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View Full Version : Operas by Massenet on DVD, blu-ray, and CD



Aramis
December 20th, 2011, 07:44 PM
http://images.pricerunner.com/product/image/301461227/Massenet-s-Werther-(Jonas-Kaufmann-Sophie-Koch)-%5BDVD%5D-%5B2010%5D-%5BNTSC%5D.jpg

I did read some unpleasant things about this on the other forum which made me discover this gem as late as today. It is truely magnificent DVD. I won't write about opera itself because it's not the proper section, so let me go straight to the qualities of this particular version. All four major singers make great quartet, Kaufmann was dangerious choice for Werther as he has rather "tough guy" voice but he performs the character very well, strenght of his voice doesn't spoil the sensitiveness. Koch and Gillet are two splendid female voices and especially latter was surprisingly unique to me since she played rather secondary role. Tezier is known to me since I've watched Gardiner's Les Troyens and just now I had first opportunity to hear him in full performance since then. Fine singer, though I hardly have comparison with other Alberts right now.

Visually it is as special as it is musically. Not to mention the obvious fact that Kaufmann is handsome and Koch is very fair lady, the staging is done with fine taste and diffuses rare, poetic aura all over the performance. One may say it's humble, but for me it's almost perfect. Especially in act II, that lane with fallen leaves of autumn and wide, blue sky above. Also the dark room in act III, even if there were not much objects except the clavecin, couple of books and chairs.

Right away it enters my favourite opera DVDs.

Elektra
December 21st, 2011, 09:45 PM
Right away it enters my favourite opera DVDs.

I completely agree. Just yesterday I watched it. Again! (I do not dare to admit how many times I have seen it)

Amfortas
December 21st, 2011, 10:47 PM
Yes, and all under the brilliant leadership of that great director, Benoît Jacquot!

[Ducks for cover, knowing what's coming . . . ]

Soave_Fanciulla
December 22nd, 2011, 01:41 AM
Yes, and all under the brilliant leadership of that great director, Benoît Jacquot!

[Ducks for cover, knowing what's coming . . . ]

Oh Ok then: http://serve.mysmiley.net/fighting/fighting0010.gifhttp://serve.mysmiley.net/fighting/fighting0025.gifhttp://serve.mysmiley.net/fighting/fighting0003.gif

HarpsichordConcerto
December 25th, 2011, 11:03 PM
Thaïs

Eva Mei (soprano), Michele Perusi (bass-baritone), William Joyner (tenor) & Christophe Fel (bass). Orchestra e Coro del Teatro La Fenice di Venezi, Marcello Viotti (conductor) & Pier Luigi Pizzi (director, set and costume designer), 2004.

This is my second Thaïs. I didn't deliberately buy this but it came as part of a box-set on the Dynamic label with several other operas. It's a decent production but not near as good as the Renée Fleming/Jesús López-Cobos production on Decca. I thought I briefly mention it because of some fine singing by bass-baritone Michele Pertusi as Athanaël, probably the best aspect of this production. Eva Mei played Thaïs, who was decent but no way near Renée Fleming (I admit, perhaps there is some personal bias here :D ). A nice visual aspect featured the dream scenes with a "well-shaped" topless model :D doing a few body movements that were ... very nice. :D See clip below!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eVQ28Cx8Mws

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/511FBR6BC3L._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Dark_Angel
December 26th, 2011, 12:13 AM
Brilliant Pizzi production with some great visuals for that Thais........

During the "meditation" we have that great gymnastic dance sequence above the bed shown in youtube clip, sexy imaginary dancer assumes the symbolic Christ cruciform pose at 4:50, but also notice as Thais the courtesan transforms from a life of pleasure seeking to a pilgrimage of religious redemption her bed of roses turns to thorns 5:10, what a great visual metaphor!

Also there are some elaborate dance numbers early that are not in the Fleming MET version........I completely agree that Fleming is better actress/singer of Thais compared to Eva Mei, but I love those Pizzi visual touches

I should mention that the Fleming Thais has a stunning visual moment when Fleming makes her entrance to party with that amazing gold gown.....talk about turning some heads

http://lacasadellalirica.blogvie.com/files/2009/01/thais-05-renee-fleming.jpg

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
December 28th, 2011, 04:34 AM
I don't think the La Fenice nude dancer in Thaïs is sexy - Letizia Giuliani, a famous and gifted Italian dancer. She is too muscular to be sexy. The point of that scene is not one of being arousing - it is rather, a very artistic and beautiful scene. While Eva Mei is not great, I liked this La Fenice Thaïs, although I haven't seen Renée's. Probably the best part of this Fenice production was the Méditation. The imagery is superb, not just the very artistic and symbolically rich dance, but also the roses falling down and leaving behind only the thorns - a very evocative metaphor.

