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What Are You Listening To (And/Or Watching) Lately?


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Initial post: May 18, 2012 1:03:08 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 18, 2012 1:30:48 AM PDT
Todd Kay says:
I don't think there is a similar dormant discussion thread here, and I thought this might be a useful catch-all. Come one, come all.

ARABELLA is not many people's favorite Richard Strauss opera, and it wouldn't be higher than sixth or seventh on my list. In an average performance, I feel its reputation as a weak sister to Strauss/von Hofmannsthal's earlier ROSENKAVALIER is not unjust. But a second viewing recently reinforced my impression that the Solti/Schenk studio film is one of the best of all opera films. Gundula Janowitz isn't a physical beauty as some celebrated Arabellas have been (Della Casa, Te Kanawa, Fleming), but she achieves something really special here. Of course she sings the part beautifully, but without doing anything particularly sophisticated in screen acting, she's sweet, forthright and winning, and in no time at all I stopped noticing or caring that she's both plain and quite a bit older than the alluring young woman she's playing. Often when we talk of an opera singer being a great actor too, we mean it in the traditional thespian sense -- the highest compliment is "Even if s/he couldn't sing, s/he could have had a career on the stage" (Callas, Gobbi, Jones, et al). This is not the case with Janowitz, but I was reminded watching her that there is another path to distinction in operatic acting -- to create a character not only with the voice but with an inner surety and conviction, so that an illusion is achieved in plain sight, inside out. It has nothing to do with technique; it's something more mysterious and instinctive.

The rest of the cast is wonderful too: a youngish Weikl never better than as poor confused Mandryka; Kollo, at the time a leading Lohengrin, luxury-cast as Matteo; Sona Ghazarian an adorable Zdenka with a really lovely rapport with her on-stage sister; Gruberova making a colortura star turn of Fiakermilli; Martha Moedl a high-profile Fortune Teller; good Vienna house regulars as the parents. Solti's conducting has matured in the right ways since his controversial Decca recording of two decades earlier -- less brash, more yielding and supportive, one of his best Strauss outings.

Highly recommended.

Strauss: Arabella

Posted on May 18, 2012 1:15:33 PM PDT
John Ruggeri says:
Todd Kay says:

I don't think there is a similar dormant discussion thread here, and I thought this might be a useful catch-all. Come one, come all.
===================
Todd
There is an entire thread on the Customer Discussions > Classical Music forum
Singers (Volume II) on which I post most vocal things.

Regards-John

Posted on May 18, 2012 3:31:09 PM PDT
Piso Mojado says:
Renata Tebaldi live arias and songs 1952-1966, her only single CD recital I have; I have a few opera recordings with her. She is one of the vew sopranos who can withstand comparisons with Claudia Muzio in the same arias, with more voice, and steadier than Muzio was when recorded ill and near death, but Tebaldi is occasionally worryingly just a little under the pitch. But she has the style, the words, the grand manner, phrasing, breath control, and a beautiful voice. Two tracks are from Philadelphia in 1955, performances that John Ruggeri may have attended there.

Posted on May 20, 2012 10:32:20 PM PDT
figaro says:
I have recently renewed my quest to find a copy of Handel's Agrippina that I might like. They all seem to have flawed singers in large enough roles so I don't return to the recordings I get. I love the music in this opera. In my quest, I accidentally bought a new dvd that I already had a copy of! What a moron I am! I did not quite realize it for sure until about the 5th aria. Grrrh!

I have also been spending a lot of time with the Met Player's Andrea Chenier with Milo/Martinucci/Milnes. Martinucci and his over-the-top high notes are so much fun.

Non-operatically, I have been completely hooked on a recording of "Cool Water" by Hank Williams. It's at the following link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s5ywIVBBt-Y&list=FLRvj7TlkRPEi7vgBDNBf1gg&feature=mh_lolz

Also, I have become a bit obsessed with a partial recording I have of Simon Boccanegra with Hvor/Furlanetto/Frittoli/Vargas. It's so great, but my radio connection cut out before it finished. I think it is from the Met a season ago. If anyone can suggest the best way to get a complete recording of it, please tell me.

