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View Full Version : Italian Romantic Opera and Verismo on DVD, Blu-ray, and CD



Aramis
December 13th, 2011, 03:12 PM
Me confused.

This is "reviews" section, does non-reviev discussion/questions considering DVDs, CDs and Blu-rays belong here or to other section? If so, I guess the proper one is still to be created. Whetever.

http://jjdakota.com/bidorbuy/dvds/B000EHPXZ6.jpg


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZnXsiw-0vAA&feature=related

Is the whole production up to the level of this short fragment or does it have some major weaknesses? I've failed to steal it and so I'm thinking about purchasing this DVD.

Got it today. Disappointed. I don't like Eva Marton here at all, her voice is like crowing, far from subtle and beautiful and as for stage presence - she's not fat but very massive and makes Carreras look tiny. She didn't do it for my in no way. Other non-Carreras singers are not too good either. The mezzo-mother is even more crowing, baritones and tenors playing minor/secondary characters... Gerard is fine, that's the least. But all in all I dislike the cast as a whole, too bad because production is great - customes are well done, staging and direction too, all these things are of high quality. A bit of waste. Gotta dig the Domingo two Cheniers instead.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 12:06 AM
This La Gioconda (Ponchielli) DVD is decent:

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Competent Placido, pretty good Eva Marton, but they are not helped by the opera itself which I consider to be a weak and overrated one. When the best part of an opera is its ballet (the famous Dance of the Hours) it doesn't bode well for the overall operatic quality of the piece.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 12:11 AM
Cilea: Adriana Lecouvreur (this review I wrote years ago for another site is more focused on the opera, than on the DVD)
Staged at la Scala in 2000, with Daniela Dessě, Sergei Larin, Giorgio Giuseppini and Olga Borodina, with conductor Roberto Rizzi Brignoli at the helm of the Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro alla Scala. The following review pertains more to the opera itself than the production.

Act I

It starts rather lively with lots of chit-chat and nervous, bouncy orchestration. Here comes Adriana. She calms things down, and sings her first aria. I like it. Io Son L'Umile Ancella. It is sweet and melancholic, in a striking change of tone as opposed to the initial chit-chat.

This pause is soon over and the frenetic rhythm returns. Then Michonnet and Adriana are left alone. He gathers courage... the orchestration is pretty good and punctuates everything while they exchange short phrases in recitatif, then the orchestra turns to nice strings while he finally proposes to her. She turns him down and the orchestra is more dramatic. I really like this orchestration so far.

Then, with Michonnet properly disposed of, it's Maurizio's turn. La dolcissima effigie. Tuneful but weepy, Gigli would have loved it. I don't, but it does improve when it turns into a duet.

Things are heating up. The Prince of Bouillon and the Abbé start a duet that rapidly turns into a quartet - I really, really like this one. Best moment so far.

Again an abrupt change of mood and pace, when infatuated Michonnet watches Adriana and ruminates about his love, between awe and admiration, and scorned anger. Quite excellent, Ecco il monologo. Beautiful orchestration too. I can tell I'll really like this opera.

What follows is a pretty confusing plot development about lost and intercepted letters, lovers who give themselves forbidden rendez-vous, etc. Something tells me that the music in this one is a lot better than the libretto.

Then the stage is full of people again and some short bursts of chorus music end ACT I. What a wild ride! I definitely like it.

ACT II

Now the mezzo enters - the Princess of Bouillon - and despairs about having to wait for her lover Maurizio - has he forgotten her? Acerba voluttŕ, dolce tortura. Halting, anxious orchestration - good job of tone painting, Cilea! O vagabonda stella follows, quite pungent, verismo style. Impressive! A very good start for Act II.

Then Maurizio rather abruptly hints that he doesn't love the poor woman any longer - more despair and drama are at the menu, with the appropriate orchestral thunders. Maurizio then turns weepy again, what a lachrymose fellow! But it's once more melodious enough, I like it better this time.

The Prince and the Abbé come, the princess goes in hiding, and we get treated to a bit of mistaken identity in good operatic tradition - who was the woman with you? They assume wrongly it was Duclos. Some more confusing plot, and another mistaken identity - Maurizio is actually the Count of Saxony. Really? (Alma's note: so what? This libretto really sucks!). A nice duet follows - Ma, dunque č vero?, further underlining the fact that the music is so much better than the far fetched plot.

Lots of shenanigans go on about the mistaken identity - the princess can't be caught, says Maurizio, Adriana is pulled in to help, they may or may not expose the princess, it's not Duclos, who is it? blah blah blah - this kind of stuff works a lot better in opera buffa, and feels out of place here. Even the orchestration now seems indecisive, like Cilea is thinking - "what am I to make of this mess?" - and the music turns unremarkable as well; there is a rather lengthy let down.

But Cilea recovers, with a soft and peaceful orchestration that turns suspenseful and mysterious while Adriana blows the candles to make it all dark and facilitate the Princess' escape.

Adriana and the Princess talk to each other and it is another clever use of orchestration. Good job again, Cilea!!! The interaction of the two rivals is chilling, intense, and very beautiful with the stage all dark and the orchestra leading the way. She escapes, silence from the singers, the orchestra ends Act II on its own. I like it a lot.

Act III - disappointing. Ballet stuff which I don't care much for, in opera.
No remarkable arias. "Business as usual" orchestration.

Then, the finale is quite effective and spectacular, when Adriana declaims Phčdre (Giusto cielo!): goosebumps all over! Sublime. Curtain. This is about the only thing we can take from Act III, but what a moment!!!

Act IV

One can tell that Act IV will be better than III - it opens quite well with an enticing duet between good guy Michonnet and distressed Adriana who is still vying for Maurizio, followed by light and fun ensembles with her visitors who want her to resume acting.

Then the poisoned violets (!?! - Oookaaayy... this was supposed to be believable verismo, no?) arrive and the orchestration gets dramatic again, although a little obvious and predictable.

But it darkens little by little, and Cilea once more is in his forte, and pathos starts to pour in, punctuated by beautiful melancholic tunes. This is the scene in which Adriana kisses the violet, VERY beautiful. Another high moment of this opera. The way the voice melts into the orchestration and slowly takes over is very touching, and in itself would justify the A that by now I'm sure I'll grant to this opera at the end.

Maurizio is coming, shouting 'Adriana!' from off-stage. Weepy Maurizio (I really don't like this guy) tries to win Adriana back. He says that a soldier's heart never lies. Whaaat? Come on, Colautti (the librettist), can't you do better than this???

But still, Cilea comes to the rescue, and the duet between Adriana and Maurizio is celestial. No, non fu invano. Another touching piece, ending by phenomenal orchestration that seems like an intermezzo and could be a concert piece. Bravo!

Then we get to the mad scene. She is delirious from the poison, declaims bits and pieces of her past roles on stage. Maurizio despairs, she goes on and on. VERY effective. The orchestration turns to a requiem piece. She is dying. Veneno! (poison), says Michonnet.

In good operatic tradition in which people sing their best after they're stabbed or poisoned, Adriana wakes up and soars in a dramatic scene, saying she doesn't want to die (a more assertive death scene than your usual victim of consumption), and resumes her delirious declamation. Wow! This is the second best death scene I've seen in opera, after Pelléas et Mélisande. It ends by the desperate shouts Morta! followed by light orchestration evocative of a soul climbing up to Heaven, and delicate plucks of the harp, instead of your usual tchi-bum-bum-bum! Curtain. I love it.

----

Overall appreciation: a very good surprise. This is an opera that is steadily in the repertory, but doesn't get the big lights. The libretto is dreadful, and there are some dead moments like part of Act II and most of Act III. But there are just too many high points, so the weak libretto can't drag it all the way down to a B. A- it is then, and with a da Ponte or a Boito at the helm of the libretto, it would have been an A+.

Unlike some operas that function better as plays and less well as music, Adriana Lecouvreur is probably best enjoyed on a CD, without the images and without the words.

These characters are not sympathetic. One doesn't really care for their issues. The plot is confusing and contradictory in some points, and clichéd in others. It is a serious theatrical failure, and it even impacts on the music (like when in Act III Francesco Cilea seems tired of the nonsense and is not trying too hard). This is not very demanding soprano music, there are no big high notes, no big opportunities for display of vocal technique (we are far from Bel Canto and into Verismo here).

But then, the orchestration is just extraordinary. Thus the A-.

It will find its way into my second tier of favorite operas.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 12:12 AM
Giordano: Fedora on DVD
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The public and most Amazon.com reviewers went crazy about Mirella Freni's performance here. I sadly disagree. I think people applaud and say what they say out of fanship and respect, but the truth must be told: there is a striking contrast here between a Domingo at the top of his game and an ageing Freni who is a shadow of her old self in terms of voice, and too old for the role to look convincing.

I think it is kind of embarrassing. It spoiled this DVD for me. Fedora is not a great opera to start with, therefore this is a mixed bag. The production is good enough with a competent traditional staging, everything is very professionally done, and Placido Domingo is stupendous. But the uninteresting opera and Mirella's vocal troubles are clear downsides.

