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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A 20 year-old production with great sound and picture quality and, best of all, Marilyn Horne
In his book "A Night at the Opera," Denis Forman, after praising L'Italiana in Algeri, writes: "But beware, it needs an alpha production, and if the fizz and sparkle are missing, it can go flat and you will wonder what the heck I am going on about." "Flat" describes my reaction to L'Italiana until I watched this DVD. This production has that fizz and sparkle that Forman...
Published on April 21, 2007 by Toni Bernhard

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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just a couple of negative things to add
I agree 100% with the other reviewers on the excellence of this production and the 1st rate performance by Marilyn Horne.

But I feel I would like to make a few negative points concerning James Levine:

1. It seems the James Levine cannot perform any opera "totally" complete. He almost always makes at least one cut somewhere. In this production, the...
Published on December 6, 2009 by M. Dubin


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39 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A 20 year-old production with great sound and picture quality and, best of all, Marilyn Horne, April 21, 2007
By 
Toni Bernhard (Davis, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Rossini - L'Italiana in Algeri (DVD)
In his book "A Night at the Opera," Denis Forman, after praising L'Italiana in Algeri, writes: "But beware, it needs an alpha production, and if the fizz and sparkle are missing, it can go flat and you will wonder what the heck I am going on about." "Flat" describes my reaction to L'Italiana until I watched this DVD. This production has that fizz and sparkle that Forman is referring to. It is present throughout - from Levine and orchestra to the excellent performances from all the players. This is Rossini as it's meant to be performed. Even if, like me, Rossini isn't one of your favorite opera composers, I doubt you'll be able to resist this production. And surprisingly, the picture and sound quality are excellent despite it having been filmed in 1986.

Special mention must be made of Marilyn Horne as Isabella. She just inhabits the role and her singing is extraordinary. Her mezzo voice is rich, creamy, and smooth; and when she hits those higher notes, the coloratura flowing out from her with such incredible ease, it's just spellbinding to listen to. In addition, the comic moments are made all that more effective by her crisp enunciation (which she's able to maintain no matter how fast the music is going). Strength, beauty, precision, ease. Horne's voice has it all.

The production is full of subtle comedic moments. One of the best occurs in the first act finale when Elvira, played by Myra Merritt, suddenly steps downstage, and lets her soprano voice soar, dominating the ensemble behind her. Horne, good-natured enough to make fun of her star status, turns and gives Merritt a priceless look that communicates that she's overstepping her rank in the cast. But Merritt ignores the look and lets her voice soar again. This time, Horne walks over to her and, with the brush of a hand, shoos her back upstage into the ensemble "pack." (This is before Horne decks the poor soul playing Mustafa, bringing Act I to a hilarious close.)

Led by Marilyn Horne, this is a DVD to treasure. (After all, where else can you see an opera star grating parmesan cheese over pasta in perfect time to Rossini's lightening-fast music?)
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great performance, Met quality standard, June 30, 2007
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This review is from: Rossini - L'Italiana in Algeri (DVD)
"Underrated masterpiece" is a frequently remark about "La Italiana". And I certainly agree. Generally considered inferior to "Il Barbiere de Siviglia" and "La Cenerentola", this early opera buffa contains some of the most charming Rossini music you can imagine, full of beautiful arias and brilliant ensembles. It reminds me Mozart more than the later.

In this 1987 Met recording, Jean Pierre Ponnelle's production shows colourful yet sober, and you can relax on his good taste to resolve every detail, from sets to costumes. No "modern" crap here: Mustafa's palace is Moorish, and we can see moor pirates, nice moor veiled girls from the "seraglio" and funny looking moor eunuchs, who sing at the very start the haunting chorus "Serenate il mesto ciglio", while they are making their usual embroidery.

Horne's voice may not suit everyone ears, partly due to her aggressive low tessitura and resounding chest notes, but she's always musical and accurate, and that's especially important when singing Rossini. Near her 50's in this DVD, she has some (little) trouble with very high notes, but she excels in every other issue, bravura passages included. Add her natural sympathy and easiness on the stage and you get a terrific Isabella. In my opinion, her arriving on Act I and next "Cruda sorte" delivering is just what defines a great opera artist.

