OK, folks, this is it, again. This is opera.
Some cognoscenti will tell you that La Favorite(a) is Donizetti's best opera. While I don't entirely agree (I'd say Roberto Devereux is more melodious, and L'Elisir d'Amore is more fun), this is one darn good opera.
So here I am today, Friday evening; the wife is asleep, we have watched the delayed tape of the Royal Wedding on TV together, and then she went to bed and left me alone with my second passion - after her; she is my absolute first passion; my beloved wife, and she does share my second one with me as well, but not as much: opera.
As I'm watching this, I'm a little depressed. I'm questioning the operatic path I've taken - going for the visual media, believing in the "entire work of art" concept, rather than going for the best vinyl/CD recordings.
Because, see, great opera requires great singing. And with the overwhelming new media - YouTube, DVD's, blu-rays - we got plenty of images, but I'd say that the singing is not entirely there.
Case in point, this DVD.
This is a perfomance recorded live in Tokyo in 1971. Forty years ago. The NHK Symphony Orchestra is exquisitely conducted by Oliviero de Fabritiis.
Fernando is Alfredo Krauss. Leonora is Fiorenza Cossotto. Baldassarre is Ruggero Raimondi. Alfonso XI is Sesto Bruscantini. The minor roles of Don Gasparo and Ines are respectively sung by Augusto Pedroni and Marisa Zotti.
Technical quality of this DVD: appaling. It is, frankly, worse than many non-professional DVD's I've seen. Grainy image, primitive camera work, and a damn prompter who can be heard out loud in many essential moments. Oh God, this is so annoying!! This 40-years-old product seems as bad as any home movie I've recorded with a shaky hand-held camera on the occasion of my kids' birthday parties.
But then, like I said, great opera requires great singing.
Alfred Kraus delivers one of the most impressive tenor performances I've ever seen/heard in my entire life.
Oh! My! God!
I've seen this guy many times on YouTube videos, mostly past his prime. I've heard many recordings with him, some good, some bad after wear and tear got him.
But I had never seen Alfred Kraus at the very peak of his ability, in full control of his artistry, in his absolutely top prime time, singing like God's gift to humankind. You have it all right here, folks, on this La Favorita DVD.
This is amazing. Incredible. Extraordinary.
This DVD couldn't be more faulty. Every single technical aspect is a disaster. Many of the other singers are mediocre at best. I don't like Fiorenza Cossotto in this production at all. Marisa Zotti as Ines is painfully weak.
And yet... and yet...
You have three male singers - Alfred Kraus, the tenor, in the role of Fernando. Sesto Bruscantini the baritone as Alfonso XI. Ruggero Raimondi the bass as Baldassarre.
They are all three simply spectacular. You guys need to see it to believe it.
This is sublime singing. We don't see this kind of thing these days. We have to travel back in time 40 years to get to this level of expertise.
Alfred Kraus has me in tears. Listening to his PERFECT delivery of every single damn note is an orgasmic experience, and in itself justifies the fact that this otherwise very faulty DVD should be an obligatory item in any serious opera lover's collection.
Not to forget that Donizetti's opera in itself is fabulous.
Highly recommended. For Donizetti's incredible score and vocal writing. For Ruggero Raimondi's Baldassarre. And over everything else, for Alfred Kraus' Fernando, a performance for the ages.
Bravo. Bravo. Bravo. Bravo.
And thank you for reminding me that great opera takes a great composer like Donizetti, and a great tenor like Kraus.