• 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 »

  • DVD Review: La Cenerentola (1989, Salzburg)

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    La Cenerentola

    1988, Salzburg Festival

    (Ann Murray, Francisco Araiza, Walter Berry, Gino Quilico, Wolfgang Schöne, Angela Denning, Daphne Evangelatos; Wiener Staatsopernchor; Wiener Philharmoniker, cond. Riccardo Chailly)

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

     

    This elegant Cenerentola is possibly the most perfect staging I’ve ever seen of Rossini’s opera. Not necessarily my favorite, since other productions offer so many joys as well, but the most perfect. The realistically rendered wing-and-drop sets are simple yet ornate and beautiful, as are the authentic-looking Regency era costumes. Michael Hampe’s staging Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: Don Giovanni (1985, Karajan)

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    Don Giovanni

     1985, Deutsche Grammophon

    (Samuel Ramey, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Anna Tomowa-Sintow, Gösta Winbergh, Agnes Baltsa, Kathleen Battle, Alexander Malta, Paata Burchuladze; Chor der Deutschen Oper Berlin; Berliner Philharmoniker, cond. Herbert von Karajan)

     

    This sumptuous Giovanni is one of the opera’s most popular recordings. Indeed, the few critics who dislike the classic 1959 Giulini Giovanni often site this one as their favorite instead. While I don’t fully agree with them (I adore the Giulini recording, which to my ears has endless sparkle while this version occasionally lapses into languor), this recording is a definite favorite of mine as well. The voices of its starry cast are, admittedly, warmer and richer than Read the rest of this entry »

  • DVD Review: Il Barbiere di Siviglia (1982, Glyndebourne)

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    Il Barbiere di Siviglia

    1982, Glyndebourne Festival Opera

    (John Rawnsley, Maria Ewing, Max-René Cossotti, Claudio Desderi, Ferruccio Furlanetto, Catherine McCord; Glyndebourne Chorus; London Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Sylvain Cambreling)

    (dir. John Cox; video dir. Dave Heather)

     

    This colorful, intimate Barbiere never fails to bring a smile to my face. Both sets and costumes are charming, with the two-dimensional cutout backdrops truly evoking Seville’s architecture, and the staging is top-notch. A few scenes are handled conservatively (e.g. the stand-and-sing Act I finale), but other moments are inventive (e.g. the transition from the street to Figaro’s barbershop at the end of the first scene), and all the interactions Read the rest of this entry »

  • DVD Review: Madame Butterfly (1995, Mitterrand film)

      1 Bravos & Boos (Comments)

    Madame Butterfly           

    1995, Erato Films

    (Ying Huang, Richard Troxell, Ning Liang, Richard Cowan, Jing Ma Fan; Choeurs de Radio France; Orchestre de Paris, cond. James Conlon)

    (dir. Frédéric Mitterrand)

     

    This gorgeous film, following in the footsteps of such cinematic ventures as Zeffirelli’s La Traviata and Rosi’s Carmen, brings Puccini’s beloved tragedy to life like never before. Shot in Tunisia, it employs a naturalistic setting, rich color (with emphasis on romantic reds, pinks and purples), vivid historical detail and poetic camerawork to create a lovely realistic vision of early 20th century Nagasaki. All the Japanese characters are portrayed by Asian singers, with Read the rest of this entry »