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Thread: Handel on DVD and Blu-ray

  1. #61
    Senior Member DarkAngel's Avatar
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    Alma
    Strong resemblence to baroque veteran Vivica Genaux I would say..........

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkAngel View Post



    Alma
    Strong resemblence to baroque veteran Vivica Genaux I would say..........
    Me like like.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Default Alcis and Galatea

    Is this opera nice? Very nice? Is the music beautiful? I don't know I have bought so many things lately...I think I should put it on my wish list for my birthday...but I'll have to wait until December! LOL I really loved Giulio Cesare ...But I don't like very much girls singinging for guys...I find this weird. I have two Poppea's versions (Monteverdi) one is with a woman singing Nerone (von Otter, she sings well...but still) th eother one, Nerone is a man.






    I have Orfeo and Euridice sung by a girl...Not sure I like it...She looks like a Lesbian, I have nothing against them...but...





    Martin

  4. #64
    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Martin, early baroque opera was played by castrati, and a male with a female-sounding voice wasn't considered to be effeminate at all. The going notion was that the male voice was unfit for sublime opera music. You have to get in the mood, but rather than transposing the writing, it is more appropriate to give these roles to women, or to very gifted countertenors.

    I wasn't very fond of early baroque opera, but then it grew on me and now I love it.

    Now, if I listen to one of these operas with characters that were originally supposed to be castrati, transposed to the tenor voice, that's when I find it weird and inappropriate.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    We are very lucky that the art and technique of the countertenor has made such good progress since Alfred Deller pioneered it in the 50s and 60s. Now we have such luminaries as Andreas Scholl, Philippe Jaroussky, David Daniels, Bejun Mehta, Michael Maniaci (actually a natural soprano) and so on to take the castrato male roles.

    That said I'd rather hear a really good mezzo in the role than a hooty counter-tenor. But drama-wise it's more convincing with a male in the male part.

    Like Alma I feel strange hearing a tenor sing the role.
    Natalie

  6. #66
    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Default Handel: Orlando on blu-ray



    With this one, placed # 100 in our TC Top 100 Recommended Operas list, I have now seen or listened to all 100.

    OK, folks, this one is a mixed bag.

    It's William Christie, but not with his orchestra Les Arts Florissants. This time he is a guest conductor, at the helm of the Orchestra "La Scintila" of the Zurich Opernhaus. This is not an opera company I trust at all, but anyway, let's not allow prejudices to get in the way of a fair assessment.

    The Stage Director is Jens-Daniel Herzog, apparently no relation to Werner Herzog.

    The cast has Marijana Mijanovic in the title role, Martina Janková as Angelica, Konstantin Wolff as Zoroastro, Katharina Peetz as Medoro, and Christina Clark as Dorinda.

    The plot is simple (LOL, it actually isn't, and it is quite ridiculous, but who cares?):

    Zoroastro is worried because General Orlando fell in love with Angelica, and while lovesick, is neglecting his military duties. He tells him that he should go to war and forget about love, to no avail. Angelica keeps giving him hopes because she is scared of him but secretly loves Medoro, who is loved by Dorinda. Medoro encourages Dorinda as well but prefers Angelica. Orlando declares to Angelica his love and gives her a bracelet. Dorinda decides that the only way to avoid the ire of a jealous general which might get either herself or Medoro killed - or both - is to elope with Medoro in the middle of the night. However when they are making plans and start kissing each other, Dorinda walks on them and cries out loud, lamenting the fact that Medoro had been fooling her. They are afraid that she'll attract the attention of the general with her crying, and Angelica gives her the bracelet to calm her down. She does, but then rats on them to Orlando, who gets more and more upset, in a jealous rage. Medoro and Angelica elope, Orlando states he will pursue them and kill them, but gets delirious and loses his sanity. Angelica and Medoro come back (why???), Medoro wants to offer himself to be killed, but Zoroastro devises a plan to cure the general of his insanity. He makes Angelica - who is by now despondent because she thinks that the general will kill Medoro - offer herself to be killed by Orlando. Zoroastro manages to fake Angelica's death in the hands of Orlando (how? with magic, I suppose), who then wakes up of his trance, finds himself cured of his madness, and laments the fact that he has murdered Angelica. At this point and to Orlando's surprise, she resuscitates, tells him that she does love Medoro - who then shows up alive and well - and asks for Orlando's blessing. The general says that indeed love should not distract him from war, gives the happy couple his blessing, and everybody (including Dorinda who by then has renounced her love for Medoro - why??) rejoices. Curtain.

    Technically, the blu-ray is impeccable. Perfect DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 and PCM Stereo, subtitles in Italian, English, German, French, and Spanish, full HD picture with 16:9 format, running time of 155 minutes. There is only one problem that knocks down some points in my evalutation: the only extras are trailers for 5 other operas; no interviews, or making-of. Camera work is very appropriate.

