NEW YEAR'S CONCERT 1991
"THE OPERA GALA"
"THE ETERNAL MARIA CALLAS" - a new compilation to commemorate the thirtieth
anniversary of her death feauring "her greatest moments on film,
on stage and in celebrated interviews plus contributions from some of
musical collaborators through whose eyes her character and the story
of her life unfolds."
Thanks to DGG for this 1991 Vienna New Year's Concert with Claudio Abbado on the podium. It's a pleasure to watch this superb conductor back in happier days—because of poor health he recently cancelled all concerts. Let us hope he will improve and continue his magnificent music-making, particularly in Lucerne—we are fortunate to have videos of a number of his memorable concerts there. He conducted the entire 1991 concert from memory, and was obviously having a great time, as was the VPO and audience. During the Aquarellen waltz we view something the audience in Vienna's Musikverein didn't see—the Vienna State Opera Ballet. Brian Large directed this video production and did his usual fine job focusing often on the beauty of the concert hall and the millions of flowers that adorned it. Sound quality is adequate for the time, surely not 5.1 as advertised.
"The Opera Gala" took place in July 2007 in Baden-Baden's Festspielhaus; three performanceswere given and all were sell-outs. There's no question prime interest here is Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca, both of whom were in fabulous voice. Of particular interest to operaphiles is Netrebko's Casta Diva from Norma, which she manages very impressively indeed. Her stunning performance of the excerpt from Lehár's Giuditta is a tour de force, both vocally and dramatically, and the audience loved it. Mezzo Garanca has a beautiful voice and remarkable vocal agility, particularly in the showpiece aria from Chapí's Daughters of Zebedeo. Vargas's La danza doesn't match that of Rolando Villazón in The Berlin Concert (that also featured Plácido Domingo and Netrebko) (see REVIEW). Baritone Ludovic Tézier gets better as the evening progresses, but there's no question the show belongs to the distaff side. Excellent video quality, adequate sonics.
EMI's latest Maria Callas DVD (they have five others) has a "special bonus feature" for the first time on DVD, her performance of Casta Diva from a concert in Rome December 31, 1957. The 146 minute program also includes performances from Paris, Hamburg and London, the story of her life with comments by contempories, and the soprano in conversation with Lord Harewood from the BBC in 1968, a 1966 French TV interview with Bernard Gavoty, and her comments on retiring from the concert stage and her artistry. Interestingly, she never comments on her vocal condition, only on interpretation. Even her staunchest admirers will have to admit that, exciting though her performances always were, vocally she often was troubled in some performances on this DVD. Still, this is a fascinating document of the most famous soprano of the century, sure to interest her many admirers.
R.E.B. (January 2008)