PUCCINI: Tosca
Catherine Malfitano (Tosca); Bryn Terfel (Scarpia); Richard Margison (Cavaradossi); Mario Luperi (Angelotti);Netherlands Opera Chorus; Royal Concertgebouw Orch/Riccardo Chailly, cond.
DECCA DVD VIDEO 074 3201 TT: 121 min. (opera) + 16 min (documentary)
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MASCAGNI: Cavalleria rusticana. LEONCAVALLO: Pagliacci.
Violeta Urmana (Santuzza); Vincenzo La Scola (Turiddu); Dragana Jugovic (Lola); Viorica Cortez (Mamma Lucia); Marco di Felice (Alfio); Vladimir Galouzine (Canio); Maria Bayo (Nedda); Carlo Guelfi (Tonio); Antonio Gandia (Beppe); Angel Odena (Silvio); Chorus and Orchestra of the Teatro Real (Madrid Symphony Chorus & Orch); Jesús-Lopez Cóbos, cond.
OPUS ARTE DVD VIDEO OA 0983 (2 disks) TT: 201 min.
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SCHUMANN: Piano Concerto in A minor, Op. 54.
Martha Argerich, pianist; Leipzig Gewandhaus Orch/Riccardo Chailly, cond.
(plus documentary)
EUROARTS DVD VIDEO 2056068 TT: 35 min (performance) + 29 min (documentary)
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This Tosca has been in the vaults since 1998—it is an important addition to any operatic video library, a challenging approach to Puccini's story of love, lust and death. Director Nikolaus Lehnhoff's feels the church, palace and castle the composer intended are all "death-traps," this is reflected in Raimund Bauer's designs: all "human cages." The church becomes a jail, Scarpia's world in act two is a dungeon, Castel Sant'Angelo is a self-contained concrete bunker. A huge turbine propeller suggests a bestial torture chamber, and other symbolic references are explained in Lehnhoff's comments in the CD booklet. This performance marked the first appearance of Bryn Terfel as Scarpia, and he is magnificent. Catherine Malfitano vocally is not as assured as in years past, but dramatically she is superb, and sparks fly between her and Scarpia. Richard Margison's Cavaradossi is adequate but little more. The real stars of this production are conductor Riccardo Chailly and the magnificent Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Excellent video and audio. Included is a documentary with interviews with Lehnhoff and Malfitano.

Opus Arte's DVD offers Cavalleria rusticana and Pagliacci from performances February 27 and March 2, 2007 at Teatro Real de Madrid. The new production was directed by Giancarlo del Monaco with sets by Johannes Leiacker and costumes by Birgit Wentsch.
It begins with the Prologue to Pagliacci which is followed by Cavalleria - and at the conclusion of Cav, Pagliacci continues. DVD notes say often when the two operas are paired the Prologue precedes Cavalleria, but I've never heard of this, nor have any friends who are avid opera fans. Tonio begins singing the Prologue from the rear of the audience and by the time it is over has made his way to the stage. Sets for Cavalleria, inappropriately, are stark white and minimal—not right for verismo opera—and all characters are in black. Pagliacci has traditional sets, fortunately. Jesús López Cobos is a fine conductor for these operas, but principal singers in both operas are unexceptional except for Maria Bayo's brilliant Nedda. In the final scene, as Silvio approaches Canio, the latter stabs him with a rather misplaced backward motion with rather comic results. Curtain calls are a problem when the two operas are played consecutively; the Cavalleria cast takes their bows, and after that, the Pagliacci cast that has been waiting in the wings for almost an hour, takes theirs. Excellent camera work and fine sonics. The second disk offers interviews with the producer, conductor and several others involved in the performance, but this is nothing special in the world of DVD opera.

:About a year ago this site mentioned a DVD of a concert presented in Leipzig's Gewandhaus with Riccardo Chailly and pianist Martha Argerich (see REVIEW). Now Euroarts has issued the Schumann piano concerto from that concert in their Discovering Masterpieces series, along with a 28 minute documentary by Wulf Konold, artistic director of the Ludwigsburg Castle Festival, analyzing the music. Obviously considerable time and effort has gone into this, but I imagine most collectors would wish to have the original DVD and the other music it contains. This documentary easily could have been included on that issue.

R.E.B. (December 2007)

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