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Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 1st, 2012, 09:55 PM
Puccini: Edgar on DVD
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This production takes the cake for the worst singing ever. It's risible and pathetic. And mind you, the leading soprano is Montserrat Caballé's daughter, Montserrat Martí. Apparently Mr. Bernabé Martí's (Caballé's husband) genes were stronger than Caballé's, because their daughter can't sing (even though he was a tenor). Ms. Martí, other than some singing lessons from her mother, could also use a plastic surgeon's help, to redo her nose (now I'm being mean). The other female, Halla Margret, not only can't sing, but also can't act. She is not bad looking, though (it's her, on the cover), but this can't save her. I like my cute sopranos better when they can sing.

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Halla Margret

The tenor is amazingly bad. Name is Dario Balzanelli. Even Andrea Bocelli would have done better. Was he paid to appear, or is he some kind of amateur? He should be paying *us* for putting up with him. The minor roles are all badly sung as well.

If an opera novice wants to understand the difference between good and bad singing, this DVD is a must buy, to get the bad singing part. It is also recommended to voice teachers. After all, students must learn how *not* to sing.

The acting is not too hot either.

Sound balance is terrible. When the singers start to bark and shriek you can't hear the orchestra, and you need to keep adjusting the volume. Maybe this is a good thing though, because this Orchestra Filarmonica Mediterranea is not that good either.

The DVD has no features other than English subtitles and chapter selection (It's a Kultur product - they're often like this). Staging is traditional and not good, nor bad. It seems like the background is the Termas di Caracalla.

Regarding the music itself, I'm not very impressed (even though there is a chance that my perception is being hindered by the annoying singing of this production). There are a few good moments, but this is far from Puccini's subsequent heights, and the plot looks to me like a poor man's Carmen. I think that if the name Puccini wasn't attached to this opera, it would have been long forgotten.

According to Annie, the other DVD version of this opera has weak singing as well. I guess we'll have to hope that a decent opera company takes on this work at some point, and then maybe my opinion of it will improve, but for now I give it a C-.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 1st, 2012, 09:56 PM
Puccini: Le Villi on DVD
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This is an opera-ballo (opera-ballet), Puccini's first.

Mediterranean Choir and Orchestra Filarmonica Mediterranea conducted by Tamas Pal (who?)
Albert Montserrat (Roberto), Halla Margret (Anna), Andrea Rola - wrongly credited as Montserrat Martě on the cover but his name is actually Andrea Rola (Guglielmo) are the singers
MedEnsemble has supplied the (very pretty) dancers

Rather unknown maestro and orchestra (I think I've seen a production with this orchestra before, but I don't remember which one), and singers.

First of all, Halla Margret the soprano is very pretty, but is a disaster as a singer. Whether someone will enjoy this DVD or not depends a lot on the person's ability to forgive her and savor other aspects of this production. Since I'm a little biased in the matter of pretty women, I think I'll suspend my disbelief of the fact that she is supposed to be a professional soprano, and just enjoy her looks (it's like she is a very good looking actress but not a singer - one wonders if they ran out of sopranos and just got this girl from some theater company - or not, because her acting is not too hot either, poor thing). OK, I looked her up, she's a pop singer from Iceland. I knew she couldn't be an operatic singer. Oh well, like I said, she looks good. Oh wait, I've just noticed (I'm typing this while I browse the web with split windows) that she's the same one whom I saw in Edgar, and she couldn't sing there either. This settles it, it's not that she's just having a bad day.

The tubby tenor sings a lot better; the baritone, not so well but not terribly (sorry, he looks ridiculous, no eye-candy for the ladies). The chorus is good (actually the chorus provides the best singing), and the dancers are OK and *very* pretty (the merits of this production reside more in the eye-candy department for the boys than in the singing).

The opera itself is no La Bohčme but is enjoyable enough as a curiosity in terms of getting to know early Puccini, in spite of the very silly plot with fairies. It is made even sillier by the narration that is employed to tell us about the legend of the Villi. At least the opera is short (running time around one hour). Musically there are some very decent parts (pleasant, beautiful orchestration and a couple of good arias); not bad for a first effort by a composer.

It's a traditional production with cheap looking but decent scenarios, nothing offensive. Some costumes and wigs are a little ridiculous (especially Guglielmo's). Technically speaking it is a Kultur product so you know what to expect, but not as bad as many other Kultur DVDs, in the sense that the image is good with sharp definition, bright colors, good lighting, and it is widescreen. You can turn off the subtitles (English only), and the sound balance is not horrible; one can hear both the singers and the orchestra very well, unlike the rule for Kultur.

There is no DVD competition (there is a very good CD with Placido Domingo and Renata Scotto, though, and a few others), so I guess, if one absolutely wants to have a DVD of Le Villi (it is not essential to have one, in my opinion), it's recommended because it is not a disaster and the only really bad aspect is the leading lady's singing; other aspects are either not *too* bad, decent, or actually good, especially if one enjoys watching very pretty women dancing, while listening to rather nice music.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 1st, 2012, 10:00 PM
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This one has more negatives than positives, which in my opinion aren't many. There is a lack of chemistry, and a sense of boredom. Yes, it does get better in acts III and IV so don't give up too early, but it is still not a choice production. Karita still steals the show in spite of her age - such an amazing lady! - and when Manon is despondent in acts III and IV her age doesn't show as much as when Manon is supposed to be young, attractive, and lively in acts I and II. Also, this production probably works better for the live audience, because the close-ups are not flattering for a 47 years old Karita trying to portray a teenager. But I forgive her for a few vocal problems given her acting ability. My verdict for this one is 'not recommended' because there are better versions of this opera on DVD.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 1st, 2012, 10:01 PM
Puccini: La Bohčme on DVD
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Belatedly, I'm watching and reviewing this DVD with a young Levine, a young Pavarotti...

I don't need to present all the details, since this is so well known. Let's just say:

Giacomo Puccini - La Bohčme, sung in Italian
1977, James Levine conducts live the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra. Luciano Pavarotti (Rodolfo), Renata Scotto (Mimi), Marallin Niska (Musetta), Ingvar Wixell (Marcello), Paul Plishka (Colline); Deutsche Grammophon 2005 DVD release, 123 minutes, 1.33:1 image, PCM, DD 5.1, DTS 5.1, multiple subtitles including Italian and English.

March 15, 1977 - the very first Met broadcast, 34 years ago! Historic occasion. We're light years from Met in HD...

Dark period staging, minimalistic, not the great Zeffirelli one that came later. Less than decent sound (I'd say, not decent, period). Less than sharp image (let's be frank, quite blurry).

So-so preliminary scenes. Adequate supporting cast but nothing spectacular, although likable and not making major mistakes.

Therefore, your average C- Bohčme, right?

But then... but then...

Renata comes in... Luciano melts... (he actually *can* act and move around; at least, his young not-so-fat self could).

And operatic magic explodes... Che gelida manina....

One of the most spectacular sequences in all of opera starts... and poor Almaviva realizes that one can't really review, evaluate, criticize greatness. This is crystalline, perfectly articulated, perfectly phrased singing by two outstanding artists at the peak of their ability. Enough said. How could I say anything other than... Highly Recommended?

Are there better La Bohčme DVDs? Absolutely, yes. But who cares? What proper opera lover can be called such, while NOT having this historical document? Buy it. Full stop.

AnaMendoza
January 3rd, 2012, 06:16 PM
Puccini: La Bohčme on DVD
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Belatedly, I'm watching and reviewing this DVD with a young Levine, a young Pavarotti...

...........

Are there better La Bohčme DVDs? Absolutely, yes. But who cares? What proper opera lover can be called such, while NOT having this historical document? Buy it. Full stop.

This review woke some nostalgia in me. I'd almost forgotten that I watched this broadcast in a music professor's living room. She'd invited a bunch of students over, and even though I wasn't a voice student, I got an invitation. By then, I definitely knew I loved opera, but I knew very little about it. I imagine I'd heard of Pavarotti; definitely had never heard of Scotto, and had no idea that this was a significant event. Looking back, I'd say that I enjoyed it a lot, but wasn't awestruck.

One amusing memory--believe it or not, I remember reading a review of the performance at the time. The reviewer thought that the Met, reaching out to a wider audience than they had ever reached before, should have paid more attention to the visual aspects of the performance, and cast singers who, while their voices might not have the perfection of Pavarotti and Scotto, were more fitted to play a pair of young lovers. Plus ça change...

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 19th, 2012, 04:20 AM
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This is a bargain. $8.99 on Amazon.com, plus 2 hours and 20 minutes of highlights from 47 other productions of opera and ballet.

Clicky (http://www.amazon.com/Tosca-Blu-ray-Puccini/dp/B005G02RIC/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1326942087&sr=1-2) (to buy it).

2006, Daniel Oren, Orchestra and Chorus of the Arena di Verona
Stage director, sets, costumes, and lighting: Hugo de Ana

Floria Tosca - Fiorenza Cedolins
Mario Cavaradossi - Marcelo Álvarez
Il Barone Scarpia - Ruggero Raimondi
Cesare Angelotti - Marco Spotti
Il Sagrestano - Fabio Previati
Spoletta - Enrico Facini
Sciarrone - Giuliano Pelizon
Un carceriere - Angelo Nardinocchi
Un pastorello - Ottavia Dorruci

Image - format 16:9, resolution 1080i full HD
Sound - PCM Stereo, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
Region - worldwide
Running time - 119 minutes (opera) - 140 minutes (trailers)

Unitel Classica release, in co-production with ArtHaus Musik, RAI Trade, TDK, and Fondazione Arena di Verona

Packaging only includes an insert with a brief essay (4 paragraphes) - the first one about the opera, the next two a sort of synopsis, and the last one about the singers. There is a list of arias with duration but it doesn't include the characters. That's it. Then, a TDK/Arthaus blu-ray catalogue.

Optional subtitles are in Italian, English, German, French, and Spanish.

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The visuals are excellent - impressive setting with nice shots of the Arena di Verona; beautiful and grandiose sets, helped by the clear, bright, precise blu-ray image that highlights very well Tosca's beautiful costumes and the large and rich sets.

