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Thread: Miscellaneous opera on DVD and Blu-ray

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    Senior Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Anyone care to comment on Bartok's only opera, a one-act piece, Bluebird Castle, and in particular this version? I think it's only an hour long. Sir George Solti



    Similarly, Schumann's Genoveva. I am definitely going to give this a try, partly because I enjoy Harnoncourt. Your thoughts most welcome.


  2. #92
    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HarpsichordConcerto View Post
    Anyone care to comment on Bartok's only opera, a one-act piece, Bluebird Castle, and in particular this version? I think it's only an hour long. Sir George Solti
    I have it. It is a very good production with good staging, good singing, and a strikingly beautiful Judith. Bluebeard is Kolos Kovats, Judith is Sylvia Sass, and they both rock. I loved it. Here's a picture of Sylvia Sass as an appetizer.



    I saw it last November and although I loved it so much, I haven't seen it again, so, my memory of it is not fresh enough for a full review. If you go for it and then write a review, it probably should be in Modernist Opera rather than in Miscellaneous.

    Genoveva, unfortunately I don't know, but do tell us about it once you see it.
    "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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    Quote Originally Posted by HarpsichordConcerto View Post
    Anyone care to comment on Bartok's only opera, a one-act piece, Bluebird Castle, Similarly, Schumann's Genoveva. I am definitely going to give this a try, partly because I enjoy Harnoncourt. Your thoughts most welcome.

    Having a look at some Amazon reviews of Genoveva and this made me smile in view of the running wet fish joke on TC Opera:

    And then there was the chorus throwing fish at a nude Genoveva--whatever that meant
    .
    Natalie

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    Poor old Schumann - even fish get thrown around on stage!

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Default 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 Hanson 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 Almaviva; Apr-10-2011 at 05:16.
    "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 Almaviva's Avatar
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    Default 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.

    Recommended.
    Last edited by Almaviva; Apr-28-2011 at 03:36.
    "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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    Robert Schumann, Genoveva (1850), opera in four acts.
    Orchestra & Chorus of the Zurich Opera House/Nicholas Harnoncourt (2008)
    Genoveva - Juliane Banse
    Golo- Shawn Mathey
    Siegfried - Martin Gantner
    Margaretha - Cornelia Kallisch

    I wanted a relatively recent recording of Genoveva, given that there are only a few versions around (whether CD or DVD/Blu-ray), and one that is under the baton of a conductor who I enjoy, so it was an easy choice with this 2008 production under Harnoncourt. He has another recording of the same work directing the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and the Arnold Schoenberg choir on CD, performed and recorded much earlier (not sure exactly when), but I rather take the staged version, which brings me to the first point about the staging ...

    This is an extremely avant-garde production. Now there are generally two types of these extremes: (1) that is completely silly, non-sensical and distractive in just about every minute of the performance, then (3) at the other extreme, you sense that some stylish interpretation is going to support the plot and music, i.e. modern but generally intelligent. This version of Genoveva falls into category (2), somewhere in-between the extremes I suggested, perhaps nearer to (1) at a number of occasions. There is much symbolism involved, perhaps too much, so that it would leave many wondering what that was all about; fine if one was perhaps reading a novel or enjoying some other form of the arts, but when it comes to opera when every moment of the score reveals something important to the whole, excessive symbolism becomes a distraction. There were only two scenes used during the production: one was essentially bright white and the other was near total darkness, each with very little furniture/items. As Schumann picked a libretto (with writings of his own) to tell an old medieval story that was familiar to his original audience, it doesn't often make any sense when a modern version trys to lift it out of its time and imbue with puzzling staging that distract the story telling, especially one that essentially involves medieval identities and beliefs.

    Thankfully though, the music itself was as glorious as any large scale Schumann, as a master of mid-Romantic instrumental idiom. The opera was framed around relatively traditional operatic settings - overture, recitatives and arias/chorus. There were several large duets, which I thought were the best dramatic vocal music he had written on a larger scale, leading into chorus. A comparison with Richard Wagner is perhaps inevitable, given that both composers premiered operas at the same year; Wagner with Lohengrin also 1850. Wagner pointed forwards to a new style, whereas Schumann kept with the developments and style of his day. Regardless, it is the music that counts, and I think Schumann wrote beautiful pieces that didn't owe much at all to influences from Wagner.

    Some fine singing from the lead singers, although I though Mathey (Golo) was perhaps nervous during the first act, but warmed up enough during the rest. Kallisch (the witch, Margaretha) portrayed her character with as much coldness as one might expect a bad witch might do, and Banse (Genoveva) expressed the rather one-dimensional purity of Genoveva very well. Harnoncourt was up to his usual standards, although I thought the recitatives were a touch slow (I'm of the view that recitatives should be played at a suitably fast pace to keep the drama going). Orchestral playing was first rate.

