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

          
   
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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Operas by Donizetti on DVD/Blu-ray/CD



    Marino Faliero (1835 edition), tragic opera in three acts. (Teatro Donizetti, Bergamo; Italy, October/November 2008).

    Rossini commissioned both Bellini and Donizetti for an opera each. Bellini wrote I Puritani, while Donizetti wrote Marino Faliero; his fiftieth opera, and both works premiered in the same 1835 season. I Puritani proved more successful, easily overshadowing Marino Faliero. Not to be outdone, Donizetti wrote his next masterpiece, Lucia di Lammermoor. So, with this prestigious history of two famous operas sandwiching Marino Faliero, what could one expect?

    A very fine opera, indeed. Based on the real story of an old 14th century Doge of Venice who eventually got beheaded for political reasons, with love and jealousy thrown in between. Well sung and performed by artists who were not big names, although Elena (the Doge’s wife) sung by Rachele Stanisci gave too much vibrato in all arias than I felt comfortable for a tragic character who needed more sensitivity. The staging was effective: costumes were period-ish, and the staging was sensibly modern by effective use of materials and lighting that portrayed what was intended without leaving any puzzling guesswork by the listener. A simple and very useful booklet accompanied the double disc by way of synopsis for every single track. A nice one to add to your Donizetti collection.

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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Maria Stuarda (1834/1835)

    A nice opera with good arias and duets throughout, and there are several versions on DVD/Blu-ray. This one was performed outdoors on a massive stage in August 2007. Competently sang by the leaders, with controlled vibrato from Laura Polverelli (Elisabetta). I tend to prefer Italian singers taking Italian roles because the accent sounds authentic. Costumes were often period-ish, with minimal props on the stage and effective enough.


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    Junior Member Recent member science's Avatar
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    What is the DVD choice for Lucia di Lammermoor?

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    Quote Originally Posted by science View Post
    What is the DVD choice for Lucia di Lammermoor?
    I don't think anyone would come out with this proposition as most obvious choices are probably Sutherland or more recent Netrebko DVDs, but there is also top-notch cast recording with Carreras, Ricciarelli and Lucci to be purchased in this store:

    http://www.belcantosociety.org/store...roducts_id=381

    Here is final aria from this DVD:


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    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HarpsichordConcerto View Post
    Maria Stuarda (1834/1835)

    A nice opera with good arias and duets throughout, and there are several versions on DVD/Blu-ray. This one was performed outdoors on a massive stage in August 2007. Competently sang by the leaders, with controlled vibrato from Laura Polverelli (Elisabetta). I tend to prefer Italian singers taking Italian roles because the accent sounds authentic. Costumes were often period-ish, with minimal props on the stage and effective enough.

    This same great Pizzi production is available with even better singers, AC Antonacci and Mariella Devia, Antonacci is amazing here! Highly recommended...........


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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Donizetti: Roberto Devereux on DVD
    I'm recovering this from an old review I wrote for another site:

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

    Bergamo Music Festival 2006.

    Composer: Donizetti, Gaetano
    Libretto/Text Author: Cammarano, Salvatore
    Libretto Source: Ancelot, Jacques-Francois
    Conductor: Rota, Marcello
    Orchestra: Bergamo Musica Festival Orchestra
    Chorus: Bergamo Musica Festival Chorus
    Chorus Master: Casati, Corrado

    Elizabeth: Theodossiou, Dimitra
    Lord Cecil: Albani, Luigi
    Robert Devereux: Pisapia, Massimiliano
    Sara: Bragaglia, Federica
    Sir Walter Raleigh: Valerio, Giorgio
    The Duke of Nottingham: Schroeder, Andrew

    Massimiliano Pisapia was simply excellent, and I had never heard of this guy before! Federica Bragaglia looked the part (attractive, pretty) and sang decently. The Queen was excellent (Dimitra Theodossiou) although a little shrill at times - but it adds to the characterization of her role as evil. Good traditional staging.




    But of course the big star of the show is Donizetti himself, because his vocal music is incredibly beautiful.

    So, what follows is about the opera rather than about the above production:

    Overture - short and to the point, pleasant.

    Outstanding first aria by Sara. Wow. This will be very good.

    Down to the second aria, Queen Elizabeth I's first. OK, the queen can sing!!!
    Spectacular. So far, 13 minutes of pure magic. It starts already on an A++ mode. Oh boy, I'm in for a treat!!! Pause to refill wine glass, bread and dipping oil.

