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Thread: Miscellaneous Composers w/o their own threads - their operas on CD/DVD/Blu-Ray

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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 Composers w/o their own threads - their operas on CD/DVD/Blu-Ray

    I watched this today:

    Apparently it got universal praise, including from posters here.
    I liked it, but just moderately.

    First, the opera itself: it is a good one, but in my humble opinion, not the masterpiece it's said to be.
    I find that it has OK melody, OK orchestration, OK pace... but it doesn't shine in any of these areas.

    Second, the production.
    It's pleasant enough, traditional staging, appropriately small orchestra with period instruments.
    But I have the impression that it lacks punch, somehow.
    The tenor who sings Paolino is too old for the role and his acting is not convincing.
    Carolina is good looking but not as lively; the soprano singing her doesn't portray all the turmoil of a young woman in love.
    The cast does a good job overall and there are some delightful moments (especially the witty fast dialogues between Geronimo and the Count - both are more convincing actors than the leading couple - and Carolina's hilarious aria about why the count shouldn't marry her, just as good as the Count's similar account of why Elisetta should reject him). Elisetta and Fidalma do an OK job; again, nothing special.

    This opera came to existence right after the Mozart era, and premiered in Vienna 2 months after Mozart's passing, so it's hard not to compare, which may explain why I'm a little underwhelmed. I guess what is missing is Mozart's brilliant orchestration.

    The libretto has an interesting story that is not too absurd or incredible, but the problem is with the poetry, and again, what is missing is Da Ponte.

    Cimarosa is said to be a nice tavern for a stopover in your way from Mozart to Rossini, and I think that the definition is appropriate, judging by this - although I don't know any of his other works.

    In summary, a good opera, especially if one manages NOT to compare it to Mozart's operas. I'd rank it a B. The production above in my opinion is a B as well. Enjoyable, worth having, but not one that I'd be going back to very often.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  2. #2
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Smetana: The Bartered Bride

    Spectacular lively overture! Wow! Contagious uplifiting choruses. Siegfried Jerusalem is in excellent form with good chemistry with Lucia Popp. There are very funny moments, to the point that the public laughed out loud several times. Lucia Popp seemed a little hoarse and out of breath at first (maybe she was a little sick in this performance) but warmed up and delivered.

    There are several Bohemian sounding songs and folk dance. The opera goes in vertiginous pace from recitatif secco to accompagnato to arioso to aria to duet to ensemble in crescendo to chorus and all the way back... you get the idea. The orchestration is wonderful, with wicked rhythm, it always melts very well into what follows. Wow, the structure of this opera is as lively as its music. It's all very eventful, both in the voices and the orchestra.

    I found the third act a little uneven. The spoken dialogue during the circus act goes on for a bit too long (although it's funny), breaking up the action, and Marie's (Marenka's) weepy aria also could have been shortened. But then the finale picks up again.

    Overall, a very, very enjoyable opera in a good production.
    "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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    Carlos Gomes: Il Guarany on CD

    Relatively obscure Brazilian composer, his style is very close to Verdi's (who respected him). I have just finished listening to his most known opera Il Guarany, with Placido Domingo (available commercialy on 2 CDs with the libretto in Italian, translated into English, French, and German).
    A non-commercial DVD is available from House of Opera.

    Here is what I thought:

    Beautiful overture (Sinfonia)

    Nice start with the chorus of the 'cacciatori.' It does sound like Verdi. Quality without originality, I see.

    Wow, this is very beautiful, Cecilia's second aria (after a very brief and tuneful pollaca) is very good, with a very effective choral punctuation. Deh! Riedi... deh riedi!

    Antonio's Ave Maria is beautiful too. Salve, possente Vergine.

    All these arias turn to ensembles and the effect is impressive.

    Now I got to the gorgeous duet Sento una forza indomita. Excellent!

    End of first act. Homogeneously good. A+

    Act II starts with a scena and a nice Pery aria, Vanto io pur superba cuna, majestic. Wow, this is a really good opera!

    It is followed by a rather theatrical scene full of action, then a dramatic duet - Serpe vil. The steady high quality continues. We're getting to a chorus piece now - Udiste? - L'ore è un ente sì giocondo. Verdian again.

    What a nice, tuneful waltz-like rondò follows - Senza tetto, senza cuna, Canzone dell'Avventuriere!

    Now, Cecilia's ballata, Oh, come è bello il ciel! - C'era una volta un principe. Delicate orchestration with guitar sounds, light, with beautiful opportunities for the soprano to work the musical lines and do some coloratura. Very lyric, very romantic. I like it!

    Here, in a Brazilian production (nice soprano!):!v=GRXK...eature=related

    The duet between Cecilia and her assailant Gonzales is very dramatic, with a good dose of pathos.Donna, tu forse l'unica

    Some more good theatrical action, and we get to the finale of Act II. Majestic and impressive ensemble, in two parts, the second one start with the attack of the Aimorès and is appropriately solemn with a moment of frozen fear, then everybody jumps to the arms and prepares for the fight. Good Verdian orchestration.

    Poor Carlos Gomes, if only Verdi hadn't done it before him! I mean, if only he had Verdi's creativity as well and weren't just a copycat...
    Regardless, even if it's a copy, it's a pretty good copy and Act II earns from me another A+.

    Act III now. Opens with a ballet - which unfortunately I can't see. But I can look at it on YouTube later.!v=8L0Q...eature=related!v=aHEt...eature=related

    Chorus piece, Aspra, crudel, terribil, pretty good, finishing by a rather effective line, Ferro e fuoco (steel - or rather, iron, and fire).

    Next, the chief Aimorè indian sings a bone-chilling aria, it does feel salvage and evocative of the fierce tribe's warring ways (the Aimorès historically were very bellicose indians). He turns more mellow and romantic as he sees the beautiful face of his prisoner and falls in love with her, addressing her more gently. The change in tone is striking. Well done, Gomes!

    Then, we get to a big gaffe from the Italian librettists, I don't know why a genuine Brazilian like Carlos Gomes didn't correct it. The Cacico calls Pery 'the desert tiger.' What desert, and what tiger??? LOL, the Rio de Janeiro surroundings at the time in 1560 were a luxurious subtropical forest, no desert in sight for thousands of miles, and tigers were not part of the Brazilian fauna. A metaphor, sure, but how would the chief Aimorè even know about these things to be able to formulate such metaphor??? [laugh]

    Another quite dramatic and theatrically rich scene, when the Cacico is calling for Pery to be killed and eaten, Cecilia pleads for him, etc. Pery's line is exquisite and plaintiff, Ah! tu me vedrai morir! (Ah! You'll see me die!).

    The theme of the overture comes back briefly to a beautiful effect. The Cacico grants to Pery and Cecilia a moment alone to express their love for each other before Pery is killed.

    Then, a duet between the two protagonists, pungent and tearful. Superb! Ebben, che fu - Perché di meste lagrime. A+ quality material.

    All right. Pery drinks poison. Why does opera like poison so much?[laugh]

    Now a chorus with the Cacico and his tribe. The overture theme comes back in full force while the indians kneel and pray to their gods. The effect is very solemn and the orchestration is very beautiful. The choral piece is gorgeous, followed by a short finale to ACT III when the Portuguese come to the rescue.

