This Naxos CD released in 2008 contains the revised edition of the opera prepared by Florian Bauer for the Rossini in Wildbad Festival

2 discs, DDD, recorded live in July of 2005 at the Königliches Kurtheater, in Bad Wildbad, Germany, in concert performance; a co-production of the Rossini in Wildbad Festival and SWR.

CD 1 - 51'21"
CD 2 - 34'17"
Total runtime 1h25'38"

Available on Amazon.com for $18 [clicky (http://www.amazon.com/LInganno-Felice-Tarver/dp/B0018D89E2/)]

The liner notes contain credits, list of tracks with names of musical numbers, characters, and duration; a 2-page essay, a 2-page synopsis, headshots and artistic biographies of the artists, one color photo of the artists. No libretto. A link to the Italian libretto (no English translation) on the Naxos site is provided: [clicky (http://www.naxos.com/libretti/660233.htm)]

Kareol contains the libretto in Italian with Spanish translation: [clicky (http://www.kareol.es/obras/lingannofelice/acto1.htm)]

The Czech Chamber Soloists from Brno - conducted by Alberto Zedda
Harpsichord - Gianni Fabbrini

Cast:

Bertrando, Kenneth Tarver, tenor
Isabella, Corinna Mologni, soprano
Tarabotto, Lorenzo Regazzo, bass
Batone, Marco Vinco, bass
Ormondo, Simon Bailey, bass

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This one-act farsa is the least known of Rossini's five short operas written for Venice (together with La Cambiale di Matrimonio, La Scala di Seta, Il Signor Bruschino, and L'equivoco Stravaganti), in spite of the fact that at the time of its creation, it was actually the most successful of the five, having enjoyed 14 performances in its initial run, and having received enthusiastic applause of public and critics alike. At the end of its first decade of existence it was the third most performed Rossini opera with 61 performances, behind Tancredi and L'Italiana in Algeri but ahead of Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Otello. The second decade saw more than 100 performances. After Venice, the opera was rapidly given in Florence, Barcelona, Munich, Dresden, Vienna, Lisbon, Lucca, and Siena. In the 1830's it reached Santiago de Chile, Berlin, New York (1833), New Orleans, Milan, Naples, Florence, Paris, Warsaw, London, and Madrid.

It is not a comedy, but rather an opera semiseria, which is the same genre of Torvaldo e Dorliska, Matilde di Shabran, and La Gazza Ladra. This is likely to explain the fact that after being one of the most successful works by Rossini in the 19th century, it rapidly disappeared from the repertoire in the 20th century, given the general dislike of the public for the semiserio sub-genre. After its last 19th century showing in 1878, it was only revived in 1952 in Rome. Then for the next 40 years it had sporadic productions in Bologna, Naples (twice), Palermo, Buenos Aires, Wexford, Pesaro (twice) and Verona. It only returned to Germany in 2002 in Karlsruhe, and then it had the production recorded on this CD in 2005 in Bad Wildbad.

The opera is scheduled to return to Pesaro a third time, in August of 2014.

Like other semiserie operas, the plot is of the "rescue" kind where the innocent are vindicated at the end. In this one-act work, the faithful wife unjustly accused of infidelity, disowned, and finally taken back again by her husband once her innocence is recognized and the bad people are punished.

The opera is set in the vague distant past in Italy, in a seaside mining town.

The background to the story is supposed to have happened before the curtain goes up. The happily married Isabella rejects the advances of evil Ormondo who then spreads false rumors about her reputation. He then pays another villain, Batone, to cast her adrift on a boat on the sea. She is saved by a local miner, Tarabotto, who disguises her as his nice Nisa. Isabella's husband, Duke Bertrando, still loves her in spite of having believed in her guilt. On the occasion of a vist to the mines, the duke arrives with Ormondo and Batone. the latter realizes that Nisa is Isabella in disguise. He and Ormondo plot to kidnap her that night but Tarabotto unmasks them, The duke is still in love with his wife even though he believes the rumours that she was unfaithful to him. Batone catches sight of "Nisa" and realises she is Isabella in disguise. He plots with Ormondo to abduct her that night but Tarabotto overhears their plan. The two villains are unmasked, not before the hidden duke overhears Ormondo confessing that the rumors he spread about her were lies. The duke recognizes his wife when "Nisa" shows everyone a portrait of the duke she had kept with her. They reunite, and while Ormondo is punished, Isabella magnanimously pardons Bartono who claims to have acted under duress. Happy ending.

Musically the piece was extensively modified with time, given its popularity and diversity of productions. Most notably, Isabella's aria got reworked by different composers. The version presented on this CD for Isabella's aria is the one from Milan in 1816, and it was edited and orchestrated by Stefano Piano. The opera consists of nine numbers, including the overture. In spite of its semiserio theme, the musical structure is similar to that of a typical Rossini opera buffa. A curiosity is that in the overture we can listen to the very first Rossini crescendo, still rudimentary - as we know, this device evolved into one of the most popular hallmarks of Rossini's operas.

This piece's lively and compelling music has been compared to that of Paisiello, Cimarosa, and Mozart.

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This opera is a bit weird with the buffo style of singing and orchestration with the embryonic crescendo, but with dramatic undertones. But it works, because it is compact, simple and direct, and it contains beautiful music. A trio, 'Quel sembiante, quello sguardo' is very well contrasted (this number recycles a bit of L'Equivoco Stravagante). The final quintet 'Tacita notte amica' that lasts for 15 minutes is very pleasant with its rhythmic but slow structure. Jumpier and more ornamented is Isabella's cabaletta 'Al più dolce e caro oggetto.'

This work is indeed more complex and deeper than the other short operas of the same period, and it seems strange that its quality was recognized at the time, but then it fell into oblivion, as compared to its perhaps less worthy companions.

This recording is a bit thin with its chamber orchestra, and the soloists while correct, don't dazzle. But the sound is pure, with no ambiance noise in spite of it being a live recording, and the balance between the singers and the orchestra is good. It is of course regrettable that an English translation of the libretto is not available with this product. It doesn't bother me, because I can follow the Italian with the help of the Spanish translation for the more difficult parts, but not being able to understand the words must be a bit frustrating for those who don't speak these languages.

Thiks opera is ultimately forgettable and not something one would feel compelled to hear over and over again, beyond a pleasant function of background music (I can see myself listening to it again on the car during commutes), but it is well worthy at least one occasion of attentive listening.

Recommended to Rossini lovers for the sake of completeness. For others, it's optional. Overall, grade B. Maybe I'm being a bit too harsh on it, which could be due to the fact that just like many other people, I'm not particularly fond of opera semiseria. As a good representative of its subgenre, however, it could be rated higher, but from me it only gets a B. Another reason for my B is be the fact that this entire concert performance does feel a bit bland. I wonder if Marc Minkowski with a HIP ensemble and Annick Massis did better and provided more nuance and more energy; I bet it's the case (when I bought my CD above, I missed the existence of this one which is likely to be a better choice):

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[clicky (http://www.amazon.com/Rossini-LInganno-Felice-Gioachino/dp/B000005E59/)]

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
December 5th, 2013, 12:55 AM
Bianca e Falliero on DVD

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Available on Amazon.com for $35 [clicky (http://www.amazon.com/Rossini-Bianca-Falliero-Mar%C3%ADa-Bayo/dp/B000HOJTXI/)]

Bianca e Falliero, ossia il consiglio dei tre - melodramma in two acts, sung in Italian (premiered at La Scala in Milan on December 26, 1819)
Music by Gioachino Rossini
Libretto by Felice Romani, based on Antoine-Vincent Arnault's 1798 stage play Les Vénitiens, ou Blanche et Montcassin.

