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Rudy Avila "Saint Seiya" RSS Feed (Lennox, Ca United States)

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Puccini: La Fanciulla del West
Puccini: La Fanciulla del West
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Modern Golden Recording, November 7, 2005
What makes this "Girl frm the Gold West" so golden is the mastership of all the forces behind it - conductor Zubin Mehta, tenor Placido Domingo, soprano Carol Neblitt and baritone Sherill Milnes. This recording dates from the 80's, which was still a terrific period for Mehta, Domingo, Neblitt, eventhough at this time Sherill Milnes was facing some vocal decline. The 80's modern studio recording advantages is what makes this a superb interpretation. The pacing is dramatic, thrilling and lyrical when warranted. This is probably Puccini's most exotic opera. Butterfly was set in Japan but was still pretty Italian under the surface. In Butterfly, the Japanese-Italian mix was also suffused with slight Americana (the American national anthem changed to "America Forever") but here we are treated to an entirely different animal. This is the Old West and Puccini's Italian style is nearly sacrificed for what could pass for an American opera or even a Broadway musical. This does not mean that this is not an operatic treasure. The music is exquisite. The lead soprano role of Minnie is a voice-killer, and presents many challenges to the soprano. In truth, it takes a soprano capable of Turandot to sing Minnie. As far as I'm concerned, only one soprano truly nailed the role- Birgit Nilsson. On stage, her mannerisms and her voice was the very character that Puccini envisioned. Birgit Nilsson is featured in a 60's recording of this opera which captured her in her prime and her portrayal is the best there is, closest to the original soprano who premiered the role opposite Enrico Caruso back at the turn of the century - Emmy Destin. Nilsson probably possessed a bigger instrument than Destin. Still Neblitt does an excellent job with what she has in her favor -a rich Puccini voice. She may struggle with the high tessitura but she is simply ravishing in the lyrical segments. She sounds like a kind of American Tosca. More than any other tenor, Placido Domingo possessed a voice that could essay any character in any opera and I seriously mean that. He is Enrico Caruso's reincarnation and his performance as Dick Johnson is a tribute to Caruso's style. He has the dramatic heft and the voluminous beauty of tone to sing each line. It helped that Domingo looked very handsome in the 80's so that when he sang the heroic and romantic leads, he could pass for a movie star who could also sing opera. As Johnson, he looks dashing (if he looked like he does on the cover of this album). Sherill Milnes was in the final phase of his career but in this opera he holds out till the end in his usual flair. He was a fine exponent of Puccini, as his Scarpia attests, and he is nuanced and even a bit comical on this recording. Verdi baritone parts are far more challenging than the almost static Puccini baritone parts so this role presented no problem to the aging Milnes. Zubin Mehta conducts with brilliant technical mastership and delivers some subtleties as well. Thank you Deutsche Grammophone for the great music.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 17, 2012 3:38 PM PST

