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HarpsichordConcerto
December 19th, 2011, 08:56 AM
Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864), Il Crociato in Egitto (premiered 1824); grand opera in two acts.

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Michael Maniaci (Armando d'Orville), Patrizia Ciofi (Palmide), Marco Vinco (Aladino), Laura Polverelli (Felicia), Fernando Portari (Adriano di Monfort), Iorio Zennaro (Osmino), Silvia Pasini (Alma), Luca Favaron (Primo Schiavo), Emanuele Pedrini (Secondo Schiavo) & Stefano Gibellato (fortepiano). Orchestra e Coro del Teatro La Fenice, Emmanuel Villaume, Teatro La Fenice, Venezia, January 2007.

This is an interesting opera. It must have been one of the very last to have been written for a castrato taking the lead role (we're talking about the early 1820's). Here the lead role was sung by the male-soprano Michael Maniaci (who has a natural biological condition that doesn't technically him qualify as a falsettist/countertenor, if I'm not wrong; please correct me on this). He sings quite passionately in many long numbers and the many duets in this opera were well crafted numbers (Meyerbeer apparantly took over a year to compose the score). Patrizia Ciofi takes on the other lead role and likewise sings beautifully, and duets with Maniaci leave the listener infused with two high voices interweaving between the senses and music. There are many long pieces with interesting instruments used, including clarinet solo and harp. I get the sense that Meyerbeer took some effort to craft this opera, while it may not be a great one, it is certainly a very good one and I enjoy all the big numbers.

The plot was a familiar one amongst experienced opera listeners. A prince and a princess in love with each other, both belonging to different kingdoms and religions, with jealousy and war thrown in the middle, and the old familiar forumla "all is forgiven" thrown in the end. The staging was intelligbly modern, but not avant-garde, edging towards minimalism at times, and costumes were "period-ish"; in all, generally effective and non-distractive.

I think you would enjoy this if you generally like operas of this period. Fans of Manciaci or high-male voice singing in operas, and fans of Patrizia Ciofi need not hesitate.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 1st, 2012, 10:36 PM
Myerbeer: Les Huguenots on DVD
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I was not highly impressed. It's enjoyable, sure, but I find Meyerbeer not exactly memorable, he seems kind of formulaic. I did enjoy Raoul's first act romanza in spite of the fact that the tenor in this version is terrible; Marguerite's first aria in act II O beau pays de la Touraine - for its own merits and also for reminding me of la Touraine which is a French region that I love for its castles and its wines. The long duet between Marguerite and Raoul in the second act was good too. I really liked the benediction scene in the fourth act. But still, I don't know, something was missing. The overall impression was: meh. The main problem in this DVD was this moron Anson Austin. What a bad tenor!

This production is Dame Joan Sutherland's farewell performance at the Sydney Opera, and she was old and not as good any longer but could still sing.

The best part actually was the celebration for Joan Sutherland at the end, during and after the curtain calls. The public went crazy when she appeared. Wow - quite impressive and moving. She had tears in her eyes, wearing a black dress, spotlight on her, the public was throwing serpentines, confetti, flowers... It went on for half an hour. This alone may be enough justification to buy this otherwise pale DVD.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 1st, 2012, 10:41 PM
Meyerbeer: L'Africaine on DVD
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Conductor Maurizio Arena - 1988

Orchestra - San Francisco Opera

Chorus - San Francisco Opera
Selika - Shirley Verrett

Vasco da Gama - Plácido Domingo

Ines - Ruth Ann Swenson

Nelusko - Justino Díaz

Don Pedro - Michael Devlin

Don Diego - Philip Skinner

Grand Inquisitor - Joseph Rouleau

Alvar - Kevin Anderson

Anna - Patricia Spence

High Priest of Brahma - Mark Delavan

Priest - S. Seigel

DVD (Video) - ArtHaus Musik 100 216 (Europe) (2001); ArtHaus Musik 100 217 (2006)

OK, folks, this is not bad. Given that I'm generally weary of Meyerbeer's low-brow, formulaic, easy melody style with overblown settings (I'm much more in favor of his rival Berlioz's elegant, precise, economical and complex style), my expectations weren't high. I was quite prejudiced against this work, but thought I should get to know it anyway.

I was pleasantly surprised. This is Meyebeer's most mature work, his last. It is in my opinion at least as good as Meyerbeer's most highly regarded opera, Les Huguenots.

