Piero Faggioni's highly-acclaimed Royal Opera production of 'The Girl of the Golden West' filmed in 1983 stars the incomparable Placido Domingo and American soprano Carol Neblett. It is considered by many the definitive production of this work and hasn't been available on video for 10 years. Faggioni's amazing production brings the opera vividly to life. The realistic timbered sets are by Oscar-winning designer Ken Adam whose film work includes ""Dr Strangelove"" and a number of Ja
Richard Strauss's elegantly playful opera Arabella (sometimes close to operetta in style) gets a polished, light-hearted, but also serious production at the Glyndebourne Festival. Ashley Putnam gives a glowing performance in the title role and she has a strong supporting cast. John Cox's stage direction and Julia Trevelyan Oman's design create a convincing atmosphere of 19th-century Vienna (not without a dark side to provoke dramatic interest) and Bernard Haitink's conducting of the London Philharmonic is splendidly idiomatic, in the dramatic music as well as the waltz and folk dance melodies that brighten the score. Arabella is the last libretto written for Strauss by Hugo von Hofmannsthal before his untimely death, and it has the high literary value found in all his work, although he did not live to revise Acts II and III. The story focuses on a Viennese family--Count Waldemar, his wife Adelaide and two daughters, Arabella and Zdenka. They are living in genteel poverty and hoping that Arabella, who has several suitors, will marry well and recoup their fortune. They are so poor that Zdenka has been raised as a boy because the family cannot afford to bring out two daughters in Viennese society. A properly rich suitor, Mandryka, shows up and it is love at first sight, until Zdenka confuses the situation. She is in love with one of Arabella's suitors, Matteo, sends him love letters under Arabella's name and seduces him in a darkened bedroom under the pretence that she is Arabella. Mandrkya learns of the seduction but not of Zdenka's deception, and breaks off his engagement to Arabella. There is, of course, a happy ending. Putnam is sweet and troubled in stage presence, silvery in tone and totally charming. John Brocheler is an ardent, impetuous Mandryka and Gianna Rolandi is convincing in the rather difficult role of Zdenka. Gwendolyn Bradley makes an impressive appearance as Fiakermilli, the belle of the coachmen's ball in Act II, one of the opera's favourite features with Viennese audiences. --Joe McLellan
Andrea Bocelli - Tuscan Skies
The great British contralto Dame Janet Baker gave her very last stage appearance in Peter Hall's acclaimed production of Orfeo ed Euridice for Glyndebourne Festival Opera filmed in 1982. This is one her most famous roles and she gives a most moving portrayel of Orfeo the grieving musician of Greek myth who tries to bring his wife back form the depths of Hades. Elisabeth Speiser is Euridice and Elizabeth Gale is Amor with first-rate singing from the Glyndebourne Chorus. The Londo
Richard Strauss's powerful and erotic one-act opera caused such a sensation when it was first performed in 1905 that it caused protests and was banned in several cities. In Petr Weigl's production for the Deutsche Opera Berlin filmed in 1990 Catherine Malfitano gives a suitably graphic portrayal of Salome a role which demand the utmost physical and emotional commitment throughout the complex vocal passages and choreographed scenes. Simon Estes is Jokannan and Herodias is sung by one of the greatest dramatic singers of the 20th century Leonie Rysanek. The conductor is Giuseppe Sinopoli.
