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Thread: Italian romantic opera and Verismo on DVD and Blu-ray

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    Senior Member DarkAngel's Avatar
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    Default Italian romantic opera and Verismo on DVD and Blu-ray

    Zandonai - Francesca Da Rimini

    Never heard of this opera before, but found clips of it and really liked what I saw, anyone have this?
    I have heard the Tchaikovsky orchestral work with this name

    Placed on order for 1980s MET performance with Scotto & Domingo


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    Senior Member jhar26's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DarkAngel View Post
    Zandonai - Francesca Da Rimini

    Never heard of this opera before, but found clips of it and really liked what I saw, anyone have this?
    I have heard the Tchaikovsky orchestral work with this name

    Placed on order for 1980s MET performance with Scotto & Domingo

    I have it. It's not a masterpiece, but it's a good opera in a sort of over the top verismo way and the production is spectacular and the singing, acting and orchestra are great. Definitely worth seeing in my opinion.
    Martha doesn't signal when the orchestra comes in, she's just pursing her lips..

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Default Italian romantic opera and Verismo on DVD and Blu-ray



    I had never realised what gorgeous melodic music this opera possesses, and I'm planning to get to know it better. This traditional and attractive production is dominated by the great acting skills and still adequate voice of Mirella Freni, and the la Scala audience went wild. They also went wild over Fiorenza Cossotto, a fact which has completely disillusioned me about their critical faculties.
    Natalie

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


    I had never realised what gorgeous melodic music this opera possesses, and I'm planning to get to know it better. This traditional and attractive production is dominated by the great acting skills and still adequate voice of Mirella Freni, and the la Scala audience went wild. They also went wild over Fiorenza Cossotto, a fact which has completely disillusioned me about their critical faculties.
    Agreed about both Freni and Cossoto. It's always been hard to figure the LaScala audience out.They have given many fine singers a hard time there over the years for no apparent reason, up to a point where many of them refuse to sing there anymore. And on the other hand they are so enthusistic about someone like Cossoto who was so far over the hill that she was under it. Maybe they were applauding the career more than this particular performance, and that would be classy of them. But if that's the case they should show the same courtesy to everyone else.
    Martha doesn't signal when the orchestra comes in, she's just pursing her lips..

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


    I had never realised what gorgeous melodic music this opera possesses, and I'm planning to get to know it better. This traditional and attractive production is dominated by the great acting skills and still adequate voice of Mirella Freni, and the la Scala audience went wild. They also went wild over Fiorenza Cossotto, a fact which has completely disillusioned me about their critical faculties.
    Adriana Lecouvreur is another neglected and underrated masterpiece.
    "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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    This is decent:



    Competent Placido, pretty good Eva Marton, but they are not helped by the opera itself which I consider to be a weak and overrated one. When the best part of an opera is its ballet (the famous Dance of the Hours) it doesn't bode well for the overall operatic quality of the piece.
    "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 DarkAngel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post
    This is decent:



    Competent Placido, pretty good Eva Marton, but they are not helped by the opera itself which I consider to be a weak and overrated one. When the best part of an opera is its ballet (the famous Dance of the Hours) it doesn't bode well for the overall operatic quality of the piece.
    This is a de facto DVD version..........what else is there to choose from?

    I think Gioconda has more potential than people think, Callas performed this opera many times (which says something about its value in my book) and the aria "suicidio" is a well known standard for soprano, for whatever reason La Gioconda not too popular today

    Last edited by DarkAngel; Nov-27-2010 at 17:42.

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    Senior Member Herkku's Avatar
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    Default Italian romantic opera and Verismo on DVD and Blu-ray

    Busoni: Doktor Faustus



    With Ferrucio Busoni's Doktor Faust we have a completely other kettle of fish to handle, compared to Gounod's Faust that I reviewed recently. For one thing, there are no ear-catching melodies - abundant in the latter - that you could sing/hum/whistle in the shower. For another, Busoni tried to stay away from Goethe's Faust, concentrating on the legends on which Goethe based his work and on an old puppet play telling the story.

    So, this is a much more sombre work, focusing on the philosophical anguish of Herr Doktor and his desperate pact with the devil to experience something he feels he has missed all his life, only to be disappointed in the end, but achieving his salvation by giving his soul to his dead child rather than to the devil.