Ballo in Maschera with Tagliavini - I love Tagliavini so much!

And I also listened quite a bit to a live Tosca with him and Tebaldi recorded in London that is terrific.

Bartoli's Sacrificium and her old Vivaldi cd, the Ercole with Villazon and the dream team, Sondra Radvanovsky's Verdi Arias cd, the Messiah with Ramey.

Posted on May 20, 2012 11:00:39 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 20, 2012 11:02:11 PM PDT
Todd Kay says:
I heard that BOCCANEGRA on the radio; it was impressive. I don't know how you'd go about getting a complete copy, but there has to be a download out there somewhere via some file-sharing system.

I gave a friend his first acquaintance with Verdi's AIDA over the weekend. He'd seen about 40 operas, including several of Verdi's other ones, but hadn't gotten to this one. I'm not wild about the video choices for AIDA. Sometimes it's so strange and unfair -- you can find half a dozen or more really strong ROSENKAVALIERs, but with another famous and popular opera, you're hard-pressed to find even a satisfactory one. The really well-sung AIDAs tend to be on older videos in bad picture and dowdy sound, such as the B&W Gencer/Cossotto/Bergonzi at Verona.

So, without a lot of enthusiasm, I picked the 1989 Met DVD (Millo/Zajick/Domingo/Milnes/Burchuladze). It was quite a bit better than I'd remembered, and certainly better than the more recent HD revival of the same production (Urmana/Zajick/Botha). Exceptional orchestral/choral work; excellent Amneris; Millo has some great moments once she settles in (I like her more when she's singing softly; when she steps it up, the voice gets a bit raucous). Domingo and Milnes had seen better days in these roles, but Milnes's part is short and he embodies it with authority. Domingo is awfully tight and short at the top, truncating some note values, and those high "B's" never come easily. It was wise for him to set the role aside around that time, but when the music falls in the best part of his range, he's his usual suave and eloquent self. I can't think of anyone active in 1988-89 I would have liked better.

The friend, hearing no other voices in his head and having no basis for comparison, just loved the opera. It's always a lot of fun to be there when someone is hearing a movement like "O, terra addio" for the first time, and doesn't know what's coming, and you can tell it's working its spell on someone new just the way it did 140 years ago in Cairo. After Amneris's last "Pace," he said, "Wow!"

Posted on May 21, 2012 8:20:37 AM PDT
Rondine says:
Todd - I found your comments on Arabella with Janowitz interesting (I have only seen it once with Te Kanawa) but right now I seem to be in a Richard Strauss state of mind. My favorite, so far, is Ariadne auf Naxos. I've only seen it twice, once with Jessye Norman, but I have the Voigt - Dessay recording which I like very much. I'm requesting a library copy of Die Frau ohne Schatten. Is there a performance you (or anyone else) would recommend? Rondine

Posted on May 21, 2012 11:34:28 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 21, 2012 11:37:27 AM PDT
Todd Kay says:
Rondine: FRAU is definitely an opera I would recommend you see the first time rather than just hear. Both of the 1992 performances on DVD are excellent, and each has advantages over the other. Solti/Friedrich is the more musically complete. Friedrich's production is severe, cool, and very Teutonic, downplaying the magical elements. Cheryl Studer's Empress is the single best performance on either DVD (she's wonderfully expressive in the Act III "testing" scene, and her delight at the sight of her shadow on the ground is one of my favorite moments on an operatic video). You also get the luxury casting of a young Bryn Terfel as Keikobad's Messenger.

Sawallisch/Ichikawa is a very different experience. Ichikawa's ideas are a hybrid of Western and Japanese Kabuki theater (including heavily painted faces for the royals), and he treats the characters with greater tenderness and pathos. This is a more elegant and "beautiful" view of FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN, and Sawallisch's conducting is in line with the tone of the staging. It has greater sensitivity than that of Solti, who draws from the VPO a brilliant virtuoso performance that can be overpoweringly loud. But unlike Solti, Sawallisch takes a number of traditional cuts in Act III, so we miss some good music. Marjana Lipovsek is the wicked Nurse in both performances, and the cut version deprives her of more opportunities than anyone else...but her acting is better (less of a campy villainness) for Ichikawa/Sawallisch.