So, for Domingo fans this is worth having. But for Freni fans, it is not.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 12:12 AM
Mascagni: L'Amico Fritz on DVD
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This Kultur product as usual is of incredibly bad quality, technically speaking; actually even more than usual. Sound synchrony is terrible, and sound balance is even worse. Microphone placement picks up certain singers too loudly, and others too softly. The sound of the orchestra is even worse, to a point that it considerably hinders any enjoyment of the musical aspects of the opera. The colors are artificial-looking, lighting is terrible, and the image definition is blurry at times. No choice of sound track, subtitles only in English (unlike most Kultur products, at least these can be turned off), no extras. Another bare-bones Kultur product, with one of the worst sound engineerings I've ever heard. No, believe me, folks. The sound on this DVD is a joke!

Staging: the sets look tacky and cheap with painted backgrounds and cardboard vegetation. At least it is a period staging with no Regie trickery. It is a production from a small regional company and orchestra called Cittŕ Lirica, staged in 2002 at the Teatro di Livorno.

Acting is rather static, with little movement, park and bark style.

The orchestra, conductor (Roberto Tolomelli), and first violin are rather mediocre, which compromises the beautiful violin solo in Act I and the nice intermezzo between acts II and III. The flautist is particularly bad.

Singing fortunately is not bad, unlike mostly everything else in this production. José Bros in the title role does a rather decent job, and while Dimitra Theodossiou - his love interest Suzel - is not good looking (her cover picture above is actually flattering, she looks worse than that), her singing has many fine moments. Alessandro Paliaga as the matchmaking rabbi David does well as long as the microphones can catch his voice (at times we can barely hear him, especially in the first act when he sings from a chair on the right side of the stage - at first I thought that his voice lacked volume, then in the second act when he sings upfront and the mikes catch him better, I concluded that the problem with his singing is one of sound engineering rather than being his fault). The gypsy boy Beppe, a trouser role, is sung by a weak link, screechy mezzo Sandra Pacheco-Quintero who is also a terrible actress who can't stop staring at the prompter (this is quite laughable, indeed - you gotta see it to believe it!).

What about the opera itself? For one thing, it's not Cavalleria Rusticana. Don't expect the same level of quality or you'll be sorely disappointed. However, it is good enough, with the beautiful Cherry Duet, the violin solo, some fine orchestral moments, and other good arias/scenes like Non mi resta che il pianto; Son pochi fiori; Facea si vecchio abramo; and the final love duet O amore, o bella luce del core. It's a lighthearted piece of modest proportions (run time about 90 minutes), undoubtedly pleasant, in spite of its weak libretto (actually, intentionally so; Mascagni was unhappy that some critics had said that Cavalleria Rusticana was successful thanks more to the libretto than to his music, and wanted a simple libretto in order to let people focus on his music) - Verdi actually said that the libretto for L'Amico Fritz was the worst he had ever seen.

So what is the verdict? Surprisingly, I think I can actually say that this DVD is recommended. Because, see, this is a sort of chamber opera, it's a nice love story that goes on in a more intimist setting (so the staging matters little), in which nothing much happens but the two principals have the most stage time (with the rabbi having most of the remaining lines), and given that the two principals here (and the baritone singing the rabbi) are the strongest points of this otherwise very primitive production and DVD, they still make of this an enjoyable experience of an opera that is good enough and rarely staged, so, I guess we're better off having this terrible Kultur product rather than not having L'Amico Fritz on DVD at all.

But given the sound problems and the mediocre orchestra, for those willing to better enjoy the musical aspects of this opera I'd rather recommend the fabulous Pavarotti/Freni CD (both making their studio debut) with Gavazzeni conducting the Orchestra of the ROH:

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Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 12:14 AM
Catalani: La Wally on TV broadcast
1990 - Pinchas Steinberg - Wiener Symphoniker

Mara Zampieri - Wally
Norman Bailey - Stromminger
Liliana Nichiteanu - Afra
Ildiko Raimondi - Walter
Michael Sylvester - Hagenbach
David Malis - Gellner

Staging - pretty good with convincing snow-caped mountains. Dark lighting, though.

Acting - very weak

Singing: Zampieri is unattractive and with an unpleasant voice, and has horrible articulation. Sylvester and Malis are OK. Raimondi has no musicality, seems indifferent. Nichiteanu is cute but with a small voice. Rather bleak, overall.

The orchestra and conducter do better than the singers.

The opera itself - other than Ebben?...ne andrň lontana, very forgettable. What is this aria doing there anyway? It is completely different from the rest, and as a matter of fact, it was composed for a different work; Catalani recycled it. This opera has a far-fetched plot, is not theatrical, and as a matter of fact, I found it utterly boring.

Not recommended. Just listen to a good isolated version of Ebben?...ne andrň lontana and don't waste your time with the rest of the opera.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 12:16 AM
Zandonai: Francesca da Rimini on DVD
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Francesca da Rimini, Tragedia in quattro atti, premiered in 1914 in Turin
Music by Riccardo Zandonai (1883-1994)
Based on the play by Gabriele d'Annunzio, adapted by Tito Ricordi

1984 (Live) - James Levine - Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Cello soloist - Jascha Silberstein
Production by Piero Faggione
Set design by Ezio Frigerio
Costume design by Franca Squarciapino
Metropolitan Opera Ballet, Choreographer Donald Mahler
Metropolitan Opera Chorus, Chorus Master David Stivender
Video direction by Brian Large

Francesca - Renata Scotto
Paolo il Bello (the handsome) - Plácido Domingo
Samaritana - Nicole Lorange
Ostasio - Richard Fredricks
Giovanni lo Sciancato (the lame, nicknamed Gianciotto) - Cornell Macneil
Malatestino dall'Occhio (the one-eyed) - William Lewis
Biancofiore - Natalia Rom
Garsenda - Gail Robinson
Altichiara - Gail Dubinbaum
Adonella - Claudia Catania
Smaradi, la schiava (the slave girl) - Isola Jones
Ser Toldo Berardengo - Anthony Laciura
Simonetto, il giullare (the minstrel) - Brian Schexnayder
Berlingerio, il torrigiano (the tower guard) - John darrenkamp
Un balestriere (an archer) - John Gilmore
Un prigionero (a prisoner) - John Bills

This is Zandonai's only claim to fame in spite of his long career. It premiered when the composer was 30 years old. He was a pupil of Mascagni, and wrote this opera in the Verismo / late Romantic musical language. He was also a friend of Arrigo Boito's, who introduced him to Giulio Ricordi, the head of the famous publishing house responsible for Verdi's publishing.

Gabriele d'Annunzio wrote this "epic of blood and lust" to great success, based on Dante's tragic love story. The libretto can be said to have been authored indirectly by d'Annunzio, since Tito Ricordi's role was mostly to trim it to a size compatible with an opera. The Ricordis thought that Zandonai's command of late Romantic orchestration was ideal to set this play to music, and this is how it got to see the light of day, since the Ricordis were powerful enough in the world of opera to push through whatever project they had in mind.

The opera was immediately successful, and was rapidly taken from Turin to London and New York, where it was given at the Met in 1916. It never came back to the Met stage, though, until this present production featuring Scotto and Domingo, under Levine who has loved this work since his teenage years.

Maestro Levine wanted to impact on this production Zandonai's colorful scoring - defined as "a heady mélange of Wagner, Strauss, and Debussy" - and incorporated in his orchestra especially for this performance, period instruments such as the lute and the viola pomposa, to conjure a medieval atmosphere.

The staging with massive period settings (13th century Rimini) includes a flowery courtyard, a citadel armed for battle, and richly furnished castle apartments.

This Deutsche Grammophon release is well packaged with complete liner notes including an essay and very detailed chapter-by-chapter synopsis in English, German, and French, although the chapter/track list doesn't include durations. The total running time is 150 minutes.

We get a region zero DVD with 4:3 picture format; PCM stereo, DD 5.1, and DTS 5.1 audio formats. Optional subtitles are included in original Italian, as well as English, German, French, Spanish, and Chinese. Extras only include a picture gallery and a DG catalogue.

First impressions (I've just watched the first act)

This is a weird one, folks, and it's the fault (or it is thanks to) the composer. Yes, it's definitely over-the-top. Sometimes Zandonai tries to be Wagner but he is no Wagner. Then he tries to be Puccini but he is no Puccini. He then tries to be Debussy but he is no Debussy. He goes back to trying to be Mascagni but he is no Mascagni. He even tried to be exotic Delibes' Thaďs but... you've guessed... he is no Delibes. So, major failure, right? Oh well, surprise, surprise... IT WORKS!

The score is all over the place. Sometimes bombastic, sometimes sweet. Sometimes raw, sometimes subdued.

So why does it work?

First, because it's a heck of a rollercoaster. It's FUN!!!!

Second, because these talented artists - Levine, Domingo, Scotto, Faggione, Frigerio - MAKE it work!