Dark_Angel
December 28th, 2011, 12:55 PM
I don't think the La Fenice nude dancer in Thaïs is sexy - Letizia Giuliani, a famous and gifted Italian dancer. She is too muscular to be sexy. The point of that scene is not one of being arousing - it is rather, a very artistic and beautiful scene. While Eva Mei is not great, I liked this La Fenice Thaïs, although I haven't seen Renée's. Probably the best part of this Fenice production was the Méditation. The imagery is superb, not just the very artistic and symbolically rich dance, but also the roses falling down and leaving behind only the thorns - a very evocative metaphor.

I will gladly have dancer Letizia visit my dreams........with her sexy toned muscles :love-struck:

The dance dream sequence during "meditation" represents a mental struggle going on within Thais as she come to terms with giving up the pleasure seeking earthly delights of her current/past life and accepting the hardships and spiritual purity of redemption.....when she mentally resolves to accept path to redemption the dancer assumes the Christ pose and the roses drop from the bed

So the dream dance is visually acting out the mental struggles in her mind........great idea

Hilltroll72
December 28th, 2011, 06:08 PM
I don't think the La Fenice nude dancer in Thaïs is sexy - Letizia Giuliani, a famous and gifted Italian dancer. She is too muscular to be sexy.
[...]


Insufficient padding, you are saying. Unfortunately, any padding is apt to be worn off in practicing.

Also unfortunately, the only Massenet opera I have seen is Don Quichotte. Amazingly, I enjoyed it. I suppose I need to see 'Meditation' preferably on DVD or BluRay. Any specific recommendations?

Ann Lander (sospiro)
December 28th, 2011, 06:43 PM
Also unfortunately, the only Massenet opera I have seen is Don Quichotte. Amazingly, I enjoyed it.

I'm glad you enjoyed it. It's now a real favourite of mine & I wish there was another DVD apart from this one (which I hate).

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51cbLCIb%2BGL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Hilltroll72
December 28th, 2011, 07:11 PM
I'm glad you enjoyed it. It's now a real favourite of mine & I wish there was another DVD apart from this one (which I hate).

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51cbLCIb%2BGL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

The DVD I have, with Regine Crespin in the female lead, is 'out there' somewhere. It was produced by a small (Parisian?) company, and of course I'm not finding my copy. I will Google.

Hilltroll72
December 28th, 2011, 07:21 PM
Bah! Nothing I recognize by Googling. If and when I come across my copy, I hope I remember to tell you about it. I seem to recall that the sets looked kind of semi-pro, but the singing was fine.

Ann Lander (sospiro)
December 28th, 2011, 07:51 PM
Bah! Nothing I recognize by Googling. If and when I come across my copy, I hope I remember to tell you about it. I seem to recall that the sets looked kind of semi-pro, but the singing was fine.

Thank you anyway Trolly for looking. I think there's a bootleg version which I wouldn't want so I'll make do with my CDs

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
December 29th, 2011, 02:40 AM
Insufficient padding, you are saying. Unfortunately, any padding is apt to be worn off in practicing.

Also unfortunately, the only Massenet opera I have seen is Don Quichotte. Amazingly, I enjoyed it. I suppose I need to see 'Meditation' preferably on DVD or BluRay. Any specific recommendations?

There are, that I know, only 3 Thaïs DVDs (one of them also on blu-ray).

The La Fenice with Eva Mei and the Italian muscular dancer has been mentioned. I liked it.
Then there is the Renee Fleming one which seems to be a consensus as top choice.
Finally there is a weird and kind of static blu-ray that most people are not too enthusiastic about.
So you probably should get Renee's. Unless you like your opera when it includes several gorgeous women topless (this La Fenice one has lots of nudity, not just the dancer - actually the other women who appear topless are much sexier than this dancer, in my opinion).

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/511FBR6BC3L._AA160_.jpghttp://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51SqZTh5iUL._AA160_.jpghttp://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51fsR%2BMCljL._AA160_.jpg

Hilltroll72
December 29th, 2011, 04:36 PM
Thank you anyway Trolly for looking. I think there's a bootleg version which I wouldn't want so I'll make do with my CDs

I found in one of my racks a "Bastille 2000" DVD that is probably the one I was thinking of. It may or may not be a bootleg.

Hilltroll72
December 29th, 2011, 04:38 PM
There are, that I know, only 3 Thaïs DVDs (one of them also on blu-ray).

The La Fenice with Eva Mei and the Italian muscular dancer has been mentioned. I liked it.
Then there is the Renee Fleming one which seems to be a consensus as top choice.
Finally there is a weird and kind of static blu-ray that most people are not too enthusiastic about.
So you probably should get Renee's. Unless you like your opera when it includes several gorgeous women topless (this La Fenice one has lots of nudity, not just the dancer - actually the other women who appear topless are much sexier than this dancer, in my opinion).

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/511FBR6BC3L._AA160_.jpghttp://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51SqZTh5iUL._AA160_.jpghttp://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51fsR%2BMCljL._AA160_.jpg

Thanks, Alma. I went for Renee's version.

Hmm. This forum could be dangerous for 'nonbelievers'.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 12:54 AM
Massenet: Cléopâtre on DVD
This is a concert version, recorded live at the Great Thermae of Emperor Adrian's villa in Rome in July of 2002.