    Second queen aria. She continues to impress. What is it, an endless series of gorgeous bel canto arias? No signs of slowing down, each one is better than the previous one.

    Duet between the Regina and the conte di Essex. Nascondi, frena i palpiti, o misero mio core. Simply sublime. A+++

    The Duke of Nottingham gets his baritone aria. Good. Beautiful. Less spectacular than his female predecessors. A.


    End of Act I. Flawless. Perfect.

    Act II opens with a long series of duets between Roberto and Sara, again, each one more beautiful than the last one.

    This is such a melodious opera!


    At this point, the streaming site I was watching it from, crashed. I was able to finish watching it one day later, but this time did not engage in detailed scoring, and just said this:

    Spectacular, A+, and easily made it into one of my favorites. This is one that I'll be listening to over and over, once I buy a good recording.
    Chilling dramatic finale, Quel sangue versato al cielo s'innalza.
    Excellent from beginning to end, an impressive array of melodious arias.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Donizetti: Don Gregorio on DVD
    Conductor Stefano Montanari - 2007(LC)

    Orchestra - Bergamo Musica Festival Gaetano Donizetti

    Chorus - Bergamo Musica Festival Gaetano Donizetti

    Marchese Don Giulio Antiquati - Giorgio Valerio

    Marchese Enrico - Giorgio Trucco

    Madama Gilda Tallemanni - Elizaveta Martirosyan

    Marchese Pippetto - Livio Scarpellini

    Gregorio Cordebono - Paolo Bordogna

    Leonarda - Alessandra Fratelli

    Simone - Luca Ludovici
    ------------------------------------------------------------------

    DVD (Video) - Dynamic 33579 (2008)

    Recorded at performances at the Bergamo Musica Festival (2-4 November 2007).



    I'm watching this obscure Donizetti, which has deserved only *one* recording - this one, on DVD (there is no audio recording either). This is an oddball. First of all, Donizetti re-wrote this for the Neapolitan stage (it was originally called L'ajo nell'imbarazzo, and was a real opera buffa, with recitatives. Then four years later Donizetti got an offer to stage it in Naples, but with a caveat - he had to make it basically an operetta (or more precisely, a melodramma giocoso), replacing the recitatives with spoken dialogue with no orchestral accompaniment whatsoever, and also, he had to translate the standard Italian libretto into the Neapolitan dialect so that the public would get it.

    Watching a Donizetti opera with long periods of silence from the orchestra is somewhat strange, and breaks down the continuity of the music. Hey, when a composer aims from the beginning for an operetta or singspiel or opéra comique with spoken dialogue, that's one thing - this is taken into consideration in terms of linking the parts and building up dramatic tension or comic effect. But when you get a full blown opera and break it down, keeping just the arias and ensembles, and submitting the orchestra to long silences, I'm not sure if I like the result. One gets the feeling that something is missing... and it is: the recitatives!

    Then, there is the matter of the production. Of course, the "smart" Regie had to come up with the obligatory (these days) update - here, to the 1920's. This is becoming so prevalent - apparently there is a new rule in the operatic direction textbook establishing that an opera must be updated to ANY point in time except, God forbid, to the period picked by the composer and the librettist - that in the VERY rare occasions when the director doesn't do this, we get a comment like one that I read in another Internet venue, referring to the appropriately non-updated staging of L'Elisir d'Amore (the one with Netrebko and Villazón) as "antiquated." I respect the opinion of the person who issued this adjective; he/she is certainly entitled to his/her opinion - I'm just bringing attention to the fact that the world of opera seems to have gone berserk - why is it "antiquated" to stage an opera in the intended period picked by the authors of the work?

    Anyway, pardon the digression, let's go back to the Regie - not content with merely updating the opera, well, he had to also inject his own big ego into this production, by making of Don Gregorio on occasion a drag queen with feathers! The point of this is totally lost on me.

    Scenarios are bland, monotonous, grey.

    Technical quality: very good. Widescreen, multiple subtitles, linear PCM or Dolby 5.1, good sharp image, good sound balance. It comes in two DVDs in spite of the fact that this opera is not too long, so, they didn't try to do it on the cheap and did include the uncompressed sound.