    Fans of Schumann need not hesitate on the music and the performance, although the staging would leave much more to be desired.


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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Default 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

    Singers:
    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:

    http://www.dynamiclassic.it/area_pub...20Libretto.pdf

    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.
    Last edited by Almaviva; May-08-2011 at 07:19.
    "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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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    L'Olimpiade - the latter was considered to be extremely boring by our esteemed and knowledgeable members Alan/Elgarian and Natalie/mamascarlatti - I can't say, it's in my UWP).
    I think the L'Olimiapde referred to here is the version by Baldassare Galuppi (1706-1785), but you are also correct in suggesting that Leonardo Leo (1694-1744) wrote the opera, L'Olimiapde. Different operas under the same name.

    Is L'Alidoro done as HIP or modern instruments? Please let me know. Thanks.


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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Oops, yes, you're right.
    Like I said, the above is a preliminary post, still to be extensively worked upon, when I watch the opera.
    I'll eliminate the paragraph you've highlighted.

    Yes, HIP, and very beautiful sounds come from the orchestra.
    Last edited by Almaviva; May-08-2011 at 03:26.
    "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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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    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.
    To be honest, although I can see the phallic imagery was part of the story, I found the full frontal male nudity distracting - not in a good way - and was happy to relax when they finally got some clothes on young Zachary.

    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!)
    I LOVED the women's costumes, I envy them those yummy long boots as I think I have a bit of a hankering to be a swashbuckler myself.

    Acting: could be better but is not horrible. Unfortunately one of the weakest acting links is one of the strongest voca links: Mary-Ellen Nesi.
    Actually I found her acting as strong as her singing. She totally owned the stage when she was on it. On the other hand Randall Scotting as Teseo was rather weak in this respect - not a convincing lover AT ALL.

    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.
    I thought his voice was the ugliest of the lot, and I reckon he only got the part because he can look utterly stunning in nothing but a manky lion skin that looks as though it was rescued from a particularly inept Victorian amateur taxidermist.

    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
    Pretty much with you on all this but I still enjoyed the weaker singers' arias.

    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.
    Actually I found this musically as compelling as a Handel opera. Having only heard very virtuosic pyrotechnical Vivaldi arias in compilations previously, I was very pleasantly surprised by many of the more leisurely and charming arias that abound in this opera. It's full of beautiful melodies and there is enough contrast to keep the listener interested. And the plot was MUCH stronger than those confused and confusing lover stories in Handel, particularly in this staging. I'm very much looking forward to the arival of the recent CD into the libary.

    P.S. - I'm watching the extra features, and I have learned that this opera was considered to be lost with a few arias having survived, but then some 30 others were found but the entire orchestration was never there, so, it's been re-created for this revival. This can explain my relative disappointment with the orchestration, it wasn't Vivaldi's after all! On the other hand, when I found the pace to be reasonably good, this part may have improved over the original since Vivaldi's original version had over 4 hours of running time and this one has 2 hours and 15 minutes. In the interview with the conductor, he said that they decided to cut much of the repetitive recitative.
    You know Alma I've now listened to the interview twice and I heard nothing about having to orchestrate the 35 surviving arias that comprised the core of the opera, except for the addition of a trumpet fanfare for the triumphant arrival of Ercole. They did talk extensively about writing music for the recits, but never explicitly said anything about orchestrating the arias. And the orchestral textures definitely reminded me of other Vivaldi music I've heard.

    Anyway I also fully recommend this DVD. It's a little gem.
    Natalie

  12. #102
    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mamascarlatti View Post
    You know Alma I've now listened to the interview twice and I heard nothing about having to orchestrate the 35 surviving arias that comprised the core of the opera, except for the addition of a trumpet fanfare for the triumphant arrival of Ercole. They did talk extensively about writing music for the recits, but never explicitly said anything about orchestrating the arias. And the orchestral textures definitely reminded me of other Vivaldi music I've heard.

    Anyway I also fully recommend this DVD. It's a little gem.
    I must have misundestood them, I stand corrected. OK, so it *is* Vivaldi the one who disappointed me.
    "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 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.
    Last edited by Almaviva; Jun-10-2011 at 04:25.
    "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 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 had already voted for this in our Top 100, and I continue to recommend it.

    Last edited by Almaviva; Jun-13-2011 at 01:38.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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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.

    Recommended.
    Last edited by Almaviva; Jun-18-2011 at 12:59.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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