Cléopâtre - Montserrat Caballé
Octavie - Montserrat Martí (Caballé's daughter)
Charmion - Eneida Garcia
Marc Antoine - Filippo Bettoschi
Spakos - Nikolai Baskov
Ennius - Andrea Sivilla
Amnheus/Esclave - Roberto Valentini
Severus/L'Esclave de la porte - Gianpaolo Fiocchi

Chorus: Schola Cantorum Santa Maria degli Angeli-Aramus (Osvaldo Guidotti Choir Master)
Youth Mediterranean Orchestra conducted by Miquel Ortega.

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

Technically speaking, another bare-bones Kultur product, with incredibly bad sound, with the sound track lagging behind the image, and terrible balance: to be able to hear the singers one must crank the volume up which makes the sounds of the orchestra very loud. Subtitles are in English only which is very annoying - not even in original French?? Run time is 2 hours and 6 minutes, no bonus features. The image is sharp and in widescreen.

The problem with synchrony of image and sound is so bad and so annoying that find myself looking away from the screen and just listening to the opera, therefore I don't see any advantage in buying this DVD over a CD of this opera, not to mention the sound balance problems, one of the worst I've ever seen in any DVD.

No wonder Amazon.com had it for $29.99 and now it's $9.99. Probably nobody was buying this thing.

Well, I checked a database, and it turns out that there are only 3 CD versions of this opera, one of them being this same performance, another one being a pirate version, so it looks like the only alternative is this:

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/413FqektDiL._SL500_AA300_.jpg (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/images/B000001SPD/ref=dp_image_0?ie=UTF8&n=5174&s=music)

...which sells new for the friendly price of $178.46. Eighteen times more expensive than the DVD.

So, I guess that if some Massenet scholar wants to own a copy of this opera, this DVD is the way to go (unless we're talking about a rich scholar, or the Music department is funding the purchase).

However, Montserrat Caballé is absolutely horrendous in this. Like an Amazon.com reviewer said, she's not just past her prime, she's past her decline as well. She was 69 years old at the time of this recording!

The orchestra is rather anemic, and the other singers are not much better. I have seen Caballé's daughter in other productions, and she is as bad here as elsewhere. I don't understand why a master singer like Caballé didn't discourage her talentless daughter from the folly of trying to follow her mother's footsteps. The result in my opinion must be sheer humiliation for the young woman. Talented sopranos suffer in comparison to Montserrat Caballé in her prime, let alone this talentless young woman.

What about the opera itself? Let's put it this way: this is no Manon, no Thaïs either. It's not even Werther (which I don't like very much). The orchestral parts are nice. The arias are not as powerful as in other Massenet operas.

Verdict: don't bother. Not recommended.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 12:55 AM
Massenet: Manon on DVD
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51A5%2BQSm%2BqL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

OK, finally I'll see Anna's competition, which aggravated me so much by winning first place in our TC Recommended DVDs for Manon, instead of this (second place, for my deep despair):

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/515aIi3QAtL._AA160_.jpg

Manon
Opéra-comique in 5 acts and 6 tableaux, sung in French
Music by Jules Massenet
Libretto by Henri Meilhac and Philippe Gille, based on the 1731 novel L'histoire du chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut by the Abbé Prevost.
Première at the Opéra-Comique, Paris, on January 19, 1884

June 2007 live composite, conductor Victor Pablo Pérez, Symphonic Orchestra and Chorus of the Gran Teatro del Liceo, Barcelona.

Stage director David McVicar
Video director François Roussillon
Sets and Costumes Tanya McCallin

Cast:

Manon - Natalie Dessay
Le Chevalier Des Grieux - Rollando Villazón
Lescaut - Manuel Lanza
Le Compte Des Grieux - Samuel Ramey
Guillot de Morfontaine - Francisco Vas
De Brétigny - Didier Henry
L'Hôtelier - Lluis Sintes
Poussette - Cristine Obregón
Javotte - Marisa Martins
Rosette - Anna Tobella
La servante - Claudia Schneider

Virgin Classics (EMI) January 2008 release in 2 DVDs
Running time 175 minutes (opera) and 59 minutes (documentary)
Sound tracks LPCM stereo, DTS 5.0, DD 5.0 - good balance and clarity
Optional subtitles in original French, English, German, Italian, Catalan, and Spanish
Menu languages, the first four above
NTSC 16:9 format with good colors and definition, all regions
Bonus feature: 59 minutes of a behind-the-scenes documentary with Dessay, Villazón, and McVicar.

The Amazon.com price is right: for $19.50 this 2-DVD release is rather on the bargain side.

Staging: for a change in modern productions, this one sets the action to the time intended by the composer and librettists (this is actually so refreshing... it shouldn't be refreshing, it should be the natural thing to do, but it's oh so rare these days!), the Parisian 18th century, and use traditional costumes. The background for the first scene reproduces the stands in a bull ring. Tables and Rococo chairs are thrown here and there in disarray. Eye candy is provided by a large group of attractive young females (actresses and dancers, probably not singers, I suppose, although they do mouth the words at times, but I sincerely doubt that the chorus of the Liceo is made exclusively of very attractive young females) who walk around in various capacities, showing lots of cleavage. They continue to participate as privileged spectators, spying on the characters, looking on from behind panels and mannequins. Panels in some scenes reproduce period paintings that evoke the Parisian Belle Époque and also convey a claustrophobic environment that looks upon the two lovers with harshness.

