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Soave_Fanciulla
December 10th, 2011, 03:42 AM
I've been listening to the Minkowski Ariodante with Anne Sofie von Otter, Ewa Podles and Richard Croft, and enjoyed it very much. I'm thinking it is one of Handel's best, with Scherza Infida and Doppo Notte as two outstanding arias.

But then I noticed that there is a more recent version conducted by Alan Curtis featuring Joyce DiDonato. I obviously don't NEED another version, but do I want it? Any opinions?

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51k3Pxpr5UL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
December 10th, 2011, 05:03 PM
I know the first one and love it. I also love the opera itself. I don't know the second recording you've mentioned, though, so I can't give you an opinion.

Amfortas
December 11th, 2011, 03:51 AM
But then I noticed that there is a more recent version conducted by Alan Curtis featuring Joyce DiDonato. I obviously don't NEED another version, but do I want it? Any opinions?

How can you not want Joyce DiDonato?

For that matter, how can you not NEED her?

StLukesGuildOhio
December 11th, 2011, 05:16 AM
How can you not want Joyce DiDonato?

For that matter, how can you not NEED her?

Well... lacking a "like" button, I'll just have to say I fully agree. I picked up this recording just last week so I'll let you know what I think when I get around to playing it (soon).

Festat
December 11th, 2011, 05:46 AM
I do like that Ariodante with DiDonato. It's really worth having, really like Lehtipuu too. But I have to say I like the von Otter version better.

Guys, any opinions on this Rodelinda?
http://i.imgur.com/9bMju.jpg

I have this one by Curtis (http://i.imgur.com/aF2mI.jpg) and I like it, but that Kraemer version seems interesting.

Dark_Angel
December 11th, 2011, 09:50 PM
I do like that Ariodante with DiDonato. It's really worth having, really like Lehtipuu too. But I have to say I like the von Otter version better.

Guys, any opinions on this Rodelinda?
http://i.imgur.com/9bMju.jpg

I have this one by Curtis (http://i.imgur.com/aF2mI.jpg) and I like it, but that Kraemer version seems interesting.

Speaking of Alan Curtis.............Presto UK end of year boxset sale continues, Virgin label 16 CD Handel Opera boxset for $44, if you don't have it yet save time and money and buy now, great deal on some great performances

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51iKUY5fU3L._SL500_AA300_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/B001RPAYY4/ref=dp_image_0?ie=UTF8&n=5174&s=music)

HarpsichordConcerto
December 14th, 2011, 08:57 AM
I've been listening to the Minkowski Ariodante with Anne Sofie von Otter, Ewa Podles and Richard Croft, and enjoyed it very much. I'm thinking it is one of Handel's best, with Scherza Infida and Doppo Notte as two outstanding arias.

But then I noticed that there is a more recent version conducted by Alan Curtis featuring Joyce DiDonato. I obviously don't NEED another version, but do I want it? Any opinions?

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51k3Pxpr5UL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

There are three strong (period instrument) versions of Ariodante on CD. The first is Nicholas McGegan's version on Harmonia Mundi (1996), which many still consider the best, followed by Marc Minkowski's version on DG Arkiv (1997), and now this new version under Alan Curtis (not to be confused with his other DVD version but with a different cast). For the purpose of this discussion, we'll keep it to just the three CD versions.

I have all three CD versions (plus the Curtis DVD version). Now I am starting to prefer Alan Curtis' CD version over McGegan's, which is probably a good sign considering I have McGegan's version the longest. McGegan's is solid but it seems Curtis offers a refreshing interpretation by also taking the recitatives with a more direct dramatic effect than McGegan. Minkowski's is the wild card here. It deserves to be amongst a Handelian's collection, with occasional listening, as some tempos are taken very fast. Minkowski's best feature features mezzo Anne Sofie von Otter as Ariodante. You can't go wrong with the Curtis CD version pictured here. It does the work justice. Ariodante is a great opera and one of Handel's best.

HarpsichordConcerto
December 14th, 2011, 09:07 AM
I do like that Ariodante with DiDonato. It's really worth having, really like Lehtipuu too. But I have to say I like the von Otter version better.

Guys, any opinions on this Rodelinda?
http://i.imgur.com/9bMju.jpg

I have this one by Curtis (http://i.imgur.com/aF2mI.jpg) and I like it, but that Kraemer version seems interesting.

Yes, I have this version picture played by the Raglan Baroque Players (on period instruments) under Kramer. It's not a version that is often mentioned. It's fine but a key weakness is that it is not as complete as the other versions around. One of the challenges with these large scale operas for a modern day recording is that Handel made revisions (for artistic and pragmatic reasons as he often did), and so it's not always clear cut what to do with alternative versions of arias and numbers. For a more complete version, and if you are looking for just one, I would go for Alan Curtis on DG Arkiv. It's got an interesting duet before the final coro. A Handelian would probably go for both. :D

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51uj0X8bCTL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

HarpsichordConcerto
December 14th, 2011, 09:09 AM
Speaking of Alan Curtis.............Presto UK end of year boxset sale continues, Virgin label 16 CD Handel Opera boxset for $44, if you don't have it yet save time and money and buy now, great deal on some great performances

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51iKUY5fU3L._SL500_AA300_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/B001RPAYY4/ref=dp_image_0?ie=UTF8&n=5174&s=music)

This box-set of Handel operas is compulsory purchase for all lovers of Handel operas!

HarpsichordConcerto
December 16th, 2011, 11:36 AM
The box-set also contains Handel's last Italian opera, Deidamia (1741) after which he dedicated his creativity to dramatic English oratorios. This is the only recording as far as I know of Deidamia, and is outstanding under Alan Curtis. Perhaps one day we might be fortunate enough to also have a staged visual recording.

science
December 19th, 2011, 08:18 AM
Hello!

What do you suppose would be "the" choice of a DVD recording of Giulio Cesare?

HarpsichordConcerto
December 19th, 2011, 08:59 AM
Easy question to answer, which we all agree unanimously:-

Sarah Connolly (Cesare), Danielle de Niese (Cleopatra), Angelika Kirchschlager (Sesto), Christophe Dumaux (Tolomeo), Patricia Bardon (Cornelia), Christopher Maltman (Achilla) & Rachid Ben Abdeslam (Nireno)

The Glyndebourne Chorus & Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, William Christie (conductor) & David McVicar (stage director)

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Z2LQKxFNL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Aksel
December 19th, 2011, 10:56 AM
Hello!

What do you suppose would be "the" choice of a DVD recording of Giulio Cesare?

The one done next year with Ceci and Andreas Scholl (and Philippe Jarrousky and Ann Sofie van Otter) at Salzburg.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
December 19th, 2011, 09:48 PM
While we're all curious for the upcoming ones as reported above, this Glyndebourne production mentioned by HC enjoys really wide consensus as one pretty darn excellent DVD. You can go for it with no fear of regretting it, if you don't want to wait for the others. It is truly wonderful.

Dark_Angel
December 21st, 2011, 01:19 PM
Easy question to answer, which we all agree unanimously:-

Sarah Connolly (Cesare), Danielle de Niese (Cleopatra), Angelika Kirchschlager (Sesto), Christophe Dumaux (Tolomeo), Patricia Bardon (Cornelia), Christopher Maltman (Achilla) & Rachid Ben Abdeslam (Nireno)

The Glyndebourne Chorus & Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, William Christie (conductor) & David McVicar (stage director)

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51Z2LQKxFNL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

One of the chosen few that was so good I had to sell the original DVD version (which was very high quality) and buy the blu ray that was later released, one of the very best opera performances on disc

HarpsichordConcerto
December 22nd, 2011, 02:03 AM
One of the chosen few that was so good I had to sell the original DVD version (which was very high quality) and buy the blu ray that was later released, one of the very best opera performances on disc

I have the DVD version! Hate it when that happens. But I'm happy with it. It's not the cost that bothers me with a Blu-ray, rather, it's the principle of repeating the identical purchase with this one, and then asking myself why then not repeat the purchase of Blu-ray perfect subsitutes in similar cases?! I'm trying not to open the flood gates!

Dark_Angel
December 22nd, 2011, 03:35 AM
I have the DVD version! Hate it when that happens. But I'm happy with it. It's not the cost that bothers me with a Blu-ray, rather, it's the principle of repeating the identical purchase with this one, and then asking myself why then not repeat the purchase of Blu-ray perfect subsitutes in similar cases?! I'm trying not to open the flood gates!

Beside the superior picture and sound......you could rationalize the extra cost that there are only two blu ray discs and you spend less time getting up to change the discs ;)

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 02:04 AM
Watching this now:

http://cdn-9.nflximg.com/us/boxshots/large/70037889.jpg

I like it so far. The modern costumes (or rather, vintage fascist-era costumes) and black lipstick are not bothering me as much as they have bothered others here. Antonacci is a very attractive woman and I relish any opportunity to see her. The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment is excellent as usual. I like most Glyndebourne productions, I think they have good taste, even when they do a bit of regietheatre. This production has good singers and a good orchestra in good conducting hands, Handel's music is beautiful, what's not to like? There's not much to gain with the updating of the setting, but there's not much to lose either. The essential elements: good singing (especially by Scholl, a show stopper!), decent acting by singers who look the part, good orchestra, good conductor - are still there.

Case in point, this gorgeous duet with beautiful Antonacci and exquisite contralto Scholl:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b_631iPcGo0

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 02:05 AM
Here, I've just watched this monument to Eurotrash and the worst kind of Regietheater:

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/5176MDWZB3L._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Strangely enough, if you try to forget that you're watching Ariodante, it even works. The staging has some striking moments, and can even be somewhat erotic.

But when you think that this is Ariodante, one of the most beautiful and romantic Handel operas, then you realize that this production is a complete disaster.

First of all, this being the ENO, they had as usual the bad taste of translating the libretto from Italian into English. Bad move! Second, the cast has several instances of people not looking the part, less than enthusiastic acting, weird facial expressions that don't match the moment or the emotions portrayed by Handel, and very variable singing.

Anyway, this is such a good opera that they weren't able to totally ruin it, but they tried really hard.

I think I'm for the death penalty for "smart" stage directors. (Before someone calls the police, I'm speaking figuratively).

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 02:09 AM
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/416DBGT3SGL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

So, I'm watching this Rinaldo right now (just started) and it looks very silly indeed, but one thing must be said: the singing is very good. The countertenor David Daniels doing Rinaldo and the soprano doing Almirena (Deborah York) are both excellent (and she's cute! - it's her on the cover picture), and Armida hasn't even made her entrance yet. So, worst updating ever or not, I guess I'll still enjoy it because the opera is so musically beautiful and one can never entirely dismiss a version with good singing.

Edit: Whoa! The Armida is very hot! And she can sing too!!! It's Noemi Nadelmann, worthy of consideration in our Loveliest Sopranos builder!

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51LN%2BXQf0kL._SL500_AA280_.jpghttp://www.noeminadelmann.ch/pix/gallery/0420.jpg



Something tells me that I'll enjoy this version more than Natalie did!

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 02:10 AM
OK, I've finished the Rinaldo, and I must say that in spite of the *extremely* silly production complete with a giant bobble-head puppet, this DVD is not so bad, for a number of factors: *very* good singing, two attractive leading females, some scenes with beautiful visuals especially in the second and third acts, and a *very* good one-hour documentary about Handel's operas in the bonus features. I can't say I wasn't entertained.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 02:11 AM
Handel: Orlando on blu-ray
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51UM9C72MGL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

OK, folks, this one is a mixed bag.

It's William Christie, but not with his orchestra Les Arts Florissants. This time he is a guest conductor, at the helm of the Orchestra "La Scintila" of the Zurich Opernhaus. This is not an opera company I trust at all, but anyway, let's not allow prejudices to get in the way of a fair assessment.

The Stage Director is Jens-Daniel Herzog, apparently no relation to Werner Herzog.

The cast has Marijana Mijanovic in the title role, Martina Janková as Angelica, Konstantin Wolff as Zoroastro, Katharina Peetz as Medoro, and Christina Clark as Dorinda.

The plot is simple (LOL, it actually isn't, and it is quite ridiculous, but who cares?):

Zoroastro is worried because General Orlando fell in love with Angelica, and while lovesick, is neglecting his military duties. He tells him that he should go to war and forget about love, to no avail. Angelica keeps giving him hopes because she is scared of him but secretly loves Medoro, who is loved by Dorinda. Medoro encourages Dorinda as well but prefers Angelica. Orlando declares to Angelica his love and gives her a bracelet. Dorinda decides that the only way to avoid the ire of a jealous general which might get either herself or Medoro killed - or both - is to elope with Medoro in the middle of the night. However when they are making plans and start kissing each other, Dorinda walks on them and cries out loud, lamenting the fact that Medoro had been fooling her. They are afraid that she'll attract the attention of the general with her crying, and Angelica gives her the bracelet to calm her down. She does, but then rats on them to Orlando, who gets more and more upset, in a jealous rage. Medoro and Angelica elope, Orlando states he will pursue them and kill them, but gets delirious and loses his sanity. Angelica and Medoro come back (why???), Medoro wants to offer himself to be killed, but Zoroastro devises a plan to cure the general of his insanity. He makes Angelica - who is by now despondent because she thinks that the general will kill Medoro - offer herself to be killed by Orlando. Zoroastro manages to fake Angelica's death in the hands of Orlando (how? with magic, I suppose), who then wakes up of his trance, finds himself cured of his madness, and laments the fact that he has murdered Angelica. At this point and to Orlando's surprise, she resuscitates, tells him that she does love Medoro - who then shows up alive and well - and asks for Orlando's blessing. The general says that indeed love should not distract him from war, gives the happy couple his blessing, and everybody (including Dorinda who by then has renounced her love for Medoro - why??) rejoices. Curtain.

Technically, the blu-ray is impeccable. Perfect DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and PCM Stereo, subtitles in Italian, English, German, French, and Spanish, full HD picture with 16:9 format, running time of 155 minutes. There is only one problem that knocks down some points in my evalutation: the only extras are trailers for 5 other operas; no interviews, or making-of. Camera work is very appropriate.

The staging is, of course, updated. These days directors make a point of staging baroque opera in any possible era, except the one intended by the composer and the librettist. This one is no exception. Oh, and there is the usual Regie re-interpretation. Zoroastro, instead of being a magician, is the head psychiatrist in a mental hospital where general Orlando is a patient. Dorinda, rather than a shepherdess, is a nurse. Angelica and Medoro are, well, Angelica and Medoro. We never get to know what in the hell these two are doing in the mental hospital (we know from the opera's libretto who they are supposed to be, but their positions in the original libretto don't really match the idea of the hospital setting - they aren't patients, aren't staff... which is another problem showing that updates have their limitations.

