• CD Review: Madama Butterfly (1957, Leinsdorf)

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    Madama Butterfly

    1957, RCA Victor

    (Anna Moffo, Cesare Valletti, Rosalind Elias, Renato Cesari, Mario Carlin; Rome Opera Chorus; Rome Opera Orchestra, cond. Erich Leinsdorf)


    This lightweight yet appealing Butterfly emphasizes the youthfulness of its characters, and all the vulnerability, passion and folly implied therein, by casting unusually light lyric voices in the principle roles – chiefly by casting Anna Moffo, lyric coloratura extraordinaire, as the usually spinto-voiced heroine. At age 25 and at the beginning of her career, she sings with a sweetness, purity, delicacy and freshness of tone Read the rest of this entry »

  • DVD Review: Die Zauberflöte (1978, Glyndebourne)

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    Die Zauberflöte

    1978, Glyndebourne Festival Opera

     (Leo Goeke, Felicity Lott, Benjamin Luxon, May Sandoz, Thomas Thomaschke, John Fryatt; Glyndebourne Festival Chorus; London Philharmonic Orchestra, cond. Bernard Haitink)

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


    This 1978 Flute is noteworthy for one chief reason: it served as the debut for the set and costume designs of David Hockney. His enchanting Flute designs have since been seen in various distinguished opera houses, but here, on a small scale in the old Glyndebourne theatre, was where they first appeared. With two-dimensional wing-and-drop scenery in solid, vibrant colors, Hockney presents us with a fantasy vision of ancient Egypt and deftly traces Tamino and Pamina’s journey from chaos to order, contrasting the unruly trees, rocks and stars of the Queen of the Night’s wild realm with the Read the rest of this entry »

  • DVD Review: Hansel and Gretel (1982, Met)

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    Hansel and Gretel

    1982, Metropolitan Opera

    (Frederica von Stade, Judith Blegen, Rosalind Elias, Michael Devlin, Jean Kraft, Diane Kesling, Betsy Norden; Metropolitan Opera Children’s Chorus; Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, cond. Thomas Fulton)

    (dir. Bruce Donnell, after Nathaniel Merrill; video dir. Kirk Browning)


    This Christmas Day “Live from the Met” broadcast is the quintessential example of a sweet, traditional, family-friendly Hansel and Gretel. With its bright green storybook forest and colorful, folksy costumes, its bevy of dancing woodland creatures played by children, its Dream Pantomime of angels in sparkling blue gowns, and its towering gingerbread house studded with jewel-like candy drops, the production’s every moment is skillfully crafted to enchant the audience. Sung in Norman Kelly’s Read the rest of this entry »

  • DVD Review: Rigoletto (1982, Ponnelle film)

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    1982, Unitel Films

    (Ingvar Wixell, Luciano Pavarotti, Edita Gruberova, Ferruccio Furlanetto Victoria Vergara; Wiener Staatsopernchor; Wiener Philharmoniker, cond. Riccardo Chailly)

    (dir. Jean-Pierre Ponnelle)


    This film, shot in various Italian palaces and other Renaissance-flavored locations, was my introduction to Rigoletto. For that reason it will always have a place in my heart, but it’s a controversial film and understandably so. This Rigoletto is very much a melodrama, with little subtlety to its storytelling. Rigoletto’s jester garb is bright red with devil horns on the hat, while Gilda is the epitome of girlish purity, always dressed in white and with flowing blonde hair. The Duke’s Act I “ball” is a grotesque Roman-style orgy full of nonstop laughter, bad table manners and Read the rest of this entry »

  • DVD Review: Madama Butterfly (1986, La Scala)

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    Madama Butterfly

    1986, Teatro alla Scala, Milan

    (Yasuko Hayashi, Peter Dvorsky, Hak-Nam Kim, Giorgio Zancanaro, Ernesto Gavazzi; Choro del Teatro alla Scala; Orchestra del Teatro alla Scala, cond. Lorin Maazel)

    (dir. Keita Asari; video dir. Derek Bailey)


    This visually lovely Butterfly has the most thoroughly Eastern atmosphere of any on DVD. The set, consisting only of a simplified Japanese house, a Zen-style garden of stone, and a backdrop of sky studded with a flock of shimmering butterflies, is a picture of austere, watercolor-like beauty. Keita Asari’s staging is filled with authentic Japanese detail and infused with the flavor of kabuki theatre. Black-clad “invisible” stagehands move the shoji back and forth, the Flower Duet consists of Butterfly and Suzuki scattering Read the rest of this entry »

  • CD Review: La Cenerentola (1988, Marriner)

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    La Cenerentola

    1988, Philips/Decca

    (Agnes Baltsa, Francisco Araiza, Ruggero Raimondi, Simone Alaimo, John del Carlo, Carol Malone, Felicity Palmer; Ambrosian Opera Chorus; Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, cond. Neville Marriner)


    This ever-popular recording is a true gem of the La Cenerentola discography. Under the direction of Sir Neville Marriner, the St. Martin in the Fields orchestra offers a performance full of charm, style and sensitivity. With pacing that alternates between lively and gentle, unhurried recitatives that allow for maximum emotional expression, and an excellent balance between joyful exuberance and thoughtful, delicate phrasing, Marriner’s reading of the score perfectly captures both of the two sides Read the rest of this entry »

  • DVD Review: Turandot (1987, Met)

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    1987, Metropolitan Opera

    (Eva Marton, Plácido Domingo, Leona Mitchell, Paul Plishka; Metropolitan Opera Chorus; Metropolitan Opera Orchestra, cond. James Levine)

    (dir. Franco Zeffirelli; video dir. Kirk Browning)


    This Turandot was one of the first filmed opera performances I ever saw and is still the closest to a definitive Turandot that I’ve ever seen. Franco Zeffirelli’s magnificent scenery, some of the grandest in the Met’s repertoire, and the sumptuous costumes of Dada Saligeri and Anna Anni create a stunningly lavish vision of mythical China, a perfect match for the grandeur of Puccini’s score. The massive glittering throne room in which the Riddle Scene and the opera’s finale take place is a sight Read the rest of this entry »