I find the staging tasteful, atmospheric, and beautiful, and I like the idea of these Peeping Toms; they convey the notion of the interested public avid for a lurid story full of scandal; this all gets to be very theatrical and effective.

Petite Ms. Dessay is actually the least attractive one, nothing compared to the sexy bombshell that Anna Netrebko shows us in her production. Nevertheless, this gifted actress can make herself attractive just by being playful and natural, by throwing her expressive eyes around, and using a luminous smile to charm Villazón's Des Grieux.

Villazón over-acts a lot, more than his usual, I'd say. Natalie's acting is superb, like her usual.
Both sing very well, and here they don't fully experience the vocal troubles that have marred their careers (regrettably, four years after this production Villazón's career is all but shot, and Natalie is in frank vocal decline), although Villazón's vocal crisis was about to start, shortly after this performance - here he gets a little bit of trouble in some high notes but is still in good shape. I do prefer his singing in the Anna Netrebko production. His diction in French is not ideal, especially by comparison with native-speaker Dessay.

Other singers in this production are not as gifted. I don't particularly like Manuel Lanza's Lescaut, unlike some reviewers. Didier Henry's De Brétigny is correct but nothing to write home about. Acting however is good across the board. I haven't reached the parts with Ramey yet, but at 60, some reviewers say that he presents a lot of wobble.

This conductor, thus far unknown to me, seems to capture well the French style of the score. I like what the orchestra did here - not brilliant, but not sinking the ship either.

End of acts I and II, DVD 1. I'm watching the documentary now, before I go to the other DVD for Acts 3, 4, and 5.

The documentary is sort of nice, we see the singers rehearsing, getting ready... but it has its downsides as well: it's filmed with a very shaky, nausea-inducing hand-held camera, and is too long. We get to see McVicar doing actor directing, and he does goes to details on how they need to act the scenes. This makes for some funny moments. He shows to Villazón how he needs to think that he won't allow a woman with such beautiful breasts go to a convent, but then Natalie says - "well I don't have any breasts, I just have bones here" while she feels her rib cage.http://www.talkclassical.com/images/smilies/lol.gif I can't help but think that Anna wouldn't have this problem.http://operalively.com/forums/images/smilies/biggrin.gif

rgz must have seen this already, but for other Natalie fans out there, I must say that this documentary shows her completely topless (actually there are full body shots of her practically nude, down to her miniscule pants only), even with close-ups of her breasts, and while Anna is much better gifted in this department, I wouldn't dismiss Natalie's girls. They're small but perky. She is rehearsing for the bath scene in act II, and while during the production itself her nudity is appropriately hidden by servants with towels, here the camera lingers and shows her body at length. I confess that even I found it a bit cheap. Why did they need to do this? Did they want to boost the DVD sales? Natalie seems to be a rather uninhibited woman, but I wonder if other sopranos would put up with this. It seems rather unnecessary, especially when the camera engages in a close-up of her nude breasts. What's exactly the musical value of this???

I like better the scenes of her getting her make-up. She looks positively beautiful there (it's amazing how this woman knows how to use what she's got even if it's not much). This is apparent when McVicar asks her - "shouldn't you be wearing a little chemise under this?" Natalie replies, propping up her breasts - "I think it is sexier like this."

What follows is a scene with several people around Natalie, and the camera is behind these people, at head's height, and it gives the spectator the impression that one is there, peeking over people's shoulders to get a close look of this talented artists doing her thing. This is the entire spirit of this documentary: there aren't interviews, it's just a silent camera following the artists around during rehearsals. Like I said, it could be shortler and I'd prefer less shaking, but it's an interesting take, a change from the usual "Making of" documentary.

I turned off the documentary, will see the rest later (that's how long it is) and turned back to the opera, act III starting. [OK, seeing the rest now, next we get the rehearsal of the Saint-Sulpice scene and we see that the physical violence of the scene was indeed done out of McVicar's actor direction, he demonstrates to Rolando how to almost beat Natalie up, then we have Natalie applying make-up for the death scene, and its rehearsal].

A word about the opera itself, for the benefit of recent opera fans: I love this one, and I believe it is vastly superior to Puccini's Manon Lescaut which has the exact same story but is theatrically messy, heavy-handed, and in my opinion one of Puccini's least musically appealing works. Massenet's version is delicate and elegant, and matches a lot better the profound frenchness of the story.

Back to Act III, Natalie really shines here. She looks beautiful and charming and her usual agile coloratura is used to good benefit. Her acting is subtle and perfectly well controlled. This is notable when she sings the second part of the famous gavotte (Obéissons quand leur voix appelle) in a more introspective manner, conveying some ambivalence about having abandoned Des Grieux for the easy demi-monde life.