To start with, L'Africaine has a nice libretto full of theatrical possibilities, in spite of the fact that there is no African women to be seen. The title role is about an Indian woman, not African. Who knows why in the hell did the folks who completed and staged this work after Meyerbeer's death (he left it it unfinished) decide to call it L'Africaine? While he was still alive and working on this opera, Meyerbeer used to appropriately call it Vasco da Gama, since it is an opera about the Portuguese navigator, with no Africans at all.

The vocal writing is pretty good, with several pleasant arias for the title role (the Indian queen Sélika) and for Vasco da Gama. The vocal music for Inés, da Gama's love interest, is also very good. The orchestration however is unremarkable.

This traditional production is pretty well done, as expected from solid opera company San Francisco Opera. Plácido Domingo is outstanding as Vasco da Gama, and the late Shirley Verrett is a competent Sélika (the title role) in spite of wooden acting. I though, however, that Ruth Ann Swenson as Inés was even better. She sings beautifully and is good looking. The other singers playing the minor characters deliver uniformly good singing. The work is long (but so are all Grand Opéras).

Technical quality is mediocre, with a low-def 1.33:1 image, only stereo sound, and no bonus features. All that we get is a choice of subtitles (original French is fortunately available) and a chapter list. The insert tries to give a synopsis but strangely stops at the end of the third act (there are five). There is a list of chapters, at least.

In spite of these flaws, I'd still recommend this DVD. First of all, it's the only available video version for this opera; and second, we get good singing of a rather interesting work.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 1st, 2012, 10:42 PM
Meyerbeer: Dinorah ou le Pardon de Ploërmel on DVD
Do I need to change my mind about Meyerbeer? This is quite enjoyable, actually the one by him I've liked the most so far. I won't do a full review, I'll just say that yes, it is quite interesting and musically appealing. Unlike his other stuffy and overblown works, Dinorah is light, funny, full of rhythm and life, not boring. And this is a very good production with a cute soprano, good acting, nice staging, good singing.

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Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
February 2nd, 2012, 08:35 AM
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I'm interested in this one not only because of previous reviews but because Fernando Portari, the tenor we have interviewed for Opera Lively both about his participation in Opera Carolina's Madama Butterfly (http://operalively.com/forums/content.php/288-Puccini-Madama-Butterfly-at-Opera-Carolina-in-Charlotte-NC-USA), and about Opera in Brazil (http://operalively.com/forums/showthread.php/451-O-estado-da-%F3pera-no-Brasil-entrevista-com-o-tenor-brasileiro-Fernando-Portari?p=4739#post4739), sings one of the roles here (Adriano). Another point of interest is that this was the very last opera written for a castrato in the leading male role.

It's a work by a Meyerbeer in transition, entering his fourth decade of life, becoming a more mature composer, and ending his Italian phase before the start of his French, Grand Opéra phase. Some critics dislike this opera exactly because of this transition, claiming that it has a poorly defined musical structure and is too complex. Other members here have found it to be overlong.

We have here a 2007 Dynamic release, which is a guarantee of good sound track, with their proprietary ODS sound engineering process (Original Dynamic Surround). I'm listening to it using the PCM stereo track, though - but it is very crisp, full, and well balanced.

The image is excellent, filmed in HD, 16:9, and approaches that of a blu-ray for it's excellent definition and bright colors. NTSC, region zero (all).

The insert has full credits, track list, synopsis and essay in four languages (Italian, English, French, German) - the English translation of the Italian essay is a bit faulty, though (while the Italian text correctly says that the opera was conceived for the Trieste stage but ended up premiering in Venice instead, the English translation interprets this as the opera having been premiered in Trieste, then given in Venice). Subtitles are in these same languages plus Spanish. No extras. Running time is 208 minutes.

It's a melodramma eroico in two acts (not a Grand Opéra), music by Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864), libretto by Gaetano Rossi (of Tancredi and Semiramide fame). It premiered at La Fenice on March 7, 1824.

This is a live recording from January 2007 at La Fenice. This opera has been rarely performed. This may have to do with its vocal demands which are considerable. It is shockful of coloratura pieces and numbers with wide range, making of its tessitura a moving target.

Emmanuel Villaume conducts the Orchestra del Teatro La Fenice. Pier Luigi Pizzi directs, and also designs sets and costumes (all very beautiful as usual for this talented director's productions).

