View Full Version : Opera concerts, recitals, compilations, and documentaries on DVD or blu-ray

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 01:28 AM
I'm starting a new thread for this large category of videos that we have completely overlooked so far: those about opera or with recitals/concerts, but without complete operas.

I'll start by reviewing this PBS movie: Amato, A Love Affair With Opera, on DVD


This is a wonderful documentary about the Amato Opera Company, this quasi-amateur opera house in New York City's East Village neighborhood that operated continuously for 61 years out of a tiny brownstone, led by Tony Amato and his late wife Sally Amato (depicted on the cover).

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/e/e3/Amato_Opera_319_Bowery_jeh.JPG/220px-Amato_Opera_319_Bowery_jeh.JPG (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Amato_Opera_319_Bowery_jeh.JPG)

They staged a seasonful of complete opera productions (5-6 different operas every year, each running for 10 nights) in their small theater that seats 107 people, with a 20-foot stage a tiny pit - and served as training/learning site and launching pad for many successful professional opera singers, directors, and conductors. They had a repertory of about 60 operas.

Their productions were not improvised - they had real scenarios, real props, a small ensemble (a piano, a few other instruments), rehearsals.

I was already familiar with their work by reading a book written by one of their former trainees.

The movie tells Tony Amato's life story, from his early life in Italy until he came to America at age 7, through his own singing career, to his passion for opera and decision to start his own small opera company. His wife - also a former singer - helped in several capacities - selling tickets, sewing costumes, cooking pasta for the entire troupe, doing voice teaching, being the light technician and sound engineer, etc. Tony teached, directed, conducted, played...

There are several short interviews with their singers and students (some, better known, with Met careers).

This film is from 2001. The company closed in May of 2009, due to the passing of Sally Amato and the old age of Tony Amato (he's still alive, at age 91). Two spin-off companies, however, sprouted from it: Bleecker Street Opera, and Amore Opera.

While the documentary - with a running time of 60 minutes - is a little disappointing because it doesn't show images/sounds of one of their performances (just rehearsals), it is sweet and entertaining enough.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 01:29 AM
Cecilia Bartoli: Maria on DVD

I'm watching this and is is pretty good. Cecilia shows amazing agility and is sober enough here, mostly (not always) without her usual over-the-top facial expressions. The selection is rather pleasant, with the arias paying tribute to Maria Malibran. This concert in Barcelona celebrated Malibran's 200th birthday. Running time 79 minutes, good 16:9 image, good sound with LPCM and Dolby 5.1, subtitles in several languages, with the good orchestra La Scintilla. Recommended, but not essential.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 01:32 AM
Anna Netrebko: The Woman, The Voice - on DVD

Controversial documentary. Anna, MTV mode. It's been said to death: bad lip-syncing, silly interviews, intrusive video direction with too many cuts, devaluation of her best feature (her voice).

I don't care.

We get to see her in so many different ways, so many outfits, always looking gorgeous, and bad lip-syncing or not, we get to hear her spectacular voice.

The clips:

La Bohčme - She looks gorgeous and sings inside a car. Short. Not that interesting.

Faust - She is pretty, playful, girlish. It's a lot of visually stimulation and the black outfit with the mirror fragments is quite ridiculous. But her interpretation of the aria is spectacular. And we get to see lots of beautiful Anna faces.

In between this one and the next there is a long interview about the beginning of her career. She laughs a lot and looks lovely, with her sexy accent and peculiar English. Interesting part: she says one needs to be absolutely cold and focused, like with a calculating computer, on stage, otherwise the performance won't be right; the idea of getting emotional about the role, in her opinion, is totally wrong, everything needs to be very well programmed to convey well the emotion, it's all very rational, she says.

Don Giovanni - Again, spectacular looks, this woman doesn't know how to not look good. She is in the middle of some dancers dressed like trees. The takes oscillate between a red outfit and a light purple formal gown, more revealing than the read outfit. She is fab in either. I actually like this staging (one of the parts that most people criticized as Eurotrash) - it doesn't have much to do with the aria but is effective. The other women in the dancing group have transparent shirts that show their breasts except for a dot hiding the nipples. The purple gown is very flattering, she is *really* yummy in this one. The trees get to be distracting and overstay their welcome, I can see it now why people didn't like these trees very much.

Next she talks about her childhood. Looks down to Earth, a simple, nice woman.
A part I liked: "We are Russians, we need some sh!t in our lives; if everything is good we don't feel it's right."

La Sonnambula - Rather ridiculous outfit again. Big wig. Well, with all this going against her natural beauty, she can't help but look... gorgeous again. It's amazing how she defeats the director's attempts to make her look ridiculous. The scene is a banquet, one of the dishes is a woman's leg. Eurotrash is everywhere. The whole thing is totally preposterous, and Anna still flies above it all and actually looks the best so far since the beginning of the documentary. As a matter of fact I think I've never seen her looking this good. It's quite impressive, really. How does one continue to shine in the middle of so much crap? Bravo, Anna. And her voice in the aria is also incredible. Let's put it like this: if this clip had anyone else than Anna as the leading lady, it would be a visual disaster. With her there, it becomes a visual pleasure as long as you train your mind to look at her only.

Oh well, next interview she says if she could have a one-day fantasy, she'd be a stripper for one day. Then she says she's kidding - but I don't think she is, actually. Kind of surprising. Not that I wouldn't want to see her performance. I've been telling you people, we need her doing a Salome!