The sound is as good as it can get in such a large open-air setting, but the orchestra does seem flat and distant given the unfavorable acoustics, in spite of the fact that they attack the score with gusto, keeping a lively pace.

Marco Spotti as Angelotti is weak, his acting is cold, and his voice is small.
Fabio Previati as the sacristan is barely correct.
Enrico Facini as Spoletta is mediocre.

Argentinian tenor Marcelo Álvarez has a beautiful voice. He sings well his lines, his shouts of Victoria! are impressive, and so is his E lucevan le stelle. Of all singers, he is the one that doesn't really suffer from the fact that the venue is open-air, his voice is powerful enough to do well in this setting. His acting is a lot less developeded (this performance was only his second international showing after his debut at Covent Gargen) and unfortunately he has a funny face.

Veteran Ruggero Raimondi is very good here. He looks mean and bitter, angry and vile, and his acting is convincing. He looks exactly like I imagine Scarpia. He has some trouble singing above the orchestra and the real cannons that keep firing (to great effect) during Tre sbirri, una carroza. But then, the Arena di Verona with its customary grandiosity and excess would make the voice of any singer have some trouble here. I think he did very well and it was a great scene.

Now, Fiorenza Cedolins. She is one of the reasons why this blu-ray is a good buy (especially considering how cheap it is). While I didn't like her Norma where she seemed to be trying too hard, I mostly loved her Tosca. Ms. Cedolins here looks very attractive and very classy at the same time, fierce and proud but also feminine, like a good Tosca must look. Her acting is fine in some parts, less so in others (not very nuanced). She seems nevertheless very comfortable in this role, the tessitura fits her well; she is reasonably convincing when depicting jealousy, passion, disgust, contempt (could be better, though). Her singing is beautiful even though, like the others (except Álvarez), projecting to such a large open-air venue gests to be difficult at times. Interesting enough, Vissi d'Arte is not really her best moment. She is better in the assassination scene, and the finale (weird, she doesn't jump).

Overall this blu-ray is on the winning side. Pros include very good technical aspects (image, sound) in beautiful settings, very spectacular sets and costumes, a good Tosca, a very good Scarpia, and a vocally good Cavaradossi. Cons include very weak supporting cast, poor acoustics, weak acting from Cavaradossi, a weak Angelotti. Since I believe that a Tosca production lives or dies on the shoulders of Tosca and Scarpia, I mind less the fact that Cavaradossi has acting flaws and Angelotti is just plain bad.

While this blu-ray is far from being the best Tosca out there, it is pleasant enough to justify paying 9 bucks for it, not to forget the 47 trailers which are a nice touch. Productions at the Arena di Verona are often better visually than musically, but this one is a notch above most, since it does have some good musical aspects in the singing of the three principals.

B, recommended (I mean the blu-ray).

Dark_Angel
January 21st, 2012, 05:06 AM
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B, recommended (I mean the blu-ray).

Great buy IMO...............that te deum scence is amazing two levels of bishops and elaborate sacred gear, not sure why they had skeleton masks but pretty cool, spectacular visual impact

Every Tosca has some thing new to learn for the observant viewer, can't have too many
Cedolins very convincing beautiful Tosca, love the elaborate dress details and colors captured on blu ray, Raimondi is the definitive modern times Scarpia what more needs to be said.....

Also super cheap blu ray with trailers is this Traviata, get both for sure:

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Dark_Angel
January 21st, 2012, 05:28 AM
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This is classic MET material 1994..........great production with A list singers.
Teresa Stratas is the common thread here, although by 1994 she is fairly old but still a great actress

Il Tabarro (the cloak) is part of Il Trittico short opera set, Domingo is ill fated secret lover who evokes the wrath of a jealous husband who kills him, nothing too great here aria wise but an interesting short drama with a big tragic ending that showcases Stratas acting skills.

Pagliacci again a similar plot theme where Stratas (Nedda) secret love affair evokes the wrath of jealous husband, this time the husband clown takes revenge on both lovers in a double killing to really end in a bang making the circus stage show a bit too real as shocked crowd soon realizes. Love this production I think Stratas is a great Nedda and the small traveling circus feel is very real in this detailed high quality production.....also Pavarotti is a great Pagliacci vocally but I hate clown make up with beards

You can't loose with this DVD, 1994 picture quality is very good

HarpsichordConcerto
February 8th, 2012, 03:41 AM
A Decent Puccini Box-Set For The Mother-in-Law

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Madama Butterfly
Recorded at Festival Puccini Opera Festival, Torre del Lago – May 2004
Daniela Dessě (Cio-Cio San), Fabio Armiliato (Pinkerton), Juan Pons (Sharpless), Rossana Rinaldi (Suzuki)
Placido Domingo (conductor) & Stefano Monti (director)

La Bohčme
Recorded at the Puccini Festival, Torre del Lago in August 2007
Norma Fantini (Mimě), Massimiliano Pisapia (Rodolfo), Donata d’Annunzio Lombardi (Musetta), Gabriele Viviani (Marcello), Massimiliano Valleggi (Schaunard)
Orchestra and Chorus of the Puccini Festival & Children’s Choir of the Puccini Festival, Stewart Robertson (conductor) & Maurizio Scaparro (director)

Tosca
Recorded at the Puccini Festival, Torre del Lago, Viareggio, Lucca. August 2007
Antonia Cifrone (Floria Tosca), Stefano Secco (Mario Cavaradossi), Giorgio Surian (Il Barone Scarpia), Riccardo Ferrari (Cesare Angelotti), Massimo La Guardia (Spoletta), Franco Boscolo (Il Sagrestano), Fernando Ciuffo (Sciarrone), Veio Torcigliani (Un Carceriere) & Giovanni Caramanna (Un Pastore)
Orchestra and Chorus of Festival Puccini, Valerio Galli (conductor) & Mario Corradi (director)


Overall, competent productions with some fine singing from each three separate productions. The main advantage is that it is quite cheap coming together as a package, and probably makes a nice present for the mother-in-law (but not for your girlfriend, or for your spouse who probably deserves better premium priced versions of each opera). I paid about US$23 including freight, being a sucker for box-sets despite having good versions of each already. Domingo was the conductor of Butterfly, and it was interesting that the cameras sometimes shifted angles at him instead of the stage at moments that might otherwise still focus on the stage.

HarpsichordConcerto
February 13th, 2012, 10:21 PM
Does anyone here have an opinion of this re-make version of Franco Zeffirelli’s Turandot classic?

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Couchie
February 15th, 2012, 05:22 AM
Does anyone here have an opinion of this re-make version of Franco Zeffirelli’s Turandot classic?

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I haven't seen the original, but I really enjoyed this one. Spectacularly lavish picture on blu-ray. Well-sung all around, great sound. Only costed like $17 and well worth the money.

HarpsichordConcerto
February 15th, 2012, 10:04 PM
I haven't seen the original, but I really enjoyed this one. Spectacularly lavish picture on blu-ray. Well-sung all around, great sound. Only costed like $17 and well worth the money.

Thanks, Couchie. I was going to buy it anyway, just wanted to read if anyone has a good or bad opinion here. I enjoy traditional and spectacularly lavish productions, not leaving us to second guess what the hell just happened, as Puccini would have expected.

Couchie
February 16th, 2012, 06:55 AM
Thanks, Couchie. I was going to buy it anyway, just wanted to read if anyone has a good or bad opinion here. I enjoy traditional and spectacularly lavish productions, not leaving us to second guess what the hell just happened, as Puccini would have expected.
I don't think it gets more traditional and lavish than this; enjoy. I also prefer it audio-wise to my Sutherland/Pavarotti recording.

Dark_Angel
May 22nd, 2012, 03:42 PM
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Tosca now and then with Malfitano....

I recently picked up the newer Malfitano Tosca and found it partially successful, although the older version with Domingo & Raimondi (Domingo boxset) filmed on location is still better and perhaps the best available DVD version, no weak links!

Although her voice is now more limited in range Malfitano is a near ideal personality for Tosca, still beautiful and wonderfully dramatic and passionate in her portrayal, she plays the distraught diva so well. Her playful teasing of Cavaradossi in opening, her vengeful fury with Scarpia....all up to her high standards!

Terfel is so natural playing the vile sleazy Scarpia (perhaps too natural, he he) he did great here, seems to enjoy and thrive on the evil energy. The let down is Margison as Cavaradossi, very average acting and singing plus a less than attractive appearance fell short of the mark and pulls the overall performance down, alas.....

The hybrid modern staging actually worked well for me, the huge fan/propeller in each sence was a puzzling artifact since it has no real symbolic or practical effect in the opera, some nice dramatic visually stylish scences.

So if not for the let down of Cavaradossi this woud be very good version, see the final dramatic scence which Malfitano really is in her element:


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

Soave_Fanciulla
May 22nd, 2012, 07:09 PM
Yes. I would agree that the Cavaradossi in this, Richard Margison, is unfortunately so unattractive as to be distracting in the love scenes. I love that final leap of Malfitano's. outlined against the background, hair flying everywhere.

Dark_Angel
May 22nd, 2012, 07:39 PM
Yes. I would agree that the Cavaradossi in this, Richard Margison, is unfortunately so unattractive as to be distracting in the love scenes. I love that final leap of Malfitano's. outlined against the background, hair flying everywhere.

Watching the actual DVD full size they cheat a little and do a touch of slow motion during the leap to further empasize that dramatic ultimate sacrifice.......

Definitely helps to have a physically attractive Cavaradossi so the loss is all the greater for poor Tosca, for example:

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Dark_Angel
July 12th, 2012, 07:42 PM
Madama Butterfly featuring Raina Kabaivanska......

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1983 Verona (Italy) open air theater arena performance, the picture quality is very good....better than a MET staged opera from same time period. Other than Raina the cast is 2nd tier but competent performances, Kabaivanska is really great here in fine soaring voice with heartbreaking emotional involvement, tall commanding physical presence of Raina does not in any way visually represent a 15 year teen bride but the singing is so great and committed that are you spell bound by her work......

I still prefer overall the film version Butterfly but for a cheap used price this Verona opera performance will find a welcome spot in my Puccini opera collection

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Dark_Angel
July 22nd, 2012, 03:05 AM
Does anyone here have an opinion of this re-make version of Franco Zeffirelli’s Turandot classic?