There is a newer DVD directed by Christof Loy and conducted by Christian Thielemann, with an impressive cast, but I wouldn't recommend it as a first FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN. It's a modern high-concept production, the whole thing taking place in a mid-20th-century studio where a recording of the opera is being made.

I like Solti's CD recording very much. He has a dream cast there, better overall there than the one on his DVD, especially the men. I'm one of those who have no trouble putting up with Domingo's heavily accented German in order to get his musicianship and glorious tone as the Emperor; opinions vary. Van Dam is a very lovable Barak.

In reply to an earlier post on May 21, 2012 12:25:14 PM PDT
figaro says:
I probably have poor taste here, but I really like Price's last stand in the Met Aida. I like her commitment to the role and I don't mind in this particular recording her scoops and her slightly raspy voice. I also like McCracken as Radames, and the baritone, who I don't know the name of right now, is quite authoritative and really looks the part, also. The choice of Aida's for me would have been a toss-up between the one you chose and the Price one.

Wonderful response from your friend.

Posted on May 21, 2012 1:08:44 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 21, 2012 1:14:37 PM PDT
Todd Kay says:
By coincidence, figaro, just yesterday I had watched the YouTube of that Price "O patria mia," in which the television director stays on her great face through about four minutes of ovations, and she tries not to break character but her eyes are welling up and she eventually has to acknowledge them. If it were out on DVD, I would buy it, even though I've heard enough of the performance to know that neither Price nor Cossotto nor McCracken would be in the best of shape.

The Amonasro...Simon Estes, maybe? I'm going by memory. If so, a rare and happy occasion when both Aida and Amonasro needed no embarrassing makeup job.

In reply to an earlier post on May 22, 2012 5:58:23 PM PDT
figaro:
Hve you got a copy of Verdi Requiem with M Price, J Norman, J Carreras, and R Raimondi? conducted by c Abbado. It was filmed live at Edinburgh International Festival. It is the most powerful version I have ever seen or heard. All the cast are thrilling, and when Raimondi starts the Mors stupebit it sent chills through me. It's worth checking out.

In reply to an earlier post on May 22, 2012 6:10:42 PM PDT
Rondine: I'm always in the mood for Strauss. Die Frau and Salome being at the top of me list closely followed by Ariadne. I'm hoping the Voight Die Frau will find its way to DVD. I thought she was amazing on Met broadcasts. I love her Ariadne which I too have on DVD. As for cds. my favorite is the one with Leoyne(sp?) Rysanek - she was an incredible empress. Fortunately I saw Die Frau back in the mid-60's with San Francisco opera. I am sure that Brigitte Neilson was the Dyer's wife. Of course you know what they say about the 60's - if you remember any of it you weren't there(or something like that). Well, I was and I think I remember all the fun stuff and the war. But I still could be wrong about Neilson. I do remember my friend and I found closer seats - moved down, and couldn't believe how big Neilson was. Her costume from a distance made her look slim, but close up you could see how they had darkened the material to give her a waistline. Just a note of fun from me.

In reply to an earlier post on May 22, 2012 7:46:48 PM PDT
John Ruggeri says:
Bonnie and Rondine- Friends -- R. Strauss and I are opera friends, I could not find this glorious singer as Salome but I hope you enjoy these excerpts from Elektra.

Regards-John

----------------------------
The phenomenal Gertrude Grob Prandl showing in Elektra's Monologue [LIVE]
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hGIYaUfsbH4

Gertrude Grob Prandl as Elektra 2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6Jo4kT7xpg&feature=relmfu

In reply to an earlier post on May 22, 2012 8:29:44 PM PDT
John Ruggeri says:
Todd and Figaro

I saw on TV and was touched by Price's "Patria Mia" in the 1985 Aida.