Orchestra Sinfónica de Galicia conducted by Renato Palumbo
Prague Chamber Choir, chorus master Lubomír Mátl
Fortepiano Gianni Fabrinni; Cello continuo Paolo Pucci

This production of the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, Italy, uses the critical edition by Fondazione Rossini and Casa Ricordi, edited by Gabriele Doto. It was recorded live at the Teatro Rossini in Pesaro, in August of 2005

Stage director Jean-Louis Martinoty
Costume designer Daniel Ogier
Set designer Hans Schavernoch
Video director tiziano Mancini

Cast

Bianca (soprano) María Bayo
Falliero (mezzo) Daniela Barcellona
Contareno (tenor) Francesco Meli
Capellio (bass) Carlo Lepore
Costanza (soprano) Ornella Bonomelli
Priuli (bass) Dario Benini
Loredano (bass) Jirí Prudic
Officer/Usher (tenor) Karel Pajer
Chancellor (tenor) Stefan Cifolelli

A 2006 Dynamic SRL Italy release on DVD, all regions, image NTSC 16:9 filmed in HD, subtitles in Italian, English, German, French, and Spanish. Sound tracks linear PCM 2.0 and DTS surround.

Running time 183 minutes

The liner notes include the track list with musical numbers names and characters (no duration), a 2-page essay in Italian, English, German, and French, and a brief synopsis in two paragraphs in the same four languages.

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Time and place, 17th Century Venice according to several sources (the DVD says 12th century; maybe a typo).

To make peace with his enemy Senator Capellio of a rival family, nobleman Contareno offers him his daughter Bianca in marriage. Biance loves General Falliero, who returns victorious from war and after much back and forth, bursts onto her wedding ceremony. Bianca rebels and refuses to sign the marriage certificate. Her father chases out Falliero but she continues to refuse the deal. Falliero is arrested and charged with treason for hiring in the Spanish embassy. He is supposed to be tried by the Consiglio dei Tre, a juri made of Contareno, Capellio and Loredano. Falliero refuses to defend himself but Bianca advocates passionately for him, which ends up convincing Capellio who allows the two lovers to have their happy ending (unlike the stage play, which ends with Falliero sentenced to death).

Rossini composed this opera right after his successful premiere of La Donna del Lago in Naples. He took a leave of absence from the San Carlo in Naples to spend a little less than two months in Milan and fulfill a commission from La Scala. Its reception was lukewarm at first, but it did run for 39 performances at La Scala, then reached Lisbon in 1824, Vienna the next year, and Barcelona in 1830. After its last performance of the 19th century in Cagliari in 1846, the opera fell in oblivion until its first modern revival in 1986 at the Rossini Festival in Pesaro, with Katia Ricciarelli, Marilyn Horne, and Chris Merritt. It's first US performance happened the next year in Miami. It has yet to be staged in the United Kingdom.

This rather obscure opera's biggest claim to fame is the quartet 'Cielo, il mio labbro ispira' in Act II (the judgment scene) which survived the opera in popularity and was reworked by Rossini a few times. It was one of Stendhal's favorite Rossini pieces.

Rossini's pleasant overture is a true pasticcio of several of his own pieces, an andante already heard in Ricciardo e Zoraide, a tune from act I of La Donna del Lago, and a crescendo from the overture of Eduardo e Cristina. The remainder of the opera, however, doesn't borrow a lot of music, except for reusing in 'Teco io resto: in te rispetto' some parts of the rondo finale of La Donna del Lago ('Tanti affetti').

The opening chorus 'Dalle laguna Adriache' is quite beautiul, and allows the soloists to come to the stage wearing brightly colored Venetian carnival costumes, over a backdrop that depicts the city of Venice, with a *huge* Venetian lion on top (too big to my taste). Blocking seems to be a bit confused and the small stage of the Teatro Rossini looks overcrowded. Large glass doors close upon the backdrop and the characteres are on, starting by a duet between Cantareno and Capellio (the former on a wheelchair, then on crutches). Neither singer impresses me very favorably (but it is never wise to judge too soon since singers often warm up and get better as an opera goes on). I kind of doubt that Francesco Meli will recover, though. His instrument seems thin and with an unpleasant timbre. We then get another short chorus, again with bad blocking and overcrowding, with these garish and tasteless sets. Singers wear contact mikes. Some other unimpressive comprimarios come up, and then the sixth number brings us Daniela Barcellona (with a rather ridiculous costume) who immediately raises up significantly the level of singing - she is several notches above her peers and seems quite convincing in this trouser role.

Pace is very interrupted by the recitativos. At three hours, I'm anticipating that this opera will suffer from theatrical problems, and the rather unfortunate staging most likely won't be of any help. Orchestral playing is kind of muddled - a problem that might be one of sound engineering, but might as well be due to a not-so-good orchestra. To make it all a bit more irritating, it seems like these people engage in curtain calls between scenes, a practice I abhor (it destroys the experience of immersion).

Well, Rossini composed this opera sandwiched between two of his spectacular masterpieces, La Donna del Lago, and Maometto II. It doesn't seem like our composer put as much work on it as he did for the two outstanding pieces that surround it in time. This Act I is definitely musically uneven. Sources do say that act II is better; we shall see.

At 40' we get to hear for the first time our title role heroine, Bianca. Ms. María Bayo is not bad. She attacks well her first coloratura aria, 'Della rosa il bel vermiglio." Unfortunately, the aria itself is not that good and falls below the master composer's usual standards. It just seems quite conventional and not distinctive like our musical genius is capable of penning. The next number, also by Bianca, is the cabaletta part of the scene, called 'Oh! Serto beato!' and it is clearly more compelling, with a lighter, happy character. It is not easy with a wide range, and requires agility. Ms. Bayo who is warming up quite fast, does even better on this even though she goes off pitch a couple of times and her acting is not the greatest.

The next scene is very much better and features Contareno in a beautiful soulful aria 'Pensa che omai resistire' followed by a fiery cabaletta, with choral punctuations. This opera finally starts to sound like Rossini. I look forward to the Act I finalle which is considered to be quite good - still a while to get there, though, in this first act that is very long (1h 45').

We get next a long scene between Bianca and Falliero, full to the brim with coloratura - this is likely part of the reason why the Milan critics did not review this opera favorably as they were at the time weary of coloratura singing. While the music is nice, the scene is theatrically overlong. It gets more beautiful when the two singers merge their voices in the exquisite duet 'Cielo, il mio labbro ispira.' While Barcellona continues to modulate very well, Bayo continues to have off-pitch moments. One craves this same piece with two outstanding singers instead of just one. Staging does get a bit more creative here, making use of mirrors and doppelgangers. The result is more interesting than aesthetically pleasing, though, and is followed by another garish, overcrowded stage business. Musically things are looking up, with a very nice choral piece, 'Fausto Imene.'

Just to remind us of how uneven this first act is, pace drops considerably for what comes next - some rather longish recitatives before the final sequence of the act is engaged. When it does, it is indeed beautiful - we get a slow-paced, ponderous and solemn trio with Bianca, Cantareno, and Capellio (incidentally, certain camera angles capture the singer's breasts in more revealing takes than she probably had intended- and when she turns her back to the camera, her mike's wires are quite conspicuous). Lighting turns appropriately dark (which takes away the tasteless garishness) for this somber moment. It goes well although I'd have liked faster tempi - hard to say if it's Rossini's fault or the conductor's. Falliero adds his voice to what is now a quartet and dramatically speaking, this scene is by far the most effective of the first act. Rossini does accelerate the music when Capellio and Falliero start a sword fight and it all continues a lot more frenetic and tense. Good act finale indeed!

Act II opens well, with more dramatic tension, some impressive recitativo passages that are well executed by Barcellona and Bayo, and the former gets to do fabulous vocal acrobatics in 'Va, crudel' which this time Bayo matches well, with no pitch control problems. This is followed by the duo 'Questo istante' - if someone were to walk in right now and watch just this scene, the person would uphold this opera as one of Rossini's greatest. This scene is musically so much better than everything we've had so far, that it is almost odd.

Another attempt to marry Bianca goes South. Even Francesco Meli is now singing better (by the way, it is sort of weird that the singer is obviously much younger than his "daughter" and it shows, in spite of the make-up).

OK, let's not continue this review with this level of detail. What I've seen is more than enough to form an opinion (likely I'll enjoy even more the opera's most famous number, the final quartet).

Regarding the opera: definitely, uneven, over-long, with pace problems, and with unremarkable music in many parts. Still, the parts that are good are *very* good. Grade B.

