Three previous volumes of this series were dedicated to La Scala. In this fourth DVD volume, we turn our attention to another beloved and well-known Italian operatic venue: the Arena of Verona, which is able to host more than 20,000 spectators and endowed with acoustics that are quite extraordinary.
This documentary, originally filmed in 16 mm, famed Italian journalist Enzo Biagi interviews the celebrity artists and directors who appeared at the Arena at the beginning of the 1908s, including Sherrill Millnes, Rajna Kabaiwanska, Fiorenza Cossotto, Mirella Freni, Rolando Panerai, Oliviero De Fabritiis, Nicola Martinucci , director Giancarlo Sbragia and set designer Giulio Coletllacci .
The DVD features excerpts from performances of Rigoletto, Aida, La traviata and Nabucco during that period of time.
Beatrice di Tenda is, to date, one of Vincenzo Bellini's more unfamiliar and rarely performed operas, even though it contains moments of extraordinary music. Based on a libretto by Felice Romani, Bellini's favourite collaborator, it was written in 1833 for Venice's La Fenice theatre. It was rather unsuccessful, but the musician always claimed it was on a par with his other, more popular works. Like all of Bellini's operas, Beatrice di Tenda calls for an outstanding female protagonist, for a role that today Dimitra Theodossiou is among the few who can tackle in all of its infinite variety of dramatic and vocal registers, reviving the glories of the great 19th-century bel canto sopranos.
Norma is the eight opera in Bellini's catalgue, and third last in chronological order, followed only by Beatrice di Tenda of 1833, and I Puritani of 1835. The text for the opera was the work of the best-known librettist, Felice Romani, and was based on a contemporary French drama, Norma au L'infanticide by Soumet.
Norma occupies a very particular place in operatic repertoire, a dramatic work of lyrical beauty, not least in the most fanous of Norma's arias, Casta diva (Chaste goddess), her first-act prayer to the moon. Oroveso calls the Druids to watch for the new moon in Ite sul colle, o Druidi (Go to the hills, O Druids) and in the second act he warns of Pollione's possible successor, inveighing against Roman tyranny in Ah! del Tebro al giogo indegno (Ah! To the disgraceful yoke of Rome). Norma has notable duets with Adalgisa and with Pollione, revealing different aspects of her tragic character.
Bellini, unlike many of his colleagues - among them Donizetti - did not have to endure the disappointments and difficulties of rising from the ranks. His Bianca e Gernando , in 1826, was well received at Naples's Teatro San Carlo, and one year later, at the age of twenty-six, the composer triumphed at Milan's La Scala with Il Pirata . Norma is not only the high point of Bellini's artistic parabola but also the quintessence of Italian belcanto.
This video was recorded at the Massimo Bellini theatre of Catania, native town of the great Sicilian composer, and features, in the title role, the famous Greek soprano Dimitra Theodossiou, one of today’s best interpreters of Norma.
Against the beautiful backdrop of De Ana's woodland sets - vaguely reminiscent of Turning paintings - and video projections that create an aura of mystery, Eglise Gutierrez, Antonino Siragusa and Simone Alaimo recreate Bellini's bel canto masterpiece, in a production that is a tribute to the historical Visconti Sonnambula of 1955.
In the splendid setting of the Macerata Sferisterio, the tale of seduction and jealousy par excellence, with a commanding Nino Surguladze in the title role and the direction of twice Oscar-winner Dante Ferretti (The Aviator - Sweeney Todd), here at his debut in the world of opera.
Known mainly as the Paganini of the double bass , Giovanni Bottesini was in fact one of the most eclectic figures of Italian music in the second half of the nineteenth century. His Ero e Leandro met with great success whet it premiered in 1879, a success witnessed by the 28 performances that followed, an absolutely unthinkable number today.
After the composer's death it disappeared from the repertoire, only to be revived with the present staging. The score, stylistically comparable to the late Verdi, reveals unusual attention to orchestration and uses richly chromatic language. It may be set alongside operas like Ponchielli's La Gioconda and Arrigo Boito's Mefistofele , often showing a high quality of melodic inspiration.