    Singing - obscure cast of mostly local Italian singers at the Bergamo festival, and the males do a fair job, without any fireworks, but without any major failures either. The two females are a lot weaker. It is hard to enjoy belcanto when the canto is not bello. Elizaveta Martirosyan (Armenian?) is a disaster. She doesn't look so good either, although she's got nice legs. She is also the weakest link in terms of acting. One keeps longing for a more talented singer who could have brought lots of charm to this role.

    The title role is well sung and well acted by Paolo Bordogna.

    The best moments of this work are those when Donizetti is allowed to show us his music (that is, NOT those moments when the orchestra is silent while the singers engage in unfunny slapstick with feathers). But like I said, the whole thing lacks unity.
    I'm afraid that this is the first work by Donizetti that I don't like.

    One wonders what are the priorities of the music industry - why exactly this revival of an obscure opera should be released on a relatively well produced DVD (technically speaking), expensive to boot ($45) - who exactly will be buying this? - while spectacular, brilliant works like the Met production of La Damnation de Faust directed by Lepage can't find their way to DVD? Sure, different companies, Dynamic specializes in more obscure works, but still, if *this* can sell, why can't La Damnation de Faust?

    Not recommended.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); January 28th, 2012 at 04:50 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Donizetti: Rita ou Le Mari Battu on DVD


    Rita ou Le Mari Battu (opéra-comique) by Gaetano Donizetti. Libretto originally in French by Gustave Vaéz. Premičre in Paris at Opéra-Comique, May 7, 1860.

    2010(LI) - Francesco Ledda - Orchestra del Teatro Bellini di Adrano - sung in Italian

    Rita - Paola Quagliata (coloratura soprano)
    Beppe - Carlo Giacchetta (lyric tenor)
    Gasparo - Carlo Torriani (bass)

    Kicco Classic DVD KCOU9019, audio stereo, 16/9 NTSC, subtitles in Italian, English, French, and Spanish. Running time 60 minutes. Released in 2011

    ----------

    This is a rather forgotten operetta from Donizetti, in one act. No surprises in terms of arias or melody, just your usual Bel Canto fare with spoken dialogue and some fast duos and trios. It is light and funny. The plot is the following:

    Rita is a Russian immigrant in Sicily. She was married to Sicilian sailor Gasparo who used to beat her up, then there was a naufrage and she thought that he had died. Her house in Russia caught fire and burned to the ground, prompting her to leave Russia and go to Italy where she remarried another Sicilian, Beppe, and together they managed a small hotel. Afraid that the second husband would beat her up as well, she decides to be more assertive and beats *him* up regularly. We learn about all of this later, and the opera opens at this point in time, with Rita ordering her new husband around and slapping him silly. Then Gasparo shows up, having survived the naufrage, and having assumed that his wife had died in the fire. He is looking for her death certificate in order to remarry a rich Canadian woman [Alma's note - why look for the death certificate in Sicily rather than in Russia???]. He wants to spend the night in Beppe's hotel, and notices that Beppe has a red face from his wife slapping him. Gasparo tells Beppe that he needs to treat his wife "ŕ la Russa" (the Russian way): beating her up lightly and regularly, but without ever knocking her out. It's the best for love, he says. Rita comes back on stage, finds Gasparo and thinks that he looks like the twin brother of her late husband, but attributes it to a coincidence since she is pretty sure he is dead. He does recognize her and gets upset at her being alive which will hinder his plans of marrying the rich Canadian. Rita exits, and Beppe discovers the guest's identity from his passport, and is very happy: this is the golden opportunity to get rid of his abusive wife. Gasparo however threatens to flee, and the two engage in a series of games to decide who will keep Rita - the winner will, but neither one wants her, and both try hard to lose the games. Finally Gasparo to his deep despair is the one who ends up with the 'prize.' Rita comes back and this time does acknowledge that Gasparo is indeed her first husband. She reveals that with the house burning down, all documents were lost except their marriage certificate. Gasparo wants the document to destroy it, so that there would be no proof that they were ever married [the Russians don't keep these in their city halls???]. He tries to seduce Rita to get the document, to no avail. She wants no part of him back. [So, why not simply agree with destroying the document???]. He then pretends to have been injured during the naufrage and be crippled therefore he won't be able to beat her up. She then embraces him and gives him the certificate. [Huh?!?!?]. He says he'll destroy it and go back to Canada. Suddenly Beppe and Rita remember that they do love each other [huh?!??!?] and fall into each other's arms, and let Gasparo go back to Canada, not before advising Beppe again to be more assertive and beat Rita up from time to time. Rita however says that the domestic violence should end for good, and all rejoyce. Curtain.