In terms of scenarios, they are well done for the premise, and not intrusive. Huge walls slide in and out and subdivide the stage in various ways, which are very effective to convey the different rooms in the hospital and to provide enough variety and ample space for the singers/actors, without ever looking too busy or cramped.

The hospital setting update is not too bad, but not very successful either. Let's say that it is less bad than other Eurotrashy productions (there aren't the usual purposefully shocking scenes or disgusting props that I came to expect from the Regie-gone-mad Zurich Opera House) but the singers visibly struggle to still convey Handel's opera in this environment while singing of completely disparate settings, such as woods, brooks, and deer passing by. But it isn't a complete disaster either - the psychiatric setting still works fairly well for this opera that includes a mad scene and a character who recovers from madness. But you know, it's right there on the edge - a little more Regie, and it would have completely derailed the production.

Other Regie issues are the added action that is not in the libretto. There is over-sexualization of certain scenes; for example, when Dorinda is singing of how she still loves Medoro while he tells him that his heart belongs to another; the scene is supposed to be one of renouncement and sadness for her, but of course, Regie-gone-mad Zurich Opera makes the poor singer try to frantically undress Medoro and zip down his pants - fortunately she doesn't go any further. There is also a scene in which Dorinda punches Angelica who gets a bleeding nose (this is not in the libretto), and the bloody nose becomes the object of several actions which don't match what is being sung at all. Continuity problems arise - Angelica's bloody-stained clothes suddenly appear clean, then bloody again, then clean again, then bloody again. Obviously the filming was a composite of different evenings and those blood stains weren't on the same spots.http://www.talkclassical.com/images/smilies/lol.gif

OK, so, this all sounds terrible, huh? Why have I said that the Regie ** does not completely derail the production? Because it is saved by the superlative acting of the two women who play female roles (not the ones in trouser roles). Martina Janková and Christina Clark are two very accomplished actresses, and somehow they pull it off; they make it work and rescue the Stage Director's silliness. Their rivalry on stage is acted with such vigor and such comic punch (in spite of this being an opera seria), and they develop such an exquisite chemistry, that we forget about all the ridiculously unmatched action/libretto situations. Wow! Some artists these two are! They make this whole thing very entertaining, to tell you the truth, even if it is not exactly what Handel and his anonymous librettist had intended.

Konstantin Wolff acts his part very well too. The other two characters, however, are no match for this trio's acting abilities. Marijana Mijanovic does OK in terms of acting (not great as the other three, but OK, and her mad scene is not bad), while Katharina Peetz is not a convincing Medoro in a trouser role, and she is not helped by the ridiculous costumes that she/he gets. Most of the other costumes are appropriate (except for one scene when Angelica shows up - for no reason whatsoever - dressed as a Japanese woman - I guess I told you that the Zurich Opera House is Regie-gone-mad, right?), but Medoro's are particularly odd, especially in the final scene. They make of this character a buffoon, which again is not matched by the libretto, in which he does engage in some more noble actions in the second and third acts, after his first act two-faced flirting with two women at the same time.

In terms of looks, Marijana Mijanovic looks masculine enough (without need for facial hair) but she is just too svelte and tiny to be convincing as the great hero general Orlando. Katharina Peetz, again, is shorthanded by somewhat ridiculous fake facial hair (a thin moustache). Martina Janková looks very attractive and sexy, and her "assets" - cough, cough (those who know me, know what I'm talking about) are generously displayed during the first act when she is in her night gown, but she does dress more modestly during the second and third acts. Christina and Konstantin look their parts. The latter is not helped by the high definition of this blu-ray's image, because we can see that his bald head is fake. Sometimes HD gets in the way of suspension of disbelief...

Now, for the most important part, the music.

The opera itself is, of course, spectacular. I really like this one, it's considered by many to be one of Handel's top three in musical terms, and even though it's hard for me to rank them because I very much like pretty much everything that he did, I can see why this opinion could be defended. One of the best features is that Handel this time employs more ensembles than usual, and less da capo arias than usual. The few da capo arias are not extra long. These characteristics make for lively and varied vocal music that won't turn off the non-initiated (for whom the endless succession of long da capo arias in other baroque operas can be unpalatable). I particularly like the trio when Angelica and Medoro are trying to comfort Dorinda when she walks on them making up - they tell her to be brave and move on, she says "no... no..." and they reply "sì... sì..." (the effect is beautiful). The short overture and the instrumental ultra-short intermezzi (listed as sinfoniae) are very delicate and tasteful.

OK, how well (or not) is the music performed in this production?

Well, Christie is a Handel specialist and things click pretty well, helped by the spectacular quality of this blu-ray's sound track, and by the period instruments, including the so-called viola d'amore, which supposedly provides a fuller and more resonant sound. And yet... and yet... there is something missing. I believe that what is missing is Christie's own orchestra and his chemistry with them. He tries his best but can't inspire this "La Scintilla" to the same energy and brilliance of his Les Arts Florissants.

And what about the singing?

Marijana Mijanovic pretty much ruins this production. Apparently she was coming back after a long absence due to severe health problems and a pregnancy, but you know, she shouldn't have tackled this, if she wasn't well enough. She commits a large number of vocal errors, and one keeps longing for a countertenor instead, such as Scholl or Daniels. She seems too contained, passionless in her singing, and unable to survive her coloratura, which gets worse and worse and seems rather disastrous in the third act.

Martina Janková, on the other hand, steals the show. While at the very top of her range she doesn't do as well, she compensates for it with a pleasant timbre and a big dose of vitality. I loved her performance (I've talked about her acting and her looks already) and will be looking forward to catching her in other roles.

Christina Clark, while not as good as Martina (due to being uneven throughout the performance, unlike Martina who pretty much shines every single time she is on stage), sings beautifully as well, and at times exquisitely so.

Konstantin Wolff is a very good bass. He performs his part almost perfectly, except for a tendency to lose too much volume during his lowest notes, but these moments are rare and most of the time his singing is excellent.

Katharina Peetz does OK, with no fireworks but no blunders either.

My verdict: score/vocal writing 100, libretto 88, staging 75, acting 90, singing 87, orchestra 90, blu-ray technical quality 95 (not 100 due to the absence of interviews and making-of).

Average, 89, or B+.

It is worth buying? Yes, it is. There are better stagings of Handel operas out there, but this one is not terrible, and the opera itself is musically very beautiful. There is also no competition that I know of.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 02:12 AM
Handel: Hercules on DVD
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51SAS5E32%2BL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Handel's Hercules sung in English, 2004(LI) - William Christie - Les Arts Florissants
Opéra National de Paris, stage director Luc Bondy
Hercules - William Shimell
Dejanira - Joyce DiDonato
Hyllus - Toby Spence
Iole - Ingela Bohlin
Lichas - Malena Ernman
Priest of Jupiter - Simon Kirkbridge

This is opera, folks. This is why opera is the most satisfying and complete art form.
This is why it's been enduring for 400 years.

The start point is Greek mythology. It passes by Handel's precise vocal and instrumental music that portrays these emotions so accurately. It lands on the 21st century with modern clothing, and the result is an arc that hails from Antiquity and touches the modern man, reminding us that it is all about the human condition, which remains the same for the last 3,000 years, and is exquisitly rendered here.

Every single note and every single facial expression contribute to a thrilling rollercoaster of emotions. All artists involved with this production, from chorus members to musicians to principals to conductor, are at the top of their art. This is one fine opera DVD! I'd say that it is strong competition to the likes of Giulio Cesare and Les Indes Galantes.

I've rarely seen such a competent team put together such a *perfect* product. I can't think of a single element to negatively criticize here. This product doesn't have a single flaw, all aspects considered:

The opera itself (vocals, instrumentals, pace, dramatic intensity, libretto) = 10/10
The DVD (image, sound, subtitles, extras, camera work, insert) = 10/10
The production (staging, props, costumes, adequacy of casting, concept) = 10/10
The acting (convincing power, nuances, accuracy of emotions, looks) = 10/10
The orchestra, chorus, and conductor (sensible reading, balance, tempo, musicality, sound) = 10/10
The singing (timbre, pitch, technique, projection, volume, agility, articulation) = 10/10

Overall: 10/10, of course. Outstanding! Sublime! Phenomenal!

Highly, highly, highly recommended! One of the best operatic DVD's ever released. Buy it! Buy it! Buy it!

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 02:15 AM
Handel: Tamerlano on DVD
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Alternative cover:

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/21AT9RQAZ5L._AA160_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/Handel-Tamerlano-Norberg-Schulz-Bonitatibus-H%C3%A4ndelfestspiele/dp/B00007149G/ref=sr_1_4?s=dvd&ie=UTF8&qid=1304567780&sr=1-4)

This is from the Halle Handel Festival of 2001, filmed live in the small baroque Halle Theater, with period staging and minimalistic setting. Trevor Pinnack conducts the period orchestra The English Concert.

Cast:

Tamerlano: MONICA BACELLI
Bajazet: THOMAS RANDLE
Andronico: GRAHAM PUSHEE
Irene: ANNA BONITATIBUS
Asteria: ELISABETH NORBERG-SCHULZ
Leone: ANTONIO ABETE

Technically this is a very high quality DVD, one of the best I've seen, including some outstanding special features such as the ability to project the score on the screen, simultaneously with the image (a good feature for music students). The 16/9 hi-def image is sharp and clear with good lighting and good camera work. The sound comes in LPCM stereo and Dolby 5.1 and has perfect clarity, fullness, and balance. Subtitles and menus are in several languages. Bonus features include a making-of, and a documentary about the Halle festival with snipets of several Handel operas. This is how it's done, folks. It is a flawless product.

The opera itself is outstanding, one of Handel's best. Oh well, every opera of Handel's I watch or listen to, I think it's one of his best. The man just didn't know how to compose anything less than excellent. What a composer! Regardless, this one is indeed sublime, particularly beautiful.

Costumes are great. While the scenario for the entire opera is just a throne and some golden pannels, the costumes make up for the simplicity of the scenario. They are luxurious, colorful, and very appropriate (it is refreshing to see a Handel opera staged like the composer and librettist intended, with no Regie trickery). Staging is a bit static.

Musically, this production is a bit more uneven. The sounds of the period orchestra are very beautiful but while for me it is hard to say because this is my first contact with this opera, I felt a certain lack of energy and languid tempi. Oh well, we can't get William Christie every time.http://operalively.com/forums/images/smilies/sad.gif

And then, Monica Bacelli in the title role is not entirely convincing, she lacks ferocity and intensity, and while she sings correctly, it's nothing special.

Elisabeth Norberg-Schulz on the other hand is fabulous. Her voice is very pleasant, her acting is good, and she looks attractive.

Thomas Randle as Bajazet is equally impressive. These two account for the best singing in this production, and they do carry it on their shoulders and make it musically good enough.

Graham Pushee as Andronico also disappoints.

I mean, nobody really sinks the ship, it's just that Pushee and Bacelli are sort of pale, while Randle and Norberg-Schulz are much better, which makes for a detrimental contrast for the other two.

Anna Bonitatibus as Irene is sort of in the middle of these two extremes. Her singing is very good without being as thrilling as Randle's and Norberg-Schulz's, and she acts a lot more energetically than Pushee and Bacelli.

So here is the bottom line: we are faced with a high quality DVD product (technically speaking), containing a production with good staging and excellent costumes, and with musical aspects that even out in terms of minuses and pluses - while the orchestra sounds good, the conducting could have been better, and while of the five main characters 2 singers are outstanding, 2 are so-so and 1 is in the middle. So while the musical side earns a score of about 80 out of 100 (oscilating between 70 and 90), the non-musical aspects do add some 10 more points, getting to a total of 90 or A minus, therefore, one can say that this DVD is highly recommended.

I wonder how it compares with the other Tamerlano in video, the one with Plácido Domingo which does have the advantage of being also offered as blu-ray.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 02:16 AM
Handel: Admeto on DVD
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My dear friend Natalie loves this, so, I approached it with high expectations.

2009(LC) - Nicholas McGegan - FestspielOrchester Göttingen

Admeto - Tim Mead
Alceste - Marie Arnet
Ercole - William Berger
Orlindo - Andrew Radley
Trasimede - David Bates
Antigona - Kirsten Blaise
Meraspe - Wold Matthias Friedrich

Mamu Dance Theater - Solo dance and choreography - Tadashi Endo

Staged by Doris Dörrie

Technical quality of this product: impecable. Perfect Hi-Def image (a blu-ray is also available) with vivid colors in 16:9 format; PCM stereo and DTS 5.1 sound with excellent balance; sutbtitles in Italian, English, German, and French, bonus feature with a 21-minute film on Baroque and Butoh dancing; insert with short essay and synopsis in English, German, and French.

Staging: Very interesting. The director is Doris Dörries of Cherry Blossoms fame. She has staged this Händel opera with a Greek mythology subject matter in a Japanese Samurai culture setting. The images are stunning, although some parts have humor that I find to be misguided and distracting (such as the scenes with the sheep), and some satirical costumes fall flat in my opinion (such as Ercole's ridiculous Sumo wrestler padding).

Conducting, orchestra - period instruments, competent conducting, very appropriate (no fireworks, though).

Singing: homogeneously good, but again, no big thrills. The countertenor in the title role does a good job. Everybody sings beautifully.

The opera itself: lovely, of course. It is Händel. Has Händel ever composed anything that is not sublime?

And here is where this production doesn't earn my praise as much as it did for Natalie: doing it the Japanese way doesn't make it memorable per se.

The problem with staging Händel operas is that they are *all* very good. One after the other, you have this gorgeous vocal music, this thrilling orchestration, these finely nuanced characters, this good dramatic/theatrical impact.

But the problem with them being all so good is that then, each single one seems to be more of the same. When I try to rank the dozen operas by Händel that I know, I tend to be a bit confused; they are all so similarly enjoyable!

This is why, in my opinion, there are so many rather extreme stagings of Händel's operas. I believe that stage directors feel that they have to rescue the piece and make it somehow unique, as opposed to the consistently good, always sublime, always reliably beautiful operas that Händel used to churn out, one after the other.

Case in point, the spectacular, dynamic, thrilling, vivacious, lively staging of Giulio Cesare at Glyndebourne.

Has Ms. Dörrie achieved the same effect here? I don't think so. Transposing the opera into Samurai culture is not enough, as strikingly beautiful as the images are. You need more intensity, more dramatic power, and this staging for me is more visually stunning than substantial.

I give to this production a score of about 85, or B. Recommended. But not highly recommended (which I reserve for those that I score at 90 or more, or in other words, A- or more).

