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Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 01:35 AM
Gluck: Orphée et Eurydice

This is an early and short review I wrote on this production for another site, and it was my first contact with this opera. You can see that I went liking it more and more (I was typing the review while I watched it). Nowadays I like it even more, but I'll post the original review anyway. At the time I didn't even focus on the singing, and apparently I didn't have for Patricia Petibon the appreciation that I now have.


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Gluck's Orphée, conducted by John Eliot Gardiner, with the Orchestre Révolutionaire et Romantique at the Châtelet, with Magdalena Kozena as Orphée, Madeline Bender as Eurydice, and Patricia Petibon as L'Amour.

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So far so good: beautiful overture, gorgeous opening chorus, and Orphée's lament is fabulous. Looks like a winner.

Edit - more than half-way through, very beautiful music, but a little monotone. This staging is so static that it looks more like a concert version. Singers move so slowly, with weird fixed gestures, and the colors are only blue and green. Visually beautiful but it gets old fast. Thankfully this opera is short.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTd_fwRm0wU (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LTd_fwRm0wU)

I know I shouldn't be judging it based on the staging but rather on the music, but I'm not very enthusiastic so far. It's delicate, melodious, and dreamy, but also a little boring.

I guess this one will be a B for me.

Supposedly the ending will have happy and lively music, but a happy ending for the Orpheus myth is a little strange so I don't see how it will earn more than a B from me. We'll see.

Edit 2 - This aria is certainly very beautiful:



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

A B+, then.

Finsished. A beautiful ending. On its own merits a B++ very close to an A, and given its historical importance in shaking up opera seria, should after all get an A-.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 01:36 AM
Gluck: Alceste (Paris version) on DVD
Alceste [Paris] by Christophe Willibald Gluck performed in French
Conductor John Eliot Gardiner - 1999(LI)
Orchestra - English Baroque Soloists
Chorus - Monteverdi Choir
Alceste - Anne Sofie von Otter
Admète - Paul Groves
Grand Prêtre d'Apollon - Dietrich Henschel
Evandre - Yann Beuron
Un Héraut - Ludovic Tézier
Hercule - Dietrich Henschel
Apollon - Ludovic Tézier
La voix de l'Oracle - Frédéric Caton
Dieu infernal - Frédéric Caton
Alter Ego d'Alceste - Gladys Massenet
Enfants - Lucie Barret - Arthur Carayon
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DVD (Video) - EMI Classics 2165709 (2008)
Video recording of a performance at the Théâtre du Chatelet, Paris.


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Stage director Robert Wilson
Video director Brian Large
Choreography Giuseppe Frigeni
Running time 134 minutes
16:9 image
LPCM stereo or DTS surround
Optional subtitles in original French, English, or German
Region free
No extras - and gasp, no liner notes!

This product with superior quality of image and sound starts to dazzle since the credits, with the beautiful bluish imagery and the lush sounds of the English Baroque Soloists playing the spectacular overture.

Sir Gardiner's excellent HIP band is soon enough joined by his equally excellent choir, and the fabulous singers make their entrance one by one.

The baroque opera lover is in for a treat. Yes, the staging is static, a frequent complaint of reviewers. But it is majestically so, with the minimalistic solemnity that this incredibly melodious work deserves. Movements are slow and calculated, with stylized, statue-like gesticulation (one Amazon reviewer compared it to Kabuki theater, and another one to a Greek vase brought to life - a very fitting analogy). Blue is the dominant color, with some hints of Bordeaux.

What some reviewers call boring, I call fascinating, hypnotic, dreamy, strikingly beautiful.

Anne Sofie von Otter in the title role delivers superlative singing, in a composed, dignified performance - although some say that she can't match the intensity of a Jessye Norman in the same role. Dietrich Henschel as the High Priest causes goose bumps with beautiful voice and impressive facial expression, and Paul Groves' Admète is equally good.

An Amazon reviewer bashes the sound engineering. It's certainly not true. It must be the fault of the reviewer's equipment because in mine, the DTS track sounds simply divine.

Certainly to appreciate this staging one needs to like minimalistic settings and slow motion gesticulation and choreography, but otherwise, I'll say "Highly Recommended." Not to forget that the opera itself is extremely beautiful.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 01:39 AM
I'll be watching this tonight, just started:

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Should be fun. I'll report later when I am able to form an opinion.

OK, contrary to the general opinion, I didn't like it that much. There are the usual Rameau beautiful melodies, and some very funny moments (e.g., the toad interfering with the musicians in the orchestra), but overall I found it to be forgetable.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 01:40 AM
Rameau: Castor et Pollux on DVD
I'm struggling with this one:

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I have never seen such ugly choreography in any opera or ballet DVD. You gotta see it to believe it, folks. The dancers seem to be fighting martial arts or giving flight attendant safety instructions. And the costumes don't help either. Ugh!

I don't care for the visuals of this staging either. They are monotonous. I usually like minimalist stagings but this one just doesn't get it right.

I don't know this opera on CD, maybe these are the correct tempi, but they feel too slow to me, at least in comparison to the other Rameau works that I know. Maybe they are slow and it's Rameau's fault, not the conductor's.

The cast members are unattractive. Singing is OK but nothing special.

I've watched acts I and II and almost fell asleep. I'm kind of dreading having to face acts III, IV, and V next.

Again, unclear to me if it's Rameau's fault, or the producers' of this staging, but certainly this one is a lot more boring than the other three from Rameau that I know, Les Indes Galantes, Les Paladins, and Platée.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 01:41 AM
This is an old, short review that I wrote for another site, on the only DVD of Rameau's Les Indes Galantes.

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Les Indes Galantes

Composer: Rameau, Jean-Philippe
Libretto: Fuzelier, Louis
Conductor: Christie, William
Chorus: Les Arts Florissants
Chorus Master: Bazola, Francois

Adario: Rivenq, Nicolas
Ali: Berg, Nathan
Bellone: Fernandes, Joao
Damon: Strehl, Christoph
Don Alvar: Fel, Christophe
Don Carlos: Piolino, Francois
Emilie: Panzarella, Anna Maria
Fatime: Hartelius, Malin
Hebe: Niese, Danielle de
Huascar: Berg, Nathan
L'Amour: Gabail, Valerie
Osman: Cavallier, Nicolas
Phani: Azzaretti, Jael
Tacmas: Croft, Richard
Valere: Agnew, Paul
Zaire: Le Roi, Gaele
Zima: Petibon, Patricia

Stage Director: Serban, Andrei
Date of Production: 25-09-2003
Venue: Palais Garnier, Paris

Starting soon.

Introduction finished. Pleasant enough, nothing extraordinary, except that this staging has very creative props with colorful tableaux.
First Act finished - Le Turc Généreux - beautiful, lyric, fine orchestration. I like it.

Second act (they call it an entrée) finished - Les Incas du Pérou.
It completely blew me away. It won me over entirely.
Very, very beautiful. A++. The ceremony of the Sun and the volcano eruption, wow! Extraordinary.

3rd act - Les Fleurs - fête persane

Some good moments, sure, but not as intense and melodious as the 2nd one - but the last twenty minutes did get a lot better, with beautiful ensembles and chorus, a very meaty and satisfying piece, with a pleasant thickness. And it ends with a very nice soprano aria, Papillon inconstant. " Still, less good than the 2nd one.

On to the final acte, Les sauvages d'Amérique.

Act IV - again less impressive musically so far, but with a very beautiful libretto:

Sur nos bords l'amour vole
et prévient nos désirs.
Dans notre paisible retraite
on n'entend murmurer
que l'onde et les zéphyrs.
Jamais l'écho n'y répète
de regrets ni de soupirs.

---

This is followed by a nice ballet.

And it all ends nicely:

Tout ce qui blesse la tendresse
est ignoré dans nos ardeurs.
La nature qui fit nos cœurs
prend soin de les guider sans cesse

Overall score: A+. Another winner, another favorite. This opera-ballet is delicious, refreshing, with both touching and funny moments, some exquisite music, and it is extremely entertaining.

Rameau got another fan! I'm looking forward to seeing more by him, and I suspect that my idea that I don't like baroque is about to be turned upside down.