On 10 October 2004, the Teatro Regio celebrated the birthday of Giuseppe Verdi by holding a concert featuring some of the most important artists and singers of the international music scene. The performance was part of an intended annual series in which extracts from each of Verdi's operas would be performed in chronological order to offer an analytic and comprehensive panorama of his output, and the concerts would bring to the stage the most acclaimed stars of the operatic world. The great baritone Leo Nucci and the famous tenor Jose Cura are featured in this video, and Renato Palumbo, musical director of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, conducts.
After his successful debut in 1639 with Le nozze di Peleo e di Teti , Pier Francesco Cavalli for the first time sets about writing music for a story that is both tragic and heroic with an almost unwonted deployment of means and new expressive intent. Hiring Giovanni Francesco Busenello, a noble amateur as his lyricist, La Didone became one of the most tragic, tormented operas of the entire seventeenth century.
Cavalli satisfies the requirements of a mixed audience both by pampering to the visual attractions of the spectacle and by aiming for more impassioned pathos and expressivity than in his previous essays. He studies and enriches the work's language inserting dramatic substance and striving for a melodic conception that certainly recalls that of his "maestro" Monteverdi yet also steps beyond it.
Il Matrimonio segreto was first staged in Vienna on 7th February 1792 and was also one of the greatest successes in the history of the eighteenth-century opera. It is universally recognized as Cimarosa's masterpiece and the only one of his operas to have survived in the regular repertoire to this day.
Jackie O develops around the life of Jacqueline Kennedy; her image, following her husband's assassination, of "tragic princess", and the following events, which captured the attention of the world's media.
American composer Michael Daugherty has written a very modern work, in-between opera and jazz, inspired by American musical and the popular culture of the late 1960s .
Jackie's arias Egyptian Time, Jackie"s Credo and All his bright light possess a lyrical, melancholic and exotic allure; the ones sung by Onassis - the conceited, coarse, self-made man - have, instead,echoes of Las Vegas: his I am curious and Stiff drink bring us back to Dean Martin or Sammy Davis Jr. Maria Callas, who in the '60s was beginning to lose her voice, retraces her life with the songs Addio delPassato and Flame Duet. Liz Taylor is engaged in a blues-like riff that recalls a Cat on the hot tin roof atmosphere; whereas Princess Grace Kelly trills in Doris Day fashion. Andy Warhol's aria conforms to his art: a series of modulated repetitions. In the finale dramatic climax, in Jackie's Song, Jackie duets with her dead husband's voice. Damiano Michieletto's perfect direction is lively and full of colours, and the resemblance of the singers to real characters is impressive. A great tribute to the...
Anna Bolena tells of a human drama of solitude and oppression; it is a work of psychological introspection centered, both from a dramaturgical and vocal point of view, around the protagonist, who soars to peaks of music splendour. A far-reaching opera, in which events and the tension developments between characters are thoroughly investigated. It is a very significant work in the history, as well as in Donizetti's own personal history, even though nowadays - and rightly so - it is no longer regarded, as it once was, as a sort of impromptu miracle.
Don Gregorio is the Neapolitan adaptation that Donizetti worked on his own L'ajo nell'imbarazzo , an opera first staged at the Teatro Valle in Rome on 4th February 1824. The subject was based on the play of the same name by Giovanni Giraud and the libretto of the original version was drawn up by Jacopo Ferretti, one of the Italy's leading librettists in the early nineteenth century. When Donizetti set to work on his Neapolitan version two years later, he was assisted by Andrea Leone Tottola whom he already worked with some of his operas.
Although some of the traditional passages were replaced by prose dialogue, a new numbers were added and others eliminated, Don Gregorio was still successful when it premiered on 11th June 1826 at the Teatro Nuovo in Naples.
Staged in Milan in 1832, L'Elisir d'amore was written in a remarkably short time by librettist Felice Romani who based the text on a French libretto that Eugene Scribe had written for Daniel Auber and staged in Paris a year earlier. Romani's wife claimed that the whole work was written within a fortnight, an obvious exaggeration, since it seems that Donizetti had already completed much of the opera some three weeks before it was to be staged, not to open the season, but to be staged as a later part of it.