    OK, like many operas, the plot is preposterous and with holes bigger than craters in the moon.

    But it is all light fun, and effective. Nothing extraordinary, but a good and pleasant little operetta. 7/10.

    The production: bare bones DVD with not even a list of chapters, just a synopsis in four languages. No extras. No choice of sound track. The sound is decent except that the balance in rare moments allows the orchestra to smother the singers (it only happens a couple of times). The image is sharp, and widescreen. Video direction changes camera too often which is a little dizzying. 7/10

    Orchestra and conductor are unremarkable but don't get in the way. 8/10

    Staging is decent - a tacky hotel lobby, and some anachronisms and changes to the libretto which is something I don't necessarily approve of, although they do add some comic effects (songs like Volare and La Vie en Rose make brief appearances; Commander Jacques Cousteau is mentioned, and there is a cell phone call). 8/10

    Acting is very good and convincing, in a slapstick comedy kind of way. Paola Quagliata is a good looking woman with a beautiful smile and a hot body. The two husbands are appropriately ridiculous-looking, for more comic effect (contrary to general tendency, here the bass looks even worse than the tenor, so, no eye candy for the ladies). 9/10

    Singing is stellar and the strongest point of this production. Paola has a very beautiful and agile voice, and executes the coloraturas with perfection. One wonders why she's not been seen in other productions. She can sing, act, and looks good (the cover picture doesn't do her justice, here are three more).



    Carlo the tenor does as well as Flórez in this repertory, including a rapid sequence of high C's perfectly executed, which reminds me of Pour mon âme. Carlo the bass is less good than the other two but doesn't sink the ship at all. Singing: 9/10

    Overal, 8/10. Recommended.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Donizetti: La Favorita on DVD
    OK, folks, this is it, again. This is opera.

    Some cognoscenti will tell you that La Favorite(a) is Donizetti's best opera. While I don't entirely agree (I'd say Roberto Devereux is more melodious, and L'Elisir d'Amore is more fun), this is one darn good opera.

    So here I am today, Friday evening; the wife is asleep, we have watched the delayed tape of the Royal Wedding on TV together, and then she went to bed and left me alone with my second passion - after her; she is my absolute first passion; my beloved wife, and she does share my second one with me as well, but not as much: opera.



    As I'm watching this, I'm a little depressed. I'm questioning the operatic path I've taken - going for the visual media, believing in the "entire work of art" concept, rather than going for the best vinyl/CD recordings.

    Because, see, great opera requires great singing. And with the overwhelming new media - YouTube, DVD's, blu-rays - we got plenty of images, but I'd say that the singing is not entirely there.

    Case in point, this DVD.

    This is a perfomance recorded live in Tokyo in 1971. Forty years ago. The NHK Symphony Orchestra is exquisitely conducted by Oliviero de Fabritiis.

    Fernando is Alfredo Krauss. Leonora is Fiorenza Cossotto. Baldassarre is Ruggero Raimondi. Alfonso XI is Sesto Bruscantini. The minor roles of Don Gasparo and Ines are respectively sung by Augusto Pedroni and Marisa Zotti.

    Technical quality of this DVD: appaling. It is, frankly, worse than many non-professional DVD's I've seen. Grainy image, primitive camera work, and a damn prompter who can be heard out loud in many essential moments. Oh God, this is so annoying!! This 40-years-old product seems as bad as any home movie I've recorded with a shaky hand-held camera on the occasion of my kids' birthday parties.

    But then, like I said, great opera requires great singing.

    Alfred Kraus delivers one of the most impressive tenor performances I've ever seen/heard in my entire life.

    Oh! My! God!

    I've seen this guy many times on YouTube videos, mostly past his prime. I've heard many recordings with him, some good, some bad after wear and tear got him.

    But I had never seen Alfred Kraus at the very peak of his ability, in full control of his artistry, in his absolutely top prime time, singing like God's gift to humankind. You have it all right here, folks, on this La Favorita DVD.

    This is amazing. Incredible. Extraordinary.

    This DVD couldn't be more faulty. Every single technical aspect is a disaster. Many of the other singers are mediocre at best. I don't like Fiorenza Cossotto in this production at all. Marisa Zotti as Ines is painfully weak.

