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Thread: Miscellaneous Russian opera from composers w/o their own threads, on DVD/blu-ray/CD

          
   
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  1. #1
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Miscellaneous Russian opera from composers w/o their own threads, on DVD/blu-ray/CD

    Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress on DVD

    Weird, strange beauty.
    Dissonant, halting...
    ...and yet, strikingly beautiful, especially the somber third act. I give it an A+, and remember here the extraordinary, poignant libretto, in Anne's farewell to Tom:

    "Every wearied body must
    Late or soon return to dust,
    Set the frantic spirit free.
    In this earthly city we
    Shall not meet again, love, yet
    Never think that I forget."

    Indeed, this one is unforgettable.

    Here is the cover:



    Great performance, excellent acting, singing, staging, everything works.
    I'd buy this one. It's not traditional like the Glyndebourne, but it is fabulous.
    Andrew Kennedy and Laura Claycom are perfect as Tom Rakewell and Anne Trulove, and William Shimmel's Shadow is bone-chilling.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); May 2nd, 2015 at 09:55 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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    Stravinsky: Le Rossignol


    I'm stunned!
    What a beautiful, poetic, delicate, sublime piece!

    Well, the videoclip nature of this film (it is filmed opera, full of special effects, not always tasteful) is distracting but the music is still sublime, and actually in a book that I have that lists opera recordings this production with Natalie Dessay as the nightindale, Vsevolod Grivnov as the fisherman, Albert Schagidullin as the emperor, and Marie McLaughlin as the cook, is considered to be the best available recording of Le Rossignol, and Natalie's performance is lavishly praised.

    Yes, Natalie is quite funny when she gives interviews. This DVD has plenty of these in the bonus part (being the opera so short they put lots of fillers). Also, they have the recording sessions, and she always moves her arms like if she were conducting. Weird woman... LOL. But I like her voice. And like I said she is an impressive actress.

    Fortunately, the sound track has an option to turn off the special sound effects and only listen to the original sound.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  3. #3
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Stravinsky: Oedipus Rex on DVD
    I'm highly impressed.



    This is a visually stunning production, with top level singers (Jessye Norman, Bryn Terfel, Philip Langridge). Scenarios, props, costumes, are all very clever and inventive, with striking results.

    Staging is by Julie Taymor (the director of the Broadway production of The Lyon King, and the Met's recent Magic Flute). Seiji Ojawa conducts, and there is a very good chorus of 80 men.

    The work itself is extremely interesting, haunting, dramatic, impressive, with such well crafted tone-painting that you can follow the drama in the music." It's also focused and short, 57 minutes long. As usual, Stravinsky doesn't disappoint me (I also love Le Rossignol and The Rake's Progress).

    There are two major downsides. One is that the narration is in Japanese - I was hoping for the original narration in French. Of course, subtitles are provided in several languages, but it's just that the sounds of the Japanese language - pardon me if there are any Japanese folks here - sound terrible to my ears. The problem must be with my ears, I hope you don't read me wrong, but Japanese for me doesn't sound operatic at all.

    In this case, it makes for an even more striking contrast because the libretto, as you know, is in Latin which I find to be one of the most exquisite and beautiful-sounding languages ever known to men. Unfortunately there are no Latin subtitles, which sometimes one can find in DVDs of oratorios or other vocal works in Latin (e.g., Verdi's Requiem) and I always enjoy it a lot when I can follow the Latin words. I'm not fluent in Latin but I do recognize most of the words, given my knowledge of some Romance languages.

    The other one is pretty major, and actually a very annoying shortcoming of this DVD: sound balance. I think I've never seen a DVD with such terrible sound balance.
    You need to be increasing and decreasing the volume all the time, because either you can't hear the orchestration, or the voices are so loud that they hurt your ears. The narration is also several notches above the sound volume of the singing voices so again any time the Japanese lady comes up to narrate, you have to decrease the volume or the other people in your house will complain. I feel tempted to tell her, would you stop yelling please???" I'm following the uncompressed PCM track; maybe the Dolby 5.1 track has better sound balance. But the PCM one is rather terrible.

    Still, I highly recommend this DVD, because of the sheer beauty of Stravinsky's opera-oratorio itself, and also for the impressive visuals. The bonus features have a very interesting interview with the director. I like her concepts, she is really creative (and a good looking lady).
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  4. #4
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Glinka: Ruslan and Lyudmila on DVD


    1995(LI) - Valery Gergiev - Kirov Opera Orchestra, Chorus and Ballet - St. Petersburg (the Mariinsky), in association with San Francisco Opera

    This is a Philips Classics release, with excellent technical quality:
    Video aspect 16:9 Anamorphic
    Sound tracks Linear PCM stereo, DTS 5.1
    Optional subtitles in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Chinese
    Region Free
    2 DVDs, the first one with acts 1, 2, and 3, and the second one with acts 4 and 5, and two documentaries: a 18' interview with maestro Gergiev about the opera, and a 59' documentary on Gergiev's life and career (very good, I had seen it on TV already).