    Did I mention that it all deserves an A+? LOL

    Act IV

    Very beautiful orchestration again with elements from the overture (different ones) into which the voices of the coro di avventurieri melt; wavy music, again it starts well.

    Another gaffe from the libretto - Pery is alive - what happened to that poison?!? Ah, OK, it is explained later that he got antidotes from forest herbs, how convenient.[eyes]

    Beautiful aria for Gonzales, In quest'ora suprema.

    Good dramatic scenes continue, there is the baptism scene, this is turning more into theater than music, Act IV seems dramatic enough but less musical so far, they're having to pack too much action into a short span and there is no space for good arias. A pity, it's the first downside so far of his entire opera.

    OK, Pery's soaring aria (although short - can't really call it an aria, it's more like a short arioso) when he converts *is* beautiful, so, never mind.Al Dio che in me regenera.

    Beautiful display by Cecilia.Che sento? Ed io dividermi

    Now, for the Gran scena e terzetto finale ultimo. Spectacular! Don Antonio gets to be a suicide bomber 450 years before they became fashionable[laugh] and it literally ends with a bang, with the overture theme returning for a - er... - bombastic finale. Goosebumps!

    A+ all around. Excellent opera. I wonder why in the hell this is not part of the repertoire. Not very demanding, not too long, full of dramatic potential, beautiful orchestration, some outstanding arias, duets, and ensembles... A winner from beginning to the end.

    The only way to explain its failure to endure is the fact that it is, note by note, done in the exact style of Giuseppe Verdi, and it was composed by an obscure South American composer.

    But while not matching a Don Carlo or Aida in terms of majestic impact, or Il Trovatore which is stylistically closer, if only we got Verdi out of our mind and just listened to this opera, we'd easily see that it is extremely good, and certainly much better than I Lombardi which gets staged fairly often.

    Folks, if there is anybody reading this long post about an obscure opera composer's least obscure work, get this one.
    "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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    Dvorak: The Devil and Kate on DVD

    OK, folks, be warned, this is no Rusalka. The Devil and Kate while enjoyable, funny, light, and pleasant, can only be described as a minor work when compared to Rusalka.
    We are far from the melodic explosions of the latter, and other than the nice overture (composed independently from the opera) and the Princess's aria in the third act, there are no major musical fireworks, and the style is declamatory. The orchestration also, in my humble opinion, falls short of what one would expect from Dvorak.

    About this production, the DVD is technically very weak. No menus, only stereo sound track, subtitles only in English, no bonus features, the image definition is poor (seems unfocused in various moments), lighting is dark, camera work is mediocre. To make things worse, this production is sung in English, which is a practice I generally don't approve of. It was filmed in 1988, and its oldish look is quite evident.

    The staging is almost amateurish with sets that look improvised, but has its charm - the improvised look is probably done in purpose because it does account for some funny moments. Singing is reasonable. Nobody shines, but nobody screws up either. The singers are unknown to me - Anne-Marie Owens in the title role with a rather small voice but she does look the part and is funny although her acting is not great; Joseph Evans as Jirka who is unremarkable; Peter Lightfoot as Marbuel who is not bad; but the two best are Marko Putkanen as Lucifer, and Kristine Ciesinski as The Princess - she is cute and sings well. There is a solo dancer with nice legs, Julie Wong.

    The choreography is effective, and generally, singers and dancers seem to enjoy what they are doing and the global result is quite compelling. This is helped by the folkloric numbers from Dvorak's native Bohemia.

    The conductor and his orchestra are also unknown to me and not particularly remarkable either - Albert Rosen at the head of the Radio Telefis Eireann Symphony Orchestra. Wikipedia tells me that it is one the major symphonic orchestras in Europe - really? - and the major orchestra in Ireland. Oh well, I had never heard of these forces.

    The production is from the Wexford Festival Opera.

    In summary, this doesn't raise above the level of a curiosity, but can ensure a couple of hours of light entertainment if you're renting it or streaming it. It is probably not worth a purchase unless you're the most faithful of Dvorak's fans, but otherwise, it's decent fun.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); May 4th, 2012 at 04:15 PM.
    "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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    Vivaldi: Ercole su'l Termodonte on DVD
    This is one of the only two Vivaldi operas available on DVD, and the other one has been out of print for years.

    This DVD is from a production of the 2006 Spoleto Festival. It is controversial due to lots of nudity: frontal male nudity, a large variety of boobs (displayed naked or under see-through tops), phallic imagery everywhere, and a scene of attempted rape in which the Amazon warrior bites off her attacker's weenie. So, not for the prude.

    Technically: ups and downs; the stage is too dark, the colors are faded and the image is fuzzy at times. Worst of all, there are sound/image synchrony problems - and it shouldn't be the fault of my equipment since it doesn't happen with other DVDs. But on the other hand, the sound is good with LPCM and surround, the format is widescreen, there are multiple subtitles, and extras (interviews).

    Staging: a bit weird with the dark lighting, mirrors, the phalli, but it doesn't get in the way, and the final scenes with the bust of Diana are effective. Costumes are OK for the males, but pretty ugly for the females (although they do have the advantage of the see-through tops!)

    Orchestra and conductor - no complaints. The small period orchestra Il Compasso
    Barocco plays well and delicately, with good balance between voice and orchestra, under the competent direction of specialist Alan Curtis.

    Acting: could be better but is not horrible. Unfortunately one of the weakest acting links is one of the strongest vocal links: Mary-Ellen Nesi.

    Singers: Mostly quite good, with some weaker links. The latter don't commit major annoying errors, it's more a question of lack of expression, pallid ornamentation, small projection, but they don't sink the ship. The stronger links do, at least on occasion, a very, very good job, so the average is favorable.

    Good singers:

    Zachary Stains as Ercole - athletic boy, featured in frontal nudity, the ladies will probably be pleased (are you reading this, Annie & Natalie?). He does well vocally, without being spectacular, but improves as time goes by, warming up his voice. Overall, he is vocally satisfactory.

    Mary-Ellen Nesi as Antiope, and later Diana - I quite like her; beautiful timbre, very expressive. She doesn't look as good as Marina Bartoli though, but totally owns the latter vocally in the scene when they are together (from Onde chiare che sussurrate on, including one of the best arias, Bel piacer de la vendetta).

    Randall Scotting as Teseo - pretty good, has more difficult vocal writing for his role than that of the title role, and gets through it honorably.

    Filippo Mineccia in the minor role of Telamone - good

    Weaker singers:

    Laura Cherici as Martesia - generally does well but with some failures

    Marina Bartoli as Ippolita - small voice, not very expressive, and her voice falters at times in high notes - but oh boy, does she look great! And what a spectacular pair of boobs! Her late aria with Teseo Amato ben is quite good, it's just that a better singer would have made it sublime and she doesn't, and her mistakes get more prominent as the opera approaches its end (probably with some vocal fatigue) and it is unfortunate that she is at her most fatigued when she reaches the best aria for her character. But then... wow... those boobs!!!!