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 02:19 AM
Handel: Theodora on DVD
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1996 - William Christie - Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment - Glyndebourne Chorus

Stellar cast of exquisite singers - Dawn Upshaw, Lorraine Hunt, David Daniels, Richard Croft, and Frode Olsen as principals, and chorus also very good.

I'm a little puzzled - if I understood correctly, some of our members object to this production (probably mainly due to the updated staging).

I find it absolutely spectacular. First of all, this an oratorio, not an opera. So, the staging shouldn't be considered subversive in any way, because it is there just adding visual elements, and they are strikingly beautiful. It's not like Sellars was tampering with Handel's stage instructions. I don't know if you all consider this to be a valid point, but for me it is. I think in a way that it is more acceptable to add some striking imagery to an oratorio than to frontally contradict the author's staging instructions for an opera. In this case there are no staging instructions, so, I feel that letting the imagination soar up to the sky is less upsetting; at least, to me. I'm fully aware of the internal contradiction in what I'm saying, since Handel never intended this to be staged in the first place, so some will say that it is even worse tampering... but strangely enough, the above is the way I feel.

Second, I've rarely seen such a spectacular MUSICAL performance on DVD. You all know that I prefer opera (well, generally speaking, because it's an oratorio here, but done in a very operatic way) with the visual/theatrical aspects, but I'm fully aware that my choice prevents me from spending as much money on the top recordings with the best singing artists (I spend enough on DVD's and blu-rays, I can't afford both my collection of opera on visual media - by now, somewhat extensive - AND an equally extensive collection of CD box-sets).

So, when I see a DVD that has exquisite singing, it's the best of two worlds, and I surely won't fault this production for what some will say it's objectionable staging.

You get a formidable conductor, a spectacular historically informed period orchestra, top singers in all roles and what you get is lots, lots, lots of pleasure.

I feel that I don't even need to write up a detailed review of this product. It would just be a boring gushing endless string of praise. I'll just say, A+, highly recommended!!!

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 02:21 AM
Handel: Partenope on DVD

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This was recorded live at the Royal Danish Opera, Copenhagen, in October of 2008.
Lars Ulrik Mortensen conducts the Concerto Copenhagen.

Inger Dam-Jensen is Partenope.
Andreas Scholl is Arsace
Christophe Dumaux is Armindo
Tuva Semmingsen is Rosmira (a.k.a. cross-dressing Eurimene)
Bo Kristian Jensen is Emilio
Palle Knudsen is Ormonte

Technically speaking this is a good product from DECCA, region zero, filmed in HD, with 16:9 anamorphic widescreen, LPCM and DTS 5.0 tracks (one laments that the subwoofer is not fully activated - but the surround effects are good, and sometimes when the singing comes from a corner of the stage it only comes from that side of the surround speakers and the effects are pleasant - oh well, I'm inaugurating my new higher-end set-up - not the highest end but a significant improvement over my old one - with this DVD and I'm very pleased with the sound). Good image definition and colors (although the staging doesn't take advantage of it). There are optional subtitles in numerous languages and a bonus feature (documentary of the rehearsals, 17 minutes-long). The opera running time is 187 minutes.

The Pros:

Exquisite singing by all principals, some better than others (particularly Andreas Scholl, Inger Dam-Jensen and Bo Kristian Jensen) but even the slightly - and I do mean slightly - less good ones (Christophe Dumaux, Tuva Semmingsen) do an excellent job.

Inger Dam-Jensen has good stage presence and is a good match for the role of the proud, powerful and sexy queen - she is an impressive lady although not a beauty.

There is some eye candy for the ladies who like gents or gents who like gents, but not so for gents who like ladies (my case) or ladies who like ladies, in spite of the suggestive cover picture (which is misleading).

HIP in period instruments.

The Cons:

They are numerous, in my opinion.

Unattractive staging with dark scenarios and even darker lighting.

Overacting by many principals - yes, I understand that opera often includes overacting in order to reach the back of the theater but with the frequent close-ups of this camera direction it gets really distracting. And then, with the misguided attempts at humor (see below) the singers seem to be always indecisive between portraying the true complex feelings that the libretto calls for, and making a joke of it all which results in very uneven acting. This is stage direction gone wrong, folks. I don't mind at all updated stagings (this one is done with modern clothing and modern props) but it's gotta be well done. This one is not. It is not Eurotrash. There are no excesses. It's rather a question of guiding the acting into a coherent whole which definitely does not happen here.

It's the kind of product that would be better enjoyed with the TV monitor off, a good candidate for our project of good musical aspects of a DVD (except that I'm less than thrilled with the orchestra so I wouldn't include it there - I mean, the orchestra for me doesn't stand out as a strong positive for this performance as much as some efforts by, say, The English Baroque Soloists or Les Arts Florissants can be). I'm not an authority in orchestras, and maybe someone will say that this Concerto Copenhagen is very good. Maybe I'm just being influenced by the reputation of some other ensembles, but I do think I've approached this performance with an open mind and just wasn't awed like I've been when listening to an opera by some of the other baroque orchestras, when I can't stop dropping my jaw and saying "oh wow!" to myself about the instrumental playing. This awed feeling just isn't there for me, regarding this orchestra. Another way to say this is that conducting and playing in this production, while very good, like brilliance. I'd like to hear the opinion on this from people who know these things better than I do, like emiellucifuge. I'd be willing to reassess my understanding of this orchestra's playing if I'm flat wrong about this, but I repeat, there seems to be something missing for me.

Slapstick kind of humor that falls flat and is detrimental to the enjoyment of this rather dramatic work - case in point the battle scenes which in my humble opinion tried to be clever and ended up being ridiculous. The public seems to have loved it since they can't stop applauding at all little "clever" tricks, which is in itself distracting, I'd like to shout "shut up" when they applaud *during* the singing/playing just because the direction came up with something "clever" like a singer entering the stage by sliding down a rope. Yeah, big deal. Can we listen to the music, please??? Not to say that the laughing at the lame slapstick acting is also distracting since it happens during the singing. I don't know what is wrong with this public. Do they want to watch a comedy? Go to the movies, then, there are plenty of silly Hollywood comedies playing in multiplexes. Do they want to watch dramatic 17th/18th century opera? Then listen to the opera, dammit!!!

Too much stage noise. One would want the sound engineer to have generated some noise cancelling waves to compensate for those, before releasing the final product.

Abuse of close-ups and too many camera cuts that get to be shaky and dizzying. Some of the camera work (fortunately not a lot) is done with handheld cameras. Damn, this trend that spoils so many films is getting into opera as well??? I mean, I like the old efforts started by Lars von Trier and his pals, but the craze of action films with handheld cameras became very annoying and I'd hate to see it penetrate the world of opera as well.

The opera itself:

The libretto is one of the most convoluted ever set to music by Handel, and we know how some Handel operas have a knack for convoluted libretti (while some others - the ones I tend to like more, like the recent - for me - example of Hercules have more clarity and directness). This one overdoes it. There are so many plot twists and so much ambivalence and changes of mind and multiple shifting love allegiances that at one point it all becomes a turn-offish mess, to the point that one thinks - "oh, whatever, let me just listen to the music."

Musically of course the opera is very satisfactory. I'm still to find a work by Handel that I don't like musically. The man was a genius.

So, what is the verdict? It's a tough one. I guess I'd say recommended, given the excellent singing across the board and the formidable performance from Inger and Andreas (the latter is a singer who can't go wrong, he's consistently excellent in everything that he does), plus the good technical quality of the product. So, just the pleasure of listening to and watching two gifted singers/actors in the two main roles justify the buy. But certainly I've seen better in terms of camera work and updated stagings of Handel's operas.

Oh, I forgot to mention the culprits for the weak stage direction and the weak direction for TV: respectively Francesco Negrin and Uffe Borgwardt - so that others who think like me avoid their future works (although obviously there are some who love what they do, given the wild applause from the public - If I were there, it would be hard for me to restrain from booing the stage director - I never do this, but I'd be tempted).

Soave_Fanciulla
January 3rd, 2012, 06:49 AM
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Inspired by the joys of Handel and recommendations from another forum, I bought this Alcina. Well, I watched it, but I have mixed feelings. Alice Coote was wonderful, a beautiful rich mezzo voice and full of yearning, but the rest of the cast was not vocally up to her standards, although Catherine Naglestad in the title role bought a depth of characterisation to Alcina which was very moving. I actually couldn't bear to listen to Catriona Smith in the role of Alcina's sister Morgana. All the on-stage fondling was also a little distracting (although I can see that it was part of the story, which focuses very much on erotic befuddlement). However the set looked like the dining-room of a 1950s Bournemouth boarding-house - sadly completely lacking in magic.

Soave_Fanciulla
January 3rd, 2012, 06:52 AM
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This production, conducted by William Christie, is puzzlingly set in the silent movie era, pancake make-up (the guys all had red lipstick, or had they been dipping into the Glyndebourne strawberries?) and glam dresses, with very stylised movements (presumably designed to echo the sorts of movements that would have been seen on an 18th Century stage).

Antonacci was a very strong and moving Rodelinda although on first listening I found her vibrato a bit off-putting. Scholl warmed up nicely after a rather bland start. He has got a gorgeous voice, hasn't he? I kept getting a bit put off by Eduige who is supposed to be a contender in the “who is going to get married to whom” stakes but had been given an outfit and wig that made her look like the Queen Mum:ohmy:.

Soave_Fanciulla
January 3rd, 2012, 06:55 AM
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This production of Hercules, sung in English, again has William Christie conducting. The story is a lot simpler than most Handel operas – wife gets jealous when husband returns from wars with delectable blonde prisoner in tow, wife goes mad, kills husband, dies, blonde and son get together, everyone sings happy happy (actually I made that last bit up based on previous experience, I haven’t finished watching yet.) So far it’s great, all the singers are vey good (Shimmel a bit gravelly but OK) but Joyce DiDonato as the jealous Dejanira is AWESOME, absolutely heartbreaking. Eat your heart out Othello, this is what going mad with jealousy really looks like. The production is done in modern dress which isn’t too intrusive, except I’m wondering why they put the captive princess Iole in a nightie and combat jacket. And couldn’t the Opéra budget have run to shoes for her?

EDIT

Finished watching this. It's definitely the number two Handel DVD for me (after the Glyndebourne Giulio Cesare). Much darker of course. Could be renamed "One wedding, an accidental poisoning and a spectacular descent into madness".

The choral work is especially impressive and beautiful, and the chorus got the biggest cheer of the evening. DiDonato keeps the intensity up, (doesn't die actually, just sits madly in a corner) and the ending is bitter sweet. Highly recommended

Soave_Fanciulla
January 3rd, 2012, 06:56 AM
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On one hand I found it deeply moving - Upshaw, Croft, Hunt, Daniels really inhabited their courageous, tender, self-sacrificing characters thoroughly and sang their parts convincingly and beautifully. I was in two minds about the production. I don't mind the updating, and in a sense I could see the point of the opposing the venal pleasure seeking pagans, clutching their soft drinks, against the "pure" Christians. But as usual with Sellars there was too much "gritty" business which got distracting (ever seen his heroin-injecting Big-Mac-scoffing Don Giovanni?). I didn't think we really need death by lethal injection in the middle of gorgeous farewell arias!

Soave_Fanciulla
January 3rd, 2012, 06:59 AM
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The star attraction is, of course, Domingo. Well, I love him to bits, but I have to say the voice is a bit raspy and not at all Handelian, not enough flexibility really, and too verismo. That said, he was a very convincing Bajazet, full of outraged ire and fatherly concern, and his death scene was a riproarer, especially his tender farewell to his daughter.

Monica Bacelli as the psychopathic potentate Tamerlano was wonderfully convicing and even funny, parading around like a mercurial peacock in a series of ever more bejewelled and colourful outfits - a bit the sultan of the harem meets the Red Queen. "Off with his head!"

The rest of the cast sang well and were affecting, particularly the star crossed lovers played by Sarah Mingardo and the stunning Ingela Bohun.

The production was clean and fairly minimal, with some striking aspects - the arrival of Tamerlano's spurned fiancee on a giant blue elephant, Bazajet's death scene that had him gradually moving back and fading into a large black tunnel. The costumes, a kind of generic 18th century oriental look, were utterly gorgeous, particularly the two princes. There was nothing in the production that outraged or puzzled me, a nice change for modern Handel productions.

Soave_Fanciulla
January 3rd, 2012, 07:08 AM
An alternative to the controversial Peter Sellars Theodora is this newer version

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with less distracting business – in fact this is really semi-staged, the props consisting mainly of chairs, the costumes simply evening dress, and the execution scene is just indicated by the couple turning their chairs back to the audience. However it IS fully acted if you get my drift, with the characters fully engaging with each other, usually to good effect. I was particularly impressed with the wonderful chemistry between Mehta and Schäfer as they gradually acknowledge their love for each other.

The singing is of a high standard, with the only weak link being a rather anxious and harsh-sounding Bernada Fink as Irene – but when you are up against the glorious serenity of Lorraine Hunt Lieberson in the other version you might as well just roll over and die. Johannes Kränzle is a wonderfully capricious and lecherous Valens, but still delivering his arias with grave beauty, and Joseph Kaiser a fine emotionally charged Septimius. Christina Schäfer doesn’t always sound totally lovely but she does a great job of conveying Theodora’s emotional journey from fear to acceptance of her fate. Bejun Mehta sings with his usual accomplished beauty and still manages to maintain intensity and dignity while wearing Theodora’s little red dress for the whole of the last act.

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HarpsichordConcerto
January 4th, 2012, 12:00 AM
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The star attraction is, of course, Domingo. Well, I love him to bits, but I have to say the voice is a bit raspy and not at all Handelian, not enough flexibility really, and too verismo. That said, he was a very convincing Bajazet, full of outraged ire and fatherly concern, and his death scene was a riproarer, especially his tender farewell to his daughter.
...
There was nothing in the production that outraged or puzzled me, a nice change for modern Handel productions.

Agree with your notes. This version was interesting mainly because of Domingo taking on a solid Baroque role in one of Handel's finest. I'm not entirely convinced by Domingo's approach to Baroque Handel but he did a very fine job at it. It was a nice different way of taking on a Baroque role for a change. The orchestra was under capable directions of experienced Handelian conductor Paul McCreesh (who has done excellent CD versions of Theodora, Saul and Solomon). The only draw back musically was that there were some cuts in the final act.