You get a conductor who loves this work (regardless of its musical merits or lack thereof) and shapes his orchestra into making it exciting and lively and deep. You get a veteran of the trade in Scotto who finds the exact right balance and in spite of her aging looks and failing high notes (this score is waaaaaay high in tessitura - Mr. Zandonai, making your singers yell these high notes out loud doesn't a beautiful vocal writing make!), she conveys all the passion of a teenager. You get Domingo who plays Il Bello - the handsome - and even this decidedly heterosexual reviewer - me - needs to confess that he does look dashing. You get a stage director who has the right feel for the work and makes the singers/actors movements on stage be very well calculated and appropriate. You get a set designer who imprints onto the work the right lavish sets (this opera would definitely fall flat on its behind in some sort of modern minimalistic staging - it *needs* the OTT staging).

In short, you get a TALENTED team of artists who say to each other: this is no masterpiece, but let's MAKE of it a masterpiece.

And they do!

Better proof, Domingo's and Scotto's SILENT scene at the end of Act I when NOBODY is singing draws enthusiastic applause from the audience, which we usually only see after the delivery of some blockbuster aria.

Oh boy! These artists are good! Very good! This is opera, folks!

There's still a long way to go but I can't see how I'd ever change my mind from "highly recommended" on this one. But we'll see. Back to watching it.

LOL, I forgot to mention that this libretto is very good. There are some fabulous moments, like when Paolo passionately asks Francesca how he should die for her. One expects that she would say, oh, no, my beloved, don't die etc. Well, she proceeds to telling him in all letters how he should die. Beware of what you ask for, Paolo!

Act II is infamously known for general yelling and misguidedly high tessitura, and yes, it's just like this. It continues to be enormous fun, though. There are some rather impressively staged battle scenes, and there is good acting especially from William Lewis.

Act III is a letdown. It has the ubiquitous, boring ballet, and then a scene between Paolo and Francesca that is clearly overlong (takes two thirds of the act), in spite of being well sung and acted by Plácido and Renata. The pace slows down and the orchestration becomes more conventional (Romantic melodious style). They finally kiss, which then (fortunately) ends this slow act.

Act IV gets the drama going again, and starts with an interesting scene in which Malatestino harasses his sister-in-law Francesca. During their tense conversation when he first tries to seduce her (nice brother to her husband, Gianciotto) then rightly accuses her of adultery with his other brother (Paolo), a prisoner keeps howling in the background, which annoys Francesca. OK, Malatestino goes and beheads the prisoner. Nice way to shut him up, it works, he definitely stops howling, LOL. Malatestino comes back with the prisoner's bloody head (someone must have seen Salome), probably thinking that this would earn him Francesca's favor but unfortunately for him (not to forget, unfortunately for the prisoner) it doesn't work because by then Gianciotto had joined his wife. Spiteful Malatestino then takes revenge by revealing to his older brother what is going on between Junior and his wife. Pure Verismo drama! Gianciotto is not happy. He looks positively terrifying. Ominous orchestration is the background to the entire scene. I'm making fun of it but this is actually the best scene so far. It is very dramatically effective and the singers do a wonderful job, and act well too.

We go next to the last scene, in Francesca's room, when Gianciotto surprises the two lovers together and kills his wife and his brother. Oh well, we saw this coming. A good Verismo opera needs some good solid killings. The scene starts with a sense of foreboding when the chamber maids talk about the beheading of the prisoner. Francesca is asleep. Everything is still peaceful but we know that things will deteriorate fast. She wakes up, all weepy and anxious. I guess Boito being Zandonai's friend and the team behind this opera's gestation being the same one that convinced Verdi to come out of retirement, we can see some Othello influences here in the choice of this kind of source material and the musical treatment given to it. It does remind me strongly of Desdemona's scene before she gets killed - the difference being that Desdemona was innocent while Francesca is not.

Renata Scotto is pretty good in this scene. Again, it's all very effective, if a little bombastic (and the problem with the high tessitura persists).

Anyway, this is kind of a historical recording, with a Plácido Domingo in his prime and Renata Scotto showing that even older she can still deliver the goods, coupled with great conducting and pretty intense and convincing staging.

The opera itself has enough ups and downs to not be called a masterpiece.

But this performance certainly makes the best out of it.

Highly recommended.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 12:17 AM
Giordano: Marcella on DVD
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2007(LC) - Manlio Benzi - Orchestra Internazionale d'Italia
Slovakia Chamber Chorus, chorus master Pavol Procházka
This production was given at the Festival della Valle d'Itria in Martina Franca, in co-production with two small regional companies, Teatro Giordano in Foggia (Giordano's birthplace), and Teatro di San Devero
It was filmed at the Palazzo Ducale in Martina Franca, on August 4-6, 2007

This is a Naxos/Dynamic release. Region code zero. Picture format 16:9. Sound tracks Dolby stero, DTS 5.0, and DD 5.0. Running time 66 minutes. Optional subtitles in original Italian and English. No extras.

Stage director Alessio Pizzech
Video Director Matteo Ricchetti

Cast

Serena Daolio is Marcella
Danilo Formaggia is Giorgio
Pierluigi Dalengite is Drasco
Natalizia Carone is Clara
Angelica Girardi is Raimonda
Mara D'Antini is Eliana
Maria Rosa Rondinelli is Lea
Marcello Rosiello is Vernier
Giovanni Coletta is Barthélemy
Graziano de Pace is Farment

This poorly known Verismo opera by Umberto Giordano premiered in 1907 in Milan, then was lost during World War II, and was recreated from the composer's manuscrit found decades later, and revived for the first time by this Italian regional festival in 2007. It is the story of a poor woman who falls in love with a painter, only to have the idyllic relationship shattered when it is known that the painter is not a pauper but actually a prince in disguise living incognito abroad, who then needs to go back to his kingdom and leave her behind.

Image is of poor quality, dark, with excessive sharpness, requiring adjusting of the TV settings. Sound is thin and variable in volume. It comes and goes, fades at times. There is an incredible amount of stage noise. We can hear every step on the floor and every swish of the ladies' dresses. What we can't hear very well are the singers' voices at times, and the orchestra at other times.

Lighting is appallingly bad (probably the worst I've ever seen in a commercial-grade product). Sometimes the image gets so dark that it looks like it will disappear.

The scenario for the first scene is sparse and cheap looking - a ballroom. Costumes are early 20th century, with people dressed in formal ballroom attire. There are some yummy looking young ladies scantly clad but oh pain, we can't see them very well given the incredibly bad lighting.http://operalively.com/forums/images/smilies/sad.gif

OK, after playing with my TV settings several times, I got to a stalemate, now I can see a bit more of the stage, although it got all milky. All right, enough on this.

Singing: Danilo Formaggia is OK - nothing extraordinary but decent/good. The leading soprano Serena Daolio unfortunately is less than decent. She has average looks, and her timbre of voice is not great. I can't say if she has no projection and volume or if it's a question of microphone placement and/or bad sound engineering because like I said the sound comes and goes. The orchestra, when we can hear them, is nothing to write home about. The first scene ends in subdued applause. Apparently the audience, just like me, is not impressed.

The second scene has more light. It's a minimalistic setting this time - just the hardwood floor, and three large windows with pictures of a mountain landscape to give the impression that the windows open to a mountain setting. Again, cheap looking but actually a bit more effective.

The leading soprano in the title role continues to do poorly but the other female in this scene (Natalizia Carone) actually sings and looks better than Serena Daolio. Young Marcello Rosiello as Vernier is good.

I'm forgetting to comment upon the music itself. You know, it's not bad at all. It's very melodious. The orchestration is simple but the vocal writing is beautiful. Dramatically speaking, though, the work is weak, and so far hasn't captured my attention that much.

Next we have Drasco coming in, sung by a weak bass-baritone, bearer of bad news (there is trouble in the home country and Giorgio's presence is required), which prompts the orchestra to become louder and more dramatic. It also calls for higher tessitura for the tenor, and there goes down the drain my good impression of him. Oh well, this is a quasi-amateur performance. I guess I should just stop paying attention to the weaknesses of the cast, the staging, and the lighting/sound engineering, and just focus on Giordano's music.

It's a good moment to do so because we get a short intermezzo that is quite beautiful, followed by a tenor aria that could deserve some fame, when Giorgio discloses to Marcella who he really is and tells her that he must abandon her temporarily to fix the trouble in the home country. This is a fairly beautiful scene and even Ms. Daolio sings a little better here.

She is shocked, faints. Giorgio then asks her to go with him, but she refuses, quoting their different social status. He pleads, but she abruptly breaks up with him. She then sings an overdramatic aria saying how he'll remember her and listen to her voice. Faints again. Lots of overacting. He begs some more. She continues to refuse, silly woman (what country girl wouldn't want to marry a prince with whom she is already in love and vice-versa? This could be another candidate for the Darwin Award). He quits trying to convince her, and just leaves. She faints again. Curtain. What, no deaths? And you call this Verismo?