    In fact, the opera was left unfinished when Busoni died 1924, and was completed by his pupil, Philippe Jarnach. The premiere was 1925 in Dresden.

    This production comes from the Zürich Opera House 2006, conducted by Philippe Jordan, and it is a modern one, but since the opera has not much performing tradition, this should not be a problem. As a whole, it is not impossible in its modernness, Faust's chamber in the beginning having a backround of shelves and shelves full of bottles and other kind of vessels containing colourful liquids, but still not a mad scientist's laboratory. What irritated me most was that a book cannot be a book, but a statuette, a key not a key, a letter not a letter, but the artistic freedom... The shelves in the backround remain in place, complete or in part, as we move along, perhaps reminding us that this is really only a dream journey. What else would you expect from the devil? Would you buy a used car from him? For the scene in the tavern - which is the only one faintly amusing, with its philosophical turned into a religious debate - the shelves are filled with people instead of the laboratory equipment.

    How would I describe the music? It has a strong feeling of the post-romantic without being romantic at all. Neither does it sound very modern. It lies somewhere in-between. It is perfectly listenable, but by far the most beautiful passages are the orchestral interludes between the scenes or acts. Two of them are sometimes performed in orchestral concerts, namely the Sarabande & Cortege.

    Thomas Hampson, as Doktor Faust, gives a very convincing performance of this demanding - he is on stage all the time - and musically not very gratifying role. At least for me, he is able to convey the innermost feelings of the aging man. I have to admit that I cannot be absolutely objective here, since today is my 52nd birthday, and I can feel some of Faust's feelings very strongly. As Mephistopheles, Gregory Kunde, has the only other bigger role here. And a demanding one, too. His first appearance here is sung off-stage, but includes sustained A, B flat, B and high C. Otherwise he tends to remain in the shadow of Hampson, but is not bad at all. There is only one majorish female role, the duchess of Parma, sung by Sandra Trattnigg. Alas, she has nothing very memorable to sing, although she does have a pleasing enough voice. Other roles are even minor, but there are no complaints in their execution.

    The final verdict: this is not for everyone and if you have enjoyed Gounod's Faust, there is no guarantee that you will like this. As a performance of this particular opera, I have mentioned my little reservations (If you read the Kobbé's chapter of this, you'll find more) concerning the production. I think that there will be no competition any time soon, though.

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    Senior Member Herkku's Avatar
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    Default Boïto: Mefistofele



    To complete the circle, there is another opera dealing with the story of Faust. I have always found Arrigo Boïto's Mefistofele a problematic work, being very uneven both musically and dramatically, the latter being the more surprising fact, Boïto having been the master librettist of Verdi's Othello and Falstaff. Interestingly, his Mefistofele had its premiere only nine years after Gounod's Faust, at La Scala, and was a complete catastrophe, half of the audience having left before the end. I seriously contemplated abandoning this performance in the beginning of act four, but after a cold beer decided to go on - feeling a bit like Julie Powell in her Julia/Julie-project, if you know what I mean.

    My previous experiences of this opera have been the Treigle-Domingo-Caballe and the Ghiaurov-Pavarotti-Freni-Caballe audio recordings and I must say that this needs that kind of luminaries to make it work at all. There is so much beautiful music here, but also downright banal choruses scattered all over in between, that it's really hard to like it as a whole.

    So, this performance comes from Teatro Massimo, Palermo, 2008. The only luminary here is the Mefistofele of Ferruccio Furlanetto, who easily wins the honours, singing and acting effortlessly. He wouldn't have had to feel ashamed in the above-mentioned recordings. And as the title implies, it's his opera. But, we have Faust here also, and even if he has to play secong fiddle to Mefistofele part of the time, there are several passages for him to shine. Giuseppe Filianotti as Faust just hasn't got what it takes. He looks ridiculous as an old man (although that is not his fault), but he doesn't look much of anything as a young one, either. I mean, and I don't to be mean, on video these things matter, especially with this kind of material that needs all the external help it can get. The voice is not that bad, but something more is required. The same goes for the Margherita/Helena of Dimitra Theodossiou. Beside Faust she looks a bit overripe for both of her roles, although there isn't basically nothing wrong with her voice, either. L'altra notte is not bad, but it shows that she hasn't got a proper trill. The celestial choruses are aptly devine, the earthly one has to sing the most banal numbers in the opera.

