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Thread: Miscellaneous opera on DVD and Blu-ray

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    Senior Member jhar26's Avatar
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    Default Miscellaneous opera on DVD and Blu-ray

    A Met mega production from 1984 conducted by (who else could it be?) James Levine with a dreamcast of Renata Scotto, Placido Domingo and Cornell Macneil. I bought this mostly because I had nothing from Scotto in my DVD collection, I wasn't familiar with the opera. It's a very dark opera really - very verismo. Think Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana, Leoncavallo's Pagliacci or Puccini's Tosca or Il Tabarro. In some parts I also hear the influence of Strauss in the orchestration. But anyway - it's maybe not quite as great as the very best verismo operas, but it's definitely a great watch/listen with a cast and a production like this. I wouldn't mind hearing another one of Zandonai's operas, although from what I have read this one must be his best.



    A youtube from the final scene of Francesca da Remini

    [YT]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1PCuH3hShP4[/YT]
    Last edited by jhar26; Dec-25-2010 at 14:10.

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    Senior Member jhar26's Avatar
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    This is an interesting one. An English language opera from the Spanish composer Albeniz from the turn of the 19th and 20th century that was staged for the first time in 2003, more than 100 years after it's creation. Merlin was supposed to be the first in a trilogy of operas based on the King Arthur saga. But he never got around to orchestrating the second in the series, Lancelot and he didn't even get started on the third one, Guinnevere. The trilogy was of course inspired by Wagner's Ring.

    The music of Merlin often sounds very Wagnerian. Even though it doesn't quite reach those lofty heights of excellence it's still good and beautifully orchestrated music. Not that I expect this to become a regularly performed opera. The main problem is the archaic and sometimes even incomprihensible text of the libretto. ‘Hark what I rede’; ‘O wonderful clerk of necromancy’, anyone?

    The male singers - David Wilson-Johnson as Merlin and Stuart Skelton as Arthur are more than adequate. The female leads are a bit disappointing. Carol Vaness as Nivian is up to the task vocally but her pronunciation often leaves much to be desired. Eva Marton who sings the role of Morgan le Fay was in her prime one of the leading Wagnerian sopranos, but at this stage of her career Eva's voice is in shatters and she sings with an uncontrollable truly horrible vibrato. She's still a striking dramatic presence on stage though.

    The production is very good - excellent in fact. Not a perfect Merlin then, but a fine one nonetheless and something of a curiosity that is unlikely to disappoint the adventurous opera lover.


    [YT]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0KVvi6MCi8c[/YT]
    Last edited by jhar26; Dec-25-2010 at 15:18.

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    Senior Member Elgarian's Avatar
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    I hark what you rede, Gaston, o greate clerke. (I have to admit that I didn't even know of this opera's existence until now!)

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    Senior Member jhar26's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Elgarian View Post
    I hark what you rede, Gaston, o greate clerke. (I have to admit that I didn't even know of this opera's existence until now!)
    A pity that he didn't complete the trilogy. In the extras there's an interview with the conductor (José de Eusebio) who says that they are going to try to orchestrate Lancelot - the second in the series. There's only a libretto for Guinnevere though.

  5. #5
    Senior Member Elgarian's Avatar
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    Default Mozart on DVD and Blu-ray

    Well, I had the opportunity to buy a copy of this more cheaply than usual (opera DVD's are SO expensive as a rule), so took the plunge:



    Very strange. The music is somewhat familiar to me, because I have the Raymond Leppard recording from the 1970s, with its strange acoustics and distinctly non-period instrument approach. I was drawn to this DVD because it's Rene Jacobs, and the production seemed reasonably historically authentic from the bits I'd seen on Youtube. I wasn't quite right. This is not what you might have seen in a genuine C17th performance; rather, it's a modern equivalent of that. It preserves all the Commedia dell'arte aspects, for example. The stage sets are simple but effective, with trapdoors and ascending and descending machines through which the gods and characters come and go; but there are distinctly modern 'adjustments'. Pan, for instance, is hard to recognise as Pan - he comes on wearing rather large spectacles or goggles, with dress more appropriate to a clown than a god. Yet overall, the feeling is very seventeenth century, but with continual reminders that we are not in the seventeenth century. I can see this is an interesting approach but I think, on balance, it doesn't work for me. It doesn't come close to the wonderful Cadmus and Hermione I raved about earlier in this thread.

    The first 45 minutes or so are really quite moving - the music is marvellous; Calisto is superb. Then there's a general descent into pantomime which extends for rather a long time and gradually lost my interest. I'd far prefer to listen to this as music on CD, than to see the various bits of buffoonery acted out. I'm not saying this is bad; it just isn't what I want to see.