Tamerlano was composed in 1724, a year when Handel wrote three grand operas in succession: Giulio Cesare in Egitto, Rodelinda and Tamerlano.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 4th, 2012, 03:50 AM
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Inspired by the joys of Handel and recommendations from another forum, I bought this Alcina. Well, I watched it, but I have mixed feelings. Alice Coote was wonderful, a beautiful rich mezzo voice and full of yearning, but the rest of the cast was not vocally up to her standards, although Catherine Naglestad in the title role bought a depth of characterisation to Alcina which was very moving. I actually couldn't bear to listen to Catriona Smith in the role of Alcina's sister Morgana. All the on-stage fondling was also a little distracting (although I can see that it was part of the story, which focuses very much on erotic befuddlement). However the set looked like the dining-room of a 1950s Bournemouth boarding-house - sadly completely lacking in magic.

Hehe, I loved this one, and you know why.:love-struck:

Soave_Fanciulla
January 4th, 2012, 08:05 AM
Oh yes, I know why.


... part of the story, which focuses very much on erotic befuddlement.

I rest my case.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
February 5th, 2012, 02:04 AM
Dresdner Musikfestspiele 2000 - EuroArts release 2011

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Serse - Opera in Three Acts, HWV 40 (April 15, 1738)
Music by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Libretto - adapted anonymously from Silvio Stampiglia's Il Xerxe (Rome, 1694), in its turn after Nicolò Minato's libretto - the current production used an adaptation by Michael Hampe

Conductor - Christophe Rousset
Orchestra - Les Talens Lyriques (HIP)
Chorus - Ludwigshafener Theaterchor
Chorus Master - Klaus Thielitz

Recorded live (composite) at the Semperoper, Dresden, June 2-3, 2000

Directed for Stage by Michael Hampe
Set and Costumes Designer by Carlo Tommasi
Directed for TV by Philip Behrens

Xerxes, King of Persia - Paula Rasmussen
Arsamene, his brother, in love with Romilde - Ann Hallenberg
Amastre, princess of the Kingdom of Tagor, betrothed to Xerxes, disguised as a man - Patricia Bardon
Ariodate, a prince, commander of Xerxes' army - Marcello Lippi
Romilde, his daughter, in love with Arsamene - Isabel Bayrakdarian
Atalanta, his second daughter, secretly in love with Arsamene - Sandrine Piau
Elviro, servant to Arsamene - Matteo Peirone

Format NTSC 4:3
Sound linear PCM 2.0, Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish
Region code zero (all)
Running time 160 minutes
Insert - Credits, list of chapters with arias, characters, and time. A 2-page essay that includes one paragraph about the plot (not a complete synopsis), in English, French, and German
No extras

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Serse is Handel's most comic opera (it's tragicomedic, really), with the figure of Elviro providing for some buffoonery. It also features more continuous music and the easing of the recitativo-da capo aria structure. Repetitions are much less frequent than in previous operas and there is more use of arioso. This doesn't stop it from being full of gorgeous music. Handel was trying to adapt his operas to the lightening taste of the audience, which was a tired of Italianate opera seria and craved some more entertaining burlesque material. So, he obliged, and produced a much lighter opera than his usual fare. This accounts for some popularity for this work once his operas were revived, and it now is not just praised for his signature aria Ombra mai fu. It is today Handel's second most popular opera after Giulio Cesare. At the time, however, it didn't stop the decline of Italian opera in London, which prompted Handel to abandon the genre after this effort, and to start his oratorios in English language.

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Overture - very exquisitely performed on beautiful period instruments by the excellent Les Talens Lyriques with precise conducting by Rousset, no complaints there. Sound balance is excellent, sound is clear and crisp. So far, so good.

Paula Rasmussen opens with the brief arioso Frondi tenere over a glass/metal set with a tree encased in a glass case, limited right and left by dark marble walls, on a vitreous ground surface.
Costumes are updated to sometime pre-World War I, not particularly tasteful in my opinion.

She has her back to the stage, turns slowly, and soon enough jumps into the highlight for this opera (the fastest one to come in all of opera, arguably), Ombra mai fu. Perfect, goosebumping rendition, full of musicality and intensity, wavy, very well controlled, with a beautiful timbre melting perfectly with the orchestra. Wow! I'm in for a treat!

Glass panels slide up, several characters enter.

After various recitatives, Isabel Bayrakdarian sings next, and she is beautiful in voice and figure.
After a lyrical aria, we get the playfull Va godendo vezzoso e bello, over flutes that are played on stage. She has a good trill and and pitch control, and her voice is agile.

Arsamene's first aria, a da capo piece, Io le dirò che l'amo, is executed correctly but without brilliance by Ann Hallenberg.

Then we get a charming and elegant Sandrine Piau singing Sì, sì, mio ben, sì, sì. Her voice is delicate and she is a very good actress.

Matteo Peirone's Elviro is goofy, and his voice is good enough for this small role, especially because it is not taxed since he mostly does recitatives.

The sets are dark with all this grey marble and black surfaces. Visually this is not an attractive set.

When Paula Rasmussen needs to sing louder and more forcefully while she displays jealous anger in Di tacere e di schernirmi, she is less successful than with her Ombra mai fu. She seems to be more comfortable with the more delicate and melodious material than with displaying loudness.

There are only two more characters to enter the stage (Amastre and Ariodate). Right before they come in, we're are treated to another very beautiful rendition of Né men con l'ombre by Ms. Bayrakdarian. I really like her.

Very, very dark panels slide from the sides and hide most of the stage, leaving just a strip of a proscenium, and we get the Amastre to enter and sing from this strip.

Patricia Bardon sings Se cangio spoglia. Nothing extraordinary.

Marcello Lippi is equally unremarkable as Ariodate. The panels slide out and we get some light at last, with a white background, for the soldiers chorus, with vaguely Japanese banners (?!?).

Serse sings from a platform on top of large statues of elephants. Pardon the pun, but this staging is definitely heavy. Visually I quite dislike it. The singing though goes from correct to sublime, and the orchestra is great, therefore I'm happy enough.

Acting-wise, the only singers who impress are Sandrine Piau and Isabel Bayrakdarian, the others are quite conventional, and some are rather stiff (although this can be said to be done in purpose, to highlight some of the ridiculous aspects of this tragicomedy). But overall, the acting is not bothersome.

Serse gets another melodious and delicate aria that suits well Ms. Rasmussen voice thus we get another dose of sheer beauty - Più che penso alle fiamme. We are reminded once more of how beautiful Handel's music is. Paula is great here, in one of the most thrilling moments of this performance. Big applause.

Ann Hallenberg, previously a weak link, warms up her voice and does significantly better with Non so, se sia la speme.

The first act is now scheduled to end with the two most attractive females and best actresses in the roles of Atalanta and Romilde so I brace for something good.

Indeed, even the sets improve, with a long, stylish couch and blue square openings breaking the monotony and darkness of the grey marble walls. This long scene is very good (10'15"), with the two rival sisters being sexy, charming, and funny - especially the more juvenile Atalanta. And they can sing! They surely both deserve a spot in our Lovely Sopranos and Mezzos thread, and I'll go there to do them justice!

This the end of act I, and as Handel's operas go, I don't expect much variation in acts II and III so I feel prepared for the verdict for this DVD (if it changes later I can just edit this):

One regrets the dark heavy scenery and the 4:3 image, otherwise this is very good with some excellent singing, conducting, and playing, and some attractive people. I won't say highly recommended because of some unevenness and the above visual problems, but it is a solid "recommended" - in letter grade, something between B+ and A-, probably the latter.

Whether it is B+ or A- depends on people's taste for the sets and costumes - some reviews went crazy about them; I didn't like them. The musical side, however, is a solid A- or higher.

PS - after watching acts II and III, reading about the chiaroscuro concept of this staging, and reflecting that the ridiculous costumes were done in purpose, I'm more inclined to forget about my dislike of the visuals, including because the treatment given to Serses' tree at the end is quite stunning. After all, regardless of the visuals, above all we have great music and great singing by Rasmussen, Bayrakdarian, and Piau, with a great orchestra and conductor, so I'm finally entirely convinced.

Yes, it is a global A- and it is highly recommended.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
August 25th, 2012, 07:58 PM
Handel: Messiah on blu-ray

Messiah, oratorio in three parts (HWV 56), sung in English, premiered in Dublin, 13 April 1742.
Music by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Libretto by Charles Jennens (1700-1773), after the Bible

Staged version

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Jean-Christophe Spinosi conducts the Ensemble Matheus
Chorus Master Erwin Ortner and the Arnold Schoenberg Chor

Stage director Claus Guth
Set & Costume Design Christian Schmidt
Lighting Design Jürgen Hoffmann
Dramatic Adviser Konrad Kuhn
Choreographer Ramses Sigl
Video Director Hannes Rossacher

Recorded live at the Theater an der Wien, Vienna, 3 and 4 April 2009 (the 250th anniversary of the composer's death), in co-production with Opéra National de Lorraine, Nancy

Cast:
Susan Gritton, soprano
Cornelia Horak, soprano
Bejun Mehta, contralto
Richard Croft, tenor
Florian Boesch, bass
Martin Pöllmann, boy soprano
Paul Lorenger, dancer
Nadia Kichler, sign language performer

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Blu-ray disc, co-production ORF/Arte and Unitel in cooperation with Theater an der Wien and Classica - 2009 release
Artwork and Editorial, C Major Entertainment Group

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NTSC 16:9 filmed in HD; PCM 2.0 and DTS-HD MA 5.1; impeccable image and sound
Subtitles: English (original language), German, French, and Spanish
Region code 0 (worldwide)
Running time 154 minutes
No extras
The insert contains credits, chapter listing with singers' names and duration, production pictures in B&W, and a two-page essay in English, German, and French

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This is the kind of blu-ray disc that reminds us of why art and culture are important in our lives, and why we go through all the trouble and expenses of publishing a web site for operatic, vocal, and classical music, and contributing to its content.

The elements in play here are the most divine music one can think of, exquisitely performed by a competent ensemble, chorus, and their conductor and chorus master, with outstanding singers/actors, a fine choreographer and dancers, made even more relevant and deeply moving by a sensitive, tasteful, and conceptually sound staging. It doesn't get much better than this. This production, this performance, and its rendering by technically accomplished sound and image engineering in state-of-the art medium are as close to perfection as one can hope for.

Is there such thing as an "ultra-highly recommended A+++" rating? If there is, this one makes the grade.

My entire opinion on Regietheater gets into quasi-disturbing rethinking here. Because, see, as you all know very well, the Messiah is not an opera, it's an oratorio. It doesn't have any plot. It is a collection of religious anthems and edifying art songs illustrating several isolated passages of the Bible. So, any attempt to give it a staged version is necessarily the ultimate definition of Regietheater. Such beloved masterpiece and landmark, such revered icon of Western musical culture is exactly what most people would think of as a sacred enough piece (in all meanings of the term) that nobody should be messing with it. And yet... and yet... Claus Guth did just that, and the result is unbelievably moving and touching.

It is also very appropriate. The Messiah is "a reflexion on questions of religion and philosophy," says Mr. Guth. So, how better render its extraordinary power, than using it to illustrate a theatrical display of the most extreme situations we as human beings can be confronted with, the very ones that challenge our sense of purpose and faith? The senseless death of a loved one; the turmoil in a family that is caused by the inexplicable suicide of the head of the household. The pain, the suffering, the guilt, the attempt to understand, the revolt, the conformity... and it all being, for the sake of perspective, put in direct comparison to Jesus Christ's suffering, death, and ressurection. It is all brought into the 21st century in modern clothes, including those of the dancer who represents the Christ. A new figure is added - a sign language interpreter, adding to the staging a powerful metaphor about the quest for meaning as expressed by the symbols that she shapes with her hands and are recovered in the hand movements of the chorus (to strikingly beautiful effects).

The extraordinary performers - no need to single out any of them, since they are homogeneously of the highest possible quality with no weak links - seem obviously in touch with the strong emotions evoked by this staging (it's got such a punch that every single person on stage and in the audience - including the home audience through this great blu-ray recording - must feel it), which makes of the acting something naturally convincing. OK, I said "no need to single out any of them" - but still, one can't help but comment on the phenomenal singing of Mr. Bejun Mehta, Mr. Florian Boesch (he could singer Wagner) and Mr. Richard Croft. Another great characteristic of this recording, in purely musical terms, is that unlike most productions of the Messiah, we get reduced numbers, with a small chorus. The result is surprisingly crystalline, clear, and pure.

If you want to spend the next 154 minutes of your life immersed in sheer beauty that has the power to touch your soul in the deepest possible way, to prove once more that music is necessary to your very existence, purchase this masterpiece. I give it my highest recommendation of the last several years.

[clicky (http://www.amazon.com/Handel-Messiah-Blu-ray-Susan-Gritton/dp/B003UIGZMG/ref=sr_1_4?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1345923954&sr=1-4&keywords=messiah)]

HarpsichordConcerto
August 26th, 2012, 09:58 AM
I think it's more about Claus Guth and his interpretation of the Biblical themes. Remember, the libretto of The Messiah was skillfully compiled by Charles Jennens from scriptures straight out of his version of the Bible, and The Messiah was a very atypical Handel oratorio because of its Biblical libretto that contained no drama (compared with Handel's other English dramatic oratorios). Almaviva made an excellent point I think, that this production was really a Regietheatre. I do not yet have a copy but from the many parts that I have watched on Youtube, I do not think the underlying Messianic themes come through much at all. This version probably is probably a standout from its staged elements more than anything else.

As I have many excellent versions of The Messiah on CD, I won't be in hurry to buy this staged version, but from the many parts that I have listened to, staging aside, the orchestral performance and singing appeared quite capable.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
August 26th, 2012, 12:38 PM
I think it's more about Claus Guth and his interpretation of the Biblical themes. Remember, the libretto of The Messiah was skillfully compiled by Charles Jennens from scriptures straight out of his version of the Bible, and The Messiah was a very atypical Handel oratorio because of its Biblical libretto that contained no drama (compared with Handel's other English dramatic oratorios). Almaviva made an excellent point I think, that this production was really a Regietheatre. I do not yet have a copy but from the many parts that I have watched on Youtube, I do not think the underlying Messianic themes come through much at all. This version probably is probably a standout from its staged elements more than anything else.

As I have many excellent versions of The Messiah on CD, I won't be in hurry to buy this staged version, but from the many parts that I have listened to, staging aside, the orchestral performance and singing appeared quite capable.

Well, no doubt that it was Mr. Guth's interpretation - it does feel like parallel process; you have the music on one hand, and the stage events on the other hand. But the thing it, it's not that they match and overlap entirely, but rather, that they do *make sense* together - inasmuch as faith and redemption brought up to humankind by the Messiah, in this context, can lead humanity through difficult times (I'm saying this from the standpoint of the themes depicted in the work; no inference is to be made in terms of my personal beliefs or lack thereof, which I won't comment upon, given that we made the choice on OL to keep these subjects out of our discussions). The story unfolding in front of your eyes is an appropriate story to be witnessing while the music of Messiah unfolds in front of your ears - and this is why this staging is clever.