    The insert has a detailed synopsis track by track, and very good essays about Glinka and the opera, a different one for each of three languages: English, French, and German. I don't speak German, but the English and the French one were both very interesting and provided a wealth of information on the composer, the source material, the making of the opera (including the unusual fact that the music was composed before the libretto was written), the premičre, including detailed musical analysis of the various numbers down to their styles, influences, rhythm, structure, tonal characteristics, etc., with references to the DVD chapters that contain the numbers they are talking about.

    An excellent job from Philips Classics, and an example to be followed by other recording companies. This is a flawless product, with everything that needs to be included in a proper opera DVD.

    Mikhail Glinka (1804-1857)
    Ruslan and Lyudmila - Magic opera in five acts
    Libretto by Valerian Shirkov after Alexander Pushkin

    The all-Russian cast includes:

    Svetosar: Mikhail Kit
    Lyudmila: Anna Netrebko La Bellisma, at age 23!!!
    Ruslan: Vladimir Ognovenko
    Ratmir: Larissa Diadkova
    Farlaf: Gennady Bezzubenkov
    Gorislava: Galina Gorchakova
    Finn: Konstantin Pluzhnikov
    Naina: Irina Bogachova
    Bayan: Yuri Marusin

    Video direction is by Hans Hulcher.

    The staging directed by Lofti Mansouri is lavish, luxurious, and very traditional - actually, they made an attempt to reproduce as closely as possible the way the opera was staged in its premiere on 11-27-1842, which also explains the park-and-bark, stock acting. Since the original scenarios were lost, they used sketches and paintings they had from a 1910 production, with a few additional sketches from the 1860's that also survived.

    Maestro Gergiev in his interview had lots of good things to say about Anna, which made my day already! Galina Gorchakova is quite good-looking too.

    OK, so, now, the production.

    I haven't watched it yet, folks... I'll continue this review later, by editing this post. In spite of some negative earlier reviews (especially the one by Dark Angel) I'm quite excited. See you soon.

    Edit 1

    First impressions: Spectacular overture (it is quite famous as an isolated concert piece). Beautiful costumes. Anna looks stunning... but doesn't sing as well as our current Anna - it seems like she learned a lot over the years. I better enjoy Anna while she's on stage because she spends most of the opera kidnapped and in a coma. But we do get an eyeful of young Anna with her beautiful face (under tones of clothes and a wig).

    In terms of pace and musicality, one can tell that this thing with a running time of 210 minutes will be more boring than I had anticipated (maybe Dark Angel is right after all).

    I'm less enthusiastic about the technical quality. Sound balance is a problem. The chorus and the orchestra are too loud, and the singers not loud enough. Oh well. Nothing is perfect.

    Edit 2

    Middle of third act. I like it. No Anna to be seen, of course, since the first act when she got kidnapped and was put in a coma under a magic spell. She will only wake up in the final scene of the fifth act, darn!

    The production remains very beautiful, great costumes, lighting, scenarios, everything looks gorgeous. There is some occasional eye candy besides Anna - the ballerinas from the Kirov Ballet are cute, and so is Galina Gorchakova in the small role of Gorislava.

    A word about the singing: the bard Bayan has a weird high pitch in his tenor, quite unpleasant. The trouser role of Ratmir is well sung by Larissa Diadkova. Finn the sorcerer gets the best singer - bass Konstantin Pluzhnikov, who gets some beautiful arias. Vladimir Ognovenko as Ruslan is good but not great. Anna like I said sings rather poorly at the start of her career.

    This opera is actually musically interesting and I'm not finding it as boring as many say, more thanks to the music than to the plot. Yes, the pace is slow. Yes, there isn't much happening dramatically speaking. But the enormous variety of genres and styles that Glinka crammed together makes it appealing.

    I'm currently watching the third act ballet, quite conventional (both musically and in terms of choreography) but it is made more interesting by all these great looking Russian young women in beautiful (although not revealing) costumes.

    Edit 3

    Watching 4th act. Oh boy, 3rd act was loooong (thanks in part to the endless ballet). But unlike I had thought, act IV opens with Anna awake and singing (still not very well, and still looking great).

    She gets a long and beautiful aria, Vdali ot milogo. This is the best part of the DVD so far. Very difficult to sing, and she does better than before.

