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Thread: What opera are you currently listening to / watching? CD/DVD

  1. #11431
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    This should have been a great recording of Berlioz's Légende dramatique, but it is badly let down by the conducting of Georges Prêtre, which nowhere captures the fantasy and originality of Berlioz's score.

    It is a great shame, because he has a near ideal cast at his disposal. Baker, in prime voice, is superb as Marguerite, singing with that specificity and intensity so peculiar to her. Gedda too could have been born to sing the Berlioz Faust. At least he got to re-record the part in better circumstances, under the baton of Sir Colin Davis, where he is the Romantic anti-hero ro the life. Bacquier could hardly be bettered as Méphistopheles, but all these wonderful singers are let down by the direction, and one is left wondering what they might have achieved under a Davis, a Munch or a Beecham.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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  3. #11432
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  5. #11433
    Senior Member Dr. Shatterhand's Avatar
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    Quinault's libretti remove the imagination of the Greek myths, petrifying them, as if with the Gorgon's head, into bland and predictable court entertainment.

    The legend of Perseus is one of the most exciting Greek stories; Quinault only preserves the ferocious, snake-haired Gorgons and the rescue of Andromeda from the sea monster.

    He removes Danaë's imprisonment in a tower; his conception by golden shower; the perilous voyage by sea crate; the wicked king Polydectes; the one-eyed, one-toothed Graeae; and the accidental slaying of his grandfather.

    In their place, he serves up the usual stereotyped romantic parallelogram, complete with jealous princess (Persée and Andromède love each other, Phinée loves Andromède, Mérope loves Persée), insipid recitative, and ballet dancing.

    Lully's operas are, as we've said before, very samey; they're the products of a bureaucratic approach to opera, subjects chosen by the king, music stencilled.

    The best part of the score is Mercure's "air des songes", "O tranquille sommeil, que vous êtes charmant!", with the Gorgons yapping like dogs; the Ethiopian chorus "Que n'aimez vous"; and the wedding celebrations at the end.

    Some critics also praise Mérope's "Ah! je garderai bien mon coeur"; Phinée's "L'amour meurt dans mon coeur"; and the High Priest's "O doux hymen, sois propice à nos voeux".

    This Canadian production is handsome, but the French pronunciation is mangled, and the singers make a hash of some of the choruses and ensembles (notably the Gorgons' trio in III, one of the few highlights of the score).

    Watched this on YouTube; Rameau's Boréades is next on the playlist. Listened to some of it: MUUUUUUUUUUUUUUSIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIC!
    Last edited by Dr. Shatterhand; Jan-19-2019 at 07:03.
    Hobbies: fiddling with piranhas; plotting world domination; assassination; opera.

  6. #11434
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    Giulini's Il Trovatore makes for very enjoyable listening, even if, in the final analysis, it lacks the sheer excitement and thrill of the Callas/Karajan set. As always with Giulini, tempos tend to be measured, gving his singers plenty of room to breathe and expand, but I do miss Karajan's superb rhythmic swagger and verve. It makes for a more reflective and thoughtful performance than usual, but I'm not sure that is what Il Trovatore needs.

    That said there is some excellent singing from an unusual group of singers. Plowright has exactly the right tinta for Leonora, the tone darkly plangent, the coloratura well executed though not as cleanly as Callas. That said, nowhere does she light up a phrase the way the elder singer does and Leonora remains a somewhat two-dimensional character. Domingo is actually better here than he was for Mehta, more inside the role and his voice more free on top, though the (unwritten) top Cs in Di quella pira still sound somewhat strained. Zancanaro is a most musical Di Luna, and Nesterenko gets the opera off to a rousing start.

    The most controversial piece of casting is no doubt that of Fassbaender as Azucena, and her intelligent portrayal is thoroughly thought through and beautifully sung, with a lieder singer's attention to detail. She does not however erase memories of singers like Simionato and Barbieri in the role, both of whom are more naturally suited to the music.

    In short, a musical and thoughtful traversal of the score, which just misses that last degree of passion and excitement. It certainly doesn't oust the Callas/Karajan set from my affections.
    Last edited by GregMitchell; Jan-19-2019 at 12:32.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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  8. #11435
    Senior Member Rogerx's Avatar
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    Theatre, a forum for public debate, an arena for cathartic spectacle and somewhere for vain bitchy people to show off in front of big crowds!


    I forgive criticisms, I like to embrace enemies.

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    Senior Member Fritz Kobus's Avatar
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    ^ An excellent production. One of my favorites of the ten La Fanciulla's I have watched.
    "All of Italian opera can be heard in [Bellini's] "Ah! non creda [mirarti]."
    --Renata Scotto in "Scotto, More Than a DIva."

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  12. #11437
    Senior Member Woodduck's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rogerx View Post
    Miss Kitty never dressed like that on "Gunsmoke."