The product: Documentation is correct but could be better. Sound and image are good (I forgot to mention this - yes, images are crisp, sound balance and fullness are very good especially with the LPCM tract). A-

The production: Uneven singing - one very good singer, Ms. Barcellona, who does well from start to finish, surrounded by colleagues who are very variable: Bayo does very well in certain arias and improves in second act but has some notable pitch failures in first act; Meli is rather dreadful at first, then improves a bit. Unremarkable comprimarios. Slow pace in the orchestra and muddled sounds (I've concluded by paying attention to other elements of the sound track that it is not a sound engineering problem or mike placement problem, but rather, a less than ideal orchestra). Confused blocking. Garish and tasteless sets. C+ (the + is for Barcellona or else it would have dropped further).

Overall, B. Optional for the Rossini lover, not recommended for those who are not fond of Rossini. Better enjoyed by skipping parts and listening to/seeing only the best numbers. There is however a sub-group of the members of the public for whom this product is recommended without any doubt: Daniela Barcellona fans. She really does very, very well in this.

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Oh wait! Unlike my several recent reviews, when by the last stretch I'm tired of reporting it all in detail and feel I have enough elements for a verdict - and then rarely need to change it - this time I may very well be cornered into changing my opinion. I've reached 'Tu non sai qual colpo atroce' and Daniela Barcellona blew me away with this - and Rossini too! The usual cabaletta that follows in this case is just as good - 'Mai più che onore e vita.' Now the next number is the famous quartet. The way this is going, I'll HAVE to upgrade this product to just plain 'recommended' for all opera lovers, instead of 'optional for the Rossini lover, not recommended for non-lovers, and only plain recommended to Daniela Barcellona's fans.' Now, we're in the thick of the quartet, and my friends, it is great.

So, yes, definitely, overall act II is much better than act I, the artists perform better in it, and pretty much the entire second half of act II reaches peaks of musical quality that firmly justify the purchase.

OK, so, B+, recommended.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
December 6th, 2013, 04:36 AM
Eduardo e Cristina on CD

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Eduardo e Cristina, dramma per musica in two acts, sung in Italian (Teatro San Benedetto, Venice, April 24, 1819)
Musica by Gioachino Rossini
Libretto by Andrea Leone Tottola and Gherardo Bevilacqua Aldobrandini
This recording uses the edition from the Deutsche Rossini Gesellschaft, edited by Anders Wiklund

Orchestra: I Virtuosi di Praga - conducted by Francesco Corti
Czech Chamber Chorus - chorus master Pavel Baxa
Cembalista - Massimiliano Tanzini

Cast

Carlo, king of Sweden - Omar Jara - tenor
Cristina, his daughter, secret wife of Eduardo - Carmen Acosta - soprano
Eduardo, chief of the Swedish Army - Eliseda Dumitru - written for contralto, often sung by a mezzo
Giacomo, prince of Scotland - Konstantin Gorny - bass
Atlei, Captain of the Royal Guard, friend of Eduardo - Jorge Orlando Gomez - tenor
Mute roles: Gustavo, Eduardo and Cristina's little son; His Nurse

Recorded live on July 16 and 19, 1997 at Kursaal Bad Wildbad, Germany (this is the first performance in modern times and the first recording of this opera)

A Bongiovanni release of 1998, of a production of the Festival Rossini in Wildbad. DDD. 2 CDs. Runtimes: disc 1 75'16"; disc 2 62'27"

Liner notes: credits; list of tracks with name of the numbers, duration, and characters; 11-page essay in Italian and English by Marco Beghelli entitled "Old music for a new opera," a 3-page musical scheme of the opera and list of recycled music; a 1-page synopsis in German only; the full libretto in side-by-side Italian and English texts; one color picture of three of the artists on stage.

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It is fitting that Eduardo e Cristina is the last Rossini opera unknown to me and that listening to it concludes my project of getting myself exposed to all 39 operas by one of my very favorite composers, since this opera was also the last one to be revived in modern times, thus completing the 20-year period from 1977 through 1997 in which all obscure Rossini operas got revived and recorded.

The downside is that once I listen to this one, I won't ever have again the pleasure of discovering an opera by Rossini that was unknown to me. :sorrow:

Oh well, all good things come to an end. Of course, I can always go back and listen to these operas again.

In a sense, I have *already* finished my exposure to Rossini's operatic music, given that Eduardo e Cristina is a pasticcio of the composer's other works. Rossini put it together in a hurry, just to please an impresario friend who wanted his daughter, a contralto, to have her debut in a new Rossini opera.

As a pasticcio, this opera borrows extensively mainly from Adelaide di Borgogna and Ermione; additional sections are lifted from Ricciardo e Zoraide and Mosé in Egitto. The bass aria in the second act is not even Rossini's : it was copied from Stefano Pavesi's opera of the same name, which set to music in 1810 a libretto called Odoardo e Cristina by Giovanni Schmidt.

Now, one word needs to be said about the documentation - it is simply outstanding. The 11-page essay (well, 5 and a half since it is a side-by-side Italian and English text) is arguably the most interesting I've ever read in this kind of CD notes with huge space limitation (these are the small pages of a CD insert). It sheds such a fascinating light on Rossini's creative process in terms of this recycling business! It also helps with the understanding of the differences in relative importance of a libretto for an opera seria versus one for an opera buffa, in the 19th century. Basically, the text for a buffa is important - it is witty and funny and a big part of the spectacle for the public's enjoyment.

However, this particular time for opera seria contains libretti that are always the endless repetition of the same situation (the soprano loves the young hero and the older gentleman - often her father - wants to thwart their love, often due to political reasons, in order to offer her to a more advantageous prospective husband). So, says the author, what matters for an opera seria of this period is the music - and he tells us about the musical structure of the piece - a choral introduction which slowly proceeds within a as yet undefined scenic context - a prelude, basically, before the action begins. Then, we get for the three voices of the main characters, one or two arias a piece (with the usual structure of tempo d'attaco, then cantabile, then cabaletta) and three separate duets, necessary to provoke the clash between the various pairs of characters. To this foundation are added the three customary ensemble scenes (the introduction, the finale of the first act - for example, with a chorus, then tempo d'attaco, largo concertato, tempo di mezzo, and stretta - and the brief coda that concludes the opera) as well as a few optional numbers assigned to comprimarios (basses, for example) or the chorus, so that the score is completed in a pre-established musical scheme.

So, the author shows how these musical numbers serve radically different purposes in the various operas by Rossini from where he picked them to recycle them into this pasticcio. He demonstrates how a particular text appealed to despair and lamentations while another one, with the same music, appealed to triumph and relief. How can the same music serve both situations? It's because the situation doesn't matter, he says. The public for opera seria was there for the music, at the time. Stendhal said: "Who pays any attention to the text of an opera seria? Do they not always contain the words happiness, forever happy, cruel stars, etc.? No one, in Venice, reads the libretto of an opera seria, not even the impresario who pays for it."

I get it. It's only later that the drama acquires importance, once Verdi and then Puccini start to introduce realistic characters and unusual situations, resulting in Verismo and in Verdi's and Puccini's exquisite tone-painting and precise matching of the dramatic situation and the music, like in La Traviata and Tosca.

The author also points to the fact that Rossini adapted his work to the profile of the opera house. In Naples he was more experimental (this is how his Neapolitan dramas are more, well, dramatic), but when doing something for the traditional Milan or Venice houses, he would be more formulaic, as above.

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So, Rossini cinically put this all together in a hurry to fulfill a commission. The result must have been mediocre, right? Wrong. This pasticcio is actually quite good, and it was a huge success. The Venetian Gazzetta reported "a triumph like no other in the history of our musical stage." The audience at the premiere encored almost all numbers - the opera took six hours to be performed. Byron who was present, wrote: "There has been a splendid opera lately at the San Benedetto, by Rossini, who came in person to play the harpsichord. The people followed him about, cut off his hair for memory; he was shouted, and sonnetted, and feasted, and immortalised much more than either of the Emperors." Twenty-five performances were given, and the opera then transferred to the prestigious Teatro La Fenice. There were about 100 performances in several Italian cities and abroad, including New York City on November 25, 1834. Then, after 1840, it disappeared from the repertory.