    By the way, the sound balance problem is probably due to microphone placement. Sometimes we can hear the singers very well (like now), some others they get drowned by the orchestra and especially the loud chorus.

    About acting - Anna is actually, at this young age, already the best actress in this production. She is natural and cute in her acting, and moves more on stage than anybody else, while others are quite stiff.

    We get to the visually stunning scene of Chernomor's March. The Oriental Dances (Turkish, and Arabian) are next. Gee, how did they get to have so many beautiful costumes, props, and scenarios? Poor Anna is in coma again. Oh good, the sorcerer woke her up. The Turkish dance has started and the music is very beautiful. Nice dances. Oh well, Anna is in coma again. Beautiful mourning aria from Ruslan. He takes her and heads off to Kiev. Nest, the 5th and last act.

    Edit 4

    Act 5 is under way, it opens with a fabulous romanza called Ona mne zizn', ona mne radost! - one of the best numbers of the opera, sung by Ratmir. Poor Lyudmila gets kinapped again! Wéll, I don't blame them, I'd like to kidnap Anna Netrebko as well... somehow I remember Almodóvar's movie Atame!

    OK, I got to the last scene, the long (19') finale. It's about time, it's 1 AM and I'm sleepy.
    All right, La Belissima is awake again, and all rejoyce. Curtain.

    Verdict - mixed. Dramatically weak, overlong, would need some cuts, very long ballet. On the other hand, there are many beautiful moments, the music is varied, the orchestration is sublime (overture, intermezzi, choral music...). The production is very visually striking. The documentaries are good. And then, there is young Anna. I'll say recommended.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  5. #5
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    I've seen this one (I don't own it, I only saw it online) and liked it. It's old fashioned, and the orchestration is Rimsky-Korsakov's.

    "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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    Shostakovich: The Nose on DVD


    OK, so here goes the third review of this opera from members here.

    I just got my copy and since the current 101-200 round includes it, I decided to watch it right away to form an opinion.

    rgz's copy seemed to be mono and with no subtitles. This one is stereo, with subtitles in English, Spanish, French, Italian, and Russian.

    About the controversy above raised by HC on whether this is a 1974 or 1979 performance, my copy states clearly that it was filmed in 1979, therefore it is a revival of the 1974 production of which Shostakovich himself participated. We get in the bonus feature a 2:21-minute film of him during rehearsals. But since he died in 1975, when the present film was made it wasn't the same performance but merely a revival of the same production. There is also as bonus another short of 4:36 duration in which Boris Pokrovsky (the stage director) talks about the production.

    However from other sources I get that the *sound* for this DVD was recorded in studio in 1974. They attached that sound (with the same artists) to the 1979 film since the 1974 production was not filmed. This explains the enormous lip-synch problems of this DVD. On the other hand, I imagine that the sound recording in this very primitive cramped theater with the public almost on top of the singers must have been terrible, thus prompting VAI to substitute the studio track for the live track. It doesn't bother me (because the result is that the sound is pretty good, I won't mind some lip-synch problems since it all looks so amateurish anyway).

    I found the short film with Shostakovich very touching. We can see him sitting there watching the rehearsals, then he gives advice on a couple of passages from the score that he doesn't think are correct, then he seems anxious and apprehensive, asking whether the singers will do it right. Someone reassures him. He makes another suggestion about a gesture that one of the performers is supposed to make at the end.

    About the stage director's short speech, he speaks a lot but says little. The bottom line of what he says is: they had a young company (founded in 1972) and thought that by doing what he considers to be the most difficult score of them all - The Nose - they'd be able to do anything later, and would get a good understanding of contemporary opera and what it takes to stage it. He also said that Shostakovich attended several rehearsals, and his apprehension (that I had noticed before) was not for his opera which he knew admirably well even though it had been written so many years before (when he was 21!), but for the artists. He wanted *them* to do well and he loved them like one loves a child that shows promise. Cute. An added advantage is that I heard for the first time a native speaker of Russian pronouncing the names of Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, which both sounded slightly different from the way I had always assumed they should be pronounced. Nice.