By the way, I said no weak links - but the boy soprano is not among the best of his kind I've heard. One of the sopranos is merely adequate while the other one is outstanding - right now I don't remember which one since I don't have the insert in front of me to go fish her out by name and to match her to a scene in which she is singing. But anyway, neither of these comparatively less gifted singers sink the ship, and the other phenomenal singers more than compensate for it - and the chorus is also first rate.

Another interesting fact is that the Hallelujah chorus is sort of subdued and not the peak of the piece - given the scene it paradoxically illustrates (a funeral). The final chorus is the one that really explodes, a refreshing take for those who listen to the Messiah just waiting for the Hallelujah chorus, failing to appreciate the various other sublime musical moments of this piece.

In terms of Regietheater, the reason why this blu-ray pushes the limits of my general dislike for it is that while of course I love the Messiah (who doesn't?), I came to love it more after I saw this production, which is something that can not be attributed to anybody other than Mr. Claus Guth, kind of proving the point that good Regie indeed *adds* to the artistic value of a piece. And see, I don't always like Mr. Guth's work... I've liked some of his productions but have strongly disliked others.

It all comes back to quality, after all - a view I've been taking more and more in our debates. Any theoretical approach to an issue, any question of principle, any matter of prejudice, fades away when one is confronted with a piece of high-quality work, regardless of the trend being expressed by the artists and creative teams - be it traditionalism, minimalism, Regie, even what I've been calling "extreme Regie." When one encounters superior quality, it takes over and overrules other considerations.

So, after seeing this, I was reminded that I am in general uncomfortable with extreme Regie trends.... unless it's brilliantly done!

Ann Lander (sospiro)
November 2nd, 2012, 07:51 AM
Can someone suggest a Handel opera for me which contains a good mix of voice types? Sopranos and counter-tenors seem to predominate in the ones I've looked at.

Thank you :)

Soave_Fanciulla
November 2nd, 2012, 09:04 AM
Can someone suggest a Handel opera for me which contains a good mix of voice types? Sopranos and counter-tenors seem to predominate in the ones I've looked at.

Thank you :)

That will be the case in most Handel operas, because he wrote for castrati and female singers (who were not categorised as mezzos or sopranos). However you might like to try Tamerlano which has a tenor in the principal role of Bajazet, or Hercules which has a bass as Hercules and a tenor as his son. Semele is good fun and has a tenor as Jupiter.

Ann Lander (sospiro)
November 2nd, 2012, 09:24 AM
That will be the case in most Handel operas, because he wrote for castrati and female singers (who were not categorised as mezzos or sopranos). However you might like to try Tamerlano which has a tenor in the principal role of Bajazet, or Hercules which has a bass as Hercules and a tenor as his son. Semele is good fun and has a tenor as Jupiter.

Thanks Nat.

Dark_Angel
November 25th, 2012, 04:46 PM
http://emimuzik.files.wordpress.com/2012/08/handel-small.jpg http://media-int.takealot.com/covers/1976815/cover-full.jpg?1327538719


Watched the new Dessay Cesare, bottom line a delightful production that ranks near the top of all baroque opera productions but does not unseat the McVicar Cesare overall. Unfortunately Vigin does not offer blu ray which gives another edge to McVicar's excellent Cesare, still this is a strong buy for baroque opera fans.

Very fun, inventive, clever production using "night at the museum" theme where opera takes place in back storage rooms of large museum, impressed with many scences as props come to life and museum workers seamlessly interact with main characters. Emmanuelle Haim leads a rousing HIP orchestral performance from keyboard she is one of the very best today, picture and sound quality as as good as any modern DVD is capable of.

Zazzo as Cesare was perhaps weak spot of production, about average acting and singing, I hated his costume which was worn in every scence.....light grey roman soldier gear with heavy white face make-up, seemed to be a ghost of some sort instead of most powerful Roman general

Dessay as Cleopatra was her usual dynamic exciting self, very entertaining artist that is big plus for any opera. Her energized performance perhaps also made Zazzo look weaker and pale in comparison

The biggest upside surprise was young son Sesto played by Isabel Leonard, a great performance with wonderful vocals and passionate acting, her short pixie haircut matched her character well, his mother Cornelia was also a big positive upside surprise and helped elevate the overall performance.....I think Sesto even got bigger applause than Cleopatra at curtain call, bravo

[Link to video deleted by Admin - video no longer available]

Soave_Fanciulla
November 25th, 2012, 05:44 PM
Some of the ornamentation in that production really put me off. Went too far. Dessay says they were Haïm's idea.

Agree about Isabel Leonard though.

Vesteralen
December 11th, 2012, 05:00 PM
I have a question for you knowledgeable people:

I recently finished watching this Alcina from my local library:

1381

The staging was a bit boring at times, but it wasn't as distracting as the Nagelstad version reviewed earlier on this thread. The singers were not of the eye-candy variety, but vocally, some of them were outstanding. Anja Harteros as Alcina and Veronica Cangemi as Morgana were particularly awesome.

HOWEVER, the singer who played the part of Ruggerio I found almost intolerable. I ended up fast forwarding through her arias more than I listened to them in their entirety.

So, my question is - for those of you who have seen both DVD versions, which is the all-round better choice vocally?

And, is there another DVD option out there that should be in the discussion?


Thanks

Aksel
December 11th, 2012, 05:51 PM
HOWEVER, the singer who played the part of Ruggerio I found almost intolerable. I ended up fast forwarding through her arias more than I listened to them in their entirety.


Ah, yes. La Kasarova. She's a special flower.

Soave_Fanciulla
December 11th, 2012, 06:13 PM
She was vocally pretty shocking in this - totally uneven register. Give me Alice Coote any day. Better actress, too, and none of those hamster faces.

HarpsichordConcerto
December 11th, 2012, 10:04 PM
The majority of Handel staged productions that make it to DVD/Blu-ray do no justice to the opera. The Harteros/Minkowski production has a lacklustre staging (though not outrageous as some others), the singing is not nearly as adequate as CD studio versions (namely Alan Curtis, William Christie). Alcina is one of Handel's finest later operas and it clearly deserves better. I have listened to parts of the Coote/Hacker version and it is far worse - wrong tempi all over, wrong pitch, cuts everywhere and strange staging. Alan Hacker is not a regular conductor of any repertoire let alone Baroque opera. I would prefer the Minkowski version as far as DVD/Blu-ray is concerned. Alcina is a Baroque magic opera. Drawing an analogy, would you make a Lord of the Rings movie in modern day costumes?

Failing that, go for either or both of these instead.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41Er64g1mKL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51dqL5IdgaL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Jephtha
December 11th, 2012, 10:51 PM
The majority of Handel staged productions that make it to DVD/Blu-ray do no justice to the opera. The Harteros/Minkowski production has a lacklustre staging (though not outrageous as some others), the singing is not nearly as adequate as CD studio versions (namely Alan Curtis, William Christie). Alcina is one of Handel's finest later operas and it clearly deserves better. I have listened to parts of the Coote/Hacker version and it is far worse - wrong tempi all over, wrong pitch, cuts everywhere and strange staging. Alan Hacker is not a regular conductor of any repertoire let alone Baroque opera. I would prefer the Minkowski version as far as DVD/Blu-ray is concerned. Alcina is a Baroque magic opera. Drawing an analogy, would you make a Lord of the Rings movie in modern day costumes?

Failing that, go for either or both of these instead.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41Er64g1mKL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51dqL5IdgaL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

HC, what do you think of the Hickox Alcina on EMI? Despite prosaic conducting and inadequate performers in the secondary roles (especially a shrill, hard-toned Eiddwen Harrhy as Morgana), I find Auger and Jones near-ideal in the roles of Alcina and Ruggiero: vocally impeccable and inhabiting the characters to a T. Would you recommend the above performances over the Hickox?

HarpsichordConcerto
December 11th, 2012, 10:59 PM
HC, what do you think of the Hickox Alcina on EMI? Despite prosaic conducting and inadequate performers in the secondary roles (especially a shrill, hard-toned Eiddwen Harrhy as Morgana), I find Auger and Jones near-ideal in the roles of Alcina and Ruggiero: vocally impeccable and inhabiting the characters to a T. Would you recommend the above performances over the Hickox?

Richard Hickox is a very fine conductor. I have not listened to his version of Alcina entirely. But from the parts that I have listened to, it was quite enjoyable. Arlene Augér is a very, very capable Alcina. (I have Arlene Augér in quite a few other recordings and I do like her voice).

Jephtha
December 11th, 2012, 11:01 PM
Richard Hickox is a very fine conductor. I have not listened to his version of Alcina entirely. But from the parts that I have listened to, it was quite enjoyable. Arlene Augér is a very, very capable Alcina.

If you've not yet heard it, please listen to Della Jones' rendition of 'Sta nell'Ircana'. I think it is well-nigh perfect. And she's not bad in 'Verdi prati', either.

HarpsichordConcerto
December 11th, 2012, 11:12 PM
If you've not yet heard it, please listen to Della Jones' rendition of 'Sta nell'Ircana'. I think it is well-nigh perfect. And she's not bad in 'Verdi prati', either.

Very warm, I recall. You have tempted me to get a copy of it. It has been re-released on budget EMI label.

Jephtha
December 11th, 2012, 11:36 PM
Very warm, I recall. You have tempted me to get a copy of it. It has been re-released on budget EMI label.

Oh, I almost forgot Ruggiero's 'Mi lusinga un dolce affetto' in Act II. This is a surefire number anyway, but Jones will bring you to tears. This aria alone will be worth whatever price you pay for the set.

HarpsichordConcerto
December 12th, 2012, 12:14 AM
Following on from member Jephtha's posts above, the three benchmark Alcina recordings, in whatever format would be

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51KZRZlGz8L._SL500_AA300_.jpg

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41Er64g1mKL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51dqL5IdgaL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Vesteralen
December 12th, 2012, 12:15 PM
Thanks, everyone.

In short, though there seem to be several good CD choices, it looks like we have to hold out for a really superior DVD. (Although, I guess that's not really a rare situation, is it?).

Jephtha
December 12th, 2012, 04:36 PM
Thanks, everyone.

In short, though there seem to be several good CD choices, it looks like we have to hold out for a really superior DVD. (Although, I guess that's not really a rare situation, is it?).

I wonder if there might be a video floating aroung of the old Franco Zeffirelli production with Joan Sutherland.

Dark_Angel
December 15th, 2012, 05:59 PM
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51HZZQKKZ7L._SL500_AA300_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/B008R5OJXE/ref=dp_image_z_0?ie=UTF8&n=5174&s=music) http://www.harmoniamundi.com/__media/document/1464/901385.87_G.jpg
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51-eeJNL3jL._SL500_AA300_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/B000094HLD/ref=dp_image_0?ie=UTF8&n=5174&s=music)

Facing extremely tough competition the new Curtis Cesare get a slight overall edge to become my reference Cesare.

The two obvious challengers both from the early 1990s have many strengths, especially the Jacobs which was perhaps my favorite previous version. I especially liked the use of 2 soprano + 2 contralto + counter tenor (Tolomeo) for 5 main singers, this combination vocals works very well for me vs having a male Cesare. Schlick was very impressive Cleopatra and DL Ragin still is my preferred Tolomeo among all versions, sound quality and inspired conducting of Jacobs still sound fresh today, but.......

20 years later using same 2 soprano + 2 contralto + counter tenor singer balance Curtis edges ahead for me. The style of baroque singing has evolved over 20 years and is more sophisticated and creative today in the ornamanted lines, the vocals more fluently describe the emotional content and Curtis is masterful in his baroque orchestration with reference quality Naive sound.....this is just a baroque treasure that will be played many times by me. There is also a warmth and richness to overall vocals here I find most appealing

HC
Do you agree that Curtis is now the preferred Cesare or.......????

HarpsichordConcerto
December 15th, 2012, 10:19 PM
HC
Do you agree that Curtis is now the preferred Cesare or.......????

I just received my copy of it last week. I am slowly going through the Curtis recording and listening to it carefully to contrast with some of the benchmark performances. Curtis' interpretation of Handel scores rarely disappoints. It usually comes down to the singers. One thing I can unequivocally say right now is Derek Lee Ragin from the Jacobs recording is still the strongest Tolomeo I have ever heard. I shall get back to you on this one.

HarpsichordConcerto
December 16th, 2012, 05:04 AM
CD 1 of Alan Curtis' Version of Giulio Cesare in Egitto

Rather than me listening and comparing the whole recording, I thought I shall I write down my thoughts so far on CD 1 of this recording. I have yet to finish listening to CD 2 and 3.

Overall Sound Quality
The orchestra led by Alan Curtis was the period instrument band Il Complesso Barocco. Although the orchestra was relatively small, deploying a standard modern use of a Baroque orchestra (four 1st violins, four 2nd, two violas, two cellos and one bass), the recording had a very "big sound". The mircrophones were obviously placed both at the instruments and also surrounding it because one could hear the independent oboes and basson supporting lines in many instances, and also the violins playing their chords at the end of some arias as if the players were right in front of you. The echo of the recording location (not disclosed as far as I am aware) was actually well balanced with the microphones placed extremely close to the instruments and voices. So from the sound quality overall, like many modern studio recordings, was rather artifical in the sense that you might not hear as an audience a little distant away in an opera theatre, but technically very impressive sounding when played on a good hi-fi equipment and as if you were one of the players or even the conductor seated in front. I would give this a high distinction in terms of recorded sound, and surpassing my other favourite on sound; namely, Rene Jacobs' version on Harmonia Mundi. I have every known recorded version of this opera performed by period instrument bands released on CD and this recorded sound was the best so far.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux
Contralto MNL sang Cesare. My personal preference, as deployed here, was to use a contralto or mezzo-soprano instead of a countertenor to sing the demanding role of Cesare. Without getting into a debate why, I still think a non-falsettist taking this role is best; that's not to say countertenors cannot or should not do the job. But I have been more impressed by Jennifer Larmore for example and yes, even a female voice can sure sound much more masculine than a countertenor. I was extremely impressed by MNL right from the start. The great coloratura aria Presti ormai l'egizia terra (track 3) winned over Larmore's, in my humble opinion. MNL had an incredible range and she blasted through the aria apparently effortlessly and with menancing pronunciation of the words and conveyed it more dramatically than all version of this I have heard, including Sarah Connolly on DVD. Countertenors have never impressed me terribly much as they just lacked sufficient fire to blast arias like Presti ormai. Likewise the great aria Va tacito e nascosto (track 26) was tackled with regal caution and suspicion. So overall, we have a great singer here for Cesare so far.