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/515VFBP2QhL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

MET Turandot now and then.......

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As you may have suspected the new 2009 blu ray performance is exactly the same Zeffirelli production as the famous 1987 DVD version, same sets same costumes almost identical except for different singers, it is lavish and opulent beyond compare, the cast of extras is huge. The blu ray is far superior in picture and sound quality, a stunning presentation that will amaze.

Eva Martin is a brighter shriller Turandot, truely a cold hearted ice princess, by contrast Guleghina both vocally and personalty wise is a bit warmer and emotional.....I was never an Eva Martin fan and this is another example where I prefer Guleghina in the new production. I have another Turandot with Maria Guleghina which also is played with a warmer voice and personality

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51t9m4zR8GL._AA160_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/Puccini-Turandot-Blu-ray-Maria-Guleghina/dp/B002QEXBRW/ref=sr_1_8?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1342925404&sr=1-8&keywords=turandot)

Domingo as Calaf in old version is a better actor and has edge vocally over Giordani (unknown to me previously) although Domingo was never a great Calaf vocally for me, I prefer Carreras Pavarotti Corelli among others. Giordani does a decent job but will not dispalce any of the top tenors who have sung this role

Poplavskaya is a great Liu, such a heartbreaking emotional performance full of passion and sweet singing, I have become a huge fan of her work, she has great stage presence and charisma. Leona Mitchell was a pleasant positive surprise for me as Liu in the older version, she also touched our hearts but I slightly favor Marina Poplavskaya overall......

Sam Ramey provides star power in the minor role of Timur in new version (Natalie does not get to see "the chest")

Overall if I could only keep one I take the new MET blu ray despite having a weaker Calaf, I have heard critque of Zeffirelli version that stage is just too detailed and visually busy to the point of distraction, perhaps some truth to that but I am glad we have this document of all out splendor and opulance

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
August 18th, 2012, 10:32 PM
Tosca on DVD (partial - act II only)

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Tosca, Act II only - this DVD also includes Verdi's Don Carlo Act IV, and from Bizet's Carmen, the Habanera and the Séguedille from act I, and the entracte before Act III.

The Tosca bit was recorded live at Covent Garden on September 11, 1964; sung in Italian with no subtitles.

The video is in black and white, the format is NTSC 4:3, and we get LPCM mono sound.

Conducted by Carlo Felice Cillario
Directed by Franco Zefirelli (traditionalist staging with period costumes)

Maria Callas - Tosca
Tito Gobbi - Scarpia
Renato Cioni - Cavaradossi
Robert Bowman - Spoletta
Dennis Wicks - Sciarrone

Available on Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/Maria-Callas-C...+covent+garden (http://www.amazon.com/Maria-Callas-Covent-Garden-1962/dp/B00006BSGZ/ref=sr_1_1?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1345320638&sr=1-1&keywords=maria+callas+at+covent+garden)

Granular image, so-so sound, no subtitles (well, who needs them, for such a well known piece?). But then, you get some gorgeous singing and very convincing acting. Titto Gobbi sings loudly and clear - very loudly, deafening so - and looks evil. His facial expressions are just great! He sets the standard for a forceful and nasty Scarpia. Maria Callas is still in good shape here, vocally speaking, although at times she's drowned by Gobbi and by the orchestra. Her real vocal troubles didn't start until some months later, that same year in Paris when she sang Norma. Still, one wishes that the she could still sing here like she did in 1953 in a studio recording with the same Gobbi, arguably the best Tosca ever recorded.

But even if not at the peak of her singing, Calla's acting in her confrontations with Scarpia is exquisite. Emotions pour out of her beautiful face. And of course, her "Vissi d'arte" is touching and masterful, although her upper range gets a few notes that have the harshness that some non-fans blame her for. Who cares? It's still wonderful! The stabbing scene is simply spectacular and thoroughly convincing, one feels like one is witnessing a real crime scene with no over- or underacting. Then her frantic search for the safe-conduct and her horrified hesitation while placing candles around the corpse and startling at the sudden drums, it all feels incredibly real. Bravissima, Maria, and bravo, Titto!

Renato Cioni is fine but he's clearly not the star here when compared to the other two principals. His acting is much worse than Callas' and Gobbi's. The comprimario artists do a decent job in both acting and singing although it is very hard to be on stage with magnetic people of the stature of Callas and Gobbi and still look good.

There is one problem with this performance, buyer beware: you won't like as much other Toscas you might see, once you get this. The standard here is too high. Opera doesn't get much better than this. A+, highly recommended.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
August 18th, 2012, 10:37 PM
Tosca on DVD

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Recorded live at the Metropolitan Opera House on March 20 and 27, 1985, released by Pioneer Classics in 1999.

Sung in Italian with English subtitles. NTSC Color 4:3, Dolby Digital stereo sound, running time 127 minutes, no extras. The insert contain synopsis, chapter list with characters names but no durations, an essay recovered from Lincoln Center's Stagebill which describes the history of Toscas at the Met more than this production, which only gets a couple of lines at the end of the essay. There is one production picture in the insert, and three more on the back cover.

It is important to notice that this DVD has been remastered and re-leased with better sound (DD 5.1, DTS 5.1 and LPCM stereo) and five more subtitle options, in 2006 by DG.

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So, if your cover has the blue Pioneer Classics icon on the right side, it's the older one, while the one with the yellow DG logo on the left side is the new release. Here I'm reviewing the older one (and there are image and sound problems which hopefully got eliminated in the newer release). Here is the link for the newer version on Amazon.com: http://www.amazon.com/Puccini-Tosca-Remastered-Hildegard-Behrens/dp/B000FTJEBM/ref=sr_1_7?ie=UTF8&qid=1345329335&sr=8-7&keywords=tosca+placido+domingo

Conductor - Giuseppe Sinopoli, Metropolitan Opera Orchestra and Chorus
Production and Set Design - Franco Zeffirelli (traditionalist, with period costumes by Peter J. Hall and lighting by Gil Wechsler)

Tosca - Hildegard Behrens
Cavaradossi - Plácido Domingo
Scarpia - Cornell MacNeil
Angelotti - James Courtney
Sacristan - Italo Tajo
Spoletta - Anthony Laciura
Shepherd boy - Melissa Fogarty
Sciarrone - Russell Christopher
Jailer - Richard Vernon

The image is a bit cloudy. Sound balance is rather terrible, with variable sound according to microphone placement (this is technology from 27 years ago, not at the level of quality of more recent DVDs - like I said, hopefully this got solved in the remastered release).

The first scenes open with a vocally good James Courtney doing a convincing Angelotti, and a great actor in Italo Tajo as the sacristan (the Met has a knack for these older comprimario roles; they're often entrusted to very good veterans of the trade). A handsome and elegant Plácido Domingo makes his entrance and soon impresses with an excellent rendition of "Recondita armonia." Fans of 'Placidone' won't want to pass on this historical document, independently of all the rest, just from this beautiful performance of this great aria. Applause is wild after he finishes.

The orchestra and conductor do an excellent job. The sounds from the pit are dynamic, energetic, very much alive, and the tempi are brisk and exciting. It is all very appropriately intense. When the camera focuses (rarely) on the youngish conductor, one can feel that he is really into this score.

Ms. Behrens makes her entrance. She is definitely not one of my favorite sopranos, but actually here she is a lot better than in her rather mixed bag of a showing as Brünnhilde in Otto Schenk's Ring. Vocally she pretty much delivers the goods. One would hope, though, for a more attractive lady and a bit better actress (she does well in acting but is irregular - better in the second act than in the first one), especially because she is singing alongside a Placido Domingo at the peak of his powers, both as a singer, and as a handsome man - one gets the problem of the necessary suspension of disbelief - why is such a dashing gentleman interested in such a plain lady? Anyway, this shouldn't be the important aspect. Like I said, she does sing well here, so let's not be too exigent regarding looks. Still, she is no Callas, and no Marton. Definitely here, of the main trio she is the least satisfying performer. Her "Vissi d'arte" although mostly fine, is clearly not as good as the one by even a tired Callas in the above 1965 performance, and then it is miles behind the Callas of the 1953 studio recording. And seeing both ladies in the exact same production highlights how much better an actress Callas was. But OK, who can bear comparison with the great Callas? So let's cut poor Ms. Behrens some slack.

Plácido on the other hand is simply spectacular. This may very well be his best performance on video ever, or at least up there with the top ones. He is flawless from beginning to end and both his "Recondita armonia" and his "E lucevan le stelle" are absolutely first rate and memorable.

To complete the quality of this DVD, Cornell MacNeil is a great Scarpia, and acts the role with brutal efficiency. His voice, while not nearly as powerful as Titto Gobbi's (who is pretty much the standard-bearer Scarpia for me), is very well modulated and precise. It does cause at times the strange effect of being too beautiful a baritone voice for the nasty Scarpia, which takes a bit more harshness and a little less lyricism (a fact that Gobbi was very much aware of). Still, if the voice causes a bit of a divorce with the character, the acting doesn't - MacNeill is one wicked evil Scarpia, and he is also able to convey even better than Gobbi, a certain genuine interest for Tosca, in moments when he seems to be struggling with his own sadistic impulses for the sake of some conceivable real love, deep inside, adding appropriate nuances to the character. A remarkable performance!

Zefirelli's production is very competent. The large Met stage is used with skill, the blocking is extremely well done, and the settings are superbly convincing. Zefirelli is of course a master of large crowds moving through the stage, and the Te Deum procession is truly wonderfully done. This effect is such that one remembers why traditionalist stagings still have their place in this Regie day and age, as per one of our recent forum discussions (available [here (http://operalively.com/forums/showthread.php/1082-Regietheater-a-discussion)]). This is the same production reviewed above in its Covent Garden version, and it is nice to see it this time in full color and better camera work.

I give this DVD a score of A. It's a notch below A+ thanks to Behrens not being an ideal Tosca and being irregular throughout the opera, but it is still a great production with excellent performances from mostly all involved (actually including her, who does have her peaks), therefore highly recommended.

