PUCCINI: Manon Lescaut
Renata Scotto (Manon Lescaut); Plácido Domingo (Des Grieux); Pablo Elvira (Lescaut); Renato Capecchi (Geronte di Ravoir); Philip Creech (Edmondo); Mario Bertolino (L'oste); Isola Jones (Un musico); Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orch/James Levine, cond.
DEUTSCHE GRAMOPHON DVD VIDEO B0006419-09 TT: 132 min.
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ROSSINI: L'occasione fa il ladro
Stuart Kale (Don Eusebio); Susan Patterson (Bernice); Robert Gambill (Conte Alberto); Natale de Carolis (Don Parmenione); Minoca Bacelli (Ernestina); Alessandro Cobelli (Martino); Stuttgart Radio Symphony Orch/Gianluigi Gelmetti, cond.
EUROARTS DVD VIDEO 2054998 TT: 94 min.
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CHARPENTIER: Louise - A film directed by Abel Glance, with Grace Moore (Louise); Georges Thill (Julien), and André Pernet
BEL CANTO SOCIETY DVD VIDEO BCS-D0670 TT: 86 min.
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SCHUBERT: String Quartet No. 12 "Quartettsatz" in C minor, D. 703. Quintet in A, D. 667 "Trou t." BRITTEN: String Quartet No. 2 in C, Op. 36.
Clifford Curzon, pianist; Amadeus Quartet
TESTAMENT DVD VIDEO SBDVD 1001 TT: 95 min.
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This Manon Lescaut was a Met telecast March 29, 1980, a lavish, colorful production by Gian Carlo Menotti with sets and costumes designed by Desmond Heeley. The DVD booklet acclaims this performance as "the stuff of Met legends," and there's no question that the cast generally is superb, particularly Plácido Domingo as Des Grieux. However, Renata Scotto, fine actress that she always has been, even in 1980 had developed an unattractive sound in the upper register. Dramatically effective though she is, I wish instead we were hearing and watching one of the past interpreters of the role at the Met, particularly Eleanor Steber, Dorothy Kirsten, Renata Tebaldi or Leontyne Price, all vocally superior to Scotto. You can see pictures of all of them in the "bonus", and another feature offers interviews with Scotto, Domingo, Levine and Menotti. as seen on the original telecast. The camera usually is in the right place without too many super close-ups. A sound option is 5.l surround sound which has been artificially but effectively produced. Although the sound generally is quite good, it's odd that Philip Creech as Edmondo on a few occasions is virtually inaudible.

Rossini's L'occasione fa il ladro ("Opportunity Makes the Thief")As presented in this Stuttgart production, this comic opera is an absolutely charmer. This production by Opera der Stadt Köln and Opéra de Montpellier was given during the Schwetzinger Festival in May 1992, directed for TV by Claus Viller and produced by Gerhard Konzelmann. The intimate setting of the small theater is perfect for this delightful farce. This is the first opera buffa without a "normal" overture; the musical material was taken from the composer's recent La pietra del paragone and some of it would be recycled later in Il barbiere di Siviglia. The plot involves two young men looking for a bride, a mixup in two suitcases, and two young women, the marquise and her chambermaid, who end up with the men they love. The opera is sparkling with brilliant dialogue, fast patter, and arias, all very accomplished by the splendid cast. Gianluigi Gelmetti conducts with remarkable verve, and it's obvious much care went into this presentation. Photography is fine, audio totally natural. Subtitles are in five languages. Highly recommended!

In 1929, before glamorous soprano Grace Moore made her highly-successful Opéra-Comique debut in Gustave Charpentier's Louise, she studied the role with the 70-year-old composer. Louise became one of hger favorite roles and she sang it at the Met and other leading opera houses. In 1938 she was invited to France to make a film of the opera which, unfortunately, turned out to be highlights from the opera as there were many cuts even though these were sanctioned by the composer. George Thill, France's finest tenor of the time, is heard as Julien, and the great bass André Pernet is the father. The recording was made in Salle Pleyel, filming was at the Paramount Studios at Joinville, outside Paris. Acting style is old-fashioned with considerable gesturing. Depuis le jour is sung in an outdoor setting filled with trees with copious artificial flowers, and a fawning and almost comical Thill looking at Moore adoringly—it is said they had an affair at the time. However, there are some lovely scenes including Paris at night—but too many fireworks. It is a pleasure to be able to watch three superb singers in roles perfectly suited to them. Audio is dated but adequate to convey the performances. Unfortunately there are no English subtitles.

Thanks to Testament we have the opportunity to see the magnificent Amadeus Quartet in performances recorded at the Maltings, Snape, Aldeburgh, Sept. 28, 1977. The Quartet plays Schubert's Quartettsatz, D. 703 and Britten's String Quartet No. 2. They are joined by Clifford Curzon for Schubert's Trout Quintet and, as an encore, they repeat the fourth movement, Theme and Variations. This is music-making of the highest order, one of only three recorded collaborations between Curzon and the Amadeus (the other two are Mozart piano quartets). John Culshaw was video director, and with his involvement we are assured of outstanding sonic quality. The menu lists Dolby 5.1 surround and DTS 5.1 sound, which, of course, are electronically induced, but the sound is rich and satisfying beautifully capturing the warm acoustics of the venue. Another Testament DVD offers the Amadeus Quartet playing Britten's Quartet No. 3 and Schubert's Quintet, Op. 193 (DVD Video 1002).

R.E.B. (July 2006)