Romina Basso
The only relatively "weak" performance I think, on CD 1 was Cornelia's aria Priva son d'ogni conforto (track 7). This was sung by contralto Romina Basso. This was a beautiful aria and the only tragic character in the entire opera who sang the most beautiful tragic arias. But I thought the accompaniment was a little dry and as if performing note for note. Patricia Bardon (Glyndebourne/William Christie production) sang this aria most movingly that I can recall from all the versions I have listened to at first instance.

I shall post more later, especially about Karina Gauvin as Cleopatra's best arias appear after Act One when her character gains more momentum in development.

Dark_Angel
December 16th, 2012, 01:17 PM
Keep going HC, love it! :angel:

One critic on Amazon also mentioned Cornelia's opening aria in Curtis Cesare as being a let down, will have to revisit this. In the mean time I discovered I have another Cesare CD set that I had forgotten about.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51VSHJAa3mL._SL500_AA300_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/B0030CNQ4M/ref=dp_image_0?ie=UTF8&n=5174&s=music)

This is really a female dominated cast with Cesare and even Tolomeo sung by mezzo, time to dust it off and give it another listen

Vesteralen
December 21st, 2012, 12:55 PM
1403

I guess this really wasn't an opera originially, and the story is a bit static. So, the addition of dancers mirroring the lyrical content makes sense. I had no problems with the vocals. I guess my problem was with the lyrics. I don't care if partial credit went to Alexander Pope or not, but silly lyrics like "Happy We" repeated over and over made me long for Italian, French or even Urdu. Anything but English. ;)

HarpsichordConcerto
December 22nd, 2012, 03:14 AM
CD 1 of Alan Curtis' Version of Giulio Cesare in Egitto

Rather than me listening and comparing the whole recording, I thought I shall I write down my thoughts so far on CD 1 of this recording. I have yet to finish listening to CD 2 and 3.

Overall Sound Quality
The orchestra led by Alan Curtis was the period instrument band Il Complesso Barocco. Although the orchestra was relatively small, deploying a standard modern use of a Baroque orchestra (four 1st violins, four 2nd, two violas, two cellos and one bass), the recording had a very "big sound". The mircrophones were obviously placed both at the instruments and also surrounding it because one could hear the independent oboes and basson supporting lines in many instances, and also the violins playing their chords at the end of some arias as if the players were right in front of you. The echo of the recording location (not disclosed as far as I am aware) was actually well balanced with the microphones placed extremely close to the instruments and voices. So from the sound quality overall, like many modern studio recordings, was rather artifical in the sense that you might not hear as an audience a little distant away in an opera theatre, but technically very impressive sounding when played on a good hi-fi equipment and as if you were one of the players or even the conductor seated in front. I would give this a high distinction in terms of recorded sound, and surpassing my other favourite on sound; namely, Rene Jacobs' version on Harmonia Mundi. I have every known recorded version of this opera performed by period instrument bands released on CD and this recorded sound was the best so far.

Marie-Nicole Lemieux
Contralto MNL sang Cesare. My personal preference, as deployed here, was to use a contralto or mezzo-soprano instead of a countertenor to sing the demanding role of Cesare. Without getting into a debate why, I still think a non-falsettist taking this role is best; that's not to say countertenors cannot or should not do the job. But I have been more impressed by Jennifer Larmore for example and yes, even a female voice can sure sound much more masculine than a countertenor. I was extremely impressed by MNL right from the start. The great coloratura aria Presti ormai l'egizia terra (track 3) winned over Larmore's, in my humble opinion. MNL had an incredible range and she blasted through the aria apparently effortlessly and with menancing pronunciation of the words and conveyed it more dramatically than all version of this I have heard, including Sarah Connolly on DVD. Countertenors have never impressed me terribly much as they just lacked sufficient fire to blast arias like Presti ormai. Likewise the great aria Va tacito e nascosto (track 26) was tackled with regal caution and suspicion. So overall, we have a great singer here for Cesare so far.

Romina Basso
The only relatively "weak" performance I think, on CD 1 was Cornelia's aria Priva son d'ogni conforto (track 7). This was sung by contralto Romina Basso. This was a beautiful aria and the only tragic character in the entire opera who sang the most beautiful tragic arias. But I thought the accompaniment was a little dry and as if performing note for note. Patricia Bardon (Glyndebourne/William Christie production) sang this aria most movingly that I can recall from all the versions I have listened to at first instance.

I shall post more later, especially about Karina Gauvin as Cleopatra's best arias appear after Act One when her character gains more momentum in development.

CD 2 & 3

Karina Gauvin
A Cleopatra with a strong voice and with a bit more vibrato than I am used to but all in good measure. One of my favourite arias was Piangerò la sorte mia (CD3 track 7) and was expressed quite nicely. It was one of those arias that tested the abilities of the soprano lamenting her feelings but with a fiery middle section of the da capo aria. Likewise, no complaints with Da tempeste il legno infranto (CD3 track 15). A minor reservation concerned Cleopatra's seduction scene where I thought the orchestra could have played with a bit more legato during the sinfonia that connected to her famous aria V'adoro, pupille or to "warm up" the seduction a little more, as it was one of the best scenes in the whole opera. Gauvin's voice overall had the maturity lacking in Danielle de Niese's, although this might be questionable consideration the character in the opera was supposedly to be a lot more younger than Cesare.

Other Singers
Emoke Barath
Sesto's arias are full of fire, except the beautiful lamenting duet Son nata/o a lagrimar/sospirar with Cornelia that closed Act One. The latter was one of the most moving arias of the whole opera but again, I thought there were better alternatives including the popular Glyndebourne/Christie. Barath conveyed the firey and vengeful undertones of her character but I have heard stronger versions of some arias elsewhere.

Filippo Mineccia
The only countertenor in the recording singing a substantial role. Adequate but the strongest Tolomeo I have ever heard was Derek Lee Ragin (Harmonia Mundi/Rene Jacobs) who often sang true staccato, which in a role like Tolomeo's, I thought would better depict the character's treachery. Mineccia's vice was a lot stronger however than other countertenors, such as Christopher Robson's (Harmonia Mundi DVD/Blu-ray/Lars Ulrik Mortensen).

Johannes Weisser
A strong baritone who sang Achilla, which I enjoyed. I often think Achilla got better arias than Tolomeo and in all the versions that I have the baritones never failed to impress.

Overall, I think singers are well up to the standards, and my favourite is Marie-Nicole Lemieux singing the hero. The singers sing with a touch more vibrato but in good measure and taste. My only reservations are a couple of lamenting arias of Cornelia's that could perhaps be expressed with a bit more legato. These arias must look very "sparse" on the physical score but Handel was utterly a composer of the human voice and both conductor/leader and singer would need to bring it out with a little more. First rate recorded "big sound" overall. Note that this version excluded the single lovely aria of Nireno's that was included in Jacob's by way of appendix and Christie's by way of introduction to Act Two.

Yes, this is an essential version of Giulio Cesare in Egitto to have for any lover of opera and of course, fellow Handelians.

Dark_Angel
December 22nd, 2012, 02:02 PM
Yes, this is an essential version of Giulio Cesare in Egitto to have for any lover of opera and of course, fellow Handelians.

A reason to celebrate, one of the great italian baroque operas with over 30 arias in excellent modern sound.

I don't like to be too generalized but the "art" of baroque singing and orchestral playing has advanced in last 20 years since Jacobs and Minkowski versions, the singing is often more sophisticated and inspired, the recitative lines and music continuo are more varied and interesting etc

Jephtha
December 24th, 2012, 06:55 PM
It is still a source of great sadness to me that Nikolaus Harnoncourt was not allowed to complete the recording of Giulio Cesare that he began in the 1980's; a CD of highlights is all that remains. While Paul Esswood is nowhere near firm enough in the title role(like HarpsichordConcerto, I also prefer a strong mezzo as Cesare), the rest of the cast was superlative. The most impressive are perhaps the two mezzos Ann Murray and Marjana Lipovsek, as Sextus and Cornelia, respectively. Murray's 'Cara speme' is the best I have heard(she sings the entire da capo sotto voce, with devastating emotional effect), and Lipovsek's 'Priva son d'ogni conforto' is quite moving, due to the intense emotion conjured by both singer and conductor. Roberta Alexander is not the first soprano that comes to mind when Cleopatra is mentioned, but her 'Da tempeste' is very good, and 'Se pieta di me non senti' is quite beautiful. And to my ear, the Vienna Concentus Musicus are the ideal orchestra for this score, with their ability to portray the widest range of emotions in tones now sumptuous and rich, now dry and keening. What might have been! :sorrow:

Dark_Angel
December 31st, 2012, 12:19 AM
During my seasonal traversal of my Messiah CD sets I was reminded again why I love the Christie/HM version so much, such a wonderful set of soloists and warm sound blossoms very nicely, sometimes the choral forces float above like a heavenly choir of angels.

The counter tenor used here is Andreas Scholl and he has the most sublimely beautiful sung passages, velvetly smooth voice that glows like tupelo honey.......not the most dramatic counter tenor but the sheer beauty of his angelic voice is mesmerizing

I sold my older CD version to buy the newest "digibook" release (pix 2) which comes in a handsome hardbound cover with 100+ pages of nice photos and background info

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41TSPFZJXZL._SL500_AA300_.jpg http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61Z31YG4GFL._SL500_AA300_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/B000BCHJA6/ref=dp_image_0?ie=UTF8&n=5174&s=music)


Andreas Scholl from above version:


http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=8zWD1XqYBvA

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
May 12th, 2013, 12:21 AM
I'll be watching this shortly, and will be posting a review. For now I'm watching ice hockey on TV... low brow :pig: vs. high brow :pray.2: entertainment, what to pick?

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

Soave_Fanciulla
May 12th, 2013, 03:55 AM
I'll be watching this shortly, and will be posting a review. For now I'm watching ice hockey on TV... low brow :pig: vs. high brow :pray.2: entertainment, what to pick?

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

Hockey schmokey, watch the Teseo, it's rather cute.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
May 12th, 2013, 03:38 PM
Hockey schmokey, watch the Teseo, it's rather cute.

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

Teseo on DVD, opera seria in five acts by Handel premiered in 1713, to an Italian libretto by Niccolo Francesco Haym.

Oh well, the hockey game went to overtime, it got too late, I got tired. Today I am watching the Teseo. Oh! My! God! This is some seriously good HIP ensemble, and these are some seriously good singers!!! And all unknown names. It goes to show how fame is a question of luck sometimes, because these people could be singing to great success in any major house!

As it is, it comes from a small theater, the Schlosstheater im Neuen Palais, in Potsdam, Germany (apparently, a gorgeous, newly restored ancient theater). The HIP ensemble is the Lautten Compangney Berlin, conducted by Wolfgang Katschner.

Technically awkward product. You pop it in, it starts playing right away without a menu to select sound track and subtitles. They are available, though. You have to hit the pop-up menu key on your DVD player's remote, and then the menu does show. I've selected LPCM and French subtitles, since I've been warned that the 5.1 track is unbalanced, and that the English subtitles are awful. Still, the LPCM track is also unbalanced. I think it's a question of microphone placement. Singers aren't heard very well once they move to certain parts of the stage. Colors and image definition are OK but not great. So, it's a technically limited product. But oh wow, what great singing and playing!

Image is 1.78:1, running time is 166 minutes. ArtHaus Musik release of 2005, region 1 only (USA and Canada). Subtitles in original Italian, English, French, Spanish, and Chinese. There is a feature that allows you to display the score while you watch the opera but I did not make use of it (our musician friends may like this feature). Addendum - OK, I did restart with this feature on after I finished seeing the opera and it is very intrusive, it occupies all of the screen, and everything else can only be seenunder a translucent film. Anyway, maybe this is good for student singers or student conductors, so I guess it's a plus that it is there, but it's definitely not something regular opera lovers will want to turn on).

Jacek Laszczkowski is Teseo (with a less meaty, thinner, smaller voice and pitch control problems in his top - but his timbre is pleasant). All males are sopranists. Martin Wölfell is Egeo and he does very well, has a voice a bit darker than your usual countertenor. Thomas Diestler is Arcane (also with a darker but less impressive voice). Maria Riccarda Wesseling is Medea (excellent, a force of nature; she nails the role perfectly both in singing and acting, and what a beautiful voice!). The other two females are Miriam Meyer as Clizia (good) and Sharon Rostorf-Zamir as Agilea (also excellent). Overall, this cast is great (since even the singers who don't perform technically as well at least have pleasant voice timbre). Acting is nice, a bit over-the-top in purpose with some rather funny comic relief at times. Looks-wise, these people are not atractive (except for a cute and sexy Miriam Meyer), but it doesn't get in the way, given the good singing and acting - see for instance, Teseo's and Medea's duet in Act II, very nicely done. There is a small and good chorus.

Here is a picture of Miriam (she is the protagonist of a rather sexy and funny scene, in bed with Arcane):

http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Pic-Bio-BIG/Meyer-Miriam-02.jpg

The staging directed by Alex Köhler is with simple and minimalist sets designed by Stephan Dietrich - some sliding panels, a large black bed, dark chairs, not much more than that. Costumes are also simple - some gowns, breast plates, some jewelry and golden crowns, and not exactly set to Ancient Greece which is when the opera is set. There are some fun weird touches, like Medea's costume (it's made of... hair! and the bed covers are hair as well) and her red-colored arm. The ending has some nice touches too ("tuto finito" displayed by two cute women). So, it's a limited budget production, but with great musicians and singers, and some inventiveness. Makes one wonder what else is done in these small German opera companies that we never get to see; we're probably missing out on some good quality opera by these regional ensembles in the multiple German houses.

The opera itself, his fifth, is not considered to be a major Handel work. Regardless, it's pleasant enough, since nothing composed by Handel fails to sound beautiful, especially when well played and well sung like here.

Recommended, a grade A musical performance with modest means (a B staging, technically deficient as a DVD). Just the opportunity to hear how well this HIP ensemble plays is worth the purchase, in spite of a relatively spicy price of $28.18 on Amazon.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
November 17th, 2013, 06:53 AM
Giove in Argo on CD

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61BuhmTEc2L._AA160_.jpg

Giove in Argo, pasticcio in three acts (premiered in 1739), sung in Italian
Music by George Frideric Handel, made up of music and arias from a dozen of his previous operas plus some new music (in addition to these, there are two arias from Italian composer Francesco Araja)
Libretto by Antonio Maria Lucchini, previously set to music by Francesco Araja - Handel attended the opera (Jupiter in the performance attended by Handel was sung by Senesino), liked it, and recycled it all with his own music.