Verdict: a minor work, done in amateurish fashion with weak singers (a couple of exceptions) and cheap-looking scenarios, packaged in a technically deficient DVD. Not recommended. The few musical qualities of some melodious arias and a nice short intermezzo don't rescue this thing.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 12:17 AM
Franchetti: Germania on DVD
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51oayxruU%2BL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Lyrical Drama in one prologue, two acts, and an epilogue, premiered in 1902
Music by Alberto Franchetti (1860-1942)
Libretto by Luigi Illica, in Italian
Renato Palumbo - Orchester der Deutchen Oper Berlin
Chor der Deutchen Oper Berlin - chorus master Ulrich Paetzholdt
Stage direction - Kirsten Harms
Stage setting - Bernd Damovsky

Cast:

Giovanni Filippo Palm - Ante Jerkunica
Federico Loewe - Carlo Ventre
Carlo Worms - Bruno Caponi
Crisogono - Markus Brück
Ricke - Lise Lindstrom
Jane - Sarah van der Kamp
Lene Armuth - Seri Williams
Jebbel - Jacquelyn Wagner

Phoenix release, in 2008 - Picture format 16:9, sound tracks 2.0 stereo, DD 5.1
Subtitles in Italian, German, English, and French. Extras include a "making of" documentary in German, with no subtitles. Opera running time 140 minutes. Region code zero.

Monotonous opera with uninteresting orchestration and ugly vocal writing, poor singing, weird dark staging, and they seem to engage in special costumes/make-up effects to make people look as bad as they can.

Stay away from this one. It belongs to the fringes for a reason.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 12:18 AM
Boito: Mefistofele on DVD
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51R4jZF6g9L._SL500_AA300_.jpg

I'm quite sure I've already reviewed this. But I couldn't find my own review so either I didn't look in the right places or it was for another site. In any case, it's the second time I watch this DVD.

It's been reviewed by Herkku and Annie above, so I wont get into too many details.

1989(LI) - Maurizio Arena - Orchestra of the San Francisco Opera

Samuel Ramey in the title role
Dennis O'Neill: Faust
Daniel Harper: Wagner
Emily Manhart: Pantalis
Douglas Wunsch: Nereo
Gabriela Benacková: Margherita/Elena
Judith Christin: Marta

Video Director Brian Large
Stage Director Robert Carsen
Running time 160 minutes
2001 Kultur release, 1.33:1 image, DD 2.0 stereo sound, optional English-only subtitles, no extras

Technically, bare-bones packaging but good nevertheless with colorful (although not too sharp) image, and excellent clear sound that is well balanced.

The opera itself is a mixed affair - with some sublime music as well as moments of rather mundane orchestration (with the orchestra playing the same music of the vocal writing rather than commenting upon it and developing the themes), and with some outstanding theatrical moments coupled with others that lack pace and impact.

But mixed or not, I do like Boito's Mefistofele very much, and consider that the good far outweighs the bad, resulting overall in a very beautiful opera.

Now, whether or not you like Mefistofele the opera, this performance is simply outstanding. Samuel Ramey is a Mefistofele for the ages, with superlative singing and gifted acting. It's the Ramey show; he steals it, and is quite memorable. O'Neil and Benacková are excellent as well.

Staging is very good (attention, the prude: there is somewhat graphic nudity and a simulated sex act in the second scene - and some more later on - but I wouldn't call the nudity tasteless, it makes sense - it's about sin and debauchery, after all).

This is a very good DVD of an intriguing and beautiful opera. It gets an easy "Highly Recommended" - Samuel Ramey alone justifies the purchase, and everything that goes around him is not too shabby either.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 12:19 AM
Pietro Mascagni: Zanetto on DVD
2003(LI) - Bruno Aprea - Orchestra Sinfonica di Savona

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51ADwF1P%2BcL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Verismo opera in one act, sung in Italian, running time 40 minutes.

Denia Mazzola Gavazzani in the role of Silvia, soprano
Romina Basso in the role of Zanetto, mezzo

Kicco Classics 2004 release, NTSC, region zero, optional subtitles in 4 languages including original Italian and English, picture format 1.33:1, sound tracks DD 2.0, DD 5.1, and DTS 5.1. Both picture and sound are rather good with sharp definition, bright colors, and nice balance. The concert film is technically better than the opera film.

Extras include a full concert (in terms of image and sound, the concert is technically better than the opera), an interview with the artists, and some trailers, for a total running time of 91 minutes including the short 40-minute opera.

There are only two singing characters, an aging courtesan (Silvia) who is contemplating suicide but then receives the love pledge of a young minstrel (Zanetto), whom she rejects, but is glad to see that she can still be touched by love, which nevertheless doesn't stop her from killing herself at the end.

The staging is very simple, with one single room with walls in a state of disrepair, and a large portal in the middle; there is a couch on the right side and a round dining table with chairs on the left side.

Denia Mazzola Gavazzani looks the part - she is an aging but still half-attractive woman who matches well the supposed age and appearance of the character. Her singing is so-so, with a voice that sounds tired especially in high notes and cracks a bit in the passagio, but in the middle of her register she sings correctly enough and doesn't sink the production. Her acting is conventional but again, not terrible.

Mezzo Romina Basso in a trouser role is better in all regards: looks, voice, and acting. Her voice is particularly pleasant although not very powerful, and she sings better in the lower side of her register when she gets very silky, but when she tries some high trills she is not as successful.

Both singers benefit from the fact that the orchestra is a reduced one, not loud at all, and by the looks of it, it seems like the theater is small as well, therefore they don't need to project too far.

Conducting doesn't seem to be particularly energetic, and the small orchestra is very pale.

As far as the opera is concerned, I rather like it. It starts unimpressively with a generic prelude that is not very appealing, however it is not excluded that this might be the fault of this production rather than Mascagni's, because originally his prelude contained a chorus. Obviously this small regional company was unable to provide one because it is nowhere to be seen or heard.

But the vocal writing is beautiful - particularly the lines for the mezzo, which are very delicate and melodious. It is a very obscure work that even the conductor, the singers, and the director completely ignored before they decided to stage it.

On CD, this opera is surprisingly represented by three different recordings, all three featuring rather unknown orchestras and conductors: on its own in a version with Jennifer Larmore; sharing a CD with three other short Mascagni operas (L'Apoteose Cicogna; A Giasomo Leopardi; Pinotta); and finally sharing another CD with Leoncavallo's Zaza.

In the bonus tracks there is a full concert with the same soprano, the same orchestra but with many more instruments, a larger theater, and a different conductor - Giovanni di Stefano. It also happened in 2003, in Savona. It features some ten arias from Verismo composers. Singing again is so-so (unsurprisingly, since it's the same soprano like I said), but the orchestra is much more vivid. The concert doesn't have subtitles, and is a bit boring.

There is no competition on DVD therefore if you're a fan of Mascagni and Verismo, there is interest in getting this product which is well packaged and contains a performance that if not brilliant, it is not bad either.

But I'd only recommend this to committed Mascagni and Verismo fans.

Schigolch
January 4th, 2012, 01:44 PM
I'm a big time fan of Italian Opera from late 19th century and early 20th. It is a fascinating period, with many composers producing quite interesting pieces.

One of them was Alfredo Catalini, and Loreley one of his last operas.


http://img185.imageshack.us/img185/3210/giglimuzioqn7.jpg
Gigli and Muzio in the MET premiere of Loreley, 1922

The opera was first given in Turin, in 1890. It was then performed in the rest of Italy, France, Germany, Spain, England,... and also in America. It enjoyed some success until well into the 1930s, but since then has been staged only a handful of times.

The plot is relatively simple. In a castle besides the river Rhine, Count Walter (tenor) is throwing a party for her fiancée, Ana (soprano), niece of Margrave Rodolfo (bass). The Count confess to his friend Hermann (baritone), secretly in love with Ana, that his real interest is the beautiful Loreley, and that he is having an affair with her.

The Count and Loreley meet, but she is not precisely elated to know he plan to drop her, and decides to fling herself into the Rhine in desperation, but after a pact with the sorcerer Alberich, emerges for this predicament transfigured and even more beautiful than before.

Meanwhile, Hermann tries to convince Ana of Walter's betrayal, but the young girl is fully prepared to get married to the Count. During the wedding, however, a strange image of Loreley appears, and Walter, blind with love, abandons Ana, who dies racked with pain.

His conscience is gnawing at Walter, while he spent his days frolicking with Loreley. Finally, she must honor her deal with Alberich, returns to the Rhine and Walter, desperate, also throws himself into the river.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/61P4RBSP45L.jpg

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51SxmNDFifL._SS400_.jpg

There are several recordings of Loreley available. The two above are my recommendation, really nice work.

Let's listen to some of the best passages from the opera:

Nel verde Maggio, Walter's aria, sung by Franco Corelli (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byi8fwn7oqM)

One of the most beautiful arias of Italian 19th century Opera: Ana's Amor, celeste ebrezza..., sung by Magda Olivero (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9yG_EZiDHOA)

Ove son?, Loreley's aria, sung by Ghena Dimitrova (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Md03sKGsGrc)

Overall: B+, recommended for all Opera lovers.