    The staging is, of course, updated. These days directors make a point of staging baroque opera in any possible era, except the one intended by the composer and the librettist. This one is no exception. Oh, and there is the usual Regie re-interpretation. Zoroastro, instead of being a magician, is the head psychiatrist in a mental hospital where general Orlando is a patient. Dorinda, rather than a shepherdess, is a nurse. Angelica and Medoro are, well, Angelica and Medoro. We never get to know what in the hell these two are doing in the mental hospital (we know from the opera's libretto who they are supposed to be, but their positions in the original libretto don't really match the idea of the hospital setting - they aren't patients, aren't staff... which is another problem showing that updates have their limitations.

    In terms of scenarios, they are well done for the premise, and not intrusive. Huge walls slide in and out and subdivide the stage in various ways, which are very effective to convey the different rooms in the hospital and to provide enough variety and ample space for the singers/actors, without ever looking too busy or cramped.

    The hospital setting update is not too bad, but not very successful either. Let's say that it is less bad than other Eurotrashy productions (there aren't the usual purposefully shocking scenes or disgusting props that I came to expect from the Regie-gone-mad Zurich Opera House) but the singers visibly struggle to still convey Handel's opera in this environment while singing of completely disparate settings, such as woods, brooks, and deer passing by. But it isn't a complete disaster either - the psychiatric setting still works fairly well for this opera that includes a mad scene and a character who recovers from madness. But you know, it's right there on the edge - a little more Regie, and it would have completely derailed the production.

    Other Regie issues are the added action that is not in the libretto. There is over-sexualization of certain scenes; for example, when Dorinda is singing of how she still loves Medoro while he tells him that his heart belongs to another; the scene is supposed to be one of renouncement and sadness for her, but of course, Regie-gone-mad Zurich Opera makes the poor singer try to frantically undress Medoro and zip down his pants - fortunately she doesn't go any further. There is also a scene in which Dorinda punches Angelica who gets a bleeding nose (this is not in the libretto), and the bloody nose becomes the object of several actions which don't match what is being sung at all. Continuity problems arise - Angelica's bloody-stained clothes suddenly appear clean, then bloody again, then clean again, then bloody again. Obviously the filming was a composite of different evenings and those blood stains weren't on the same spots.

    OK, so, this all sounds terrible, huh? Why have I said that the Regie BS does not completely derail the production? Because it is saved by the superlative acting of the two women who play female roles (not the ones in trouser roles). Martina Janková and Christina Clark are two very accomplished actresses, and somehow they pull it off; they make it work and rescue the Stage Director's silliness. Their rivalry on stage is acted with such vigor and such comic punch (in spite of this being an opera seria), and they develop such an exquisite chemistry, that we forget about all the ridiculously unmatched action/libretto situations. Wow! Some artists these two are! They make this whole thing very entertaining, to tell you the truth, even if it is not exactly what Handel and his anonymous librettist had intended.

    Konstantin Wolff acts his part very well too. The other two characters, however, are no match for this trio's acting abilities. Marijana Mijanovic does OK in terms of acting (not great as the other three, but OK, and her mad scene is not bad), while Katharina Peetz is not a convincing Medoro in a trouser role, and she is not helped by the ridiculous costumes that she/he gets. Most of the other costumes are appropriate (except for one scene when Angelica shows up - for no reason whatsoever - dressed as a Japanese woman - I guess I told you that the Zurich Opera House is Regie-gone-mad, right?), but Medoro's are particularly odd, especially in the final scene. They make of this character a buffoon, which again is not matched by the libretto, in which he does engage in some more noble actions in the second and third acts, after his first act two-faced flirting with two women at the same time.

    In terms of looks, Marijana Mijanovic looks masculine enough (without need for facial hair) but she is just too svelte and tiny to be convincing as the great hero general Orlando. Katharina Peetz, again, is shorthanded by somewhat ridiculous fake facial hair (a thin moustache). Martina Janková looks very attractive and sexy, and her "assets" - cough, cough (those who know me, know what I'm talking about) are generously displayed during the first act when she is in her night gown, but she does dress more modestly during the second and third acts. Christina and Konstantin look their parts. The latter is not helped by the high definition of this blu-ray's image, because we can see that his bald head is fake. Sometimes HD gets in the way of suspension of disbelief...

    Now, for the most important part, the music.

