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Thread: Operas by Handel on DVD, Blu-ray, and CD

          
   
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  1. #46
    Senior Member Involved Member Vesteralen's Avatar
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    I have a question for you knowledgeable people:

    I recently finished watching this Alcina from my local library:

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    The staging was a bit boring at times, but it wasn't as distracting as the Nagelstad version reviewed earlier on this thread. The singers were not of the eye-candy variety, but vocally, some of them were outstanding. Anja Harteros as Alcina and Veronica Cangemi as Morgana were particularly awesome.

    HOWEVER, the singer who played the part of Ruggerio I found almost intolerable. I ended up fast forwarding through her arias more than I listened to them in their entirety.

    So, my question is - for those of you who have seen both DVD versions, which is the all-round better choice vocally?

    And, is there another DVD option out there that should be in the discussion?


    Thanks

  2. #47
    Senior Member Veteran Member Aksel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vesteralen View Post
    HOWEVER, the singer who played the part of Ruggerio I found almost intolerable. I ended up fast forwarding through her arias more than I listened to them in their entirety.
    Ah, yes. La Kasarova. She's a special flower.

  3. #48
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    She was vocally pretty shocking in this - totally uneven register. Give me Alice Coote any day. Better actress, too, and none of those hamster faces.
    Natalie

  4. #49
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    The majority of Handel staged productions that make it to DVD/Blu-ray do no justice to the opera. The Harteros/Minkowski production has a lacklustre staging (though not outrageous as some others), the singing is not nearly as adequate as CD studio versions (namely Alan Curtis, William Christie). Alcina is one of Handel's finest later operas and it clearly deserves better. I have listened to parts of the Coote/Hacker version and it is far worse - wrong tempi all over, wrong pitch, cuts everywhere and strange staging. Alan Hacker is not a regular conductor of any repertoire let alone Baroque opera. I would prefer the Minkowski version as far as DVD/Blu-ray is concerned. Alcina is a Baroque magic opera. Drawing an analogy, would you make a Lord of the Rings movie in modern day costumes?

    Failing that, go for either or both of these instead.




  5. #50
    Staff Writer & Reviewer - Life-time Donor Veteran Member Jephtha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HarpsichordConcerto View Post
    The majority of Handel staged productions that make it to DVD/Blu-ray do no justice to the opera. The Harteros/Minkowski production has a lacklustre staging (though not outrageous as some others), the singing is not nearly as adequate as CD studio versions (namely Alan Curtis, William Christie). Alcina is one of Handel's finest later operas and it clearly deserves better. I have listened to parts of the Coote/Hacker version and it is far worse - wrong tempi all over, wrong pitch, cuts everywhere and strange staging. Alan Hacker is not a regular conductor of any repertoire let alone Baroque opera. I would prefer the Minkowski version as far as DVD/Blu-ray is concerned. Alcina is a Baroque magic opera. Drawing an analogy, would you make a Lord of the Rings movie in modern day costumes?

    Failing that, go for either or both of these instead.



    HC, what do you think of the Hickox Alcina on EMI? Despite prosaic conducting and inadequate performers in the secondary roles (especially a shrill, hard-toned Eiddwen Harrhy as Morgana), I find Auger and Jones near-ideal in the roles of Alcina and Ruggiero: vocally impeccable and inhabiting the characters to a T. Would you recommend the above performances over the Hickox?

  6. #51
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jephtha View Post
    HC, what do you think of the Hickox Alcina on EMI? Despite prosaic conducting and inadequate performers in the secondary roles (especially a shrill, hard-toned Eiddwen Harrhy as Morgana), I find Auger and Jones near-ideal in the roles of Alcina and Ruggiero: vocally impeccable and inhabiting the characters to a T. Would you recommend the above performances over the Hickox?
    Richard Hickox is a very fine conductor. I have not listened to his version of Alcina entirely. But from the parts that I have listened to, it was quite enjoyable. Arlene Augér is a very, very capable Alcina. (I have Arlene Augér in quite a few other recordings and I do like her voice).

  7. #52
    Staff Writer & Reviewer - Life-time Donor Veteran Member Jephtha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HarpsichordConcerto View Post
    Richard Hickox is a very fine conductor. I have not listened to his version of Alcina entirely. But from the parts that I have listened to, it was quite enjoyable. Arlene Augér is a very, very capable Alcina.
    If you've not yet heard it, please listen to Della Jones' rendition of 'Sta nell'Ircana'. I think it is well-nigh perfect. And she's not bad in 'Verdi prati', either.

  8. #53
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jephtha View Post
    If you've not yet heard it, please listen to Della Jones' rendition of 'Sta nell'Ircana'. I think it is well-nigh perfect. And she's not bad in 'Verdi prati', either.
    Very warm, I recall. You have tempted me to get a copy of it. It has been re-released on budget EMI label.

  9. #54
    Staff Writer & Reviewer - Life-time Donor Veteran Member Jephtha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HarpsichordConcerto View Post
    Very warm, I recall. You have tempted me to get a copy of it. It has been re-released on budget EMI label.
    Oh, I almost forgot Ruggiero's 'Mi lusinga un dolce affetto' in Act II. This is a surefire number anyway, but Jones will bring you to tears. This aria alone will be worth whatever price you pay for the set.