    And yet... and yet...

    You have three male singers - Alfred Kraus, the tenor, in the role of Fernando. Sesto Bruscantini the baritone as Alfonso XI. Ruggero Raimondi the bass as Baldassarre.

    They are all three simply spectacular. You guys need to see it to believe it.

    This is sublime singing. We don't see this kind of thing these days. We have to travel back in time 40 years to get to this level of expertise.

    Alfred Kraus has me in tears. Listening to his PERFECT delivery of every single damn note is an orgasmic experience, and in itself justifies the fact that this otherwise very faulty DVD should be an obligatory item in any serious opera lover's collection.

    Not to forget that Donizetti's opera in itself is fabulous.

    Highly recommended. For Donizetti's incredible score and vocal writing. For Ruggero Raimondi's Baldassarre. And over everything else, for Alfred Kraus' Fernando, a performance for the ages.

    Bravo. Bravo. Bravo. Bravo.

    And thank you for reminding me that great opera takes a great composer like Donizetti, and a great tenor like Kraus.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Donizetti: Anna Bolena on DVD


    This is an old VAI release, but still widely available commercially. It's from a live 1984 recording in Toronto, with Richard Bonynge conducting the Canadian Opera Company Orchestra, and a star-studded cast lead by Dame Joan Sutherland in the role of Anne Boleyn, but also with other great singers such as James Morris as Henry VIII, Judith Forst as Jayne Seymor, and Ben Heppner as Hervey. Michael Myers as Lord Percy, Janet Stubbs as Smenton and Gidon Saks as Lord Rochefort complete the strong cast. The Italian libretto is by Felice Romani.

    Technically speaking this product is pretty dismal, with dark grainy 1.33:1 image with fading colors, and no choice of sound track, which is provided according to Amazon in Dolby Digital 2.0 (the DVD cover and insert don't say anything about the sound track) but it must have been remastered from a mono analog source because it is not good at all and I don't hear any stereo effects. Other than the lack of clarity and distortions, the balance is pretty bad and heavily favors the singers over the orchestra, which can be barely heard at times.

    The poor overall quality of this historical recording is not helped by the bare-bones packaging with no liner notes beyond a rather incomplete list of chapters that doesn't even list all the arias. The funny thing is that they take us all for novices, because they almost don't give us any information but make sure to let us know that "because the libretto is in Italian, Anne Boleyn is called Anna Bolena and Henry VIII is called Enrico." Oh gee, thanks, VAI! I'd be so confused without this valuable piece of information!

    There is no synopsis but one scrolls down the screen during the overture. Subtitles are only available in English, and they are obligatory, big, and intrusive. No extras. Running time 157 minutes. In spite of the spare packaging, this thing sells for $36 on Amazon.com, before shipping. Expensive for such a primitive product.

    Lotfi Mansouri's staging is traditional (more traditional than this, impossible) and rather lavish with very elaborate period costumes (one hopes one could see a bit more, given the very dark picture).

    This is where the bad news end, because as expected Dame Sutherland in spite of her advanced age here is still spectacular in a role that suits her perfectly, and her partners are not too shabby either. It is cool to see Heppner in a small role before he got famous, and Forst is very impressive. Morris on the other hand seems miscast in this repertoire, and he tends to be too loud, without the delicacy of phrasing and subtle emotions that are required of a belcanto singer. This is not Wagner, sir! In his duet with Forst in Act I scene 2 this is painfully apparent, since she does what is required, but he doesn't, so we get a weird mix of belcanto mezzo-soprano with Wagnerian bass-baritone. Michael Myers as Percy is very good, and so is Janet Stubbs.

    Anna's and Giovanna's famous duet in Act III Scene 2 is a thing of beauty, very special in Sutherland's and Forst's voices.

    Dame Sutherland does transpose down the end of the opera, suffering from vocal fatigue at that point. One forgives her for it. She was 58 years old at the time of this performance. Ten years earlier she didn't need to do this. I still prefer Berverly Sills' 1972 recording of this role (I mean, until October when I'll attend my Anna's live performance at the Met) although I've never heard Callas 1957 recording, but in spite of (at the time of recording) serious competition from the younger voices of two other formidable sopranos, one still needs to respect Dame Sutherland.