Puccini: Tosca - Highlights / Extracts
Puccini: Tosca - Highlights / Extracts
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Tosca's Greatest Moments: Renata Scotto Sizzles, November 7, 2005
For a time in the late 1970's, Italian soprano Renata Scotto was the reigning diva at the Met. She was known to be quite temperamental and every bit the diva of stereotypical myth. When she appeared on the first televised broadcast of a Met opera, cameras followed her back to her dressing room and she was seen shouting obscenities and criticizing everyone from her co-stars to the producers. She was a small woman in stature but her voice was gargantuan and even quite similar to Maria Callas. This comparison would haunt her for the rest of her career. She took on all the lead roles of the Italian repertoire, her strongest suit- Mimi in La Boheme, Violetta in La Traviata, and of course Puccini's Tosca on this studio recording. This is actually a set of highlights from the EMI full-length recording. It's conducted by James Levine who championed Scotto and knew her strengths and weaknesses. Mario Cavaradossi is sung superbly by Placido Domingo who was not singing the role for the firt time and by this time had sung it numerous times through the 70's - the RCA 1973 studio recording with Leontyne Price and Sherill Milnes, and the 1975 film with Raina Kabaivanska. Here, he is blessed with the experience of the role and is in outstanding vocal shape, able to sing beautifully in "Ricondita Armonia" and dramatically in his denouncement of Scarpia "Vittoria!". The villainous Vitellio Scarpia is sung by the light-weight baritone Renato Bruson. True, his bel canto/Verdi voice is not suited for the more verisimo-like, dramatic and heavyweight voice for Puccini. His Scarpia is by far the weakest I've ever heard. Even Dietrich Fischer Dieskau's sounds a lot more dramatic and focused. Here he sings every line as if it were a concert aria instead of an opera aria. Pity they couldn't have cast any of the outstanding baritones capable of a fine Scarpia who were singing at this time- Justino Diaz, Ruggero Raimondi, Juan Pons, Ingvar Wixell and Samuel Ramey. But it is Renat Scotto's portrayal of the passionate titular diva that is worth the purchase. Scotto may lack the tonal beauty of Renata Tebaldi, Leontyne Price and Montserrat Caballe but her dramatically compelling voice is perfect for the emotional scope of the role. She is singing with electrifying bravura! Just listen to the entire Act 2 and 3! Without a doubt, this is one of the better Toscas out there. But if you insist on searching or collecting other Toscas go for the following (and I'm omitting Callas because everyone knows how great she is and it's time to hear other voices) - Leontyne Price, Birgit Nilsson, Montserrat Caballe, Raina Kabaivanska, Galina Vishnevskaya, Katia Ricciarelli, Eva Marton, Carol Vanness and Angela Gheorghiu.

Bellini: Norma
Bellini: Norma
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Different Norma, November 6, 2005
This review is from: Bellini: Norma (Audio CD)
When Renata Scotto first sang Norma at the Met, she was humiliated by raving Maria Callas fanatics. Even so, that did not stop her from singing in this studio recording under the baton of James Levine who championed her and the obscure tenor Giuseppe Giancomini and celebraeted mezzo Tatiana Troyanos. The real strength lies in the way that Scotto and Troyanos, with their musically resplendent voices blend together in duets and scenas. They truly understand the relationship between Norma and her rival Adalgisa. Too bad Placido Domingo wasn't contracted to sing Pellione opposite Renata Scotto. They tended to sound great and they had already worked together in studio recording for Tosca. Fans of Callas disliked Scotto because they claimed her technique was almost a replica of Callas' voice. This is not true. Scotto had a unique voice whose vibrato and dramatic phrasing was entirely her own, even if influenced by Callas. And besides, what singer hasn't listened to Callas and tried in some way to emulate her ? Renee Fleming claims to model herself after Callas (eventhough their voices are entirely different) mezzo soprano and later soprano Shirley Verrett was a huge admirer of Callas and attempted to copy her in some ways and in recent years the most Callas-like soprano is Angela Gheorghiu. This Norma is well-conducted by Levine who treats the score with brilliant technical masteship of bel canto as dramatic theater. He had previously recorded Norma in 1974 with Beverly Sills as Norma and Shirley Verrett as Adalgisa. If this recording saw the light of day, when will that one ever make it to the recording market ? I can't wait till Deutsche Grammophone releases it! Please please release it! Beverly Sills, like Scotto, was a different Norma, one Norma who had a more beautiful, feminine tone instead of the huge, overdramatic style that most sopranos sing. Norma, for all her stature, was a woman with the most basic human emotions - love, motherhood, jealousy, anger, hatred, etc. Ideally, a coloratura soprano with dramatic or spinto capability should sing her. Very few singers have come close to the ideal Norma but I can honestly say that Maria Callas, Montserrat Caballe, Renata Scotto and Bevely Sills are the closest to perfect Norma on recording and stage performance. If Leontyne Price had sung Norma, she would have also nailed the role. One review mentions Renee Fleming. NEVER! She sings "Casta Diva" in concert and in recording albums with beautiful tone and ravishing pianissimi but that's it. She doesn' have the je ne sai quais to essay all the other arias. Should Fleming sing Norma, it would ruin her voice and she knows it. It would be a performance closer to Beverly Sills' Norma for both Fleming and Sills possess light instruments. Fleming stays away from the dramatic roles because it would cut her career short. She will never sing Tosca, Turandot, Norma, or even Butterfly. Perhaps the closest to a dramatic role she has sung is the heroine in I Pirata the bel canto rarity.