    So, let's get to the review. First, the technical aspects and credits. It's a VAI release of 2010, of a 1979 film containing a performance from the Moscow Chamber Opera Theater, whose orchestra is conducted by Gennady Rozhdestvensky. The DVD is region zero (all), 4:3 outdated-looking image, and a simple stereo sound track of decent quality and good balance between the voices and the orchestra - thankfully, because the voices employ extreme acrobatics and the orchestra has all sorts of unusual noises (including snores and other bodily noises and weird percussion) - but one doesn't smother the other. Subtitles and bonus features have been listed above. Cast:

    Eduard Akimov is Platon Kusmich Kovalyov
    Alexander Lomonosov is The Nose
    Valery Belykh is Ivan Yakovlevich
    Nina Sasulova is Praskovia Osipovna
    Boris Druxhinin is Ivan
    Ashot Sarkisov is the doctor

    This opera premiered in 1930 in Leningrad. The libretto is by the composer together with Georgy Ionin, Alexander Preis, and Yevgeny Zamyatin, after the story of the same title by Nikolai Gogol. The surrealist plot regards an officer whose nose leaves his face and gets a life of its own. It's a satirical opera, and quite wild, with rather chaotic music combining atonal elements with folkloric material and popular song. Some of its music is inspired by Berg's Wozzeck, especially the use of canons and quartets.

    Well folks, it starts very well. This is a curious and entertaining work. It's done in a very small and primitive-looking chamber theater; one can see the oldish cameras and all. The image is grainy but it is kind of exciting to be watching this 32-years-old film from the Soviet era. Regardless of the amateurish feel of the theater, the scenarios, and the costumes, these artists are good! They are excellent actors, they sing well, and the small chamber orchestra attacks the score with unsurpassed vigor and panache. So far I love the music, which does sound like a wild ride, but a very intriguing and satisfying one. Let me go back there, and I'll continue posting during some breaks.

    One hour of running time, second scene of the second act. I'm loving it. This is a masterpiece. I've rarely seen something this interesting. I don't know if I should watch it with a constant smile or if I should let my jaw drop in astonishment. The score is so inventive, and the situations are so outrageous (in the good sense)! This is one hell of a good ride! I'm at the beginning of the third act, the scene with the police officers singing a chorus, and it is bizarre and hypnotic. By the way, musically speaking this performance (or rather, its previous recording in studio) is simply spectacular. Everybody does an excellent job with the rather demanding vocal writing, and they are excellent actors/actresses as well with lots of comic flair. First rate! And the conditions in the theater are so primitive and cramped, one can't help but conclude that talent doesn't depend on the settings. This is great fun, folks!

    I'm approaching the end. There is the fabled simultaneous scene when Kovalyov is writing his accusatory letter and the recipients (Madame Podtochina and her daughter) are getting it at the same time, while the reply reaches Kovalyov back even before it was written by the two women. Cool. This scene, its vocal lines, and the orchestration are pure genius!!! This is said to have inspired Zimmermann's technique of use of time, when he made Die Soldaten with 12 simultaneous scenes. This is rendered on the DVD with a split screen. Hey, they had split screens at the time! Neat!

    The ending is a bit of an anticlimax. I think Shostakovich should have ended his opera five minutes earlier, when the nose is back on Kovalyov's face and we realize it was all a dream (the title in Russian - Nos - is the reverse of the Russian word for dream - Son).

    Anyway, excellent! Highly 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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    Glinka: A Life for the Tsar on DVD


    Music by Mikhail Glinka

    Evgeny Nesterenko, bass - Ivan Susanin
    Marina Mescheriakova, soprano - Antonida
    Alexander Lomonosov, tenor - Sobinin
    Elena Zaremba, contralto - Vanja

    Bolshoi Symphony Orchestra and Chorus

    Alexander Lazarev, conductor; 1992, live but without the public

    Running time 2 hours 55 minutes (four acts and epilogue)

    The opera is set in 1613. Ivan Susanin is the hero who helps the Russian Tzar Mikhail (the first of the Romanov dynasty) escape the invading Polish army by leading the enemy on a false path in their search for the royal's hiding place, and thus giving his own life.

    This is the first of Glinka's two operas, and premiered in 1836. It was commissioned by Tsar Nicholas I, and banned during the Russian revolution for being "pro-Tsar." Later it was reworked under Stalin's orders and given a new title of Ivan Susanin. This version is the original one, which the Bolshoi restored one year after the fall of the Soviet empire.

    Traditional staging with period costumes, and simple painted scenarios for the Russian countryside, more elaborate for the Polish scenes. Costumes are beautiful and detailed, in the grand style of the Bolshoi theater.

    Technically speaking the oldish-looking 1.33:1 image is nevertheless sharp and colorful, and the stereo sound is appropriate and well-balanced. Optional subtitles exist in six languages. No extras.