Schigolch
January 18th, 2012, 10:58 AM
Leoncavallo, a long time admirer of Wagner, planned to write a trilogy about Italian Renaissance, at the manner of the Ring cycle. Finally, he was able to complete only I Medici:

http://commandopera.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/06/Medici1.jpg

Giuliano de Medici - Plácido Domingo
Lorenzo de Medici - Carlos Alvarez
Simonetta Cattanei - Daniela Dessě
Fioretta de Gori - Renata Lamanda

Conductor - Alberto Veronesi

This studio recording is of outstanding quality, with a superb sound and good performers. Domingo is solid, if rather unexciting, while Daniela Dessě's voice, not longer in her prime at live performance, is great here, despite a noticeable wobble. It's a pity that Mr. Alvarez health issues are keeping him out of the operatic stage, he is a very good Lorenzo, while Renata Lamanda vocal portrait of her character is precise and neat.

Mr. Veronesi is a true expert on this period, and it shows.

I Medici itself is among Leoncavallo's finest operas. Arguably even his best, though personally I prefer Zazŕ.

Overall: B+, recommended for lovers of Italian Opera.

Schigolch
February 5th, 2012, 10:15 AM
http://www.freecodesource.com/album-cover/51RAne3xJWL/Rene-Massis-Catalani:-Dejanice.jpg

After signing a contract to the effect, Alfredo Catalani premiered at La Scala his opera Dejanice, in 1883.


Roles

Dardano - Elderly Triumvir of Syracuse - Baritone
Argelia - Her niece - Soprano
Amdeto - Exiled adventurer, in love with Argelia - Tenor
Dejanice - Former Patrician, now an Hetaera and lover of Amdeto - Soprano
Labdaco - Carthaginean corsair, slave of the Greeks - Bass


The plot

Syracuse, Fourth century BC. The captain and adventure Amdeto has defeated the Carthaginean Navy, and demands to marry Argelia, the niece of the Triumvir Dardano. The old leader refuses and Labdaca, a former Carthaginean corsair that is now imprisoned by the Greeks, convinces Amdeto to flee Syracuse and starts a new career as a pirate.

Amdeto is very succesful at piracy, and his lover is the beautiful Dejanice, a former Syracuse's Patrician, now an Hetaera. After sinking a Syracusaen vessel, the pirates take Argelia captive, but Admeto orders Labdaco to get her back to her uncle.

Admeto decides also to return to Syracuse, and the surprised Argelia swore to him eternal love. Dejanice, in the meanwhile, discloses to Labdaco that she was a spy of Dardano.

Dardano is resolved to avoid at all costs the wedding of Admeto and Argelia, but Dejanice poisons him and prevent the suicide of the young lovers, that are free now to be happy, while Dejanice stabs herself.

This opera, pre-verismo, has more in common with a Gioconda, in the music and in the plot, and its a very nice one. The recording, by Bongiovanni, is typical of this label, done with little known singers, and second tier orchestra. The conductor here is Jan Latham-Koenig, before his appointmnt to the Opéra National du Rhin, that makes a good effort.


Overall: B-, recommended for lovers of Italian 19th century opera


We can hear the overture, and a couple of arias from the opera (not from the commercial recording):

Dejanice - Overture (http://www.goear.com/listen/00c9590/dejanice-catalani)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lj1jSa0IfQQ


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9lNS9vVjIAA

Schigolch
February 27th, 2012, 10:15 PM
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Only two of the fourteen operas written by Umberto Giordano have entered in the repertoire (Andrea Chenier and Fedora).

Arguably the best of the remaining twelve, is Siberia. It was premiered in 1903 at La Scala, (with De Luca, Zenatello and Storchio) and was a modest success. Giordano rewrote the opera in 1927, and new performances in Milan were scheduled.


Stephana (soprano) is the protegée of a Russian prince, Alessi (baritone) living in St. Petersburg, after being first seduced and then offered to the prince by the rogue Gleby (baritone). The young girl falls in love with Vassili (tenor), a liutenant, that is unaware of the condition of her beloved. When he discover her attachment to the prince, he challenged the nobleman to a duel, and mortally wounds him.

Vassili faces trial, and he is deported to Siberia. Of course, despite his protestations, Stephana follows him into exile. They prepare a plan to escape, but at the arrival of Gleby, also condemned by another crime, they are denounced and Stephana is shot while trying to flee, and dies in the arms of Vassili.

The touches of "Russian" atmosphere are not really well conceived, but vocal writing is very good, and appropriately "verista". This CD by Dynamic is using a second rate cast, but the recording is good, with this limitation, and made for an interesting hearing.

Overall: B, for lovers of Italian Opera


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A9mwimS9shs


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QnEf68mBJ8s

Schigolch
March 2nd, 2012, 10:47 PM
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Giovanni Bottesini was an Italian composer, conductor and double bass virtuoso.

In Turin, at the Teatro Regio, he premiered in 1879 Ero e Leandro, with a libretto by Tobia Gorrio (yes, none other than Arrigo Boito).

Ero (soprano), priestess of Aphrodite, is in love with Leandro (tenor), the winner of the Games in honour of the goddess. As could be expected, Ariofarne (bass), Archon of the city, loves Ero. Leandro tries to convince Ero to escape together, but the young priestess is afraid this will arise the wrath of the goddess. However, she needs to avoid the unwelcome attentions of Ariofarne. Leandro, after being exiled to Asia, returns just in time to protect Ero from Ariofarne's final advance, but a storm carries both lovers to the sea, and they are drowned, while Ariofarne curses them.

There is little action, but the music is beautiful enough, in the more lyrical as well as the dramatic passages. The production is so-and-so, Scandiuzzi is a little bit too veteran. Veronique Mercier is a nice looking woman, but with her top notes yet unsolved, and Gian Luca Pasolini does not get full advantage of his great aria, "Era la notte". Orchestra and chorus are just average.

Overall: C, this is a good opportunity to get acquainted with this unusual work, so it's recommended to all lovers of Italian Romantic Opera.


http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=4bqmaK4iVmo

Curiously enough, using the same libretto, the famous conductor Luigi Mancinelli wrote another Ero e Leandro, premiered in the year 1897, at Teatro Real, in Madrid, with the great diva Hariclea Darclée, and then it was staged at the MET, with a great cast: Johanna Gadski, Emilio De Marchi and Edouard De Reszke.

There is no recording of Mancinelli's opera, only some excepts from a RAI broadcast, in 1960, with Margherita Rinaldi as Ero, that we can listen below:

Prelude (http://www.goear.com/listen/6f9ae41/ero-e-leandro-prologo-mancinelli)

Vieni al giaciglio (http://www.goear.com/listen/3b58c0d/vienialgiaciglio-mancinelli)

Given those precedents, Boito himself wrote a third Ero e Leandro, based on his own libretto. Unfortunately, he was not satisfied with the results, and destroyed the score.

Dark_Angel
April 10th, 2012, 01:45 PM
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My blu ray from Presto UK arrived and I did a quick initial run through......Overall fantastic both singing and production, but.....

one irritating production detail seems McVicar wanted to accurately reproduce exact lighting conditions of that period/location (why? why?) in the backrooms of opera house and for much of the opera our beautiful people with beautiful wardrobe are awash in a dull "unbeautiful" yellow tinted light...oh well :sad1:



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBBos6NvurE&feature=player_detailpage

HarpsichordConcerto
April 10th, 2012, 09:16 PM
That Adriana looks fantastic. Stylish traditional. Me like. Me shall buy. Me shall enjoy, me hope!

Dark_Angel
April 23rd, 2012, 01:42 AM
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51d8vXZN1hL._SL500_AA300_.jpg


My blu ray from Presto UK arrived and I did a quick initial run through......Overall fantastic both singing and production, but.....

one irritating production detail seems McVicar wanted to accurately reproduce exact lighting conditions of that period/location (why? why?) in the backrooms of opera house and for much of the opera our beautiful people with beautiful wardrobe are awash in a dull "unbeautiful" yellow tinted light...oh well :sad1:



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VBBos6NvurE&feature=player_detailpage

After complete viewing of blu ray version this turned out to be an outstanding performance overall.
Basically we have a love triangle with two women pursing same man, and this is a winner take all contest......

Gheorghiu was completely convincing as Adriana, like Puccini's Tosca a passionate artist who wears her heart on her sleeve and is devoted to her acting career and stage friends. Like a summer breeze her mood/emotions change depending which way the winds blow....such is the life of a capricious artist. This is a good role to showcase her talents and matches well her singing style and acting abilities. Her jealous fits and heartbreaking death after learning that her true love is finally completely devoted to her were very convincing and powerful, Angela's star shines brightly here

Kaufmann (Maurizio) is ideal ladies man, dashing good looks and beautiful golden tenor voice that will send many womens hearts into love overdrive. Waits too long to finally cut all ties with his wealthy diabolical former lover the princess, as her jealously takes a fatal toll on poor Adriana in the form of poisonious flowers as a gift.

There is an important relationship between Adriana and the older stage manager Michomet, he secretly loves her but can only be a kind father figure because of his age and her beauty, much of the opera is devoted to these two bonding with each other and getting through each crisis event as they happen.

There is a wonderful party with ballet in act 3, the two rival women discover each others indentity and Adriana during her performance mocks the princess in public......setting in place her own lethal fate since the princess will not be made a fool of, especially by a common actress

The period lighting effect (simulated candlelight) used by McVicar kinda won me over by the end, actually worked very well in final death scence enhancing somber atmosphere. The costumes were spectacular and the detail in blu ray was just incredibly beautiful and so realistic, like you were right there. Sound quality also is of the highest quality.