    Overall, if I'd paid the going rate of £25/£30 for this, I'd be feeling I'd wasted my money. At substantially less, it becomes an interesting experiment with some excellent musical passages, but not something I'd particularly recommend as a total package to someone who was wanting to test the water of early opera. I'd point to Cadmus, or L'Orfeo instead. Speaking of packaging - the presentation of these two discs is superb - really quite beautiful. For me, the performance doesn't quite live up to the promise of the presentation box.
    Last edited by Elgarian; Sep-17-2009 at 21:36.

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    Senior Member jhar26's Avatar
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    Thanks for the review, Elgarian. After reading it this DVD is no longer high on my wish list. I would maybe consider buying it if I would come upon a really cheap copy because the range of available DVD's with operas from the 17th century is rather limited.

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    Senior Member jhar26's Avatar
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    Bought this one a short time ago - Nina from Paisiello who was a contemporary of Mozart and Haydn. Not quite in the league of Wolfie but neverheless very good. Star attraction is Cecilia Bartoli and her singing and acting is outstanding here. Compared to her most of the other singers seem quite wooden although vocally they are perfectly acceptable. Stylistically I guess it's somewhere between an opera buffa and an opera seria and the production is traditional. There was a Mozart aria added that he composed especially for this opera. The fact that Paisiello's own music doesn't pale in comparison says a lot about how talented a composer he was.

    There's a documentary called "a forgotten genius" included as a bonus. That's probably an exaggeration, but Paisiello's music definitely is worth checking out.

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhar26 View Post


    Bought this one a short time ago - Nina from Paisiello who was a contemporary of Mozart and Haydn. Not quite in the league of Wolfie but neverheless very good. Star attraction is Cecilia Bartoli and her singing and acting is outstanding here. Compared to her most of the other singers seem quite wooden although vocally they are perfectly acceptable. Stylistically I guess it's somewhere between an opera buffa and an opera seria and the production is traditional. There was a Mozart aria added that he composed especially for this opera. The fact that Paisiello's own music doesn't pale in comparison says a lot about how talented a composer he was.

    There's a documentary called "a forgotten genius" included as a bonus. That's probably an exaggeration, but Paisiello's music definitely is worth checking out.
    This sounds interesting. Bartoli has a very idiosyncratic voice and she usually tries hard in her acting, but sometimes I find her exaggerated facial grimaces a little off-putting, although I recently say a Semele where she seemed to have toned it down a little. What was Kaufmann like in this production? Was he wooden? He certainly gave a rattling good performance in the ROH Carmen - the best Don Jose I've ever seen.
    Natalie

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    Senior Member jhar26's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mamascarlatti View Post
    This sounds interesting. Bartoli has a very idiosyncratic voice and she usually tries hard in her acting, but sometimes I find her exaggerated facial grimaces a little off-putting, although I recently say a Semele where she seemed to have toned it down a little.
    I agree with that, but here Bartoli is portraying someone who is supposed to have lost her mind and the somewhat exaggerated acting are appropriate for the role.
    What was Kaufmann like in this production? Was he wooden? He certainly gave a rattling good performance in the ROH Carmen - the best Don Jose I've ever seen.
    Maybe I exaggerated a bit by calling the other singers wooden. They just seem to be sometimes because Bartoli dominates the stage so much. Kaufmann is very good actually , and he's in excellent voice. Laszlo Polgar who plays Bartoli's dad really looks very wooden though. But it doesn't seriously interfere with my enjoyment of this DVD. I'm eager to check out some of Paisiello's other works - good composer.

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    Senior Member Elgarian's Avatar
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    I've been looking long and hard at this:



    This received an excellent review in BBC Music Magazine a few months ago, and I've been looking at some youtubes that have emerged since. I must say, that although I'm entirely unfamilar with Galuppi, I think this does look very, very promising, with some very exciting performances, and some stunning music (completely new to me). Anyway, I like what I've seen well enough to persuade me to order one (MDT have an offer on this at the moment). But see for yourself what you think, from these youtubes:

    [YT]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g349wl8P4Fc[/YT]
    Last edited by jhar26; Dec-25-2010 at 17:03. Reason: three youtubes didn't work anymore, so I've removed them.

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    Senior Member Elgarian's Avatar
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    Oh my goodness ....