Soave_Fanciulla
August 19th, 2012, 01:00 AM
Plácido on the other hand is simply spectacular. This may very well be his best performance on video ever, or at least up there with the top ones. He is flawless from beginning to end and both his "Recondita armonia" and his "E lucevan le stelle" are absolutely first rate and memorable.

I agree with your review, Alma, although possibly I liked Behrens even less than you (couldn't cope when she got kittenish). But Plácido, oh my goodness, he is absolutely wonderful here, spectacular, and this DVd is worth seeing for him.

HarpsichordConcerto
August 20th, 2012, 01:41 AM
Manon Lescaut

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Maria Guleghina (Manon Lescaut), José Cura (Des Grieux), Lucio Gallo (Lescaut), Luigi Roni (Geronte), Marco Berti (Edmondo), Orchestra e Coro del Teatro alla Scala, Riccardo Muti, stage direction by Liliana Cavani; 1998.

I picked up this version of Manon Lescaut recently for about US$10 including freight, and I got my money's worth. Manon Lescaut is one of my favourite Puccini operas, typical Puccinian-opera in so many ways. This particular version, probably not my favourite, is still very adequate in its own way. Traditional staging that does not leave you second-guessing what is going on every minute and leaves you to focus on the passion of the lead characters, with singers that look more or less their age as one might imagine with the original characters. José Cura sings Des Grieux well to my ears but me being rather nasty, I cannot help but to compare with Domingo. Maria Guleghina sings Manon Lescaut and appears rather warbly/unsteady at times. The baton under Muti comes not a fault to reckon.

So, my take is when this version drops down in price on a cheap sale, and you enjoy the opera, or even if you have yet to listen to it, by all means snap it up.

HarpsichordConcerto
August 25th, 2012, 10:30 AM
Turandot

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Luana De Vol (Turandot), Barbara Frittoli (Liu), Franco Farina (Calaf) & Stefano Palatchi (Timur), Orquestra Simfňnica i Cor del Gran Teatre del Liceu, Giuliano Carella; July 2005.

Very similar circumstance to my review directly above on Manon Lescaut. Bought it cheap for about US$10 including freight. Overall, another adequate but not first rate addition to the collection of favoruite Puccini operas. Turandot is one of my favourites. This production appeared rather lavish but I still preferred Zeffirelli's over-the-top lavishness with Domingo/Levine, and Chen Kaige's more authentic eastern stylishness with Zubin Mehta. The singing was not amongst the finest but enough to get the emotions moving. Luana DeVol appeared rather aged for the role of Turandot but that was only a superficial observation.

Overall observation, as per Manon Lescaut above if you are considering whether or not to buy this one!

MAuer
August 25th, 2012, 02:52 PM
854

Robert Carsen's attempt to set the opera's story within a theater during the 1950s doesn't really work, but the singing and acting of the three principals are marvelous. Emily Magee sashays around in sunglasses and mink coat a la a Hollywood diva, but her interaction with Cavaradossi, and especially her revulsion at Scarpia's touch, are completely credible. Kaufmann sings gloriously as the revolutionary idealist Cavaradossi, and Thomas Hampson is absolutely one of the most chilling Scarpias I've ever heard.

Still, I'm looking forward to the eventual release (on this side of the pond) of the ROH staging with Gheorghiu and Terfel (the latter of whom I heard as Scarpia at the Met) alongside Kaufmann.

Ann Lander (sospiro)
August 25th, 2012, 03:41 PM
Still, I'm looking forward to the eventual release (on this side of the pond) of the ROH staging with Gheorghiu and Terfel (the latter of whom I heard as Scarpia at the Met) alongside Kaufmann.

Have you already ordered it? Amazon.uk are offering it for $16.50 + postage.

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Aksel
August 26th, 2012, 02:02 PM
Robert Carsen's attempt to set the opera's story within a theater during the 1950s doesn't really work, but the singing and acting of the three principals are marvelous. Emily Magee sashays around in sunglasses and mink coat a la a Hollywood diva, but her interaction with Cavaradossi, and especially her revulsion at Scarpia's touch, are completely credible. Kaufmann sings gloriously as the revolutionary idealist Cavaradossi, and Thomas Hampson is absolutely one of the most chilling Scarpias I've ever heard.

Still, I'm looking forward to the eventual release (on this side of the pond) of the ROH staging with Gheorghiu and Terfel (the latter of whom I heard as Scarpia at the Met) alongside Kaufmann.

I found the production very effective, actually. Especially the ending.

MAuer
August 26th, 2012, 02:53 PM
Have you already ordered it? Amazon.uk are offering it for $16.50 + postage.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51bQbR3RF8L._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Ooooh, definitely have to look into this. :)

HarpsichordConcerto
December 3rd, 2012, 10:01 PM
A cheapy box-set I picked up for about US$50 including freight. La Bohčme, Turandot, Manon Lescaut, Madama Butterfly

1361

The best productions were Manon and Turandot, while the other "twins" La Bohčme and Butterfly were alright. One of those box-sets that I watched quite quickly during early and warm summer's evenings over a few nights in a row. It's always interesting to view several Puccin operas in a row because of the contrast and consistency amongst them especially with the two "twins". Each came with booklets of their own in separate DVD cases. (I already have the version of La Bohčme featuring Pavarotti). The production and DVD "feel" were a little aged if you are concerned with that sort of thing (I don't). But if you love these operas, and the discount is on, I could recommend them.

Itullian
February 19th, 2013, 06:35 PM
how's this bargain?
http://www.amazon.com/Puccini-Opern-Operas-Gesamt-Complete-Cristina-Piperno/dp/B00AJ5SSNC/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1361298774&sr=1-1&keywords=zyx+classic+puccini

Dark_Angel
February 19th, 2013, 08:20 PM
how's this bargain?
http://www.amazon.com/Puccini-Opern-Operas-Gesamt-Complete-Cristina-Piperno/dp/B00AJ5SSNC/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1361298774&sr=1-1&keywords=zyx+classic+puccini

This Puccini boxset is really essential, contains all Tebaldi Decca studio recordings from 1950s, 1960s.
These are really great performances not live radio broadcasts or lesser known artists

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61UNYxfbsvL._SL500_AA300_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/B000YCLR6K/ref=dp_image_0?ie=UTF8&n=5174&s=music)

Itullian
February 19th, 2013, 08:51 PM
This Puccini boxset is really essential, contains all Tebaldi Decca studio recordings from 1950s, 1960s.
These are really great performances not live radio broadcasts or lesser known artists

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61UNYxfbsvL._SL500_AA300_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/B000YCLR6K/ref=dp_image_0?ie=UTF8&n=5174&s=music)

yeah, and look at the tenors!! awesome

Yashin
February 20th, 2013, 10:42 AM
This Puccini boxset is really essential, contains all Tebaldi Decca studio recordings from 1950s, 1960s.
These are really great performances not live radio broadcasts or lesser known artists

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61UNYxfbsvL._SL500_AA300_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/B000YCLR6K/ref=dp_image_0?ie=UTF8&n=5174&s=music)

Tebaldi was a gorgeous Butterfly, Mimi, Minnie. Never heard her Tosca or Manon though. (apart from clips). A nice box set indeed from this finest of singers.

Dark_Angel
February 20th, 2013, 01:15 PM
Tebaldi was a gorgeous Butterfly, Mimi, Minnie. Never heard her Tosca or Manon though. (apart from clips). A nice box set indeed from this finest of singers.

When I first purchased this set years ago I thought is was just a general Puccini greatest opera collection, but it soon dawned on me that every opera featured Tebaldi studio recording making it even more valuable. The packaging really gives no clue and should give major emphasis to Renata, would be a real positive selling point......

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 4th, 2014, 07:51 PM
I can't believe I've never reviewed this:

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I've had it for a long time and I'm re-watching it today. Without doing a formal review, I'll write up some thoughts later today.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 4th, 2014, 08:29 PM
Il Tabarro by Puccini and Giuseppe Adami (after Didier Gold's stage play), composed in 1916, on blu-ray disc, released by TDK and Rai Trade in 2009.

Il Tabarro = underrated masterpiece!

This review applies to the first part of the Il Trittico in the above-mentioned blu-ray disc (a worldwide, all region product recorded live in Modena on February 8, 2007, sung in Italian with English, Italian, French, German and Spanish subtitles, available on Amazon for about $35).

Julian Reynolds conducts extremely well the Orchestra della Fondazione Arturo Toscanini for the Teatro Communale di Modena.

Michele is Alberto Mastromarino (incredibly excellent). Giorgetta is Amarilli Nizza (very convincing actress and a good dramatic soprano with a few flaws). Luigi is Rubens Pellizaro (he does very well). Il Tinca is Alessandro Cosentino. Il Talpa, Alessandro Spina. La Frugola is Annamaria Chiuri. All three comprimarios do much more than a decent job and add to the enjoyment of the performance.

-----------

I believe this to be one of the best operas ever composed. It is simply outstanding. It has a strong claim to being the best representative of the Verismo sub-genre. It is compact, well designed in its structure, and has an incredibly atmospheric score that has been compared to film scores, given the skilful tone painting and variety of its musical illustration. It has advanced harmonies that are innovative and point the way to modernist music. The libretto is of high dramatic and literary quality. Strong characters are developed quite well given the 1 hour running time. The drama is very powerful, with symbolic touches like the dusk setting (day light at first, then getting darker and darker). It's a rendition of the Grand Guignol theatrical style, done by a musical genius at the peak of his powers. Opera doesn't get much better than this.

This particular production signed by Cristina Pezzoli is extremely successful. I'd call it Il Tabarro like Puccini would have wanted it. Vocal performances are very good; these singers are committed to the material and interpret it with a good deal of passion. Their acting is first rate, and notably catch the darkness of the story. The lead soprano is good at dramatic singing even though she gets a bit strident at times. No such failures exist among her colleagues who deliver solid renditions of their parts.

Sets are super-realistic with a barge parked under one of the Seine bridges, and lighting uses devices such as real fire to add to the impression that we are witnessing the "real' events as they unfold - just like it must be in Verismo.

The orchestra and conductor do a stupendous job. Once more, regional Italian houses teach other opera companies how the works that belong to their cultural heritage must be staged and played.