This can be purchased without hesitation since there is unlikely to be another AL of this quality in the future

Amfortas
April 23rd, 2012, 01:47 AM
I'm camping out by my mailbox, waiting for my copy to arrive! :)

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
April 23rd, 2012, 02:03 AM
I'm camping out by my mailbox, waiting for my copy to arrive! :)

Hey, the blu-ray is coming May 1st, why buy the DVD?

Anyway, I may consider the blu-ray. I like this opera (for its music; I don't think it is very theatrical, with rather unsympathetic characters and confusing plot). The one I have is kind of outdated:

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51A3VkVzy3L._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Amfortas
April 23rd, 2012, 02:13 AM
The one I have is kind of outdated:

Can't be *that* old: Olga Borodina appears in both productions! :)

Dark_Angel
April 23rd, 2012, 02:22 AM
[Link to video deleted by Admin - video no longer available]

Act 1 Gheorghiu plays coy making Kaufmann work hard to get her affections, after a short time he seems to have found her weak spot and resistence is futile.......(also sospiro, soave etc give in quickly hehe)

BTW the plot is really not hard to follow, I had also read that is was very weak confused plot etc but made perfect sense to me, McVicar captures all the intimate human touches that make his works so captivating

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
April 23rd, 2012, 03:23 AM
Can't be *that* old: Olga Borodina appears in both productions! :)

I didn't say old, I said kind of outdated. The performance on this DVD was filmed in January of 2000.

Dark_Angel
July 31st, 2013, 10:22 PM
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51w1T8VG15L._SY300_.jpg

Despite having only average performances by singers this Gioconda supasses the famous Domingo/Eva Marton version because of the stronger more visually exciting production of P.L. Pizzi, a clean semi modern design that visually captures all the elements needed for each scence using clever abstraction and dramatic visuals. The wonderful "dance of the hours" sequence was a stunning production that received thunderous sustained applause, major bravo

http://www.forumopera.com/v1/concerts/photos2/gioconda151_Bofill.jpg (http://operalively.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=gioconda+voigt&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&docid=MBa3jQrxVDjYUM&tbnid=gicWB1rObn-hkM:&ved=0CAUQjRw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forumopera.com%2Fv1%2Fconcert s%2Fgioconda_liceu.htm&ei=EYf5UaPeB-bhygGuuIGYBQ&psig=AFQjCNGUK3cSzulQ1vdy62EL6F55Pw7ofg&ust=1375392957549668) http://arthaus-musik.com/fileadmin/dvds/m1074/slides/dvww-opgioc-gioconda-act-3-3193-154.jpg (http://operalively.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=gioconda+voigt&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&docid=OmT4CREUzDoeQM&tbnid=KIOYv8KhCZB6DM:&ved=0CAUQjRw&url=http%3A%2F%2Farthaus-musik.com%2Fen%2Fdvd%2Fmusik%2Foper%2Fmedia%2Fdeta ils%2Fla_gioconda-1.html&ei=ao35UcuhG6TuyAGbsoEI&psig=AFQjCNFBFTELY4tVe4hDq8-CI4Hz_OCk4g&ust=1375395539907801)

Pizzi again turns to Letizia Giuliani (previously featured in Pizzi produced Thais during meditaion scence) to dazzle us with her mesmorizing dance moves, she commands the stage and make this an unforgetable perfromance. Pizzi is so good at visually exciting us and supporting the opera story in clever and dramatic ways.

This is really a great opera for me that contains one of the greatest aria for soprano "suicidio" Debra Voight does a decent job as Gioconda but does not come close to displacing the great Giocondas heard on CD (Callas, Cerquetti etc) the story is told very effectively thanks to Pizzi's clean dramatic stage design. So important to capture the Venetian feel of the setting with abstracted canals, town square, burning ships etc this production does so in style....

This youtube trailer shows the Pizzi production but has Urmana replacing Voight as Gioconda....
(I would prefer this Urmana vs Voight Gioconda if it was available to buy)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=aTZuJUHGX2g

tyroneslothrop
July 31st, 2013, 11:52 PM
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51w1T8VG15L._SY300_.jpg

Despite having only average performances by singers this Gioconda supasses the famous Domingo/Eva Marton version because of the stronger more visually exciting production of P.L. Pizzi, a clean semi modern design that visually captures all the elements needed for each scence using clever abstraction and dramatic visuals. The wonderful "dance of the hours" sequence was a stunning production that received thunderous sustained applause, major bravo

http://www.forumopera.com/v1/concerts/photos2/gioconda151_Bofill.jpg (http://operalively.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=gioconda+voigt&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&docid=MBa3jQrxVDjYUM&tbnid=gicWB1rObn-hkM:&ved=0CAUQjRw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.forumopera.com%2Fv1%2Fconcert s%2Fgioconda_liceu.htm&ei=EYf5UaPeB-bhygGuuIGYBQ&psig=AFQjCNGUK3cSzulQ1vdy62EL6F55Pw7ofg&ust=1375392957549668) http://arthaus-musik.com/fileadmin/dvds/m1074/slides/dvww-opgioc-gioconda-act-3-3193-154.jpg (http://operalively.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=gioconda+voigt&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&docid=OmT4CREUzDoeQM&tbnid=KIOYv8KhCZB6DM:&ved=0CAUQjRw&url=http%3A%2F%2Farthaus-musik.com%2Fen%2Fdvd%2Fmusik%2Foper%2Fmedia%2Fdeta ils%2Fla_gioconda-1.html&ei=ao35UcuhG6TuyAGbsoEI&psig=AFQjCNFBFTELY4tVe4hDq8-CI4Hz_OCk4g&ust=1375395539907801)

Pizzi again turns to Letizia Giuliani (previously featured in Pizzi produced Thais during meditaion scence) to dazzle us with her mesmorizing dance moves, she commands the stage and make this an unforgetable perfromance. Pizzi is so good at visually exciting us and supporting the opera story in clever and dramatic ways.

This is really a great opera for me that contains one of the greatest aria for soprano "suicidio" Debra Voight does a decent job as Gioconda but does not come close to displacing the great Giocondas heard on CD (Callas, Cerquetti etc) the story is told very effectively thanks to Pizzi's clean dramatic stage design. So important to capture the Venetian feel of the setting with abstracted canals, town square, burning ships etc this production does so in style....

This youtube trailer shows the Pizzi production but has Urmana replacing Voight as Gioconda....
(I would prefer this Urmana vs Voight Gioconda if it was available to buy)


http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=aTZuJUHGX2g

It's really amazing how different Voigt looks after stapling. Oops- non-performance related comment! (slinks off)

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
November 11th, 2013, 01:40 PM
Cyrano de Bergerac on DVD

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41sini-FBgL._SY300_.jpg

Cyrano de Bergerac, opera in five acts (January 22, 1936, Rome)
Music by Franco Alfano
Libretto by Henri Cain, based on Edmond Rostand's stage play of the same name
Sung in French (the language of the original libretto that was set to music by Alfano although the premiere was given in an Italian translation; shortly thereafter it was given in French at the Opéra-Comique in Paris on May 29, 1936)

Orchestre National de Montpellier Languedoc-Roussilon conducted by Marco Guidarini
Filmed live at the Opéra Comédie theater of the Opéra National de Montpellier
Stage Direction and Set Design by David Alagna and Frédérico Alagna
Costumes Designer Christian Gasc
Ligthing Designer Aldo Solbiati
Video Director - George Blume

Cast

Cyrano - Roberto Alagna
Roxane - Nathalie Manfrino
Christian - Richard Troxell
De Guiche - Nicolas Rivenq
Ragueneau - Marc Barrard
De Valvert / carbon - Frank Ferrari
Le Bret - Richard Rittelmann
La Dučgne / Soeur Marthe - Hanna Schaer
Lignčre / Un mousquetaire - Thomas Dolié
Lise / Une soeur - Jael Azzaretti
Un cuisinier / L'officier espagnol - Marcin Habela
Montfleury - Marcel Acquarone

DG release of May 10, 2005
DVD, region 1 (US and Canada only)
1.77:1 NTSC image; DD 5.1 and LPCM sound tracks, subtitled in original French, English, Spanish, German, and Italian
Run time 133 minutes

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Franco Alfano was the much maligned composer who finished Turandot after Puccini's death. It seems like it is sort of fashionable to put him down. This might be a bit unfair, because taking on the daunting task of finishing a masterpiece after an extraordinary composer who was one of the most beloved artists in the history of the genre dies and leaves it incomplete, is guaranteed to generate unflattering comparisons. So, maybe we should take Alfano's other claim to fame, Cyrano de Bergerac, with an open mind. We'll see.

This is the opera's first video medium recording. On audio, there is an Opera d'Oro recording of a 1975 performance in Turin, and a CPO recording of a performance done in Kiel, Germany in 2002 that was well reviewed in Opera News and is supposedly better than the Turin one (both have rather obscure casts). This DVD from Montpellier was released in the same year - 2005 - when the opera was given for the first time at the Met (with Plácido Domingo in the title role) after long oblivion. It was given again in 2006 at the Met and was part of the radio broadcasts, with Armiliato conducting. Subsequently Naxos released a DVD (also available on blu-ray disc) with Plácido and Radvanovsky, from a Valencia production in 2007. So, the work has enjoyed some significant revivals.