Anna comes accross in this interview as a simple country girl who was given fame and money and likes to have fun.

Rusalka - Here I don't like what they did to her looks, they made her into someoneho who doesn't match her style. The swimming suit is not flattering. The floating bed has preposterous colors, and the lighting makes her legs look like they are painted with tar and grease. Rather unsuccessful this one. Simultaneously we see a more steamy scene in a bathroom and shower. The aria is so gorgeous - the Song to the Moon - and the visuals are so distracting that one can't enjoy it. This is by far the worst clip of the five. For this one, the director finally accomplished what he seems to be out to do: kill her good looks. Quite ridiculous.

There's more singing during the credits. Running time so far 48 minutes.

Bonus features will add some more running time. Let's go to them.

We get her live on stage.

Fragment 1 - La Traviata, Munich 2004 - she does very well. Better than in her Salzburg one, because here she doesn't run around and sing upside down so she can focus on better singing and her voice is more agile. The image is poorly filmed, overexposed (too bright). Her outfit and hair are not flattering.

Fragment 2 - La Traviata, Vienna 2002. She looks drop dead gorgeous, a bit younger, in a beautiful gown. Less experienced singing, though (Anna has been learning, and learning fast - usually year to year you can notice her singing improving). Here she's a bit shrill. Anyway, it's refreshing to see her singing for real, no lip-syncing like in the video clips. She gets Ah Forse Lui, followed by Sempre Libera. Her acting in the second one is a bit forceful, I've seen her doing better than this (Salzburg comes to mind). So, not a very successful trailer, except for her young looks. The orchestra of the Vienna Staatsoper doesn't do a good job either.

Fragment 3 - Ruslan and Lyudmila at the Mariinsky - I own this one and she is *very* young and looks stunning, but again, the more we go back in years, the less good is the singing. But nobody can fail to be impressed with Anna in her early twenties. Gee, this woman is beautiful!!! If you guys haven't seen this staging, it is very colorful and interesting.

We get a 15-minute Making Of feature with Vincent Paterson, the director/photographer. He sounds like the idiot I suspected him to be, from his mistaken visual concepts. His explanations for his ideas are shallow. He does convey an admiration for Anna's beauty (at one point I was thinking of him as a misogynist trying to obfuscate his subject).

We do get some behind the scenes shots of Anna being playful and cute.

Oh wow, there is a really added bonus to this documentary: during the part about Faust, Anna spins around and her gorgeous legs show a lot better than during the movie itself.

The silliness continues, this idiot says his work is a bit like Fellini's. Sorry to break the news to you, Mr. Paterson, but you're most definitely no Fellini.

To top it all, this complete imbecile says that he wishes Anna will give up her opera career and become a movie star (he lives in Hollywood). No, doofus! Anna is an opera singer, and a darn good one! That's a lot more difficult and rewarding than being a movie star.

Anna's CD of the same cover picture gets a preview of each track in the continuation of the bonus features. That's a good, unexpected benefit.

Then, there's a picture gallery with 16 lovely pictures.

By now we're at 1'34" of running time.

Then there is the usual DG trailers with fragments of several of their products make the usual appearance. Fidelio, Tristan und Isolde, are some of the more extended trailers. Bryn Terfel's Amsterdam concert with the RCO is also there. Oh God, after Anna's lovely face, I certainly don't care for Bryn's! DG's catalog also gets a bonus feature.

There's a link to Anna explaining the characters that she sings in the five clips, and a link to her interviews, and to the five clips. Therefore one can divide the documentary's 48 minutes in its three components and watch them separately. I don't really see the point of this, except for maybe just watching the video clips (which then have a running time of 28 minutes).

That's it, folks.

Is it recommended? Not if you aren't in love with Anna Netrebko. It's all very silly.
But I happen to love her as you all know, so, yes, for me, highly recommended.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
May 12th, 2012, 04:56 AM

A Mozart Gala From Salzburg, on DVD

This is a nice companion to the M22 series, since it was recorded live at the 2006 Salzburg Festival, for the occasion of Mozart's 250th anniversary.

It is a high-quality DG / Unitel Classica / ORF release, filmed in high definition, with sharp 16:9 image, and excellent sound (PCM stereo, DTS 5.0). Running time is 93 minutes. Extras: M22 trailers, and Mozart Showreel, plus the DG Catalogue.

The Wiener Philharmoniker plays spectacularly under Daniel Harding.

Singers are Anna Netrebko, Patricia Petibon, René Pape, Thomas Hampson, Ekaterina Siurina, Magdalena Kozená, and Michael Schade.

We get two operatic overtures (Don Giovanni, Idomeneo), a full symphony (No. 38, K. 504 "Prague"), eight arias, and one duet (from Don Giovanni, Mitridate Re di Ponto, La Clemenza di Tito, Cosě fan Tutte, and Idomeneo).

Anna Netrebko is simply unbelievable in "D'Oreste, d'Aiace" from Idomeneo. She is fierce and shows an intensity rarely matched. Her vocal rendition is nothing short of perfect. She looks gorgeous in a low cut blue gown. Just by herself she justifies the purchase of this DVD. We get only 6'43" of Anna, but she steals the show and draws the biggest applause, of course.

Second best is René Pape, with a spectacular rendition of "Madamina, il catalogo č questo."