    Luca Dordolo as Alceste - weak

    The opera itself - as long as you don't go in expecting a Handel level of quality, quite enjoyable. Good overture, most arias are beautiful, it's a nice baroque piece. It does stand on its own, there is reasonable pacing, the plot is somewhat interesting. But it is hard not to compare with Handel given the similitude of style and subject matter, and Vivaldi doesn't quite stand up to the comparison, given that Handel in my opinion writes more exciting orchestration, more varied vocal music, and his operas have more thrilling pace and stronger theatricality. In favor of Vivaldi is delicacy, and this piece does have it musically, in spite of the bloody plot - which produces a weird effect in any case, because sometimes we'd like to see more energy and less delicacy, although Vivaldi does have his moments, such as in the late Antiope aria Scenderò, volerò, griderò.

    Overall: recommended.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  6. #6
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Schubert: Alfonso und Estrella on DVD

    This opera is one of the rare attempts at the genre by Schubert, and its lack of popularity is understandable given the absence of good pace and theatricality, in spite of the rather beautiful music. Historically it is interesting due to Schubert's break away from Singspiel in favor of a written-through opera that has only arias, no spoken dialogue or recitatives. It is a sort of long, long song cycle... unfortunately not as good as Schubert's spectacular real song cycles. Here, one can easily notice that opera is not the most appropriate medium for conveying Schubert's genius, since he doesn't seem to manage particularly well the pitfalls of the genre. Once more, there is proof that being a great composer is not enough to become a great opera composer.

    This said, Alfonso und Estrella is enjoyable enough if one just listens to the music - which is good all around and gorgeous at times (well done overture and intermezzi, many interesting arias, good choral music, although I care less for the orchestration which tends to just repeat and underscore the vocal melody) - without paying too much attention to the plot and without feeling too disturbed by a certain monotony.

    Technically this is a very decent DVD, with widescreen image with good definition and colors, very good sound with a choice of Dolby Digital 2.0 or DTS surround, excellent sound balance, subtitles in English and German.

    The production follows the fad of partially updating the action, and brings it for no apparent reason to the early 20th century. In spite of the silly update, the staging is still effective enough.

    Conducting by Harnoncourt is excellent and the half-modern, half-period instruments Chamber Orchestra of Europe does a good job. While acting is uneven, singing is good overall, with all but the tenor singing the role of Alfonso (Endrik Wottrich, the weakest link) being rather terrific. Best is Thomas Hampson as King Froila. Olaf Bär is also excellent as Mauregato. Urba Orgonasova as Estrella sings well but acts poorly and doesn't look the part at all (too old).

    In summary, it's an opera that is good musically and weak theatrically, in a technically good DVD featuring good performances from conductor, orchestra and some of the principals, with less than ideal acting/casting and a weak tenor.

    So, overall, still recommended.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); December 15th, 2014 at 10:20 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  7. #7
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Landi: Il Sant' Alessio on DVD
    Il Sant' Allessio is an early baroque opera by Monteverdi's contemporary Stefano Landi. This is a production from Caen with an all male cast featuring several countertenors, and it's done by Les Arts Florissants and William Christie.

    DVD quality: rather perfect, strong full sound with three track options, five subtitle options, widescreen, beautiful colors under lighting entirely done by candles, bonus feature with William Christie talking about the piece, interesting and well written liner notes.

    Staging (by Benjamin Lazar) and costumes: outstanding. Tasteful, elegant scenarios, with luxurious costumes, rich in details. This was apparently all done based on extensive research to reproduce baroque era conditions.

    Orchestra and conducting: well, it's Christie and Les Arts Florissants. Enough said, there's barely a need to add that it is fascinating, as usual. Fabulous overture (symphonia), great sounds from the period instruments.

    Acting: very measured, again inspired by extensive research with hand movements and posturing done in the early baroque fashion. This opera in between scenes introduces comic characters and these are very lively and colorful, then it resumes the tragedy which is done in this measured faction.

    Singing: somewhat uneven. The baritone and bass voices are very good, but the profusion of contraltos gets mixed results, with some sounding beautiful, others not as much (I keep imagining how much better this would have been with castrati as originally intended). But it isn't easy to gather this many contraltos and keep the quality high. I've heard better as far as contralto singing in falsetto or true male sopranos go, but as a whole, what's been accomplished in this production with the option of an all-male cast is impressive. Singers include Philippe Jaroussky (title role - average in my opinion), Max Emanuel Cencic (the wife, better in my opinion), Damien Guillon, Pascal Bertin, and others.

    The libretto is interesting, provides enough pathos, and was written by a Giulio Rospigliosi, none less than the person who later became Pope Clement IX. So, we have here a libretto written by a pope!!! The plot reproduces fairly faithfully the life events of Saint Alexis, who renounced the pleasures of flesh and riches by leaving his father's home and his new wife (with whom marriage was never consumated) in peregrination to the Holy Land, and returned 17 years later as a beggar who wasn't recognized by his father, his mother, or his wife, and lived among them for another 17 years without disclosing his true identity, until his death, when he died with a letter to them explaining the whole thing clutched to his hand. The libretto explores not only the notion that his ascetic life was a saintly one, but also the cruelty and selfishness of living 17 years among his loved ones who continued to desperately search for him, without revealing that he was right there. Side by side with realistic plot elements there are also religious elements: the Devil (a bass) tempting him to resume a life of pleasure, and angels (sung by boy sopranos).

    This opera has its longueurs, and musically it suffers with the inevitable Monteverdi comparison (or Lully for that matter - Landi is nice, but he is not Monteverdi or Lully), so beware; if you're taking my review as a recommendation (and it is one) make sure that you do like baroque opera, because for the novice it may sound off-putting, and it certainly isn't the best one for an introduction to the genre.

    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  8. #8
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Leonardo Leo: L'Alidoro on DVD

    2008(LI) - Antonio Florio - Orchestra Barocca Cappella della Pietà dei Turchini (period instruments)

    Opera House: Teatro Municipale Valli di Reggio Emilia

    Filippo Morace - Giangrazio - excellent
    Maria Grazia Schiavo - Faustina - excellent
    Maria Ercolano (trouser role) - Luigi/Ascanio (Alidoro) - excellent
    Valentina Varriale - Zeza - good+
    Gianpiero Ruggeri - Meo - good
    Francesca Russo Ermolli - Elisa - good-
    Giuseppe de Vittorio - Don Marcello - so, so; clearly the weak link
    Nino Bruno - Cicco - silent role

    Creative team:
    Matteo Ricchetti - video director
    Arturo Cirillo - stage director
    Massimo Bellando Randone - scenarios
    Gianluca Falaschi - costumes

    Studio: Dynamic Italy

    Technical aspects of this product:
    Running time: 165 minutes
    Subtitles: Italian, English, German, French, Spanish
    Sound: Linear PCM Stereo (excellent balance and clarity); Dolby Digital 5.1
    Image: Widescreen Anamorphic 1.78:1 (Good enough colors and definition)
    No bonus features

    Leonardo Leo (1694-1744) was a Neapolitan baroque composer (actually, born in a small town - San Vito dei Normanni - that then belonged to the Kingdom of Naples) who studied music at the Conservatorio della Pietà dei Turchinni, after which the orchestra that plays in this performance is named.