    Helping La Stupenda and the other excellent singers are Donizetti's sublime and melodious music and the strong dramatic qualities of this work, one of his Tudor Queens operas, premiered in 1830. It's the 35th opera in his prolific career, but it was still composed way before his big hits. In certain ways, its mad scene is the predecessor to its more famous cousin in Lucia.

    During the orchestral moments when the singers are not competing with the orchestra for the microphones and we can hear the musicians better, one likes Sutherland's husband Bonynge's solid interpretation of the score.

    The bottom line is that in spite of the technical deficiency, a miscast Morris (who still does well, mind you), and an aging Sutherland, this is still pretty much obligatory in a serious opera lover's collection for its historical value and good/great singing: it's a worthy rendition of this superb opera, so I'll say "recommended."
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Donizetti: Linda di Chamounix on DVD


    Linda di Chamounix, melodrama semiserio in three acts, premiered in Vienna in 1842
    Music by Gaetano Donizetti
    Libretto by Gaetano Rossi, after Adolphe Phillipe Dennery and Gustave Lemoine

    1996(LI) - Adam Fischer - Orchestra of the Zurich Opera House
    Chorus of the Zurich Opera House, chorus master Jürg Hämmerli
    Stage director Daniel Schmid
    Stage design Erich Wonder
    Video director Alf bernhard-Leonardi

    Cast

    Linda - Edita Gruberová
    Carlo, Visconti di Sirval - Deon van der Walt
    Il Marchese di Boisfleury - Jacob Will
    Il Prefetto - László Polgár
    Antonio, padre di Linda - Armando Ariostini
    Maddalena, madre di Linda - Nadine Asher
    Pierotto - Cornelia Kallisch
    L'Intendente - Miroslav Christoff

    This is a 2003 TDK release with a running time of 164 minutes
    Picture format 4:3, region code zero, sound tracks LPCM, DD 5.1, DTS 5.1
    Optional subtitles in original Italian, English, French, and Spanish (curiously, no German - in spite of narration of the synopsis in German and credits in German)
    2 DVDs - curiously the stamp doesn't say which one is disc 1, which one is disc 2 (except in the very tiny print of the catalog number - one number ends in 1, the other in 2, voilŕ!)
    Liner notes contain a brief essay, the synopsis, and complete chapter/aria list with characters and duration

    The opera is set to 1760, in the French Alpes village of Chamounix, Savoy, then in Paris for the second act, then back to the Alpes for the last act. Musically it is considered to be very good and was very well received at the time, then was forgotten until the revival of Belcanto. The subject matter includes a degenerate marquis who tries to seduce a farmer girl. His nephew who is disguised as a painter (Carlo) and living incognito in Linda's village (huh, same setup of Giordano's Marcella) falls in love with the girl, takes her to Paris, installs her in an apartment (platonic relationship). However his mother presses him to marry within his own class, Linda gets to know that he's about to marry another woman, goes mad (her stress is compounded by the fact that her father shows up in Paris too and thinks that she is living in sin). She is taken back to the village, Carlos escapes the grip of his family and goes back to the village to profess his love for her, she recovers, happy ending.

    Donizetti had trouble with the censors who didn't want a nobleman to be depicted as a degenerate seducer, then the composer had to change the Marchese di Boisfleury's role to a buffo role, thus the melodrama semiserio classification for this opera.

    This makes of this work a weird one. The comic elements with fast parlando seem completely divorced from the tragic belcanto aspects - because, well, they are... Donizetti had never intended to make of this a half-comedy to start with so this work has a sort of unity problem.

    The first scene is marred by weak singing, and ugly staging. The attempt at a zany buffo ensemble featuring the Marchese, Linda's parents and villagers falls flat, is not funny, and the singing is rather full of shrieking. Period costumes, sparse staging with painted landscape (not good looking at all) and dark lighting. This doesn't look very promising.

    Image is not great, and sound is OK, but with audience noise. Wait, actually, it is not OK. The surround effects on the DTS track are very poorly done and do not isolate the direction of voices (you can hear the singer from the left back speaker simultaneously with the front speakers, causing an unpleasant reverberation. I probably should switch to the LPCM track.

    I learn from the liner notes that the stage director at Zurich Opera House - this snake pit of Regie productions (sorry, Zurich Opera fans) - has changed the setting (no more Paris) and the behavior of the characters, to make them "more aggressive or insane." Oh boy. I don't like the sound of this.

    We get Edita in the next scene, and she sings very well - but absolutely doesn't look the part, as expected.