Just as good is Thomas Hampson, with an excellent performance of a surprise: an aria from Cosě fan tutte that is never performed, since Mozart withdrew it himself, feeling that it was too long. Well, it is very good. It's called "Rivolgete a lui lo sguardo" and is another reason to buy this DVD.

Patricia Petibon is fourth best, with a very lively performance of "Nel grave tormento" from Mitridate. Her gown is a disaster, but that woman just can't not look good.

Ekaterina Siurina, Russian soprano, has a beautiful timbre, is cute, and does well. Czech mezzo Magdalena Kozená delivers an introspective and well controlled rendition of "Parto, ma tu ben mio" from Sesto. Canadian Michael Schade is the weakest link. He sings twice, and does well in his first aria, but disappoints in his second one.

It's always a pleasure to listen to the Wiener Philharmoniker playing Mozart.

This is a very pleasant and beautiful concert. Recommended.

Available at Amazon.com for $27. [Clicky (http://www.amazon.com/A-Mozart-Gala-Salzburg-Netrebko/dp/B0012UQIVW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1336796640&sr=8-1)]

August 18th, 2014, 06:39 PM
Here's a few that we watch and enjoy:

1. The Metropolitan Opera Centennial Gala (DGG). Over 3 hours of singing from the 22 October 1983 performance. It's great to see singers we now only read about.

2. The Metropolitan Opera Gala 1991 (DGG). 25th Anniversary at Lincoln Center. Another three hours of mostly fab singing.

3. Metropolitan Opera Gala (DGG) Celebrating James Levine's 25th Anniversary. Another 3 hours plus of mostly great singing.

4. Iaon Hollander Farewell Concert (DGG) The 26 June 2010 concert with somethhing for everyone

5. Verdi Gala (EuroArts) Honoring the cenetennial of Verdi's death. 3 hours of all Verdi

6.The Audition (Metropolitan Opera production) National Council Auditions from 2007.

All are still available on amazon.com, but the Verdi gala only from Amazon sellers (which is how I buy books and music, except for the boardmeister's interview book, for which I just paid the full retail price!).

If the boardmeister wants to link any of these to his amazon promo account, he should feel free. "Every little bit helps",

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
April 14th, 2016, 10:03 PM
The Mariinsky II opening Gala on blu-ray


Wow. Jaw dropped. Wow.

I tip my hat to the Russians, and I'm glad that my my next planned trip to Europe will be precisely to St. Petersburg - unfortunately only possible in 2017, since I used up all my vacation time in the three weeks I've recently spent in Brazil, plus my last trip to New York and the two upcoming ones in May and October. So, 2017 it will be, but I'll be sure to visit the Mariinsky I and II, one of my favorite cultural institutions - favorite from afar (I've never been to St. Petersburg, what a shame!) from DVDs and blu-rays, and from having listened live to the Mariinsky Orchestra and Maestro Gergiev twice in my hometown when they visited. Also, of course, the Mariinsky is the original artistic home of my favorite opera artist, Anna Netrebko, not to forget two other Opera Lively interviewees Olga Peretyatko (a girl from St. Petersburg!) and Ildar Abdrazakov.

So, this blu-ray disc features spectacular images of the beautiful city in the opening shots, and some striking computer-generated imagery of the new theater. Then Maestro Gergiev comes up and conducts the first piece, a segment of Prokofiev's Romeo et Juliet, and oh boy, this orchestra is exquisite!

Next the extremely pretty young women of the Mariinsky Ballet (formerly known as the Kirov) dance La Baladičre.

This is followed by a cute chorus of child singers performing Gounod's Ave Maria. Our own Ildar then sings "La Calunnia" super well, and we get next a virtuoso pianist playing an arrangement of "Largo al Factotum."

Then we turn to Mother Russia again, with a segment of Boris Godunov.

So far everything is beautiful, well danced, well sung, and well played. What a pleasure! I know I'm in for a treat. I won't be talking about all numbers, but will pause my typing and enjoy this gem. Later I'll report on some parts.

I admire Russian culture so much!


After some more nice number we get Russian mezzo Ekaterina Semenchuk singing Carmen. This lady certainly has a lot of power, volume, and projection, with a lot of energy, and beautiful timbre. The only problem is that her pronunciation of French is, well, not French.

This is followed by a *stunningly* danced Carmen Suite, with a very attractive dancer (Diana Vishneva), and the Mariinsky Orchestra again shows me that they are one of the best in the world.

Tchaikovsky's melodious opera Iolanta gets highlighted by baritone Alexei Markov, not bad at all.

We get a beautiful viola solo for Saint-Saëns' The Dying Swan - string players here are phenomenal: violinist Leonidas Kavakos had already impressed us earlier on in a Tchaikovsky piece.


Nice segment of Il Viaggio a Reims, not before René Pape who does a great Faust.


Great singer Olga Borodina is past her prime but still does a decent Dalila. Too bad they didn't bring Elina Garanca to sing this (hers is better). I guess they are not very fond of her since she is very anti-Russian.


By the way, a word about the technical aspects. Some Amazon reviewers complained that it is only PCM Stereo with no surround sound. The thing is, sound capture and engineering are of the highest quality. Sound is very full and resonant, and very pure. Capture from the singers is great, and orchestra/singer balance is perfect. I didn't miss the fact that there is no surround. Image is very good, and camera work is great. I'm entirely pleased with the technical aspects. This is a beautiful product.