    The all-Russian cast, conductor, orchestra, and chorus almost all (see exception below) do a very good job with this very Russian material (although also heavily influenced by the Italianate style given Glinka's training, but incorporating several folk elements). The music is beautiful and is impressively sung by these very good singers. Acting on the other hand is static, of the park-and-bark kind, but with rather good facial expressions. The soprano is cute but is the weakest link, although she does improve a bit after she warms up, but she definitely doesn't have a beautiful timbre of voice, and is too thin and shrill. The gentlemen have very powerful voices, especially the veteran of this kind of opera, Nesterenko. Both his role and Lomonosov's role are very demanding, and they go through them for three hours with aplomb. Zaremba in a trouser role is very good, and looks good too, with a charming smile. She was a revelation for me, in her younger and better-looking self as compared to her recent role as Olga in the Met/Gergiev/Fleming/Hvorostovsky Eugene Onegin.

    As expected, there is a ballet/ball scene which is overlong, but you know, this comes with the territory for this kind of work. We get a Polonaise, a Krakowiak, a waltz, and a mazurka. Anyway, long ballet or not, and thanks to its Italianate influence, this is one of the most melodious of the major Russian operas. I like it very much.

    This is certainly a very well done traditional production of this important opera - the first one to adopt Russian nationalistic topics. This opera thus starts the tradition that would be continued by the likes of Serov, Mussorgsky, Rimsky-Korsakov, Tchaikovsky and Borodin. One wonders, though, how this might look in a more modern production, with some cuts done to the overlong ballet scenes.

    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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    Stravinsky: The Rake's Progress on DVD


    The Rake's Progress, opera in 3 acts and an epilogue, music by Igor Stravinsky, libretto by W.H. Auden and Chester Kallman, sung in English, premiered on 9/11/1951 at La Fenice

    1975(LI) - Bernard Haitink - London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Glyndebourne Chorus
    Stage director John Cox
    Set designs by painter David Hockney, inspired by the Hogarth engravings
    Leo Goeke as Tom Rakewell
    Felicity Lott (very young) as Anne Trulove
    Samuel Ramey as Nick Shadow (the Devil)
    Richard van Alley as Father Trulove
    Rosalind Elias as Baba the Turk

    2005 Kultur release
    1.33:1 picture format, fair definition (not great), fair colors
    PCM stereo sound track, decent (not great)
    Running time 146 minutes
    Optional subtitles in English, German, French, and Spanish
    Only extras are trailers

    Technically this DVD is relatively weak and shows its age - it's a production from 36 years ago. The image flickers a little and is blurry at times. The sound is well balanced regarding singers vs. orchestra but lacks in bass, is a bit thin.

    The traditional staging is very good as far as sets and costumes go, reproducing very well the atmosphere of the 18th century engravings (which are shown in between scenes). It is colorful and inventive, and the sets are artworks in themselves, having been done by a British painter. As far as actor direction and use of space go, it is a bit deficient. It's filmed in 'studio' - meaning, the closed doors theater, without the public, and the actors are frequently staring at the camera, which impacts on the authenticity. Acting 36 years ago is less than ideal - at the time, people didn't used to expect a lot of acting from operatic singers. Samuel Ramey is the most talented actor of the three principals.

    I can't say that I like Leo Goeke very much. He is vocally the weaker of the three principals and his acting is the most sub-par (although it is touching at the end). Ramey's singing is as superior to his peers' as his acting is. Felicity Lott also delivers excellent singing. The supporting cast does very well, with Rosalind Elias being particularly successful as Baba the Turk.

    The LPO under Haitink plays very well but is not helped by the technologically weak sound engineering of this DVD.

    The opera itself is of course superb and one of my favorites. The highly poetic and literary libretto receives from Stravinsky powerful and expressive orchestration.

    In spite of some deficiencies, this is a very good DVD. We get a combination of talents - Stravinsky and his gifted librettists, a painter doing the sets, Haitink and the LPO musicians, spectacular Ramey and Lott, good supporting characters, a less than ideal but not terrible Goeke - and the sum does compensate for the dated DVD technology.

    Therefore, my verdict is "recommended," but I still prefer the 2008 Opus Arte release on blu-ray and DVD (with contemporary technology, 16:9, DTS surround sound) of the Robert Lepage production in Brussels, with the Orchestra of the La Monnaie conducted by Kazushi Ono, with surprisingly good Andrew Kennedy, spectacular Laura Claycomb, and excellent William Shimmel.

    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); May 2nd, 2015 at 09:59 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  9. #9
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Shostakovich: Katerina Izmailova on DVD
    This opera is a revision of Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District with a few differences from the original - for all purposes it can be said to be the same opera.

    This is a filmed, abridged (by a little more than half an hour) version of the Katerina Izmailova revision of the opera.