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OK, first impressions: rather unattractive long recitatives that are little more than declamatory. Roberto Alagna is enthusiastic but suffers from pitch unevenness which at times is rather cringe-worthy. Sets are traditional, and rather conventional and unimaginative (sort of what you get in your run-of-the-mill regional opera house). Costumes are the usual period ones, not bad, but not great either. Acting is the kind that one sees from singers who aren't exactly stage animals. Blocking is confusing. Lighting is unremarkable. Orchestral playing and conducting seem correct.

Musically and theatrically one wonders what advantage there is in staging this with long recitatives instead of the spoken dialogues in rhyming couplets of the original stage play (meaning, does the opera actually add to the theatrical potential of the play? So far, I doubt it). The orchestral accompaniment sounds compelling enough if a bit over-dramatic, but in terms of vocal writing, it seems clear that Alfano wasn't very gifted. Pacing is off as well, with longueurs that take down the action. It's not that there aren't interesting moments, but the problem is, those stem more from Rostand's charming play (which is followed closely by librettist Cain) than from Alfano's musical treatment of it. Orchestrally it is better than vocally but it is definitely no masterpiece and its score sounds more like one composed for cinema than one authored by an operatic composer.

Nathalie Manfrino's timbre of voice is not particularly beautiful. She is good-looking enough to be convincing as Roxane but her soprano instrument is not notable. Comprimarios are OK.

So far there isn't really anything that would make me recommend this DVD. Clearly Alagna in spite of some vocal boo-boos is several notches above everything and everyone else in this production, but other than for passionate fans of the French tenor, general audiences will find that this product doesn't have much going for it, and amounts to a not-so-good staging of a not-so-good opera - especially considering its absurd price of $49.99 on Amazon (Domingo's and Radvanovsky's version is much cheaper, even on blu-ray). Watching the stage play or one of its fine cinematic versions would be more entertaining than seeing/listening to this opera. I'll continue to watch (although I'm getting bored) and if I change my mind, I'll report back, but it doesn't seem likely that it will happen.

OK, finished. As I expected, no changing of my mind. I give this a C+ rating.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
April 15th, 2016, 01:35 AM
La Wally, opera in four acts, sung in Italian
Music by Alfredo Catalani
Libretto by Luigi Illica, after the novel Die Geier-Wally by Wilhelmine von Hillern
Premiered at La Scala in Milan, Italy, on January 20, 1892

A 2014 Cappricio / ORF Release on DVD, recorded live on Jan 27 and Feb 3, 2013, at the Tiroler Landestheater in Innsbruck, Austria

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Tiroler Symphonieorchester Innsbruck conducted by Alexander Rumpf
Chor, Extrachor und Statisterie der Tiroler Landestheaters, chorus master Michel Roberge

Production by Johannes Reitmeier
Sets by Thomas Dörfler
Costumes by Michael D. Zimmermann
Lighting by Johann Kleinheinz

Cast

Stromminger - Marc Kugel
Wally, his daughter - Susanna von der Burg
Giuseppe Hagenbach, her father's enemy and the man she loves - Paulo Ferreira
Vincenzo Gellner, her father's friend who wants to marry her - Bernd Valentin
Walter, her young friend (trouser role) - Susanne Langbein
Afra, the owner of the tavern - Kristina Cosumano
Il Pedone, a soldier - Johannes Wimmer

DVD 9, running time 119 minutes, and a Making-Of featurette (17 minutes, very, very informative). NTSC color 16:9, region code zero (worldwide), sound 2.0 stereo and 5.1 surround, subtitles in English, German, and Italian. The booklet has credits, a list of musical numbers with characters but no duration, a 2-page essay about the real-life story behind the novel, the novel itself, the composer, and the opera (informative) but no synopsis. 5 pages of biographies of all artists with their head shots. All repeated in German and English.

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My first encounter with this opera was on a TV broadcast from 1990 with Mara Zampieri in the title role, and the Wiener Symphoniker conducted by Steinberg. At the time I did not like the opera, and thought that other than the famous aria "Ebben? Ne andrň lontana" it was forgettable.

Now I confess that my opinion of it has improved. While it is no astounding masterpiece, it is not so bad. I think the merits of this production (the first one ever of this opera released on DVD) have contributed to rescuing the work in my esteem.

This is is a very, very local production, and sort of amateurish. However, surprise, surprise! These people can sing and play instruments! Nothing is very polished, and the performers with the exception of Susanne Langbein are well advanced in their ages and unattractive. They don't have much notion of acting, and the stage is very noisy when people walk on it.

But they sing with gusto! For the most part, the voices are pleasant and musicality is good across the board. Again, not even the singing is polished. Some of the notes go off-track here and there :conductor:, especially by the two protagonists Der Burg and Ferreira. Singing technique is not their forte. Still, paradoxically the aural effect is rather satisfactory. She sings pretty well the famous aria. As the opera goes buy, her voice does suffer - it's a difficult role and she is not a spring chicken.

The chorus is not that good (it's actually the weakest musical element), but the orchestra is not bad. This Tyrolean orchestra playing an opera based on Tyrolean events and folklore is really enthusiastic. This is helped by decent sound engineering on the 5.1 track, although lowering a bit the stage volume and increasing the pit volume would have helped. Image is dark and a bit granular at times, but nothing too annoying.

The staging is a bit bizarre, with a sort of ice cave / glacier concept, and from time to time abominable snowmen walk by. Costumes are appropriate to the Tyrolean setting but are quite heavy and even ugly. I like the snowmen costumes, though. They are fun. They are actually Perchtas and Berchtolds.

Even with the humble staging and the physically unattractive singers, this is a recommended buy (maybe barely, but recommended nevertheless), given a fairly good musical performance by the orchestra and the singers, down to the comprimarios. Particularly good are Mr. Valentin and Ms. Langbein, (the latter is the best singer in this show).

I wasn't expecting much from this, but I was pleased with the musical values (in spite of some defects), especially considering that this is a small, local opera company. Overall, B+. It should have a subtitle: "We are oldies but goodies!" :encouragement:

Also, let's not forget that the booklet and the Making-Of are good and informative.

Florestan
April 15th, 2016, 02:49 AM
Mascagni: L'Amico Fritz on DVD
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This Kultur product as usual is of incredibly bad quality, technically speaking; actually even more than usual. Sound synchrony is terrible, and sound balance is even worse. Microphone placement picks up certain singers too loudly, and others too softly. The sound of the orchestra is even worse, to a point that it considerably hinders any enjoyment of the musical aspects of the opera. The colors are artificial-looking, lighting is terrible, and the image definition is blurry at times. No choice of sound track, subtitles only in English (unlike most Kultur products, at least these can be turned off), no extras. Another bare-bones Kultur product, with one of the worst sound engineerings I've ever heard. No, believe me, folks. The sound on this DVD is a joke!

Staging: the sets look tacky and cheap with painted backgrounds and cardboard vegetation. At least it is a period staging with no Regie trickery. It is a production from a small regional company and orchestra called Cittŕ Lirica, staged in 2002 at the Teatro di Livorno.

Acting is rather static, with little movement, park and bark style.

The orchestra, conductor (Roberto Tolomelli), and first violin are rather mediocre, which compromises the beautiful violin solo in Act I and the nice intermezzo between acts II and III. The flautist is particularly bad.

Singing fortunately is not bad, unlike mostly everything else in this production. José Bros in the title role does a rather decent job, and while Dimitra Theodossiou - his love interest Suzel - is not good looking (her cover picture above is actually flattering, she looks worse than that), her singing has many fine moments. Alessandro Paliaga as the matchmaking rabbi David does well as long as the microphones can catch his voice (at times we can barely hear him, especially in the first act when he sings from a chair on the right side of the stage - at first I thought that his voice lacked volume, then in the second act when he sings upfront and the mikes catch him better, I concluded that the problem with his singing is one of sound engineering rather than being his fault). The gypsy boy Beppe, a trouser role, is sung by a weak link, screechy mezzo Sandra Pacheco-Quintero who is also a terrible actress who can't stop staring at the prompter (this is quite laughable, indeed - you gotta see it to believe it!).

What about the opera itself? For one thing, it's not Cavalleria Rusticana. Don't expect the same level of quality or you'll be sorely disappointed. However, it is good enough, with the beautiful Cherry Duet, the violin solo, some fine orchestral moments, and other good arias/scenes like Non mi resta che il pianto; Son pochi fiori; Facea si vecchio abramo; and the final love duet O amore, o bella luce del core. It's a lighthearted piece of modest proportions (run time about 90 minutes), undoubtedly pleasant, in spite of its weak libretto (actually, intentionally so; Mascagni was unhappy that some critics had said that Cavalleria Rusticana was successful thanks more to the libretto than to his music, and wanted a simple libretto in order to let people focus on his music) - Verdi actually said that the libretto for L'Amico Fritz was the worst he had ever seen.

