VERDI: La traviata
Renée Fleming (Violetta); Rolando Villazón (Alfredo); Renato Bruson (Giorgio Germont); Daniel Montenegro (Gastone); Suzanna Guzmán (Flora); Los Angeles Opera Chorus and Orch/James Conlon, cond.
DECCA DVD VIDEO 074 3327 (BLU-RAY) TT: 141 min.

GOUNOD: Romeo and Juliette
Nino Machaidze (Juliette); Rolando Villazón (Romeo); Mikhail Petrenkio (Father Laurent); Russell Braun (Mercutio); Cora Burggraaf (Stephano); Falk Struckmann (Le Comte Capulet); Juan Francisco Gatell (Tybalt); Vienna State Opera Chorus; Salzburg Mozarteum Orch/Yannick Nézet-Séguin, cond.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON DVD VIDEO 073 4521 TT: 162 min + 16 min. bonus

PROKOFIEV: The Love for Three Oranges
Alain Vernhes (The King of Clubs); Maartial Defontaine (The Prince); Natascha Petrinsky (Princess Clarice); Françoise Le Roux (Prime Minister); Serghei Khomov (Trouffaldino); Marcel Boone (Pantalon); Sir Willard White (Tchéllo);Sylvia Kevorkian (Linette); Magali de Prelle (Nicolette); Sandrine Piau (Ninette); Richard Angas (The Cook); Alexander Vassiliev (Farfarello); Serghi Khomov (Master of Ceremonies);Chorus of the Netherlands Opera; Rotterdam Philharmonic Orch/Stéphane Denève, cond.

This Traviata from the Los Angeles Opera filmed in 2006 is a magnificent presentation of Verdi's masterpiece, . The cast could hardly be bettered, with Renée Fleming in total vocal control, voluptuous and assured in the first act, vulnerable, if not consumptive, in the death scene. . Renato Bruson is a veteran as Giorgio, and Rolando Villazón a perfect Alfredo in the role in which he made his Met debut in 2003, also with Fleming. Giovanni Agostinucci's sets and costumes are lavish, Marta Domingo's direction is unaffected. Once again we have a quality video production from Brian Large, and audio is satisfactory. A quality, and important, release.

One of the hits in the Met in 2007 was their spectacular production of Gounod's Romeo and Juliette with Roberto Alagna and Anna Netrebko as the tragic lovers. The following year a feature of the Salzburg Festival was Bartlett Sher's production of the same opera with the remarkable young conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin on the podium. Netrebko was to have sung the role of Juliette, but her pregnancy made that impossible. Instead, the new young soprano Nino Machaidze was Juliette, a wise choice. She already had made an acclaimed debut at La Scala in Daughter of the Regiment. Since her spectacular success as Juliette in Salzburg, she is in demand in major opera houses including the Met where she will sing Gilda. The Salzburg Romeo and Juliette is an extraordinary performance with magnificent costumes, extraordinary directing by Sher, and some of the most realistic dueling sequences you'll ever see. Villazón is at his best, just prior to vocal problems that caused him to have surgery. Let us hope he has a full recovery. Again, Brian Large directed the video and did his usual expert job. Audio is good enough, with a very natural balance between singers and orchestra. Recommended!

What a terrific show Prokofiev's Love for Three Oranges is !Oddly, it has its premiere in Chicago in 1921, with the composer conducting. During the same visit, he played the premiere of his now-famous Piano Concerto No. 3 with Frederick Stock and the Chicago Symphony. Although mildly received at the premiere, Oranges now is often presented, and on this superb DVD we have a spectacular performance from the Netherlands Opera. Here it is sung in French as it was at the premiere, with a wonderful cast that misses not a bit of the score's bizarre humor. The imaginative sets are by Chantal Thomas, and Laurent Pelly's direction is buzzing with activity—there is not a dull moment.This is a great show, and again we have an outstanding young conductor, Stéphane Denève who has made some superb recordings of symphonic music of Roussel. Misjel Vermeiren was video director and he did a great job. The surround sound puts one right next to the stage in a most realistic way with highly detailed orchestral sound. Another winner, for sure!

R.E.B. (November 2009)