• DVD Review: Il Barbiere di Siviglia (1988, Schwetzingen)

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    Il Barbiere di Siviglia

    1988, Schwetzingen Festival

    (Gino Quilico, Cecilia Bartoli, David Kuebler, Carlos Feller, Robert Lloyd, Edith Kertész-Gabry; Choir of the Cologne City Opera; Radio Symphony Orchestra Stuttgart, cond. Gabriele Ferro)

    (dir. Michael Hampe; video dir. Claus Viller)


    What sets this Barbiere apart from all others available is its elegant realism. None of its visuals are the least bit cartoonish or blatantly designed for comedy. Dr. Bartolo’s house is a stark, stern-looking structure of plastered brick with a comfortable yet plain, white-curtained interior, while the costumes are highly realistic 18th century garb in subdued colors. Yet despite its fairly austere appearance the production is delightful, thanks to its Read the rest of this entry »

  • DVD Review: Don Giovanni (2001, Zürich)

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    Don Giovanni

    2001, Zürich Opera House

    (Rodney Gilfry, László Polgár, Isabel Rey, Roberto Saccá, Cecilia Bartoli, Liliana Nikiteanu, Oliver Widmer, Matti Salminen; Chor der Oper Zürich; Orchester der Oper Zürich, cond. Nikolaus Harnoncourt)

    (dir. Jürgen Flimm; video dir. Brian Large)


    With its star-studded cast and renowned conductor, this Giovanni has the makings of a near-definitive performance. Unfortunately the production is a strange, awkward blend of the traditional and the avant-garde. The darkly lit, minimalist set consists of a more-or-less bare stage in Act I and a scaffold-like structure in Act II. The costumes Read the rest of this entry »

  • DVD Review: Die Zauberflöte (1989, Drottningholm)

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    Die Zauberflöte

    1989, Drottningholm Court Theatre

    (Stefan Dahlberg, Ann Christine Biel, Mikael Samuelson, Birgit Louise Frandsen, László Polgár, Magnus Khyle; Drottningholm Court Theatre Chorus; Drottningholm Court Theatre Orchestra, cond. Arnold Östman)

    (dir. Göran Järvefelt; video dir. Thomas Olofsson)


    This charming small-scale Flute, performed in the same theatre where Ingmar Bergman set his classic film of the opera, is characterized by a thoroughly 18th century atmosphere. The simple wing-and-drop scenery reflects the Europe of Mozart’s time and the costumes are realistic Enlightenment-era garb, with the royal characters and priests in court dress and everyone else in peasant dress. The eclectic bevy of animals that Tamino enchants Read the rest of this entry »

  • DVD Review: Carmen (1991, Covent Garden)

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    1991, Royal Opera House, Covent Garden

    (Maria Ewing, Luis Lima, Gino Quilico, Leontina Vaduva; Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden; Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, cond. Zubin Mehta)

    (dir. Nuria Espert; video dir. Barrie Gavin)


    This Carmen may not quite be definitive, but it’s still been very popular over the years and justly so. The rough tan brick sets are handsome and the costumes strike a good balance between appealing color and working-class realism. Apart from some showy flamenco dancing Read the rest of this entry »

  • DVD Review: The Magic Flute (1975, Bergman film)

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    Trollflöjten (The Magic Flute)           

    1975, Sveriges Radio

    (Josef Köstlinger, Irma Urrila, Håkan Hagegård, Birgit Nordin, Ulrik Cold, Ragnar Ulfung; Swedish Radio Chorus; Swedish Radio Orchestra, cond. Eric Ericson)

    (dir. Ingmar Bergman)


    Ingmar Bergman’s classic Swedish-language adaptation of The Magic Flute is widely and rightfully considered one of the greatest examples, if not the greatest example of opera on film. Rather than present this most stagy and fantastical of operas as “real,” Bergman frames the film as a stage performance at Sweden’s historic Drottningholm Court Theatre, from the viewpoint of a little girl in the audience to whom the camera constantly returns. Throughout Act I the opera’s pastel-colored fairy-tale setting Read the rest of this entry »

  • DVD Review: Hansel and Gretel (1992, Sydney)

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    Hansel and Gretel

    1992, Opera Australia

    (Suzanne Johnson, Christine Douglas, Margaret Haggart, Malcolm Donnelly, Elizabeth Campbell, Gail Robertson, Kathryn McCusker; Australian Opera Children’s Chorus; Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, cond. Johannes Fritzsch)

    (dir. Elijah Moshinsky; video dir. Virginia Lumsden)


    This whimsical modern-dress Hansel is less widely available than other versions, but easily one of the most inventive and entertaining. Beginning in a shabby contemporary kitchen, the production’s atmosphere is initially realistic, but changes to eerie surrealism when Hansel and Gretel enter the wood and find themselves lost in a jumble of gigantic, distorted household items. Then in Act II, kooky fantasy takes over as the children find a house made of pink Read the rest of this entry »

  • DVD Review: Don Giovanni (2000, Met)

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    Don Giovanni

    2000, Metropolitan Opera

    (Bryn Terfel, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Renée Fleming, Paul Groves, Solveig Kringelborn, Hei-Kyung Hong, John Relyea, Sergei Koptchak; Metropolitan Opera Chorus; Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, cond. James Levine)

    (dir. Stephen Lawless, after Franco Zeffirelli; video dir. Gary Halvorson)


    This excellent Giovanni inaugurated the Met’s 2000-2001 season and is worthy of the honor. Franco Zeffirelli’s lovely scenery may be slightly grandiose for Mozart with its enormous gates and columns, but together with Sylvia Nolan’s elegant 18th century costumes, it creates a sumptuously realistic atmosphere that suits the opera’s lighthearted and serious elements equally well. Likewise a near-perfect balance between comedy and drama Read the rest of this entry »