And Kudos to the Opéra Nationale de Paris. They put together a formidable production. This is an excellent opera company, capable of facing the demands of grandiose operas like Les Troyens and Les Indes Galantes. I tip my hat to the French!!!

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 01:43 AM
Rameau: Zoroastre on Blu-ray
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2006(LI) - Christopher Rousset - Les Talens Lyriques + The Drottningholm Theatre Orchestra and Chorus + Jennie Lindstrom and the Drottningholm Theatre Dancers

Zoroastre - Anders J. Dahlin
Abramane - Evgueniy Alexiev
Amélite - Sine Bundgaard
Erinice - Anna Maria Panzarella
Zopire/La Vengeance - Lars Arvidson
Narbanor - Markus Schwartz
Oromasès/Ariman - Gérard Théruel
Céphie - Ditte Andersen

This is Rameau's The Magic Flute. We encounter the same Sarastro a.k.a. Zarathustra a.k.a. Zorastre, fighting evil and darkness as a Freemason. Instead of a magic flute, we have a magic book, and plenty of black magic, with the inevitable triumph of goodness at the end, through the intervention of a Deus Ex-Machina. There is no Queen of the Night, but rather her male counterpart, Abramane.

The goodies are Zoroastre and his love interest Amélite, who is abused and tortured and emprisoned and threatened with various deadly blades throughout the opera, all resulting in numerous opportunities to display her gorgeous cleavage and beautiful little breasts (no nudity, just the top part above the nipples), just as much as her sidekick Céphie, equally well served in the mammary gland department.

The baddies are Abramane and Erinice (nice boobs too), plus a few minions and a cohort of yummy women who act like zombies.

Yummy dancers intervene at various moments, with a weird choreography that seems to be a mix of martial arts with sign language for the deaf.

Camera work includes a very convenient viewpoint from the roof of the theater, which is very instrumental when looking down the cleavage of the various yummy women.

Alma's Boob-O-Meter was blinking and beeping throughout the evening!:cool:

The plot is silly, very black and white; black being the baddies, and white being the goodies (I mean, literally; they dress like this as well, I guess the producer thought we the naïve public would have trouble telling the goodies from the baddies if they didn't dress like this). It is rather slow, and various lead changes occur - the baddies have the upper hand, then the goodies, then the baddies, then the goodies, then the baddies, then the goodies. And have I mentioned that it is all very sloooooooow? (Running time, almost three hours).

So, dreadful, right? No, not really. Rather interesting and enticing - not to forget the gorgeous boobs. The music is very beautiful. The singing is exquisite by almost everybody except maybe the title role who sounds less enthusiastic, sort of business as usual, a pity - good voice but he doesn't seem to be as into it as the other singers. The two female leads have the best singing moments.

The period orchestra does very well, and the staging is very interesting. It's done in one of the last few preserved baroque theathers, and apparently the only one that has all the old machinery intact, with amazingly fast and swift scene changes.

It's staged the way it must have been done at the time of Rameau, minus the weird martial arts and sign language choreography (which I bet wasn't the way the ballets were done - why do everything "period," but pick such a misplaced choreography???).

Technical quality is perfect with spectacular sound and HD image, excellent extras and multiple features/subtitles.

Overall, highly recommended, but you gotta be in the mood for slow baroque opera.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 01:44 AM
Rameau: Les Boréades on DVD
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Tragédie en musique in 5 acts, music by Jean-Philippe Rameau, libretto attributed to Louis de Cahusac. This is loosely based on the Greek legend of Abaris the Hyperborian, with Masonic elements. The plot is the usual forbidden love between noble Alphise and commoner Abaris versus powerful rival Boreas (she is supposed to marry within the Boréades clan), but the impossible marriage is suddenly resolved by the Deus-ex-machina appearance of god Apollo who reveals that Abaris is actually his son with a Boréade woman, clearing the way for Alphise's and Abaris' union.

It premiered in 1770, six years after Rameau's death, who therefore never saw it staged. It was forgotten for centuries and first revived in 1963 by Sir Gardiner.

This production was recorded live in April 2003 at Palais Garnier (Opéra National de Paris), with Les Arts Florissants conducted by William Christie. Stage director was Robert Carsen. Choreography was by Édouard lock, featuring modern ballet company La La La Human Steps. Sets and costumes design were by Michael Levine.

Barbara Bonney is Alphise, Paul Agnew is Abaris, Toby Spence is Calisis, Stéphane Degout is Borilée, Laurent Naouri is Borée, Nicolas Rivenq is Adamas, Apollon, anna-Maria Panzarella is Sémire, and Jaël azzaretti is une nymphe.

This DVD is available from OpusArte and Kultur. The OpusArte release (which is the one I own) comes with complete liner notes and full libretto, and costs $10 more ($37). I assume that the Kultur release that costs $27 is bare-bones with just a chapter list as it is often the case for this label.

The OpusArte product in addiction to the complete libretto (unusual for DVD, but welcome) comes with an extra feature, a documentary entitled "The Triumph of Love" featuring interviews with William Christie, Robert Carsen, and singers Barbara Bonney, Paul Agnew, and Laurent Naouri. I suspect that the Kultur product as usual has no bonus features.

Image format-wise, the OpusArte is 16:9 while the Kultur is 1.33:1.
The OpusArte has optional subtitles in original French, English, German, and Spanish. So does the Kultur. Audio formats are LPCM and DD 5.1. for the OpusArte, but just Dolby 2.0 for the Kultur. Running time is 218 minutes (oh, boy!).

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High quality product with excellent image and sound balance, superior singers with no weak link, and superlative orchestral playing and conducting. William Christie and his troupe deliver once more a phenomenal musical performance with striking visuals, imaginative staging, and good choreography. The incredible proficiency of this group of competent stage artists and musicians brings about pure magic, with fascinating results.

Everything is tasteful, beautiful, evocative, and the visual feast is matched by the waves and waves of rich, resonant, vibrant sounds.

Let me put it simply: William Christie is God, and Les Arts Florissants are his angels. Therefore, the music and visuals are angelic, divine. Let's not forget the excellent (and good-looking) dancers.

For the French baroque opera lover, it's pure bliss. It's ecstasy.

Highly recommended. Buy it! Buy it! Buy it!

PS - you won't ever look at umbrellas the same way. Umbrellas = successful baroque opera props. Who would have imagined it? These guys are geniuses.

PS2 - Outstanding documentary with brilliant interviews that add a lot to the understanding of this production. This is by the way an updated staging that makes sense, that has a clear unifying concept (the seasons, the weather, Les Boréades = the North wind, get it?) and is precise and meaningful all the way. Some Regies need to talk to Robert Carsen to know how to do it right. Hey folks, you don't need to tamper with an opera to be different or original. You do need to respect the music and to be coherent, which is what Carsen does.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 01:47 AM
Watching this. Filmed version. Not bad, even though Maria Ewing looks too old for the role, especially when compared to her young Aeneas (eye candy for Natalie and Annie), and her voice shows wear and tear as well, but the fact that it is a filmed version is actually benefiting her voice. Although I've never been particularly fond of her voice, she is a very fine actress (a curiosity: it runs in the family, she is the mother of the young British actress Rebecca Hall who was in Vicky Christina Barcelona, whose father is director Peter Hall). Other principals can act too, so, it's a rather satisfactory version. Anyway this opera is so beautiful that it is not easy to screw it up, and so far so good, although I'm a little worried about what Maria will do to the Lament.

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51JZyB1QvgL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Wow, I got to the witches and it is an effective scene, with good singing and convincing witches.
Well, I should warn you that there is something odd about this filmed version: no ballets at all, which isn't right when you're doing Purcell.
But overall the rendition of the music is good, most principals are good looking and can act, and visually it is not bad at all.

Edit - just like I feared, Maria Ewing delivered a weak Lament.

Here is a much better version:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOIAi2XwuWo

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 01:48 AM
Henry Purcell on DVD and Blu-ray
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It's semi-opera, or masque, the predecessor of Restoration Spectaculars. It *is* a mix of spoken dialogue, dance, music, and visuals. It was staged exactly as intended, with flying actors, elaborated scenery, etc. Another one by Purcell is King Arthur.

Ravishing and inspired. And funny, and sexy, and wildly imaginative.