    But to make matters worse, the fourth act is transferred from ancient Troy to Las Vegas, the earlier scenes having had the look and feel of maybe after WWII. This, for me, spoils the whole production, being in so bad taste that I'm left dumb.

    It's a shame really, because the prologue and epilogue, are very fine indeed. For all his gimmicks between them, Mefistofele kind of admits in the former, that his powers are limited compared to those of God and he has to fight hard to win souls, and in the end he has to admit defeat, as far as Faust goes. Both are accompanied by the celestial voices and give Furlanetto wonderful moments to express himself, and he rises to the challenge admirably, even if he is fine throughout the opera.

    The final verdict: best left untouched. If you are interested in the music, the audio recordings mentioned should do the thing.

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    Senior Member Herkku's Avatar
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    Default Boïto: Mefistofele



    Since I reviewed Mefistofele (from Teatro Massimo, Palermo) only recently with the other Faust operas, I feel that I can be fairly brief here. This performance comes San Francisco Opera 1989 and is a great improvement to the Sicilian one.

    In the Palermo Mefistofele I was completely appalled by the shifting the fourth act to Las Vegas and wasn't too keen on the Faust and Margherita/Elena. Here, nearly everything is corrected, most notably keeping the fourth act in the ancient Greece.

    Samuel Ramey as Mefistofele equals and maybe surpasses Furlanetto. Dennis O'Neill as Faust may look more like a bank manager or a government official instead of a world-weary scholar in the beginning, maybe even reluctant to follow Mefistofele, but he is still much better than Filianotti. And then we have the lovely Margherita/Elena of Gabriela Beňačková, as good as in the DVD of Gounod's Faust. From her L'altra notte onwards everything gets better and better, and not just with her. The aria goes well enough, but she is great when dying. Fortunately she is resuscitated to perform Elena, with as great aplomb. If the fourth act is traditional, there is a modern twist that I won't reveal, because it would rob the element of surprise. Suffice it to say that it is completely appropriate!

    Maurizio Arena conducts and Robert Carsen directs. And, would you believe, Brian Large is responsible for the video direction.

    Much recommended if you can stand the composition itself.

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    Senior Member sospiro's Avatar
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    I'm not sure how to copy this without the quotation.



    Mefistofele: Samuel Ramey
    Margherita/Elena: Gabriela Beňačková
    Faust: Dennis O'Neill

    Conductor: Maurizio Arena

    San Francisco Opera - 1989


    First time I watched it through I thought wow, watched it through again & more wow. Haven't seen any other DVD to compare this with but I thought the production was spectacular - if that is 'hell' then I'd much rather be there than the 'other place' & a lot of the music is achingly beautiful.

    Ramey dominates, even when he's not singing & just sitting watching the (short) ballet from his box. I just couldn't take my eyes off him; right from the moment he flicks the tails of his jacket to show his gorgeous bum (1:39)

    [YT]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AX21grIPWk[/YT]

    to his bare-chested curtain call

    [YT]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u9_TtVxLuMI&feature=related[/YT]

    Gabriela Beňačková was excellent in both roles. She plays the innocent Margherita in 'The Garden' very well & is totally despairing in 'The Death of Margherita' especially as the cradles the log.

    Bit disappointed with Dennis O'Neill, singing was a bit patchy, but acted the role very well.

    I got this CD at the same time



    & have now listened to it through several times & Ramey + Domingo just make it perfect.
    Last edited by sospiro; Dec-23-2010 at 09:18. Reason: Deleted quote information
    Ann

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    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Default Cilea: Adriana Lecouvreur (the opera, not the DVD)

    Staged at la Scala in 2000, with Daniela Dessì, Sergei Larin, Giorgio Giuseppini and Olga Borodina, with conductor Roberto Rizzi Brignoli at the helm of the Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro alla Scala. The following review pertains more to the opera itself than the production.

    Act I

    It starts rather lively with lots of chit-chat and nervous, bouncy orchestration. Here comes Adriana. She calms things down, and sings her first aria. I like it. Io Son L'Umile Ancella. It is sweet and melancholic, in a striking change of tone as opposed to the initial chit-chat.