Cast:
Armando d'Orville (Elmirano) - male soprano - Michael Maniaci
Palmide - soprano - Patrizia Ciofi
Osmino - tenor - Iorio Zennaro
Adriano di Monfort - tenor - Fernando Portari
Aladino - bass - Marco Vinco
Alma - mezzo - Silvia Pasini
Felicia - mezzo - Laura Polverelli
First slave - tenor - Luca Favaron
Second slave - baritone - Emanuele Pedrini

Beautiful overture, beautiful chorus number Patria Amata following it (well, it's not Verdi, but it is not bad). Sets are tasteful, discreet, unintrusive, simple yet visually appealing. Costumes are at times simple white gowns, at other times (like for Aladino) colorful and detailed. A very successful staging.

Mid-first act, singing so far has been top notch, Patrizia Ciofi is excellent, the male soprano Michael Maniaci is good too (he's got a natural condition and is close to what a real castrato would have been), and so is Marco Vinco.

The first great number is a duet between Palmide and Armando, E Palmide! Ella sola... when Patrizia's beautiful voice blends admirably with Maniaci's.

Vedi il Legno comes next and is another pleasant chorus number, solemn and rhythmic, melodious enough (again, this is not exactly Meyerbeer's forte - one keeps craving Verdi's much more impressive pieces).

I don't like Laura Polverelli that much - not a particularly beautiful timbre, and her absolutely constant use of vibrato with no stretches of straight singing is exaggerated.

Our friend Fernando Portari finally makes his entrance in chapter 8, singing Tutto intorno tace and he doesn't disappoint - his lyric tenor is full and lustrous, well projected, and he displays good Italianate musicality while working the lines.

Quai rimembranze amare starts a long duet between Felicia and Palmide, in the old Bel Canto style (as a technique, not the subsequent Italian period), and it is beautiful, but yes, over long.

Then we get many - really, many - ensembles in the longest finale I've ever seen. Again, pleasant and beautiful but now I understand Soave_fanciulla who said this opera would benefit of some cuts. End of act 1 - with opening shots showing Venice, we're clocking 1 hour and 58'! I'll watch the rest another day.

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The next day - I've finished act II and the opera, but my attention waned. The whole thing is beautiful but also bland and monotonous and long with little theatrical impact. It functions well as background music for doing something else (and that's what happened to me, I started typing some material for the web site while I was listening to act II.

The music is very pleasant and melodious. The production is well staged. The singers do a fine job. But there is a general lack of impact.

Verdict: I'd still say it is recommended for people who love this style and like these singers.

But it is not highly recommended, and not for everybody.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
June 5th, 2012, 01:50 AM
Robert le Diable, Grand Opéra in five acts (1831)

This is an obscure DVD released by Encore (a house specializing in historic rare recordings) in 2006, catalog number OCLC 62095709, out of the only video recording of this opera by French TV station Antenne 2, filmed live at L'Opéra de Paris, Palais Garnier, in June of 1985. Thomas Fulton conducts the Orquestre de L'Opéra de Paris, and the cast includes:

Rockwell Blake as Robert (tenor)
Samuel Ramey as Bertram (bass-baritone)
Walter Donati as Raimbaut (tenor)
Michèle Lagrange as Alice (soprano)
June Anderson as Isabelle (soprano)

Image is very dark and defective. Sound is reasonable. There are no subtitles. Running time is 2 hours and 49 minutes.

The opera, with music by Giacomo Meyerbeer and libretto by Eugène Scribe and Casimir Delavigne, is very loosely based on the medieval legend of Robert the Devil - the real life person of the Duke Robert the Magnificent of Normandy, father of William the Conqueror. Robert was alleged in some legends to be the son of the devil.

It premièred on 21 November 1831 at the Palais Garnier, and was a great success, having pretty much inaugurated the genre Grand Opéra, together with La Muette de Portici and Guillaume Tell. It was also influential in the history of ballet. Frédéric Chopin who attended the première was highly impressed and called it a masterpiece. Other famous fans were Honoré de Balzac, Alexandre Dumas, and Georges Sand. After enduring success during the nineteenth century, the opera was neglected for a hundred years, and started to be revived at the end of the 20th. century.

The Royal Opera House is giving it in December of 2012. Future Opera Lively interviewee Bryan Hymel will be singing the title role (I have a scheduled interview with the tenor in London, in early July 2012, so in preparation for this, I'm watching this opera today).

I'm not in the mood to re-write the synopsis. I'm taking it from Wikipedia, which in its turn took it from the New Grove.