    Leo is relatively obscure in the world of opera, and is better known for his sacred music compositions. His claim to fame is the fact that he was the first composer of the Neapolitan school to master modern harmonic counterpoint. Still, he composed a large number of serious and comic operas (42 in total). His serious operas are said to suffer from a coldness and severity of spirit (Demofoonte, Farnace, L'Olimpiade - the latter, not to be confouded with Gallupi's version). His comic operas, on the other hand, have a reputation for a keen sense of humor, and include his most famous one, La Finta Frascatana, (a.k.a. Amor Vuol Sofferenze) as well as a pair of comic operas with libretti in Neapolitan dialect, La 'mpeca Scoperta, and the one that I'm reviewing today, L'Alidoro, which premiered in 1740 and was lost for centuries. It has been recently rediscovered during a cataloguing of art finds, in the Abbey of Montecassino during the early 21st Century. This DVD contains its first staging in modern times.

    The libretto is by Gennarantonio Federico. Here is a link to it, with English translation:

    The work explores a divided world in which the characters speak and sing in different languages, according to their station: Neapolitan for the servants, and Tuscan for the masters. The masters are erotically attracted to the servants, while the servants are only attracted to their own.

    Delightful overture, delicately and beautifully played by the period orchestra.
    Surprisingly good singing by this completely unknown, all-Italian, local cast.
    Charming period costumes, but with minimalist staging with some anachronisms (iron patio furniture).

    The arias and ensembles are very, very pleasant.
    Oh boy, this looks very good indeed.

    Act 1
    1 Sinfonia
    2 Le mie voci accogliete - Faustina
    3 Da po’ ch’ammore mpietto m’ha feruto - Meo
    4 Ssi ncapo ajesso frato - Don Marcello
    5 Soperchia moè la collera - Zeza
    6 Risolviti ad amarmi - Elisa
    7 Luci Belle - Luigi
    8 Sei troppo sventurato - Faustina
    Act 2
    1 Cicco, vogli’i no zumpo - Zeza
    2 Talor coverto il cielo - Luigi
    3 Fanno amore e gelosia - Faustina
    4 Emme signor Giangrazio - Giangrazio
    5 Tu davvero te credive - Meo
    6 Chesta è la regola - Zeza
    7 Destatevi allo sdegno - Elisa
    8 Ah no mia bella - Luigi
    9 Oh sia jornu o sia notti - Don Marcello
    Act 3
    1 Ma fia possibil pure - Faustina
    2 L’amorosa tortorella - Faustina
    3 Quando de’ venti irati - Luigi
    4 Via su - Don Marcello
    5 Gente, gente, ajuto, ajuto - Zeza
    6 Nuje sarrimmo comm’apprimmo - Meo
    7 Ora vi come vanno - Giangrazio (recitativo)

    OK, folks: this is a WINNER!!!
    It's dynamic, witty, funny (in a reserved kind of way, not funny haha, but smart funny), varied, entertaining, masterfully put together.

    The multiple intrigues are quite interesting.

    A rich man (Gingrazio) has a playboy good-for-nothing son (Don Marcello). He brings from Naples a suitable bride for his son (Faustina) who comes with her sister (Elisa) - apparently they are his nieces; weird, no taboo about marrying inside the family?? He's got a servant (Luigi, who for some misterious reason likes to call himself Ascanio, it's never explained - and is the Alidoro of the title role, meaning Golden Wings). The female inn keeper (Zeza) and the miller (Meo) complete the list of characters, with a silent role for the inn busboy (Cicco).

    So Marcello is promised to Faustina, but loves/lusts over Zeza - who is in love with Meo and vice-versa, but neither one will confess it to the other, and Meo keeps suspecting Zeza of willing to drop him for the rich pretender - which she's not about to do, and she keeps whining about the fact that Meo doesn't see her love for him and doesn't give her any attention.

    Gingrazio is unhappy because his son is not accepting the rich bride Faustina but rather has his eyes on poor girl Zeza; then he goes to the field to investigate, and falls for Zeza himself, who gets even more desperate at these two rich men, father and son, flirting with her while all she wants is the miller Meo. Meanwhile, the servant Luigi/Ascanio/Alidoro loves Faustina and vice-versa, and is hoping that playboy Marcello will get Zeza and leave Faustina for him. But Faustina's sister Elisa loves Luigi too, and aggressively pursues him, and Faustina is jealous and afraid that Luigi will fall for her sister.

    Elisa feels scorned and insists that Gingrazio must fire Luigi, which he is willing to do, and does.

    Things heat up. Meo openly suspects Zeza of making love to Gingrazio and under the pressure of complaining out lout about it, confesses his love for Zeza. Gingrazio calls him off on his delusional jealousy, insists that he never did such thing to poor Zeza, who runs away crying.

    Faustina goes to battle for Luigi, confronting Elisa on why she wanted Luigi fired. Elisa says she could revert it all, as long as Luigi would agree with loving her.

    Faustina goes to Luigi and tells him about it. He says he could fool Elisa into thinking that he loves her. Faustina declares herself very confused, says that when she is with him, she feels that she's losing him and doesn't know what to think.

    Gingrazio meets Luigi and tells him he will reinstate him if he can help him. He wants Luigi to get Marcello to marry Faustina the same evening. Gingrazio will "pretend" to be in love with Zeza to chase Marcello away from Zeza and get him to marry Faustina. Gingrazio exits. Luigi says to himself he will never let this happen - in a magnificent, heroic da capo aria!

    Marcello goes flirt some more with Zeza who turns him down in no equivocal terms. Still, Meo is jealous and continues to think that she is willing to give herself to one of the two rich gentlemen.

    Marcello tries again and Zeza hits him and breaks his shoulder. Now Meo starts to believe that she is not as fickle as he thought. Gingrazio comes in and tries to earn Zeza's love, who rejects him just as strongly, threatening with an iron spike (this is witnessed by Meo who is looking at the scene from behind stuff). She exits.

    Gingrazio asks Luigi to get Zeza to comply with his demands. He does the messenger between the two of them, which enrages Meo, who denounces what Luigi is doing and engages in a sword fight with him. People calm them down, get in between, Meo leaves, but Marcello continues the sword fight against Luigi (why??? OK, folks, this is opera).

    Zeza goes out looking for Meo and finds him. He says that he saw how she rejected both rich gentlemen and how he is sorry of having doubted her, and they declare their love for each other; embrace. Lovely love scene, lovely music. The silent page dresses like a priest and seems to bless their love.

    Meanwhile Luigi has been injured during the sword fight. When Gingrazio goes to tend to his shoulder wound (just a scratch) he sees a birth mark - two golden wings on his shoulder - and realizes that Luigi is his long lost son Alidoro. He and his late wife had lost him while vacationing in a beach town near Genoa. He was found by a Genoese gentleman and given the name Luigi, but he is really Alidoro.

    Marcello and Alidoro are introduced to the fact that they are brothers, and stop their fight. Alidoro declares his love for Faustina, and Gingrazio blesses their love and agrees that they should marry. Meo and Zeza say that they're getting married too.

    Gingrazio tells Marcello that he should marry Elisa. Both Elisa and Marcello, realizing that they had lost plan A, decide that plan B (getting married to each other) is a good idea. The three couples and the benevolent father rejoice. Curtain.

    Pretty good, exciting libretto.

    Excellent music, always lively and enticing, with good pace.

