• DVD Review: Orfeo ed Euridice (1982, Glyndebourne)

      1 Bravos & Boos (Comments)

    Orfeo ed Euridice

    1982, Glyndebourne Festival Opera

    (Janet Baker, Elisabeth Speiser, Elizabeth Gale; Glyndebourne Chorus; London Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Raymond Leppard)

    (dir. Peter Hall; video dir. Rodney Greenberg)

     

    This production, created as Dame Janet Baker’s farewell to the stage, is unique in the catalogue of filmed Orfeos. It maintains the traditional Greek imagery, yet feels fresh, avoiding stilted neoclassical prettiness and instead, in keeping with Gluck’s “reform” aesthetic, emphasizing simplicity and humanity. The set design is fairly minimalistic, the costumes are simple tunics in solid colors, and the performance is carried not by any fancy visual concept but by Read the rest of this entry »

  • DVD Review: Carmen (1985, Glyndebourne)

      0 Bravos & Boos (Comments)

    Carmen

    1985, Glyndebourne Festival Opera

    (Maria Ewing, Barry McCauley, David Holloway, Marie McLaughlin; Glyndebourne Festival Chorus; London Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Bernard Haitink)

    (dir. Peter Hall; video dir. Robin Lough)

     

    This simple yet compelling production, filmed on the Glyndebourne stage but without an audience, is the antithesis of “Carmen as grand opera.” The scale is small and intimate, with no unnecessary spectacle, and the atmosphere is one of gritty, earthy realism. Costumes are mostly in earth tones, with appropriate amounts of dirt, sweat and tatters on the lower-class characters, and the exoticism of the Spanish setting is downplayed in favor of emphasis on Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: Die Zauberflöte (1964, Klemperer)

      0 Bravos & Boos (Comments)

    Die Zauberflöte

    1964, EMI

    (Nicolai Gedda, Gundula Janowitz, Walter Berry, Lucia Popp, Gottlob Frick, Gerhard Unger; Philharmonia Chorus; Philharmonia Orchestra, cond. Otto Klemperer)

     

    This classic recording has been hailed again and again as the definitive Zauberflöte, yet at the same time is controversial due to its decidedly Romantic take on the score. With its lack of any spoken dialogue, use of women as the Three Boys, lush modern orchestra and slow, slow tempos, it can never be called a historically authentic performance. But in the masterful hands of Otto Klemperer, Read the rest of this entry »

  • DVD Review: La Cenerentola (2005, Glyndebourne)

      0 Bravos & Boos (Comments)

    La Cenerentola

    2005, Glyndebourne Festival Opera

    (Ruxandra Donose, Maxim Mironov, Luciano di Pasquale, Simone Alberghini, Nathan Berg, Raquela Sheeran, Lucia Chirillo; Glyndebourne Chorus; London Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Vladimir Jurowski)

    (dir. Peter Hall; video dir. Robin Lough)

     

    This second Glyndebourne Cenerentola DVD couldn’t be more different from the first: the atmosphere of Sir Peter Hall’s production is worlds away from the storybook charm of John Cox’s 1983 staging. While the Regency-era setting is traditional, its look and feel is characterized by stark, gritty realism. Don Magnifico’s mansion is truly shabby, the royal palace is elegant yet austere, and the color scheme consists mainly of earth tones, with only the men of the court in bright colored satins. Slapstick among the comic characters Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: Don Giovanni (1959, Giulini)

      3 Bravos & Boos (Comments)

    Don Giovanni

     1959, EMI

    (Eberhard Wächter, Giuseppe Taddei, Joan Sutherland, Luigi Alva, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf, Graziella Sciutti, Piero Cappuccilli, Gottlob Frick; Philharmonia Chorus; Philharmonia Orchestra, cond. Carlo Maria Giulini)

     

    If a definitive Don Giovanni can ever be said to exist, this revered recording is probably the top contender for the title. Critic after critic has labeled it one of the greatest opera recordings of the 20th century and rightfully so. Carlo Maria Giulini leads the Philharmonia Orchestra in a virtually flawless reading of the score. The pacing is brisk yet sensitive, the sound world is always elegant yet never lacks drama, the recitatives are rapid-fire yet Read the rest of this entry »

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

      0 Bravos & Boos (Comments)

    Il Barbiere di Siviglia

    2005, Teatro Real, Madrid

    (Pietro Spagnoli, Maria Bayo, Juan Diego Flórez, Bruno Praticó Ruggero Raimondi, Susanna Cordón; Coro de la Comunidad de Madrid; Orquestra Titular del Teatro Real, cond. Gianluigi Gelmetti)

    (dir. Emilio Sagi; video dir. Ángel Luis Ramirez)

     

    This Barbiere has quickly become one of the most popular and easiest to find. When I first saw it, I was caught off guard by its unusual atmosphere, but since then I’ve come to appreciate it as a production filled with talent and creativity. Both sets and costumes are entirely in black and white for most of the opera, but as the happy ending draws near and rebellion triumphs over the old social order that Bartolo represents, bright colors finally appear and take over. The sets, which are moved by costumed stagehands a la Brecht Read the rest of this entry »

  • “The Biggest Cad in Opera”?

      0 Bravos & Boos (Comments)

    This is my first post that isn’t a review. In addition to discussing recordings, I like to write down my various thoughts about opera in general, as well as the books and articles I read on the subject.

     

    Recently I reread Peter Fox Smith’s excellent book “A Passion For Opera.” With its detailed chapters discussing both libretti and music of every standard repertoire opera, as well as Smith’s experiences with each opera both as a music lover and as a professor, that book is a good source of information and understanding for any newcomer to opera. But one aspect of it baffles me slightly. In the chapter on Madama Butterfly the main emotion Read the rest of this entry »