Luisa Miller
Luisa Miller
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Luisa Miller On Record: Verdi Enthusiasts Must Buy, November 6, 2005
This review is from: Luisa Miller (Audio CD)
If you're a Verdi enthusiast and own several Verdi operas (and I'm quite sure La Traviata, Il Trovatore, Aida, Don Carlos and Otello are on that list) you will also want to collect this early Verdi masterpiece Luisa Miller. The bel canto influence is heavy here, and Verdi is already showing a flash of the musical power to cut through the beautiful music and reveal character psychology. Luisa Miller is a tale of a young woman's thwarted love amongst political intrigue during the late Renaissance. This 1980 studio recording stars Placido Domingo, Katia Ricciarelli, Renato Bruson and Elena Obraztsova. The conductor is Lorin Maazel leading the forces of London's Covent Garden. The strength of this recording is the genius of Maazel and the strong cast. Placido Domingo in 1980 was still in excellent shape, in fact entering the stage of his life in which he gained most notoriety. It was in the 80s when he appeared in the Franco Zefferelli opera films of Traviata (1982 with Teresa Stratas) and Otello (1986 with Katia Ricciarelli and Justino Diaz). His only true competitors then were Luciano Pavoratti and Jose Carreras. Domingo's talents were such that he was able to take on more roles than both Carreras and Pavarotti who sticked with the Italian repertoire. Domingo has sung in Spanish, Russian, German and French. Here is evident his gift for Verdi, which he still considers the composer who most helped his career.

Katia Ricciarelli as the titular heroine is extraordinary. Her voice is a mixture of beautiful high soaring lines and rich mezzo di voce and lower. Her dramatic strengths have never been more succinct than on this recording. Aria after aria, she proves she can master Verdi's smooth legato and bouncy coloraturas. But even more impressive is how well she sings with Placido Domingo in long-winded duets. Placido Domingo and Katia Ricciarelli worked well together, and in order for you to hear this for yourself just listen to their 1986 Otello and their studio recording on Deutsche Grammophone of the French version of Verdi's Don Carlos. Ricciarelli IS Luisa Miller, without any question as to how wonderfully she delivers. The only other soprano who is her equal was Anna Moffo, with a slightly more acrobatic voice than Ricciarelli and who recorde the role in the 60's opposite Carlo Bergonzi, Shirley Verrett, Reri Grist and is available on Elena Obrazstova is a sensational, richly endowed mezzo soprano who makes the mezzo role sound even more electrifying than Ricciarellis limpid singing. Obraztsova also sounds great opposite Domingo and she sang a Carmen only about a year earlier in the Salzburg Festival in a Zefferelli production. Renato Bruson's baritone voice and style is incomparable and here he really proves how he could sound beautiful too. So there you have it. Go for this recording for the best modern Luisa Miller.

Der Ring Des Nibelungen
Der Ring Des Nibelungen
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Greatest Moments Of Solti's Ring Recording, November 6, 2005
This review is from: Der Ring Des Nibelungen (Audio CD)
Prior to conductor George Solti's celebrated studio recording of Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung, the operas were individually recorded and they were usually live recordings. Solti's late 1960's recordings of Das Rheingold, Die Walkure, Siegfried and Gotterdammerung were exceptional in that they featured the greatest Wagnerian singers of their time and the studio effects included anvils, horns and other slights of ears. In addition, there was no annoying live sounds like coughing or applause when compared to Karl Bohm's live Bayreuth Ring operas. On here we find the highlights from each of the operas, grand albeit short scenes. From Das Rheingold we are treated to the opening scene in which the lusty dwaf Albrecht (sung in Nietzschean nastiness by Neidlinger) proposes sex with the beautiful and nubile Rhinemaidens. He is scorned and for revenge and a desire for power steals the Rhinegold. The trouble begins. Odin was supposed to give away his beautiful goddess wife Freja to the Giants who built Valhalla, the glorious celestial palace one gets to by crossing a rainbow. "Entrance of the Gods" into Valhalla is a spectacular scene. James King as Odin, king of the Norse gods, is a revelation. His mighty voice is appropriately majestic, arrogant and even god-like. In Die Walkure, his "Farewell Aria" is supremely executed. In Die Walkure, we are first introduced to his Viking daughter Brunhilde, sung by the greatest interpretor of the role Swedish opera goddess Birgit Nilsson, whose superhuman voice raises above the orchestra in thrilling displays of power. The Brunhilde in Die Walkure is armored and defiant but by Gotterdammerung, when she has been stripped of her immortality and become the wife of Siegfried (sung by Wolfgang Windgassen) she is a woman who is willing to sacrifice all, even herself, for love. She is softened and made noble and heroic by love. Her climatic Immolation Scene is electrifying. Birgit Nilsson is at her best as Brunhilde. Wolfgang Windgassen made a career of singing all the lead Wagner heroes and his Siegfried is heroic, romantic and stentorian. Solti and the Vienna Philharmonic deliver the most powerful musical force ever. At such a cheap price, this recording is a must buy for fans of Wagner.