Still, her trademark gamine style which helps her in La Fille du Régiment here backfires on her and makes of her a less convincing courtesan than Anna's equivalent scene, when the latter conveys a more mature sexiness of a demi-mondaine who is not the naive country girl any longer; not to forget that Anna's voice is fuller and more potent than Natalie's.

OK, Ramey is on. Oh God, his wobble is indeed terrible. One would have preferred to see him retire earlier from the stage, not to spoil his excellent legacy. Of course Le Compte Des Grieux is an older man, but here Ramey's wobble is so pronounced and unpleasant that even the discount of age doesn't apply (unlike for instance when an old singer with a wobble is cast to sing The Great Inquisitor role in Don Carlo - there, we want the wobble, but here it sounds pathetic).

The ballet in Roman costumes is NOT successful at all. The costumes look quite ridiculous and the choreography is weak and poorly coordinated, and engages in quite misguided slapstick elements. As usual, rarely opera companies put together a good ballet scene, for the good reason that the most gifted ballerinas are not with the opera companies but rather with the prestigious ballet companies. Here there is another problem: while the claustrophobic, decadent, cluttered setting works very well for the operatic scenes given the gloomy nature of the plot, here it robs from the ballet a decent large space to develop. Pretty bad, I'd say, and the weakest point of this production so far.

Oh well, even weaker is Ramey's showing in the Saint-Sulpice scene at the end of act III. He almost sinks this production, to the point that when he's doing spoken dialogue, one is grateful that he doesn't need to sing.

Oh God. Villazón then sings Ah! Fuyez, douce image and unfortunately I have to revise what I said above about his voice stress not showing that much. Here it shows. He is definitely not as good as in the same scene with Anna just a couple of months earlier.

Then it's Natalie's turn. Pardonnez moi, Dieu de toute puissance is excellent, with her usual gift for acting despair and turmoil. The scene *is* much better, more intense, than in Anna's DVD, when De Grieux turns half-violent and almost strangles Manon. N'est-ce plus ma main? is also spectacular.

Next we have act IV's gambling parlor scene. McVicar as expected doesn't fail to deliver some interesting decadence-laden shots, including very beautiful naked boobs. In spite of the atmospheric staging, here I do prefer Anna's pole dancing scene. On the other hand I'm warming up to the Manuel Lanza's singing, I guess he needed to warm up as well and wasn't at his best in Act I.

Bleak act V is starting.

The bull ring scenario serves well in all sorts of scenes (in spite of the fact that it isn't French but I guess this is a little tribute to where this opera is being performed - Barcelona). This is a clever staging. Now we get it to represent the desolate spot near Le Havre, with some snow falling and dark lighting. Villazón and Lanza act this scene well.

I expect from Natalie a good death scene.

But while I watch this, I need to get to the bottom of this production in what I was supposed from the beginning to accomplish - a comparison between Dessay's version and Netrebko's version.

I know that nobody will believe me here, given my strong bias.

But sincerely, I do think that overall, the Berlin blu-ray with Anna and Rollando *is* better.

The updated staging (to circa 1950) although more effective than most updates is not as atmospheric as McVicar's which *is* superior, but the Berlin production does have some important assets.

First, it is available on blu-ray. Second, it's got Anna Netrebko.

No, seriously, as much as Natalie does as good a job as she is capable of doing here, it's exactly because here we have Dessay and there we have Netrebko that the other production is more appealing. And I'm not just talking looks. Believe me, I'm not.

What happens is that Anna and Rolando have ten times more chemistry between themselves than Natalie and Rolando.

Natalie is a spectacular actress but she has a somewhat limited acting range. She's a good gamine, and she's a good crazy/despondent woman.

But she definitely isn't a good femme fatale, so her acting is very appropriate for Manon's evolutionary stages at the beginning and the end of the opera, but NOT in the middle of it, and this failure shows its impact in chemistry, credibility, and dramatic continuity. One feels that Villazón seems tense, maybe thanks to his impending vocal trouble, but beyond this, he seems to never get fully involved like he did when Anna was his partner. He soldiers on, but he just doesn't seem as touched by her as he should.

Anna on the other hand can look naive in the first act;girlie, smoking hot and flirtatious in the second act; maturely sexy in the first part of act III and act IV (with added bitterness and eagerness in IV); desperate but seductive in the second part of act III, and sick and destroyed in act V - and ALL of her portraits are convincing and sound, which makes Rolando vibrate and resonate with her at all times (in spite of the fact that the Saint-Sulpice scene *is* better here). Besides, Anna's version doesn't have Ramey's unpleasant wobble.

And then, let's acknowledge it, Anna's voice *is* much more beautiful than Natalie's, has more fullness, projection, and power, although it does have less agility.

The end. Like I said, the dying scene was good but it lacked something (Anna looked sicker).