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I couldn't find any synopsis for it, so I'll write my own as we go. It's the usual story, with a few twists. Cristina, the daughter of Carlo, King of Sweden, has secretly married Eduardo (who is celebrated as the victorious commander of the nation's army), and has a young son with him, Gustavo, who remains hidden. Her father wants to marry her to Giacomo, prince of Scotland. Atlei, Eduardo's friend, is trying to help her, keeping the forbidden relationship hidden. However at the insistence from her father that she goes to church and gets married to Giacomo, as a last resource to prevent the wedding, she produces Gustavo and confesses that the boy is her son. Her father is horrified with the fact that his daughter had a son out of wedlock (he thinks), and while his heart falters and he has temptations of embracing the grandchild and his daughter, duty and morals prevail and he has her arrested and wants her condemned to death for being sinful. He drags her to be judged by the Great Ones of the Realm. The king demands that she reveals the name of her seducer. She refuses. Eduardo steps forward and names himself as the seducer, and asks to be killed instead of her. There is general consternation that such a highly esteemed general is the culprit. The king, however, wants more punishment than that, and says all three must die - Eduardo, Cristina, and - horror! - even the child Gustavo. End of Act I.

Act II opens with general consternation about the upcoming executions, but then Giacomo tells the king that if Cristina agrees to marry him, she and her son shouldn't be executed (her husband should). Carlo brings her in but she keeps refusing the deed. The king then signs the order for her execution. Atlei plots with Eduardo's followers, trying to find a way to free both the general and his wife. Meanwhile the Russian army attacks, and the people ask Eduardo to lead the army for the nation's defense. Russian ships are shelling the town from the sea, while Cristina in her prison cell despairs. It turns out that one of the cannon balls takes down a wall of her cell, allowing Eduardo and his followers to come and free her through the breach. He tells her that their son is safe. The war rages on, everywhere. Chaos ensues. The enemy is inside town. The king and Giacomo bump into each other on the streets. Carlo despairs, believing that his country will fall. Giacomo however tells him that rebels have rescued Eduardo from prison, who then was able to lead the resistance against the Russians, and to win the battle. Eduardo comes in and deposits his victorious sword at the king's feet. Eduardo reiterates his plea that he should be killed in place of his wife and son. The king, instead, forgives him and embraces him. Cristina comes in; Carlo tells her that she is also forgiven, and should feel free to continue to live her married life with Eduardo, in the open. All rejoice. Curtain.

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OK, after a long pause, I'm finally restarting this review. I'm now listening to the opera. The overture, recycled in part from Ricciardo e Zoraide and Ermione but with some new music, is very generic. The first few numbers, however, all from Adelaide di Borgogna, are quite beautiful.

First impressions of the CD recording - so-so. No high sound quality, here. There is significant ambient noise and applause, and the singers' voices at times sound distant (this improves by the second act) - but I'd say, it's decent enough. I was first listening with some simple Sony headphones, then I switched to a Seinnheiser pair and it all improved immediately.

Singers are not very impressive. They are correct, but nothing extraordinary. Carmen Acosta has poor articulation in Italian. Jara, Gorny, and Gomez are of above average quality - they don't sink the ship nor do anything outrageous and are mostly good, but they don't shine brilliantly, either. I'm still to hear Dumitru who hasn't make her entrance yet. OK, she did. Rather unremarkable results.

But the opera proceeds beautifully - yes, this idea of a pasticcio is paying off, since it is a good selection of nice numbers. I particularly like the duo "In que' soave sguardi" which comes from Adelaide and Ottone's duo "Mi dai corona e vita."

In the middle of track 16 on CD 1 (Scene Eleven) we switch from the music of Adelaide di Borgogna to that of Ermione, precisely at the tempo d'attaco "D'esempio all'alme infide" which comes from Ermione's "Balena in man del figlio", followed by new material for the first time: the cantabile "All'eccesso della pena" (it is oh so beautiful!) which subsequently gets re-utilized in La Donna del Lago as "Quali accenti, e deggio in seno." We go back for the cabaletta to Ermione, and the Finale for Act I is a big combination of Ricciardo e Zoraide, new material that ended up later in La Gazza Ladra, and Ermione again. All lovely.

Act II opens with two numbers that are new music - both by the chorus. They're OK (the first one a bit better, "Giorno terribile." Then we get an aria for Giacomo, and it is not by Rossini but rather by Stefano Pavesi - and it is not good - "Questa man la toglie a morte." Not very imaginative, and repetitious (it's quite impressive to see how the quality drops immediately when Rossini is not penning the composition - another way to capture the dimension of his musical genius). A long recitative follows, with a dialogue between Cristina and her father.

Act II, therefore, starts much weaker than act I, but things improve as we get a long stretch of music from Ermione, with some beautiful numbers, especially a spectacular cabaletta for Eduardo, "Come rinascere" (it's "Ah come nascondere" which is the cabaletta that is part of Oreste's "Reggia aborrita" in Ermione) and a long cantabile for Cristina, "Ah no, non fu riposo" which stems from Ermione's "Di' che vedeste piangere." This is a quite beautiful number (arguably the most beautiful one in the opera), with a lot of pathos and dramatic impact. As the battle rages on outside we get cannon firing sounds that punctuate the rhythm. Gorgeous!

What follows in the scene, the tempo d'attaco and the tempo di mezzo, are new music. The cabaletta that closes the scene comes from Ricciardo e Zoraide, and then we get the gorgeous instrumental battle scene which is from the Red Sea scene of Mosè in Egitto. A duettino between Eduardo and Carlo is new music, and it all ends with a finale that is pulled out of Ricciardo e Zoraide (it is just OK).

So, what is the verdict? Very favorable. This is wickedly good, and as a pasticcio, is shock-full of fabulous music. The libretto is lousy, but who cares? Sure, it is uneven, with the lowest point being the part that was not written by Rossini, but it also contains peaks, such as the ones coming from two of my very favorite Rossini operas, Ermione and Mosè in Egitto.

I'd rank this one as grade A, as far as the opera is concerned. Regarding the CD itself, well, the singers are not great, as in, not brilliant, not outstanding. But they aren't bad either. Two of them are average, and the other three actually above average. The documentation is excellent with an extremely interesting essay and the full bilingual libretto. The sound is not state-of-the-art but is adequate. I'd say, B+. All things considered between the opera and the production/recording, this CD gest a score of A-, and is recommended.

It it stage-worthy? Well, one might argue that it is preferable to see the great operas from which Rossini picked the music for this pasticcio, which might explain the obscure status of this piece. So maybe an opera company shouldn't waste time with this. But in terms of enjoying three hours of mostly very good music by listening to the CD, yes, it is something I'll be listening to again, from time to time.

Hoffmann
December 6th, 2013, 02:28 PM
Thanks, Luiz, for reporting out on your Rossini effort. It's a lot of work cranking out all those reviews, and I enjoyed reading about your take on the full set.

I especially appreciated your comment regarding the phenomenon of 'semiseria' opera (L'Inganno Felice), referencing a sense of the public's general dislike for the sub-genre.

The odd-duck that is semiseria may help explain why Linda di Chamounix also fell from the repertory. I've listened to the Opera Rara cd recording a couple of times now (which is generally well sung) and find the musical transitions within the opera to be somewhat jarring. At one point, I was listening to a pensive aria that suddenly transitions into a Don Pasquale type of buffo jolliness. I had to look at my iPod to check on exactly what it was I was listening to.

I also think those live Naxos recordings are a mixed bag. I read your highly favorable review of the Mose in Egitto dvd, and cued up my not very oft listened to Naxos cd rendition, and suffered through seemingly endless tediousness, wondering what all the excitement was about, before it finally hit some interesting stretches around the second half. Throughout, if I had to guess, the microphones must have been placed at the apron of the stage, with some pointed forward to catch the singers and some in reverse to catch the orchestra: the singers all sounded like they were singing from a distance, while the orchestra came through loud and clear. In all, a very disappointing recording. Additionally, the Bad Wildbad festival features mostly unknown singers who are serviceable, but rarely inspiring. Oh well, they are doing a huge public service.