This is an ArtHaus Musik 2014 release in co-production with the Mariinsky, recorded live on May 2nd, 2013. Region code zero, worldwide. Blu-ray disc 25GB single layer, 16:9, 1080i HD. Running time 120 minutes. No subtitles. The booklet contains credits, list of numbers with duration, 3 pages about the Mariinsky, and 10 and a half pages about the artists, all in English only. There are trailers as well.


Plácido Domingo does well in a segment of Die Walküre. Next there is a ballet from Tchaikovsky's Jewels.

I'm bracing for the last three numbers, because all three feature La Bellissima.


Anna sings Lady Macbeth, arguably her best role ever. She does very well, but still a bit shy of how spectacularly she did it one year later at the Met, after having entirely and thoroughly mastered the role to a Maria Callas-level of quality. So we are getting here Anna's first adventure into this, kind of getting herself ready for her biggest triumph to date. By the way I belatedly purchased the blu-ray of that Met Macbeth today as well. It got delivered together with this Mariinsky gala. I will re-watch it this weekend (saw it on Met Live in HD).


Comes up the most delightful scene of the gala - Anna atypically for her voice sings the Don Giovanni duet "La ci darem la mano," with five male singers vying for her attention and bringing bigger and bigger flowers, until Plácido Domingo who is conducting the orchestra breaks into singing as well, from the podium. Fabulous!

And to finish, Anna sings Iolanta with the Mariinsky chorus and several other singers. Nice finale!


Overall score, A++, highly recommended, highly enjoyable! Buy buy buy!

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
April 24th, 2016, 05:21 PM
Solti Centenary Concert on blu-ray disc


This review could be in the Non-Vocal Classical Music or here, because the disc has both. It has operatic pieces and non-operatic symphonic pieces. But it has sufficient operatic pieces including singers, to be here.

The concert is hosted by Valerie Solti, the widow, and it is done the day of Solti's 100th anniversary of birth (he died at age 84).

Maestro Valery Gergiev conducts the World Orchestra for Peace, Plácido Domingo and Renée Fleming say some words (recorded elsewhere; they weren't there in person), René Pape and Angela Gheorghiu sing. Also saying tributes, Anne-Sophie Mutter, Dame Evelyn Glennie, András Schiff and Murray Perahia. It happens in Chicago.

Oh my, this is a very good orchestra (founded by Solti himself, for the United Nations), with senior musicians selected from the best orchestras of the world where most of them are concert masters or section leaders, and even though they don't play together routinely, they are so good that obviously they got into it right away, helped by the secure conducting of Maestro Gergiev.

The players represent 45 orchestras from 24 countries and do not draw a salary from these concerts. The orchestra assembles for particular occasions which reflect either its special mission to promote peace and international cooperation or to celebrate peace and reconstruction following war or violence.

This is a 2013 release by ArtHaus Musik on a single layer blu-ray disc with 1080i full HD, region code zero. Sound PCM stereo or DD 5.1. The narration is all in English but there are no English subtitles. There are French and German subtitles. The concert lasts 112 minutes and there is a 21-minute bonus talking about the orchestra, called "Solti's Vision." The booklet contains credits, list of musical numbers and duration, the reproduction of a couple of letters from the Prince of Wales and from the Director of the UNESCO, and a 3-page text about the orchestra and the concert, repeated in English. There are 3 black-and-white and one color pictures of the concert. There is a list of musicians for this concert, and then another booklet with a full list of all musicians that participate in the rotation for the various concerts of the orchestra.

The concert was recorded live at the Symphony Center in Chicago, on October 21st, 2012

Music numbers are:

Mozart - Overture - The Marriage of Figaro
Richard Strauss - Don Juan - opus 20 - fragment
Mozart - The Magic Flute - "In diesen hell'gen Hallen" sung by René Pape
Verdi - La Traviata - "Addio del passato" sung by Angela Gheorghiu
Mozart - Don Giovanni - "La ci darem la mano" sung by René Pape and Angela Gheorghiu
Verdi - Rigoletto - "Bella figlia del amore" conducted by Cristian Macelaru and sung by Roberto Gómes-Ortiz, Matilda Paulsson, Tereza Gevorgyan, and Ross Ramgobin - these are young singers from the Solti Accademia in Italy, and the conductor was at the time the current recipient of the Solti Award for Young Conductors
Mahler - Symphony no. 5, "Adagietto"
Bartók - Concerto for Orchestra, SZ116 (complete, 39')
John Philp Sousa - march "Stars and Stripes Forever"

Everything is very well played and sung. René Pape was phenomenal, Angela Gheorghiu did very well with a passionate Violetta and a charming Zerlina. All four young singers from the Solti Accademia were excellent.

Very beautiful concert; I highly recommend it.

April 24th, 2016, 07:21 PM
I am going to tout the DG Blu ray of "Live From Red Square" with Netrebko and Hvorostovsky.

First, never having been to Russia, the visuals of the Moscow skyline are superb. It seems to be a clean city, and the audience truly in "into" the concert, with some of the women obviously ... enthralled with Dima.

Anna does quite a bit of Verdi, with excerpts from Trovatore. Macbeth and I Vespri Siciliani. Ditto Dima. There's a bit of verismo, the final duet from Eugene Onegin and a stunning orchestral playing of the polonaise.

