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Thread: Operas by Donizetti on DVD/Blu-ray/CD

          
   
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  1. #31
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    I was watching this again, this afternoon:



    Lucia di Lammermoor, dramma tragico in tre atti - Music by Gaetano Donizetti
    Libretto by Salvadore Cammarano, after Sir Walter Scott's novel The Bride of Lammermoor

    The Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
    Conductor, Marco Armiliato
    Recorded live on 7 February 2009
    Glass Armonica solo: Cecilia Brauer
    Harp solo: Mariko Anraku
    Flute solo: Stefßn Ragnar H÷skuldsson

    Production Mary Zimmerman
    Set Design Daniel Ostling

    Cast

    Principal singers

    Lord Enrico Ashton - Mariusz Kwiecien
    Miss Lucia di Lammermoor - Anna Netrebko
    Sir Edgardo di Ravenswood - Piotr Beczala
    Raimondo Bidebent - Ildar Abdrazakov

    Comprimarios

    Lord Arturo Bucklaw - Colin Lee
    Alisa - Michaela Martens
    Normanno - Michael Myers

    ---------

    DG release, on 2 DVDs, NTSC 16:9, region code zero, sound PCM stereo and DTS 5.1, extras "Backstage at the Met" featuring the Live in HD interviews with the principal singers, the conductor, the stage director, and some technical people, hosted by Natalie Dessay (17'). Opera running time 143'. Subtitles Italian (original language), German, English, French, Spanish, Chinese. Catalog # B0013573-09. Available [here] on Amazon.com for $29.93

    ----------

    I won't do a long, formal review. Watching this again is neat for me, after having interviewed three of the four principal singers (two in person, one by Skype videoconference). This DVD was the topic of long conversations in the past between yours truly and other members (as mentioned above by sospiro), motivated by my strong bias in favor of Anna Netrebko in this role, while the competition on DVD - Mariella Devia, Joan Sutherland, Katia Ricciarelli, Natalie Dessay, Renata Scotto, Anna Moffo, etc. - all have their proponents as a much better fit for the role. Well, OK, I'm particularly fond of Mariella Devia's vocal skills while singing Lucia. Sure. And Dame Joan Sutherland certainly can sing, and Natalie Dessay certainly can act. And if one goes to CDs, then of course there is Maria Callas. Yes, all true.

    Still, I insist. This performance just blows me away, bias or not. I don't really understand those who say that Anna doesn't have the right coloratura skills, here. Yes, usually she doesn't; she isn't exactly a coloratura soprano, but here, she actually does it quite well in my humble opinion, and even trills when it's called for (although, confessedly, less well than some of her competitors). But even though I concede that agility is not Anna's best feature, the overall quality of her performance here is truly excellent. First of all, her timbre of voice is just so impossibly beautiful in the Mad Scene! When she matches her gorgeous voice to the glass armonica, it's out of this world. Her acting is very compelling, to the point of causing me goosebumps and teary eyes. And she looks very good in the bridal gown, in spite of the fact that she was coming right out of delivering her baby boy (this was her first performance after giving birth to Tiago AruŃ). Not only Anna performs a devastatingly beautiful Mad Scene, but also her confrontation with her brother in Act 2 is extremely well acted and sung.

    Other nice features of this DVD are the other three principal singers, all of whom perform to the highest standards. Actually Piotr Beczala draws more applause from the public than Anna, in the curtain calls, and deservedly so. Mariusz Kwiecien is just as excellent, and Ildar Abdrazakov is very sound and secure. Then, there is the fact that we *do* get a glass armonica, which is not always the case for Lucia DVDs. We get Marco Armiliato to say on camera what I believe as well to be true: that the Met orchestra is the best operatic orchestra in the world. Set design with that huge moon calling for madness, is very beautiful.

    Technically speaking, the DVD is of good quality of image, and especially, sound. This is a very well balanced and rich sound track (contrasting with the other DVD I reviewed today of Rossini's Zelmira, which had all the qualities in the world, but a less than ideal sound track).