All these superior qualities get enhanced by a sound track that is DTS 7.1 - yes, that's right, not 5.1 but 7.1, which fortunately my home theater is prepared to handle - I do have 8 speakers and a receiver that reads 7.1 HD sound. The aural experience delivered by this blu-ray disc is unforgettable.

This is a grade A++ performance of a grade A++ opera in a technically accomplished package, and is highly recommended, of course (I'd say, essential buy).

Soave_Fanciulla
January 4th, 2014, 08:36 PM
Il Tabarro by Puccini and Giuseppe Adami (after Didier Gold's stage play), composed in 1916, on blu-ray disc, released by TDK and Rai Trade in 2009.

Il Tabarro = underrated masterpiece!

This review applies to the first part of the Il Trittico in the above-mentioned blu-ray disc (a worldwide, all region product recorded live in Modena on February 8, 2007, sung in Italian with English, Italian, French, German and Spanish subtitles, available on Amazon for about $35).

I believe this to be one of the best operas ever composed. It is simply outstanding. It has a strong claim to being the best representative of the Verismo sub-genre. It is compact, well designed in its structure, and has an incredibly atmospheric score that has been compared to film scores, given the skilful tone painting and variety of its musical illustration. It has advanced harmonies that are innovative and point the way to modernist music. The libretto is of high dramatic and literary quality. Strong characters are developed quite well given the 1 hour running time. The drama is very powerful, with symbolic touches like the dusk setting (day light at first, then getting darker and darker). It's a rendition of the Grand Guignol theatrical style, done by a musical genius at the peak of his powers. Opera doesn't get much better than this.

This particular production signed by Cristina Pezzoli is extremely successful. I'd call it Il Tabarro like Puccini would have wanted it. Vocal performances are very good; these singers are committed to the material and interpret it with a good deal of passion. Their acting is first rate, and notably catch the darkness of the story. The lead soprano is good at dramatic singing even though she gets a bit strident at times. No such failures exist among her colleagues who deliver solid renditions of their parts.

Sets are super-realistic with a barge parked under one of the Seine bridges, and lighting uses devices such as real fire to add to the impression that we are witnessing the "real' events as they unfold - just like it must be in Verismo.

The orchestra and conductor do a stupendous job. Once more, regional Italian houses teach other opera companies how the works that belong to their cultural heritage must be staged and played.

All these superior qualities get enhanced by a sound track that is DTS 7.1 - yes, that's right, not 5.1 but 7.1, which fortunately my home theater is prepared to handle - I do have 8 speakers and a receiver that reads 7.1 HD sound. The aural experience delivered by this blu-ray disc is unforgettable.

This is a grade A++ performance of a grade A++ opera in a technically accomplished package, and is highly recommended, of course (I'd say, essential buy).

Julian Reynolds conducts extremely well the Orchestra della Fondazione Arturo Toscanini for the Teatro Communale di Modena.

Michele is Alberto Mastromarino (incredibly excellent). Giorgetta is Amarilli Nizza (very convincing actress and a good dramatic soprano with a few flaws). Luigi is Rubens Pellizaro (he does very well). Il Tinca is Alessandro Cosentino. Il Talpa, Alessandro Spina. La Frugola is Annamaria Chiuri. All three comprimarios do much more than a decent job and add to the enjoyment of the performance.

Yes I think Il Tabarro is definitely underrated. The music is really strong and beautiful. I prefer the DVD version from ROH, though, because Westbroek is so much strong than Nizza.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 4th, 2014, 09:12 PM
Suor Angelica by Puccini and Giovacchino Forzano (original story), one-act Verismo opera composed in 1918, premiered at the Metropolitan Opera house in New York City on December 14, 1918, sung in Italian. This is part of the same excellent TDK/Rai Trade blu-ray disc reviewed above.

Suor Angelica is the neglected child of ll Trittico, often dumped from productions in favor of a 2-hour Tabarro/Schicchi or the paring of the other operas with stuff like I Pagliacci, The Miserly Knight, etc.

It was Puccini's favorite of the Trittico operas, and the composer was flabbergasted with opera companies' practices of not giving all three together, which he vehemently called "a betrayal."

Let's say that it's not my favorite, although my appreciation for it has grown substantially after I interviewed last week the very intelligent, cultured, and insightful American soprano Jill Gardner, who is about to perform it for Opera Carolina (this very long - 2hours! the longest to date! - interview is under transcription and will appear shortly on Opera Lively). I'm very fond of Ms. Gardner (we've interviewed her before for Tosca and I met her in person a couple of times) who studies very seriously her roles and their sources, and digs out incredible nuances and insights - she is also a phenomenal singer and a very attractive lady. Fortunately, Opera Carolina is presenting all three operas together, something that now that I've looked into this with more detail and listened to Ms. Gardner's insights, I see that it makes all the sense in the world because there is indeed a story arc that Puccini masterfully was going for, thus his dismay at people separating the three pieces.

So, this product shares with the other operas the exquisite sound track and orchestra (although this is all less visible for the much more delicate Suor Angelica score as compared to the phenomenal intensity of Il Tabarro).

It also shares with the other two operas, the leading soprano Amarilli Nizza, and she continues to act and sing well. The other major role, that of the Zia Principessa, is done by the excellent Annamaria Chiuri who had a brief part in the first opera. The Coro di Voce Bianche del Teatro Communale di Modena sings very, very beautifully. La Badessa is a correct Elisa Fortunati.

I like Ms. Cristina Pezzoli's production very much. The sets are minimalistic - the way I like them - with heavy columns and stairs rendering well the oppressive atmosphere of the convent. Costumes are the simple, sober nun attire, of course. Lighting is very good - another characteristic of this production.

One of the interesting points in Suor Angelica is how Puccini transfers to La Zia Principessa the characteristics of his evil male characters like Scarpia. Ms. Chiuri here interprets very well the cold, solemn, heartless old woman. Ms. Nizza is appropriately fierce and defiant in this scene - she captures very well what Sister Angelica is as a character, just like Ms. Gardner told me she intends to do.

By the way, the insert for this product contains a brief (but well written) essay on the three operas, a one-page synopsis for all three, all of the above repeated in English, French, and German, and numerous color production pictures. A list of musical numbers with characters is given, but without durations. The runtime is of course 180 minutes, since Puccini precisely gave to each one of his three operas a duration of one hour. There are no extras.

Well, whether or not one likes this opera is subject to individual taste (I'm liking it more, now), but this is again, a rather flawless, grade A++ rendition of it.

I'll re-watch Gianni Schicchi later, since now I'll be pausing my high-brow entertainment to watch my low-brow entertainment (NFL playoffs - Chiefs vs. Colts followed by Saints vs. Eagles).

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 4th, 2014, 09:15 PM
Yes I think Il Tabarro is definitely underrated. The music is really strong and beautiful. I prefer the DVD version from ROH, though, because Westbroek is so much strong than Nizza.

I haven't seen the ROH version, but do suspect that you have a good point, since Ms. Nizza is a good actress but is indeed the one cast member who shows vocal issues in this production, like I said, and I love Westbroek, so, I look forward to watching the ROH one.

Amfortas
January 5th, 2014, 03:06 PM
I haven't seen the ROH version, but do suspect that you have a good point, since Ms. Nizza is a good actress but is indeed the one cast member who shows vocal issues in this production, like I said, and I love Westbroek, so, I look forward to watching the ROH one.

The ROH Suor Angelica is worth a look, too, with a poignantly altered setting and a powerful performance by Ermonela Jaho.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 10th, 2014, 10:47 AM
Gianni Schicchi by Puccini and Giovacchino Forzano, composed in 1917-18, opera buffa in one act, sung in Italian, based on an episode in Dante's Divine Comedy, premiered at the Metropolitan Opera House in 1918. This is part of the same excellent TDK/Rai Trade blu-ray disc reviewed above; same orchestra and conductor, same sound tracks/subtitles, etc., recorded live at the same house.

The excellent Alberto Mastromarino is the title role. Lauretta is a (by now, a bit tired) Amarilli Nizza. Zita, La Vecchia, is the fabulous Annamaria Chiuri. Rinuccio is a shaky at first, but improved with warm-up, Andrea Giovannini. Simone is a very good Alessandro Spina. Other comprimarios are a bit of a mixed bag, but generally good.

The high production values continue in the third opera of the Triptych, the delightful comedy Gianni Schicchi. Costumes, wigs, and make-up, are all very well done and funny. Acting is first rate by all involved (a bit less by Giovannini and Nizza, but especially the comprimarios are all gifted actors and actresses). The sets are handsome and efficient, with good blocking. The orchestra continues to perform very well.

Singing in the third opera is a notch below the first two, given that here we have a relatively unremarkable tenor, and the soprano who has just sung Il Tabarro and Suor Angelica is a bit spent, delivering a rather generic O mio babbino caro. The tenor, after warming up, does put together a compelling Avete torto, which is not without difficulty. Mr. Mastromarino on the other hand nails the title role, and Ms. Chiuri remains impressive. I'd say we get here A-, which given the even better first two performances, doesn't bother the overall grade of A+, highly recommended, for this excellent product that renders very well Puccini's fine evening of Grand Guignol-style entertainment.

For an in-depth look into the composer's intention and the psychological and sociological arc of the Triptych, read the excellent answers by soprano Jill Gardner in her Opera Lively interview, [here (http://operalively.com/forums/content.php/911-Exclusive-Interview-with-Jill-Gardner-singing-two-Trittico-roles-for-Opera-Carolina)].

Dark_Angel
January 22nd, 2014, 06:22 PM
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51cQCZIqWbL._AA280_.jpg http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51wVf9b9oOL._AA280_.jpg

These 10CD ultra cheap collections are really great, I have several now this Tebaldi set was purchased mainly to obtain several long tracks from 1956 live Mitropoulos Tosca from MET broadcast, it is a great performance in very good live sound and the best Tosca I have heard by Tebaldi (and I have most of them) and among the best of any Tosca available (Callas 1953 remains the reference)

The cost of buying complete Tosca CD set on Myto label is 3x the entire 10CD box price, nice overall selection from 1950s glory days of La Regina mixing live and studio sources, there are extended selections from her main opera characters sometimes multiple performances to compare.......you should buy these 10CD sets for singers you especially like

JohnGerald
September 2nd, 2014, 06:32 PM
I hate to appear plebian, but I thought that Puccini wrote La Boheme ...