I found this production absolutely brilliant. I had almost 4 hours of intense fun. This is wickedly entertaining, beautiful, sublime. And the interview with Christie is a gem.

Maybe not as good as Les Indes Gallantes just because The Fairy Queen is a much more complex work, but even though it's a bit of apples and oranges, I'd still rank it up there with the most entertaining and well produced opera/related genres DVDs.

This work like I said is masque or semi-opera so it's quite "busy" with lots of things happening, not all of them being coherently oriented to tell a story, and many of them being non-musical, but this production managed to make of the whole something fairly well united, and all the parts were masterfully presented. You get fabulous Purcell music with good singers, effective theater, impressive visuals, funny bits, good scenery, sexy people, good actors/actresses; in summary, it's very entertaining, and I watched it all with a smile from beginning to end, and had wild fun for three and a half hours.

Don't be turned off by YouTube bits, because this is the kind of work (again, being it semi-opera) that only makes sense when you go through the whole thing. For instance, there are long stretches of spoken dialogue that seem more like a play, and there are long stretches of zany comedy kind of The Full Monty style, but then, there are *also* extremely beautiful stretches of more operatic material, and some of the scenes are so musically and visually beautiful that my jaw dropped (the kind of beauty that was in Les Indes Galantes - just, there's much less of it in The Fairy Queen because of the space taken by the other elements - but when it's a matter of beautiful operatic scenes, oh boy, they do deliver! - case in point, the scene with the red sky and the big spider when the Fairy Queen is preparing to sleep, completely fascinating).

One needs to be in the mood for this kind of genre; don't go in expecting an opera, it's not an opera (for example, there is more than one hour in total of spoken dialogue). That's basically what turned off our friend Alan, but I think he failed to realize that this is the point of this genre, it's not exactly the producers' choice.

Oh, and by the way, the copulating bunnies also turned off poor Alan (Elgarian)... I found them cute and funny.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 01:50 AM
OK, folks, I've finished this:

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I'm aware that everybody here went berserk about it, and all other reviews in other sites can't stop praising it.

I'll be the discordant voice.

I wasn't highly impressed, including because I paid $51.50 and sincerely, it's not worth the price; at least, not for me.

I understand that they went to all possible lengths to reproduce as exactly as possible how this same opera was performed for the royal family on April 29, 1673. Period instruments of course, primitive stage props like they were done at the time (basically, painted cardboard), even the lighting was done entirely with candles. French was spoken just like in 1673 with different pronunciation of diphthongs, and no cutting off of the sound of the final letter when the word ends in -s, -x, -z, or -t. Gesticulation was baroque. Make-up and costumes were carefully researched. Singers would park and bark because that's what they did at the time (and face the audience, i.e. the king, rather than each other when they were engaged in a dialogue). Ballets were the silly light thing that was favored at the time.

But I'll tell you, life as a king then must have been pretty boring. And I'm not sure I want to be bored to death just like the king.

Oh yes, the costumes were beautiful. So?

The ancient French pronunciation, to tell you the truth, soon lost its appeal and became pretty annoying. And it sounded fake as well, since often the singers who are of course contemporary French speakers would forget to stick with the old pronunciation, which then would pop up off and on.

And Lully, truth most be told, is not the most dynamic and varied opera composer. He's rather stiff. After 8 minutes (no kidding) of constant repetition of the phrase "amants fidèles, soyez heureux," (dully pronounced amanttttsssss, soyezzzzzz, heureuxxxxxx) I was about to shout "OK, by now they must have understood that you Gods want them to be happy, just quit repeating it please and move on!"

I got this question in my mind: is it really a good idea to stage an opera exactly as it was in the 17th century (especially an opera this long, with one prologue and five acts)? Sure, there is some merit in transporting us back then, and some effect of curiosity in seeing how it was done in the royal courts, but once the novelty wears thin, what's left?

I recently quoted a stage director saying - "Why should we mimic exactly what was done in the past? When people go to the movies nowadays to watch a recent production, they don't expect to see grainy black and white silent movies. We could dress the Rhinemaidens exactly as Wagner did for the first time at Bayreuth, but they'd look horrible!"

OK, this 17th century staging was interesting for a while, but I think I prefer my baroque operas slightly updated (without anything outrageous, regietheater style, but still, slightly updated) like in the recent outstanding production of Les Indes Galantes. That one got the right balance between ancient and new, and wasn't boring at all.

Complete fidelity to the original when the original is this removed in time can actually, let's be frank, yield a rather boring result.

I'm sure I'll be under attack for this opinion, people will say "when you look at a medieval painting you don't mind it being ancient and authentic" etc. Still, I was about to fall asleep during this Cadmus et Hermione (I think I actually did nap a little during the second act. It is true that acts III and IV were less boring... but act V was boring again). Sorry guys, I know you guys loved it, but... I just couldn't relate.

And now I regret my $51.50!!!

It's not that I'm blaming the production. The production has efficiently accomplished the intended effect. I wouldn't even call it misguided. There were rare small blemishes - the pronunciation was one; maybe they should have rehearsed a little longer to make sure everybody would stick to the ancient French a little more consistently, but like you said, it's a minor detail. What I'm blaming is the concept - and not even blaming it, just saying that it doesn't work for me - but I fully understand that it works for others (better proof, the numerous favorable reviews).

I don't think I crave this much this transportation back to the 17th century. I love the 21st century with air conditioning, abundant hot water in my shower, the Internet, cell phones, fast and comfortable cars... LOL.

I digress. It's not that, obviously. There's nothing wrong with being transported to another century through art, sure. But what entertained those people at the time is necessarily very different from what entertains the modern man. Case in point, the trivia I have quoted in the Quizz thread, about Farinelli singing the same four songs every single night for 25 years in a row to King Philip V of Spain. That's 9,125 repetitions! The eight minutes of repetition of "amants fidèles, soyez heureux" almost killed me already, can you imagine 25 years of the same daily four songs? Oh boy, these kings looooooved repetition.

So, for me this production went like this: first 15 minutes, I'm thinking "neat, that's how it was done then, huh? Nice costumes and beautiful gesticulation, by the way." Next 110 minutes: "I want my money back!" It's interesting to see how I thought that this opera was long with prologue and five acts. It actually only lasts for 2 hours and five minutes, but I guess it felt long to me. I was actually surprised when I looked at the back cover for the running time.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 01:55 AM
Lully: Armide on blu-ray
Given what Gaston said that I'm not much of a Lully fan, I'm giving him another chance.
Maybe it's a question of the right conductor/band and the right staging, because William Christie and Les Arts Florissants don't usually misfire, so it is with optimism that I approach this one:

http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41I%2BKLqfxwL._SL500_AA300_.jpg

Hang on, I'm starting it now, full review to follow. Good start, I must say - very entertaining prologue with the usual tribute to the king of early French baroque opera done in a very imaginative manner.

Very spectacular use of video, projected in high definition on the stage, with scenes of the Versailles palace of which singers and chorus participate, and they break into dance. Oh boy, I'll be liking this, I'm sure.

From the pit the usual competent, full, rich playing on period instruments from Les Arts Florrissants and Christie are a pleasure to hear. The images and sounds on this blu-ray are top notch. Technically perfect.

Next the dancers, after having visited the King's chamber, rush to the gorgeous gardens and dance on lawns and fountains. All very visually appealing. This production has managed to make of this very, very, very long prologue (23 minutes) something very enjoyable - which would not have happened if they had just played it in the theater.

One of the tourists sneaks into the King's bed, falls asleep, dreams, and the opera itself starts. Clever. We're back at the theater, we see Armide's bed, and it looks similar to Louis XIV's, except that it is all in silver. She wakes up, dressed on a sexy bright red night gown. Wow. She sings wonderfully (Stéphanie d'Oustrac). Hidraot enters the scene (Nathan Berg - he's OK). Claire Debono and Isabelle Druet do an excellent job during the prologue and Act I, in the multiple roles of respectively La Gloire / Phénice / Lucinde, and La Sagesse / Sidonie / Mélisse.

Act II, we get to meet Renaud (Paul Agnew - excellent singer) - it turns out that he is the tourist that had fallen asleep during the prologue. Artémidore is Marc Callahan, he's OK. Stéphanie continues to steal the scene with her impressive acting, strange beauty, and formidable singing. She calls up all the devils, and the dancers who were wearing silver clothing strip out of them and they all have bright red dresses underneath. What a clever effect, again. Gee, these folks are so talented! Christie and his troupe always put together these outstanding performances!

