MONTSERRAT CABALLÉ IN RECITAL
PROMISE OF MUSIC" A documentary by Enrique Sánchez Lansch about
Gustavo Dudamel and the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of
Venezuela. Plus a concert from the 2007 Bonn Beethoven Festival: BEETHOVEN:
No. 3. MONCAYO: Huapango. GINASTERA: Malambo
This Tosca is, in spite of its shortcomings, worthy of attention by opera lovers if only because it features a very young Franco Corelli in radiant, assured voice. Carlo Tagliabue's Scarpia is authoritative and he, too, is in good vocal form although he'd been singing for about three decades. Soprano Renata Heredia Capnist is a name new to me and I could find out little about her. She sings the role very well, but is a rather large, matronly woman who is not flattered by the camera. Provenance of this performance is suspect. The date given is September 24, 1955, in Milan. Gianni Villa's settings are basic, almost barren. However there's no question that the performance was recorded first, then filmed. Lip-sync is not always successful, and camera work is mediocre. There are many close-ups, but the camera is sometimes unsteady. Audio is satisfactory for its time. There are only 14 cues for the entire opera. In spite of these deficiencies, Corelli fans will want to have thisas well as the Rome Opera video he made the following year, an odd production with Tosca sung by Maria Caniglia and acted by Franca Duval, Scarpia sung by Gian Giacomo Guelfi and acted by Afro Poli (see REVIEW).
Montserrat Caballé gave countless recitals and one of them can be seen on VAI's new DVD, a performance recorded in Teatro Real in Madrid in 1983. The accompanist is Miguel Zanetti, and the program consists of ancient arias, bel canto rarities, and art songs with, as encores, two zarzuela excerpts. Oddly, there is nothing from the operatic roles she sang so well, but it always is a pleasure to see the grand diva in performance. A high point is her exquisite singing of Ravel's Kaddish. Camera work is basic, but there is a problem with audio. Caballe's voice frequently drops in volume, quite a distraction. There are no texts or DVD notes. It would be interesting to know who the distinguished guests were who were applauded by the audience when they took their box seats. VAI also has issued a 1966 concert with Caballé recorded in France (REVIEW). Don't miss Euroarts' documentary Beyond Music, also mentioned on this site (REVIEW). And admirers of Caballé must investigate the recent 15-disk Sony issue of all of her RCA recordings (REVIEW), and for video don't miss that stunning 1974 Orange Festival Norma (REVIEW).
More than three decades ago, Venezuela initiated a program of music education called the "sistema,"(system) with the goal of music education and performance opportunities for young children. The program is expensive: instruments are provided, and more than 250,000 young musicians participate. This documentary explains the process including interviews with students clearly showing how the experience has changed their lives. The Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra is made up of about 200 of the top players. Dynamic young conductor Gustavo Dudamel is a product of the "sistema," and we see him discussing his development both at home and in the "sistema"—and to see him working with the Youth Orchestra in rehearsal as well as in concert. It is unfortunate that as of this writing there is no official DVD release of the stunning concert Dudamel and this orchestra gave at the BBC Proms two years ago, one of most exciting, exhilarating concerts I've ever watched. This DVD includes the concert presented as part of the Beethoven Festival in Bonn in 2007 (no specific date is given). I suspect the concert contained more music than what is seen. This is a powerful Eroica and to hear Beethoven's towering symphony played so well by a huge orchestra is a stimulating experience. Forget about period instruments and luxuriate in the massive orchestral sonorities.It is wonderful to see these superb young musicians playing so brilliantly under Dudamel's enthusiastic control. For the Ginastera, musicians wear the Venezuelan flag colors, colorful to say the least, and "let themselves go" with their physicality. Highly enjoyable! Video and audio are excellent on both the documentary and concert. Recommended!
R.E.B. (December 2008)