Who wouldn't want a love potion? Even today, quite a few people would readily trust Dulcamara and his promises of eternal happiness. The successful blend of comic and lyrical elements, of fun and feeling, are what make of L'Elisir d'amore such an enjoyable opera. A sparkling Alex Esposito leads the rest of the cast in this entertaining production of one of Donizetti's most beloved operas.
Among all Donizetti's operas, Lucia di Lammermoor has always been the favourite for both audiences and singers: and with good reason. First staged on the evening of 26th September 1835, the work was based on Sir Walter Scott's novel The Bride of Lammermoor which was published in June 1819. This novel received a mixed reception from the critics. Blackwood's, a popular journal at the time, declared it to be 'a pure and magnificent tragic romance', whilst other magazines regarded it as far too gloomy. Based on real-life events of 1669, this tale of love, feuds, deception and madness appealed very greatly to Scott's more general readership, as well as to some of the librettists and composers of his time; within fifteen years of the novel's publication at least five operas had been composed, based on the story of Lucia and her unhappy fate. It is no surprise, then, that Salvadore Cammarano relished the prospect of writing the libretto for such an opera himself and that Donizetti took to the idea equally enthusiastically.
With the release of this Maria Stuarda, recorded live in 2001, Dynamic makes an historic move, becoming the first Italian label to produce a DVD opera.
This very high quality production by Teatro Donizetti di Bergamo features, in the roles of the two queens, Carmela Remigio (Maria Stuarda) and Sonia Ganassi (Elisabetta), two great artists here making a fine display of their excellent vocal and acting skills. Francesco Esposito's direction and costumes and Italo Grassi's sets are very effective and superbly highlighted by the filming.
What makes this release even more interesting is the use of a new critical edition made by the renowned Swedish musicologist Anders Wiklund for Casa Ricordi.
- Interviews with Carmela Remigio, Sonia Ganassi, Fabrizio Maria Carminati, Francesco Esposito, and Italo Grassi.
In recent years not only music festivals but also important opera theatres have turned their attention towards the neglected masterpieces of the lyrical repertoire. Thus also Venice's Teatro La Fenice, in a commendable effort, staged this Pia de' Tolomei by Donizetti, with some of the best singers available today for this type of repertoire. Initial response to this opera, which was performed for the first time in 1837, was ambiguous, so much so that Donizetti re-worked it as many as three times. The version here recorded is that of the critical edition recently published by Ricordi, with the tragic finale originally conceived by the composer. The listener will undoubtedly wonder, once more, at Donizetti's wealth of melodic inspiration, especially when it comes to the character of Pia, wonderfully interpreted here by Patrizia Ciofi.
The thorny subject of marital violence is set against a hilarious backdrop in this one-act farce where, contrary to what we are used to seeing in opera, tenor and baritone do their best to free themselves of the female protagonist, to whom both are married. No doubt, Gaspar's aria on the joys of chastising one's wife in the way she deserves causes a few raised eyebrows nowadays, but the funny side is genuine and the music is brilliant, making of this forgotten little opera a true gem.
Roberto Devereux composed on 1837 saw the light of day during a period of intense creativity for Gaetano Donizetti . After its premiere and up until 1848, Devereux was performed almost uninterruptedly. In the years that followed it would also enjoy a successful international career, throughout Europe and in the Americas, with versions in French, German, Russian and Hungarian. When Donizetti moved to Paris in 1838, he enriched the opera with the overture that paraphrases the British anthem God Save the Queen. The Queen dominates from her very entrance, a true protagonist, here performed by the great Mariella Devia: her pure voice, perfect intonation, great stage presence, all combined with the technical qualities of her voice, led to an extended standing ovation. It was a great success, too, for Sonia Ganassi (Sarah) and tenor Stefan Pop (Devereux).
