Opera Highlights, Vol. 1 - Norma, La Gioconda, Il Trovatore, Lucia di Lammermoor, La Forza del Destino, La Cenerentola, L'Elisir d'Amore, Orlando Furioso
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This DVD introduces some of opera's finest moments performed and presented by some of the best singers of our day. Marilyn Horne, Dame Ann Murray, Eva Marton, Dame Joan Sutherland, Roberto Alagna, Angela Gheorghiu, Gegam Grigorian, Nikolai Putilin, and Ga
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The weak link is most definitely Mafalda Micheluzzi’s Nedda; she’s cute, but not beautiful, and though not a bad actress, she’s definitely the worst out of the three main characters. She plays Nedda as less flighty and more “excessive” (when we first see her, she’s eating an apple); she’s the type who always wants more, no matter how much she already has.
This Pagliacci is drunk, but in the best way possible—that’s the only way I can describe it. Thanks largely to Corelli, who plays Canio like a man on fire, but with a sweet (and secret) nature. Never have Tonio’s words that Canio is “violent, but good-hearted” been more true. And—unlike in most Italian operas—he makes a conscious effort not to “overdo” it. There’s no out-of-control sobbing or even over-the-top aggressiveness (which, one could argue, is in the script): instead there’s a strong, steady inner fire just waiting to flare up. Sometimes it does (like at the end), but throughout Corelli seems concerned with showing real despair kicked up a notch or two (no more than that) for operatic purposes.
The bonus feature shows little clips from a number of different operas, all with Corelli in them; among these are “La fleur que tu m’avais jetée,” from Carmen, “Celeste Aida” and some other assorted Verdi, all sung in Italian. The bonus is nice—the clips together run to about twenty-five minutes. Recommended.
Here we get several treats all on one disc.
For one, we get to see the immortal Franco Corelli at the very beginning of his legendary career.
At just over 30 years old, the late Maestro already displayed all the attributes that made him one of the greatest tenors of all time.
His voice huge and powerful and his appearance stenorian in all aspects, Maestro Correlli presents what may well be the definitive portrayal of the character Canio.
Then there is the production itself. Considering that this film was made in the early 50's, the quality of both sound and picture is good and the balck and white really adds a whole other dimension to the sad and tragic plot of this Opera.
I should mention here that this is a movie version of the Opera. Much like the Opera movies Domingo would make in the 80's, this production takes the Opera from the stage to an actual movie set.
The result is fantastic.
Another treasure here is the late, great, baritone Titto Gobbi, then at the height of his vocal prowess, cast in the part of Tonio.
Not unlike Corelli, his interpretation of the role is one of a kind.
The rest of the cast is also outstanding. Each actor brings to life the part in which cast with both individuality and adherence to the original score.
As for high points of this film, there are a few.
One being the opening prologue by Tonio, introducing us to the play. Gobbi sets the tone right from the very beginning and does it better than anyone since.
Then there is Corelli's first major aria with "Non tal giocca credete mi". His acting is superb as he exudes both anger and jealousy in measured yet appropriate proportions.
Next we have the immortal "Vesti la giubba", Canios heart wrenching lament.
To hear and see Corelli immerse himself into the anguish and desolation of betrayal is enough in a by itself, but the way in which he does this is incomprable.
Having seen both Domingo and Pavarotti in this role, I can say without fear of contradiction, that both fell short in comparison to Corelli's performance in this film.
Finally we have "No Pagliaccio non son". Again a shining moment for Corelli.
By now Canio's pain has turned into red-hot rage that borders on the insane, and Corelli does not fail in portraying his character as such.
The final words of the opera "La commedia e finisce" come across as almost anti-climatic, as Corelli almost whisperes the line....his character having been driven to murder, finally spent of all emotion and life.
In addition to the opera we are also given 5 selections of Corelli in his prime, in color, on the opera stage.
There are excerpts from "Aida" with Correlli's reading of "Celeste Aida", Cavalleria Rusticana "Addio alle madre" and a few others.
In all these clips, we get the entire performance of the aria and, given the rarity of available Corelli performances left to posterity, these are a real treasure to own.
I'm not easily impressed, but this DVD is worth every dime.
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