    1966(FI) - Konstantin Simeonov - Chorus and Orchestra of the Shevchenko Opera and Ballet Theater, Kiev

    Film director, Mikhail Shapiro, under Shostakovich's own guidance

    Katerina Izmailova - acted and sung by Galina Vishnevskaya
    Sergei - acted by Artem Inotemstev, sung by V. Tretyak
    Zinovy Izmailov - acted by Nikolai Boyarsky, sung by V. Radziyevsky
    Boris Izmailov - acted by Roman Tkachuk, sung by S. Strezhnev
    Sonetka - acted by Tatyana Gavrilova, sung by V. Reka

    Katerina Izmailova, opera in four acts
    Music by Dmitri Shostakovich
    Libretto by Alexander Preis and Dmitri Shostakovich, based on a novel by Nikolai Leskov
    Premiered on January 24, 1934 in Leningrad under the title Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk District (the novel's title)
    Banned in the Soviet Union for almost 30 years; the composer revised it under the title Katerina Izmailova, which was only first performed on December 26, 1962, in Moscow (another source gives the premiere date as January 8, 1963).

    Decca release, format 2.35:1 anamorphic, excellent image for an old movie; LPCM enhanced mono sound with poor balance, optional subtitles in English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Chinese. Running time 112 minutes. Region-free. Extras include a Shostakovich chronology, and excerpts from Cheryomushki (Cherry Town, a Shostakovich musical that was filmed in 1963), and the a short documentary (7 minutes, excerpts from a longer one) entitled Shostakovich against Stalin - The War Symphonies (it is very interesting - features Gergiev - one would love to see the complete thing - it's available on a separate DVD). Liner notes include a good essay in three languages (English, French, German), synopsis by chapter, and a chapter list with duration, with names of the chapters in English and no mention of the names of arias in original language.

    The premičre was given to great public acclaim in 1934, but two years later it fell in disgrace, when Stalin walked out of a performance, shocked by its raw sexuality and soft treatment of a murderess (yeah, right, he was in a good position to say it, pot-kettle-black, hehe). The Pravda published an article bashing it (under Stalin's inspiration), the opera got banned, and Shostakovich feared for his freedom and even life. He tried to appease the authorities by slightly toning it down and renaming it, some 20 years later, but even the new version took almost another decade to see the light of day in Russia. It is now given more commonly in the original form, and has recovered its astounding success and wide-spread praise.

    Here what we get is the filmed version that Shostakovich closely supervised, with the spectacular Galina Vishnevskaya - a very talented woman with a strong personality, great looks, excellent acting ability, and a powerful voice (although a bit strident at times). Other actors in the movie are not singers, and lip-sync (very well done, no lagging) to the Kiev recording. They are very talented actors, though, and the singing is good too.

    The movie is excellent. It uses to great effect some split screen takes, it looks and feels very authentic, very Russian, and conveys perfectly the atmosphere of the story, with shots on location that show all the bleakness of this pre-revolutionary life in the Russian countryside. Galina is quite impressive. It is an important document, given the stature of the soprano, and the fact that the composer helped out with suggestions, supervisions, and appropriate cuts.

    It is competent film-making with great cinematography, excellent scene direction. Maestro von Karajan at the time praised the film as the best filmed opera he had ever seen.

    The one major complaint is the sound balance of the oldish mono soundtrack. It is often hard to hear the orchestra, given that the voices are a lot more prominent. But some other advantages of the medium compensate for it, such as the possibility of showing the march to Siberia in all its despair and desolate landscapes. One also regrets the absence of Russian subtitles for those like me who don't speak any Russian but like in a second viewing to read subtitles in original language to better perceive the nuances of the words.

    Galina Vishnevskaya's performance is bone-chilling and in itself warrants the purchase of this movie.

    Strictly from the operatic standpoint, I prefer the first version and its phenomenal staging directed by Martin Kusej, with Mariss Jansons conducting the spectacular Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra (arguably the best orchestral forces in the world, currently) and a devastating Eva Maria Westbroek in the title role.



    Apparently the other modern version on DVD with Nadine Secunde in the title role is good too. I haven't seen it (mamascarlatti likes it a lot). There are other versions, including a Russian version in PAL, and an older abridged version (100 minutes).