Baldassarre Galuppi's Mass for the Delivery of Slaves was written in 1765 for the choir of St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, where the composer had recently been appointed music director. Written for soprano and alto solos, choir and orchestra, the Mass displays Galuppi's extraordinary (and previously largely unrecognized) contrapuntal mastery. Arguably, Galuppi's full talent as a composer is revealed more in his sacred works than those for the theatre. This is the world premiere recording of the work.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Mass in C Major KV317 , composed in 1779, needs little by way of introduction. The masterpiece here receives a fine interpretation by the Solisti Veneti conducted by Claudio Scimone.
Remembered as the leading exponent of Venetian comic opera if not its absolute creator, Baldassare Galuppi opened the 1747 Carnival season of Milan's Teatro Ducale with an opera seria which he dominated drama per musica. L'Olimpiade is based on the Metastasio libretto which served perhaps more composers of the eighteenth century than any other. Although respecting the format tradition. Galuppi managed by adroit cuts and additions (which naturally enraged Metastasio) to product a seamless sequence of colorful arias and recitatives delineating by musical devices the characters and emotion of the seven protagonists.
Agrippina was staged for the first time in late December 1709 - or possibly at the beginning of 1710 - at Venice's Teatro San Grisostomo and met with enormous success, as testified by twenty-seven following performances, a record number even for 18th-century standards. Agrippina 's triumph sanctioned Handel's definitive investiture as an operatic composer. After nearly 300 years this opera appears as a masterpiece of 18th-century music and an innovative work, considering that when Handel composed it he was just twenty-four years old. The composer's melodic creativity and sense of theatre are quite remarkable. The cast, conducted by Jean-Claude Malgoire, includes Véronique Gens in the title role.
On 8th January 1735 at the Covent Garden in London, George Frideric Handel presented his new opera Ariodante on a libretto anonymously adapted by Antonio Salvi and inspired by Ariosto. Handel produced a refined musical setting of a somewhat audacious title which he treated in an equally unusual manner: he eliminated the traditional scenes of wonder or magic, worked on following the psychological development of the individual characters and focus on privileged expressivity rather than virtuosity for its own sake giving prominence.
The mutual love of Princess Ginevra and Prince Ariodante of Fife has the full approval of her father, the King of Scotland. But Duke Polinesso covets the throne. An opera about truth and appearance, set by director John Pascoe in the 1950's, in the glamorous days of the British monarchy.
A classic work of its genre and historical period, Artaserse was premiered in Venice in 1730 by the most famous singers of the day: Farinelli in the role of the Arbace, Cuzzoni as Mandana and the castrato Nicolino as Artabano. It was a success for Hasse , who would, in 1740 and 1760, re-propose the same work in two different versions.
This video features one, in world premiere. The cast is extraordinary, with the countertenor Franco Fagioli giving a great performance of the role that was Farinelli's. Fagioli easily goes up and down the extension of more that three octaves, maintaning a uniform timbre and remarkable power and resonance. Also stunning, is the aria Pallido sole sung by Sonia Prina.
A journey in the fascinating world of a famous international violin competition, where heart and technique are needed to succeed. Follow the participants step by step till the exciting final stage. Hear the advice given to the young musicians by world-renowned violinists such as Gyorgy Pauk and Massimo Quarta, who won the competition in the past and are now members of the jury.
Edouard Lalo's Le Roi d'Ys is based on an ancient Breton legend; even the choice of a subject based on legend - and a Breton one at that - illustrates the ideological link between Lalo's opera and the Wagnerianism so prevalent throughout Europe at the time. Lalo furthermore made use of various elements of popular music inspired by Breton folklore that give the entire score a special character and flavour.
Le Roi d'Ys contains all the ingredients of a fine romantic tale: love, jealousy, fear and a touch of magic. The story is well supported that is effective, full of colour and contrasts, with wonderful arias and duets, and a splendid overture. Patrick David conducts; Jean-Louis Pichon's creative staging includes special effects worthy of the seventh art.
