Canizares / Concierto de Aranjuez / Coppelia / Carlo Colombara

CHABRIER: España. RODRIGO: Concierto de Aranjuez. RACHMANINOFF: Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 27.
Cañizares, guitar; Berlin Philharmonic Orch/Sir Simon Rattle, cond.
EUROARTS DVD 2058394 (BLU RAY) TT: 97 min. + 8 min. bonus

DELIBES: Coppélia
Dorothée Gilbert (Swanilda); Mathias Heymann (Frantz); José Martinez (Coppélius); Fabrice Bourgeois (Spalanzani); Paris Opera Ballet; Colonne Orch/Koen Kessels, cond.
OPUS ARTE DVD OA BD 7093D (BLU RAY) TT: 83 min. + 30 min. bonus

CARLO COLOMBARA - The Art of the Bass
Arias from Carmen, Don Carlo, The Barber of Seville, Simon Boccanegra, Faust, Nabucco, Mefistofele, Attila, Aleko, and Boris Godunov.
Carlo Colombara, bass; Orch. cond. by György G. Ráth, Vladimir Ghiaurov, and Fabrizio Milani

Numerous concerts are presented in the magnificent Teatro Real in Madrid, the center of musical activity in Spain's capital. The Berlin Philharmonic has a tradition of each year presenting their annual Europa Konzert, and last May 1 it was given in Teatro Real. Sir Simon Rattle was on the podium with the renowned flamenco guitarist Juan Manuel Cañizares as soloist in Rodrigo's Concierto de Aranjuez. The festive evening opened with Chabrier's España, a work seldom associated with the orchestra. Their only other recording was many years ago with Herbert von Karajan conducting when the BPO was in tour in Paris. Rodrigo's famous concerto receives a spectacular highly individual interpretation by Cañizares. Sir Simon's accompaniment could not be bettered, and the oboe solo in the second movement surely has never sounded as luxurious. It is surprising there was no encore. Rachmaninoff's Symphony No. 2 also is given a superlative performance with the BPO in top form, keenly responding to the conductor's micromanagment of detail. Excellent video and audio. Highly recommended.

In January 2004 this site mentioned a recording of Coppélia performed by the Royal Ballet with Nicolae Moldaveanu conducting (REVIEW). There are several other videos available of this classic, including a new production that updates it to a modern run-down urban environment. Now we have another ill-advised version choreographed by Patrice Bart and designer Exio Toffilutti, "a darker version." It also includes some other music by Delibes, but all of the famous numbers are there. Obviously ballet (even more so opera), is not safe from contemporary directors who mistakenly feel they can improve on the original. There is no question that dancing in this "modern" production is first-rate, but this is not the Coppélia most people know and love. The Blu Ray version is gorgeous visually, but we cannot really tell if we are actually seeing that the audience saw. The 5.1 surround sound is excellent. There is a 30 minute "bonus" in which an attempt is made to explain the concept of the new production.

Italian-born bass Carlo Colombara has been on the operatic scene for about two decades, appearing (apparently with considerable success) with major as well as lesser-known opera companies. For a time, he seemed to be a choice of Riccardo Muti. Colombara has made a number of recordings for various labels and did sing Timur in the 1998 Mehta-conducted large-scale Turandot presented in Beijing. This Naxos DVD is rather odd. Called "The Art of the Bass," it features arias from ten operas, all staged productions. It seems the music was recorded first, then the filming was acted to the soundtrack, not always with the greatest success. On occasion, there are visual interludes preceding an aria; the most useless of all is the flamenco introduction to the Toreodor Song. Recordings were made on three occasions from 2003-2006 in different venues conductors. Colombara's singing is variable; he is at his best in the Boris Godounov finale, but elsewhere sings unevenly, and when he rolls an "r," he does so excessively. This Art of the Bass does not bring back memories of the great basses of the past. Video quality is adequate, little more, ditto the two-channel sound.

R.E.B. (December 2011)