Act 1 An encampment
Robert and his mysterious friend Bertram are carousing in Palermo. The minstrel Raimbaut, not recognizing Robert, sings a ballad referring to him as 'Robert the Devil'. Robert condemns him to death; Raimbaut begs for pardon and tells Robert that he is engaged to marry. Robert forgives him and jokes about enjoying the droit du seigneur. However Raimbaut's fianceé turns out to be Robert's half-sister Alice, who enters to tell Robert that her mother has died, and to give him her last testament. Robert is too overcome to read this, and asks Alice to keep it for the present; he also asks her to take a letter to his own fiancée, the Princess Isabelle. Bertram challenges Robert to a game of dice, at which Robert loses his entire possessions, including his armor.

Act 2

A hall of the palace
Isabelle is sad at Robert's absence, but delighted when Alice gives her Robert's note. On Robert's arrival, Isabelle provides him with new armor so that he can enter the tournament for her hand. Bertram appears, and deliberately misdirects Robert to a nearby forest, claiming that the Prince of Granada has challenged him to a duel. Robert therefore does not appear in the lists; the Prince stakes his claim to Isabelle, who is mystified at Robert's disappearance.


Act 3
Scene 1: Wild countryside, near the entrance to a cavern
Bertram intercepts Raimbaut, who is en route to an assignation with Alice, and giving him a purse full of gold tells him he can find plenty of better women with that. Raimbaut, elated, leaves. Bertram reveals that Robert, to whom he is truly devoted, is his son; however he must now enter the cave to hear Satan's decree about his own instructions. Alice now entering overhears the conference taking place in the cave, and the judgement that Bertram will lose Robert forever if he cannot possess his soul for the Devil by midnight. Emerging, Bertram realizes that Alice has heard everything but forces her to promise her silence. Enter Robert: Bertram tells him that he can regain his fortunes and Isabelle by the aid of a magic branch, which can make him invisible, to be found at....

Scene 2: A cloister in the ruined convent of St. Rosalia
Bertram leads Robert to the cloister. A ballet takes place of the ghosts of debauched nuns, rising from their coffins, led by their abbess, who encourage Robert to seize the branch from the tomb of the Saint. Using the branch, Robert fends off the demons who surround him.

Act 4

A hall in the palace
Alice has rushed to Isabelle, who is preparing for her marriage with the Prince of Granada, to inform her of what she has learnt, but the entry of the invisible Robert with the branch freezes all except Robert and Isabelle. He confesses his underhand conduct, but she (in one of the opera's most famous arias, Robert, toi que j'aime), admits that she loves him. In despair, Robert breaks the branch and the spell it has created, and is taken into custody by Isabelle's guards.

Act 5

Scene 1: The entrance to the Cathedral of Palermo.
Against a background of chanting monks, Bertram attempts to get Robert (whom he has freed from the guards) to sign a binding oath to serve him. He reveals to Robert that he is Robert's true father: Robert is about to cave in from filial devotion. Enter Alice, with news that the Prince has vanished. Sensing that the moment has come, she also reads her mother's message, which is to shun the man who seduced and ruined her (Bertram). Robert is strung by indecision between Alice and Bertram, but midnight now strikes, and the time for Bertram's coup is past. Bertram is drawn down to hell. The scene changes instantly to....
Scene 2: The interior of the Cathedral
Isabelle is waiting at the altar for Robert, and he is led to marry her to the accompaniment of a heavenly choir.



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Interestingly, the opening scene with the chorus has extensive nudity with several topless women. It's a traditional staging with elaborated costumes and grandiose sets - some of them fairy tale-like, with flies, bunnies, strange skeletal creatures - the kind of costumes we see in Der Freischütz, which was actually a big influence on Meyerbeer to give him the idea of writing this opera with a similar theme.

The sound is better than the image and the diction of the singers is good enough to be understood by those who speak French, in spite of the absence of subtitles. There are some cartoonish-looking printed words on the screen informing us of some elements of the plot, establishing who the characters are, and in rare times reproducing briefly the words in the libretto.

A young Ramey is spectacular as expected - what can we say, we don't need to say anything - this is a phenomenal singer! Walter Donati does well too. Unfortunately Rockwell Blake in the title role has significantly less volume when compared to his peers, and sounds a bit harsh, although he shows a wide range and good vocal agility.

To my surprise (I'm not a big fan of Meyerbeer's) I'm actually enjoying the music so far. It is a bit bombastic but not as much as other Meyerbeer's I've seen, having moments of delicacy. The vocal writing is what tends to be more over-the-top and loud, but the orchestral and choral parts are very pleasant, and there is rather good pace, rhythm, and variety.