Oh, wait: he DID! And here are some thoughts on my favorite three:

1. At the top of the list is the version on Art Haus with Inva Mula, Aquiles Machado, Laura Giordano, and Fabio Maria Capitanucci. Vocally nearly perfect with top drawer staging. Musetta (Giordano) is awesome!Performed at the Teatro Reale in Madrid in March 2006. Sets are almost as good as Zeffirerlli's with the boys' garret being better. Jesus Lopez Cobos' conducting is superb. All of the emotional impact is portrayed without excess. Mula is clearly drained at the end, requiring Machado to hold onto her for a brief time. It is Bohme as Boheme was meant to be experienced. Blu ray is of an excellence that exceeds my ability to describe it. 5 kleenex rating.

2. The Met's HD performance of 2008 with Georghiu, Vargas, Tezier and Ainhoa Arteta. Zeffirelli's sets have never been excelled. It is an ezquisite rendition with all singers doing a splendid job. Nicola Luisotti is at the helm. Dramatics are of a very high quality. Pic and sound, while not Blu ray, are excellent. 4 1/2 kleenes rating.

3. This one may surprise you: Opera Australia's 1993 production with Cheryl Barker (Mimi), David Hobson (Rodolfo), Roger Lemke (Marcello) and Christine Douglas (Musetta). Staged by Baz Luhrmann, it moves the action to 1950s Paris. What makes this one work so well is the youthful appearance of the singers, with camera work that rivals that of the cinema. Voice quality of the singers is of less quality than the prior two sets, but the "willful suspension of disbelief' factor is huge! My copy is from Image Entertainment, but it has been re-released on Kultur. No Blu ray, but it has decent 5.1 surround. 5 kleenex rating.

Soave_Fanciulla
September 2nd, 2014, 06:47 PM
I hate to appear plebian, but I thought that Puccini wrote La Boheme ...

Oh, wait: he DID! And here are some thoughts on my favorite three:

1. At the top of the list is the version on Art Haus with Inva Mula, Aquiles Machado, Laura Giordano, and Fabio Maria Capitanucci. Vocally nearly perfect with top drawer staging. Musetta (Giordano) is awesome!Performed at the Teatro Reale in Madrid in March 2006. Sets are almost as good as Zeffirerlli's with the boys' garret being better. Jesus Lopez Cobos' conducting is superb. All of the emotional impact is portrayed without excess. Mula is clearly drained at the end, requiring Machado to hold onto her for a brief time. It is Bohme as Boheme was meant to be experienced. Blu ray is of an excellence that exceeds my ability to describe it. 5 kleenex rating.

2. The Met's HD performance of 2008 with Georghiu, Vargas, Tezier and Ainhoa Arteta. Zeffirelli's sets have never been excelled. It is an ezquisite rendition with all singers doing a splendid job. Nicola Luisotti is at the helm. Dramatics are of a very high quality. Pic and sound, while not Blu ray, are excellent. 4 1/2 kleenes rating.

3. This one may surprise you: Opera Australia's 1993 production with Cheryl Barker (Mimi), David Hobson (Rodolfo), Roger Lemke (Marcello) and Christine Douglas (Musetta). Staged by Baz Luhrmann, it moves the action to 1950s Paris. What makes this one work so well is the youthful appearance of the singers, with camera work that rivals that of the cinema. Voice quality of the singers is of less quality than the prior two sets, but the "willful suspension of disbelief' factor is huge! My copy is from Image Entertainment, but it has been re-released on Kultur. No Blu ray, but it has decent 5.1 surround. 5 kleenex rating.

Yes, I love that final version. Great production and committed shouldering of personas.

Gigli13
September 2nd, 2014, 07:35 PM
For pure listening Licia Albanese and B.Gigli La Boheme . She died august 15 this year at 105. Greatest la Boheme of all time.
The one with Di Stefano Callas and Moffo was good too but nothing so sensitive as the Albanese one. O suave fanciulla (act 1$
And Dunque e proprio finite Addiio dulce svegliare(act 3) compared to the Albanese Pierce duets and the Callas Di Stefano or the Tebaldi Del Monaco all which are good but that Gigli Albanese one might just get to you.

Amfortas
September 2nd, 2014, 08:46 PM
I hate to appear plebian, but I thought that Puccini wrote La Boheme ...

You mean Leoncavallo (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_bohčme_(Leoncavallo)).

JohnGerald
September 2nd, 2014, 09:13 PM
Him too. But this ain't his thread.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
September 2nd, 2014, 09:45 PM
3. This one may surprise you: Opera Australia's 1993 production with Cheryl Barker (Mimi), David Hobson (Rodolfo), Roger Lemke (Marcello) and Christine Douglas (Musetta). Staged by Baz Luhrmann, it moves the action to 1950s Paris. What makes this one work so well is the youthful appearance of the singers, with camera work that rivals that of the cinema. Voice quality of the singers is of less quality than the prior two sets, but the "willful suspension of disbelief' factor is huge! My copy is from Image Entertainment, but it has been re-released on Kultur. No Blu ray, but it has decent 5.1 surround. 5 kleenex rating.

It doesn't surprise me. I own and like this version very much. What does surprise me is that you didn't include La Bellissima's version!

Amfortas
September 2nd, 2014, 10:38 PM
It doesn't surprise me. I own and like this version very much. What does surprise me is that you didn't include La Bellissima's version!

Oh oh.


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

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
September 2nd, 2014, 11:03 PM
Oh oh.


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

You're clearly underestimating my choice of weapons. Here, more like it:

http://www.japanfocus.org/data/2.%20honest_john_01.jpg

JohnGerald
September 2nd, 2014, 11:33 PM
I loathe the staging of La Belissima's Boheme (but the abridged movie version with Villazon is pretty good), but vocally, it is a winner!.

I have deployed a nuclear deterrent patterned after Israel's "Iron Dome"; I call it my chrome dome. It involves ... reflective technology.

Soave_Fanciulla
September 3rd, 2014, 06:17 AM
Well that escalated quickly.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
September 3rd, 2014, 11:32 PM
I loathe the staging of La Belissima's Boheme (but the abridged movie version with Villazon is pretty good), but vocally, it is a winner!.

I have deployed a nuclear deterrent patterned after Israel's "Iron Dome"; I call it my chrome dome. It involves ... reflective technology.

We also have suitcase nukes. My agents have just planted one in your basement.

JohnGerald
September 4th, 2014, 02:27 AM
There goes the AC ...

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
October 10th, 2014, 12:15 AM
La Bohčme on blu-ray disc

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51OPx70dXsL.jpg

La Bohčme, dramma lirico in quattro quadri, sung in Italian (premiered at the Teatro Regio, Turin, February 1st, 1896)

Music by Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)
Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, after Henry Murger's Scčnes de la Vie de Bohčme.

A production from the Salzburger Festspiele 2012 filmed live in the Grosses Festspielehaus, Salzburg, on July 28 and 30, and February 1 and 4, 2012 in a video co-production by ORF, ZDF, NHK and Unitel Classica released on blu-ray by Deutsche Grammophon on December 11, 2012.

Orchestra: Wiener Philharmoniker
Conductor: Daniele Gatti
Choruses: Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor (chorus master Ernst Raffelsberger) and Salzburger Festpiele und Theater Kinderchor (chorus master Wolfgang Götz)

Stage Director: Damiano Michieletto
Set Designer: Paolo Fantin
Costume Designer: Carla Teti
Lighting Designer: Martin Gebhardt
Choreographer: Nikolaos Lagousakos

Video Director: Brian Large

Cast

Mimě - Anna Netrebko
Musetta - Nino Machaidze
Rodolfo - Piotr Beczala
Marcello - Massimo Cavalletti
Schaunard - Alessio Arduini
Coline - Carlo Colombara
Benoît - Davide Fersini
Alcindoro - Peter Kálmán
Other comprimario roles - Paul Schweinester, Steven Foster, Liviu Gheorghe Burz, Michael Wilder, Martin Müller

Blu-ray disc, all regions, picture 16:9, 1080p HD, sound PCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0
Runtime 124 minutes
Subtitles in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese, and Korean

The insert contains 7 production pictures (3 in color), tracklist with musical numbers, characters, and durations; a two-page essay and a very detailed 5-page synopsis, repeated in English, German, and French.

Available from Amazon for $38 (much cheaper from Amazon Marketplace vendors, starting from $17 + $4 S&H) - [clicky (http://www.amazon.com/Puccini-Boh%C3%A8me-Blu-ray-Anna-Netrebko/dp/B009GZKO2O/)]

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

5311
Massimo Cavalletti and Anna Netrebko in Salzburg - La Bohčme act III- photo credit Silvia Lelli (fair promotional use)

In the context of the upcoming exclusive Opera Lively interview with Massimo Cavalletti (our Marcello in this production, and currently singing Escamillo at the Met) which will occur in two days (stay tuned for the transcript and article, in a few days), I'm reviewing today this rather controversial production, called by many, well, Eurotrash, a term we don't like, but in this case kind of apt due to the fact that, well, trash is a constant prop in this staging.

Trash or not, there is no doubt that the cast is particularly stellar, with first rank singers Netrebko, Beczala, and Machaidze, supplemented by a team of young Italian singers including our Cavalletti who is a rising star increasingly in demand at the Met and all the important European houses (he was featured in the same role in the recent worldwide Met Live in HD broadcast of La Bohčme on April 5, 2014), and the also very good Arduini and Colombara.

Not only this contemporary staging (evoking Rent in a sort of reverse homage) caused some trepidation, but maestro Gatti's reading of the score got many detractors, with observations about stretches that were too fast and others that were too slow, as well as dynamic problems with the orchestra playing too loudly and smothering the singers at times.

At this point in my review I've only listened to the first 15 minutes but I'd say that it is likely that I'll share the concerns about the orchestral performance and conducting. This is strangely the second recording involving the usually excellent Wiener Philharmoniker that I review in an interval of a few days, and both had orchestral issues, with a Don Giovanni from Salzburg as well (see the Mozart review thread) showing striking synchrony and dynamic problems. What is going on with this orchestra that has been traditionally considered to be one of the top three in the world (with the Royal Concertgebouw and the Berlin Philharmoniker)??? This is weird. Well, likely, it is the fault of the conductors.