The concert ends with "Moscow Nights", with a lot of the audience joining in.

It's a great favorite here.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
August 14th, 2016, 06:59 PM
Glorious Glyndebourne on dvd and/or blu-ray (multiformat)


This blu-ray disc which also plays on DVD-only players contains excerpts of 12 Glyndebourne productions throughout the years, with 1 to 5 musical numbers of each (more commonly 3 or 4) and a brief (5 minutes) documentary "See opera differently." There are 39 tracks in total including ending credits. Subtitles are in English, French, and German. All regions.

It costs $21 on Amazon (strangely, a DVD-only version is also available but is more expensive at $25, and a blu-ray only is even more expensive at $40 so obviously the way to go is the multi-format cheaper product) - click [here (https://www.amazon.com/Glorious-Glyndebourne-Sofie/dp/B00HB36AM6/)]

The credits in the insert list each opera, the names of the musical numbers (no duration given) the singers involved in the fragments shown, the orchestra, the conductor, and the production crew, but strangely, do not mention the year of each production. This information however is available in the essay, under the synopsis section, and also in the last two pages of the insert, where the film direction credits are given. An introduction, a brief essay describing the rich history of the festival since its creation, and the synopsis section above-mentioned (which briefly describes each production) occupy 6 pages of the insert in English, then they are repeated in French and German. There are only two color production pictures.

The whole thing lasts 2 hours and 27 minutes. Image and sound are excellent with 1080p HD image (one of the rare opera discs done in 1080p instead of 1080i, and the better definition of the p protocol is noticeable), and LPCM 2.0 (very crisp) or DTS 5.1 sound.

The productions shown were done between 2002 and 2012 - this is basically the Jurowsky decade. They are (in order of appearance on the disc which is not chronological):

Le Nozze di Figaro
The Cunning Little Vixen
Gianni Schicchi
Cosě fan tutte (the famous one we all love so much)
Billy Budd
Giulio Cesare (ditto)
Tristan und Isolde
The Rake's Progress
La Cenerentola
Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg

I'm watching it in sequence as I type this; everything I've seen so far is compelling and well-sung. Lydia Teuscher was great as Susanna and Vito Priante got a good voice for Figaro. Emma Bell was an intriguing fox in Vixen, and Sally Matthews sung a good O mio babbino caro.

I got to our beloved Cosě, and I do own this version on blu-ray, but oh boy, it's impressive how different the 1080p looks (so much better! - it looks like a 4K image with great definition and vibrant colors!). I'm also enjoying my new Bose headphones, and the sound is phenomenal! That extremely well-sung Soave sia il vento is such a pleasure!

Billy Budd is an opera I don't like, so I wasn't particularly thrilled by its fragment, but it does have nice sets and accomplished singing. Unfortunately it's a long stretch (or so it psychologically seems to me). I find this opera utterly boring with its male-only cast. Whew! It finally ended.

Our friend Christopher Purves is magnificent in the title role of Falstaff. Such a singer! This production which I haven't seen looks very funny. Wow! This one might be my next purchase!

Mid-point, we get to the brief documentary. Michael Grandage talks about the long rehearsal periods at Glyndebourne (a signature characteristic of the house), we get glimpses of the costume atelier, conductors tell us a bit about the company, singers show their appreciation, etc. Robin Ticciati, the new musical director, says a few words. Streaming and cinema broadcasts are mentioned.

I'd like very much a longer documentary; these five minutes felt like just a teaser, but oh well. Let's continue. Six more fragments.

Carmen features the Entr'act and the scene at Lillas Pastia's place, with one of our most recent interviewees, the intelligent Laurent Naouri as Escamillo. Anne Sophie van Otter is Carmen. I had never seen her in this role, and she does sing it very well. The sets and the choreography for the scene are very impressive. Anne Sophie makes a very tortured Carmen. Wow, what a scene! We usually don't get the best singers doing Escamillo and Laurent is formidable in it!

Next we get the ending scenes of the iconic Giulio Cesare, arguably the best production coming out of Glyndebourne, ever. Gorgeous-looking Dani is breathtaking in this show, with the great Sarah Connolly displaying her considerable artistry (both Opera Lively interviewees).

One of my favorite productions of Tristan und Isolde featuring the spectacular Nina Stemme is next. A fact you guys may not know is that the sets for this production with the concentric circles (The Time Tunnel sort of thing) inspired me when I created Opera Lively's logo. While Nina's companion Robert Gambill doesn't sing as well as she does, listening to her as Isolde is quite a treat. It's a pity because with a better Tristan this could have been the definitive T&I on video medium.

Another great production comes next, Glyndebourne's cartoonish The Rake's Progress, with very imaginative sets and the pretty Miah Persson as a sweet Anne Trulove. This is a very good rendition of one of my favorite 20th century operas.

The penultimate production is a Cenerentola with a cast mostly unknown to me (I know of some of them but had never really listened to them), but they can sing! It's a traditional staging. I like Ruxandra Donose's voice in the title role.

It all ends with a gorgeous Meistersinger, featuring Gerald Finley in his role debut as Hans Sachs. This 2011 production was the first full one of this opera by Glyndebourne, 83 years after the piece was given in concert with John Christie, the grandfather of the current Glyndebourne chairman Gus Christie, singing Beckmesser. This is the prize song scene and it is emotional to the point that I had teary eyes. This is certainly one of the best Meistersingers out there.