Paolo Montarsolo is a full featured basso buffo, and if he can't sing 100% the fioritura Rossini wrote for the role, he compensates the fact by large with a splendid performance, considering both singing and performing. Though he was past his 60 in this recording, he's an agile Mustafa, looking a lot much younger. It's delightful to watch him absolutely overjoyed with his new degree of Pappataci, singing and dancing in the Lindoro-Taddeo-Mustafa trio "Fra gli amori e le belleze". He'll drive more than a good laugh from you, guaranteed.

Alan Monk, which I had never listened before, was quite a surprise for me as Taddeo. He sings in good voice and more than acceptable italianate sound, playing his part undiminished by the bigger-named Isabella and Mustafa.

Douglas Ahlstedt is the weakest link in the chain, mainly because he seems not to be the quick, spicy, Latin light tenor needed for the role. But he does a decent Lindoro, which I consider one of the most difficult tenor roles in Rossini's operas. Lindoro's notes are high, way high, and Ahlstedt gets to sing them all, and right on the pitch. Visually, he looks perhaps a little too thin and boyish besides the other heavier weighted players of the love triangle, Isabella and Taddeo, but all in all, he does the job nicely.

Secondary singers are also good and visually correct, especially graceful Myra Merrit's Elvira, who's moment of glory is of course the tremendous high note in Act I magnificent finale, cheerfully noticed by Horne, who won't let her steal the show and knocks Mustafa out at the very last moment. Prima donna's privileges are well observed here.

Levine guides the Met forces at the best Rossini pace you can imagine, delivering a precise, swift performance since the Overture's first notes to the happy ending. Perhaps in Act I finale he goes a little too fast, turning the original singing intringulis in a rather undistinguishable mumbling, but this is a minor complaint.

Sound quality is good in all 3 modes (2ch, Dolby 5.1 and DTS), 4:3 format picture is bright and clear. Subtitles in spanish are OK.

If you love Rossini masterful blending of humor and music, you can't go wrong with this DVD. Just enjoy it. And don't forget your limoncello.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Din-din, bum-bum, cra-cra..." bling-bling!, December 30, 2007
This review is from: Rossini - L'Italiana in Algeri (DVD)
Rossini was only twenty-one years old when he composed "L'Italiana in Algeri," and this production captures all of his youthful exuberance. Marilyn Horne is a brilliant Isabella (a role she first sang in 1964), who livens up the ensembles with her own comic touches (`al dente!'). The only "L'Italiana" I like better is her 1984 Venetian performance, where she partners with Samuel Ramey as her Mustafa. A match made in coloratura heaven!

In this 1986 Metropolitan Opera version, Paolo Montarsolo is the overbearing Bey of Algiers. He sings it as a buffo role, and tends to mug and gesticulate his way through his solos (it's actually a rather difficult coloratura part if sung correctly). However, this bass comes through in the ensembles, most especially in the septet that fires off at the end of Act I. Jimmy Levine leads the orchestra, chorus, and principals in a scintillating, clockwork finale ("Din-din, bum-bum, cra-cra, tac-tac!") where Rossini takes us right to the edge of musical chaos. Fortunately, the conductor keeps his musicians in laser focus. If you were bouncing up and down in time with Jimmy throughout the lively overture, take a moment after this first act finale to pay homage to this remarkable musician.

According to Ms. Horne, in her autobiography, "The Song Continues," "...the reviews [for this production] weren't totally laudatory: for my singing, yes; for my acting, no. The `Times' said the production was `vulgar.'"

I think the `Times' was way too harsh. This Italian girl has lots of sass, bling and zip. Jean-Pierre Ponnelle's costumes and sets are gorgeous (if a bit well-travelled). Ms. Horne sings of love, patriotism, and the way to manage men, at the peak of her glorious form. I was so pleased that she sang Isabella's cavatina "Per lui chi adoro," with the cello obbligato. She doesn't just sing over the accompaniment, which she could easily do with her imposing voice. No, Ms. Horne's Isabella somehow makes love with the cello. I don't know how else to explain that beautiful sound.