    This pause is soon over and the frenetic rhythm returns. Then Michonnet and Adriana are left alone. He gathers courage... the orchestration is pretty good and punctuates everything while they exchange short phrases in recitatif, then the orchestra turns to nice strings while he finally proposes to her. She turns him down and the orchestra is more dramatic. I really like this orchestration so far.

    Then, with Michonnet properly disposed of, it's Maurizio's turn. La dolcissima effigie. Tuneful but weepy, Gigli would have loved it. I don't, but it does improve when it turns into a duet.

    Things are heating up. The Prince of Bouillon and the Abbé start a duet that rapidly turns into a quartet - I really, really like this one. Best moment so far.

    Again an abrupt change of mood and pace, when infatuated Michonnet watches Adriana and ruminates about his love, between awe and admiration, and scorned anger. Quite excellent, Ecco il monologo. Beautiful orchestration too. I can tell I'll really like this opera.

    What follows is a pretty confusing plot development about lost and intercepted letters, lovers who give themselves forbidden rendez-vous, etc. Something tells me that the music in this one is a lot better than the libretto.

    Then the stage is full of people again and some short bursts of chorus music end ACT I. What a wild ride! I definitely like it.

    ACT II

    Now the mezzo enters - the Princess of Bouillon - and despairs about having to wait for her lover Maurizio - has he forgotten her? Acerba voluttà, dolce tortura. Halting, anxious orchestration - good job of tone painting, Cilea! O vagabonda stella follows, quite pungent, verismo style. Impressive! A very good start for Act II.

    Then Maurizio rather abruptly hints that he doesn't love the poor woman any longer - more despair and drama are at the menu, with the appropriate orchestral thunders. Maurizio then turns weepy again, what a lachrymose fellow! But it's once more melodious enough, I like it better this time.

    The Prince and the Abbé come, the princess goes in hiding, and we get treated to a bit of mistaken identity in good operatic tradition - who was the woman with you? They assume wrongly it was Duclos. Some more confusing plot, and another mistaken identity - Maurizio is actually the Count of Saxony. Really? (Alma's note: so what? This libretto really sucks!). A nice duet follows - Ma, dunque è vero?, further underlining the fact that the music is so much better than the far fetched plot.

    Lots of shenanigans go on about the mistaken identity - the princess can't be caught, says Maurizio, Adriana is pulled in to help, they may or may not expose the princess, it's not Duclos, who is it? blah blah blah - this kind of stuff works a lot better in opera buffa, and feels out of place here. Even the orchestration now seems indecisive, like Cilea is thinking - "what am I to make of this mess?" - and the music turns unremarkable as well; there is a rather lengthy let down.

    But Cilea recovers, with a soft and peaceful orchestration that turns suspenseful and mysterious while Adriana blows the candles to make it all dark and facilitate the Princess' escape.

    Adriana and the Princess talk to each other and it is another clever use of orchestration. Good job again, Cilea!!! The interaction of the two rivals is chilling, intense, and very beautiful with the stage all dark and the orchestra leading the way. She escapes, silence from the singers, the orchestra ends Act II on its own. I like it a lot.

    Act III - disappointing. Ballet stuff which I don't care much for, in opera.
    No remarkable arias. "Business as usual" orchestration.

    Then, the finale is quite effective and spectacular, when Adriana declaims Phèdre (Giusto cielo!): goosebumps all over! Sublime. Curtain. This is about the only thing we can take from Act III, but what a moment!!!

    Act IV

    One can tell that Act IV will be better than III - it opens quite well with an enticing duet between good guy Michonnet and distressed Adriana who is still vying for Maurizio, followed by light and fun ensembles with her visitors who want her to resume acting.

    Then the poisoned violets (!?! - Oookaaayy... this was supposed to be believable verismo, no?) arrive and the orchestration gets dramatic again, although a little obvious and predictable.

    But it darkens little by little, and Cilea once more is in his forte, and pathos starts to pour in, punctuated by beautiful melancholic tunes. This is the scene in which Adriana kisses the violet, VERY beautiful. Another high moment of this opera. The way the voice melts into the orchestration and slowly takes over is very touching, and in itself would justify the A that by now I'm sure I'll grant to this opera at the end.