    On top of it, the production is beautifully staged with tasteful choices, and exquisitely sung, conducted, and played.

    A+, highly recommended. Buy it! Buy it! Buy it!

    One wonders what else is out there lost in history. This is a true operatic masterpiece. Now I look forward to other works by Leonardo Leo. It is interesting - how can fame be so random? Why is Leonardo Leo so obscure, when this opera, not even considered to be his best, is as good as many of the top operas in the repertory that have endured the test of time? Why was it forgotten??? Maybe it is a question of being on the right place at the right time, and Leonardo Leo seems to have lost the train and didn't make it.

    But maybe now, 250 years later, we'll give him his due.

    Bravo, Leonardo Leo, as belated as this is.
    "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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    Schumann: Genoveva on DVD

    2008(LI) - Nicholas Harnoncourt - Orchestra of the Zurich Opera House
    Genoveva - Juliane Banse
    Golo - Shawn Mathey
    Siegfried - Martin Gantner
    Margaretha - Cornelia Kallisch
    Drago - Alfred Muff

    This has been reviewed by HC above.

    I'm starting to watch it now, to add my 2 cents.

    Good technical quality for this ArtHaus product, with excellent image (good definition, sharp colors, widescreen format); perfect LPCM sound track with the option of Dolby 5.1 and good balance; subtitles in six languages including the original German. Running time is 146 minutes. This production is also available on Blu-ray. No bonus features.

    Strikingly beautiful overture, and so far so good in terms of minimalistic staging (often my preferred kind of staging) with a beautiful contrast between the white background and the actors/singers in the front.

    However, I'm bracing for the weirdness that is sure to come, according to HC's review. But I may very well give them a pass on this one, thanks to the musical aspects. These seem very good so far, with Harnoncourt delivering his usual phenomenal conducting, very full and impressive sounds from the orchestra, good chorus, and good singing. Schumann's music sounds marvelous.

    OK, folks, the staging by Martin Kusej (infamous for extreme productions) *is* weird, but makes some sense. The white box is supposed to be some sort of psychological mind space, and the black regions of the stage are supposed to be what is outside, in reality (the chorus, the peasants, at one point the husband who is elsewhere). When the characters are supposed to exit, instead of leaving they just stay in the periphery of the stage, quiet and mostly without moving - like images ranged into a corner of one's memory. As the situation becomes more and more dire, the white box starts to be tainted with blood and dirt. The servant's faces being dirty while the aristocrats are clean and pure is clear enough as symbolism, and so is the tainting of Genoveva's white gown. If anything, these metaphors are too simple and insistent.

    I don't particularly find this libretto weak like many reviews of this opera affirm. It isn't any less credible than that of most operas.

    One thing I don't understand in HC's review is when he talks about recitatives and arias. I don't see this division. This is a through-composed opera with reduced melodious vocal lines in rather constant arioso style, similar to Wagner's operatic structure (he was indeed an influence for Schumann's only attempt at opera - Schumann explicitly aimed at mimicking Wagner's style and asked Wagner for advice - by the way, Wagner didn't like his effort very much). Well, Schumann is less skilled than Wagner in accomplishing this frame/structure, and at times slides into more defined melody, and his orchestration although excellent in this work (and actually the high side of this opera), is still not as impressive as Wagner's - which is no shame, matching Wagner is not an easy task even for a talented composer like Schumann. This is what in my humble opinion accounts for the differences, but Wagner's influence I believe *can* be seen in this work and is even quite undeniable.

    Juliane Banse is a good soprano with a powerful, pleasant, well tuned instrument. She is svelte, cute, attractive, although the staging does try to make her less beautiful by giving her strange eyebrows (apparently to make of her face a more suffering one). Her acting is convincing (so is the acting of other principals here, and they also sing very well). She appears naked in one of the scenes, from her back (with one brief lateral view of one of her boobs - nothing that would set off Alma's Boob-O-Meter too strongly). This is the infamous scene of the raw fish being thrown at a naked Genoveva which has puzzled many. Again, I don't think the symbolism is too difficult here. The scene plays as a dream - Siegfried's dream. He is convinced of his wife infidelity and depicts her being humiliated and defiled, ends up imagining himself killing her. This isn't in the libretto but does match the psychological drama, which is what I believe the stage director was trying to depict. This is why the jubilous music at the end is not matched by the ravaged setting, showing that the trauma of the recent events won't go away so easily.

    The problem with this staging is the need for homework. It can get quite confusing if people don't know the libretto because it doesn't really follow the libretto to the letter, it aims at rather *expressing* the psychological side of the libretto in rather simple symbolic terms. But it is enough to read a good synopsis to get what is going on.

    OK, is this Eurotrash? In a sense, yes. But it does make more sense than most trashy stagings. It's like this German romantic opera is being staged like a Pélleas et Mélisande. I'd say, not bad, as long as the music is good, and it is, in this production (this is similar to what I said of some Handel productions that had weird stagings but exquisite singing, playing, and conducting). I'm more willing to discount these excesses when the music is good.

    And in this case it clearly is. There are no weak links whatsoever among the singers. All of them are very impressive. I've already commented upon the leading soprano's multiple assets. Shawn Mattey does a great job. So does Cornelia Kallish. Alfred Muff is excellent. Martin Gantner has the role of the husband, and while he is less dramatically impressive, he sings well.

    And I like the opera as well. I think it has been unduly underestimated. This, added to the good technical quality of this product, doesn't deserve any less than a verdict of "recommended."

    One regret is the absence of bonus features. An interview with the stage director to explain the concept would have helped.
    "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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    Dvořák: Rusalka on DVD
    I'm watching again this old 1975 Czech movie of the opera, and it is quite good. The initial ballet is very beautiful. The images are very ghostly and atmospheric. The singing is top-notch (interestingly, it is lip-synced to a 1961 studio recording with the orchestra of the Praga National Theater conducted by Chalabala, with Milada Subrtova and Ivo Zidek as principals - which is considered by many to be the best recording of this opera - while the film is from much later. But it works, and it does almost perfectly, with the usual slight lag of sound/lips synchrony that happens in such movies (even in modern ones like the Netrebko/Villazón Bohème). It is quite believable with some beautiful special effects (they use a lot of superposition of images and color/lighting effects that convey the supernatural nature of the story). The fact that they use actors instead of singers (for the most part, since a couple of singers from the 1961 recording also play in the movie) makes everybody look the part (as you can see by the cover picture, Rusalka is acted by a beautiful young woman - not the greatest actress but quite good looking - Katerina Machackova). This is a masterful way to film this fairy tale, given the technical limitations of the time. I'm watching/listening now to the outstanding Song to the Moon, the part that in itself justifies this opera. I continue to recommend it.

    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  11. #11
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    1985 - the conductor is Wolfgang Sawallisch, with the Bayerische Staatsorchester
    Stage direction - Jean-Pierre Ponnelle - DVD released in 2007
    Donald McIntyre sings the title role
    Other singers are Maria de Francesca-Cavazza, Robert Schunk, Hans Gunter Nocker

    This is very good, folks. It's my first contact with Hindemith's music and I like it a lot.
    If you enjoy modernist music - this is more melodious and accessible than Lulu - you'll like it too.