Michèle Lagrange as Alice is definitely not a looker and much less an actress, but sings fairly well - in a mixture of dramatic and coloratura singing with nice trills. She does better in the coloratura parts when she doesn't push the volume and sounds more controlled, as opposed to being a bit rough when she is loud.

Acting in general is terrible, almost ridiculous - again, Ramey is the best one in the cast - the others being rather static and stocky. The topless girls keep coming over and over as silent extras/servants. So in 1985 in Paris they were already doing this, huh?

End of Act I - a pretty good act, compact and fast moving, with interesting music.

June Anderson as Isabelle opens the act with a pungent aria, and yes, she is great! Fabulous coloratura instrument, very precise and agile, with beautiful timbre. She is also a pretty woman.

This is followed by a very beautiful (although conventional) love duet between Robert and Isabelle.

The grandiose sets and costumes continue, with the Prince of Granada looking like some sort of samurai (these costumes are a mix of Der Freischütz with Turandot!). This production must have been lots of fun to watch live. We are treated to more great singing from Ms. Anderson, and more skeletal soldiers.

End of Act II, again a good act. This is indeed a good opera!

Act III opens with Ramey, the devil himself, commanding some strange creatures in a cave. Competent tenor Donati and him protagonize a good dramatic scene with great singing. The duo is very interesting, contrasting in rapid phrases the tenor and the bass-baritone voices, which marks the vocal rhythm quite nicely, clever device!

OK, the scene of seduction when the devil is tempting Bertram saying that there are better women than his fiancée has eight almost completely naked female dancers, except for tiny - emphasis on tiny - covers for their genitals. Ah, the French... :cool:

Ramey completely steals the scene and his solo aria that ensues gives him the opportunity to deliver great singing. Meyerbeer's bombastic vocal writing suits very well this singer with great projection. Unfortunately, the French public has the very tasteless habit of applauding wildly *during* the music which spoils the aria a bit.

There is some very strange large object in the middle of the cave - looks like a whale carcass or a deformed huge cranium - hard to tell, so bad the image is on this DVD. We get Alice, a bit shrill like in the first act - the weakest link here, as a singer. Fortunately, Ramey comes back and is again a pleasure to hear. Crawling monsters come out of the strange large object.

This scene is a bit overlong. Well, let's say, not a bit. It *is* overlong. Bertram sings and sings. This opera should be called Bertram le Diable.

Time now for the obligatory ballet in Grand Opéra. Here, it's degenerate nuns. Well, I expected nudity and these nuns are not naked, but the naked dancers do appear on top of a platform.

The music is good, and the choreography is actually quite spectacular, entirely satisfactory (which is not always the case in operatic productions).

Robert has a very loud aria with high tessitura, and Blake sings it much better than in the first act - his voice seems to be well warmed up by now. Then there is the "lente parade de la séduction" and it is danced in slow motion with dozens of dancers on stage and choral music, to very good theatrical effect.

End of Act III. Basically a very long first scene, but a very good second scene with the ballet.

Act IV has really loud and bombastic singing and is again overlong. I don't quite like it, although some of the Isabelle parts are beautiful and Anderson gets the longest applause I've ever seen on DVD; it goes on for several minutes. By now with 2h 25m I'm getting tired.

Act V is shorter, fortunately, and more varied. We recover the theatricality in the music and pace we had lost during act IV. We get a trio with Robert, Bertram, and Alice, delivered in Park and Bark style. It ends on the impressive scene of Bertram being dragged to Hell, Don Giovanni style (with less good music, of course), with some hefty lighting and smoke effects.

Now, the apotheosis, the wedding scene. Short, to the point, it ends the opera well.

Verdict: as an opera, A- (I did like it - for what it tries to do, it delivers).
Singing, A. Staging, B+. Sound, B, Image C-.

Overall, B, recommended.

Ann Lander (sospiro)
June 5th, 2012, 06:56 AM
Alma


Robert le Diable, Grand Opéra in five acts (1831)

This is an obscure DVD released by Encore (a house specializing in historic rare recordings) in 2006, catalog number OCLC 62095709, out of the only video recording of this opera by French TV station Antenne 2, filmed live at L'Opéra de Paris, Palais Garnier, in June of 1985. Thomas Fulton conducts the Orquestre de L'Opéra de Paris, and the cast includes:

Rockwell Blake as Robert (tenor)
Samuel Ramey as Bertram (bass-baritone)
Walter Donati as Raimbaut (tenor)
Michèle Lagrange as Alice (soprano)
June Anderson as Isabelle (soprano)

I've been trying to find a DVD, could you give me a link to the Encore site?