Il Complesso Barocco conducted by Alan Curtis - the period instrumentalists and the conductor do an excellent job.
Studio recording with excellent sound quality, in three CDs (runtime 157 minutes), a 2013 release by Virgin Classics, beautifully presented in a rigid box.

The full libretto in Italian with side-by-side English translation is provided. The documentation is excellent with all the necessary elements (track lists with names of the numbers with durations and characters, excellent synopsis, and informative essay, all in English, French, and German, with beautiful art work and color head shots of the artists.

The outstanding, flawless cast includes Ann Hallenberg as Iside, Karina Gauvin as Calisto, Anicio Zorzi Giustiniani as Arete (a.k.a. Giove, the god Jupiter of the title role), Vito Priante as Erasto, Theodora Baka as Diana, and Johannes Weisser as Licaone. There is no need to comment upon each voice: they are virtually all excellent.

The opera itself (one of Handel's three pasticcios organized by the composer himself) is a thing of beauty, given that it cannibalizes some of Handel's best music. I can't understand why it failed in London after only two performances at the time of its creation. Subsequently it got lost, and was only rediscovered recently. Its first modern performance was in 2009 at Bayreuth during their Baroque festival.

With the rather perfect package and talented musicians, singers, and conductor, this product is highly recommended (A++) and an obligatory purchase for the Handel fan and for all lovers of Baroque opera. It is a bit pricey on Amazon ($31.78) [click here (http://www.amazon.com/Handel-Giove-Argo-George-Frideric/dp/B00BCMEJWK/)] but worth every penny. Had I heard this a couple of days ago, I'd have nominated this one as best CD of a complete opera for the 2013 International Opera Awards.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
December 24th, 2013, 06:46 PM
Agrippina on DVD

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

Agrippina, drama in three acts sung in Italian (December 26, 1709 - uncertain, could have been early 1710) - Premiered in Venice, Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo

Music by George Friderich Handel
Libretto by Cardinal Vincenzo Grimani

La Grande Ecurie et La Chambre du Roy (HIP), conducted by Jean-Claude Malgoire
Stage Director Frédéric Fisbach
Sets Emmanuel Clolus
Costumes Olga Karpinsky
Video Director Tiziano Mancini

Recorded at Théâtre Municipal, Tourcoing, France, March 2003

Cast

Agrippina (soprano) - Véronique Gens
Nerone (male alto) - Philippe Jaroussky
Poppea (soprano) - Ingrid Perruche
Claudio (baritone) - Nigel Smith
Ottone (male alto) - Thierry Grégoire
Pallante (bass) - Bernard Deletré
Narciso (male soprano) - Fabrice di Falco
Lesbo (bass) - Alain Buet

This product is a 2004 Dynamic release on two DVDs, 4:3 NTSC image, PCM2.0, DD5.1 and DTS5.1 sound tracks, all regions, 172 minutes of running time, no extras, subtitles in Italian, English, German, French, and Spanish, and liner notes (one brief 2-page essay, not very informative; synopsis) in Italian, English, German, and French. List of tracks with names of musical numbers, characters, and durations is provided, with two color and six black-and-white production pictures.

Available on Amazon for $36: [clicky (http://www.amazon.com/Agrippina-V%C3%A9ronique-Gens/dp/B0002E4A5K/)]

-------

Agrippina is widely considered to be Handel's first masterpiece, and one of his best operas overall, for being lively and generally lighter, with a good libretto full of interesting characters and twists, and as usual given who the composer is, for having great music (I like to say that Handel didn't know how to put two notes together without making them sound beautiful). The real Roman historical character behind the title role - Agrippina the Younger, Nero's mother - was a wild woman, with a dozen high-placed lovers including many emperors, her own brother, and her own son in incestuous relationships, and she was responsible for killing a number of perceived enemies and rivals including husbands and siblings, until her son ordered her killed.

Christmas party is at 8 PM, it's about 2 PM now, so, plenty of time to enjoy a Handel before the festivities.

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

It starts very well - the beautiful overture, exquisitely played by the orchestra, opens up the stage to two extraordinary artists: the attractive, sexy, and vocally gifted Véronique Gens, and the spectacular countertenor Philippe Jaroussky who is, as you know, my preferred male singer currently in activity.

http://www.arkivmusic.com/graphics/features/listen/onrecord/veroniquegens_2.jpg

Staging is very compelling, with minimalistic, tasteful and artistically apt sets (for these opening scenes, sliding white panels, white blocs, humans dressed as fake statues on top of the blocs), and imaginative costumes with brightly colored wigs. Bernard Deletré is the next singer to come in, and he doesn't disappoint either, as a correct comprimario.

The sound - I'm listening to the DTS track - is excellent, all full and resonant, with the orchestra being heard loud and clear but without drowning the singers whose voices come across just as well. Actually I'm spending more time touting the sound because it does feel particularly good in this product, with an acoustic surround environment that reproduces very well the in-house experience. When I saw on the box that the image was 4:3, I expected some outdated-looking product, but regrettable as it may be that this is not widescreen, actually everything is very crisp, with good definition and lighting. Video direction is fortunately of the no-nonsense kind.

Fabrice di Falco is next, and he isn't bad, but the task of singing a male soprano role on the same stage with one of the greatest countertenors in activity in the person of Mr. Jaroussky is ungrateful, and indeed by comparison he pales next to his vastly more talented colleague - you can't beat Philippe's phenomenal, angelic timbre of voice.

Acting is purposely over-the-top, for comic effect.

As an opera, this indeed lives up to expectations. Contrary to some other Handel pieces, this work is fast moving with a hectic pace, and repetitions are kept to a minimum.

We got another very good singer entering the stage: Thierry Grégoire, although with a smaller voice, also has, like his colleague Jaroussky, very beautiful timbre. Another comprimario is better than the previous one: Alain Buet. Only Ingrid Perruche and Nigel Smith are yet to be heard and seen. So far, so good - no singers are below average.

OK, Ms. Perruche makes her entrance a bit before the 40' mark. Nice, but both in looks and voice, she is a couple of notches below Ms. Gens. Then we get Mr. Smith who is very decent but fails to greatly impress.

Oh well, I'm being pulled to help the wife with party preparations. I'm at the 57' mark, about one third of the way, but won't be able to continue to report in detail - however it is pretty clear already, and very unlikely to change, that the assessment here will be of the order of magnitude of A+, highly recommended (two excellent principal singers, tasteful staging, good orchestra, good image and sound, and a great opera, so, what's not to like?). I'll finish watching later (no idea when), and if this assessment changes I'll update this post (but like I said, it's unlikely - there is little that could go downhill when you have a talented team performing a great opera).

Update - Got a break, things are pretty much ready for the party. Watched some more, almost all now (20' left). It remains excellent. The sets get even more interesting as the acts go by, and the singing and acting remain very good. Yes, definitely A+, highly recommended. A very nice Handel staging without Regie excesses but still very stylish and creative, and like I said, it's musically very good.

Revenant
February 18th, 2014, 01:54 AM
I've just received the Jacobs Giulio Cesare, which I've been meaning to get for some time now. I was a bit puzzled to see the name Furio Zanasi listed as "Achilla, basso". The only FZ I know is the tenor that sang the title role in Monteverdi's L'Orfeo for Savall and then with Rinaldo Alessandrini's Concerto Italiano version. I can't believe anyone can go from basso to tenor except that it involves a rather unpleasant operation, plus hormone shots. Could the first Zanasi be the father or uncle of the second? Sorry if I posted in the wrong place but I stay up nights and I think of this.

:upset:

Soave_Fanciulla
February 18th, 2014, 06:57 AM
I've just received the Jacobs Giulio Cesare, which I've been meaning to get for some time now. I was a bit puzzled to see the name Furio Zanasi listed as "Achilla, basso". The only FZ I know is the tenor that sang the title role in Monteverdi's L'Orfeo for Savall and then with Rinaldo Alessandrini's Concerto Italiano version. I can't believe anyone can go from basso to tenor except that it involves a rather unpleasant operation, plus hormone shots. Could the first Zanasi be the father or uncle of the second? Sorry if I posted in the wrong place but I stay up nights and I think of this.

:upset:

Furio Zanasi is more of a baritone, and Orfeo can be sung by a baritone (my other DVD has Simon Keenlyside in the title role). Achille can also be sung by a baritone (like Christopher Maltman in the Glyndebourne DVD).

I suspect in Baroque times they didn't distinguish between bass and baritone, just like they didn't between mezzo and soprano.

So I think this is the same guy.

Get some sleep:sleeping:!

mario
February 18th, 2014, 08:21 AM
I have listened live Furio Zanasi as Orfeo with Savall, and confirm what says Soave Fanciulla, he is a Baritone, not a tenor. A very good one in baroque opera according to me. I listened it as Monteverdi Ulisse, too.

Revenant
February 18th, 2014, 06:16 PM
Thank you both very much. I'm glad he was not harmed, then. I didn't get that baritonal quality, it seems. I thought he was more a Domingo-like baritonal tenor, but one who can sing Baroque. Still have to become accustomed to how Baroque singing blurs some lines. But he's certainly not a "basso". Interesting, all the Orfeos and Ulysses that I know of have been tenors.

mario
February 18th, 2014, 07:10 PM
He is definetely not a bass, in Italian it is called "baritono chiaro o baritono acuto", I don't know the English term (light Baritone? Keen Baritone?)


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

Soave_Fanciulla
February 18th, 2014, 07:56 PM
He is definetely not a bass, in Italian it is called "baritono chiaro o baritono acuto", I don't know the English term (light Baritone? Keen Baritone?)


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

Might be light or lyric?

Revenant
February 18th, 2014, 11:40 PM
Surely fooled me, that light baritone with those high notes. I grew up with Verdi and verismo (excuse me: Giovane Scuola). It seems my paradigm hasn't shifted yet. Thank you Mario for that video.

Now I can sleep again. For the time being, until a new enigma comes up to trouble me.

PoloniumCyanide
February 20th, 2014, 11:10 PM
Lyric baritone... :D

They've generally got about G2 to Bb4 so their top note is only a tone below tenor C, (and plenty of them could probably give C4 a good go as long as they were only required to sing one or two in the whole of a role) but the tessitura ends more like G/Ab4... They sound elegant and silky while still being tonally hefty enough in mid-register to stay out of your tenor fach (people like Mattei, and Fischer-Dieskau...)

In their highest/lightest co-ordination, or when they're singing pianissimo they might fool an audience into thinking 'TENOR!!!!'

treemaker
April 6th, 2014, 08:25 PM
Hi, I'm going to bump this thread in the hopes someone has an answer. Seattle Opera is to do "Semele" next season. I went to Amazon and found DVD production with Bartoli, Christie, and Carsen. Has anyone seen it and can you review it for me? I have requested my public library buy it, for those of us who will study in prep for seeing it live.

Thanks,

Soave_Fanciulla
April 7th, 2014, 07:55 AM
Hi, I'm going to bump this thread in the hopes someone has an answer. Seattle Opera is to do "Semele" next season. I went to Amazon and found DVD production with Bartoli, Christie, and Carsen. Has anyone seen it and can you review it for me? I have requested my public library buy it, for those of us who will study in prep for seeing it live.

Thanks,

It's quite a while since I saw it, but I do remember it being pretty good. Bartoli did a great comic act as the fatally vain Semele, the staging quite straightforward and supporting singers good. The music is lovely too.

treemaker
May 29th, 2014, 10:28 PM
So then to follow up on what Natalie said, I watched today the Cecilia Bartoli "Semele".

http://www.deccaclassics.com/imgs/s300x300/0743323.jpg

"Semele", by George Frideric Handel
Libretto (in English) by William Congreve

On the Decca label

Opernhaus Zürich

William Christie conducts from the harpsichord.

Orchestra La Scintilla

They are from Zurich...they are not an ensemble trained by Christie and did not travel in with him. However, they produced some very exciting music. The overture was thrilling. They seemed up to the task.

Production by Robert Carsen

Robert Carsen was hoping for some laughs. Occasionally the audience gave him polite laughter. For the most part I found myself squirming in my seat. Otherwise the direction was okay.

Semele Cecilia Bartoli
Jupiter Charles Workman
Juno Birgit Remmert
Ino Liliana Nikiteanu
Cadmus/Somnus Anton Scharinger
Athamas Thomas Michael Allen [countertenor]
Iris Isabel Rey

Chorus Masters Jürgen Hämmerli, Ernst Raffelsberger

I thoroughly enjoyed the chorus. Very well done.

There is a corps of over a dozen supernumaries, all male, who make appearances, sometimes choreographed. At one point they do an on-stage scene change. Dressed in red livery and pour champagne at the end. All very well used, very effective.

Set and Costume Design Patrick Kinmonth

I don't think this was modern dress. Maybe elements of modernity...Iris was in a business suit. Clothes could be historical. For set and costume, it is all about the drape. Nothing is starched stiff. The sheets on the bed, the gowns, Jupiter's suit. Everything hangs in a drape of some kind. Juno first appears as a British monarch. There is a gag where she holds up airplane tickets to British Airways. At one point Juno is in hair curlers. In the final scene Jupiter and Juno dressed very regal, red carpet, thrones, fur capes. I always felt it was set in England, in some recent historical period.

Lighting Design Robert Carsen, Peter Van Praet

TV Director Felix Breisach

2 DVDs. There are no special features available on this DVD.

Highlights of the opera: I have heard "Endless pleasures, endless love" on a recital recording. Semele's famous "mirror" aria got extended applause and shouts of bravo.

HERE (http://seattleopera.org/tickets/production.aspx?productionID=169) is a link to the Seattle Opera production next season, feature Stephanie Blythe as Juno and Ino.

Soave_Fanciulla
May 30th, 2014, 02:08 AM
Scintilla Zurich are a very experienced specialist Baroque orchestra.

Amfortas
January 28th, 2017, 09:52 PM
I'd like to know Handel's operas better, and figure DVDs would be a good way to familiarize myself, with CD purchases to follow.

So far I have three Giulio Cesares (Glyndebourne/Christie, Royal Danish/Mortensen, Paris/Haim), Rodelinda (Met/Bicket), Alcina (Aix/Marcon), and Hercules (Aix/Christie). Looking through this thread and elsewhere, I've come up with the additional ten candidates below.

I may end up getting most or all of these, but would anyone care to make recommendations to start me off? Either from among these selections or other DVD versions you like? A top five ranking, or however you want to do it, would be appreciated.

