MARILYN HORNE - A Profile
EMI CLASSICS DVD 16581 TT: 50 min.
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PILAR LORENGAR IN RECITAL Music of Dvorák, Respighi, Mompou, Obradors, Granados, Catalani, and Puccini (with pianist Miguel Zanetti). Arias from Così fan tutte, Lohengrin, Manon Lescaut, Don Carlo, Canción de la Paloma from El Barberillo De Lavapies, Libera me from Verdi's Requiem
VAI VIDEO ARTISTS INTERNATIONAL DVD 4476 TT: 65 min. + 56 min.
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VLADIMIR ASHKENAZY - Master Musician - A film by Christopher Nupen "Vladimir Ashkenazy: The Vital Juices Are Russian," other video features, and a "performance film" based on Rachmaninoff's Variations on a Theme by Corelli
ALLEGRO DVD VIDEO A09CND TT: 2 hrs. 40 min.
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This "profile" of mezzo-soprano Marilyn Horne actually is a BBC TV production by produced and directed by Nigel Wattis. It covers many aspects of her life and includes snippets of various performances, climaxed by a bit of her her last Rossini opera performance (The Italian Woman in Algiers)filmed at the Royal Opera House in 1993. There are many informal shots that show the grand diva's warm personality and sense of humor. It's all very tantalizing, but too short. This is indeed fascinating, but this full-price DVD lasts well less than an hour.

Spanish soprano Pilar Lorengar (1929-1996) had a distinguished career, particularly in Berlin. Early in her career she developed an unsteadiness in her upper register, evident even in her Decca recital disk recorded in 1971. This DVD does little to enhance her reputation. The concert was recorded in Zaragoza's Teatro Principal February 18, 1988, with pianist Miguel Zanetti (who also frequently accompanied Montserrat Caballé). Although the audience seems quite appreciative, these performances disappoint, marked by vocal insecurity, with fuzzy recorded sound and video. Four of the selections from the recital are included in the "bonus" because of "technical difficulties" so we can view the entire recital in spite of poor sound. The "bonus" also includes music by Mozart, Wagner, Puccini, Verdi and Barbieri in filmed performances of unidentified origin, with lip-sync problems; obviously these are from earlier in her career as Lorengar is in much better vocal condition. This is solely for admirers of Pilar Lorengar.

Director Christopher Nupen's overly adulatory film focuses on the life and career of Vladimir Ashkenazy. The feature is a 51-minute film oddly called "Vladimir Ashkenazy: The Vital Juices are Russian." This traces the pianist/conductor's career from the late '60's and includes brief excerpts from concerts and recording sessions along with interviews with his family and other musicians. "Montage—Ashkenazy the Conductor," includes music by Respighi, Mussorgsky, Sibelius and Tchaikovsky. DVD notes state Ashkenazy conducts music from Swan Lake, and he does not: the music is Romeo and Juliet, the video is from Swan Lake. It's surprising no one on the production staff noticed this. Ashkenazy gives a 24-minute commentary on Rachmaninoff's Corelli Variations followed by a live performance or the work recorded in Lugano. For admirers of Ashkenazy, but I find this idolization rather boring.

R.E.B. (February 2009)

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