Verdi's last opera and the final peak of his career Falstaff is the culmination of Italian comic opera. The story is taken from Shakespeare's play The Merry Wives Of Windsor although the central character is much closer to the Falstaff of Henry IV. The roguish Sir John embroils himself in numerous plots and dupes of love and marriage until eventually the Merry Wives get their revenge on him and all plans are thwarted. Verdi's sparkling and witty opera is the perfect synthesis of mu
No longer the great operatic tenor of his heyday, Pavarotti proves in Pavarotti--Barcelona that he's still capable of remarkable things on a smaller scale. This recital mostly consists of attractive trifles, but the operatic extracts--"Un Aura Amorosa" from Cosi fan Tutte, in particular--remind us of his gift for vocal characterisation and his capacity for real subtlety. Most of the programme is made up of Neapolitan songs--many of them by Tosti, including the less common "A'Vuchella" with words by the poet D'Annunzio--where Pavarotti has a real feel for both music and words. In some of the songs, notably the two late Rossini songs "La Promessa" and "La Danza Gioacchino", he also demonstrates a sense of fun, playing with the tarantella rhythms of the latter song in a flirtatious yet still musical way. On the DVD: the disc, which is presented in 4:3 ratio, has excellent Dolby sound that gives us just enough of the ambient audience sound to remind us that this is a live performance. It comes with a short interview, a biography and discography as bonuses. --Roz Kaveney
This performance of Verdi's La Traviata comes from the Gran Teatro La Fenice, Venice in 1992. The intimacy and social realism of the story make it one of the most dramatically successful of all operas, while the score contains some of the finest music of the 19th century. Despite the strong production values and well-staged party scenes, any production of La Traviata stands or falls on the performers in the vital roles of the lovers Violetta and Alfredo, and that of Alfredo's father, Giorgio. Here Giorgio Zancanaro is suitably decent and morally serious as Giorgio, and Neil Shicoff makes a strong impression as an ordinary man suddenly overwhelmed by love. The drawback is that--and there is no polite way to say this--Edita Gruberova is not only too old to play the sparkling young society girl, Violetta, but she is a much better singer than she is an actress. She comes into her own in the tragic last act, but is otherwise awkward and uncomfortable when the part requires her to demonstrate confidence and sensuality. This remains a production with considerable merits, but overall a more dramatically, not to say visually, compelling version is that originally broadcast world-wide live from Paris in 2000 starring Eteri Gvazava and José Cura.On the DVD: The production is presented at 4:3 with above average picture quality for a live opera DVD, and with excellent PCM stereo sound. The disc and booklet both offer a synopsis, but other than the option to watch with or without subtitles there are no special features. --Gary S. Dalkin
Waltraud Meier is the stuff of which great Isoldes are made--a passionate actress who sings her heart out at every point and yet somehow keeps something in reserve from the narration and curse of the first act for the love duet of the second and the "Liebestod" of the third. Her Tristan, Jon Fredric West, is more or less her equal--he is particularly impressive in the mad death agony of the third act; his Tristan is an ordinary hero who becomes something larger. Among the other principals, Kurt Moll's Mark stands out in its eloquent heart-break, not so much a cuckold as a man who wants everything to work out right; Weikl's Kurwenal and Lipovsek's Brangane are, credibly, ordinary people caught up in great tragedy. Mehta's account of the score is solid and professional--he gets nothing wrong and everything right in a performance which survives occasionally perversely innovative staging to touch greatness. On the DVD: The DVD includes subtitles in French, German, English and Dutch. --Roz Kaveney
Gilvert And Sullivan: Patience (Stanhope Elizabethan Philharmonic Orchestra)
Verdi's opera based on Shakespeare's character Falstaff who attempts to woo two wealthy married women in an attempt to avoid bankruptcy....
Kát'a Kabanová, Janácek's 1921 tragedy, is proof if any were needed that tales of personal oppression and turmoil will always make fine raw material for opera composers. Janácek took Ostrovsky's tumultuous drama of infidelity , The Storm, and created a compelling piece in which his music heightens the relationship between the troubled landscape of Kát'a's inner mind and the elements doing battle outside. In 1988, this Glyndebourne Festival production successfully distilled the heroine's wretched journey from put-upon wife and daughter-in-law to suicide via the ecstasy of a forbidden love affair into 100 minutes of intensely emotional operatic drama. At its heart, Janácek's unique tonal score underlines a powerful, almost naturalistic dialogue and exposes the impact of Kát'a's experiences on her escalating self-destruction. Felicity Palmer's Kabanicha--the mother-in-law from hell and the real instrument of Kát'a's downfall--is curiously remote and muted rather than the domineering figure of fear that we might expect. But the singing, particularly by Nancy Gustafson (tremendously affecting and emotionally convincing in the title role) and Ryland Davies as Kát'a's weak husband Tichon, is outstanding. Gustafson's performance alone makes this essential viewing for anybody with a passion for the great modern soprano roles. On the DVD: Sadly the only additional features are trailers for Seven Gates of Jersualem and The Damnation of Faust. The sound quality (PCM stereo) is more than fair, but inevitably the film of the production is constrained by the design: the stylised set is either very light or very dark and we don't get as close as we'd like to the characters in what is, after all, a disturbingly intimate piece. Arthaus Musik's booklet meets the expected high standards of information and background. --Piers Ford