Leonardo Leo's L'Alidoro was first staged at Teatro del Florentini with Gennaro Antonio Federico as his librettist. The opera was destined to reap success all over Europe with its Neapolitan music comedy theme. Frederico drafted a comedy in which the characters speak different languages (Neapolitan or Tuscan) according to their social status and work on different levels: one comic, the other serious.
L'Alidoro (Golden Wings) is a lost-and-found story that fathoms the themes of love and jealousy from different perspectives - those of age and social status in the forefront - interweaving comedy with more serious reflections. Recently rediscovered in the Abbey of Montecassino along with three other Leonardo Leo operas, Alidoro was chosen by Antonio Florio for his Pieta de' Turchini, one of the best Italian Baroque orchestras of the last twenty years.
An opera with a rich vein of musical ideas, sumptuous and original sets, a little-known German Romantic composer, high-level interpreters (among them Anna Caterina Antonacci): these are the ingredients of Hans Heiling, staged in 2004 in Cagliari under the scrupulous and refined baton of Renato Palumbo. There is no doubt that this timeless story of gnomes and spirits, love and suffering, supernatural powers and mortal beauty will captivate many opera lovers.
The gruff Ferramondo must deal with a nephew who has been ruined by his spendthrifft wife, and who would like to have his sister sent to a convent so that he can get his hands on her dowry. The girl, of course, has other plans.
A brilliant libretto, music that can be both graceful and captivating, and a first rate cast make of this opera, based on one of Carlo Goldoni's most amusing comedies, Le bourru bienfaisant , a welcome rediscovery.
Inspired by Francis de Croisset three-act comedy with the same title, Jules Massenet's Cherubin was completed in 1903. The stimuli that led Massenet to write an opera of eighteenth-century reminiscences may have been many and gave gone beyond the immediate enthusiasm he felt for Croisset's play. We might consider, for example, the fact that in the thirty year period between the 1880s and the first world war, Mozart was very fashionable in France.
The old Mozartian Cherubino of Le nozze di Figaro is no longer the young lad in his first naive contacts with women: his age moved on from 13 to 17 years and, of course, takes on more adolescent connotations: more hot-headed, impetuous, ephemeral and passionate. Massenet brings these aspects out well as he characterises Cherubin with vocal scoring that favours ample, intensely cantabile phrases, with leaps towards the acute register that give full vent to the lyrical soprano voice, with moments of sudden emphasis and equally rapid disappointments - a real tempest of hormones, light years away from the Voi che sapete of Mozart's page boy.
Finished in 1910, Don Quichotte was a success when it premiered at the Opera Theatre in Monte Carlo, where sixty-seven year old Massenet had gone to seek relief from the rheumatism he suffered from. The subject from Cervantes's masterpiece, had been versified by the young and extravagant writer Jacques Le Lorrain. The story is quite different from that of Miguel de Cervantes's hero, appearing, rather, as a self-portrait of the poet himself: the knight becomes a model of virtue, of generosity, driven by lofty ideals; Dulcinee, from maid in an inn becomes a women of the world. His text was reworked by the librettist Henri Cain and submitted to Massenet, who, despite the difficult period he was going through, conceived a rich score, full of verve and maturity.
Manon is Jules Massenet's most popular and enduring opera which, having "quickly conquered the world's stages", has maintained an important place in the repertory since its creation. It is the quintessential example of the charm and vitality of the music and culture of the Parisian Belle Epoque.
Casted as Manon, Annick Massis together with Alessandro Liberatore on his debut as De Grieux, the opera was a mainstay of the Opera-Comique in Paris, reaching its 1,000th performance there in 1919.
Every operatic composer has a title that marks a turning point, one that raises him from being almost unknown to sudden fame. For Bellini, in 1827, this was Il Pirata , for Verdi, in 1842, Nabucco . For Massenet this opera was Le Roi de Lahore . Performed for the first time in 1877 at the Palais Garnier to a resounding success - the opera ran to no fewer than 57 performances in the great Paris opera house within two years - this work contains all the characteristic elements of grand-opéra: marches and solemn processions, a ballet, use of countless extras, spectacular choral scenes, concertante sections of great length, a general exotic tint that was much appreciated at the time and a great wealth of melodic invention. The present Venetian production features a high quality cast and documents the last performance of the late conductor Marcello Viotti, who had made the critical edition of the score.