    The interesting plot is based on a short story by E.T.A. Hoffmann, Das Fräulein von Scuderi. It's about a goldsmith who is so taken by his own creations that he kills all customers who buy his jewelry, since he doesn't want to part with them.

    The staging, costumes, scenarios and props are simply brilliant. Ponnelle has reproduced the atmosphere of a German expressionist movie. This is a gloomy story about a deranged serial killer, and the oppressive, dark, odd scenarios are very appropriate and visually striking.

    Singing is very good even though McIntyre seems a bit passed his prime (5 years after the Ring) - his voice seems to lack volume at times - but it could be the bad sound engineering. In any case, he looks the part of the murderous erratic madman and is impressive in all scenes.

    Technically the DVD has problems of sound balance and synchrony (atypical for DG), and the image is 1.33:1. Subtitles are provided in several languages, otherwise there are no other extras except for a DG catalog, trailers, and a very short documentary about the Ring - why not include instead a documentary about Cardillac???. It is still very enjoyable, thanks to the formidable staging that makes us forget about the technical flaws.

    This opera at least for me is a bit off the beaten path, and exactly what I was looking for, today.

    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  12. #12
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Vicente Martín y Soler: Il burbero di buon cuore on DVD

    OK, folks, I need a thesaurus of superlatives.

    How in hell does a masterpiece like this flies under the radar???? Can you believe that this one is a world première? It wasn't ever staged before, although the composer has been dead since 1806!!!
    Edit - I've since learned that yes, it was staged before, but not in 200 years.

    This is not only one of the best opera buffae ever written, it is also matched by one of the best opera DVDs ever produced.

    If I wasn't slightly drunk after consuming some very good cheese with a very good wine I'd trust my own opinion better, but as of now, with the wine talking, I'd even consider this one as the BEST opera buffa DVD I've ever watched. OK, after the wine vapors dissipate, I'll probably downgrade this opinion to the best one within the last year, instead of the best one ever. But, but... it is DARN good! It is!!!

    First of all, the libretto is simply phenomenal. OK, you'll believe me a little more once you realize that the author of the libretto is one Lorenzo da Ponte. Yep, him. *The* Lorenzo da Ponte of Don Giovanni, Così fan Tutte, and Le Nozze di Figaro fame.

    But then, the composer was entirely unknown to me. One Vicente Martín y Soler.

    Oh wow. This guy is good! This opera could have easily been signed by one Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and we wouldn't have noticed any difference. Yes, folks, it *is* this good.
    Edit - I've since learned that Mozart did contribute to two arias of this work, and quoted one of the of the composer's operas in Don Giovanni.

    Then, you couple an outstanding libretto to an outstanding score, and you add to it a phenomenal orchestra and the most exquisite singers I've heard in a while.

    Yep, they aren't known. Yep, it's the first time I see any of them with one exception.

    And then I ask myself, why in the hell these young men and women and this oldish gentleman are not being booked by the Met, the ROH, La Scala, the Mariinsky and the such?

    They are incredible! Sublime! Phenomenal! And their Italian articulation is so good that I understand the whole thing without subtitles.

    It's not just that this production has no weak singing link. It goes well beyond that. It's that the production has OUTSTANDING singers in ALL 8 roles (including the smallest of the smallest roles - they are ALL good, believe me!). They are all totally unknown to me except one, and they ALL deliver some of the best singing I've listened to in YEARS. This reassures me. Opera is alive and well if these youngsters can put together such an incredible performance!

    AND spectacular acting. AND they all look their parts. All of them.

    This opera has it all. Incredible music, great orchestration, beautiful vocal writing: check.
    Exciting pace: check
    Theatrical flair: check
    Quality libretto: more than check
    Funny, believable situations: check

    Then the production has...
    Excellent orchestra, conducting, tempi: check
    Phenomenal singers in ALL roles: check
    Outstanding acting: check
    Looks (both the young, pretty, sexy ones, and the appropriately creepy ones): check
    Very good stage direction: check

    The DVD has...
    Good colors, image definition, good sound track: check

    Conclusion: A++

    Highly recommended wouldn't be enough.
    I'd say this one goes for the top. It's a strong competitor for best opera DVD of the last several years.


    Live Composite recording over three nights, 14th, 15th, and 16th November 2007, at the Teatro Real de Madrid

    It's a co-production Teatro Real de Madrid and Gran Teatre del Liceu de Barcelona
    Orquesta Sinfónica de Madrid
    Conductor/piano - Christophe Rousset
    Stage Director - Irina Brook
    Video director - Mateo Richetti

    Staging is modern, with contemporary costumes

    The outstanding team of extremely competent singers, homogeneously good (oh wait, not good, great!) across the board includes:

    Elena de La Merced (Angelica) - and she is cute! And with a great body - you can see her on the cover picture
    Carlos Chausson (Ferramondo)
    Véronique Gens (Madama Lucilla) - the only one I knew from other productions - not as pretty now as when she was younger, but still a charming and attractive lady
    Salmir Pirgu (Giocondo)
    Cecilia Diaz (Marina)
    Juan Francisco Gatell (Valerio)
    Luca Pisaroni (Dorval)
    Josep Miquel Ramón (Castagna)

    Buy it! Buy it! Buy it! - (PS - Schigolch doesn't like it; one of the few occasions I disagree with him - since he is usually right, maybe I'm over-rating this one)
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  13. #13
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Salieri: Tarare on DVD

    OK, I'm watching for the first time an opera by Salieri. Of course it is hard not to think of the play Amadeus, later turned into a movie, in spite of the fact that we all know that the murderous jealousy depicted in the play is not historically true, but rather fictional. But how can one not feel curious about the musical quality of Salieri's works, after that fictional account? So, here I go.

    This is a production of 1988 at the Schwetzinger Festspiele. The DVD was released in 2005 by ArtHaus Musik, with a running time of 184 minutes. The opera is sung in French, with choice of six languages for subtitles, including French. PCM stereo is the only sound track, but it is good, with good balance. The image is 1.33:1, with poor definition but good colors. Singers are Anna Caleb, Jean-Phillipe Lafont, Howard Crook, Nicolas Rivenq, Eberhard Lorenz. Jean-Claude Malgoire conducts the Deutsche Handel Solisten, in period instruments.

    The setting is colorful and peculiar, apparently trying to recreate what was done at the time of Salieri. The singers are very good across the board, and they act well.

    The source material is a play by Beaumarchais.

    The plot is complex. In a few words, it's a story about a soldier (Tarare) who saves his king, is promoted to General, gets popular, incurs the King's jealousy, and for revenge the king kidnaps Tarare's wife into his harem. She refuses the king and suffers cruelties, the king continues to persecute Tarare, etc., etc. Sounds tragic, no? Actually, it is rather comic.

    The opera itself is very pleasant, with several very beautiful moments, good pace and theatricality. This is obviously a good piece. So much for the stereotypes perpetuated by Amadeus.

    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  14. #14
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Dvorak: Rusalka on blu-ray
    OK, I have received the "domestic abuse" Rusalka with the gorgeous Kristine Opolais.

    Well the music dispenses presentation, it is simply outstanding, one of the most melodious and beautiful operas ever written. So I'll just focus on the staging aspects of this controversial production.

