ROSSINI: La Cenerentola
This Cenerentola is an absolute delight! Rossini's long comic opera already is well represented on DVD with versions including those featuring Cecilia Bartoli, Fredericka von Stade and Ann Murray and yet another to be issued next month from the Met with Elina Garanca. However, this performance is from Gran Teatre del Liceu, filmed in January 2008. Joan Guillén's sets and costumes are colorful and sometimes comical, and Joan Font's direction could not be bettered. Joyce DiDonato is in top form, and what a pleasure it is to watch her collaborate with Juan Diago Flórez who here is singing one of his favorite roles. Vocal fireworks abound, and the music is enchanting. Patrick Summers' conducting misses none of the wit of Rossini's captivating score. Video and audio are first-rate, and the set also includes interviews and backstage scenes. A fabulous release!
Puccini's Turandot has fared rather well on DVD. We already have two recordings featuring Eva Marton: the overdone Franco Zeffirelli Met production filmed in 1988 (REVIEW), and the 1983 Vienna State Opera production (REVIEW). This new DVD was recorded at the Mediterranean Festival in Palau de les Arts Reina Sofía in Valencia in May 2008. Staging is by well-known film director Chen Kaige who through this production wishes audience to have a better understanding of Chinese culture. In this telling of the fairy tale from China's "legendary times," the opera takes place in a pavilion crowded with the chorus and extras, and a stage on which most of the action occurs. He takes liberties, and has decided at the end when Turandot declaims the stranger's name is "Love," she becomes a giddy girl who can't keep her hands off Calaf as they run offstage during the final chorus. Costumes were made in China and are spectacular, with the Blu-Ray video quality one can see every thread of the intricate embroidery. The performance is very good. Maria Guleghina is a youthful appearing Turandot, is effective dramatically, and has no problem whatever with those high notes. Alexis Voulgaridou and Alexander Tsymbalyuk are superb as the slave girl and deposed king, but Italian tenor Marco Berti doesn't have the ringing upper register for "Nessun Dorma", which is the weakest part of his performance. As mentioned before, video is spectacular, audio totally satisfactory. And don't forget the 1958 RAI TV production with a young Franco Corelli in top form—black and white with mono sound, but riveting (REVIEW),
The Gustav Mahler Youth Orchestra was founded in Vienna in 1986 at the suggestion of Claudio Abbado. Performers can be no older than 26, and hundreds of young musicians audition. To be selected as a member of the GMJO is a high honor indeed, and all of the players are virtuosos of their instrument and dedicated to their art. Here they can be seen playing Schoenberg's massive symphonic poem Pelleas and Melisande and Mahler's Symphony No. 4, completed in 1901, about two year after the Mahler symphony—two more miraculous performances conducted by Claudio Abbado. It doesn't come any better than this. Video and audio are just fine.
R.E.B. (December 2009)