BELLINI: Norma
Edita Gruberova (Norma); Zoran Todorovich (Pollione); Roberto Scandiuzzi (Oroveso); Sonia Ganassi (Adalgisa); Cynthia Jansen (Clotilde); Markus Herzog (Flavio); Bavarian State Opera Chorus and Orch/Friedrich Haider, cond.
DGG DVD VIDEO 4400734219 TT: 155 min + 11 min bonus
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VERDI: Simon Boccanegra
Thomas Hampson (Simon Boccanegra); Cristina Gallardo-Domas (Maria Boccanegra); Ferruccio Furlanetto (Jacopo Fiesco); Boaz Daniel (Paolo Albiani); Dan Paul Dumitrescu (Pietro); Miroslav Dvorsky (Gabriele Adorno); John Nuzzo (Captain of Balestrieri); Songmi Yang (Maid); Vienna State Opera Chorus and Orch/Daniele Gatti, cond.
TDK DVD VIDEO DVWW OPSIBOW TT: 137 min.
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OFFENBACH: Orpheus in der Unterwelt
William Workman (Pluto/Aristaeus); Elisabeth Steiner (Eurydice); Toni Blankenheim (Jupiter); Liselotte Pulver (Public Opinion); Kurt Marschner (Orpheus); Inge Meysel (Juno); Theo Lingen (John Styx); Urszula Koszut (Venus); Cvetka Ahlin (Minerva); Franz Grundheber (Mars); Chorus and Ballet of Hamburg State Opera/Hamburg Philharmonic State Orch/Marek Janowski, cond.
ARTHAUS MUSIK DVD VIDEO 101 267 (mono) TT: 101 min.
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Soprano Edita Gruberova continues to amaze with her combination of longevity (she made her operatic debut in 1968 as Rosina in The Barber of Seville) and quality of performance. This DVD is her first staged Norma and she is mightily impressive in this demanding role. I doubt any other soprano today could sing Norma as commandingly and tonally secure as what is heard here. This is a splendid Norma throughout, with superb singers to complement Gruberova. Jürgen Rose's direction, costumes and lighting work well, with sets that are rather bleak. Brian Large did his usual fine job as video director, and the 5.1 sound is effective. An 11-minute "bonus" describes preparation for this Munich production. This is a worthy addition to the DVD catalog, but those who love Norma surely will wish to investigate the incredible 1974 live performance from France starring Montserrat Caballé at her very best (see REVIEW).

This Vienna State Opera performance of Simon Boccanegra was filmed in October 2002. Directed by Peter Stein with sets by Stefan Mayer and costumes by Moidele Bickel, it is the same production given in June 2002 in Florence, with Claudio Abbado on the podium (see REVIEW). The Vienna performance marked the first appearance of Thomas Hampson in the title role. Both the Florence and Vienna casts were excellent if not outstanding, although there is no question that Karita Mattila is far superior to Gallardo-Domas. Those who prefer traditional sets and costumes should investigate the DGG Metropolitan Opera performance conducted by James Levine with Robert Lloyd, Kiri Te Kanawa, Plácido Domingo and Vladimir Chernov.

The charm of Offenbach's operetta Orpheus in the Underworld is seldom evident in this 1971 Hamburg Opera studio production directed by Rolf Liebermann and directed for TV by Joachim Hess. Sets are minimal. Mono sound is adequate, color photography typical for the time. Sung in German, there are English, German, French, Spanish and Italian subtitles. I haven't seen the Brussels DVD production of this work, but surely it is preferable to this heavy-handed issue, undoubtedly the least successful in the Hamburg TV opera series.

R.E.B. (May 2007)

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