    The opera itself is, of course, spectacular. I really like this one, it's considered by many to be one of Handel's top three in musical terms, and even though it's hard for me to rank them because I very much like pretty much everything that he did, I can see why this opinion could be defended. One of the best features is that Handel this time employs more ensembles than usual, and less da capo arias than usual. The few da capo arias are not extra long. These characteristics make for lively and varied vocal music that won't turn off the non-initiated (for whom the endless succession of long da capo arias in other baroque operas can be unpalatable). I particularly like the trio when Angelica and Medoro are trying to comfort Dorinda when she walks on them making up - they tell her to be brave and move on, she says "no... no..." and they reply "sì... sì..." (the effect is beautiful). The short overture and the instrumental ultra-short intermezzi (listed as sinfoniae) are very delicate and tasteful.

    OK, how well (or not) is the music performed in this production?

    Well, Christie is a Handel specialist and things click pretty well, helped by the spectacular quality of this blu-ray's sound track, and by the period instruments, including the so-called viola d'amore, which supposedly provides a fuller and more resonant sound. And yet... and yet... there is something missing. I believe that what is missing is Christie's own orchestra and his chemistry with them. He tries his best but can't inspire this "La Scintilla" to the same energy and brilliance of his Les Arts Florissants.

    And what about the singing?

    Marijana Mijanovic pretty much ruins this production. Apparently she was coming back after a long absence due to severe health problems and a pregnancy, but you know, she shouldn't have tackled this, if she wasn't well enough. She commits a large number of vocal errors, and one keeps longing for a countertenor instead, such as Scholl or Daniels. She seems too contained, passionless in her singing, and unable to survive her coloratura, which gets worse and worse and seems rather disastrous in the third act.

    Martina Janková, on the other hand, steals the show. While at the very top of her range she doesn't do as well, she compensates for it with a pleasant timbre and a big dose of vitality. I loved her performance (I've talked about her acting and her looks already) and will be looking forward to catching her in other roles.

    Christina Clark, while not as good as Martina (due to being uneven throughout the performance, unlike Martina who pretty much shines every single time she is on stage), sings beautifully as well, and at times exquisitely so.

    Konstantin Wolff is a very good bass. He performs his part almost perfectly, except for a tendency to lose too much volume during his lowest notes, but these moments are rare and most of the time his singing is excellent.

    Katharina Peetz does OK, with no fireworks but no blunders either.

    My verdict: score/vocal writing 100, libretto 88, staging 75, acting 90, singing 87, orchestra 90, blu-ray technical quality 95 (not 100 due to the absence of interviews and making-of).

    Average, 89, or B+.

    It is worth buying? Yes, it is. There are better stagings of Handel operas out there, but this one is not terrible, and the opera itself is musically very beautiful. There is also no competition that I know of.
    Last edited by Almaviva; Feb-07-2011 at 07:07.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  7. #67
    Senior Member DarkAngel's Avatar
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    Alma...............

    We must keep a sharp eye out to see if Natalie Dessay "cleopatra" gets released on DVD, we do have nudity (not that it is important to you)......

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KRz9q...eature=related


    Singing by Dessay is fantastic, check this thrilling "da tempeste" at 2:50 mark of this video, this will be a must buy and seriously challenge the excellent Christie DVD

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GZWwC...eature=related


    CD with highlights out now:

    Last edited by DarkAngel; Mar-13-2011 at 17:19.

  8. #68
    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkAngel View Post
    Alma...............

    We must keep a sharp eye out to see if Natalie Dessay "cleopatra" gets released on DVD, we do have nudity (not that it is important to you)......
    DA, you do realize that those boobs are fake, right? She is wearing those things on top of her own, which are much smaller. I don't know if I approve of the concept. Natalie is petite, and those huge things don't match her body type. I think Natalie, while not strictly speaking beautiful, knows how to use what she's got and is an attractive woman, and could have been a perfectly convincing Cleopatra without enhancements.

    As for her singing, yes, absolutely, she beats Danielle de Niese hands down (but not in looks... )
    But this production is serious competition for Christie's, no doubt about it!!!
    Last edited by Almaviva; Mar-13-2011 at 20:27.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  9. #69
    Senior Member DarkAngel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    DA, you do realize that those boobs are fake, right? She is wearing those things on top of her own, which are much smaller. I don't know if I approve of the concept. Natalie is petite, and those huge things don't match her body type. I think Natalie, while not strictly speaking beautiful, knows how to use what she's got and is an attractive woman, and could have been a perfectly convincing Cleopatra without enhancements.

    As for her singing, yes, absolutely, she beats Danielle de Niese hands down (but not in looks... )
    But this production is serious competition for Christie's, no doubt about it!!!
    Not so fast....
    I am not an expert (defer to your area of study) but if I look closely may jut be a sheer body stocking to hold her in place......how do we find out for sure

    BTW use the enlarge screen button to make it full screen, he he

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkAngel View Post
    Not so fast....
    I am not an expert (defer to your area of study) but if I look closely may jut be a sheer body stocking to hold her in place......how do we find out for sure

    BTW use the enlarge screen button to make it full screen, he he
    There was a thread about it started by mamascarlatti, with our biggest Natalie Dessay fan tipping in as well (rgz) and the conclusion, including from articles, was that the nudity was simulated, with a fake boob on top of hers.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Senior Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Default Belshazzar

    This is an advertisement for lovers of Handel's music. I don't yet have this new release but soon will!