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Verdi Choral Spectacular Conducted By The Great Toscanini, November 6, 2005
This review is from: Requiem (Audio CD)
This recording of Verdi choral masterpieces is conducted by Arturo Toscanini in his old age when he was a popular American figure in the NBC radio broadcasts. He still packs a punch and the quality of this recording is terrific. On here are Sacred Pieces for chorus & orchestra and the Te Deum, a fitting prelude to the more large-scale and famous Requiem. The singers are in glorious form and they were popular 50's opera stars - tenor Giuseppe Di Stefano, mezzo soprano Fedora Barbieri, baritone Cesare Siepi and soprano Herva Nelli. They make the music sound exceptionally bombastic and lyrical. The anthem-like Va Pensiero from Verdi's opera Nabucco is on here and is sung with sensational musicality. The tenor aria "Quando de sere al placido" is interpreted by Jan Peerce, whose ringing voice is shimmering with bravura but he pulls out all the stops for the Hymn of the Nations, a pastiche of nationalistic songs from the Italian national anthem to "The Star Spangled Banner". For fans of Verdi, this is a must have, especially because Hymn of the Nations is such a rarity.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Live Sound Of Elena Soliotis An Underrated Diva, November 5, 2005
This review is from: Nabucco (Audio CD)
Soprano Elena Soliotis was an under-recorded and obscure but terrific soprano who if people had payed attention to would have surpassed Maria Callas. Her voice is perfectly suited to the Italian opera repertoire, especially Verdi, and intones every line of Verdi's villainous Abigaille in this Nabucco with a hair-raising intensity. It is her performance alone that makes this live recording an attractive album. It's very affordable and the sound quality is fine. If you're a fan of Solitois, this is a must buy. Sadly, her only other commercially available recordings include a tribute album on Decca Legends and her only full-length opera recording Macbeth opposite Dietrich Fischer Dieskau.
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6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Aida Before Leontyne Price Sang It, November 5, 2005
This review is from: Aida (Audio CD)
Not to sound like a detractor, but the best Aida studio recording and stage performance was that of Leontyne Price in the title role. The 1970 RCA Red Seal recording is the all-time greatest recording of Aida. Still, this is the finest studio recording of Aida for its time in the 1950's, at a time when Maria Callas was the reigning prima donna assoluta. Callas, however, never made Aida her signature role as say her Normas, Toscas and Medeas and sang it too little times to be noticed. There is a studio recording of it dating to a time when she was still a young star. However, Zinka Milanov possessed the right vocal equipment for Aida, with stunning pianissimi that perhaps even influenced Montserrat Caballe. Her voice is colorful enough so that in more dramatic scenes she can make it rougher and more intense in pitch. She is lucky to have the renowned and much loved Swedish tenor Bjussi Bjorling as Radames. Bjorling makes the role of Radames a lyrically resplendent one, with few dramatic outbursts and suffusing the arias with elegant Italian diction. Fedora Barbieri sings a terrific Amneris, singing the role with a mighty voice that cuts through the orchestra. But even with this great cast, I still prefer the 1970 recording with Leontyne Price as the definative Aida of all time, Placido Domingo as the most glorious Radames, Grace Bumbry as a noble Amneris and Sherill Milnes as Amonasro. But still fans of Milanov will want to own this one.