The other singers were quite in spirit with this production, although I found Douglas Ahlstedt's tenor a bit dry. Allan Monk gave a finely-tuned performance in the very thankless role of Isabella's elderly suitor.

If you can only afford one DVD of Rossini's great comic opera, it has to be this one.

Some of this DVD's extras:

Interview with Marilyn Horne on Rossini

Ms. Horne sings:

"Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix" from "Samson & Deliliah"

Samira's scene from "The Ghosts of Versailles"
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14 of 18 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Just a couple of negative things to add, December 6, 2009
This review is from: Rossini - L'Italiana in Algeri (DVD)
I agree 100% with the other reviewers on the excellence of this production and the 1st rate performance by Marilyn Horne.

But I feel I would like to make a few negative points concerning James Levine:

1. It seems the James Levine cannot perform any opera "totally" complete. He almost always makes at least one cut somewhere. In this production, the "cut" is near the end of Mustafa's Act I aria. True, Montarsolo might have been a bit past his prime and had some difficulty at times with the more difficult coloratura passages. But there is nothing that demanding about the coda passages in his aria which Levine cut.

2. Levine is inconsistent. He utilizes the original "cello" version of Isabella's 1st Act II aria but opts for the later version of Lindoro's Act II aria.

3. Levine is too fast in the strettas, particularly the Act I finale and the Act II Quintet. I noticed several times that the vocalists were not all together in some of the ensembles due to some frantic tempos.
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13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars ROSSINI SINGING LIKE THIS IS NO LONGER AROUND, May 6, 2007
By 
RONALD CORK (BRISBANE/AUSTRALIA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rossini - L'Italiana in Algeri (DVD)
GET THIS RECORDING OF "L'ITALIANA IN ALGERI" SIMPLY TO SEE AND HEAR MARILYN HORNE IN HER PRIME. WITH A TECHNIQUE AND COLORATURA THAT DEFIES DESCRIPTION YOU MUST SEE AND HEAR THIS LIVE PERFORMANCE FROM THE METROPOLITAN. THE OTHER SINGERS ARE GOOD AND THE RECORDING AND PICTURE QUALITY ARE FIRST RATE.

I FIRST SAW MARILYN HORNE LIVE IN BRISBANE/AUSTRALIA IN CONCERT AND WILL NEVER FORGET THE EXPERIENCE OF HEARING THIS REMARKABLE ARTIST LIVE. THIS IS A FINE TRIBUTE TO HER ARTISTRY.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The way a comic opera should be performed!, July 2, 2012
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This review is from: Rossini - L'Italiana in Algeri (DVD)
This production was the very first exposure I've had to this opera, and let me say, it made me a big fan! I've seen a few other comic operas, including the big daddy of them all, Barber of Seville, but none of them have left me as giddy as this L'italiana in Algeri. It is how I think comic opera should be: not just funny, but FUN! I will echo everyone in praising Marilyn Horne, for she truly delivered the goods here. In a bonus interview Horne says performers either have the gift of comedy or not, and that she feels she's got it. I thought she was tooting her own horn but she was also right. Her facial expressions and gestures indicate the years of experience she's had honing her comedic timing in this particular role. I particularly LOVED her antics with Myra Merritt in the Act 1 finale. Merritt goes to the front of the ensemble and lets loose a powerful high C, with Horne giving her a look as if to say, "what do you think you're doing?" Merritt does it a second time, but Horne brushes her away. I'm not sure if this was spontaneous or rehearsed, either way it was hilarious. Then of course there's the cheese-grating and "al dente" in Act 2!

Even though Marilyn Horne was the main star, credit should also be given to the rest of the fantastic cast. I agree that Douglas Ahlstedt seemed a little uncomfortable with the tessitura of Lindoro but he sang it with verve and aplomb nonetheless. Allan Monk was awesome as Taddeo and fit the role of the elder travelling companion of Isabella. He sang well and acted well. Spiro Malas and Diane Kesling made the best out of the minor roles Haly and Zulma respectively, and I thought Myra Merritt was very good as Elvira. I don't quite understand people's criticism of her vocal performance because I actually thought she was quite solid. She had a beautiful, clear, round soprano voice with easy facility in the upper register. She handled the frantic tempo and the high notes of the Act 1 finale superbly (the most difficult music of the role). And personally, I prefer a soprano with a fuller voice (such as Merritt) as Elvira. Otherwise she gets drowned out in the ensemble like in most recordings.