By now, it is already clear that this product is highly recommended. I'll pause soon for a grilled meal (it's the 4th of July) and will be back for acts III, IV, and V.

Act III: amazing. Very beautiful, again, both for the music, staging, and the opera itself.

Act IV: If all the numerous assets above weren't enough to earn my admiration, now we have one of the most striking displays of female nudity in opera - with a very beautiful dancer entirely naked, dancing for several minutes on stage, made more sexy by some veils and curtains, but displaying quite enough to make a (grown) boy like me very happy.

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After lunch, final touches: Act V just as good, great finale. Excellent opera, better than the one I had as my Lully favorite (Atys), and it is packed in a very satisfactory product.

Some details I hadn't mentioned yet (this review has been less structured than my usual one):
2008, live, Théâtre des Champs-Elysées, staging (excellent) by Robert Carsen. DTS 5.1, LPCM, subtitles in French, English, German, Italian, and Spanish. All regions. Running time 168 minutes. Insert impeccable with gorgeous pictures, synopsis, track list with duration and characters. Extras include a documentary - Armide à Versailles - with insightful interviews about Lully, the baroque, Armide, its historical importance, its impact on the history of French opera, featuring Christie, Carsen, and two of the administrators of Versailles (31 minutes). Just perfect.

Buy it! Buy it! Buy it!

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 2nd, 2012, 01:56 AM
Something more about the above production:

The tourists and the Versailles scenes were just a clever way to do away with the boredom of all the God Save the King kind of mandatory prologue for Louis XIV's court. Poor Lully had to do it, and obviously when he gets going with the opera itself, it gets a lot better.

I have no problem with the fact that Christie's band plays period instruments but the stagings he associates himself with are modern. It's just a question of sounds, in my opinion. The delicacy of the period instruments are a good match for the vocal writing of baroque operas, because modern orchestras tend to smother the singers of early baroque. So, Christie using HIP is just as appropriate as a soprano that tries to sing well the notes written for her.

The staging for this Armide is strikingly beautiful, visually speaking. The music is beautiful. We get talented singers/actors. What else do we need? Again, nothing is outrageous after we get passed the prologue - OK, some may object to the nude woman (I wouldn't, of course!) but it does make sense in the story - remember, it's a seduction scene, it's a devil assuming the form of a woman to tempt the warriors.

The unity is in the fact that as modern as the staging is, certain props make the link between the present and the past - have you noticed how Armide's silvery room is modeled upon Louis XIV's golden-tinted room?

I hear you and others here (e.g. Gualtier) who believe that the ancient music needs ancient stagings. Sure, some of those are good. But for me, what is important is the artistic beauty of the sets, and the fact that the director treats the material with respect, without changing important aspects of the story or shoving some heavy symbolism (that wasn't there before) down our throats. These blunders don't happen in this Armide - although, to be honest, yes, the director makes her kill herself at the end while in the original she flies away in an aerial cart. Yes, I'd have preferred Lully's ending even though her killing herself makes more sense, dramatically, but I consider all tampering to be distasteful. But other than for that bit of regie at the very end, this production is beautiful and respectful, which for me is more important than whether it is with period or modern costumes/sets.

Sometimes we get period costumes but big time disrespect - like a Faust staged by Ken Russell that had the most outrageous changed ending.

For me, a production like this one that tells the story coherently with gorgeous playing and singing gets my endorsement.

Soave_Fanciulla
January 3rd, 2012, 04:55 AM
Rameau - Les Paladins

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Well that was amazing fun in a Baroque meets hip hop kind of way. I think it is probably a very divisive production in that it is not in the least traditional, but then I don't think of Rameau as rooted in his epoch in the same way as I perceive Lully to be. Rameau's dance music is particularly infectious, and in this production the young energetic dancers perform sublimely. There is not a weak link amongst the singers, and the staging is endlessly inventive. There's a great review by Mike Birman (http://www.amazon.com/Rameau-Paladins-Lehtipuu-dOustrac-Gonzalez-Toroi/dp/B000BOFRM6/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=music&qid=1283596678&sr=1-1)on Amazon which goes into more detail - I'd concur with everything he says.

Soave_Fanciulla
January 3rd, 2012, 05:45 AM
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Well I don't think this is entirely Purcell's Fairy Queen, but it was riotous fun and the music is, predictably, enchanting. Yvonne Kenny was gorgeous as Titania and there was plenty of eye candy for the girls (Tom Randle in skin tight trousers, and rather a grown up Little Indian Boy). I think I'm going to have to get the new Glyndebourne version to get a more authentic reading of this though.

Just one thing- why do these cheapskate DVD labels not think to include subtitles in the language of the opera, or even a short synopsis in the liner:mad:? Arthaus and Kultur are the worst in my experience.

Luckily I found a libretto (http://opera.stanford.edu/Purcell/FairyQueen/libretto.html)on the internet.

Soave_Fanciulla
January 3rd, 2012, 05:47 AM
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I cannot possibly recommend this production of King Arthur. It takes appalling liberties with the story and sometimes the music (although Le Concert Spirituel and the singers are largely impeccable), it replaces Dryden's three hours of spoken dialogue with heavy-handed Gallic humour and farce, involving false Norwegian skiers, real barbecues and Hervé Niquet in lederhosen performing Tyrolean songs. It is terribly silly and I enjoyed it nearly as much as the performers. I think everyone else will hate it and it is guaranteed to bring traditionalists out in hives.

Soave_Fanciulla
January 3rd, 2012, 06:40 AM
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I was determined to love this after falling in love with Sarah Connolly’s Giulio Cesare – but I didn’t. Connolly did sing beautifully and the cast was fine apart from the sorceress (too wobbly) but it wasn’t convincing. I think the problem is the production, and specifically the constant interspersing of the opera with totally unrelated gyrating dancing done with ultra-modern choreography and costumes (including the sorts of knickers I used to have to wear at boarding school in the 70s). Connolly also over-did the despair at the beginning, but she did sing the lament with great feeling - although the production had her clutching slashed wrists while she sang, another instance of “knock us over the head with the - literally - bleeding obvious”.

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As this was on the waiting list I watched it straight after. Of course it’s difficult to compare a film with a stage production, but if you want a good night’s entertainment with a coherent plot, convincing characters (Ewing was wonderful), beautiful and historically appropriate costumes and settings (Hampton court) go for the film. I was willing to forgive the slight discombobulation of lip-synching for the rest of the package.

As for Connolly, I’ll just listen to the CD (which has Patricia Bardon as the sorceress so sounds loads better anyway).

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HarpsichordConcerto
January 6th, 2012, 11:11 PM
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I cannot possibly recommend this production of King Arthur. It takes appalling liberties with the story and sometimes the music (although Le Concert Spirituel and the singers are largely impeccable), it replaces Dryden's three hours of spoken dialogue with heavy-handed Gallic humour and farce, involving false Norwegian skiers, real barbecues and Hervé Niquet in lederhosen performing Tyrolean songs. It is terribly silly and I enjoyed it nearly as much as the performers. I think everyone else will hate it and it is guaranteed to bring traditionalists out in hives.

Likewise with this production. Avoid at all cost. Despite the excellent performance under Harnoncourt and singers, the stupid staging simply ruined it all. Or buy it and listen to it with your eyes shut. It's a great shame because King Arthur was a very fine piece by Purcell and certainly does not deserve a modern stage director defecating all over it.