Final verdict:

This version is highly recommended, I won't deny it. But Anna's version *is* better overall. Seriously. Sincerely. You can believe me.:angel:

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 01:00 AM
Massenet: Don Quichotte from a TV broadcast
Don Quichotte, comédie-héroïque in five (short) acts.
Music by Jules Massenet, sung in French
Libretto by Henri Caïn, after Le Chevalier de La Longue Figure, stage play by Jacques Le Lorrain, loosely based on Miguel de Cervantes' novel Don Quixote
Premiered on February 19, 1910, Opéra de Monte Carlo.
Running time a little under 2 hours

Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie, Brussels
Marc Minkowski conducts the Orchestre Symphonique de La Monnaie
Stage director Peter de Caluwe
Scenarios and costumes Laurent Pelly
La Belle Dulcinée - Silvia Tro Santafé
Don Quichotte - José van Dam
Sancho Pansa - Werner Van Mechelen
Pedro, Garcias, Rodriguez, and Juan: Julie Mossay, Camille Merckx, Vincent Delhoume, Gijs Van der Linden

Massenet was very sick when he composed this, suffering from acute rheumatic pains, mostly bed-ridden, and he died two years after completing it. Maybe thanks to his circumstances, it is not considered to be, musically, one of his most successful efforts, and critical reception has always been mixed, being at best a succès d'estime.

This 2010 performance was part of an Arte TV broadcast. It's van Dam's farewell from the La Monnaie stage after 30 years of collaboration. There are interesting interviews, nice shots of the beautiful theater and of the royal box, the queen herself being there for the farewell to a beloved Belgian artist.

Staging is updated, with sort of 1950's clothes mixed with some traditional Spanish stylized costumes. It's a bit trashy, literally (lots of trash on stage - mostly books and paper) and not visually appealing.

Mr. van Dam is still in decent shape at age 70, with a bit of a wobble but not too bad, and the age of the character doesn't make the wobble inappropriate. The voice is significantly weaker but with the same beautiful timbre we know from him throughout his long, 50-year career. Good thing that he's kind of retired after this except for some concerts, though; he won't be able to keep going much longer.

Ms. Santafé is energetic and with a powerful mezzo voice. She sings well and looks decent (sort of an average-looking woman). She is a strong link.

Van Mechelen is a weak link and actually has a more pronounced wobble than Mr. van Dam's but lacks the latter's musicality and experience. So, I see that this will be a wobble festival.

Mr. Minkowski is his usual competent self and I have no complaints about the orchestra. He keeps his forces subdued, not to drown a weak-voiced aging van Dam.

The local people singing the minor roles are not that good. This is only my second DVD from this opera company, and I didn't like the first one. It doesn't seem to be a high quality operation.

I'm not exactly thrilled with the opera itself. - the orchestration seems conventional, and the vocal writing is not especially beautiful. The fact that the acts are short is a plus, and makes it more theatrical. There are good moments (act III has some beautiful arias).

I do like van Dam's performance, and the fact that it's one of his last ones in a full blown staged opera makes of this a historically important document.

The scene of the fight against the windmill is well done. I also like the fact that the fairly beautiful prélude to act III is played with a projected movie on the background, featuring scenes with the Don and Dulcinée.

During the intermission there is a pretty spectacular short documentary on van Dam's career with sensational clips of his best performances, interviews, childhood pictures. This in itself justifies this DVD.

OK, final words.

My appreciation increased as the opera went on. I had already liked act III more than I and II, and acts IV and V are very good too.

I do believe now that this work is musically appealing as well.

Given José van Dam's moving and exquisite performance, the documentary, the good conducting, and the uneven but after all good average quality of the work, I'll give to this production my highly recommended seal.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 01:01 AM
Massenet: Cendrillon on CD
http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/317Xi2FKCTL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Cendrillon, Conte de Fées en 4 actes, sung in French, premiered in 1899 in Paris, to great public and critic acclaim
Music by Jules Massenet (1842 - 1912)
Libretto by Henri Cain, after Perrault's Cinderella

1978, Recorded at All Saints Church, London
Sony Classical 2CD, released in 1979, re-released ADD in 2003. Liner notes are practically non-existent, limited to a couple of pages with one short paragraph about the opera and a list of tracks and durations that doesn't even list the characters. Credits are briefly mentioned on the back cover.

Conductor Julius Rudel
Philhamonia Orchestra
Ambrosian Opera Chorus

Cendrillon - Frederica von Stade
Le Prince Charmant - Nicolai Gedda
Madame de la Haltière - Jane Berbié
Pandolfe - Jules Bastin
La Fée - Ruth Welting
Noémie - Teresa Cahill
Dorothée - Elizabeth Bainbridge
Le Roi - Claude Méloni
Le Doyen de la Faculté - Paul Crook
Le Surintendant des Plaisirs - Christian du Plessis
Le Premier Ministre - John Noble
La voix du Heraut - Claude Méloni