    Just finished watching Act 1 of this, which culminated in a duet that had us completely spellbound - tending not to breathe for fear of missing some vital nuance. I've since skimmed around on youtube and I'm happy to say that some kind soul has uploaded it, so you can see for yourself (Gaston, Natalie, don't miss this):

    Duet, end of Act 1, L'Olympiade

    The production is minimal but very attractive, though when I say that the presentation is 17th-century, while the opera is set in classical times, you might wonder that the anachronism doesn't trouble me. Well it does trouble me a bit, but actually there's very little here to jar in the sense I've talked about before. The whole idiom of the music is 17th century, after all, so what I see and what I hear aren't in any sense in conflict - unless I keep saying to myself: 'but isn't this supposed to be ancient Greece?' - which I don't. It's an anachronism that I find very easy to accept, then, and the costumes are so beguiling (Aristea's dress is pure Watteau) that they, too, help.

    So far, this is a winner. The music is excellent, the characters credible and well-acted, and most of the musical performances gripping.

  12. #12
    Senior Member jhar26's Avatar
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    Mirko Guadagnini (Almaviva)
    Donato Di Gioia (Figaro)
    Stefania Donzelli (Rosina)
    Maurizio Lo Piccolo (Don Bartolo)
    Paolo Bordogna (Don Basilio)
    Rosetta Cucchi (production)
    Giovanni Di Stefano (conductor)

    Paisiello's "Il Barbieri di Siviglia." This was very popular until Rossini came out with his version of the work. The Paisiello opera is of course not as great as Rossini's, but it's a tuneful work with lots of beautiful, though maybe not particularly memorable music. Unfortunately this production doesn't do it any favors. It's a traditional production, but it all looks very cheap. The same basic sets are used throughout the entire opera. Performers are walking around on stage acting silly in an attempt to be funny, but they were more successful in making me roll my eyes than in putting a smile on my face. Stefania Donzelli who sings Rosina - a part for which Paisiello wrote some of the best music here is frequently struggling with the difficult bits of her arias, although she gets a big cheer from the audience. The others do a better job vocally, although none of them truly stands out for me. Paolo Bordogna as Don Basilio comes the closest though. My overall assesment is that this is a mediocre production of an interesting opera with poor acting but adequate singing. I'd still give it a 6/10 for it's novelty value, but that score would probably go down if there was competition from other and better Paisiello/Barbieri performances on DVD.

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    Senior Member jhar26's Avatar
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    Tamas Kobor - Barone Arsura
    Beatrix Fodor - Beatrice
    Edit Karoly - Lenina
    Gabor Bretz - Giocondo
    Directed by Janos Toth

    Pal Nemeth
    Savaria Baroque Orchestra

    This one arrived with the mail today.... Il Barone di Rocca Antica is a real rarity. It's one of Dittersdorf's (1739-1799) early comic Italian operas. His later German singspiels are better known, and especially Doktor und Apotheker is still occasionally staged and/or recorded. This one however is completely unknown. This DVD contains a performance from 2005 - the first staging of the work since Haydn had it staged at Esterhaza in 1776! It's a small scale work with a chamber orchestra (period instruments on this DVD) and only four singers (no choir) on stage. The stage is very small and the same scenery is used throughout the two acts. Nevertheless it doesn't look at all unatractive. Placido Domingo and Renée Fleming have got nothing to fear from any of the singers here, but they all do a solid job. It's not at all a great opera, but it's not a bad one either. A harmless and attractive little entertainment I'd say.

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    Senior Member nefigah's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by jhar26 View Post


    Tamas Kobor - Barone Arsura
    Beatrix Fodor - Beatrice
    Edit Karoly - Lenina
    Gabor Bretz - Giocondo
    Directed by Janos Toth

    Pal Nemeth
    Savaria Baroque Orchestra

    This one arrived with the mail today.... Il Barone di Rocca Antica is a real rarity. It's one of Dittersdorf's (1739-1799) early comic Italian operas. His later German singspiels are better known, and especially Doktor und Apotheker is still occasionally staged and/or recorded. This one however is completely unknown. This DVD contains a performance from 2005 - the first staging of the work since Haydn had it staged at Esterhaza in 1776! It's a small scale work with a chamber orchestra (period instruments on this DVD) and only four singers (no choir) on stage. The stage is very small and the same scenery is used throughout the two acts. Nevertheless it doesn't look at all unatractive. Placido Domingo and Renée Fleming have got nothing to fear from any of the singers here, but they all do a solid job. It's not at all a great opera, but it's not a bad one either. A harmless and attractive little entertainment I'd say.
    Wow, sounds quite rare indeed Did you go looking for it, or did you happen upon it?

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    Senior Member jhar26's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nefigah View Post
    Wow, sounds quite rare indeed Did you go looking for it, or did you happen upon it?
    I love Mozart's operas and the classical era in general, so I sometimes go to Amazon UK to see if I can find any operas on DVD from Mozart's contemporaries. So far I found two Paisiello operas, one from Salieri and this one from Dittersdorf.

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