Giovanni Simone Mayr was a musician of great success at the beginning of the 19th century. Medea in Corinto is one of his best operas. It was premiered at the San Carlo theatre in Naples in 1813, on a libretto by Felice Romani, and for decades it was one of the fortes of Isabella Colbran and Giuditta Pasta. Benedetto Sicca's direction has a great emotional impact, as have the distinctive and practiced performances of all the artists involved.
Fabio Luisi gives an intense reading of Mayr's music and masterfully underlines its deep psychological implications, while at the same time keeping in constant contact with the stage in a dramatic and enthusing crescendo. He is a Grammy Award-winning Italian conductor; principal conductor of the Metropolitan Opera and General Music Director of the Zurich Opera. Two great tenors are in the important roles of Jason and Aegeus: Michael Spyres and Enea Scala. Medea is entrusted to the Spaniard Davinia Rodriguez, who easily tackles even the difficult cavatina with obbligato violin of Act I, traditionally almost always omitted.
In some respects, Monteverdi's Orfeo (1607) is to the history of Italian opera what Dante's Divine Comedy is to the history of Italian literature: a masterpiece that stands at the very beginning of the journey. With Orfeo and the operas that followed it, Monteverdi had the substantial merit of immediately demonstrating the infinite possibilities of this new genre, which would leave an imprint on three centuries of European culture. In the present edition the French conductor Jean-Claude Malgoire is at the head of a cast of Baroque opera specialists.
Known as the earliest surviving opera that is still performed today, Monteverdi's L'Orfeo was written in 1607 for a court performance during the annual Carnival at Mantua. Dramatic power and lively orchestration mark L'Orfeo , one of the earliest works recognized as an opera based on the ancient Greek myth of Orpheus who attempts to rescue his dead lover Eurydice from Hades, the underworld. With this opera Monteverdi created an entirely new style of music, the dramma per musica, or musical drama.
World-renowed conductor William Christie leads Les Arts Florissants in this Teatro Real of Madrid production, set by Pier Luigi Pizzi in the Mantua ducal palace where the opera was first staged.
This Monteverdi trilogy of Teatro Real has been programmed with the tandem of William Christie as conductor of Les Arts Florissants and Pier Luigi Pizzi as director. There is no question that they are two prestigious figures in their respective fields and, particularly, great specialists in baroque opera, in which they have been working together for the last 25 years.
The two-act comedy Signor Goldoni is an homage to Goldoni , but even more to Venice. Taking place in a surreal, dreamlike dimension of complete imaginative liberty, it is a play of masks that bears the stamp of comic energy, allusion, delicacy and - thanks to its music - a constant, incessant movement.
Even though in recent years Idomeneo has been staged more frequently, this Mozart masterpiece can hardly be counted among the operas (the Da Ponte trilogy in primis) that made of the Salzburg composer one of the greatest operatic composers of all times. Yet Idomeneo was, in its day, a revolutionary work, animated by music that appears remarkably innovative and profoundly theatrical.
Modest Mussorgsky Boris Godunov was performed in the open air and for the first time in front of St. Alexander Nevsky Cathedral in Sofia. This spectacular production, also performed in front of the very same cathedral in the summer of 2014, 90 years after the building's consecration, was conceived by Plamen Kartaloff, the director of Sofia Opera and dedicated to the 100th anniversary of the birth of Boris Christoff and to the 85th anniversary of the birth of Nicolai Ghiaurov, both world-renowned for their interpretations of the role of Boris.
Les Contes d'Hoffmann is a great, unfinished masterpiece. In 1880 Offenbach's health began to deteriorate rapidly. Les Contes d'Hoffmann had already been programmed for the 1880/81 season of the Opéra-Comique, but Offenbach was having a hard time finishing it and worked only in the moments of respite from his illness. He died on 5 October, leaving the opera incomplete (we still do not know to what extent). And so Ernest Guiraud, a "specialist" who had already transformed into recitatives the spoken parts of Bizet's Carmen , was called to finish the task. The opera was first staged at the Opéra-Comique on 10 February 1881 and met with great success. Soon it was being performed in the most important theatres of the world.