This compilation is very pleasant even for people who are already familiar with Glyndebourne productions: it rekindles nice memories (it's a very good way to spend two and a half hours being treated to great music and compelling images - oh well, minus the Billy Budd, hehe - wink-wink, Natalie!). Those who are not, will learn a bit about one of the world's leading opera companies, one that commands sustained high quality over the years. They will certainly want to follow-up with purchasing some of these shows on DVD or blu-ray. Highly recommended.

August 15th, 2016, 09:17 AM
I've got ALL those productions on DVD:cool:. They are all worth seeing. If you don't have that Rake's progress you NEED it. And yes, you need the Falstaff.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
June 10th, 2017, 01:53 PM
Tenor Titans on DVD - a 2016 VAI release (I suppose it existed before on VHS) of old TV broadcasts featuring some of the greatest tenors and sopranos (thrown in a mezzo, a baritone, and a bass) from 1956 through 1965 (I don't know why the sopranos didn't make it to the title; sexism!!!) - most of them, Bell Telephone Hour telecasts (except tracks 1-3 which are a Showcase Productions telecast). Video 4:3, some black-and-white, some color, region code 0 (all regions), NTSC. Audio mono, English optional subtitles, running time 94 minutes, no insert other than a track list. Sound quality is very variable (some tracks have incredibly good sound, others don't).


The problem with this DVD is that it might ruin some of our contemporary opera experiences. I'm starting track one as I type this, and with extremely surprisingly good sound, I'm listening to Jussi Björling's "Che Gelida Manina", together with Renata Tebaldi following up with "Mi chiamano Mimě" and "Oh Soave Fanciulla" (tracks 2-3); black-and-white, and I've seen YouTube clips of this performance, but when I listen to it with the full power of my (rather good) home theater, it blows me away, and as much as I like Rolando Villazón's rendition of this in his famous movie with Anna Netrebko, sorry, Rolando, but you can't compete with Björling.

So, this is a telecast from 1956... before I was born. How do they get this sound track to perform so well? Some good sound engineering and clean-up must have been done because it's crystal clear, full, and oh so beautiful!!!

By the way, Renata Tebaldi of course is also great... although I think Anna Netrebko doesn't pale as much by comparison as Rollando Villazón does.

Tracsk 4-5 have the great Giuseppe di Stefano with Teresa Stratas in the St. Sulpice scene of Manon; telecast of 1963. The sound is not as good. Color. Di Stefano sings "Je suis seul... Ah, fuyez, douce image". The duet "Pardonnez-moi, Dieu de toute puissance" follows. These tracks are not as impressive as tracks 1-3, probably for two reasons - this scene is not as spectacular as Puccini's, and the sound is not as good. Still, these two are of course phenomenal singers.

Next we have Richard Tucker (with Robert Merril, baritone) in La Forza del Destino, "Solenne in quest'ora", telecast of 1965 on track 6 - oh God, this is so beautiful; two of the greatest male singers ever, what perfect harmonic combination of great voices! The repetition of the word Adio by the two singers at the end is goosebumping. Good sound. This is followed by Tucker this time with soprano Lucine Amara, singing "No, Pagliaccio non son" and Finale from Pagliacci (also 1965) on track 7 - unfortunately again the sound is poor, and Ms. Amara is a bit strident. The least compelling scene, so far.

Tosca; Franco Corelli with Lisa Della Casa are next, 1962, "E lucevan le stelle", followed by "Amaro sol per te", tracks 8 and 9. Corelli delivers one of the most beautiful "Lucevan" I've ever heard, one has tears in one's eyes listening to this. Della Casa does well in the duet, too. She also acts well with her face. Great tracks. What a performance! Very good sound.

#10 has Corelli again, this time with Régine Crespin, singing "Teco io sto!" from Un Ballo In Maschera (1964). Again things are marred by poor sound with the singers getting smothered by the orchestra and their (otherwise great) voices coming through a bit thin.

John Vickers and mezzo Giulietta Simionato on track 11 sing "Giŕ i sacerdoti adunansi" from Aida (1964). Pretty good performance by both.

James McCracken and Robert Merril do Otello's act II finale on tracks 12 and 13 (1964): "Desdemona rea! ... Ora e per sempre, addio!" Excellent singing by McCracken who looks demented like a good Otello must be (and very intense, with wild eyes). Sound is decent.

The last track, #14, has the beautiful final scene of Faust, ten minutes, from 1960, featuring Nicolai Gedda, Lucine Amara, and bass Jerome Hines. Again, Gedda puts to shame some contemporary singers of this scene, with sublime musical phrasing and clear diction. What a tenor! Lucine Amara is less strident here, given that the dynamics for her lines are lower (and this is 5 years before the track above where she didn't do well - maybe these five years weren't gentle on her voice). Hines is good. This is again a very convincing scene, with good sound.

Overall, a very good buy, highly recommended. The one downside is that tracks 1-2-3 are by far the best ones both in singing and sound, so, it is a bit anticlimactic that they open the DVD instead of closing it, although track 14 is not bad at all.

Oh wait, I was about to turn it off when I saw that there are bonus performances, not announced, and not listed.

We get Jussi Björling's son Rolf - I never knew of his existence! - on track 15 singing "Una Furtiva Lagrima", and he is not bad! (1964).