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Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
February 24th, 2012, 03:29 AM
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Atys, tragédie en musique en un prologue et cinq actes
Music by Jean-Baptiste Lully
Libretto by Philippe Quinault
Première on January 10, 1676 at Saint-Germain en Laye

Blu-ray (2 discs) released by FRA Musica on November 8, 2011
Filmed live in HD at l'Opéra-Comique, Paris, in May 2011 - a revival of the 1987 Opéra-Comique production (with costumes borrowed from the Opéra National de Paris) this time co-produced by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Thêatre de Caen, Opéra National de Bordeaux, and Les Arts Florissants

Conductor William Christie - 2011(LI)
Orchestra - Les Arts Florissants
Chorus - Les Arts Florissants
Le Temps, le fleuve Sangar - Bernard Deletré
Flore - Elodie Fonnard
Zephyr 1 - Francisco Fernández-Rueda
Zephyr 2 - Reinoud Van Mechelen
Melpomene - Anna Rheinhold
Iris - Rachel Redmond
Atys - Bernard Richter
Sangaride - Emmanuelle de Negri
Cybèle - Stéphanie d'Oustrac
Doris - Sophie Daneman
Idas - Marc Mouillon
Mélisse - Jaël Azzaretti
Célénus - Nicolas Rivenq
Le Someil - Paul Agnew
Morphée - Cyril Auvity
Phobétor - Calum Thorpe
Phantase - Benjamin Alunni
L'impresario - Olivier Collin
Danseurs - Compagnie Fêtes Galantes and Gil Isoart of the Opéra National de Paris

Stage director Jean-Marie Villégier
Choreography by Francine Lancelot (deceased), Béatrice Massin
Sets by Carlo Tommasi
Costumes by Patrice Cauchetier
Filmed by François Roussillon

Running time: Opera 195 minutes, bonus 100 minutes ("Cinq visions d'Atys" with interventions from the crew and the administrators of Opéra-Comique, including Maestro William Christie - La Métamorphose d'Atys, Les Grands Apartements, L'Opéra du Roi, Machines d'Opéra, Le Réveil d'Atys)
NTSC, Widescreen 1.78:1, color, all regions
Audio PCM Stereo or DTS 5.1
Sung in French, with optional subtitles in French, English, German, Spanish, and Italian

Liner notes - credits, numerous beautiful production pictures in color, chapter list with number names but no character names; one paragraph about the revival of this production, thanks to New York businessman and philanthropist Ronald P. Stanton, and synopsis in the five languages above.

Quality of image and sound - impeccable

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

This opera was created for the court of King Louis XIV, and it was his favorite - thus its moniker L'Opéra du Roi. It is dramatically intense, and notable for being the first French opera to focus on the subject of love, and also the first one in which the hero dies on stage.

This co-production done for the celebration of 150 years of the Brooklyn Academy of Music has counted on infinite supply of money and resources from different opera companies, thanks to the caprice of octogenarian American billionaire Ronald Stanton, who fell in love with this opera when it was given by the Brooklyn Academy in 1989 and 1992, and wanted to see it again in grand style, for the anniversary of the institution he had been supporting. Mr. Stanton donated $3.1 million to this production.

This abundance of resources resulted in a truly luxurious production, with scenery and costumes that are among the most beautiful and realistic ever to grace an operatic stage. The attention to detail and the materials used are simply magnificent (see, for example, Cybèle's incredible crown).

To this, the producers added the exquisite HIP musical values of Les Arts Florissants and William Christie, with a numerous cast of specialists in early French baroque, lead by the spectacular Stéphanie d'Oustrac, as well as a large dance company - not to forget how good the Les Arts Florissants chorus is.

If all of this weren't enough, we also get a FRA release, with its costumary high-quality packaging and technical perfection, with François Roussillon consistently perfect video direction.

The result is a show of extravagant beauty, executed with precision by all involved.

This said, a word of caution: Lully's operas are long and rely more on recitative and poetry than on melodious arias (unlike Handel's). So, be prepared: we're getting three hours and fifteen minutes of frequent dancing and declamation.

However, this is my very favorite Lully opera, of the four that I know (Armide being a close second, and Persée and Cadmus et Hermione a little lower in my esteem). Its tragic solemnity and poetic French libretto are very compelling, and its third act has one of the most beautiful baroque moments in my opinion: the dances and allegories about sleep, which contain very delicate and melodious music.

Mme. d'Oustrac shines as usual, with her pinging timbre in the more dramatic moments, but she is also capable of pungent lyricism. Bernard Richter is an excellent and intense Atys, with clear diction and incisive singing, aided by excellent acting as well. Emanuelle de Negri is attractive and very convincing as the unfortunate Sangaride, and she sings very well.

Two other outstanding singers are Bernard Deletré - the only survivor from the 1987 production in the double role of Time (during the standard prologue praising the King, comically modified by Villégier to include a Lully-like character) and the river Sangar - and the excellent tenor Paul Agnew as the God of Sleep.

This production is very effective in terms of finding the right tone to stage early baroque opera. Instead of reproducing exactly what was done at the time on the operatic stage - like the Cadmus et Hermione from Benjamin Lazar and Martin Fraudreau has tried - they did not employ period gesticulation during the recitatives and arias, candle lighting, or rustic painted scenery. The attempt here wasn't one of staging the action like it was done *on stage* for King Louis XIV, but rather, bringing the action to a realistic depicting of what his palace looked like and how his entourage dressed up. The dance numbers, however, do conserve the period gesticulation, which in this case increases the authentic feeling of the production.

While Lazar and Fraudreau seemed excessively restrained by the compulsion to reproduce opera as it was done in the 1670's, here Christie and Villégier went for naturality. Christie recommended that the singers did not over-indulge in period accent but rather sang naturally, like if they were speaking to each other, and Villégier preserved natural movements, like I said, except for the dances. And rather than rustic painted materials, we get luxurious polished marble and elaborated walls and ceilings. Also, the fabulous Les Arts Florissants musicians play on stage and in full costume during the Sleep scene of the third act - and it all looks and sounds wonderful!

One small complaint is that with all these resources, the scenery is static, there is only one room, and the different settings are suggested by changes in lighting - but for such a long opera, it does get a bit tiresome, I'd have preferred to see some scenery changes.

I know that some of you here have loved the Cadmus et Hermione above described. I didn't. I much prefer the approache adopted here by Christie and Villégier.

All in all, this is a highly recommended blu-ray for lovers of early baroque (although those who aren't into this sort of thing may find it boring). It's delicate, poetic, well played, well sung, and a visual feast. A+

Available here (http://www.amazon.com/Lully-Atys-Blu-ray-William-Christie/dp/B005LL4UCC/ref=sr_1_2?s=movies-tv&ie=UTF8&qid=1330052874&sr=1-2) (also on DVD).

HarpsichordConcerto
February 24th, 2012, 12:08 PM
Here are some samples of the Atys production reviewed by Almaviva above. I haven't yet bought it but will. To me, it looks like the perfect modern production of Baroque opera: historically informed in spirit, but not purist for the sake of it.



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

Interview with Mr Christie:-


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CgXkmHN4rGk&feature=related

Soave_Fanciulla
February 24th, 2012, 06:46 PM
Yes, I will second the recommendation of Atys. HC, you really NEED it. Stéphanie D'Oustrac is a tour de force in the title role.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
January 30th, 2014, 04:06 AM
Dido and Aeneas by Purcell, on blu-ray disc

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I'm busy with a number of things so I won't do my usual detailed review, but will just hit the main points (probably this will be better than my verbose deliveries, hehehe).

This is the Covent Garden version of the 2006 La Scala staging that combines dancing and music in Purcell's masterpiece.
What we have here is widely variable performance that goes from the sublime to the ordinary.

What is sublime:

First and foremost, Sarah Connolly's Dido, one of the best in any medium, and the visual side adds her talent as an actress to her spectacular vocal delivery.
Second, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, with their incredibly beautiful, precise sounds, with a continuo section to die for.
Third, the tasteful, minimalistic scenery that adds an undeniable element of visual beauty, complete with a striking projection at the very end (of a horse, but no, it's not tacky, it's actually a quite intriguing horse).
Fourth, Lucy Crowe's Belinda, with fine singing, good looks, and even finer acting.
Fifth, a good chorus

What is ordinary:

The other singers, with thoroughly unimpressive Aeneas, Witch (lots of wobble), and witch assistants.
The choreography, definitely the low point of this production, with a misguided and unmatched concept that is completely divorced from the piece and the staging in everything from costumes to movements, and actually quite poor in terms of creativity, and repetitious. I expected more from the Royal Ballet.

Basically this blu-ray works when the dancers aren't on stage, and doesn't when they are. A pity, because musically it is quite compelling, although we'd want the two outstanding female singers to get at least a decent set of comprimarios.

Technical aspects are decent but nothing to write home about (there are plenty of blu-rays out there with better image definition and fuller sound).