For reference:

3056

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
December 7th, 2013, 04:30 AM
Thanks, Hoffmann, and yes, some of these recordings do bring down our ability to fully appreciate the work. Now, with the modern blu-ray recordings with those master sound tracks with 5.1 or 7.1 sound channels all engineered to perfection, we get spoiled and it is hard to listen to an old-fashioned, low tech CD recording.

Hoffmann
December 7th, 2013, 05:12 PM
Oh jeez. I think 2014 is going to be the final breaking point for getting a fancy new dvd/cd player so that I can take advantage of the up to date technology and reporting back on the "What Kind of Sound System Do You Listen To?" thread.

Back to the beanie-weanies for dinner..

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
December 8th, 2013, 04:05 AM
OK, folks. I've finished my review of Eduardo e Cristina, located three posts above this one. It took a while - three nights actually - since I got busy in between. Those who had read the earlier versions if they are kind enough to be still interested in what I have to say, should re-read, because I added extensive comments about the fantastic essay that is included in the liner notes.

As of now, I've listened to or seen (either live in the opera house or on DVD/blu-ray/YouTube) all 39 operas by Gioachino Rossini. I'm both happy about it, and sad, since I will never again be able to have the pleasure of encountering for the first time a Rossini opera. Oh well, I can always listen to my favorites over and over. What a great composer!

Amfortas
December 10th, 2013, 04:21 PM
As of now, I've listened to or seen (either live in the opera house or on DVD/blu-ray/YouTube) all 39 operas by Gioachino Rossini. I'm both happy about it, and sad, since I will never again be able to have the pleasure of encountering for the first time a Rossini opera. Oh well, I can always listen to my favorites over and over. What a great composer!

There may also be one or two other operas out there you still don't know. ;)

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
December 10th, 2013, 05:57 PM
There may also be one or two other operas out there you still don't know. ;)

You're probably kidding, but if you're not, which ones? Unlike some other composers, Rossini's production is well documented and he left only one incomplete opera which was so incomplete (he wrote less than a handful of numbers for it) that it is not considered as a real one and can't be staged. I think there is nothing left out there, as far as Rossini goes.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
December 11th, 2013, 01:10 AM
Moïse et Pharaon on DVD (the product being reviewed is the one on the left; alternative cover for older version on the right)

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51oDMCPpHNL._AA160_.jpg http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51AhclhGDjL._AA160_.jpg

Available on Amazon.com for $29 - [clicky (http://www.amazon.com/Gioachino-Rossini-Pharaon-Riccardo-Muti/dp/B003IP2YFS/)]

Moïse et Pharaon, ou le passage de la Mer Rouge, opera in four acts, sung in French (premiered March 26, 1827, Paris Opéra salle Le Peletier)
Music by Gioachino Rossini
Libretto by Luigi Balocchi and Étienne de Jouy

Conductor Riccardo Muti
Orchestra - Teatro alla Scala
Chorus - Teatro alla Scala - Chorus Master - Bruno Casoni

Recorded live at the Teatro degli Arcimboldi, Milan, Italy, 2003
Co-production Teatro alla Scala, RAI Tre, and RAI Trade

Stage Director - Luca Ronconi
Set Design - gianni Quaranta
Costume Design - Carlo Diappi
Lighting - Gianni Mantovanini
Choreography - Mischa van Hoecke
Video Director - Carlo Battistoni

Cast

Moïse - Ildar Abdrazakov
Éliézer - Tomislav Muzek
Pharaon - Erwin Schrott
Aménophis - Giuseppe Filianoti
Aufide - Antonello Ceron
Osiride - Giorgio Giuseppini
Marie - Nino Surguladze
Anaï - Barbara Frittoli
Sinaïde - Sonia Ganassi
Une voix mistériueuse - Maurizio Muraro

Dancers - Ballet of Act III

Luciana Savignano (Isis)
Roberto Bolle (Moïse)
Desmond Richardson (Pharaon)
Corps de Ballet of the Teatro alla Scala

2004 ArtHaus Musik release on 2xDVD9/NTSC 16:9 with Sound tracks PCM 2.0, DD 5.1, and DTS 5.1
Subtitles in French, English, Italian, German, and Spanish
Region code zero (all)
Running time 181 minutes - no extras
The liner notes contain 7 black-and-white and 2 color production pictures, credits, list of musical numbers with names, characters, and duration, and a 3-page essay in English, French, and German. There is no formal synopsis but the elements of the plot are described in the essay. The first page regards Rossini's biography, the second page and a half talk briefly about the opera and describe its plot, while the last half talks about this production. This essay is of average quality; not one of the best I've read.

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As I had commented in my review of Mosè in Egitto, unlike other remakes/translations, this work qualifies as a different opera, given that Rossini's alterations affected every aspect of the work, from adding an act and a ballet, to changing the vocal writing. While in Naples he favored coloratura, in Paris he reduced the vocal ornamentation to clear melodic lines and greatly enhanced the role of the chorus, which gives the work a much more oratorio-like feel (Rossini did intend this work to be an oratorio). The libretto was also brand new in original French and not a direct translation of the previous Italian work, and some character names were changed. Also, Moïse et Pharaon unlike its predecessor is all Rossini, while the Italian work had parts by Carafa and another unnamed composer. Rossini for the Paris version got rid of all musical material that wasn't by him, and rewrote entirely the recitatives. The plot was also changed, with the plague of darkness covering Egypt no longer being at the opera's opening, but being instead moved to the second act. Various other elements were changed, including to accommodate the new ballet, which takes the form of ceremonial Egyptian dances before the temple of Isis.

Even though most critics praise this work as musically better than its predecessor, I thoroughly disagree, and find Mosè in Egitto with its coloratura, shorter running time, and less ponderous approach, a more enjoyable opera. But if you are into oratorios, then you'll like this a lot, and yes, there are gorgeous numbers.

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Image is not the best; as usual (don't ask me why!) La Scala productions are dark in terms of lighting. The subtitles are huge and intrusive. Costumes are dark and sober. Sets do not situate the action in its intended time but is not contemporary either - it features a large church organ of a kind that was common in the 19th centure. I guess this is to evoke the oratorio-like quality of this piece. I don't find the sets all that tasteful. Sound balance is also not the greatest, which is unfortunately another characteristic of La Scala DVD releases. The singers' voices sound distant, while orchestra and chorus are loud.

Stage direction seems to have aimed for a very static performance (again, the opera-oratorio thing, or is it just another one of these La Scala productions which were never known for dynamic blocking?).

So, both the production itself and its recording on audio-video are technically deficient (the worst part, which really hinders the enjoyment, is mike placement - like I said, loud orchestra, distant singers).

The good part about this product comes from the artists themselves. One can't praise enough Maestro Riccardo Muti's conducting, which is perfect as usual. The cast is very impressive, with excellent, technically accomplished voices. These singers for the most part don't miss a beat, don't go off-pitch, phrase everything with good musicality, and own beautiful instruments with pleasant timbre. Ildar Abdrazakov, one of Opera Lively's interviewees (read it [here (http://operalively.com/forums/content.php/692-ildar-abdrazakov)]), is excellent in this show, with a commanding performance, from the vocal standpoint. He doesn't do much acting and basically stands and sings, looking solemn and opening wide his arms - probably the fault of this static staging. Barbara Frittoli also sings very beautifully. A very young Giuseppe Filianoti (ten years ago he wasn't even 30 yet), does slightly less well but is still pretty good (he is another OL interviewee; [here (http://operalively.com/forums/content.php/788-The-Exclusive-Opera-Lively-Interview-with-Giuseppe-Filianoti)]). Less impressive is Tomislav Muzek as Éliézer. Erwin Schrott made his entrance at the end of Act I, and sang very well. We have three OL interviewees on stage; read Erwin's piece [here (http://operalively.com/forums/content.php/691-The-Exclusive-Opera-Lively-Interview-with-Erwin-Schrott)]. Nino Surguladze is a very good comprimario.