Then we get Richard Tucker singing selections from a Passover Service, arranged by Sholom Secunda with a chorus (The Sholom Secunda Chorale) from 1965 on track 16 and this is one of the most beautiful performances on this DVD. Exquisite! It is actually a great way to end this DVD.

It is very weird that this is not listed anywhere, and even the runtime on the back cover (81 minutes) doesn't take into account the bonus tracks, which add 13 more minutes. The Met Opera website informs us that these two bonus tracks are the first time these two performances appeared on video - it should be a plus for this DVD and it is very strange that they don't get advertised on the insert or the back cover.

Oh wait again. Incredible, this DVD keeps showing more treasures that are not advertised. There are 4 more minutes of previews, featuring a few seconds with each artist but in a very compelling way. We get:

Birgit Nilsson, Mario del Monaco, Plácido Domingo, Renata Scotto, José Carreras, Nathan Milstein (violin), Paul Tortelier (viola) Rosalyn Tureck (piano), Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (piano), Maria Tallchief and Rudolf Nureyev (ballet), Tanaquil Le Clerca and Jacques d'Amboise (ballet), Mary Martin (musical singer, Peter Pan), Ethel Merman, Groucho Marx in The Mikado, Ann Sothern in Lady in the Dark, Nelson Eddy, Sir Georg Solti and the Vienna Philharmonic, and Igor Stravinsky conducting (wow!).

All right, now it's over. Whew! Very excellent DVD!

June 13th, 2017, 10:50 AM
According to a snippet in the latest issue of Opera News, there is a companion video to this one called “Supreme Sopranos.”


More Bell Telephone Hour excerpts have also been released on video in three volumes titled “Great Stars of Opera.” But unfortunately for those who prefer lower voices, I couldn’t find any “Magnificent Mezzos” or “Brilliant Baritones and Basses.”

June 14th, 2017, 07:33 AM
But unfortunately for those who prefer lower voices, I couldn’t find any “Magnificent Mezzos” or “Brilliant Baritones and Basses.”

Or Crickey! Countertenors!:ohmy:

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
September 11th, 2017, 06:12 PM
An Evening With the Royal Opera - on DVD


This is a collection of fully staged scenes from the Opus Arte Royal Opera House catalog between 2000 and 2011, so each number has everything, including projections, theatrical lighting, full costumes and sets, therefore this DVD is not a concert-style recital but rather a collection of clips. It was released by Opus Arte in 2012.

Some numbers are extremely beautiful. Others, not as much. Here is a breakdown of each musical number with a blurb of critical review:

1. Overture. Il Barbiere di Siviglia, with the orchestra of the ROH and Antonio Pappano. 2009. Very well played and conducted, except for two occasions when individual instrumentalists seemed slow, falling behind the vivacious score. This robs of this performance the maximum A++ grade, but it's still A+.

2. Brindisi, La Traviata, Renée Fleming and Joseph Calleja. Pappano. 2009. Renée was surprisingly disappointing. She definitely didn't do well. I don't know what was wrong with her that day. Joseph was excellent; would deserve the maximum score but Renée's B- rendition brings the average down to B+.

3. Deh, vieni, non tardar, Le Nozze di Figaro, Miah Persson. Pappano. 2006. Miah did well but continued to exhibit the problem I see in every performance by her: loud breathing. B+

4. Flower song, Carmen. Jonas Kaufmann. Pappano. 2007. This was perfect. Jonas sang beautifully, and it was nice to see Anna Caterina Antonacci just sitting pretty there, as Carmen. It doesn't get any better than that. It is weird, though, that with a singer of such stratospheric caliber as Ana Caterina as part of that production, they didn't include a singing number for her, and she isn't even mentioned in the credits. Weird. Anyway, great show by Jonas, A++.

5. Non piů andrai, Le Nozze di Figaro. Erwin Schrott. Pappano. 2006. Perfect as well, what a delivery! This rivals my favorite one in this role, Bryn Terfel. Again, the luxury of having Miah Persson sitting pretty there. A++.

6. O soave fanciulla. La Bohčme. Teodor Ilincai and Hibla Gerzmava. Andris Nelsons conducts. 2010. This was very bad. Neither singer is any good, and they delivered a very anemic scene. C.

7. Dido's lament. Dido and Aeneas. Sarah Connoly. Orchestra of the Age of Elightenment, conducted by Christopher Hogwood. 2009. Fabulous singing and such a beautiful scene, in terms of the physical production! A++.

8. Lŕ ci darem la mano. Don Giovanni. Simon Keenlyside, Miah Persson. Charles Mackerras. 2008. Beautifully sung number by Keenlyside although not much of an actor; Miah did better than in her other number included here. A.

9. Di quella pira. Il Trovatore. José Cura. Carlo Rizzi. 2002. Painfully bad, with José Cura, as usual, yelling out loud with no sense of musicality. He is as subtle as an elephant. D.

10. Evening Hymn. Hänsel und Gretel. Diana Damrau, Angelika Kirchschlager. 2008. Very nice. Both singers did well. A+.

11. Musetta's Waltz. La Bohčme. Inna Dukach. Andris Nelsons. 2010. Inna is pretty but can't sing. B-.

12. Patria opressa! Macbeth. Royal Opera Chorus. Pappano. 2011. Very good. Touching, very musical rendition. A+.

13. O mio babbino caro. Gianni Schicchi. Ekaterina Siurina. Pappano. 2011. She almost pulled it off. She was good for a while but lost pitch control, went off pitch in one of the lines. B+.