Running Time, Disc 1 (Acts I, II) 71 minutes, Disc 2 (Acts III, IV) 65 minutes

Well, folks, this is a very delicate, elegant, and well balanced score. It has a definite fairy tale quality, a bit dreamy and wavy, serene and contemplative most of the time, but also with a sense of drama and excitement at other times. The vocal writing is sophisticated, with beautiful coloratura. The ballet music in Act II is very stimulating. There is good rhythm. There is variety. For example, the vocal oscillation between the Haltière women and the stunned crowd when Cendrillon arrives at the ball is very inventive. The music for the Prince Charmant is heartfelt and melodious, with nice opportunities for beautiful singing. What is written for the title role is just as good. Tone painting is effective, with the various situations being well told by the music - like in the chorus of the forest spirits (Act III, tableau 2) in which the coloratura practically makes one visualize the magical environment - this continues to even better effect in the Danse Silencieuse des gouttes de Rosée - admirable blend of sopranos and contraltos with chorus and orchestra. The music for La Fée during this scene is goose-bumping. Another fabulous scene is the simultaneous duo in act III scene 2 (Cendrillon: A deux genoux... Prince: Je viens à vous...) which soars more and more until the end of act III.

The composer was at the very height of his mature and experienced powers, and it shows. This serious treatment of the topic (as opposed to comic La Cenerentola) is very effective.

It is difficult to sing, and to do it right two exceptional singers are required.

Here in this recording we have exactly what is needed. Cendrillon is the spectacular Flicka, and in spite of the fact that Massenet wrote the role for a soprano de sentiment in a trouser role, here it is transposed to a tenor but it is given to a very competent one, Nicolai Gedda. These two gifted artists put together a very impressive performance, which reaches peaks of beauty in their duet during the ball which ends Act II.

The ending is a bit abrupt, could have been more developed. But I like how the chorus and the singers all together address the public at the end, acknowledging the magical quality of this work by saying:

"La pièce est terminée.
On a fait de son mieux
Pour vous faire envoler par les beaux pays bleus."

Bravo!

My only regret is that neither Flicka, nor Gedda have good articulation and accent in French. At times it is hard to understand what they're saying even if one is simultaneously reading the original libretto! Oh well, do I have a second regret: that band containing the names of the singers on the cover picture is hiding the best part of the beautiful half-naked creature's anatomy. http://operalively.com/forums/images/smilies/tongue.gif

Regardless of these diction problems, they impact enormous emotion onto their roles, and both have exquisite musical phrasing and sense of musicality.

von Stade's voice blends admirably well with the orchestra.

The libretto is also of good quality. You know, it's the over-exposed Cinderella story, and Cain is still able to make it poetic and surprising.

The supporting cast does well and I can't identify any weak link. I especially like Jules Bastin as Pandolfe and Ruth Welting as La Fée. Always interesting is Jane Berbié whom I have liked in other recordings as well.

Conducting and orchestra sound impeccable.

This opera doesn't pack strong events, and some may find it boring or too 'Disney-sy'. But it does pack emotions and lyricism and I find it musically very stimulating. I repeat the word I used at first because I believe it is its best definition: elegant.

This is a good recording with talented singers, of an opera that is extremely melodious - as beautiful as Rusalka. One regrets the absence of a libretto but it is very easy to find in the Internet.

Highly recommended.

It's hard to understand why this very beautiful opera hasn't been released on DVD, even though it's been produced several times recently, including a production with Joyce DiDonato which I bet would have been a very good DVD.

Hilltroll72
January 13th, 2012, 09:32 PM
I found in one of my racks a "Bastille 2000" DVD that is probably the one I was thinking of. It may or may not be a bootleg.

To further confuse the issue for me... I find that I transferred back in 2005 an LP set (London OSA-13134) recording of the opera. Ghiaurov, Crespin, Bacquier, Kord/L Orchestre de la Suisse Romande. Possibly recorded in 1978. Now I don't know if this is the Crespin performance I was thinking of.

Ah well, at least this is a good and non-bootleg recording.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 14th, 2012, 04:24 AM
This is not the place for it, but just an announcement for those who love Massenet: Cendrillon live from the Royal Opera House will be shown in movie theaters around the world on January 24th. Lovely and elegant opera, very melodious. Don't miss it!

Herkku
September 22nd, 2012, 11:16 PM
Le Roi de Lahore

Another old review.

940

Lahore being in the news from time to time nowadays as a site of political/religious unrest, I couldn't help myself but had to include Le Roi de Lahore by Massenet. In this opera there is a battle between Hindu and Muslim forces. I don't know what they are fighting about now that Lahore is a part of Pakistan, a Muslim country, exploding mosques and so on. This is best left to other forums.

Le Roi de Lahore was the first new opera performed at the Palace Garnier, Paris. So, quite an honour for the composer. All kind of exoticism was very much in fashion (it was premiered in 1877). Bizet's Les Pecheurs de Perles we have already dealt with (and this performance comes from the same opening season of Teatro la Fenice - although now we are in the actual newly-built opera house!), Meyerbeer's L'Africaine, Delibes' Lakme (Oh! When shall we have a production of it with Dessay?) and so on. Here the exoticism reaches its peak in the headware, otherwise everything is very stylish.

My reference here is the audio recording by Sutherland(already having the distinctive beat in her voice), Lima, Milnes, Bonynge.