Overall, B, with the A+ grade performance by Connolly and Crowe being bogged down by the other inept factors. Recommended if you want to listen to Sarah Connolly's fabulous Dido, but since she is equally represented on CD with better companions, not recommended, all things considered.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
February 14th, 2014, 12:20 AM
Paride ed Elena by Gluck, on CD

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Paride ed Elena, dramma per musica a cinque atti, sung in Italian, premiered in Vienna in 1770
Music by Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787)
Libretto by Ranieri de' Calzabigi

This performance uses the critical edition by Paul McCreesh and Richard Campbell from original sources

Available on Amazon for $24.39 [clicky (http://www.amazon.com/Paride-Elena-Christoph-Willibald-Gluck/dp/B00099BPN8/)]

Orchestra and chorus: Gabrieli Consort & Players, on period instruments (ensemble founded in 1982)
Conductor: Paul McCreesh

Released on 2 CDs by Archiv Produktion in 2005; recording from an opera-in-concert performance in a church in London (All Saints') in 2003, DDD - it is unclear from the insert if this was a live performance or one with closed doors simulating studio conditions - I'd assume the latter since there is no audience noise whatsoever.

CD 1 79'39" - overture, acts 1-3
CD 2 66'40" - acts 4-5 which ends in a re-worked last scene; plus an appendix with the original last scene

The insert contains the complete libretto in Italian, with side-by-side translation into English, French, and German. The documentation includes credits; full list of musical numbers with names, characters, and durations; a 4-page essay about the opera; a 1-page essay about the performance authored by the conductor; a 4-page synopsis, 5 pages with the artistic biography of the singers and conductor; all of this is in English and is then repeated in French and German. Other than Ms. Kozena's cover picture, the only picture is a color one with the conductor.

Cast

Paride (Paris, son of Priam, king of Troy) - Opera Lively interviewee Magdalena Kozena [read it (here (http://operalively.com/forums/content.php/778-Exclusive-Opera-Lively-Interview-with-Magdalena-Kozena))]
Elena (Queen of Sparta) - Susan Gritton
Amore (a.k.a. Cupid, under the name of Erasto, Elena's confident) - Carolyn Sampson
Pallade (Pallas Athene, a.k.a. Minerva), and also A Trojan - Gillian Webster

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You know how much I love the history of Troy, and the point I made of visiting the archeological site and the Mount Ida, so it is with trepidation that I approach still another opera that addresses the topic. I expect something exquisite, given that the pair composer-librettist is responsible for two other sublime works, Orfeo ed Euridice, and Alceste.

Gluck wanted to reform opera with these three pieces, given his dislike for Baroque opera seria and its vocal acrobatics to the detriment of dramatic cohesiveness. While his Orfeo is a staple of the repertory and Alceste comes around from time to time, Parise ed Elena remains obscure, which maestro McCreesh deems unfair, given that it has in his opinion "great music, some highly dramatic scenes, and it holds together well."

Gluck and his librettist approached the famous tale from the standpoint of a passionate love story. Gluck differentiates the Spartans and the Trojans by making the musical for the former rude and savage, and for the latter, delicate and soft, in his own words printed on a dedicatory preface. The opera is written-through and all recitatives are accompanied by the strings.

Since Gluck aimed at distancing himself from the Baroque (while still using some of its conventions like in the brief scene with Pallas Athene who floats in on a cloud), he gave a more psychological and realistic feel to the interactions, with more character development than a mere excuse for a set of coloraturas. His musical lines are longer, employing lingering bow strokes. Gluck also breaks away from the Baroque structure, introducing short recitative sections in the middle of his arias. In agreement with these principles, the maestro tried to obtain from his singers enough work on the phrasing of the musical lines and emphasis on the literary aspects of the text to better transmit the emotions to the audience.

The role of Paris was originally written for a castrato. The maestro decided not to hire a countertenor but rather go for Ms. Kozena, based on the fact that the tessitura for this role is quite high, and he felt that current countertenors couldn't reach those heights without losing colors and dramatic contrast.

The maestro re-worked the last scene based on performance material as opposed to what is printed, given confusing relationship between stage instructions and the music. He did take care of re-performing the last scene as written, in an appendix.

Act One happens on a seashore close to Sparta instead of Mount Ida (bummer!) since Paris merely reminisces about the judgment, in which Venus plays a more subdued role and it is Cupid that diverts the young man towards Elena. He arrives to Sparta dreaming of the beautiful queen.

Act Two happens in a hall in the royal palace of Sparta where Paris meets Elena for the first time and is very impressed, leading him, when he is alone, to sing about her assets and his desire for getting her and not losing her.

Act Three is at the great courtyard of the royal palace, where Elena celebrates Paris' arrival with athletic games. He sings an impassioned aria about her beauty (bold young man!) - 'Quegli occhi belli' - which makes Elena embarrassed with his audacity. She interrupts him, he declares his love and his intention to win her; she resists.

Act Four in a room at the palace, has more declarations of love and begging from Paris while Elena says she is engaged to someone else (engaged?). Paris is devastated but Cupid intervenes and says that Elena is not supposed to resist the will of the gods. Elena is torn between love and duty.

Act Five is in the gardens. Cupid pretends that Paris has left and Elena is enraged with his frivolity and about to order her navy to pursue him. Paris enters, and Elena finally admits that she loves him. Thunder is heard, and Pallas Athene comes in a cloud, mad at the lovers, and predicting the war that will result from their affair. After the goddess leaves, Paris and Elena wonder if they should go their separate ways to avoid the war. Cunning Cupid however convinces them to privilege love above all, and joins them to sing a final praise to the eternal flame of love.

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After listening to acts I and II, I am blown away. This is of a degree of beauty that is rarely heard. The written-through music flows magically in waves, and the all-female cast adds layers and layers of color. Right at the beginning and after the interesting overture, we are assaulted with a spectacular aria sung by a powerful and fierce Gillian Webster, 'Come consuma l'avida fiamma'. The aural pleasures continue, and we are introduced to the other singers. Magdalena Kozena si simply great in her colors and precise technique, indeed like the maestro said, working beautifully the musical lines. Her final aria at the end of act II, 'Le belle immagini d'un dolce amore' is one of the most compelling I've ever heard. This is a masterpiece, and the maestro was right when he talked about Paride ed Elena being a buried treasure.

The libretto is tight and with plenty of literary quality, the pace is good, the inner thoughts of the characters are interesting, and the music just keeps rolling on and on, very well played by this experienced period ensemble.

My friends, this is something! It can also function as a good introduction to (sort of) early opera given that it does not have the da capo structure that is off-putting to the novice.

Susan Gritton is a very good Elena with her colder and harsher voice - that of a more mature woman as compared to the warmer, sensual, and youthfully impetuous Paris sung by Kozena. Only the Cupid of Carolyn Sampson is a sizable notch behind her three companions, not only due to a less pleasant timbre, but also to poor diction in Italian. These deficiencies however are not enough to skin the ship, given the high quality of the other singers, the conductor, the chorus, and the orchestra.

Sure, there are three more acts and an appendix to go and I shouldn't pass premature judgment, but this is looking very much like an A++ product.

I'll keep listening and will be back for final considerations once I'm done with the full opera (maybe not tonight) but I can hardly imagine that I'll change my mind - there's just no way this sublime music and these fine performers will disappoint me. This, not to forget that just ''Le belle immagini d'un dolce amore' is enough to recommend the purchase of this CD. I can't remember too many arias I've heard for the first time that impressed me as much as this one. Fortunately for your aural pleasure, there is indeed a YouTube clip with Magdalena Kozena singing it, enjoy!


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HhRbdKLorZ8

OH! MY! GOD! This is too beautiful!

This opera is the only one quoted in our Most Recommended thread (although it is one of those that haven't made it yet) that I didn't know. I was a bit disappointed about not getting fresh new discoveries from that list, but this one is so good that it compensates for it.

Soave, this is just up your alley! Buy! Buy! Buy!

Continuing. Act III has the first and rare incidence of male voice in this opera, a solo for a tenor who is not credited (probably a member of the Gabrieli Consort chorus. Indeed the music for the Spartans is martial and harsh as opposed to the elegant music for the Trojans. The contrast is very nice. Bravo, Gluck!