Verdi: Don Carlos
Verdi: Don Carlos
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Original French Don Carlos: The Best Studio Recording, November 5, 2005
This review is from: Verdi: Don Carlos (Audio CD)
This 1980's Deutsche Grammophone recording has had favorable reviews here on and I don't think there's much more to add but I find that every time I listen to it, it gets better and better. The strength lies in the musicianship of the La Scala forces under Claudio Abbado's baton and the talented principal singers who have no difficulty singing in the original French and French grand opera style that Verdi originally composed for the Paris Opera. The most famous Don Carlo recording is, of course, the EMI 1970 recording under conductor Carlo Maria Giulini starring Placido Domingo, Montserrat Caballe, Sherill Milnes, Shirley Verrett and Ruggero Raimondi. That was the revised Italian version which is far more popular. Only Placido Domingo and Ruggero Raimondi are included in this later recording, though Montserrat Caballe was still capable of some dramatic singing in the 80's and could have also sung the role of Elisabeth in French. Katia Ricciarelli is however a marvelously gifted singer, despite detractors criticizing her for her lack of sturdy high notes and finding fault with what they believe is a voice that is only good from the middle register and downward. Ricciarelli delivers a beautiful, elegant and imperious Queen, and I love her voice. This is probably her finest achievement on recording. On the EMI 1970 Giulini recording, it was interesting to note how for an Italian opera the majority of the singers were non-Italians. On this recording, it is the other way around. The French-singing cast are Italian- Katia Ricciarelli, Luisa Valentini-Terrani and Ruggero Raimondi- and they are conducted by an Italian conductor Claudio Abbado and the La Scala orchestra. For a bunch of Italians, they master the art of French grand opera with aplomb.

Placido Domingo proves his versatility yet again by singing a heck of a Don Carlos in French when we know he is just as capable of singing the role in Italian. His French is sexy, seductive, elegant and exuding with the soulful passion of his Spanish persona. Domingo is my favorite tenor not only for the beauty and dramatic richness of his voice, but for the fact he is the only modern tenor to sing a variety of diverse roles. The ladies are singing superbly. Ricciarelli is simply splendid as the Queen, and she does justice to the part as great as Mirella Freni and Montserrat Caballe did. Alas, if only Leontyne Price had sung Queen Elisabeth Di Valois in its entirety! I think that would have been her best role, perhaps even surpassing her Leonora from Trovatore. Ruggero Raimondi returns to sing the role of King Phillip, though he had sung the Inquisitor in the 1970 Giulini recording. He has the right stuff for the role however. Russian bass Nicolai Ghiuruv is a devilishly frightening Inquisitor and handles the Verdi music with ease. Without a doubt this is the finest recording of Don Carlos you'll ever find in its original French.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Bombastic Intro to Classical, November 5, 2005
This review is from: Fortissimo (Audio CD)
For the novice, this album is a LOUD, bombastic, in your face way to get you hooked into opera. Opening the album is Richard Strauss' Also sprach Zarathustra: Fanfare, which enjoyed enormous fame as the "Theme to 2001 A Space Odyssey". Behold The Sea Itself from "A Sea Symphony" is a spectacular musical account of the ocean in all its majesty. Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries is the most famous work of classical music with fortissimi passages and made famous through the film Apocalypse Now. Mussorgsky's Night on Bald Mountain is an intense, gritty piece describing a harrowing, haunted night on the supposedly spooky mountain in Russia. Tchaikovsky's "Romeo and Juliet" Fantasy Overture includes a thunderous, intense section depicting the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets. Other music on here include the stunning, climatic finale to Puccini's opera Turandot with soprano Eva Marton as Turandot, Mussorgky's Great Gate at Kiev, O Fortuna the chilling hcorus from Orff's Carmina Burana, and Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture, which is a staple of 4th of July concert programs. All in all, a great album of thunderous classical music that invades your stereo with its powerful sound.

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