  10. #55
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Following on from member Jephtha's posts above, the three benchmark Alcina recordings, in whatever format would be






  11. #56
    Senior Member Involved Member Vesteralen's Avatar
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    Thanks, everyone.

    In short, though there seem to be several good CD choices, it looks like we have to hold out for a really superior DVD. (Although, I guess that's not really a rare situation, is it?).

  12. #57
    Staff Writer & Reviewer - Life-time Donor Veteran Member Jephtha's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Vesteralen View Post
    Thanks, everyone.

    In short, though there seem to be several good CD choices, it looks like we have to hold out for a really superior DVD. (Although, I guess that's not really a rare situation, is it?).
    I wonder if there might be a video floating aroung of the old Franco Zeffirelli production with Joan Sutherland.

  13. #58
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member Dark_Angel's Avatar
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    Facing extremely tough competition the new Curtis Cesare get a slight overall edge to become my reference Cesare.

    The two obvious challengers both from the early 1990s have many strengths, especially the Jacobs which was perhaps my favorite previous version. I especially liked the use of 2 soprano + 2 contralto + counter tenor (Tolomeo) for 5 main singers, this combination vocals works very well for me vs having a male Cesare. Schlick was very impressive Cleopatra and DL Ragin still is my preferred Tolomeo among all versions, sound quality and inspired conducting of Jacobs still sound fresh today, but.......

    20 years later using same 2 soprano + 2 contralto + counter tenor singer balance Curtis edges ahead for me. The style of baroque singing has evolved over 20 years and is more sophisticated and creative today in the ornamanted lines, the vocals more fluently describe the emotional content and Curtis is masterful in his baroque orchestration with reference quality Naive sound.....this is just a baroque treasure that will be played many times by me. There is also a warmth and richness to overall vocals here I find most appealing

    HC
    Do you agree that Curtis is now the preferred Cesare or.......????

  14. #59
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dark_Angel View Post
    HC
    Do you agree that Curtis is now the preferred Cesare or.......????
    I just received my copy of it last week. I am slowly going through the Curtis recording and listening to it carefully to contrast with some of the benchmark performances. Curtis' interpretation of Handel scores rarely disappoints. It usually comes down to the singers. One thing I can unequivocally say right now is Derek Lee Ragin from the Jacobs recording is still the strongest Tolomeo I have ever heard. I shall get back to you on this one.

  15. #60
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    CD 1 of Alan Curtis' Version of Giulio Cesare in Egitto

    Rather than me listening and comparing the whole recording, I thought I shall I write down my thoughts so far on CD 1 of this recording. I have yet to finish listening to CD 2 and 3.

    Overall Sound Quality
    The orchestra led by Alan Curtis was the period instrument band Il Complesso Barocco. Although the orchestra was relatively small, deploying a standard modern use of a Baroque orchestra (four 1st violins, four 2nd, two violas, two cellos and one bass), the recording had a very "big sound". The mircrophones were obviously placed both at the instruments and also surrounding it because one could hear the independent oboes and basson supporting lines in many instances, and also the violins playing their chords at the end of some arias as if the players were right in front of you. The echo of the recording location (not disclosed as far as I am aware) was actually well balanced with the microphones placed extremely close to the instruments and voices. So from the sound quality overall, like many modern studio recordings, was rather artifical in the sense that you might not hear as an audience a little distant away in an opera theatre, but technically very impressive sounding when played on a good hi-fi equipment and as if you were one of the players or even the conductor seated in front. I would give this a high distinction in terms of recorded sound, and surpassing my other favourite on sound; namely, Rene Jacobs' version on Harmonia Mundi. I have every known recorded version of this opera performed by period instrument bands released on CD and this recorded sound was the best so far.

    Marie-Nicole Lemieux
    Contralto MNL sang Cesare. My personal preference, as deployed here, was to use a contralto or mezzo-soprano instead of a countertenor to sing the demanding role of Cesare. Without getting into a debate why, I still think a non-falsettist taking this role is best; that's not to say countertenors cannot or should not do the job. But I have been more impressed by Jennifer Larmore for example and yes, even a female voice can sure sound much more masculine than a countertenor. I was extremely impressed by MNL right from the start. The great coloratura aria Presti ormai l'egizia terra (track 3) winned over Larmore's, in my humble opinion. MNL had an incredible range and she blasted through the aria apparently effortlessly and with menancing pronunciation of the words and conveyed it more dramatically than all version of this I have heard, including Sarah Connolly on DVD. Countertenors have never impressed me terribly much as they just lacked sufficient fire to blast arias like Presti ormai. Likewise the great aria Va tacito e nascosto (track 26) was tackled with regal caution and suspicion. So overall, we have a great singer here for Cesare so far.

    Romina Basso
    The only relatively "weak" performance I think, on CD 1 was Cornelia's aria Priva son d'ogni conforto (track 7). This was sung by contralto Romina Basso. This was a beautiful aria and the only tragic character in the entire opera who sang the most beautiful tragic arias. But I thought the accompaniment was a little dry and as if performing note for note. Patricia Bardon (Glyndebourne/William Christie production) sang this aria most movingly that I can recall from all the versions I have listened to at first instance.

    I shall post more later, especially about Karina Gauvin as Cleopatra's best arias appear after Act One when her character gains more momentum in development.

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