    A few cons do exist: the comprimarios are way less interesting than the principal singers, making for a somewhat unbalanced vocal performance. Certainly many productions have uneven singing from the big stars versus the secondary roles, but in this particular production, we get a bigger gap - four extraordinary principal singers, and three rather pale comprimarios, so the contrast is a bit painful - which is atypical of the Met, a company that counts on a large roster and usually is able to put good comprimarios on stage. Much has been said about the annoying photographer, ruining the famous sextet. Yes, I also find it distracting and unnecessary. That's what happens when stage directors don't understand that the *music* is the driving force in this famous scene, and the music is dramatic enough, without any need for trying to make the scene any "better", theatrically (in this case, it clearly makes it worse, instead). Also, the backstage featurette is one of the weakest in recent years. Natalie Dessay, the host, doesn't seem to be able to engage with the interviewees, who all, with the exception of Mariusz Kwiecien, tend to reply to her questions in rather short, at times monosyllabic answers. Video direction, while generally good, could have focused on the glass armonica at least once. This instrument is rare enough in the operatic pit to justify at least one take. They do show the harp soloist, so, why not the glass armonica??? And I don't care for the long distance takes showing the entire house, and backstage fragments outside of the featurette; these kinds of shots ruin the immersion effect. Video direction for opera needs to forget about the house and the backstage while the opera is going on. I hate it when video directors make this mistake.

    These cons prevent me from giving to this product the A++ or A+ grade, but the cons can't drop it down to B either, thanks to the excellent singing of the four principals and the great performance by the Met orchestra and its glass armonica, harp, and flute soloists, so I say A, recommended.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); January 27th, 2013 at 12:26 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  2. #32
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    Very high quality Lucia, I have every Netrebko opera video and really love her work and amber voice, but I am puzzled why DG does not offer a blu ray version as they usually do

  3. #33
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dark_Angel View Post
    Very high quality Lucia, I have every Netrebko opera video and really love her work and amber voice, but I am puzzled why DG does not offer a blu ray version as they usually do
    I love you, Dark_Angel!!!!
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  4. #34
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    You got me watching the Met's Lucia too. Yes, the interviews with Natalie Dessay are painful. Either she is very nervous or totally jealous that she did not get the gig! Its all about her i am afraid!

    Enjoying the production. Mary Zimmerman did a good job (and yes i like her La Sonnambula too!)

  5. #35
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yashin View Post
    You got me watching the Met's Lucia too. Yes, the interviews with Natalie Dessay are painful. Either she is very nervous or totally jealous that she did not get the gig! Its all about her i am afraid!

    Enjoying the production. Mary Zimmerman did a good job (and yes i like her La Sonnambula too!)
    I don't think it is nervousness. Natalie Dessay is a seasoned performer and a stage animal. I don't think she gets nervous after all those years dealing with the spotlight.

    Natalie was featured in the very same production, but the Met chose to not release her performance on DVD, and went with Anna's instead. Maybe she was understandably a bit upset, because usually she is more camera-savvy in these occasions, so she was atypically cold and distant during the interviews, which then reflected on the unwillingness of the artists to get too engaged in their answers. From conducting interviews myself, I've learned that the interviewer's attitude is essential to get the artist going and motivated to issue compelling answers.

    I liked Mary Zimmerman's staging, except for that awful photographer. One wants to yell at him, "stop interfering, we are here to focus on the gorgeous music, dammit!!!" - this is the kind of thing that happens when you get a theatrical director to direct opera. Sometimes they don't understand the specifics of the genre, and tend to insert their stage tricks at the wrong musical moment. This is clearly one such example. I wonder why, in a place like the Met, you don't get someone - such as James Levine, out of his authority as Musical Director, or the conductor for this show, in this case Marco Armiliato - to say to her, "Whoa, Mary, sorry, but you really, really, really can't do this. Come up with some other idea and by all means do it, but in some other scene; don't ruin the Sextet! It's just one of those things, musically speaking, that you can't mess with!"

    I didn't see that La Sonnambula but I've heard many negative things about it.

    On the other hand, her Armida (Rossini's) was pretty good. She also inserted a 'new' character there - a girl looking like Cupido - but that time, it worked. So, it's not that the stage director can't introduce some sort of concept, but it needs to be done with respect for the music, and in this case, she fell flat on her face by introducing a highly distracting element during the second most important musical moment of the opera. Because, see, her introduction of a ghost in two scenes, worked perfectly. But the photographer really didn't.

    Wasn't there anybody in this entire organization with hundreds of years of operatic experience to advise her against it???
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); January 27th, 2013 at 05:26 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  6. #36
    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    "Whoa, Mary, sorry, but you really, really, really can't do this...... don't ruin the Sextet! It's just one of those things, musically speaking, that you can't mess with!"
    One of the reasons I chose this version of Lucia in the poll over at 'the other place'

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTuEBwX8dQk

    "Every theatre is an insane asylum, but an opera theatre is the ward for the incurables."

    FRANZ SCHALK, attributed, Losing the Plot in Opera: Myths and Secrets of the World's Great Operas

  7. #37
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sospiro View Post
    One of the reasons I chose this version of Lucia in the poll over at 'the other place'

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTuEBwX8dQk

    Yep, that's a proper Sextet.