There are various opportunities for ballets. This opera, staged, must be really interesting.

I'm getting to the act III aria that Paris sings praising Elena's beauty, with harp accompaniment (pretending to be a lyre), 'Quegli occhi belli' - and it is superb!

YouTube to the rescue, again:



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

This comes at a good time: it's the perfect Valentine opera:

Vi pose i chiari
raggi tremanti,
vezzi brillanti
della beltà.
V'accese i cari
lumi languenti,
segni eloquenti
della pietà.

Translation (it's more beautiful in Italian, of course):

Love gave you
bright sparkling eyes,
brilliant adornments
of beauty.
He lit for you
those dear soft lamps
eloquent indications
of mercy.

Next we have a troubled Elena in a beautiful halting recitative: 'Che fo! Che penso!' Something that Callas would do a killing with!

Paris follows with a jarring declaration of love: 'Fingere più non so' - things are getting heated! Act III is much more intense than I and II. Again, great dramatic sense from Gluck and his librettist! This great jumpy duet is comparable to some of the best intensely emotional scenes, such as, for example, what we get in Tristan und Isolde. Yes, it's that good! What a great finale for act III!

On to 4 and 5, disc 2. This is great, folks!

Act IV opens with some 8 minutes of Spartan ballet.

I'd like to see this with a troupe like the dancers who dance for Les Arts Florissants... I'm enjoying it with eyes closed, imagining the choreography.

Another interesting duo, track 5 of disc 2, 'Ah, lo veggo, ad ingannarmi' - sort of not taking itself seriously, weird music, kind of simple/easy listening unlike the more sophisticated parts that precede it - sort of the precursor of a musical?

English speakers, beware. The translation gets it wrong sometimes, even changing the emotional tone. Elena says "non resisto" - she is giving in, she is very tempted - but the translator gets "I cannot bear it." Sure, that's the literal translation, but in context, she is starting to think that her desire is getting the best of her, and she can't resist the temptation.

Another one of those superb arias comes up: 'La tua celeste immagine' again for Paride, with Magdalena dazzling pure voice.

OK, it has ended. How there is the replay of the last scene but I don't need it to pass the final verdict, and it is confirmed like I had anticipated: A++, highly recommended. A thoroughly competent product, with a phenomenal opera that indeed needs to be urgently revived and fully staged for DVD/Blu-ray.

Oh wow, I found a playlist that seems to have the opera almost complete, if not complete, although out of order:


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

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
December 5th, 2015, 03:14 AM
Les Indes Galantes on blu-ray disc, opéra-ballet (ballet héroique) with a prologue and four entrées (acts)
Premiered at the Palays-Royal in Paris, France, on August 23, 1735 by the Academie Royale de Musique
This rendition is based on the Toulouse version of 1750
Music by Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)
Libretto by Louis Fuzelier

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Les Talents Lyriques conducted by Christophe Rousset (who plays the harpsichord)
Choeur de L'Opéra National de Bordeaux
Stage direction and choreography by Laura Scozzi
Production by Olivier Simonnet

Recorded and filmed live on February 27, 2014 at the Opéra National de Bordeaux, France

Cast

Hébe, Fatime, Phani - Amel Brahim-Djelloul
Bellone, Alvar - Benoît
Roxane - Eugénie Warnier
Amour, Zima - Olivera Topalovic
Emilie, Atalide - Judith van Wanroij
Osman - Vittorio Prato
Valère Tacmas, Carlos, Damon - Anders Dahlin
Huascar - Nathan Berg
Adario - Thomas Dolie

Released by Alpha on August 28, 2015 on blu-ray disc, 16/9 (no other video details are provided), 2.0 and 5.1 sound tracks (again, no protocol details), subtitles in French, German, and English
Runtime 175 minutes
The insert contains a short (and rather insufficient) synopsis, an essay by the conductor (one and a half page, very informative), and a short (2-page) interview with the stage director Laura Scozzi, who does explain her concepts for the prologue and the four scenes. There are no titles for the musical numbers and characters. There is only the duration of each tableaux. These materials are repeated in three languages: French, English, and German.

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Rameau's compelling masterpiece gets its second modern video recording, following the absolutely brilliant William Christie version with Les Arts Florissants at the Opéra de Paris - Palais Garnier in 2004, released on DVD by Opus Arte in 2005.

Ten years later, Christophe Rousset and Laura Scozzi deliver a daring updated performance with good musical merits and interesting staging that supplements Christie's more "period" rendition, for lovers of this extraordinary Baroque score.

Comparison with the previous video is inevitable, and generally favors the older product, in my opinion. Christie and Les Arts Florissants have a more ballet-oriented show which matches well the dancing aspects of this work, and the maestro counts on superior singers/actors, with stars such as Danielle De Niese and Patricia Petibon. The visual impact of the Paris staging by Andrei Serban is far superior to this one with very beautiful sets, while this show is starker and darker (projections do liven it up). In this 21st century setting, dancing is kept at a minimum, unlike the Parisian show.

In 2004 Christie and Serban went for the absolutely fun approach, while Rousset and Scozzi in 2014 updated the action to some more disturbing themes (refugees trying to sail from Turkey to Greece in the first tableaux, the Sendero Luminoso in Peru for the second one, the difficult conditions faced by women in Iran for the third one, and deforestation in America for the last act). While efficacious and sound, this update is just less charming than its more traditional cousin.

The one part of this show that recovers the lively and light aspects of the original piece (as well as the most dancing) is the prologue, which makes use of extensive nudity (33 minutes of it, full frontal, male and female) to symbolize the innocence of the native populations of these exotic lands. It is very entertaining and well done, with attractive dancers and good singing by Amel Brahim-Djelloul in the role of Hébé. The same sets and naked dancers make an appearance at the very end.

Singing by the various characters remains very correct throughout the piece, but while the cast members are homogeneously competent (and very good-looking for the most part), one can't help but miss the exquisite artistry of Ms. De Niese and Ms. Petibon in the Parisian show. This is a good cast with nice singing across the board, but there aren't the peaks of quality that we get from the older DVD. I don't really feel like commenting upon any individual singer here: they are all good, but they aren't that remarkable (maybe with the exception of Olivera Topalovic; she is very, very good, and very pretty).

While it's been some time since I last heard the Christie recording (I remember that it is an A++ conducting performance), I don't think that Rousset and Les Talents Lyiriques are any less good. Both conductors and both ensembles are specialists in this repertory and as expected the conducting and orchestral playing are great in this 2014 show, like in the 2004 one. Rousset's tempi are a bit faster than Christie's (and again, I prefer the latter's more ponderous approach).

Technically speaking, this blu-ray if far from ideal. There are black bands on the top and bottom of the image, but it looks like the original cameramen did not take into account this smaller visual field, so that some of the action gets cut from the full screen. Image definition is slightly less good than what we usually expect from blu-ray, and the audio field is a bit shallow. The insert is not detailed in naming the arias and ensembles, which I consider to be a grave sin.

Which Les Indes Galantes on video is the best one? While I thoroughly enjoyed this show and don't regret at all the opportunity to see a different staging of one of my favorite operas, the William Christie / Les Arts Florissants product is far superior; no doubt.

While Christie's rendition is an A++ product that deserves to be listed as one of the very best operatic video recordings of all time, this blu-ray earns an overall A-, very recommended for Rameau lovers, but optional for those who already own the much better Christie version.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
April 9th, 2016, 02:04 AM
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Hippolyte et Aricie, tragedy in five acts with a prologue, sung in French
Music by Jean-Philippe Rameau
Libretto by Simon-Joseph Pellegrin, after Racine's tragedy Phèdre
Premiered at Palais-Royal, Paris, October 1, 1733

A Glyndebourne co-production with François Roussilion et Associés, Mezzo, and NHK, June 29, 2013, released on blu-ray disc by Opus Arte in 2014

Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment conducted by William Christie
The Glyndebourne Chorus, chorus master Christopher Bucknall

Stage Director - Jonathan Kent
Set Designer - Paul Brown
Lighting Designer - Mark Henderson
Choreographer - Ashley Page
Video Designer - Nina Dunn
Film Director - Opera Lively interviewee François Roussillon

Hippolytus - Ed Lyon
Aricia - Christiane Karg
Phaedra - Opera Lively interviewee Sarah Connolly
Theseus - Stéphane Degout
Diana - Katherine Watson
Cupid - Ana Quintas

plus, a large number of comprimarios and dancers

1 Blu-ray disc, 1080p HD, audio LPCM 16 bit stereo, and 5.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, all regions, 186 minutes of running time for the opera plus a 15-minute bonus, "An Opera to Surprise and Delight" as well as cast gallery. The documentary is not that good.