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
June 5th, 2012, 11:35 AM
I can't find it myself in Google Search, are they out of business? I'll make you a copy and take it with me to London.

Ann Lander (sospiro)
June 5th, 2012, 11:55 AM
I can't find it myself in Google Search, are they out of business? I'll make you a copy and take it with me to London.

:hifive: Thanks!!

jflatter
June 13th, 2012, 07:46 PM
Alma thanks for the extensive history on Robert le Diable. I bought a ticket to see at ROH out of curiosity value plus there is nothing on there in the autumn post Ring Cycle of great note.

Yashin
January 4th, 2013, 01:30 AM
I see that they are re-releasing an old DVD of Meyerbeers Les Hugenots or Die Hugenotten

One of my favourite clips on Youtube is this one with Richard Leech and Pilar Lorengar singing a duet from the opera. IThis must be the best of Richard out there- i don't think he ever sounded so great on a recording (as much as a love his Rodolfo) and Lorengar is beautiful here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wQLWbkDxp28

Unfortunately for me the DVD did not live up to this thrilling performance.

Here is the blurb on the DVD for those who have not seen it.


John Dew's modern production, conducted by Stefan Soltesz, caused somewhat of a sensation when it was first performed in 1987 at the Deutsche Oper, Berlin. Giving the period and content of the work new reference points, his staging becomes almost oppressively contemporary: he sets the opera in divided Berlin, where the wall is a symbol of the separation of the two German states. Angela Denning, Lucy Peacock, Richard Leech and Martin Blasius fascinate with their wonderful voices and impressive acting.

Dark_Angel
August 5th, 2013, 11:21 PM
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A qualified success for Laurnet Pelly and new ROH production of Robert Le Diable (Robert the Devil)

Pelly uses flambouyant style and some gaudy fun elements you would not expect in grand french opera (Pelly previous fame was in Offenbach opera) to spice things up while still keeping framework of story intact. There are some gratuitous regie sights like the man in bear suit drinking beer with knights opening scence, but most visuals were in sympathy with underlying story and added exciting visual drama and fun.

Speaking of opening scence the knights hanging out in tavern looks very similar to opening bar scence later used in Offenbach's Tales of Hoffman, score one for Meyerbeer influence. The original opera was big success with top singers and dancers used in debut run by Meyerbeer, great effort was used to stage opera if grand fashion, so much so that Meyerbeer was concerned the opera took back seat to lavish production.

The visuals were often clever and worked well in tournament scence, the seductive dancing ghost nuns, and nice visual back projected images pulled off the meeting of Bertram (devil) and the dark dominions of underworld which Alice stumbled upon accidently. Also liked clever effect of Bertram being swallowed by devil beast in one way ticket to hell to end opera (DVD cover), nasty heartburn heh heh

Any opera with both Patrizia Coifi and elegant Marina Poplavskaya having major singing roles can't be all bad and I enjoyed both of these ladies very much, men were also vocally fine but Robert is a wimpy character that is not very inspirational and is easily pushed around by Bertram like a puppy on a leash, his love for Isabelle was never devloped to any believeable exent you cared too much about. Also the music and singing was OK but nowhere near as compelling as Italian operas by Verdi, Donizetti, Bellini etc for me.

So I will keep this DVD for the cool visual production by Pelly, I am not inspired to go out and buy a CD set to hear singing and music again however. This is not a great youtube scence from opera but gives you an idea of production style


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VGOJ7QexcOA&feature=player_detailpage

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
November 11th, 2013, 08:54 PM
Robert Le Diable on blu-ray disc

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Robert Le Diable, grand-opéra in five acts, sung in French (November 21, 1831)
Music by Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864)
Libretto by Eugène Scribe and Germain Delavigne

Royal Opera House co-production with the Grand Théâtre de Genève, December 6, 2012 at the ROH
Orchestra of the Royal Opera House conducted by Daniel Oren; concert master Peter Manning
Royal Opera Chorus, director Renato Balsadonna
Stage Director Laurent Pelly
Set Design Chantal Thomas
Costume Design Laurent Pelly in collaboration with Jean-Jacques Delmotte
Lighting Design Duane Schuler
Video Design Claudio Cavallari
Choreography Lionel Hoche
Directed for the screen by Sue Judd