    Live Composite recording without the public, from 20 through 26 October 2006 at the Nationaltheater, Munich

    Tomas Hanus conducts the Bayerischen Staatsorchester.
    Chor der Bayerischen Staatsoper, Chorus Master Sören Eckhoff
    Stage Director Martin Kusej
    Video Director Thomas Grimm

    Unitel Classica Blu-ray, 1080p, 16:9, PCM stereo, DTS-HD Master 5.1 (the cover says 5.0 but it definitely activated my subwoofer). Crystal-clear image and sound quality, but with balance favoring the singers over the orchestra. Making Of bonus feature, plus trailers of the Valencia Ring, Maria Stuarda, Il Mondo della Luna, and Thielemann Conducts Beethoven.
    Running time opera 156 minutes, bonus feature 36 minutes. The documentary is subtitled in English only and spoken in German and English. The opera is sung in Czech and subtitled in English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese, and Korean. Region code zero (worldwide).
    The insert contains a brief essay and a synopsis in three languages, and the track list in Czech with English translation, duration, and characters singing each number.


    Rusalka - Kristine Opolais (last syllable rhymes with the German -eis, doesn't sound like the French lait)
    Prince - Klaus Florian Vogt
    Foreign Princess - Nadia Krasteva
    Water Goblin - Günther Groissböck
    Forester - Ulrich Ress
    Kitchen Boy - Tara Erraught
    Hunter - John Chest
    1st Wood Nymph - Evgeniya Sotnikova
    2nd Wood Nymph - Angela Brower
    3rd Wood Nymph - Okka von der Damerau

    Well, I'm known for being able to accept some rather extreme productions, but I confess that so far this thing seems really distasteful with the Water Goblin raping the water nymphs, including the presence of a young girl, not to forget the way the Water Goblin grabs his own crotch under his pants. I'm not sure if this is what I want to see when I watch opera.

    Opolais is absolutely stunning. But this production may be too much to handle. The Water Goblin has violently slapped her just now. Oh boy.

    OKaaay... now he has raped Rusalka too, in a semi-explicit manner. Oh boy #2!

    Rusalka now sings the Song to the Lamp. Well, it should have been a song to the moon but in her flooded basement there's no moon so she sings to a lamp. Oh boy #3!

    But it is impossible not to like this scene, given how well Kristine sings and how incredibly beautiful she is. This is beauty of Anna Netrebko proportions. Now she is rolling around on her wet clothes, and amfortas' jokes about her cleavage are actually coming through (killer legs too).

    And she can act. In fact, her acting is outstanding. To paraphrase what I said above about her looks, this is acting of Natalie Dessay proportions.

    This woman will soon enough be a major hit all over the world. There's no denying it. Her acting in her first scene with Jezibaba is nothing short of spectacular (the way she tries to walk on high heels for the first time is terrific).

    It took me a while to add more comments because this production is certainly growing in quality as the opera goes by, and I'm starting to enjoy it.

    OK, just as I was starting to like this, there is more groping of under-aged girls, this time with an uncle molesting his niece. There's lots of blood involved (a deer is being skinned).

    More weird shenanigans. The Prince has sex with the Foreign Princess on stage and in full view of a shocked, psychotic Rusalka (this is the most explicit sexual act I've seen in opera since Powder Her Face). Then the ball features men and women alike in female wedding gowns dancing with bloody deer carcasses which they then eat raw. Okaaaayyy... Supposedly this is to symbolize that the humans are predators that destroy the natural world, I assume - but then the natural world isn't any better, given all the sexual abuse that goes on in the watery world. The grotesque scene is completely divorced from the beautiful music.

    Kristine Opolais continues to act very well and manages to look alien and crazy and disheveled but still gorgeous. Now she has changed into her wedding gown. The Water Goblin comes back for her. She jumps into the aquarium (cover picture). Poor goldfish. Fortunately I'm told they're fake. They're the only thing fake in that aquarium if you know what I mean, given what we're allowed to glimpse at through Kristine Opolais' wet gown. The Foreign Princess is about to have sex with the Prince on stage again in front of Rusalka but the latter counter-attacks by stepping out of the aquarium and kissing her man. The Prince is in trouble now, under the curse. So is the booby Foreign Princess. Rusalka now looks evil. End of Act II.

    Act III opens up with Rusalka lamenting her sort while Jezibaba looks bored and polishes her own nails, slumped on a chair, looking very white-trashy. The nice touch is that the background wall is entirely covered with a life-size wallpaper picture of a lake surrounded by woods (Rusalka's world in the original opera - here reduced to a picture on a wall). During Rusalka's long lamentation scene we are treated to several views of Ms. Opolais' abundant cleavage and huge breasts. It feels a little bit exploitative (a good way to sell tickets and DVDs). Jezibaba threatens Rusalka with a knife (huh... what???) in the scene where she encourages her to kill the prince in order to be saved from the curse (someone in this production team has been watching The Magic Flute since Jezibaba at this point acts like the Queen of the Night). She refuses to kill her man.

    Rusalka cuts her own hair with the knife, then cuts a hole in the picture on the wall and walks through it. Jezibaba looks frightened and goes down through the trapdoor to the basement of the opening scene.

    The hunter comes up (where is the kitchen boy? Oh, OK, it's the kitchen girl, the one who was being molested before).

    They go down the trapdoor as well, looking for Jezibaba. There's the scene where Jezibaba threatens to eat the kitchen boy (here a girl) and says that he's (she's) too skinny. Funny because this girl is very chubby. Whatever.

    The Water Goblin stabs and kills the hunter. Was this in the original? I don't remember it being there. Weird. Some people in sort of sewage worker uniforms come with flashlights and drag the corpse away.

    Now we're in a room where Rusalka's abused sister nymphs dwell. Well it's not a lake. They use bottled water to spray themselves wet. They are cute and sing very well. Again there is this feeling of divorce between the sordid-looking scene and Dvorak's spectacularly melodious music.

    The Water Goglin comes in dragged by a cop, in handcuffs, with a doctor. Presumably his child abuse has been spotted and he's being arrested. The doctor is supposed to check on the abused girls who don't look so happy about being rescued.

    Rusalka is there. She looks positively damaged, sort of stunned, silent. The prince comes back for her. She is catatonic, like a patient in a mental institution. Her sisters look just as catatonic now. The prince sings of looking for her "in this forest." For a forest, this room lacks an essential element: trees. I'm starting to agree with Elgarian about these updates.

    The scene between Rusalka and the Prince when she gives him the kiss of death is impressive in terms of Kristine's acting *and* singing. She again looks stunning, a little less disheveled with her clean hospital gown and a ponytail. That Russian girl Yuryevna has serious competition now. Kristine's laughing/crying in her last scene when she gets her face smeared with the Prince's blood is probably one of the best acting jobs I've seen in any opera for the last several years. I won't say any longer that it is acting of Natalie Dessay caliber, but rather, that she puts Natalie Dessay to shame. The end (there are no curtain calls, this was recorded with closed doors and no public).

    OK, whew. Verdict time.

    This isn't for the faint of heart, obviously. They have managed to make a horror movie out of this work defined as a "lyric fairy-tale in three acts." Gone is all the poetry and delicacy of Dvorak's outstanding opera. It's not the same work (this is why I kept saying "the original").