Act II starts with the musically beautiful "Ah! Quel désastre! Oh Ciel!" which features the reiteration of three major C chords, over and over, and is the point where the Italian original starts (the darkness plague). Sonia Ganassi is a very good singer and she shines in this number as Sinaïde. The scene in which darkness is changed into light is musically great. Another impressive musical tour-de-force is "Les Dieux font trève." Also, Ah! D'une tendre mère" which starts the finale, is very compelling. In summary, Act II is musically much better than Act I, and our singers who have warmed up already are all singing extremely well. This is a very enjoyable section of the DVD and would in itself justify the purchase.

On to Act III and the new ballet.

Veteran dancer Luciana Savignano is very expressive with her hands. The tasteless reviewer on Amazon who called her a scarecrow in need of retiring is clueless - what an artist! One does not need to be a sexy young woman to be a great dancer! Video direction for this ballet scene is a bit too busy, cutting too often to close-ups which makes it difficult to follow the ensemble of the choreography. I'd have preferred to see a more steady camera take from a distance with less frequent close-ups.

Rossini's music for the ballet is very nice - but has nothing to do with the style of the rest of the work. However as an isolated concert piece, it is beautiful. I mostly enjoyed this scene very much.

Now, after a significant pause in my typing to just watch and enjoy the music, I'm back to say that I'm changing my mind.

I first listened (audio only, a digital file) to Moïse et Pharaon, I realize, in an incomplete version (the running time should have warned me). I must have missed some of the numbers - well, I know I have, because this performance is 3 hours long and that audio file was much shorter. So, it turns out that Moïse et Pharaon is a lot better than I inially gave it credit for.

I was just blown away by the quintet "Je tremble et sospire" which is part of the act III finale. This number is spectacular Rossini at the peak of his powers. This is a towering accomplishment. Now I'd have to go back to Mosè in Egitto to see if this is there, the same way. Regardless, I think my relatively poor impression of this work had to do with the monotony of listening to an oratorio-like piece with audio only, and to a weaker Act I, and singers who where not as good as these.

But what I'm watching and listening to now, is certainly one of Rossini's finest works (the composer himself was very fond of this piece and liked it much better than Mosè in Egitto). Anybody who still doubts (is it possible?) Rossini's outstanding musical gifts, needs to listen to "Je tremble et sospire." Wow! Just wow! How did such a composer become so under-rated for a while? This is spectacular music, and spectacular operatic sense.

I'm definitely upgrading Moïse et Pharaon in my preference. Let me pause the typing again and go back to the goosebumping music.

OK, I'm back - after the 6' 6" of the wild ride that is "Pharaon, remplis ta promesse." OH! MY! GOD! This is simply extraordinary! These 14 minutes of Act III finale are among the best operatic moments I've seen in my life. All these extraordinary singers look very focused and serious throughout it - during the performance, they were probably thinking "this is great music I'm singing here; I need to give it my utmost respect."

Viva Rossini!

End of Act III. Let's see what other pleasures the end of the opera contains - I remember fondly the Red Sea scene, and look forward to seeing it in this production.

Act IV, things remain high-quality, and Barbara Frittoli simply hits the ball out of the ballpark with "Je l'aimais!" Outstanding coloratura piece perfectly executed by her powerful and agile voice. What a treat!

The parting of the Red Sea is accomplished with old-fashioned theatrical effects (like they'd have done at the time of Rossini) using ancient machinery, a nice touch of this production. Well, it's not realistic, but it is evocative of the resources they had at the time of composition.

The sotto voce instrumental ending is exquisite and elegant, replacing the usual orchestral stretta that ends most pieces. Beautiful!!!

I don't care if the DVD is technically lousy with bad mike placement (well, it does annoy the hell out of me because you have to change the volume several times lest you won't hear the singers or then your ears will explode with the loud chorus and orchestra, but still), or if the La Scala production is deficient in lighting, with a staging that is too static, or if the liner notes are mediocre.

What we have here is a towering Rossini masterpiece executed by phenomenal musicians, and that's what counts. We're spoiled, here. We get Riccardo Muti, the La Scala orchestra, the fabulous and experienced La Scala chorus, and a star-studded cast of incredible singers. Regardless of all the shortcomings above mentioned (which, technically speaking, would downgrade this product to a B-) the musical values are so refined, that I can't give this DVD a rating any lower than A+, highly recommended. Buy it, my friends, and treat yourselves to three hours of sublime music.

Amfortas
December 11th, 2013, 01:53 PM
You're probably kidding, but if you're not, which ones? Unlike some other composers, Rossini's production is well documented and he left only one incomplete opera which was so incomplete (he wrote less than a handful of numbers for it) that it is not considered as a real one and can't be staged. I think there is nothing left out there, as far as Rossini goes.

I just meant *operas*--as in, you know, 40,000 of them or so. Most of it not Rossini quality, to be sure, but at least you'll never run out of *something* new to encounter.

JohnGerald
August 14th, 2014, 08:15 PM
Well! This has been a lesson in how to review DVDs. I have reviewed many of these gems for amazon.com, but never so thoroughly. Many thanks for the efforts!

I was also pleased that my own noticing of the attractive females singing opera these days (mention of which is verboten on amazon due to the PC Police) is shared unabashedly. (A new DVD of L'Italiana in Algerie releases on 8/26 with a much displayed Mme Goryachova and the splendid young tenor Yijie Shi)

Other than the Barber, Rossini was not when I got into opera back in the early LP days, so we discovered him late in our opera lives. All the earlier scholarship (due in large part to the influence of the German version of Romanticism) deplored Rossini and the other Bel Canto composers as trashy.

Close listening amply demonstrates that they are anything but!

While opera began in Venice with Il Camerata and Monteverdi, it had become static and moribund until Rossini took it by the metaphoric throat and gave it a good shaking. All that followed can be credited to that shake up.

It was either Gossett or Osborne that noted that while Rossini was actively writing opera, the two most popular composers in Europe were Rossini and Beethoven.

Finally, it seems that the ROF Guillaume Tell will issue soon on DVD.

JohnGerald
August 31st, 2014, 04:09 PM
Last night we watched the new DVD of L'Italiana in Algerie and found it captivating.

When I review for Amazon, I write for the consuming public and try to sell both opera as theatre, and the disc I am reviewing. Of course if I find the performance flawed, then I try to save the folks from wasting money. All this being subjective, of course. But when I opine here, I am writing for peers who know and love the art form, albeit with interests in some portions (for me, Italian), but knowledgeable nonetheless.

That said, in an "extra" in the ROH "wheelchair" Barbiere, Sir Antonio Pappano notes that much of the humor in Rossini is in the music itself. My first impression of the opening bars of L'Italiana underscored that concept: the music bubbled like freshly poured sparkling wine. This is due, in part, to the recorded sound which gives some nice detail to the orchestral music.

I tend to the traditional in staging, but try to keep an open mind, so that recent DVDs of Manon, La Fille Du Regiment and La Traviata have been quite exciting, as well as theatrically valid, in that the story does not suffer from the changes. This Italiana is anything but traditional; it is a combination of Saturday Night Live from the 60s and the Austin Powers movies. It is hugely athletic, in that the cast members are doing 60s dance steps almost nonstop. It's the antithesis of the old "park and bark" approach that was prevelant back when.

I liked it! It was funny; not belly laugh type funny, but comedic. I think that Rossini would have approved, being the master of theatrics as well as music.

The singers were uniformly good to excellent.

Anna Goryachova, whom I found "superb" in the en travesti role of Eduardo in Matilde di Shabran, was superb as Isabella. Fortunately, she did not wear a false beard as she did in Matilde; in fact, in the second act, she doesn't wear much at all! Her role here is a kind of female James Bond, whose plane is shot down while she is on her way to rescue her junior secret agent partner, Lindoro, who is, in turn, a prisoner of Mustafa. Her singing is lush, yet agile, ranging from a resonant lower range (I almost said "chest voice") to effortless high notes. Dramatically, she carries of the athleticism of the part in grand style.

Alex Esposito steals the show whenever he is onstage (except when Mme Goryachova is undercostumed!). His voice is not as deep or resonant as is Marco Vinco in the Bel Air version from Aix-en-Provence, but his characterization of Mustafa is hilarious. He is the leering and sneering type of heavy. He smokes cigars (fake, I hope) a la Ernie Kovacs, showing a lot of teeth, and dropping ashes into servants' hands, rather than ash trays. And he is almost constantly dancing.