    Maurizio is coming, shouting 'Adriana!' from off-stage. Weepy Maurizio (I really don't like this guy) tries to win Adriana back. He says that a soldier's heart never lies. Whaaat? Come on, Colautti (the librettist), can't you do better than this???

    But still, Cilea comes to the rescue, and the duet between Adriana and Maurizio is celestial. No, non fu invano. Another touching piece, ending by phenomenal orchestration that seems like an intermezzo and could be a concert piece. Bravo!

    Then we get to the mad scene. She is delirious from the poison, declaims bits and pieces of her past roles on stage. Maurizio despairs, she goes on and on. VERY effective. The orchestration turns to a requiem piece. She is dying. Veneno! (poison), says Michonnet.

    In good operatic tradition in which people sing their best after they're stabbed or poisoned, Adriana wakes up and soars in a dramatic scene, saying she doesn't want to die (a more assertive death scene than your usual victim of consumption), and resumes her delirious declamation. Wow! This is the second best death scene I've seen in opera, after Pelléas et Mélisande. It ends by the desperate shouts Morta! followed by light orchestration evocative of a soul climbing up to Heaven, and delicate plucks of the harp, instead of your usual tchi-bum-bum-bum! Curtain. I love it.

    ----

    Overall appreciation: a very good surprise. This is an opera that is steadily in the repertory, but doesn't get the big lights. The libretto is dreadful, and there are some dead moments like part of Act II and most of Act III. But there are just too many high points, so the weak libretto can't drag it all the way down to a B. A- it is then, and with a da Ponte or a Boito at the helm of the libretto, it would have been an A+.

    Unlike some operas that function better as plays and less well as music, Adriana Lecouvreur is probably best enjoyed on a CD, without the images and without the words.

    These characters are not sympathetic. One doesn't really care for their issues. The plot is confusing and contradictory in some points, and clichéd in others. It is a serious theatrical failure, and it even impacts on the music (like when in Act III Francesco Cilea seems tired of the nonsense and is not trying too hard). This is not very demanding soprano music, there are no big high notes, no big opportunities for display of vocal technique (we are far from Bel Canto and into Verismo here).

    But then, the orchestration is just extraordinary. Thus the A-.

    It will find its way into my second tier of favorite operas.

    "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 Giordano: Fedora on DVD



    The public and most Amazon.com reviewers went crazy about Mirella Freni's performance here. I sadly disagree. I think people applaud and say what they say out of fanship and respect, but the truth must be told: there is a striking contrast here between a Domingo at the top of his game and an ageing Freni who is a shadow of her old self in terms of voice, and too old for the role to look convincing.

    I think it is kind of embarrassing. It spoiled this DVD for me. Fedora is not a great opera to start with, therefore this is a mixed bag. The production is good enough with a competent traditional staging, everything is very professionally done, and Placido Domingo is stupendous. But the uninteresting opera and Mirella's vocal troubles are clear downsides.

    So, for Domingo fans this is worth having. But for Freni fans, it is not.
    "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


    The public and most Amazon.com reviewers went crazy about Mirella Freni's performance here. I sadly disagree. I think people applaud and say what they say out of fanship and respect, but the truth must be told: there is a striking contrast here between a Domingo at the top of his game and an ageing Freni who is a shadow of her old self in terms of voice, and too old for the role to look convincing.

    I think it is kind of embarrassing. It spoiled this DVD for me. Fedora is not a great opera to start with, therefore this is a mixed bag. The production is good enough with a competent traditional staging, everything is very professionally done, and Placido Domingo is stupendous. But the uninteresting opera and Mirella's vocal troubles are clear downsides.

    So, for Domingo fans this is worth having. But for Freni fans, it is not.
    I would totally concur with this. I was embarrassed too, when I wasn't drooling over Placidone.
    Natalie

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    Default Cavalleria Rusticana



    José Cura is a verismo god. He is perfect in the role of Turiddu, and dominates every scene he is in. His last farewell to his mother had me (and him) in tears. He completely lives his character.

    I was less keen on Paglicacci on the same DVD but i think I should have left it for another day as I was still reeling from the emotional intensity of the first opera.
    Natalie

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