Leontyne Price Opera Farewell "O patria mia"
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xGfP38nd-U0&feature=related

In reply to an earlier post on May 22, 2012 10:45:23 PM PDT
John Ruggeri says:
A wonderful voice and style and sense of the drama of the aria.

Oppezzo Giuseppe, No pagliaccio non son (Leoncavallo-I Pagliacci)

He made his debut in 1900 at the Teatro Sociale of Pallanza in `'Lucia di Lammermoor''. The next year Opezzo performed at the Teatro Rossi in Pisa as Roberto in `'Congedo''. In 1905 he made guest appearance in Barcelona, where at the Teatro Tivoli he sang the role of Radames in `'Aida''. In 1906 he arrived in Odessa and sang there in `'Aida'' and `'Trovatore''. In 1908 Opezzo went to USA singing in Philadelphia [ Yeah My Home Town ] and Washington.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Sp5_8fAdsxw

Posted on Jun 9, 2012 7:19:51 PM PDT
I just finished watching, and not for the first time, the Gounod Faust filmed at the Wiener Staatsoper(live) with Araiza, Benackova and Raimondi. I love this version. I didn't realize it when I bought it that was direrected by the Ken Russell. How I have loved his feature films and this was no exception. There was a "darkness" to it, especially from the time Marguerite is in prison and the trial with crucifix rising and the guiotine(sp?) taking it's place. At the point where Raimondi appears dressed as a cardinal or someone of that stature sings - he's miked in such a way that it comes across in a surround-sound way - and so evil. It's visually a treat. Of course Mr. Russell did some wonderful things with transfer to DVD.

Posted on Jun 10, 2012 12:09:13 PM PDT
Todd Kay says:
Bonnie: Have you seen the Scotto/Kraus/Ghiaurov, Tokyo '73? It's nothing special as a piece of staging or direction, but all of the singing and Scotto's acting are magnificent and have spoiled me.

I've been watching one of the Netrebko ANNA BOLENAs, the one from Vienna with Garanca and D'Arcangelo. I continue to have problems with the opera itself -- for its considerable length, I don't hear enough of what I would consider Donizetti in his highest gear; the inspiration-to-banality ratio is not as good as in FAVORITA or LUCIA -- but individual movements are very nice. Garanca steals the show, matching Netrebko for glamour and personality and being more fluent in the musical idiom.

And in the car, I've been listening to a Met recording of LES TROYENS. Speaking of considerable length. But I love that opera.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 11, 2012 7:06:26 AM PDT
Rondine says:
I wonder if that Faust is the one I saw on TV a number of years ago? I didn't know who was in it but I do remember how engrossing it was. My children, then ages 9 and 13, were playing a board game while I was watching the opera. When it got to the final scene they stopped playing and were completely mesmerized.
Since then, I've seen a number of Fausts but haven't come across that particular one.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 11, 2012 10:50:24 AM PDT
Rondine
I don't know if the Faust I love so much was on TV although it's well suited for TV. Your children and my 66 year old brother had the same reaction. I had taken it over to his house as he has one of those incredibly huge TVs with speakers everywhere( he's a huge Hendrix fan). I wanted to watch it as big and with all that sound as I could get. It got about 3/4's of the way through and he came and sat with me and was mesmerized, especially by the whole last 20 minutes. Do you remember the scene where Raimondi comes out in that incredible blue "outfit"(it almost sparkled) and sang about the night of love etc. and then spreads his arms and these huge wings are attached, then folds them back over his body? It was awesome. My brother played that over and over. Finally put it on pause and said "I want that image blown up and on the wall in my bedroom". Just goes to show that good opera done well visually, and well sung, can stop even the most die-hard blues/Hendrick fellow in his tracks. I hope that's the one you saw. If not, you might look into getting a DVD. It's available.
Thanks.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 11, 2012 10:52:12 AM PDT
Rondine
I don't know if the Faust I love so much was on TV although it's well suited for TV. Your children and my 66 year old brother had the same reaction. I had taken it over to his house as he has one of those incredibly huge TVs with speakers everywhere( he's a huge Hendrix fan). I wanted to watch it as big and with all that sound as I could get. It got about 3/4's of the way through and he came and sat with me and was mesmerized, especially by the whole last 20 minutes. Do you remember the scene where Raimondi comes out in that incredible blue "outfit"(it almost sparkled) and sang about the night of love etc. and then spreads his arms and these huge wings are attached, then folds them back over his body? It was awesome. My brother played that over and over. Finally put it on pause and said "I want that image blown up and on the wall in my bedroom". Just goes to show that good opera done well visually, and well sung, can stop even the most die-hard blues/Hendrick fellow in his tracks. I hope that's the one you saw. If not, you might look into getting a DVD. It's available.
Thanks.