Sitâ, Ana María Sánchez, may not be slim, but has a beautiful, strong voice, of course younger than Sutherland's and without a hint of the beat. She may not be the most convincing singing actress, but this is not an opera where it would matter very much. None of the male singers have an opportunity to show off with their acting talents either. Alim (the tenor) is sung by Giuseppe Gipali (?), Scindia (the baritone) by Vladimir Stoyanov, Indra (the bass) by Federico Sacchi, all perfectly accecptable.

The music is beautiful throughout, but not particularly memorable. If there is one aria that catches your attention, it's "Repose, ô belle amoureuse" of Kaled (a minor role), sung by Cristina Sogmaister - very much like the aria of Neris in Medea! Everything is conducted by Marcello Viotti, who died the next year.

So, if you are contemplating the purchase of the La Fenice box, here is another reason. As far as I know, there is no competition on DVD.

Ann Lander (sospiro)
September 23rd, 2012, 07:35 AM
I have the CD of Le Roi de Lahore, bought during my 'anything by Sherrill Milnes' phase rather than because I wanted to explore the opera.

I love the CD but haven't got round to getting the DVD, yet.

HarpsichordConcerto
October 29th, 2012, 02:08 AM
1183

Joyce DiDonato (Cendrillon), Alice Coote (Prince Charming), Eglise Gutiérrez (Fairy Godmother), Ewa Podles (Madame de la Haltère), Jean-Philippe Lafont (Pandolfe), Madeleine Pierard (Noémie), Kai Rüütel (Dorothée), Jeremy White (Le Roi); Orchestra & Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Bertrand de Billy (conductor) & Laurent Pelly (direction).

An enjoyable production with a mix of humour, recognisably modern interpretation of staging and fine singing. This is a very competent first release, as far as I know, of this opera on any visual medium, at least in recent years. I have not listened to this opera before but have found the music less of a tour de force compared with his other operas, such as Thaïs and Werther. Maybe it has to do with the fairy tale plot? There some extended arias and duets that has this elegant French touch that is typical of Massenet's, quite different to the Italian Romantics. de Billy is a fine conductor that keeps the pace alive. A double DVD set and without a synopsis nor track listing in the paper/brochure, mid-priced costing me about US$20 including freight.

Herkku
October 29th, 2012, 12:51 PM
1183

Joyce DiDonato (Cendrillon), Alice Coote (Prince Charming), Eglise Gutiérrez (Fairy Godmother), Ewa Podles (Madame de la Haltère), Jean-Philippe Lafont (Pandolfe), Madeleine Pierard (Noémie), Kai Rüütel (Dorothée), Jeremy White (Le Roi); Orchestra & Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Bertrand de Billy (conductor) & Laurent Pelly (direction).

An enjoyable production with a mix of humour, recognisably modern interpretation of staging and fine singing. This is a very competent first release, as far as I know, of this opera on any visual medium, at least in recent years. I have not listened to this opera before but have found the music less of a tour de force compared with his other operas, such as Thaïs and Werther. Maybe it has to do with the fairy tale plot? There some extended arias and duets that has this elegant French touch that is typical of Massenet's, quite different to the Italian Romantics. de Billy is a fine conductor that keeps the pace alive. A double DVD set and without a synopsis nor track listing in the paper/brochure, mid-priced costing me about US$20 including freight.

It seems to cast the role of Prince Charming to a female voice (as the composer intended), which is surely much more sensible than the elderly Nicolai Gedda in the old voice recording with the admirable von Stade in the name role!

Dark_Angel
June 11th, 2013, 08:26 PM
http://images.barnesandnoble.com/images/42470000/42470406.JPG (http://operalively.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=frittoli thais&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&docid=eJxMT4Sw-wpKaM&tbnid=nN9LU6EdLaZaNM:&ved=0CAUQjRw&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.talkclassical.com%2F6957-unusual-opera-staging.html&ei=RYO3UYeuCvSo4APJ74HoBA&bvm=bv.47534661,d.dmg&psig=AFQjCNHs4BY_IM9dDq15xe7ASkZw5UrYbQ&ust=1371067584526296)

A very unique and visually avante production of Thais with Barbara Frittoli

The production is not like a normal opera, the story is told very abstractly with daring symbolic dramatic visuals using almost constant modern expressionist dance movements, unless you know the story line beforehand the opera would be hard to follow. Sometimes moving very slowly other times in frenetic energy with small/large groups of dancers (often partially nude) giving us an abstract visual context for story/emotions of each scence. Costumes are also often bold and/or visually abstract to make a visual point or enhance dance movements, only the monk wears a constant plain black robe through entire opera

The scences also were often not discrete but visually blended/morphed into each other like a fluid wave changing form. Some real exciting lighting effects were often used in very creative ways, the production is so unique that it is hard to describe and must be seen to fully grasp the concept......needless to say this is not for everyone but if you enjoy modern dance and abstract artforms this should be experienced, impressive!

Most of the scences are more more daring/extreme that what is shown in trailer video:


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