GIORDANO: Andrea Chénier
Mario Del Monaco (Andrea Chénier); Renata Tebaldi (Maddalena di Coigny); Aldo Protti (Carlo Gérard); Anna di Stasio (Bersi); Amalia Pini (The Countess of Coigny/Madelon); NHK Italian Opera Chorus; Fujiwara opera Chorus and Tokyo Choraliers; NHK Symphony Orch/Franco Capuana, cond.
VAI DVD VIDEO 4419 TT: 131 min.

Mario Del Monaco (Canio); Gabriella Tucci (Nedda); Aldo Protti (Tonio); Attilio D'Orazi (Silvio); Antonio Pirino (Beppe); NHK Italian Opera Chorus; Fujiwara opera Chorus and Tokyo Choraliers; Members of the Japanese Ballet Association; NHK Symphony Orch/Giuseppe Morelli, cond.
VAI DVD VIDEO 4421 TT: 91 min.

DONIZETTI: Lucia di Lammermoor
Renata Scotto (Lucia); Carlo Bergonzi (Edgardo); Mario Zanasi (Enrico); Plinio Clabassi (Raimondo); Angelo Marchiandi (Arturo); Mirella Fiorentini (Alisa); Giuseppe Baratti (Normanno); Tokyo Philharmonic Chorus; NHK Symphony Orch/Bruno Bartoletti, cond.
VAI DVD VIDEO 4418 TT: 138 min.

Operaphiles will be intrigued by these videos filmed in Japan in the Lirica Italiana series. The Japanese audiences loved these performances, applauding enthusiastically whenever appropriate—and sometimes when it wasn't. Many leading opera singers of the time participated. All productions in the series were presented with basic sets and costumes—and the results often are exciting even if the artists are not always at their best. This Japanese production of Andrea Chénier dates from October 1, 1961. Mario Del Monaco and Renata Tebaldi were Decca's "dream team"and made many recordings together including Andrea Chénier which they recorded for the label in 1957. This production finds both singers below par. Del Monaco in particular is in rough form often with approximate pitch, but he is loud indeed. In this performance he cannot match the tonal beauty and virility of Franco Corelli's DVD of the opera from Italian TV (REVIEW).

The role of Canio in Pagliacci is perfectly suited for Del Monaco's style, but in this performance recorded in Tokyo October 25, 1961, he is rough and ready, exciting to watch, but vocally unsteady. Aldo Protti is a fine Tonio—and an athletic one; at one point he does a somersault! The real star of this production is soprano Gabriella Tucci who gives a thrilling account of the doomed Nedda. This Lucia, filmed on an unspecified date in September 1967, features Renata Scotti in the title role. She is her usual emotive self, flawed vocally, and the final stratospheric note in her big scene might tax even her staunchest admirers. It's always a pleasure to see Bergonzi, but a Lucia that features Scotto on an off day is not a performance one would wish to return to often.

All of these are all filmed in black and white with mono sound which occasionally is distorted. No credits are given for staging or costumes, and it is just as well: all are basic. Often the stage is quite dark and it's difficult to see just what's going on. In spite of these manifold reservations, these are important videos to many collectors because of the legendary singers involved.

R.E.B. (June 2007)