    But from the cinematic standpoint, this Soviet movie is indeed one of the finest filmed operas I've ever seen. The Siberia journey scenes are haunting and deeply moving. The final scene is incredibly powerful. I think that this is essential to the Russian opera lover (or any opera lover for that matter), and gets my 'highly recommended' seal (just as much as the above staged version).
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  10. #10
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Rimsky-Korsakoff: Mlada on DVD


    Mlada, opera-ballet in four acts (finished in 1890, premiered in 1892 in St. Petersburg), sung in Russian
    Music by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov (1844-1908)
    Libretto by Viktor Krylov

    Conductor Alexander Lazarev - 1992(LI)
    Orchestra - Bolshoi Theatre
    Chorus - Bolshoi Theatre
    Ballet - Bolshoi Ballet

    Cast:
    Mlada (Dancer, silent role) - Nina Ananiashvili
    Yaromir - Oleg Kulko
    Voislava - Maria Gavrilova
    Mstivoy - Gleb Nikolsky
    Morena - Galina Borisova
    Priest - Mikhail Maslov
    Lumir - Lyudmila Nam
    Lada - Olga Velichko
    Novogrodian - Vladimir Kudriashov
    His wife - Tatiana Pechuria
    Mayor - Yuri Statnik
    Soul of Yaromir - Kirill Nikitin
    Witch - Julia Malkhassiants

    This piece has an interesting history. It was first planned and commissioned by Gedeonov, the director of the Imperial Theaters at the time, to be a pure ballet, with music by Alexander Serov, who however died right at the beginning of the project without ever starting the composition work. Then Gedeonov changed his idea to a 4-act opera-ballet that he intended to be a 4-composer project, with Act I by Cui, Acts II and III by Mussorgsky and Rimsky-Korsakov, and act IV by Borodin. The work was essentially completed in 1872 (both the music by the four composers and the libretto by Krylov). However they never managed to publish, much less stage the work, and it was forgotten. Each composer recycled the music into different works, except for Cui who only recycled a small part of Act I, and ended up publishing Act I later in life.

    Almost two decades later Rimsky-Korsakov decided to resuscitate the old libretto (maybe he was an ancestor of our Martin here, hehehe) and set it to entirely new music, and completed the whole thing into the work that survived to this date.

    Synopsis (recovered from the Wikipedia article):

    Time: The ninth or tenth century
    Place: The Slavic lands of the Baltic sea-coast, in the city of Retra, near the Laba (Elbe) River.

    Act 1 Voyslava has killed Mlada, Yaromir's bride, to have him for herself. With the help of Morena, the goddess of the underworld, she has captivated Yaromir. But he sees the murder in his dreams.

    Act 2 At the midsummer festival the people dance, while the spirit of Mlada interves between Yaromir and Voyslava.

    Act 3 By night Mlada leads Yaromir up Mount Triglay, where the dead gather, before the Witche's Sabbath in which Yaromir is shown a vision of Cleopatra.

    Act 4 Yaromir, at the Temple of Radegast, is shown by the spirits that Voyslava is guilty. She confesses her sin and he kills her. Morena, with whom Voyslava had made a compact, destroys the temple and the city of Retra, but Yaromir is united with Mlada in heaven.

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

    This is a Kultur DVD release (2005) with its usual embarrassingly sparse production values - 1.33:1 picture format, only one sound track (Dolby 2.0), no liner notes.

    The sound however is unusually clear, well balanced, and full - for a Kultur DVD; and the image is also of excellent definition and color. Running time 2 hours and 15 minutes. There are optional subtitles in no less than 7 languages, including the usual suspects, plus Portuguese and Japanese.

    The video direction is not good. This is an opera ballet, and it features one of the best ballerinas of the Bolshoi, as well as a quality choreographer (Andrei Petrov), however the camera more often than not gets such close-ups of the dancers that we completely miss the choreography. One sees dancers' faces and trunks. It gets to be very frustrating; first because the 1.33:1 image is insufficient to give a good scenic sense of the huge Bolshoi Theater stage especially in this very busy piece with several characters and dancers interacting on stage at the same time; second because this is made *a lot* worse by the weak video direction.

    It's like one is watching this from those dreadful partial view seats, and through binoculars that are too potent.

    And this is really a pity because this production has beautiful scenarios and costumes. This was probably *very* enjoyable for the live audience, but all these goodies are rendered almost useless on small screen format.

    This is pretty much where the bad news end though, because orchestral playing/conducting, singing, and dancing, are all of high quality, and Rimsky-Korsakov's vocal and instrumental score is one of his best. This opera-ballet is very beautiful and a pleasure to the ears. The music is magical, involving, voluptuous, full, varied, entirely satisfactory.

    It is impressive how practically all these singers (unknown to me, almost all-Russian cast, and I really don't know anything about local Russian singers - well, of course, except for a certain Russian girl but she is not local any longer) are homogeneously good. They sing with gusto and verve, they interpret very well this very Russian material, and there are really no weak links (including some nice boy sopranos). They also seem to enjoy themselves and relate to the material. Acting of course is less good like we often see in Russian productions of the 80's and early 90's.