Subtitles in English, French, German, and Korean. Booklet with credits, a 3-page interview with stage director Jonathan Kent, and a one-page synopsis, repeated in English, French, and German. No list of musical numbers with their duration and characters which is a big blunder.

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Oh well. I've just reviewed a production of The Tsar's Bride in Berlin that I called "good Regie." This one is not such. When will Regieoper-inclined stage directors understand that dead animals and blood are passé, and couldn't be any more cliché in this movement? They are just as bad and predictable as whatever boring traditionalist staging they are trying to avoid. I mean, dead animals again? Abundant blood being spread around on walls and people, again? Give me a break! Not to say, it's a bit weird to stage an opera in a refrigerator. The gratuitous novelty wears off pretty fast. Oh wait, according to the stage director it's not gratuitous because the fridge is supposed to symbolize coldness and lack of passion... Okaaay... There are pieces of broccoli and cauliflower. Gotcha. Great symbolism. :rolleyes1:

So, the staging tries too hard to be original, and only manages to be ridiculous, most of the time. It also suffers from too many concepts. The ever-changing sets, each embracing something different (the fridge... the dead animals... pink sailors... some sort of decaying electric engine... erm, why??? ) hold no coherence whatsoever. Costumes are rather grotesque - for example, at one point dancers are large flies, complete with big-eyed masks, while chorus members are disgusting-looking spiders. Choreography is boring. We get as ballet a bunch of pink sailors repeating the same movements over and over. We are far from the beautiful dances in Glyndebourne's Les Indes Galantes.

This is strange for Glyndebourne, usually a company that comes up with very compelling stagings. This one is not.

Of course, the best part is the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and the secure conducting by William Christie. Hyppolyte et Aricie, while a bit less accessible and less lively than other Rameau pieces (being it his first and least polished opera), is a beautiful piece.

Singing however is a bit uneven. Katherine Watson for example has a rather small voice that struggles to be heard even in a recorded production with sound engineering. Christiane Karg is OK but nothing to write home about. Sarah Connolly on the other hand does her usual great job. Ana Quintans, a singer I've appreciated before, here disappoints at first, before she warms up. Male singers are generally good (especially Stéphane Degout - which doesn't save the poor singer from his silly stage director who makes him at one point sing while drenched in water, dripping all over the place). Good chorus.

It's when the sets get a bit simpler that they work better. A less busy room where the two lovers talk to each other is the least offensive set - but hey, the stage director couldn't resist being a bit different, and he comes up with the bed mattress being a stretch of green grass. I can imagine the wheels turning in his silly little head... "hm... just a room? Can't be! Oh wait, I get it! Let's put some grass on the mattress!" Yeah, buddy, a little sylvan touch, huh? Brilliant! (not!). :rolleyes1: Oh sure, and the continuation of the scene wouldn't do without a couple of chorus members sporting animal heads. Right.

Let me teach you something, Mr. Kent: less is more. Learn it for the next one, will you?

The dance with floral dresses and two dancers with flower heads at least was charming and cute. I wish this could be said of other parts of the choreography and costumes. Paradoxically, the end of that scene is supposed to have a monster that drags Hippolyte into a lake. After all the excesses of the previous scenes, the director chose to render the monster through a projection. Failure again: due to some sort of polarization effect, the image disappears every time that there is a close-up and can only be seen when the camera looks at the stage from afar. This is atypical of François Roussillon who usually has an eye for these things.

The last scene is the best done (and includes some brief female nudity), but it can't refrain from another cliché in Regieoper: the altered end. Rameau's piece is supposed to end happily (unlike its source material) but here the director darkens the mood.

Is this worth buying? I'd say it is, thanks to William Christie and his orchestra. It's very well played, pleasant Baroque music. Watching the video is optional. I could do without the dead animals and the blood. One might want to turn off the TV and just listen to the music from the home theater speakers.

I'd give a C minus for the staging, and A minus for the singing; A plus for the orchestra and conductor.

Overall, B. Recommended for the musical aspects only.

Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)
June 10th, 2017, 05:57 PM
Dardanus on DVD and Blu-ray disc (dual packaging) - version 1739
Tragédie lyrique en cinq actes - sung in French - premiered at the Académie Royale de Musique, Paris, November 19, 1739
Music by Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)
Libretto by Charles-Antoine Leclerc de La Bruère, after Metamorphoses (Ovid)

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New production recorded at Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux in a performance by the Opéra National de Bordeaux, April 2015 - released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc both in the same package, by Harmonia Mundi in 2016

Co-Production Opéra National de Bordeaux, Château de Versailles Spectacles, Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles, Ensemble Pygmalion. The video is a co-production of Opéra National de Bordeaux, Mezzo, and Oxymore, with the participation of France Télévisions, Harmonia Mundi, and Medici.TV, directed for video by Stéphane Vérité.

Ensemble Pygmalion conducted by Raphaël Pichon
Stage Director Michel Fau
Sets Emmanuel Charles
Costumes David Belugou
Choreography Christopher Williams
Lighting Joël Fabing
Make-up and masks Michel Fau

Cast

Vénus - Karina Gauvin
Iphise - Gaëlle Arquez
Dardanus - Reinoud van Mechelen
Anténor - Florian Sempey
Teucer, Isménor - Nahuel di Pierro
Amour, une Bergère, Bellone, un Songe - Katherine Watson
Un Berger - Étienne Bazola
Un Songe - Virgile Ancely, Guillaume Gutiérrez

16:9 color all zones, subtitles French, German, English. DVD with DTS 5.1, 3h 12', no extras. Blu-ray Disc PCM 2.0 or DTS 5.1, 3h 33' as it includes a behind-the-scenes documentary. The insert contains 9 color production pictures, credits, and an essay of one and a half pages situating the work, repeated in French, English, and German. No synopsis (but one paragraph of the essay does provide the skeleton of the plot), no track list.

Available on Amazon for the bargain price of $16.77 (Prime).

The piece opens with a delightful overture that is immediately recognizable as something written by Rameau, a treat for someone like me who wildly enjoys this composer's style. Hehe, the camera lingers a lot on a very attractive violinist. The Ensemble Pygmalion is very well oiled with a clear, bright sound and exquisite dynamic variations, nice transitions, and good equilibrium between the sections.

The prologue opens with the kind of visually striking and colorful sets that we expect from French productions of Baroque opera. The second female singer is very pretty (Katherine Watson - OK, this starts very nicely, cough cough). Here, in this scene, and next, au naturel:

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At the end of the prologue there is a nice ballet with interesting choreography and a compelling chorus number. Everybody has white wigs and the effect is beautiful.

The second scene is the one that is on the cover of the disc, and it still features the pretty Katherine Watson. Her voice is fine too.

Next we get the first appearance of Gaëlle Arquez who is good-looking too (a little bit not as much) and can sing as well (a lot more). She beats her colleague Watson in the singing department. Her father is sung by Nahuel di Pierro who also sounds excellent.

I'm always surprised with the high level of singing in these modern Baroque performances out of France. Where do they find these people???

The title role is sung by a decent singer but I'm less impressed by him than by his counterparts.

Anyway, I'm at the 1h 5' mark of a 3-hour opera, and it's been more of the same: colorful sets, good singing, interesting costumes. I like this production very much.

About at 2h10' there is a subdued dream scene all in blue lighting - very beautiful both visually and musically, one of my favorite parts.

The plot is convoluted as usual for Baroque and I'm not really paying attention to it; just enjoying the music, the good singing, and the eye candy.

Those who don't like Baroque will find this long and boring, but those like me, Soave, Festat, etc., who love Baroque, will find that this is a treat and highly recommended.

Soave_Fanciulla
June 11th, 2017, 07:04 AM
Yes I have watched this twice already. Love the music!