Thanks!

http://www.musicweb-international.com/classrev/2010/June10/Handel_Admeto_702008.jpg

https://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/DFcAAOSwopRYeL1A/s-l300.jpg

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/512kf6xvLwL.jpg

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51Ix73Z9efL.jpg

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61m4zCg-SvL._SY500_.jpg

https://operaincasa.files.wordpress.com/2014/05/513m66oyaal1.jpg

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/517swPWoAnL.jpg

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61CTM1IVEZL._SY500_.jpg

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61okMKtupRL._SY500_.jpg

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51TnHimTH6L.jpg

Florestan
January 28th, 2017, 11:22 PM
I only have this one with Janet Baker. Haven't watched it yet.
https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51MY8HDM4HL.jpg

Soave_Fanciulla
January 29th, 2017, 05:56 AM
Top choices for me from Amfortas' list are the Theodora (stupendous), Semele (Ceci on top form) and Admeto (Tim Mead and an interesting staging). The Rinaldo is a bit silly (but not as silly as the one with Daniels in it). For Ariodante, wait and hope that the Aix Petibon/Connolly/Prina version comes out on DVD. The Partenope is a romp - probably my fourth choice. Fifth choice would be Deidamia.

You also URGENTLY need this:

http://target.scene7.com/is/image/Target/51317196?wid=450&hei=450&fmt=pjpeg

Amfortas
January 29th, 2017, 03:40 PM
Top choices for me from Amfortas' list are the Theodora (stupendous), Semele (Ceci on top form) and Admeto (Tim Mead and an interesting staging). The Rinaldo is a bit silly (but not as silly as the one with Daniels in it). For Ariodante, wait and hope that the Aix Petibon/Connolly/Prina version comes out on DVD. The Partenope is a romp - probably my fourth choice. Fifth choice would be Deidamia.

Thanks, Nat. I knew you'd have a knowledgeable answer. :)

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
December 14th, 2017, 02:58 AM
Alcina on blu-ray disc (box-set together with Tamerlano, not reviewed here)

10778

Alcina, drama per musica in tre atti (HWV 34), sung in Italian
Music by George Frideric Handel (1685-1759)
Libretto (anonymous) copied from L'isola di Alcina, an opera that was set in 1728 in Rome by Riccardo Broschi, based on Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando furioso, an Italian epic poem from 1516.
Premiered at the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden, in London, on 16 April 1735

A production by Pierre Audi originally for the Drottningholms Slottsteater in Stockholm in 2003 (the oldest preserved Baroque theater in the world), revived in a co-production by La Monnaie in Brussels, and De Nationale Opera in Amsterdam, 2015

Filmed in February 2015 at La Monnaie, Brussels

Les Talents Lyriques conducted by Christophe Rousset
Choeur de Chambre de L'IMEP, chorus master Benoît Giaux
Stage Director Pierre Audi, assisted by Maria Lamont
Set and Costume Designer Patrick Kinmonth
Lights Matthew Richardson
Directed for video by Stéphan Aubé

Cast

Alcina - Opera Lively interviewee Sandrine Piau [see her interview (here (http://operalively.com/forums/content.php/1096-The-Exclusive-Opera-Lively-Interview-with-Sandrine-Piau)) - she does mention this production as her favorite]
Ruggiero - Maite Beaumont
Bradamante - Angélique Noldus
Morgana - Sabina Puértolas
Oberto - Chloé Briot
Oronte - Daniel Behle
Melisso - Giovanni Furlanetto
Astolfo - Édouard Higuet

Blue-Ray Disc released on January 13, 2017 by Wahoo/Les Talents Lyriques - running time 188 minutes - sound PCM stereo / DTS 5.1, aspect ratio 16/9 (very, very excellent sound, sharp image), all regions, subtitles in French, English, Dutch, and German. No extras. Excellent insert with synopsis and very good essays by Christophe Roussett himself, and Klaus Bertich, which are must-reads as they contain extremely good musical and textual insights; all repeated in the same four languages. Six color production pictures. Credits. Unfortunately, no list of musical numbers. Bargain price of $29.99 on Amazon, given that this is a blu-ray with two operas.

Awkward navigation. Beware, you need to click on Lecture to play the work from the beginning (but there is no lecture, unless, pardon my ignorance, this is a musical term for overture - well, looking it up I found no evidence of that), and there is no list of chapters/arias whatsoever so those who want to hit some highlights they love are out of luck; will have to watch the whole thing. This is quite surprising in this day and age of high technology. Who was the moron who designed the navigation tracks??? Also, to get to the subtitles, you need to click on Audio, go figure. And it is deeply regretful that no subtitles in Italian (original language) are provided - a very grave mistake, in my opinion.

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Attention, my friends: we are in the presence of the rarest of birds: a recent staging of a Handel opera which is... not Regie! It is actually a period staging, with period instruments, period painted sets, and period costumes. It's also rather dark, to simulate the lighting conditions of the time.

So, in spite of some glaring technical issues with the blue-ray disc and package (navigation couldn't be any worse, no Italian subtitles is preposterous, and it is regretful that such a refined release doesn't include a track list with musical numbers, characters, and their duration), what is immediately evident when you pop this in and hopefully gets to click on the right menu items to make it play, is that we are in the presence of a performance that draws its strengths from the music and the acting, rather than from concepts or special effects.

First, the sound is one of the best I've heard. Perfect balance, crisp, resonant, full, fantastic capture and engineering. The image is as usual with blue rays, of really good quality, and the video direction is skilfull in not being distracting, and showing enough alternation of close-ups and wide angles.

Second, this period orchestra, Les Talents Lyriques, and their star director and conductor Christophe Rousset are simply sublime. It doesn't get any better than this. Rarely you'll listen to such a lively and crystalline rendition of Handel's spectacular music. The clarity and the precision are mind-bogling.

Third, the singing, oh my God! I had the pleasure of seeing Sandrine Piau live in Aix-en-Provence in 2016, and I interviewed her for one hour, and was impressed with her intelligence and sophistication. I also loved her performance as Despina in the best production of Così fan tutte I've ever seen.

But now, after seeing this, I understand some of the reviews saying that she was miscast in Così. Mind you, it's not that the miscasting is because she couldn't do a good Despina. That, she did, and very much so. The problem is, it was a waste of her talents (and that was precisely what those reviewers said). Over here, in her environment, her territory, her neck of the woods, this Baroque/Handel specialist is simply phenomenal. It was evident from her words in the interview that she felt a bit strange as Despina (thus her saying she won't repeat the experience), and would much prefer to have been given a role in the Handel piece that the Festival was also doing at the time, conducted by her close friend Emmanuelle Haïm. She seemed even a bit bitter and regretful about that, but elegantly ended up saying something to the effect of "oh well, doing Despina was interesting too."

But Sandrine recommended precisely this production as her preferred recording of her videography, which is why I bought it. Indeed! Sandrine as Alcina is ten times more compelling than the Despina I already loved so much!

What about her colleagues? Well, most of them do a fabulous job too! This is a very well sung performance. I confess that I had never heard of any of them before, but they were worthy companions for Sandrine, especially the very excellent Maite Beaumont. The attractive Sabina Puértolas did well too, if a tad less impressive than Sandrine and Maite, due to a bit of lack of agility. The boys were less shiny but not by much. Angélique Noldus on the other hand was the less good of the six main singers. Her voice is beautiful in the middle register but is less so in both extremes, and the agility parts get her even more exposed, lingering behind the orchestra. We can feel Rousset slowing down to match her.

Now, other than the technical glitches, which are minimized by the good essays and the phenomenal sound, what is the main problem with this production?

I never thought I'd say something like this... but I missed the Regie. I guess I'm so used to Handel being staged in the wildest of forms, that I confess that as the performance went on, this production started to tire me and I got a bit bored.

It's not that it is heavy or anything. It's not that it lacks imagination (well, it does what it went out to accomplish, that is, a period performance). But three hours of one of Handel's far-fetched plots, with dark theatrical lights that almost don't let us see the painted backdrops, with everything only centered on facial acting, gets to be a bit boring, in spite of sublime singing and instrumental playing.

As a listen-only, it's mostly flawless. As a concert performance it would have been close to perfect (I'd have replaced Angélique Noldus). But in terms of staged opera, after going through the three hours of this static and dark period production, one understands better why contemporary stage directors throw a lot of stuff at these Handel operas.

So, is it recommended? Sure, what isn't, when you have a great orchestra with an excellent conductor and some very good singers, fabulous sound, the music is Handel's, and you throw in some insightful essays? But at this point I guess I prefer Regie Handel (when it is tasteful and insightful).

Amfortas
December 20th, 2017, 03:59 PM
But at this point I guess I prefer Regie Handel (when it is tasteful and insightful).

Could it be you just prefer Regie Alcina--since there's such a good one available?

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
December 20th, 2017, 09:11 PM
Could it be you just prefer Regie Alcina--since there's such a good one available?
Of course we all know that the existing Regie version of Alcina has some phenomenal cough cough assets cough cough. :love2:

Clarification: I'm talking about this one, not the newer one from Aix which is good too. This is the one with, cough cough... You get it.

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51DYyH4YXZL._SX385_.jpg

Apparently it was re-released with another cover:

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/81v7mfsZp-L._SY445_.jpg

Florestan
December 20th, 2017, 11:11 PM
Excuse me if someone has posted this already, but this is a great performance.
(Don't get the one by the English National Opera as it is an atrocity!)
https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/512kf6xvLwL.jpg

Soave_Fanciulla
December 21st, 2017, 01:04 AM
Excuse me if someone has posted this already, but this is a great performance.
(Don't get the one by the English National Opera as it is an atrocity!)
https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/512kf6xvLwL.jpg

It's OK, but I don't like it as much as the Aix one with Sarah Connolly,Patricia Petibon, Sonia Prina and Sandrine Piau, not released on DVD which is a crying shame.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
December 21st, 2017, 01:18 AM
It's OK, but I don't like it as much as the Aix one with Sarah Connolly,Patricia Petibon, Sonia Prina and Sandrine Piau, not released on DVD which is a crying shame.
Agreed. Stellar cast. These four are all top-notch artists.
And like I've been saying, I believe that Aix is currently the best opera company in the world.
Let's just hope it will remain so once leadership changes on September 1, 2018.

Florestan
December 21st, 2017, 01:49 AM
It's OK, but I don't like it as much as the Aix one with Sarah Connolly,Patricia Petibon, Sonia Prina and Sandrine Piau, not released on DVD which is a crying shame.

Sonia Prina and Joyce DiDonato sang in the one I saw live last April.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
December 28th, 2017, 03:09 AM
Deidamia on DVD (it is also available on blu-ray disc)

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51Ix73Z9efL.jpg

Deidamia, opera in three acts, sung in Italian
Music by George Frideric Handel
Libretto by Paolo Antonio Rolli, based on Greek mythology, as told in the stories of Achilles on Skyros
Premiered on 10 January 1741, Lincoln's Inn Fields Theatre, London. This is Handel's last Italian opera seria.

This is a co-production of De Nederlandse Opera and the NTR, recorded live at the Amsterdam Music Theatre in March 2012, released on DVD by Opus Arte in January 2013, catalog # OA 1088 D

Cast

Deidamia - Sally Matthews
Nerea - Veronica Cangemi
Achille - Olga Pasichnyk
Ulisse - Silvia Tro Santafé
Fenice - Andrew Foster-Williams
Licomede - Umberto Chiummo
Nestore - Jan-Willem Schaafsma

Audio formats Dolby Digital Stereo, or DTS Digital Surround; image NTSC 16:9 Anamorphic. Subtitles in English, French, German, and Dutch. Running Time 184 minutes (opera) and 24 minutes (bonus - documentary film, and cast gallery). The insert contains five color production pictures, credits, a 3-page essay, and a 2-page synopsis, repeated in English, German, and French. No track list.

The period instrument orchestra Concerto Köln is conducted by Ivor Bolton
Stage director David Alden
Set design Paul Steinberg
Costume design Constance Hoffman
Lighting design Adam Silverman
Choreography Jonathan Lunn
Directed for the screen by Joost Honselaar

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It's unfortunate that the original language, Italian, wasn't included in the subtitles, but the full libretto in Italian is available here: [clicky (http://www.haendel.it/composizioni/libretti/pdf/deidamia.pdf)]

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This modern David Alden staging in the opera company directed by Pierre Audi (who will be taking over in Aix starting in September 2018) bodes well for the continuation of Aix's imaginative hallmark. These are very beautiful and colorful sets, sleek and tasteful (stunning, really). The costumes are very funny and interesting. Just the visual part is enough to recommend the purchase of this fascinating production.

http://www.operaclick.com/sites/default/files/deidamia0201_600x600_740KB.jpg

Added to the visual pleasure is the eye candy provided by the very pretty Sally Matthews and her shapely legs, which are prominently displayed by her wardrobe which includes swimming suits. She is lovely in all aspects: acting, singing, and physical presence (including, executing very well the choreography); I'm a big fan.

http://www.tutti-magazine.fr/upload/record/img/Deidamia-Sally-Matthews.jpg

Silvia Tro Santafé sings very well too, and so does Olga Pasichnyk. This trio with one very feminine woman and two pants roles, is theatrically effective, and it features three singers (two sopranos, one mezzo) who do Baroque well, ensuring the vocal quality of this performance (not always matched by the other singers, especially Veronica Cangemi who is not very good).

Olga's Tomboy Achille is very well cast, and she is convincing as the male teenager with raging hormones.

This period orchestra is excellent and so is its conductor.

Like I was saying when I last reviewed a Handel opera - Alcina at La Monnaie - three hours of convoluted Handel plot and da capo arias, as much as I love Handel's music (and I really do), are easier to swallow when the production is also visually interesting, and with an intelligent concept. Unlike that one in Brussels, this one from Amsterdam is very entertaining, down to details such as Ulisse arriving to the island by submarine,

http://ruilservice.het-muziektheater.nl/media/library/2012/03/876x350Deidamia.jpg

and the hilarious frantic efforts by a fake cellist on stage that tries her best to provide a musical commentary to Achille's rage when he surprises Ulisse flirting with Deidamia, until Achille goes and in a tantrum, breaks her bow (by the way, Sally looks stunning in this scene, which is this one below).

http://www.silviatrosantafe.com/images/084_deidamia_84-crop-u1858.jpg?crc=4253087284

The visual treats continue:

https://i.ytimg.com/vi/Xv_6mNvJ1Mw/maxresdefault.jpg

http://www.operaclick.com/sites/default/files/deidamia0157_600x600_740KB.jpg

http://lens-views.com/Operas/Deidamia_files/050_deidamia_bluray.jpg

Anyway, you can see how enticing the physical production is.

See this hilarious scene with Achille in pink, throwing punches in the air:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdemXoJDLFo

Oh wow, I just realized that the entire opera is on YouTube, in HD. Watch it soon, because if they take it down, you'll be missing something extraordinary.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=At-Vk9ONhrk

Anyway, you can see for yourself. I won't say more. A++, highly recommended.