    The scenic resources needed to stage this piece are very demanding, with lots of characters, large chorus, several different folkloric dances and classical ballet. There is use of complex props, puppets, statues, and masks, and they all look very tasteful. The orchestra sounds pretty much perfect to me. The Bolshoi crowd is competent, no doubt about it.

    Nina Ananiashvili is very light and delicate and dances beautifully although she isn't very facially attractive (other dancers are - as a matter of fact, some are stunning) or at least she's not my type (I can see that others may find her pretty). She does manage to be sexy during the Cleopatra dance, by the sheer force of her gracious movements and slender body. By the way, this scene is very successful in terms of staging and scenarios.

    Overall this is a DVD that holds its own in terms of the music itself (this same sound track would have made a very good CD), and it is a beautiful production, regretfully poorly filmed by an incompetent video director.

    Still, I'd say it's recommended, given the beauty of the opera-ballet itself, several good parts and redeeming qualities, and excellent singing and orchestra.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  11. #11
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    I enjoyed the singing, the truly opulent production, the music and the whole experience immensely, but I have two caveats:

    1. The sound balance was very variable. When the singers were at the back they were very quiet, and the orchestra was too loud. I had to keep fiddling with the volume control on my headphones.

    2. The acting was fairly minimal and predictable, no character exploration or development, and what you could call stock expression of the various emotions. I guess it's partly because it's older and maybe the culture of the theatre, I don't know.

    But it's still a truly beautiful and faithful depiction of the opera: Gergiev in his interview said the production was based on the original sets and costumes.
    Natalie

  12. #12
    Senior Member Involved Member Vesteralen's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    Stravinsky: Le Rossignol


    I'm stunned!
    What a beautiful, poetic, delicate, sublime piece!

    Well, the videoclip nature of this film (it is filmed opera, full of special effects, not always tasteful) is distracting but the music is still sublime, and actually in a book that I have that lists opera recordings this production with Natalie Dessay as the nightindale, Vsevolod Grivnov as the fisherman, Albert Schagidullin as the emperor, and Marie McLaughlin as the cook, is considered to be the best available recording of Le Rossignol, and Natalie's performance is lavishly praised.

    Yes, Natalie is quite funny when she gives interviews. This DVD has plenty of these in the bonus part (being the opera so short they put lots of fillers). Also, they have the recording sessions, and she always moves her arms like if she were conducting. Weird woman... LOL. But I like her voice. And like I said she is an impressive actress.

    Fortunately, the sound track has an option to turn off the special sound effects and only listen to the original sound.
    My recent back-and-forth with Almaviva reminded me that I always meant to purchase a copy of this DVD (I watched one either from my library or from Netflix) to keep on hand for that random time when I have a guest who has resisted opera (or even classical music in general) in the past.

  13. #13
    Opera Lively Coordinator - Donor Member Top Contributor Member tyroneslothrop's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    Stravinsky's The Rake's Progress on DVD

    Weird, strange beauty.
    Dissonant, halting...
    ...and yet, strikingly beautiful, especially the somber third act. I give it an A+, and remember here the extraordinary, poignant libretto, in Anne's farewell to Tom:

    "Every wearied body must
    Late or soon return to dust,
    Set the frantic spirit free.
    In this earthly city we
    Shall not meet again, love, yet
    Never think that I forget."

    Indeed, this one is unforgetable.

    Here is the cover:



    Great performance, excellent acting, singing, staging, everything works.
    I'd buy this one. It's not traditional like the Glyndebourne, but it is fabulous.
    Andrew Kennedy and Laura Claycom are perfect as Tom Rakewell and Anne Trulove, and William Shimmel's Shadow is bone-chilling.
    One of my favorite of Stravinsky from his neoclassical period (not to quibble, but his Russian period actually ended years and years earlier). As you said, impressive and unforgettable.

    (Why am I bringing these dead threads back to life you ask? It's because I adore Russian opera. )
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); May 2nd, 2015 at 10:00 PM.

  14. #14
    Member Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by tyroneslothrop View Post
    One of my favorite of Stravinsky from his neoclassical period (not to quibble, but his Russian period actually ended years and years earlier). As you said, impressive and unforgettable.

    (Why am I bringing these dead threads back to life you ask? It's because I adore Russian opera. )
    A nice DVD but I think the newer Glyndebourne one is even better. Highly recommended

  15. #15
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yashin View Post
    A nice DVD but I think the newer Glyndebourne one is even better. Highly recommended
    I like both of them - the Glyndebourne one is of course the perfect Hogarthian accompaniment but I think the "Texas" one throws an interesting light on the story.
    Natalie

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