Posted on Jul 28, 2012 12:30:53 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 28, 2012 12:43:18 PM PDT
Todd Kay says:
I'm watching the Paris DVD of Prokofiev's WAR AND PEACE, a very cinematic, grand-scaled production by Francesca Zambello. I'm doing this in increments because of the daunting length of the work. I love Nathan Gunn's performance, but there's one small bump in the road -- when he first appears and someone says of Andrei, "His arrogance knows no bounds!" you don't really believe it. Or I don't, anyway. Gunn is such a strapping American boy-next-door type ("Aw shucksky"?); he comes off as ingenuous and sincere. I know this is one of Hvorostovsky's signature parts, and I'll bet he really owns that side of the character. I've heard it said that arrogance is not a trait he would have to research much.

This opera's belated Met premiere in 2002 was an auspicious occasion in ways that might not have been foreseen at the time. Anna Netrebko was making her first Met appearance as the heroine, Natasha. The audience also first heard Ekaterina Semenchuk in the role of Sonya (more recently a fabulous Marina in the 2010 BORIS GODUNOV) and Evgeny Nikitin in a supporting role (he was Rangoni in that same BORIS -- unfortunately, he's currently mired in controversy over a swastika tattoo).

A track from a broadcast in the run is on Netrebko's Met excerpts CD, and it's from the first scene, so one also hears Semenchuk and Hvorostovsky. I wish we heard more of this sort of thing from Netrebko, and less bel canto and French Romanticism, but she seems mostly to have left Russian operas behind. She did a lot of them under Gergiev back in the homeland and she doesn't like them much, a couple of Tchaikovsky's excepted.

Posted on Aug 1, 2012 10:46:55 AM PDT
Kelly E. says:
A portable DVD player and a bus ride to and from work allow me to watch some opera every workday. Currently:
Die Walkure - Levine, Behrens, Norman, Morris

It's my only Walkure on DVD, so I don't have context but the singing/acting/production are solid to excellent.

Posted on Aug 1, 2012 11:20:11 AM PDT
Piso Mojado says:
"The Pirates of Penzance" in German with Arlene Auger, John Alexander, and Martha Moedl, Cologne Radio, 1958. It ends with the chorus nown as "Hail, Hail the Gang's All Here". It all sounds great in German, very well played and sung.

Posted on Aug 2, 2012 8:39:58 AM PDT
Kelly E. says:
Tchaikovsky - Sleeping Beauty (opera with your feet) - Semizorova, Fadeyechev, Speranskaya, Kopilov, Bolshoi Ballet

Posted on Aug 2, 2012 9:21:48 AM PDT
Piso Mojado says:
Ten points for" an opera with your feet", Kelly. I can wear out shoes listening to it. Charles-Valentin Alkan wrote a Duo-Bombard for four feet (pedal piano), and Rudolfph Ganz had a dreadful accident rehearsing it with a female student. Further deponent sayeth not.

Posted on Aug 8, 2012 2:02:31 PM PDT
Kelly E. says:
Ingemar Bergman's Magic Flute

Stylish without being excessively creepy (The Queen provides enough creepiness on her own). I liked it.
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