So what is the verdict? Surprisingly, I think I can actually say that this DVD is recommended. Because, see, this is a sort of chamber opera, it's a nice love story that goes on in a more intimist setting (so the staging matters little), in which nothing much happens but the two principals have the most stage time (with the rabbi having most of the remaining lines), and given that the two principals here (and the baritone singing the rabbi) are the strongest points of this otherwise very primitive production and DVD, they still make of this an enjoyable experience of an opera that is good enough and rarely staged, so, I guess we're better off having this terrible Kultur product rather than not having L'Amico Fritz on DVD at all.

But given the sound problems and the mediocre orchestra, for those willing to better enjoy the musical aspects of this opera I'd rather recommend the fabulous Pavarotti/Freni CD (both making their studio debut) with Gavazzeni conducting the Orchestra of the ROH:

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I rather like that DVD and am not sure there are any other DVDs of this opera available.
I have the Pavarotti/Freni CD set, the Tassinari/Tagliavini (conducted by Mascagni himself).

Soave_Fanciulla
April 15th, 2016, 10:21 PM
La Wally, opera in four acts, sung in Italian
Music by Alfredo Catalani
Libretto by Luigi Illica, after the novel Die Geier-Wally by Wilhelmine von Hillern
Premiered at La Scala in Milan, Italy, on January 20, 1892

A 2014 Cappricio / ORF Release on DVD, recorded live on Jan 27 and Feb 3, 2013, at the Tiroler Landestheater in Innsbruck, Austria

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Just a week after I bought this DVD, and came to the same conclusion as you, le Grand Théâtre de Genčve put on a vastly superior performance of the same opera (one that really clicks with me!), with Ainhoa Arteta and Yonghoon Lee. Such a pity that it never made it to DVD instead of this distinctly mediocre production.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
May 7th, 2016, 10:56 PM
Medea in Corinto on blu-ray disc

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Medea in Corinto, melodramma tragico in two acts, sung in Italian
Music by Giovanni Simone Mayr - birth name, Johann Simon Mayr (born in Germany in 1763 - deceased in Bergamo, Italy, in 1845)
Libretto by Giuseppe Felice Romani, based on the Greek myth of Medea and the plays by Euripides and Pierre Corneille
Premiered at the Teatro San Carlo, Naples, Italy, on November 28, 1813

Released on blu-ray disc by ArtHaus Musik in 2011, recorded live in 2010 at the Nationaltheater München

Bayerisches Staatsorchester conducted by Ivor Bolton
Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper, chorus master Andrés Máspero

Stage Director Hans Neuenfels
Set Designer Anna Viebrok
Costume Designer Elina Schinizler
Lighting Designer Michel Bauer

Cast

Medea - Opera Lively interviewee Nadja Michael
Giasone - Ramón Vargas
Creusa - Elena Tsallagova
Creonte - Alastair Miles
Egeo - Alek Shrader
Evandro - Kenneth Roberson
Tideo - Francesco Petrozzi

On-stage violin played by Julia Dausacker
Harp played by Joy Smith

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German-born Mayr after spending his career in Italy (to where he fled after the order of the Illuminati was banned - he was a member) adopted an Italian name and was called the father of bel canto, having had among his students Donizetti and Bellini, and being Rossini's confessed role model (he referred to him as Papa Mayr). His biggest claim to fame is Medea in Corinto, the only one that deserved a handful of modern recordings and stagings, out of his 60 operas. His other works are now obscure, in spite of having been very popular during his life. This piece is still influenced by Mozart's style (also Haydn and Gluck were admired by Mayr) but is a precursor of early Italian Romantic and bel canto.

Medea in Corinto premiered in Naples in the year of birth of both Wagner and Verdi, with Isabella Colbran - Rossini's future wife - in the title role. It is one of the various operatic adaptations of the Greek myth, the most famous of them all being Cherubini's Medée with its celebrated performance by Maria Callas - other versions include those composed by Cavalli, Charpentier, Handel, Vivaldi, Benda, Mercadante, and Pacini, not to forget the ballets by Samuel Barber and John Neumeir, as well as the contemporary opera by Aribert Reimann.

This opera without being spectacular is definitely beautiful enough and stage-worthy (Donizetti said if he could compose an opera as good as this one, he'd die a happy man). The librettist Felice Romani is known for his collaborations with Donizetti, Bellini, Rossini, and a young Verdi.

We get on this blu-ray disc a very ridiculous Bavarian State Opera production by the infamous Hans Neuenfels, who manages to hit all clichés of Regieoper very rapidly, with these mandatory elements present already in the prologue:

Dead animals - check
Blood - check
Totalitarian/Fascist/Nazi imagery - check
Contemporary guns/rifles - check
Gratuitous, non-libretto-related violence - check (while the libretto is talking about joyful events, supras are being tortured, shot, and knifed)
Ugly, derelict sets - check

Surprisingly, he forgot to include a naked old lady - the only Regieoper cliché he didn't hit in the first five minutes! I mean, this is really tiresome. When will these directors learn that by trying to avoid the conventions of traditional staging, they have created equally boring conventions???

Undisturbed by the above, Nadja Michael still delivered a chilling, phenomenal acting job. Unlike other products featuring this artist, here the sound engineering was actually able to render well her most unusual voice (which tends to get compressed in recordings, and much more compelling when heard live, which I had the privilege of witnessing at the Met in Bluebeard's Castle).

Ramón Vargas on the other hand while being in fine voice, didn't seem very happy with the staging, appearing rather uninterested. I can't blame him, when Neuenfels chose to include such heavy-handed imagery as a Cupido figure who kills a pigeon then stabs himself in his own genitals during the first act Medea/Giasone duet of lost love - OK, Mr. Director, we get that the love is gone, it's all there in the music and the text; no need to mutilate Cupido's genitals to make the point!

Other singers did well too - Elena Tsallagova was a fine Creusa, and Alastair Miles' Creonte was not bad either. Young and handsome Alek Shrader was a good Egeo, and the comprimarios did not disappoint. The orchestra played nicely, under accomplished conductor Ivor Bolton, the leader of the Mozarteum Orchestra of Salzburg.

Costumes were awful, with a rather unsuccessful mix of styles (how many different military uniforms does one really need in one Regie staging???), not to forget the silliness of first presenting Medea dressed as a witch doctor. The sets also went for obvious symbolism, with three levels, the top one including a Greek temple, and the others representing Mayr's time and contemporary times: in itself, an interesting idea, but it got under-developed and under-utilized, not to forget that the sets are plain ugly. Blocking was rather bad, with chorus singers costumed as soldiers or in party dresses, going in and out in fairly uninspired fashion.

So, the musical aspects were all very good and justify the purchase of this blu-ray disc, especially for Nadja Michael fans. We get A+ musical elements, but the staging is definitely a C- with no redeeming qualities whatsoever.

The opera is presented in a nice package with all necessary items: sharp 1080i full HD image (region zero, worldwide), good sound tracks (PCM stereo, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0) with nice balance, subtitles in Italian, German, English, French, Spanish, Chinese, and Korean, and a booklet with credits, list of musical numbers with characters and duration, a very good 7-page essay that includes synopsis, the composer's biography and style, a performance history, and the director's explanation of his (silly) concepts (supposedly all the gratuitous violence is meant to symbolize the underlying fear that resides behind beauty - okaaaay), all in English, French, and German, with five black-and-white and two color production pictures. There are two interesting bonuses, a making-of, with interviews with the artists (even the prompter got interviewed and she had nice things to say!), and another interview with a Mayr scholar talking about the composer's biography and music. The runtime is 151 minutes for the opera and 48 minutes for the bonus features.

So, in summary, we get great singing and playing of a rather nice opera in a nice, very complete and informative package with good technical aspects, but unfortunately with extremely silly, annoying, clichéd Regie staging.

Whether or not the reader decides to purchase this product for $30 on Amazon depends on how much one is willing to tolerate bad Regie in order to benefit from good musical values. For me, it was a nice buy, especially for the good memories of having interviewed intelligent and attractive Nadja Michael in person, so I'm glad to have one of her best performances on video. But for those who are not really fond of genital mutilations, buyer beware.

Hoffmann
May 8th, 2016, 04:29 PM
The good news is that there seem to be only a handful, if that, of Regie directors filling opera house scheduling. I've seen about a half dozen different productions at the Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, and all were at least interesting productions and none fit the high Regie watermark. Most were modern interpretations, but did not include anything from the checklist.


Here's a photo from Mozart's La Clemenza di Tito , which looks a lot weird, but was fairly standard:


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Here is the final scene of Andreas Kriegenburg's Götterdämmerung I saw in Munich in 2012:


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That's about as weird as I've seen. Berlin productions have had a few questionable concepts, but nothing really unacceptable except that final scene of the Deutsche Oper's Lohengrin last year with the decision to present the dead and bloodied body of Gottfried completely canceling Wagner's otherwise transcendent final scene of the opera:


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Not to mention that neither Ortrud nor Elsa died. What was that about?


Note: I don't know why the Götterdämmerung photo doubled like that - that is a mirror image showing, for some reason..