BELLINI: Norma
Fiorenza Cedolins (Norma); Sonia Ganassi (Adalgisa); Begoña Alberdi (Clothilde); Vincenzo La Scola (Polione); Andrea Papi (Oroveso); Jon Plazaola (Flavio); Chorus and Orchestra of Gran Teatre del Liceu/Giuliano Carella, cond.
ARTHAUS MUSIK DVD VIDEO 101 465 TT: 169 min.
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STRAUSS: Der Rosenkavalier
Renée Fleming (Marschallin); Sophie Koch (Octavian); Diana Damrau (Sophie); Franz Hawlata (Baron Ochs); Franz Grundheber (Fanninal); Jonas Kaufmann (A Singer); Irmgard Vilsmaier (Marianne); Wolfgang Ablinger-Sperrhacke (Valzacchi); Jane Henschel (Annina); Vienna Philharmonia Chiorus; Munich Philharmonic Orch/Christian Thielemann, cond.
DECCA DVD VIDEO B0013431 TT: 211 min. + 32 min. bonus
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'AMOR, VIDA DE MI VIDA" Music of Chueca, Torroba, Carné, de Falla, Serrano, Otero, Bellido, Penella, Sorozábal and Chapí.
Plácido Domingo, tenor; Anna María Martínez, soprano; Salzburg Mozarteum Orch/Jesús López Cobos, cond.
MEDICI ARTS DVD VIDEO 2072474 (Blu-Ray) TT: 101 min.
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This Liceu production of Norma is an excellent performance of Bellini's demanding score, recorded on unspecific dates in 2007 in Barcelona. Anthony Baker's subdued sets are effective, as are Jonathan Morrell's simple costumes. Fortunately director Francisco Negrin has taken a reasonable approach to the opera; no offensive far-out effects here. The cast is uniformly strong, particularly on the distaff side. Soprano Fiorenza Cedolins copes admirably with this music, which has been the downfall of many sopranos. Sonia Ganazzi's Adalgisa and Begoña's Clotilde are equally fine. Tenor Vincenzo LaScola is surely not a match for Franco Corelli in the famous Callas recording, or for Jon Vickers in the remarkable Orange Festival live recording mentioned on this site (REVIEW). Conductor Giuliano Carella keeps things moving, in spite of his almost spastic style of conducting. Video is good enough, but audio is not up to today's standards: voices are rather distant and undefined. Still, this is a worthy Norma, and the manifold fans of Cedolins surely will wish to have it.

This production of Der Rosenkavalier, directed by Herbert Wernicke who also designed sets and costumes, had its premiere at the 1995 Salzburg Festival. This revival in Baden-Baden was filmed January 31, 2009. The simple sets feature large changing panels and mirrors; it works quite effectively. Renée Fleming is in top form as the Marschallin and looks stunning. Sophie Koch and Diana Damrau are perfect as the young lovers. Franz Hawlata doesn't have the deep voice necessary for Ochs, but he acts well. Talk about luxury casting: Jonas Kaufmann is cast as the Italian singer! Brian Large was video director and he did his usual excellent job. Audio is somewhat muddy; Strauss's rich orchestral textures are not totally conveyed. Towards the end of the curtain calls, the entire orchestra appears on stage with conductor Thielemann before the enthusiastic audience. This is a worthy Rosenkavalier, if far from a definitive one.

Medici Arts has issued a concert recorded August 9-10, 2007 at the conclusion of the Salzburg Festival. Star tenors Plácido Domingo and Rolando Vila were to have appeared but the latter's vocal crisis forced him to cancel. His replacement was young soprano Ana Maria Martinez, who was no stranger to Salzburg; she had sung Fiordiligi in Cosí fan tutte the previous summer. The program featured music from the zarzuela by a variety of composers, as well as orchestral works by Falla—and, perhaps to cater to the German audience, a duet from The Merry Widow. Domingo continues to amaze with the quality of his singing, and he was perfectly paired with Martínez who has performed with him many times. The Mozarteum Orchestra adapted whole heartedly to the Hispanic idiom under Jesüs López Cobos's direction. Superb video and audio add to the value of this delightful release.

R.E.B. (December 2009)

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