    Then we have choral music - again the annoying reverberation - OK, wait a moment, I *will* switch the sound track. Done. Much better. Don't pick the DTS track, folks.

    Cornelia comes in as Pierotto (trouser role, originally for contralto, here sung by a mezzo) and she sings beautifully. She's got a strange device with her, a sort of box with an alarm clock attached to it and some flashing yellow and red lights. Okaaayyy... it's supposed to be a hurdy-gurdy, but it's a Regie kind of hurdy-gurdy, LOL... the scenario changes to a veil with Kodak Film written on it... [Alma rolls his eyes]

    The first genuinely beautiful moment comes up, when Pierotto sings the lachrymose aria Per sua madre andň una figlia. Regie or not, at least we have Donizetti to hold things up.

    This is followed by the also beautiful tenor cabaletta Da quel dě che t'incontrai. Unfortunately Deon van der Walt is no J-Flo.

    The mayor and Antonio have a long scene next, and the music is very good, although Armando Oriostini is not (wobbly bass-baritone). László Polgár however is much better (beautiful basso profondo).

    Act I ends by a finale with everybody looking gloomy and desperate. Linda's mother is sung by another weak singer, but Edita and Cornelia do keep the interest going.

    Summary of act I - appallingly ugly staging with some Regie touches, bad lighting, uneven singing, misplaced comic elements, but rather great Donizetti music.

    Act 2, it looks like it *is* set in Paris after all. We get again the German narration of the synopsis. Those who don't like to read the synopsis ahead of time (spoilers) won't like this.

    LOL, the Paris of the stage director is an empty platform with a sort of cardboard large model of a crooked narrow building. Again, ugly. Lighting remains dreadful. Edita continues to sing beautifully, oblivious to the shenanigans of the stage director and set designer. Apparently there will be a woman being paraded on a silver plate with her legs up at some point, and the sci-fi hurdy-gurdy will start to spit out snow. Great! What do these stage directors think they're adding to these works? Whatever. Let's continue to listen, like I said the music is good and we get Pierotto on stage again, great duo with Linda.

    The scenario gets a background painting to make it look a little more like the interior of an apartment. Oh yeah, the woman with the legs up comes by. Ridiculous.

    Act III - back to the Alpes. Very ugly looking glacier as a background painting.

    By now I've lost interest in the far-fetched plot, and even more in the ugly, Regie staging.
    The music remains good. Edita is supposed to do a good mad scene next.

    But my conclusion about this DVD is done already, I won't continue to review part by part. Here is the verdict: not recommended. This staging doesn't add anything to the work, the singing is uneven, and I think that this musically beautiful (but theatrically weak) opera is likely to be best served by CD recordings. There are three good singers here, but they don't save the production.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  13. #12
    Senior Member Veteran Member Aksel's Avatar
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    Something of a rarity, this not too often performed Donizetti comedy does deserve a few more productions than it gets today.


    The opera, often named by its other title "Viva la mamma!" is about a rather mediocre opera troupe rehearsing a new opera seria, Romulus and Ersilia. The cast features, of course, the troupe's prima donna Daria Garbinati who is a gajillion times better than the troupe's seconda donna, Luiga Castragatti (the convenienze alluded to in the title were the rules relating to the ranking of singers (primo, secondo, comprimario) in 19th-century Italian opera, and the number of scenes, arias etc. that they were entitled to expect. (source)), who is of course infinitely more talented than the prima donna. Also present are the prima donna's husband Procolo who makes Don Ottavio look like Don Giovanni, a conductor, the librettist, the theatre director, an impresario and the primo tenore Guglielmo Antolstoinoff, who is German. Finally, there is Mamm'Agata, the mother of the seconda donna, who is utterly convinced that it is her daughter that should be singing the main part. Oh, and she's a baritone in drag. And breaks into Neapolitan at times. Unsurprisingly, hilarity ensues.

    The music is unmistakably Donizetti, although one does get the feeling, especially in the first act, that more could have been made of the music. It's as if Donizetti was trying to write a Rossini comedy, or even a neapolitan farsa, and he doesn't get the music quite right. Instead of bubbling and fizzing where it should, like Mamm'Agata's 1st act aria, it kind of falls flat. But it does get a lot better as the opera progresses. The overture also occured to me as a little disjointed.
    The second act, which allows for the insertion of arias by other composers (in this case an aria from Rossini's Aureliano in Palmira, Dies Bildnis from Zauberflöte and an aria from Donizetti's Fausta) I liked a lot better, especially the finale.
    The secco recits, however are a joy to listen to, for a change.