    You know, I can imagine Ms. Zimmerman, coming from another medium, and thinking, "oh well, all these people singing simultaneously is kind of confusing, I don't know what this composer was thinking with this messy scene; we need something else to focus on, rather than all these confusing voices. Hey, I know it! We need some stage action, a photographer, to make of this boring and static moment something fun!" She probably saw it as just some other scene, failing to grasp its importance in opera history, and its pivotal function in this particular work.

    Hm... No, Ms. Zimmerman. It's not boring, and it's not confusing! It features each of the six characters' psychological reaction - in a moment of reckoning - to the unexpected unfolding events. It's gorgeous, and it requires respect and concentration. It's one of the best scenes in all of opera. It *can't* be improved upon. Leave it up to the singers and the orchestra, and get your darn photographer out of there!!!

    Like I said, I'm baffled that in an institution that has presented the finest opera performances since 1880 to the public and harbors noted conductors and operatic experts, nobody had the guts to set this *theatrical* stage director straight and teach her that this is not how it's done.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  8. #38
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    This is how properly staged sextet should look like, just for comparison:


  9. #39
    Opera Lively Media Consultant Top Contributor Member Ann Lander (sospiro)'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    Hm... No, Ms. Zimmerman. It's not boring, and it's not confusing! It features each of the six characters' psychological reaction - in a moment of reckoning - to the unexpected unfolding events. It's gorgeous, and it requires respect and concentration. It's one of the best scenes in all of opera. It *can't* be improved upon. Leave it up to the singers and the orchestra, and get your darn photographer out of there!!!


    Beautifully put Alma
    "Every theatre is an insane asylum, but an opera theatre is the ward for the incurables."

    FRANZ SCHALK, attributed, Losing the Plot in Opera: Myths and Secrets of the World's Great Operas

  10. #40
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    The photographer bit reminds me of the Le Nozze from Paris on DVD with Sylvain Cambreling conducting a Christoph Marthelar production. During the overture Cambreling stops conducting and starts taking photos with a camera. All a bit odd. Each 'shot' shows the singers and introduces them. Very odd considering the overture to Le Nozze is so beautiful. Actually, this is my favourite Le Nozze production. Just that bit i find odd.

  11. #41
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    Has anyone listened to Dessay's cd called "Mad Scenes"? Wondered if it is worth purchasing.

  12. #42
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yashin View Post
    Has anyone listened to Dessay's cd called "Mad Scenes"? Wondered if it is worth purchasing.
    Yes worth getting especially for $4 at Amazon USA sellers, there are 3 really long 15+ minute segments which limit the number of scences included. Not sure why Candide was included here.....

    Even better and more essential is her highlight DVD, great collection of scences many unavailable in commercial DVD release, includes artist comments about each scence


  13. #43
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dark_Angel View Post
    Yes worth getting especially for $4 at Amazon USA sellers, there are 3 really long 15+ minute segments which limit the number of scences included. Not sure why Candide was included here.....

    Even better and more essential is her highlight DVD, great collection of scences many unavailable in commercial DVD release, includes artist comments about each scence

    Thanks Dark Angel! I will look into that then

  14. #44
    Member Recent member jhar26's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MAuer View Post
    Speaking of our beloved leader, I'm surprised he hasn't mentioned this DVD:



    La Bellissima and Elina Garanca are vocally and visually superb as Anne Boleyn and Jane Seymour, each actually having some physical resemblance to the historical figure she portrays. Ildebrando D'Archangelo doesn't look a thing like the real Henry VIII, but he sings marvelously and has the right commanding presence for the monarch. I'm afraid I can't warm up to Francesco Meli's Percy (Stephen Costello at the Met was a little better), and Dan Paul Dumitrescu's Lord Rochefort looks more like Anne's father than her brother. Elisabeth Kulman is a delightful Smeaton.
    I agree with every single word in this review.

    My only problem with this otherwise great opera is that Henry VIII is such a scumbag without any redeeming qualities whatsoever that it's hard to imagine any woman falling in love with him, let alone up to a point where she would be willing to send her best friend to death for him.

  15. #45
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhar26 View Post
    I agree with every single word in this review.

    My only problem with this otherwise great opera is that Henry VIII is such a scumbag without any redeeming qualities whatsoever that it's hard to imagine any woman falling in love with him, let alone up to a point where she would be willing to send her best friend to death for him.
    I'm not so sure that anyone really falls in love with Henry. It's more a question of political ambition.

    And Ildebrando is a great improvement on the real Henry who had little piggy eyes and a nasty little pursed mouth.
    Natalie

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