Yijie Shi has a sweet tenor voice. He lacks the extended top of Florez or Miranov, so he doesn't take the extra high notes. That said, he does an A+ job. His coloratura is breathtaking. Remember that I had no experience with the Rossini tenor until JDF started recording, because such singers weren't, back in the day. (But since then, with some voice training in my distant past, I am in awe of what these guys can do!)

Mariangela Sicilia, as Mustafs's wife, Elvira, has a big voice with a somewhat harsh top. She tends to dominate in the ensembles.

The rest of the cast is in sync with the principals. Maestro Jose Ramon Encinar has a sure, yet idiomatic hand in the pit. Picture and sound in the Blu ray version were what one would expect.

I give it a solid 5 star or A+ rating.

PS. This should be kept away from Alma until he finishes his new book. The reasons are ... two ... and .. obvious!

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
February 22nd, 2015, 04:02 AM
La Cenerentola on DVD

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51lllBgaBSL.jpg

La Cenerentola, ossia La bontà in trionfo - Melodramma giocoso in two acts, sung in Italian, premiered at the Teatro Valle in Rome, on January 25, 1817
Music by Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)
Libretto by Jacopo Ferretti, after Charles Perrault's fairy tale Cendrillon

The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra conducted by Maurizio Benini
The Metropolitan Opera Chorus directed by Donald Palumbo

Recorded live from the Met on May 9, 2009

A production by Cesare Lievi
Stage Director Sharon Thomas
Sets and Costumes Maurizio Balò
Lighting Gigi Sacomandi
Choreography Daniela Schiavone
Video Director Gary Halvorson
Host Thomas Hampson

Cast

Don Ramiro, Prince of Salerno - Opera Lively interviewee Lawrence Brownlee
Angelina, La Cenerentola - Opera Lively interviewee Elina Garanca
Dandini - Simone Alberghini
Don Magnifico - Alessandro Corbelli
Alidoro - John Relyea
Clorinda - Rachelle Durkin
Tisbe - Patricia Risley

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2 DVDs, NTSC HD color, 16:9 aspect ratio, region code zero (worldwide), sound tracks PCM stereo and DTS 5.1, subtitles in English, Italian, German, French, Spanish, and Chinese. Extras: Backstage at the Met with all five principal singers. Runtime 161 minutes (opera) + 9 minutes (extras).

Insert - 3 color pictures, 3 black-and-white, credits, list of musical numbers with characters and duration, a one-page essay focusing on Elina Garanca's interpretation, and a *very* detailed 6-page number-by-number synopsis, all repeated in English, German, and French.

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Continuing my Elina Garanca phase after having interviewed in person the charming, beautiful, intelligent, assertive, and talented mezzo at the Met two weeks ago (under transcription, coming soon), I'm seeing today this DVD that was sitting for several years on my unwatched pile, still under its original plastic wrap.

Forty-five minutes into the performance as I type this, it is already clear that we are in the presence of one of the most rewarding and polished opera DVDs in the market, given the luxury cast the Met put together for this show. Every one of the five principal roles is staffed by a truly outstanding singer, and as expected, neither one misses a beat or a note and they all deliver their lines with panache, perfect intonation, fabulous phrasing, great agility, and beautiful timbre. Pay attention as you might, and you'll find no flaw. These five are just incredibly accomplished singers, and they all act their parts very well too. Even the two comprimario roles, Clorinda and Tisbe, are staffed by two very good singers and actresses.

Elina Garanca is simply the best mezzo in the world, and her most notable characteristic - in addition to her stunning good looks - is her phenomenal vocal technique. At the time of this show, the New York Times correctly underlined that she was "technically flawless" with a "lustrous and even" voice "throughout her range" and "at any dynamic;" her delivery was praised as "silken and seemingly effortless."

That's correct. Elina is effortless because she grew up with this music and was taught at all times in her life by her voice professor mother. There isn't a single manner of positioning her throat muscles and diaphragm that this phenomenal singer doesn't master. You want a sample of Elina's technique? Pay attention to her perfect coloratura and intonation in the scene when she comes to the ball, in her party gown, veiled. It's on tracks 28 and 29 of disc 1. This is one impressive singer!!

Larry Brownlee commands one of the most beautiful light lyric tenor voices in his generation and is no strange to perfect technique. The three seasoned, veteran singers Alberghini, Corbelli, and Relyea are not only exquisite in their Italianate phrasing, but also very funny actors.

Add to this a Bel Canto specialist such as maestro Maurizio Benini, in charge of the best operatic orchestra in the world, season it with the Met's phenomenal chorus, and you have a production that is musically thrilling, all the way. During the overture it is very entertaining to see maestro Benini leading the various sectors of the orchestra with smooth transitions, great balance, and unbridled enthusiasm.

For all of the above, this production scores A++ in every musical item, and A+ for acting.

Sets are simple, with a large and derelict room rendering appropriately Don Magnifico's falling-apart house; it changes by changing wall color and by panels coming apart and separating. There are some more imaginative touches such as how the walls separate, and some large objects coming in and out of the roof. A. Costumes are conventional; nothing bad, but nothing phenomenal either (e.g., Larry Brownlee's green valet costume is rather unremarkable). There is the one interesting and funny touch of Alidoro's golden wings. B+.

Blocking is very good, with the chorus engaging in some nice and funny movements with unexpected twists. A+
Lighting doesn't have much to do. I'm not sure if we need a rating here, one way or the other.

Technical aspects of the DVD are very good. The image is crisp, and the sound is very well rendered by the PCM track (I didn't test the DTS track). Documentation is nice. A+

Overall, A++, highly recommended, almost flawless. Maybe the only aspect that isn't superlative is costumes (the only category I didn't grant an A to), but I wouldn't ding this production one + sign to make it a merely "very recommended" just for the sake of costumes that although correct, are not wildly imaginative. It's too minor a problem to be significant in this overall spectacular show. This is one of the best operatic DVDs in the market, and it will be added in my preference to another incredibly good Cenerentola, the old one with Frederica von Stade, filmed by Jean-Pierre Ponelle and played by the La Scala orchestra conducted by the great Claudio Abbado. Both are needed in a collection. Both are highly recommended.

JohnGerald
April 21st, 2015, 02:52 PM
Guillaume Tell:

Yesterday, I received the new Blu ray of the ROF's 2013 performance of Guillaume Tell. Musically, visually and sonically it is a hands down winner! Staging nearly ruins the total experience since stage director, Graham Vick (as with the ROF's Mose in Egitto of a couple of years back) uses the opera to make a political statement. When the curtain shows a clenched fist against a red backdrop, one does not need a doctorate in history to know what Vick is about.

But the musical experience is another thing entirely. Michelle Mariotti starts by squeezing more out of that warhorse overture than one normally experiences, and continues with a reading of the score that is powerful, yet sensitive when the score dictates. Nicola Alaimo is a vocally and dramatically convincing Tell, even though he casts a large shadow. Marina Rebeka (Matilde) sings "Sombre forets" as well, if not better than anyone I have previously experienced. JDF hits Arnold "out of the park", with some of the best singing I have heard from him (and I've heard a LOT!).

So far, we watched the first two acts and will watch the rest tonight. Even with the staging, and similarly appalling choreography in the Act I "ballet" (which looks like a bunch of severely neurologically compromised folks having seizures), the quality of the music trumps.

I have gotten past Vick's nearly sacriligeous treatment of the Moses story to enjoy a similarly musically excellent Mose in Egitto. I expect that I will do the same with Tell. It is too good musically to sit unplayed on a shelf, and another version is unlikely.

Soave_Fanciulla
April 21st, 2015, 06:28 PM
ERm... I really liked the staging of the Mose in Egitto, although It was hard to film in that large hall.

JohnGerald
April 21st, 2015, 07:12 PM
ERm... I really liked the staging of the Mose in Egitto, although It was hard to film in that large hall.

Ms. Natalie, it's all subjective. My issue with Mose (and I am not a deeply religious person) is that I found the portrayal of Moses as Osama what's-his-name seriously off putting. But I get past that to enjoy the intense musicality of the score and the performance.