OK, regardless of orchestral boo-boos, the singing is very promising, indeed. First of all, I like our upcoming interviewee quite a lot, with a full and strong delivery from the very beginning (as Marcello sings the opening line). The always spectacular Piotr Beczala looks very handsome with some facial hair and wild hair. Anna as usual is very beautiful (here with a goth outfit complete with a touch of blue hair) and sings this role with her habitual mastery (we are used to incredibly good performances by La Bellissima as Mimě).

We get to 'Che gelida manina' and to my surprise, I don't like it. Piotr who is always so good, here seems a bit unfocused and inattentive, with little work on the phrasing, and at times, gasp, even going a bit off-pitch in the top region of the register, especially in the first part of the aria (maybe he seems to realize that it wasn't a good attack, as things do improve in the second part). And yes, the orchestra is too slow here.

No such issues with Anna's 'Mi chiamano Mimě' - as compared to past performances, what we hear is a darker voice that makes the aria even more compelling, and her diction in Italian has improved overtime. When she gets to the lines 'ma quando vien lo sgelo, il primo sole č mio, il primo bacio dell'aprile č mio!' - the most beautiful moment in this aria, for me - I melt!

Stage direction here makes of this moment a sad, dramatic one, rather than a dreamy, hopeful one in other productions, and I confess that it is sort of off, in terms of Puccini's music for this part. Anna's acting, maybe suffering from this discrepancy, is much less accomplished than in her film with Villazón.

Piotr does better in 'O soave fanciulla' - but yes, the orchestra starts the accompaniment too loudly, although they do correct the dynamics and play more delicately after a few bars.

End of act I - disappointing so far. The magic is not there; the singers seem ambivalent in their acting, and the orchestra is indeed sort of off. By the way, sound balance and mike capture are not good. We lose the singers, sometimes, depending on their position on stage.

Act II opens with a colorful crowd in front of a huge map of Paris and models of Parisian buildings. No Café Momus, which is a bit weird, but I do like the sets quite a lot: they are much more successful than the bleak, trash-filed stage in Act I.

5309

The three Italian singers continue to do very well in this scene. Anna looks nice with a pink hat. We get an acrobat dressed as a superhero (hm... OK...).

Nino Machaidze makes her entrance and she looks positively stunning. Eye candy for the boys! Her singing is as good as in her Roméo et Juliette DVD I was so impressed with (great 'Quando men vo'). I really regret that I haven't had an opportunity to see Nino live (I should have traveled to LA for her recent Traviata).

Nino steals the ensemble scene ('Ah! Che cč?... Caro! Fuori il danaro!'), and I'm pleased to see that our Massimo also delivers big. Act II is very much better than act I in this production.

Act III sets have a sandwich trailer and a bleak snowy road. The scene is well acted and sung by Anna and Massimo, and Piotr joins them and does much better than in his Act I. La Bellissima does a superb 'Addio').

Act IV again uses trash as props. Singing becomes quite spectacular accross the board, with Piotr finally seeming to engage and to polish his phrasing. Anna is phenomenal in the final scene, and so are all artists. The last image is actually quite striking and a brilliant directorial touch. I won't comment on it here, not to spoil its impact.

Time for the rating. Pros include Anna, Nino, and our Massimo who all three do very well (Piotr has ups and downs), and the comprimarios hold their own very nicely. Two of the four acts were interestingly staged and there are nice touches like the last image. Cons include conducting with irregular pace and orchestra with dynamic problems, technical recording issues (poor sound balance and the occasional faulty mike capture), and two acts with staging a bit too trashy for me (and no, I'm not worried about the update; it just could have been done a bit more tastefully).

Overall, B-, recommended only for the singing (and mind you, this disc does contain mighty good singing) in spite of some - brief - moments of directorial and set design brilliance - but it is not a very successful production, all things considered. It is better heard than seen.

MAuer
October 10th, 2014, 12:20 PM
In place of the offensive Eurotrash sobriquet, perhaps we should refer to such productions as Regietrash. It accurately describes them.

JohnGerald
October 10th, 2014, 02:36 PM
I agree; what was originally a European phenomenon has crossed the pond and is well entrenched here.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
October 10th, 2014, 08:51 PM
In place of the offensive Eurotrash sobriquet, perhaps we should refer to such productions as Regietrash. It accurately describes them.

Hehe, I like it.
We'd have to also talk about Regieblood, Regienudity, Regieobligatoryanachronism, and so forth. :sour:

Nervous Gentleman
March 1st, 2016, 08:43 AM
In response to Almaviva's review of the "Le Villi" DVD on page 1 of this thread:

Ai-yi-yi. I just watched this production for the first time. Correction: I've watched exactly half of it. That's all I could take for the present.
I was most interested in reading opinions of the soprano. You said just about all that needs to be said: absolutely dreadful, real wobbly and her pitch was atrocious. Mind you, I had just listened to the classic 1954 Cetra recording with the breathtakingly beautiful singing of Elisabetta Fusco,


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

so maybe I'm being unduly harsh (but I don't think so). Halla Margret actually succeeded in transforming that gorgeous opening aria into something well nigh unlistenable. This is probably the only instance I can remember in which the tinnitus from which I suffer was actually preferable to what I was listening to. Another distraction that you didn't mention in your review of several years ago was that she looked sickly, indeed anorexic (that is, when her character is still very much alive). I actually thought to make certain that the singer had not been battling cancer or some other dreadful illness, before I put my foot into it and posted anything critical. Can't find anything to suggest that she was. The poor woman was thinner than the ballet dancers, only without their look of healthy vigor. The choreography, by the way, was the production's saving grace (certainly much better than the rather aimless and endless dancing exhibited in an amateur production from 2012 posted in its entirety to YouTube). All that said, I love this short opera, along with the original short story by Alphonse Karr on which it is based (and which can be found at archive.org).

Clayton
March 1st, 2016, 07:04 PM
Hey NG! Don't be a stranger for too long!

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
April 16th, 2017, 03:27 PM
Incredible, La Fanciulla del West was never reviewed here. I'm re-watching it in anticipation of Opera Carolina's production about to start, over the next two weeks.

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/61ClllcFa6L._SY445_.jpg

La Fanciulla del West, opera in three acts, sung in Italian, on DVD
Music by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by G. Civinini and C. Zangarini, after the play The Girl of the Golden West by David Belasco
Premiere at the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City on Decembeer 10, 1910

Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro alla Scala
Conductor - Lorin Maazel
Stage Director - Jonathan Miller
Set Design - Stefanos Lazaridis
Costumes - Sue Blane
Lighting - Vannio Vanni

Cast

Minnie - Mara Zampieri
Jack Rance - Juan Pons
Dick Johnson (Ramerrez) - Plácido Domingo
Nick - Sergio Bertocchi
Ashby - Luigi Roni
Billy Jackrabbit - Aldo Bramante
Wowkle - Nella Verri
Jake Wallace - Marco Chingari
José Castro - Claudio Giombi
Sonora - Antonio Salvadori
(and several miners)

Recorded live in 1991 at Teatro alla Scala, Milan, Italy
DVD released by Opus Arte in 2004
NTSC 16/9 anamorphic, standard definition
Sound DD 2.0 only
Subtitles - English only (optional)
Running time 144 minutes, no extras
Insert - Credits only, synopsis, the full libretto in Italian, no translation. No production pictures; the back cover of the insert has the poster for the performance of January 31, 1991.
Available on Amazon for the bargain price of $14, Prime shipping [clicky (https://www.amazon.com/Puccini-Fanciulla-Zampieri-Domingo-Bertocchi/dp/B00027LD66/)]

This is one of Puccini's hardest-to-please operas for the general public given its written-through score with little in the realm of Puccini-like melodies. It is a precursor to modern and contemporary operas that are heavy in recitative and drama more than in singable arias. The score is beautiful, though, and like is often the case in operas by Puccini, illustrates well the plot, with a cinematic quality. Even though this Italian vision of the American Wild West is a bit off and stereotypical (in spite of being based on an American source - for example the broken Italian when the two Native American characters are speaking is a bit hilarious), there is good storytelling and pace. Overall it is a good opera and it deserves more popularity.

It is not particularly easy to stage, given that the role of Minnie is difficult with spinto/dramatic qualities and long stage presence; it also takes a very numerous ensemble of singers.

This production by Miller at La Scala has merits. For one thing, we can actually see the stage, yay! La Scala has a penchant for dark lighting and here we do get some brighter scenes. The production is straightforward, which means that it doesn't get in the way. Sets are large and functional although not especially charming (act I looks more like an industrial space than a saloon), and no-frills costumes are appropriate for the setting. Blocking is handled well. In other words, the physical production is fine without being brilliant. The opera is filmed well with a good mix of close-ups and stage-wide takes.

The chorus and the orchestra do very well, with secure conducting by Maazel.

Plácido Domingo is in excellent voice in this, at peak in his career. He is without doubt the strongest point of this DVD. The problem is our Minnie. Mara Zampieri's voice is just not pleasant, and she tends to scream the high notes, at times getting off-key. She does act the role reasonably but looks miscast as well, giving a matronly impression that doesn't really match the character. To complete the trio of principal singers, Juan Pons, I'm usually not a fan, but here he is very vocally correct and does express some colors with his voice, in spite of non-nuanced acting. Comprimarios are generally vocally good but a bit stiff in their acting.

The DVD employs dated technology with standard definition and stereo-only sound, but nothing horrible. Subtitles in English only are annoying for those who like to follow the original language but fortunately the Italian libretto comes fully printed in the insert, a rarity these days. One laments the absence of a track list, and the lack of essays commenting upon the production.

All in all, this product is recommended for Domingo's singing, for the good orchestra, chorus, and conducting, and the non-obtrusive production, in spite of the title character's flaws. For this bargain price of $14, there isn't much to risk anyway.

Now there is a blu-ray disc of this opera, recorded in 2013 with Nina Stemme and Jonas Kaufmann, from the Vienna State Opera. I haven't seen it. I hope someone else here will publish a review of it.