Cast

Robert - Bryan Hymel
Bertram - John Relyea
Alice - Marina Poplavskaya
Isabelle - Patrizia Ciofi
Raimbault - Jean-François Borras
Alberti - Nicolas Courjal
First Chevalier / Master of Ceremonies - David Butt Philip
Second Chevalier / Herald - Pablo Bemsch
Third Chevalier / Prince of Granada - Ashley Riches
Fourth Chevalier / Priest - Jihoon Kim
Lady-in-waiting to Isabelle - Dusica Bijelic

Opus Arte 2013 release, in blu-ray disc, 16:9 1080i HD image, LPCM 2.0 and DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 sound tracks, all regions, subtitles in French (original language), English, German, Japanese, and Korean
Running time - opera 211 minutes, bonus feature 11 minutes
Bonus - The Legacy of Robert Le Diable; Cast Gallery
Insert: cover art + four production pictures in color, credits, 4-page essay in English, French, and German - no chapter list/characters/duration.

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It will be interesting to publish here Laurent Pelly's assessment of his work, from his exclusive interview with Opera Lively which has been entirely transcribed already in French, and is in the process of being translated into English. Another fragment of this interview has already seen the light of day when the gifted director commented upon his La Traviata for Santa Fe Opera. That fragment was published together with my review of that Traviata, on our live performances reviews thread. The remainder of the long interview (65 minutes) is coming in a few days.

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Luiz Gazzola for Opera Lively - (after having commented upon the director's success of critic and public earned by his production of The Tales of Hoffman for San Francisco Opera): "Robert le Diable, on the other hand, had less favorable reviews. However, one of our staff members saw the production live at the Royal Opera House and loved it. I haven't seen it yet, but I'm planning to buy the blu-ray. It is rather rare to see a Laurent Pelly production that doesn't gather almost unanimous critical praise. It is true that one can't please everybody, but do you see something you'd have done differently, or plan to change in a revival? Or are you rather content with this production, and shrug off the criticism for the sake of what I've just said, that it is impossible to please everybody all the time?"

Laurent Pelly - "Robert le Diable did not achieve unanimity, this much is certain. We can't please everybody; true. For one, it's a very complex and heavy piece. It is very long and full of constraints, very musically difficult, and requires considerable means. Regarding the sets and costumes, the creative process was complicated because we did not have the means to do any more than what we did. I don't think this work can be shown today, as it is, at face value. I tried to have some fun with it and to work on another layer, with some humor, because this eighteenth century piece is very excessive and outdated. We can't take it seriously. I was rather surprised that people blamed me for my approach. After all, it's such a complex work, and for me certain scenes in our production were more successful than others, but often this was because of a question of means rather than due to our artistic choices."

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Full review to follow; probably not today as I'll only have the time to watch half of it today then I'm busy with something else, but I'll restart later. I can already say that I very much like the opening scenes with the colorful sets (much of the criticism poured on Laurent Pelly had to do with the cardboard feel of his rather satirical approach, but so far, it doesn't bother me), a nice performance from the chorus, and outstanding singing from the excellent Bryan Hymel, at least to start with.

About the opera itself, I rather like it, like I said in my review of the first version of it I saw (see post #6 above - which includes some historical data on it and a full synopsis) although I'm not a big fan of Meyerbeer's. It's my second favorite Meyerbeer opera, after Dinorah, and just like the latter, in my opinion it is not as stuffy as his other works that I know (Les Huguenots, L'Africaine, Il Crociato in Egitto, and Le Prophète). Well, it still is - but not as much.

Ms. Poplavskaya, not one of my favorite sopranos, is correct here, so far (I don't think she ever goes beyond the 'correct' level anyway, in other productions I've seen with her), and so is a John Relyea who does seem a bit overwhelmed. Joining Bryan as a performer with a very good reputation is Patrizia Ciofi - but she does seem miscast, musically - being as she is stronger in bel canto coloratura, this long and over-dramatic sing has the potential to being taxing on her - too small a voice for this role? - just as it will probably prove true for Ms. Poplavskaya. Apparently Bryan himself who started strong, is said by critics to have suffered from fatigue by the end (something Juan Diego Flórez avoided by refusing to sing the role when he was offered it), so, we'll see.