JohnGerald
April 22nd, 2015, 03:39 PM
We watched Acts 3 and 4 of Guillaume Tell last night. Staging for these acts was a significant improvement over the first two. The singing remais an a very high level with major contributions from Amanda Forsythe (Jemmy), Veronica Simeone (Hedwige) and Luca Tittoto, an amazing, riveting Gessler (a leering, sneering, cigarette smoking, champagne swilling, sadistic villain, if there ever was one). Act 3 ballet was well done, but very disturbing, as it was a graphic portrayal of the abuse of the Swiss by Gessler et. al.. The apple shooting scene was well staged.

I remain a huge fan of Tell, more so now that I have seen it, warts (staging) and all, Heard in surround sound, the nonstop beauty of the music is almost overwhelming.

JohnGerald
May 2nd, 2015, 03:02 PM
I just received the 2012 Art Haus Blu ray of Il Barbiere, with Korchack, Kemoklidze, Salsi and Pratico, performed in Parma under the baton of the young Andrea Battistoni. I got it primarily to experience the Rosina on Mme Kemokidze and because it was available (and still is) from Amazon sellers for under $9.00.

Thus I was pleasantly surprised to experience a very fine performance when all I wanted to see was the Mezzo. Everyone did at least a very good job, with Korchack being an adequate, if not great Almaviva. Luca Salsi is a roguish Figaro who must be in incredibly good shape. Giovanni Furlanetto is a hilarious Basilio, executing what may be the best La Colunnia I have yet seen. Mmw Kemokidze did not disappoint, either.

Conducting by Battistoni is fast paced without being rushed. His is a promising future.

Picture and sound are first rate, so my expenditure of $8.92 produced a surprisingly enjoyable Barbiere.

Snap it up "while supplies last", kiddies.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
May 2nd, 2015, 03:09 PM
I just received the 2012 Art Haus Blu ray of Il Barbiere, with Korchack, Kemoklidze, Salsi and Pratico, performed in Parma under the baton of the young Andrea Battistoni. I got it primarily to experience the Rosina on Mme Kemokidze and because it was available (and still is) from Amazon sellers for under $9.00.

Thus I was pleasantly surprised to experience a very fine performance when all I wanted to see was the Mezzo. Everyone did at least a very good job, with Korchack being an adequate, if not great Almaviva. Luca Salsi is a roguish Figaro who must be in incredibly good shape. Giovanni Furlanetto is a hilarious Basilio, executing what may be the best La Colunnia I have yet seen. Mmw Kemokidze did not disappoint, either.

Conducting by Battistoni is fast paced without being rushed. His is a promising future.

Picture and sound are first rate, so my expenditure of $8.92 produced a surprisingly enjoyable Barbiere.

Snap it up "while supplies last", kiddies.

Wow, that *is* a bargain!

JohnGerald
May 2nd, 2015, 03:12 PM
Wow, that *is* a bargain!

At this moment, five Amazon sellers list it for under $10.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
May 2nd, 2015, 03:19 PM
They do add 4 bucks for shipping, and now Amazon charges taxes, so it gets closer to $15.
Even though the price is right, I'm thinking I don't really need another Barber.

metalluk
March 17th, 2017, 04:18 PM
Just came across your reviews because I'm currently mirroring your effort to acquaint yourself with every Rossini opera. So far, I've seen 32, have four more queued up, two more on order (all as DVDs), and one on order as a CD. Yesterday I watched Maometto II, which was outstanding. Very enjoyable project. Love your reviews (the ones I read).

Florestan
March 17th, 2017, 05:05 PM
I just received the 2012 Art Haus Blu ray of Il Barbiere, with Korchack, Kemoklidze, Salsi and Pratico, performed in Parma under the baton of the young Andrea Battistoni. I got it primarily to experience the Rosina on Mme Kemokidze and because it was available (and still is) from Amazon sellers for under $9.00.

Thus I was pleasantly surprised to experience a very fine performance when all I wanted to see was the Mezzo. Everyone did at least a very good job, with Korchack being an adequate, if not great Almaviva. Luca Salsi is a roguish Figaro who must be in incredibly good shape. Giovanni Furlanetto is a hilarious Basilio, executing what may be the best La Colunnia I have yet seen. Mmw Kemokidze did not disappoint, either.

Conducting by Battistoni is fast paced without being rushed. His is a promising future.

Picture and sound are first rate, so my expenditure of $8.92 produced a surprisingly enjoyable Barbiere.

Snap it up "while supplies last", kiddies.

I was thinking of buying that one, until I watched enough clips on You Tube to see that Figaro was pushing to get intimate with Rosina. I think one reviewer even said Figaro and Rosina got in bed together in this opera. Not my kind of Barber of Seville production, but I would like to watch it otherwise.

EDIT: It was not Figaro and Rosian but the Count and Rosina. From an Amazon reviewer:


-Figaro tries to touch Rosina in the waist and she slaps him.
-The count puts his face in Rosina's bosom (During this scene my dad said: "Turn that off!")
-The count and Rosina get in bed, but are stopped by Don Basilio approaching
-Berta flirts with the off-stage piano player, and puts his face in her bosom.

metalluk
March 17th, 2017, 05:47 PM
Love this recording. Only drawback is that Horne looks silly fighting (and defeating) Ramey in a sword fight!

metalluk
March 17th, 2017, 05:50 PM
This is one of my favorite Rossini recordings, especially the Act 1 finale.

Dichteurehalle
March 17th, 2017, 06:04 PM
Picture and sound are first rate, so my expenditure of $8.92 produced a surprisingly enjoyable Barbiere.

Snap it up "while supplies last", kiddies.

I bought it, $9.02!

For everybody else, looks like there's a number still left: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008VNIAQO

metalluk
March 17th, 2017, 06:09 PM
The staging for this one is dreadful, but musically it's wonderful, especially Barcellona. Amazing that she could concentrate on her singing with all the crazy (literally) stage business. Big similarity in the plot for this opera and that of L'Inganno Felice even though this one is stretched out into two acts.

metalluk
March 17th, 2017, 06:15 PM
This performance occurred long before the rediscovery of the missing quintet music in 2012 so the corresponding dialogue is, unfortunately, rendered as recitative.

JohnGerald
March 17th, 2017, 08:24 PM
I bought it, $9.02!

For everybody else, looks like there's a number still left: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008VNIAQO

So let us know how you like it.

- - - Updated - - -


Just came across your reviews because I'm currently mirroring your effort to acquaint yourself with every Rossini opera. So far, I've seen 32, have four more queued up, two more on order (all as DVDs), and one on order as a CD. Yesterday I watched Maometto II, which was outstanding. Very enjoyable project. Love your reviews (the ones I read).

Whose reviews are you referencing?

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
March 17th, 2017, 10:27 PM
Just came across your reviews because I'm currently mirroring your effort to acquaint yourself with every Rossini opera. So far, I've seen 32, have four more queued up, two more on order (all as DVDs), and one on order as a CD. Yesterday I watched Maometto II, which was outstanding. Very enjoyable project. Love your reviews (the ones I read).
Welcome to Opera Lively, Metalluk; glad to have another Rossini fan here. Do post your own reviews, please!

Hoffmann
March 18th, 2017, 03:53 PM
Yes, welcome, Metalluk!

I don't watch many DVDs, but listen to a lot of Rossini, who is something of an underappreciated genius.

JohnGerald
March 18th, 2017, 07:25 PM
In his book, The Bel Canto Operas, Charles Osborne noted that Rossini and Beethoven were the most popular composers of the early 19th century

JohnGerald
March 19th, 2017, 07:28 PM
Last night, I was surfing You Tube on the smart (?) TV and found quite by accident, a two part, three hour Rossini Gala from a Lincoln Center telecast from 1992, at the bicentennial of the composer's birth. Decent picture and sound. There were many fascinating aspects, not the least of which was a discussion between Dr. Phillip Gossett and Marilyn Horne on the then-early part of the Rossini Renaissance. Then there was Deborah Voigt (pre weight loss) tossing off amazing coloratura in the soprano/mezzo duet from Zelmira. Recommended. Add a nice bottle of wine and one has a near perfect evening.