    Belshazzar (1744), dramatic English oratorio
    Librettist: Charles Jennens (who provided Handel several other fine libretti, including The Messiah)

    This may not be an opera, but it sure has dramatic qualities, and the clip below is an excerpt from the new DVD release of Belshazzar (first ever staging, I think), under the baton of Rene Jacobs, with Bejun Mehta, RIAS Kammerchor & Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin (on period instruments).

    A few arias:-


  12. #72
    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Default Handel: Hercules on DVD



    Handel's Hercules sung in English, 2004(LI) - William Christie - Les Arts Florissants
    Opéra National de Paris, stage director Luc Bondy
    Hercules - William Shimell
    Dejanira - Joyce DiDonato
    Hyllus - Toby Spence
    Iole - Ingela Bohlin
    Lichas - Malena Ernman
    Priest of Jupiter - Simon Kirkbridge

    This is opera, folks. This is why opera is the most satisfying and complete art form.
    This is why it's been enduring for 400 years.

    The start point is Greek mythology. It passes by Handel's precise vocal and instrumental music that portrays these emotions so accurately. It lands on the 21st century with modern clothing, and the result is an arc that hails from Antiquity and touches the modern man, reminding us that it is all about the human condition, which remains the same for the last 3,000 years, and is exquisitly rendered here.

    Every single note and every single facial expression contribute to a thrilling rollercoaster of emotions. All artists involved with this production, from chorus members to musicians to principals to conductor, are at the top of their art. This is one fine opera DVD! I'd say that it is strong competition to the likes of Giulio Cesare and Les Indes Galantes.

    I've rarely seen such a competent team put together such a *perfect* product. I can't think of a single element to negatively criticize here. This product doesn't have a single flaw, all aspects considered:

    The opera itself (vocals, instrumentals, pace, dramatic intensity, libretto) = 10/10
    The DVD (image, sound, subtitles, extras, camera work, insert) = 10/10
    The production (staging, props, costumes, adequacy of casting, concept) = 10/10
    The acting (convincing power, nuances, accuracy of emotions, looks) = 10/10
    The orchestra, chorus, and conductor (sensible reading, balance, tempo, musicality, sound) = 10/10
    The singing (timbre, pitch, technique, projection, volume, agility, articulation) = 10/10

    Overall: 10/10, of course. Outstanding! Sublime! Phenomenal!

    Highly, highly, highly recommended! One of the best operatic DVD's ever released. Buy it! Buy it! Buy it! (this is the new rallying cry since that historic Natalie post).
    Last edited by Almaviva; Apr-23-2011 at 12:54.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  13. #73
    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mamascarlatti View Post


    And couldn’t the Glyndebourne budget have run to shoes for her?
    Maybe they could, but it wouldn't have helped, since this is an Opéra National de Paris production, not Glyndebourne.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  14. #74
    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    Highly, highly, highly recommended! One of the best operatic DVD's ever released. Buy it! Buy it! Buy it! (this is the new rallying cry since that historical Natalie post).
    I totally agree. It's wonderful and must be one of Joyce Didonato's best performances, and man, she has plenty of them under her belt.

    Maybe they could, but it wouldn't have helped, since this is an Opéra National de Paris production, not Glyndebourne.
    I think you got your revenge for the one blissful time I left you temporarily speechless. Unfortunately it was in a PM so I couldn't even broadcast my glory.
    Natalie

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mamascarlatti View Post
    I totally agree. It's wonderful and must be one of Joyce Didonato's best performances, and man, she has plenty of them under her belt.
    She was simply incredible. I've always liked her but had her in a sort of team B, and she's been definitely promoted to my team A after this. I think I have badly underestimated her by thinking of her just as a pleasant, good looking mezzo, not very articulate and not very smart in interviews. After seeing this, now I think of her as a very accomplished singer/actress who understands the material and is in full command of a versatile array of acting and singing resources, able to fully take her seat as one of the best artists in (at the very least, the recent) opera history. This is a performance for the ages and one of the main reasons to make of this DVD such an indispensable item for a serious collector.

    I think you got your revenge for the one blissful time I left you temporarily speechless. Unfortunately it was in a PM so I couldn't even broadcast my glory.
    Can you remind me of what it was, by PM? I think you've left me speechless a few times, Nat, and I don't know which specific one you're talking about.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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