Back to the staging, from reading about it, I learn that it looks like many of Pelly's concepts were sort of lost on the audience (apparently many people walked out) and even on the critics. He seems to have aimed for medieval symbolism and has used:

1. A portrait of Michael the Archangel in act 1
2. The Duc de Berri's Très Riches Heures, an illuminated fifteenth century prayer book in act 2 (thus the carboardish feel)
3. The Hell scenes in act 3 come from painters Hans Memling and Hieronymous Bosch
4. Gothic imagery in the Ballet of the Nuns of the Cloister scene
5. Act 5 is inspired by the medieval theatrical genre of Mystery and Miracle Plays, with their typical exaggeration, thus the over-the-top clouds and the flaming mouth

Valid criticism seems to focus on John Relyea being insufficiently diabolic, and the ballet being strange and confusing. We'll see.

So far (I'm getting to the 90 minutes mark) I can't see anything wrong with the staging (if anything, rather than outrageous, it is actually a bit boring - I was a bit more entertained by the first version I saw - confessedly, it may have to do with the large number of yummy naked women that production had:pig:). I do find the singing sort of under-powered - I hate to admit, this is more true of Ciofi and of Hymel than of Poplavskaya who does show some lung chops in her long act 3 scene.

I'm getting to the Zombie-like ballet, and it is, well, interesting. But I kind of agree that it could be better. The stage is very cluttered. And I can see why the ROH more conservative patrons would run away scared. These transparent gowns are sort of graphic. There I go, I got my naked ladies. But they aren't sensual.

[The review continues below]

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
November 23rd, 2013, 06:04 AM
OK, several days later, I finally finished watching this blu-ray. Tonight I went through acts IV and V, and I confess that my initial appreciation for this production did drop a few notches. Yes, the singers do appear fatigued at the end. With the two octaves of range and a couple of notes of higher tessitura in this role than Bryan is used to sing in his usual rep like he said in the featurette, he seems so focused on trying to sing the darn thing and finish up in decent form that his acting suffers and he tends to exhibit the same worried facial expression all the time. Patricia seems at the end of her rope, and John looks less and less interested. To my surprise - and my respect for her did grow - Marina ends up saving the night and sustaining good quality throughout most of it.

Laurent was right about certain scenes working better than others - act IV is "meh" in terms of staging, while act V does upgrade significantly the visual appeal and inventiveness. Musically act IV is, well, boring. It makes me think of the way the essay included in the insert and the featurette go to such lengths to defend Meyerbeer. Laurent says "Meyerbeer is not at all boring and heavy." Hm... Laurent, methinks thou protest too much. If he weren't, you all wouldn't need to insist so much to the contrary. Sorry, buddy, but he is. Just compare him to Berlioz's elegance.

Robert le Diable is a messy affair. We need to be reminded all the time why it is important to stage it. OK, so, the Ballet of the Nuns inspired Giselle. Hm, hm. OK... (I'd rather watch Giselle). Oh, and the structure of the first act seems to be taken by Offenbach for the structure of his first act of Les contes d'Hoffmann. Hmm... really? Well, maybe. Except that Les contes d'Hoffmann is just some 93 times more interesting than Robert le Diable.

So, come again, Royal Opera House, why are we doing this?

You know, if you take something like the featurette for Willy Decker's La Traviata, we don't need to be reminded all the time of how great the work is, and how talented the composer was. They go and talk about other things... because everybody knows that Trav is great and Verdi is a genius.

Yes, we shouldn't blame Laurent for taking this with a bit of humor - Robert le Diable indeed can't really be taken seriously. But still, the critics do have some points, and it is indeed one of the least successful Laurent Pelly productions I've seen. It just has too many ups and downs. It's uneven. The singing is also uneven. Orchestra and chorus, though, are consistently good.

So, the verdict is B-. Recommended only for Meyerbeer fans (all five of them).

Ann Lander (sospiro)
November 23rd, 2013, 11:29 AM
.... Recommended only for Meyerbeer fans (all five of them).

+1. I loved it :p

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
November 23rd, 2013, 01:47 PM
+1. I loved it :p

It was just an attempt at humor. Admittedly, I was too harsh on poor Meyerbeer. I do like a lot his Dinorah. But given his rivalry with Berlioz and my passion for the latter, I can be a bit biased when addressing a work by Meyerbeer.

Soave_Fanciulla
November 23rd, 2013, 07:08 PM
I'm not really a Meyerbeer fan but this production made Robert le Diable very palatable for me. Good fun.