MAuer
April 17th, 2017, 01:02 PM
http://i.prs.to/t_200/dg0734023.jpg

Of the three recordings of this opera I have, the Met version with Barbara Daniels, Plácido Domingo, and Sherrill Milnes remains my overall favorite. The Vienna production with Stemme, Kaufmann, and Tomasz Konieczny has its pluses -- chiefly, the singing of Kaufmann and Stemme. Konieczny seems to be the Wiener Staatsoper's all-purpose baritone, and while he certainly isn't a poor Rance, for me he's not on a par with Milnes. Marco Arturo Marelli's updated staging usually works (the Polka saloon becomes a food truck), with the exception of that hideous red fright wig Stemme is required to wear. It makes her look like a complete frump and causes the viewer to wonder why she inspires such passion in Johnson/Ramerrez and Rance. (The first recording I purchased was the audio version with Carol Neblett, Domingo, and Milnes as the principals, and it's also very good.)

Soave_Fanciulla
April 17th, 2017, 10:18 PM
I agree with Mary about the Vienna production. That wig! Also agree that the Met one is excellent.

My favourite stage production is the Swedish Opera production with Nina Stemme, which uses a silent movie trope to make perfect sense of the wild west setting. Stemme looks a lot better in this as well, and John Lundgren is an excellent Rance.

https://www.operanews.com/uploadedImages/Opera_News_Magazine/2014/1/Recordings/FanciullaBluRay.jpg

Dichteurehalle
April 17th, 2017, 10:51 PM
My favourite stage production is the Swedish Opera production with Nina Stemme, which uses a silent movie trope to make perfect sense of the wild west setting. Stemme looks a lot better in this as well, and John Lundgren is an excellent Rance.


Would you believe it, I was looking at this just yesterday, trying to decide if I should buy it! I was not especially impressed by Antonenko when I saw him in Otello a couple years back, but I only watched it once and haven't seen any of this other roles.

Soave_Fanciulla
April 17th, 2017, 11:19 PM
Would you believe it, I was looking at this just yesterday, trying to decide if I should buy it! I was not especially impressed by Antonenko when I saw him in Otello a couple years back, but I only watched it once and haven't seen any of this other roles.

Antonenko is always a bit stolid but he is fine here; after all it's a role that requires less range than Otello, and is of course less punishing. The other two are fantastic and I personally find the staging the most convincing of any I have seen. I saw it on YT and then felt moved to actually buy it when it came out.

Amfortas
April 19th, 2017, 09:44 PM
I too like the Swedish Opera production with Stemme. I also have the old ROH with Domingo, Neblett, and Carolli--a solid, if traditional staging.

http://www.cdmail.fr/medias/0041/00/41/0809478030041/0809478030041xr.jpg

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
December 29th, 2018, 02:36 PM
Tosca on blu-ray disc

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51gXmcJnjkL._SY445_.jpg

Tosca, opera in three acts sung in Italian, premiered at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on 14 January 1900
Music by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, based on the dramatic play by Victorien Sardou

Recorded live from the Easter Festival Baden-Baden April 2017

Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by Sir Simon Rattle
Philharmonia Choir Wien, Walter Zeh chorus master
Cantus Juvenum Karlsruhe, Anette Schneirder chorus master
Stage Director Philipp Himmelmann
Set Designer Raimund Bauer
Costumes Kathi Maurer
Lighting Reinhard Traub
Video Martin Eidenberger

Cast

Floria Tosca - Kristine Opolais
Mario Cavaradossi - Marcelo Álvarez
Baron Scarpia - Marco Vratogna
Cesare Angelotti - Alexander Tsymbalyuk
Il Sagrestano - Peter Rose
Spoletta - Peter Tantsits
Sciarrone - Douglas Williams
Un carceriere - Walter Fink

Blu-ray disc released by SWR EuroArts in cooperation with ARTE
Running time 125 minutes. Picture format 1080i full HD 16:9. Sound PCM Stereo or DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Subtitles in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, or Korean. Region Code All. Insert: list of musical numbers with roles and duration. Credits. Two production pictures in color and one in black-and-white. A synopsis. Nothing else, and no bonus track.

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

My first impression is not very favorable. We'll see how this production evolves, but initially, I have a few concerns. Of course the orchestra and the conductor are great, but the contemporary sets are not attractive. There is no doubt that Marcelo Álvarez commands a beautiful and powerful tenor instrument but his delivery of "Recondita armonia" is abrupt and not subtle, with little work on the musical lines. It is often, however, not advisable to gauge a singer by his first aria, due to the need to warm up the voice, so, let's refrain from passing harsh judgment, yet.

When Kristine Opolais makes her entrance, her brunette wig is disappointing and makes her a lot less attractive than her natural blonde hair (the wig is a lot blacker than the cover picture indicates). Peter Rose delivers well his small role. As expected Kristine sings superbly her first several lines (and inspired by her, immediately Marcelo appears to improve his dynamic variation). The sequence of duets they sing makes me forget my initial concerns about abrupt delivery. After all, this is a luxury cast with two excellent singers in the main roles. Now I look forward to listening to our Scarpia, manned by a singer unknown to me. By the way, another comprimario role, Angelotti, is also very satisfactory.

Our Scarpia makes his entrance, and he looks pretty ridiculous in his costume, mustache, black nails, and blonde wig with a ponytail. He also looks kind of young for the role - probably the youngest-looking Scarpia I've ever seen - someone in his forties rather than his sixties like I usually think of Scarpia. Without being spectacular, he sings fairly well. Voice-wise, this is a good cast.

Spoletta is dressed exactly like his master, with a matching blonde ponytail, down to the sort of Google Glasses they wear. The chorus enters for the Te Deum scene and they are all dressed the same way. They have a glowing round brooch.

End of Act I. Well-sung, but the sets, wigs, and costumes, again, are not attractive. Act II begins, and Scarpia's office is all sleek and modern, with metal surfaces and black leather furniture, a lot better than the visually unappealing church in Act I. Behind the porous metal surfaces of the walls (a mesh), there are screens showing surveillance video (like a 1984 feel, with the oppressive dystopia that the director picked as a concept - it seems to be set in the near future). I like it. These are good sets, much improved from Act I. The screens show big images of Kristine's beautiful face, while she sings outside.

Act II continues, and is overall rather good in terms of singing. Acting-wise, Kristine and Marco are better than Marcelo, who overacts. Kristine is phenomenal in "Vissi d'arte," in my opinion better than other recent Toscas such as Sonya Yoncheva. Scarpia films her with a camera, and the image is projected on the walls; neat.

Act III starts with a boy singer, in "Io de' sospiri" and he does it well. It's the same boy who participates silently in Act I; seems to be the sacristan's son - at least I hope so; the sacristan is affectionate towards the boy but there are no hints of anything inappropriate so I hope the director is not heavy-handedly insinuating pedophilia.

The sets for Act III are made of just the background wall. "E lucevan le stelle" is expertly delivered by Marcelo. Powerful! The execution scene is well-handled with a sort of futuristic electric device pointed to Mario's head, rather than a fire squad. Tosca uses the same electric device to commit suicide, in front of the surveillance screens. I like it.

Grading this product: Orchestra A++, Conductor A++ (excellent job, these Germans performing Puccini!), Singing by the main characters A+, by comprimarios A, chorus A, acting B+, sets B, stage direction B+, blocking B, wigs, make-up and costumes B-, lighting/video A+. Video and sound quality, as usual with blu-ray and DTS Master Audio, A++. Documentation B-.

So, musical aspects get an overall A+, the physical production is a B, and the blu-ray quality and packaging A-.

It's a recommended purchase given the high musical values (especially, Kristine makes a very good Tosca - first time I see her in this role), but the other aspects are relatively unremarkable (it is regretful that the insert has no essays) - the kind of production that is best to listen to, rather than to watch on video, although Acts II and III are rather interesting with the visual effects - I guess I just didn't like the shabby church in Act I, and the costumes.

Florestan
December 29th, 2018, 02:54 PM
Hmmm, based on the cover, it appears this could be a modern-day Tosca. Could be quite a good one at that. Awaiting your review. Thanks.

Ann Lander (sospiro)
December 30th, 2018, 08:03 AM
Tosca on blu-ray disc

https://images-na.ssl-images-amazon.com/images/I/51gXmcJnjkL._SY445_.jpg

Tosca, opera in three acts sung in Italian, premiered at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome on 14 January 1900
Music by Giacomo Puccini
Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica, based on the dramatic play by Victorien Sardou

Recorded live from the Easter Festival Baden-Baden April 2017

Berliner Philharmoniker conducted by Sir Simon Rattle
Philharmonia Choir Wien, Walter Zeh chorus master
Cantus Juvenum Karlsruhe, Anette Schneirder chorus master
Stage Director Philipp Himmelmann
Set Designer Raimund Bauer
Costumes Kathi Maurer
Lighting Reinhard Traub
Video Martin Eidenberger

Cast

Floria Tosca - Kristine Opolais
Mario Cavaradossi - Marcelo Álvarez
Baron Scarpia - Marco Vratogna
Cesare Angelotti - Alexander Tsymbalyuk
Il Sagrestano - Peter Rose
Spoletta - Peter Tantsits
Sciarrone - Douglas Williams
Un carceriere - Walter Fink

Blu-ray disc released by SWR EuroArts in cooperation with ARTE
Running time 125 minutes. Picture format 1080i full HD 16:9. Sound PCM Stereo or DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. Subtitles in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Japanese, or Korean. Region Code All. Insert: list of musical numbers with roles and duration. Credits. Two production pictures in color and one in black-and-white. A synopsis. Nothing else, and no bonus track.

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Excellent review, thank you.

I was interested to read that you thought Marco Vratogna was good. Maybe his voice has mellowed but I've seen him live twice now and to my ears he just snarls and shouts. He was Ezio in the Attila I saw in Seattle and Iago in Otello at ROH.

Florestan
December 31st, 2018, 04:00 PM
The execution scene is well-handled with a sort of futuristic electric device pointed to Mario's head, rather than a fire squad. Tosca uses the same electric device to commit suicide, in front of the surveillance screens. I like it.

I remember seeing a video clip of that some time ago. It was different. I think I prefer the traditional firing squad and leap from the wall.