    Overall, the cast is very good, especially the male roles. They seem generally to come from the La Scala young apprentice program, and they do impress. As the Prima Donna, Jessica Pratt does a fine job, however, her vibrato is a tad to big for the more florid passages, but somehow she navigates her way through the big, show-stopping Rossini aria with bravura.
    As the Seconda Donna, Aurora Tirotta, fares better, although her vibrato was also a tad too big..
    Procolo, as sung by Simon Bailey vas very good, as was Christian Senn's conductor and Chae Jun Lin's librettist.
    The best, by far, however, was the Mamm'Agata of Vincenzo Taormina. His singing was wonderful, as was his acting and stage presence. He never really went overboard in his acting, but he is still very convincing as the over-the-top stage mother he is portraying.

    Gorgeous costumes and a somewhat strange set (it's set on a beach for some reason).

    If you like meta-opera, this one's for you. If you also like highly melodious music with some very, very good bits tucked inbetween, this is also for you. Get it.

    Oh, and it's on the youtubes:


    [Link to video deleted by Admin - video no longer available]
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    Last edited by Ann Lander (sospiro); January 14th, 2018 at 06:30 PM.

  14. #13
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Very nice review, Aksel. As usual, your reviews are spot on.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  15. #14
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Don Gregorio (1826, based on Ajo nell'imbarazzo from 1824)

    Giorgio Valerio (Marchese Don Giulio Antiquati), Giorgio Trucco (Marchese Enrico), Elizaveta Martirosyan (Madama Gilda Tallemanni), Livio Scarpellini (Marchese Pippetto), Paolo Bordogna (Gregorio Cordebono), Alessandra Fratelli (Leonarda) & Luca Ludovici (Simone). Orchestra and chorus of the Bergamo Musica Festival, Stefano Montanari (conductor) & Roberto Recchia (director), 2007.

    Donizetti wrote Ajo nell'imbarazzo in 1824, and was one of his earliest successful operas in terms of how widely it became performed and known. Two years later in 1826, he set to work on a Neapolitan version of Ajo - Don Gregorio. Traditional recitative passages in Ajo were replaced by prose dialogue, the title role was translated into Neapolitan, with new numbers added and others deleted. Don Gregorio, a two act opera appeared very well received. Donizetti himself wrote: "... it met with a result that was more than felicitous. Every piece was warmly applauded, and I myself earned, it not money, at least plentiful honours".

    Don Gregorio appears as one of those seldom heard/performed Donizetti operas. This production, despite a few quirks, was quite enjoyable overall. A mixture of modern colours, comical undertones (see cover of DVD) and generally well sung by all the leads. I liked most the very well pacing of the score by conductor Stefano Montanari (who is normally associated with his period instrument band, Accademia Bizantina), this time directing with lively energy, capturing much of the comical undertones. There are many arias featuring deuts, trios and more with strong Rossinian and even Mozartian flavours, several capturing applause of the audience after each number (for a relatively little known opera). The spoken dialogue offers a play-like feel of the production.

    The booklet described this opera as "... of transition between Donizetti's late youth and the beginning of his maturity, at times sincerely new, at others old fashioned". An agreeable way of putting it.

    Last edited by Ann Lander (sospiro); January 14th, 2018 at 06:30 PM.

  16. #15
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    Yes.

    Two major characters are without any fault here. Gruberova's sublime, very womanish voice and galant, carefully shaded singing of Kraus gives us perhaps the best Lammermoor pair on recording. Some would put Caballe/Carreras above it, I'm sure, but I prefer those two, especially Gruberova over Caballe. Rest of cast is at least solid.

    I can't help but compare Kraus - the teacher, with Filianoti - the student here, as I've watched the latter in Lucia two days ago (performance with Dessay and Viviani) - it helps me to appreciate Kraus even more. Filianoti screams like they would tear him apart, to the point of artificiality and banal, cliche expression while Kraus, och, well, I can't find proper words. He sings like he would read poetry, with most sublime nuances, he is expressive without rejecting pure musical beauty, his Tu che a Dio is best of all I've heard (and I'm not even sure if it goes for this one here or the one from other performance in this role). Must hear for lovers of Gateano.

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