• Opera Videography: La Cenerentola

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    The following is a list of every filmed performance of La Cenerentola that I’ve ever seen on DVD, Blu-Ray or VHS, ranked from my highest recommendation to my lowest. Notice that I’m not saying “best to worst”: I don’t dislike any of them, nor do I actually have an all-time favorite. But I know which versions I’d recommend the most highly to people who’ve never seen Cenerentola before, and which ones I’d recommend the least. If these comments of mine help anyone with their opera-shopping, I’ll be overjoyed.

     

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    UNITEL film, 1981

    Frederica von Stade (Cenerentola), Francisco Araiza (Don Ramiro), Paolo Montarsolo (Don Magnifico), Claudio Desderi (Dandini), Paul Plishka (Alidoro), Margherita Guglielmi (Clorinda), Laura Zannini (Tisbe); Coro del Teatro alla Scala; Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, cond. Claudio Abbado; dir. Jean-Pierre Ponnelle Read the rest of this entry »

  • Opera Imaginaire: An Animated Opera of the Imagination

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    Most of the opera I watch nowadays on DVD or video tends to be complete performances. But when I first discovered opera, I lapped up any opera-related video I could get my hands on: complete performances, concerts, compilations, and more. Not least intriguing were cartoons inspired by opera, and I don’t just mean the old standbys like What’s Opera, Doc? and Rabbit of Seville. A video that I watched again and again in my early days of opera fandom was Opera Imaginaire, a 1994 compilation of cartoons by various European animators. Read the rest of this entry »

  • DVD Review: Turandot (1994, San Francisco)

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    1994, San Francisco Opera

    (Eva Marton, Michael Sylester, Lucia Mazzaria, Kevin Langan; San Francisco Opera Chorus; San Francisco Opera Orchestra, cond. Donald Runnicles)

    (dir. Peter McClintock; video dir. Brian Large)

     

    This Turandot is less lavish and more intimate than Franco Zeffirelli’s legendary Met production, but just as visually striking in its own right thanks to the memorable set designs of David Hockney. His flat, storybook-like aesthetic, with its sharp, exaggerated lines and bold solid colors (predominantly red, blue and green), combines with Ian Falconer’s colorful costumes and Read the rest of this entry »

  • DVD Review: Madama Butterfly (1983, Verona)

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    Madama Butterfly

    1983, Arena di Verona

    (Raina Kabaivanksa, Nazzareno Antinori, Eleonora Jankovic, Lorenzo Saccomani, Mario Ferrara; Coro dell’Arena di Verona; Orchestra dell’Arena di Verona, cond. Maurizio Arena)

    (dir. Giulio Chazalettes; video dir. Brian Large)

     

    This Verona telecast has a special place in my heart, because it was my introduction to Madama Butterfly. That said, its weaknesses are all too obvious and I wouldn’t recommend it to any other neophytes. But still, it has merits. The naturalistic scenery is gorgeous, with its use of the arena’s sloping bleachers to simulate a green, flowery hill, as are Read the rest of this entry »

  • DVD Review: Il Barbiere di Siviglia (2005, Parma)

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    719qSQAbb7L._SL1214_Il Barbiere di Siviglia

    2005, Teatri Regio di Parma

    (Leo Nucci, Anna Bonitatibus, Raul Giménez, Alfonso Antoniozzi, Riccardo Zanellato, Gabriella Corsaro; Coro del Teatro Regio di Parma; Orchestra del Teatro Regio di Parma, cond. Maurizio Barbacini)

    (dir. Beppe De Tomasi; video dir. Andrea Bevilacqua)

     

    This Barbiere is an obscure one, and to be honest, I don’t regret that fact. Plenty of stronger versions are available. That said, this is still a decent performance with several outstanding elements. The production is a simple yet solid minimalist affair: a unit set seemingly made entirely of black Spanish lace, against which  Read the rest of this entry »

  • DVD Review: Rigoletto (1982, ENO)

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    Rigoletto

    1982, English National Opera

    (John Rawnsley, Arthur Davies, Marie McLaughlin, John Tomlinson, Jean Rigby, Sean Rea; English National Opera Chorus; English National Opera Orchestra, cond. Mark Elder)

    (dir. Jonathan Miller; video dir. John Michael Phillips)

     

    Jonathan Miller’s famous ENO Rigoletto, while hardly radical by today’s standards, is still a bit of a “love it or hate it” production. Sung in James Fenton’s blunt, unflowery English translation, it transfers the action to 1950s New York City, where Rigoletto is a bartender in a swanky hotel and “the Duke” and his “courtiers” are Mafiosi. Gilda’s seduction takes place in Read the rest of this entry »

  • DVD Review: Don Giovanni (1990 Sellars production)

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    Don Giovanni

    1990, Decca Record Co.

    (Eugene Perry, Herbert Perry, Dominique Labelle, Carroll Freeman, Lorraine Hunt, Ai Lan Zhu, Elmore James, James Patterson; Arnold-Schönberg-Chor; Wiener Symphoniker, cond. Craig Smith)

    (dir. Peter Sellars)

     

    This modern-dress studio production is “not your parents’ Don Giovanni” – the very opening shots, depicting a real New York slum full of rundown buildings, dead rats and garbage-covered snow, make that clear. Set in the South Bronx, this Giovanni strips the characters of their social statuses, keeps humor Read the rest of this entry »