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  14. #11438
    Senior Member Dr. Shatterhand's Avatar
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    I planned to listen to another four Lully operas (Phaéton, the people's opera; Amadis, Roland, Armide, considered his best).

    I got halfway through Phaéton, and then gave up. Lully may be historically important; there may be some really lovely passages (the choruses in Alceste and Thésée, his most Italianate operas; the sleep scene in Atys; the plainte italienne in Psyché) - but his operas are also fantastically boring.

    Long stretches of recit; insipidly pretty music; empty spectacle; brown-nosed prologues; formulaic plots and music. They're opera written by bureaucracy.

    Upshot: I'm skipping them. I'll probably come back to Armide, just before I listen to GLUCK. But really, why waste time on a composer I don't enjoy? As an exercise in sustained masochism, listening to several Lully operas in a row is hard to beat.

    So Blow's Venus and Adonis is next, and blow Lully.



    This, though, is rather good, with some beautiful ensembles, and a moving choral lament. And all in 50 minutes!

    Then onto Purcell!
    Last edited by Dr. Shatterhand; Jan-20-2019 at 11:07.
    Hobbies: fiddling with piranhas; plotting world domination; assassination; opera.

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  16. #11439
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    I saw Baltsa and Carreras in Carmen at Covent Garden shortly before this set was issued, and it remains one of the most thrilling performances (of anything) I've ever seen. Consequently I was very excited when this set was issued and snapped it up immediately.

    Unfortunately, it proved something of a disappointment, the fault for which must lie squarely on Karajan's shoulders. By this time measured tempi were becoming the norm for him, and it is evident how much he loves ths score, but he rather loves it to death. For all the beautiful playing of the BPO, it lacks completely the wit and elegance of Beecham, or the swift visceral excitement of Prêtre.

    Having taken the decision to record the version with spoken dialogue, it seems totally perverse to then use actors, who sound nothing like their singing counterparts, recorded in a totally different acoustic. It is hard to become involved when the differences are so profound. It's like listening to two different productions at the same time, and does the most harm to Baltsa and Carreras, who were so involving and communicative live at Covent Garden. Indeed neither of them really settles down to a real performance until the final duet, which is thrillingly powerful, as it should be.

    What on earth prompted Karajan to think that Ricciarelli could be perfect as both Micaëla and Turandot? She is suited to neither, whereas Barbara Hendricks, who sings a wonderfull Liu on that Turandot he recorded the previous year would have been perfect.

    Van Dam is a fine Escamillo, as he was for Solti.

    I keep the recording for the contributions of Baltsa and Carreras, but listening to it is a curiously frustrating experience, and I mostly longed to be back chez Callas, Gedda and Prêtre.
    Last edited by GregMitchell; Jan-20-2019 at 14:49.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Theatre, a forum for public debate, an arena for cathartic spectacle and somewhere for vain bitchy people to show off in front of big crowds!


    I forgive criticisms, I like to embrace enemies.

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  20. #11441
    Senior Member Itullian's Avatar
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    oops, wrong thread
    Last edited by Itullian; Jan-21-2019 at 17:57.
    When all else fails, listen to Thick as a Brick.

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    Carmina Burana by Carl Orff

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    If only ... If only this 1953 set had never been made. Had it not been, Callas would have recorded the role of Violetta in 1955 under Serafin's baton, with Di Stefano and Gobbi as the Germonts, when she was at the height of her powers and fresh from the success of her appearances in the role at La Scala in Visconti's superb production. But the niceties of her contract with Cetra forbad her from re-recording the role for five years and Walter Legge decided to go on and record the opera without her. Antonietta Stella proved to be a poor substitute, so maybe he should have waited until 1958, when she was free to record the opera again.

    Not that Callas is bad in this performance. She is still a more affecting Violetta than most sopranos can dream of being, but her surroundings are dull and prosaic, Santini's conducting plodding and dull, and Albanese and Savarese no better than average. Furthermore, Violetta was a role she was continually refining, and, by the time of the 1958 Covent Garden performance, the last of her recorded Violettas, it has become a charactersiation of infinite subtlety and nuance.

    It is the 1958 Covent Garden performance I most often turn to, but it is good to listen to this one too, if only to be reminded of how she sounded in the role when she was in more robust voice.
    "It's not enough to have a beautiful voice." Maria Callas

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    Theatre, a forum for public debate, an arena for cathartic spectacle and somewhere for vain bitchy people to show off in front of big crowds!


    I forgive criticisms, I like to embrace enemies.

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  26. #11445
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    Almost from the first hour of listening, this one soared like a rocket to join my favourite Slavic operas !

    519qGOHXgIL._SX466_.jpg
    Last edited by Faramundo; Today at 10:57.

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