14. Der hölle Rache. Die Zauberflöte. Diana Damrau. Sir Colin Davis. 2003. It doesn't get much better than that. A++.

15. Parigi, o cara. La Traviata. Renée Fleming, Joseph Calleja. Pappano. 2009. Again, Joseph is just perfect, Renée did better than in her Brindisi, most likely she warmed up, later in the same show. This time we get A+.

16. Pa-pa-pa-pa. Die Zauberflöte. Simon Keenlyside, Allish Tynan. Sir Colin Davis. 2003. Big contrast between an excellent Papageno and a mediocre Papagena who brings down the average. B+.

17. Finale. Falstaff. Bryn Terfel and ensemble. Bernard Haitink. 2000. Pretty nice; Bryn does well and the scene is well acted and sung by the ensemble. A.


Running time 80 minutes. Subtitles in English, French, German, Spanish, and Japanese. All regions. 16:9, NTSC (good, sharp image). Good sound engineering, LPCM 2.0 or DTS surround.

It would be nice if the insert had some more documentation about the Royal Opera House. There are two short paragraphs describing the house and the company, nothing else. This is repeated in English, French, and German. There is only one production picture (of Damrau in Die Zauberflöte) and six cover pictures for six of the DVDs that have clips included here. For each number there are credits with the singers, the orchestra, the conductor, stage director, etc., with a short paragraph describing the scene, repeated in English, French, and German. There is also info on the Opus Arte release of the full opera for each segment. $18 on Amazon.


Final verdict - a mixed bag. When I ordered this, I thought it was a gala recital. I hadn't realized that it is rather a collection of clips. Most likely one can find them all on YouTube and most people already have the original DVDs featured here. Overall, B, not recommended. On the other hand it is not expensive and it does have some nice numbers so while I wouldn't buy this again, it's not a total waste.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
August 20th, 2018, 02:48 AM

"Dolce Vita" by Jonas Kaufmann on blu-ray disc (also available on DVD and CD)

A live concert performance & the TV documentary "My Italy"

Released by Sony Classics, recorded live on July 4, 2016 in Torino, Italy (Teatro Carignano), with documentary shots filmed in various towns of the Cinque Terre region (Portofino, etc., the Italian Riviera) plus a brief shot of downtown Torino. A co-production of Bel Air Media, ZDF, and Sony Classics.

Running time 120 minutes (but the first 60 minutes have it all, and the next 60 repeat the material with slight differences). The insert contains 5 color pictures, list of musical numbers and duration, credits, but no lyrics.

BD 50, 1920x1080 60i, sound DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 (concert only) / LPCM stereo. Subtitles in Italian, French, German, and English. Jonas speaks in German during the documentary.

In the Documentary part, there are 7 tracks that contain a voice-over by Jonas Kaufmann, talking about his memories of Italy when he was a child vacationing there, and his love for Italian culture, music, and coffee... very interesting and touching, with gorgeous images of Jonas driving a convertible car through the Cinque Terre region.

RAI National Symphony Orchestra conducted by Jochen Rieder. Video direction Andy Sommer.

Musical numbers:

Parla piů piano (theme from The Godfather)
Torna a Surriento
Musica Proibita
Ti voglio tanto bene
Fenesta ca lucive
Rondine al nido
Il canto
Catarě, Catarě (Core 'ngrato)
Voglio Vivere cosě

The credits for the concert section feature an instrumental piece, La passerella di addio (from the movie "8 1/2")


It was good to know how much Jonas loves my other country, Italy (I'm a dual citizen of Italy and the United States). Had I known about this a few weeks ago, my recent interview with him would have featured questions about this aspect. Oh well, maybe I'll get to talk with him about it at some future point. Anyway, I really loved his comments about Italy, its people, its landscapes, its coastline, its coffee... and of course, its music.

The Teatro Carignano in Torino (a.k.a. Turin) is beautiful and intimate. Every musical number was superb. The orchestra played very well. Jonas was in great voice. What's not to like? Watching this was pure pleasure.

I'd say that this is not Jonas' ideal repertory, given that it has been interpreted a bit better by native Italians. Still, what this gentleman from Munich was able to do with it, was very impressive.

Some of the greatest hits of Italian songs are represented, as well as a few that I had never heard before. I particularly liked Rondine al nido, so delicate and touching! I thought it was the highest point of the show.

It is strange that the second half of the blu-ray disc pretty much repeats the first half, while the CD of the same concert has some additional songs. Why not use the time to include the other songs instead of repeating the ones that were already part of the documentary? Weird choice. But I'm saying so not to nitpick, but rather because this was so pleasant, that I wanted more.

I watched this disc with my wife. Her exposure to Jonas Kaufmann was minimal. Unfortunately my wife carefully avoids Wagner, and when Jonas comes to the United States, he often sings Wagner. So, she knew of him, given that I spoke highly of him many times, but she had never watched one of his shows, and has never seen him live (unlike me).

Today she agreed with finally paying attention to him, and she was amazed. She commented several times about how great a singer he is, and how handsome... I had a clear example of the effect Jonas has on the the ladies... I guess it's similar to the effect Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca have on the gentlemen, haha.

Anyway, for fans of Jonas Kaufmann (who isn't?), and for fans of Italy, this is a very recommended purchase.