Then there was Paolo Montarsolo...this is where I feel I need to defend him from folks who criticise his performance. Vocally, yes he was past his prime but remember he was nearly 61 years old at the time. So singing the way he did in this performance, he actually did quite well! Not only that, but I think he succeeded where many others fail in comic operas. He was actually very funny! I've seen a few other Mustafa's available on dvd, and none of them hold a candle to Montarsolo's interpretation of the character. Montarsolo completely INHABITED the role of Mustafa. Every single facial expression, gesture and body movement conveyed the absolute silliness of the character (especially the facial expressions!). From the chauvinism in Act 1, to the Ah CHEEEEEEEEEE in Act 2, to playing around with his spaghetti, it was all marvelously funny. So overall while the vocal performance wasn't his best, he more than made up for it with his acting. I'm not saying it was Oscar-worthy, but it most certainly was entertaining, where otherwise it would have ended up wooden/flat like the other Mustafa's on dvd.

As one can tell I value the acting/drama as much as the music. If you want to hear purely the best singing, there's Horne's audio recording of the complete opera, and there are also live performances with other casts on dvd. But if you want the complete theatrical experience, where all the performers sink their teeth into their roles, bounce off each other, and radiate their sense of fun so greatly that it becomes palpable, then look no further than this dvd!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The creme de la creme, January 8, 2008
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This review is from: Rossini - L'Italiana in Algeri (DVD)
The brilliant performance by Marilyn Horne in L'Italiana in Algeri proves the worthiness of the assessment by those opera critics who deemed her the best female operatic diva of her time.

Ms. Horne displays her magnificent vocal talents at the peak of her career. As if to say that pure mezzo tones are not enough, Ms. Horne delivers the comedic lyrics with convincing ease, and firmly fixes our
admiration for her abilities.

No opera fan or Marilyn Horne devotee should be without this DVD.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Production of the Opera You will Ever see, August 17, 2007
By 
Judith A. Weller "jw1917" (LaVale, MD United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Rossini - L'Italiana in Algeri (DVD)
Without doubt this is a great production of this opera. There will never be a better one done. Just the singing of Marilyn Horne alone is worth it. And Paolo Montarsolo is another great reason to get this. This is a traditional production ( none of this stark modern nonsense) and is true to the libretto. It is a magnificent production and a feast for both the eyes and the ears.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Nearly Perfect, January 21, 2011
This review is from: Rossini - L'Italiana in Algeri (DVD)
First, this is a Deutsche Gramophone production, with subtitles in Italian and multiple translations. It's a first class staging and Horne is of course magnificent. The sound and picture quality are outstanding, and it is truly amusing. Levine's conducting is lively and credible. This is everything a light opera should be. The only criticism I could offer (thus the withholding of the fifth star) is the camera work: the opera was intelligently and wittily staged. A single centered steady camera would have delivered what was there. Ponnelle couldn't resist varied and distracting camera angles, and close ups of a kind that no one needs. I didn't wish to be reminded of Horne's age by seeing her neck that close, or be treated to bulbous, fuzzy-top Levine "sweatin' to the oldies." A very minor annoyance, hardly worth the space I'm giving it, but the camera antics are there like a faint background noise you tend to forget is there, but still, there it is. One certainly wants to *see* this DVD to experience how very well the opera can be staged and played, but ownership may not be necessary. The above flaws would keep me from repeated viewing, when I can hear it without annoy on CD.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Marilyn Horne is remarkable in this role!, November 18, 2012
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Had seen a disappointing production in a "cinecast" in a movie theater.... this was a far superior investment. Excellent performance and recording! Highly recommended.
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Rossini - L'Italiana in Algeri
Rossini - L'Italiana in Algeri by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle (DVD - 2007)
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