Rebelling against the increasingly formulaic operas of the time, Christoph Willibald Gluck's "reformist" opera Alceste (1767) was a successful attempt to return to a purer form of musical drama. It is highly appropriate that this 1999 production of the revised 1776 Paris version should be conducted by Sir John Eliot Gardiner, with the English Baroque Soloists and Monteverdi Choir, the same forces responsible for many fine Bach performances equally emphasising character and text. In setting the tragic story of the profound love between Queen Alceste and her husband King Admète, Gluck provided a score of austere, rending beauty. Principals Anne-Sofie Von Otter and Paul Groves dominate the production as much through the power of their acting as their musical prowess, the major scenes being electrifying in their emotional intensity. Contrasting with this psychological realism are the simple, Greek-inspired designs by Robert Wilson. Silhouetted geometric shapes glide gracefully through the slow-motion movements of the actors, bringing a hypnotic, dreamlike quality to the work. Near constant blue lighting adds a sense of late evening tranquillity, giving the stage a highly distinctive look and a feeling of dislocation in space and time. Both chilling and uplifting, this Alceste is a triumph. On the DVD: There are no special features other than a well-appointed booklet. The Dolby Digital 5.1 sound effectively re-creates a wide theatrical atmosphere and given the low lighting levels throughout, the anamorphically enhanced 16:9 picture makes the most of the striking imagery. The disc is encoded for regions 2 and 5. --Gary S Dalkin
For this production of L'Orfeo, stage director Gilbert Deflo attempts to recreate the atmosphere of the first performance of Monteverdi's 1607 opera in the plush 19th-century setting of Barcelona's Gran Teatre del Liceu. On the whole he's extremely successful: the scenery consists of painted flats which are used imaginatively (Caronte's cavern is a particular coup de theatre) and the delightful costumes look like ancient Hellenic robes viewed through a 17th century lens. What's most remarkable, though, is the sensitive level of recording, for the light orchestral textures and small voices only once, in the Caronte scene, seem to get swamped by the gilt and velvet. Jordi Savall, looking uncannily like Monteverdi himself, conducts with energy and draws some committed, focused playing from the band. Zanasi makes a fine Orfeo, but all the voices have all the graceful and limpid qualities that are standard now in early music, and the whole company gets the stylised acting manner demanded by the production just right without becoming too arch. On the DVD: L'Orfeo is presented in 16:9 anamorphic ratio, with a choice of Dolby Surround Sound or LPCM Stereo. Within the limitations of a live relay from a large theatre, the picture quality is excellent: the colours of the costumes seem particularly vivid. There are subtitles in English, French, German and Spanish. Special features include an interview with the stage director, an illustrated synopsis and a gallery of cast photos. --Warwick Thompson
The Queen of Spades is an opera in three acts by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. A tale of terror involving obsessive love gambling hallucinations and a descent into madness!
This is a 1996 all-star-cast version from Paris of the original French version of Verdi's epic five-act opera, Don Carlos. First produced in 1867, only Wagner would write musical drama on a grander scale, and due to the three-and-a-half-hour running time most subsequent productions have made substantial cuts. This is therefore a rare opportunity to witness Verdi's tragedy in its entirety.Set in the 16th century in the aftermath of war between Spain and France, Don Carlo (Roberto Alagna), the heir to the Spanish throne comes to France to meet with his beloved Elizabeth de Valois (Karita Mattila). Inevitably politics divide the lovers, and while Rodrigue (Thomas Hampson) falls in with Flemish rebels, the Inquisition is determined to be the power behind the peace. This is certainly not Verdi's greatest work, but it contains great music and the stars are allowed to shine with strong characterisations in an elegantly designed production. There are no gimmicks or attempts at spurious contemporary relevance here, simply singers of the calibre of Alagna, Mattila, Hampson, plus the outstanding Eric Halfvarson as the Grand Inquisitor. This is a production that continues in the 19th-century tradition, and in the process delivers the frisson of world-class opera. --Gary S. DalkinOn the DVD: While the running time precludes much in the way of special features, via DVD-ROM the libretto can be printed in French, together with an article and biographies. The picture is presented at approximately 1.7:1 and while far superior to video could still benefit from anamorphic enhancement. The sound is stereo or excellent Dolby Digital 5.0. The booklet offers a detailed synopsis in English, French, German, Italian and Spanish and there are subtitles in the same languages. The disc is encoded for regions two to six. --Gary S. Dalkin
One of the best British sitcoms of all-time, The Likely Lads focuses on the friendship between two working-class men, James Bolam and Rodney Bewes, living in the north east of England.Bob (Bewes) is the 'sensible' one, doing his best to get on with his job and 'better' himself. Terry (Bolam) is the 'irresponsible' one, intent on living life to the full. He's forever getting himself (and Terry) into trouble of one kind or another...Episodes Comprise:1. Entente Cordiale2. Double Date3. Older Women Are More Experienced4. The Suitor5. The Last Of The Big Spenders6. Rocker7. Goodbye To All That
Six Mozart features: 'Cosi Fan Tutte (1975)' 'Don Giovani (1977)' 'Die Entfuhrung Aus Dem Serail (1980)' 'Idomeneo (1974)' 'Le Nozze Di Figaro (1973)' and 'Die Zauberflote (1978)'.
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