    Does it work? It does as long as we don't remind ourselves too often that this is supposed to be Dvorak's opera. As a stage play dealing with abuse and its aftermath of despair, trauma, damaged souls, mental illness, and death, it does absolutely work, in no small measure thanks to the incredible acting abilities of the cast, first and foremost Ms. Opolais' impressive gifts as a stage actress, and second thanks for her almost as brilliant supporting cast. But it works for this reason, not because we get to see bloody deer carcasses. Stage directors need to understand that the psychological approach *can* work without any crude metaphors being pushed down our throats for shock value. And tampering with the original (like having the Water Goblin repeatedly stab and kill the Hunter) is totally unnecessary and silly.

    Do I regret my purchase? Hell no. First of all, there is no straight male in the world who will feel bored while watching 156 minutes of eye-candy Kristine Opolais on stage. Sorry for being crass while saying this, but she is so stunningly attractive that there is just no way that someone like me won't enjoy this.

    Second, the musical aspects are not bad at all. They do seem to take second place to the staging, a frequent problem in this kind of Regie approach. This is even matched by the sound engineering, because the balance between orchestra and singers definitely favors the latter. Sometimes, like I said, we quite forget that we're watching an opera rather than a stage play with background music. This said, there are no weak links, all cast members sing beautifully and the orchestra, while not shining, doesn't disappoint either.

    In retrospect:

    -Gratuitous, shock-value-laden scenes and tampering with the original
    -The music takes second place
    -If one wants to make a stage play about rape, incest, sexual abuse, mental illness, etc., maybe it would have been better to pick a less lyric and poetic material. The divorce between music and staging is too apparent

    -Kristine Opolais
    -Kristine Opolais
    -Have I mentioned Kristine Opolais? OK, let's move on. Other pros:
    -Outstanding acting, of the highest possible quality
    -The production does keep one's attention
    -Decent musical qualities with correct orchestra and very good singers
    -Homogeneous high quality of the cast with absolutely no weak links, not even in the small roles
    -Dvorak's opera is so beautiful that those who object to the staging can just turn off the TV monitor or close their eyes and enjoy the sublime music.
    -Good Making Of bonus feature with interviews with all artists - it is nice to see Kristine treating us to her luminous smile, since in the two operas I've seen with her, she is always given either bored or crazy tragic acting tasks and I don't recall her really having a relaxed laugh or even a smile during these operas.

    Do I recommend it? I can't, really. Like I said, it's not for everyone. But I can say that I have enjoyed it more than not.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); March 14th, 2014 at 09:15 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  15. #15
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    L'Olimpiade, dramma per musica in three acts (a subgenre of opera seria) that premiered in December of 1747.

    Music by Baldassare Galuppi
    Libretto by Pietro Metastasio

    Venice Baroque Orchestra (on period instruments) - conductor Andrea Marcon
    Opera company - Teatro La Fenice, in co-production with the Venice Music Festival
    Recorded live at the Teatro Malibran, Venice, in October 2006

    Stage director Dominique Poulange
    Set and costume designer Francesco Zito
    Video director Tiziano Mancini


    Mark Tucker (Clistene)
    Ruth Rosique (Aristea)
    Roberta Invernizzi (Argene)
    Romina Basso (Megacle)
    Franziska Gottwald (Licida)
    Furio Zanasi (Alcandro)
    Filippo Adami (Aminta)

    This DVD was released by Dynamic in 2008. It is region zero, and has optional subtitles in five languages including original Italian. Sound tracks include LPCM and Dolby Digital 5.1, with Dynamic's proprietary sound effects called ODS (original dynamic surround). Image is 16:9 and both image and sound are impeccable which is often the case with Dynamic releases. They also do package nicely their products, with complete liner notes including essays and synopses in German, English, Italian, and French, and track list with names of arias and characters but unfortunately without the duration. Total running time however is given, and it is 210 minutes.


    This opera is one of many (including by major composers such as Pergolesi, Vivaldi, and Donizetti) set to the same libretto by Metastasio who liked his opera serias to be very structured as a succession of da capo arias with conventional harpsichord and strings fillers in between, not to disturb the poetry. Galuppi actually tried to do more with the orchestral part, which enraged Metastasio.

    Still, even though the composer did try to color things a little bit, L'Olimpiade is supposed to be "a vehicle dedicated to the expression of poetry: serene and expansive." It's got a reputation here at TC for being incredibly boring (while Amazon reviewers unanimously grant it 5 stars).

    I'm currently at just 25 minutes of this long opera (3 hours and a half) but so far I'm liking it, which apparently doesn't prove much because Elgarian and mamascarlatti have said that the first hour is fine than it turns boring.

    Anyway, undeniable qualities are the really nice small period orchestra, good conducting, and very good singing by all principals, no exceptions. It's actually pretty, pretty good singing. Three of the four females (two in trouser roles) are attractive, some more than others (they aren't stunning but they aren't eye sores either). The gentlemen I suppose are are not that hot - so it's a youngish, mostly decent-looking female cast, so-so male cast (but all of them good singers).

    Here is the best looking one, Ruth Rosique in the role of Aristea, in this picture a few years older. Well, talking about the current thread on artists' looks, I must say that she does have the nice looks but an even better voice, she is very agile with beautiful coloratura and nice timbre. Her acting is fine too.

    Roberta Invernizzi who sings Argene very well, is not bad either in the matter of looks:

    Then we have Romina Basso in the trouser role of Megacle:

    And finally, Franziska Gottwald gets the other trouser role, Licida:

    The sets are beautiful and elegant (period staging, but sober and discreet, with traces of modernity in the way things are displayed - like in a tasteful Italian museum).

    This theater has a small stage, but the relative sparse sets don't make it look too crowded. Still, one regrets the fact that they didn't use the La Fenice itself (just because I always like to look at it - although this small theater is actually appropriate for this 18th century opera, and it is steep in history, since it's the original one (no fire like at its bigger cousin) and is in operation since 1678 (although not continuously - it closed down and reopened a few times) - used to be called Teatro San Giovanni Grisostomo.

    OK, 1 hour mark. I continue to like it, what's not to like? Good singing, good-looking singers, beautiful sets, excellent orchestra. Oh wait, you mean there is two and a half hours more? Well, I may get bored later, we'll see.

    End of disc 1.

    Disc 2 brings Ruth Rosique in a lovely red dress with generous cleavage, so, it scores some points for me. By now it's clear what is wrong with this thing: it's sheer length. The scenario is beautiful but it doesn't change. Things get pretty monotonous.

    Excellent singing / playing / conducting continues, so what is needed to make of this a winning DVD? Cuts.

    I remember Rienzi, with its 5 hours running time, which got cut to 2 in the available blu-ray, and most people who know the entire uncut opera say it improved (usually fans are outraged at cuts, but not in all cases).

    So, short of cuts, here is my solution: the music is beautiful. It doesn't change much but it is beautiful. So I'll just stop paying attention to the convoluted plot (very, very convoluted) and will just use this as background music while I read a book.

    No need to further review this.

    Verdict - not recommended (too long). Can work as background music. Could be good with cuts.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); December 26th, 2013 at 04:15 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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