This edition has an Italian cast of exceptional quality, in which stand out the amazing voice of Desirée Rancatore, the extraordinary artistry of Ruggiero Raimondi and the fascinating direction of Pier Luigi Pizzi, one of today's most creative directors.
The program of this Lazar Berman recital recorded in Tokyo in 1988 collects some of the artists most authoritative performances. From Ii>Schumann's Sonata in F-Sharp Minor, Op. 11 to Liszt's Annees de pelerinage and transcription pieces of famous composers such as Wagner and Rachmaninov's Moments musicaux , Berman played a perfect and memorable performance.
A rarely performed opera, Ponchielli's La Gioconda is one his famous and well-loved work. Although the first version suffered from Ponchielli's doubts and uncertainties: on the one hand the musician was convinced, for example, that the libretto was too long and complex,to the detriment of the music, and that many parts are not developed the way it should be. This reason, did not stop the composer as well as the opera to garner so much praise during its premiere at Milan's La Scala. In the end, after experiencing radical changes that lasted for twenty six years in the making, the changes contributed to consolidate its literally and musical substance, sanctioning the works's definitive and long lasting success.
For Puccini, La Boheme was not just an eternal love story. The subject of his opera is time. The passing of time; the memory of time that will never live again. And we tell the music of the fourth act. In a succession of nostalgic variations that return to the themes of the first act. - Jean-Michel Folon (Torre del Lago, July 2003)
On the anniversary of the first success of Madama Butterfly in Brescia on 28 May 1904, Placido Domingo conducted, from the podium of Torre del Lago Puccini, Daniela Dessì, Fabio Armilato and Juan Pons in a new production by Stefano Monti with sets designed by Arnaldo Pomodoro and costumes of Maison Gattinoni.
Giacomo Puccini's fifth opera was first staged at the Teatro Costanzi in Rome in 14th January 1900. Tosca is an opera that arouses powerful feelings, written by a musician who excelled in the characterisation of weak figures. It is one of the most popular of Puccini's works, for it successfully conveys the irresistible force of elemental emotions and passions: jealousy, desire, love of life, despair in the face of death. In this sense Tosca is much more like the "desperate passion" of Manon Lescaut than the crepuscular intimism of Boheme .
Throughout the nineteenth century Il Barbiere di Siviglia was, with La Cenerentola , the most frequently performed Rossini opera. With the passing of time, however, it clearly outdid its sister opera, becoming the very symbol of Rossinian comedy. From a purely a musical point of view, Il Barbiere di Siviglia is a comedy which, though it does not deny space for gags and fun, stands clearly apart from the open, overwhelming comic manner, all based on nonsense and mischievous equivocation, of an opera like L'Italiana in Algeri . Il Barbiere di Siviglia is, in contrast, a realistic opera par excellence.
This Il Barbiere di Siviglia performance restores to perfection the setting of an early 19th-century Italian theatre. Singers then entertained the audience with humour that was direct and catchy; and in this production humour again triumphs, making of this production a truly entertaining experience.
At the apex of his career, Rossini accepted a commission from La Scala to produce a new title. The new opera entitled Bianca e Falliero would open the Carnival season on 26th December 1819. Reaping great success with audiences but received contrasting review, some of them outright negative, Bianca e Falliero is a story of Falliero, hero coming back after a successful battle only to find that his love, Bianca has been arranged to marry somebody else.
The present video is the first authorized video publication of an ROF productions. Among the many and unquestionable merits of this festival are its high-quality stagings, which are reference points in the history of the production of Rossini's operas. Bianca e Falliero returns, this time, in an intimate and iconic interpretation that stands poles apart from that of Pizzi, and is inspired by Venetian Renaissance paintings, with an explicit reference to the works of Veronese.
The first opera to be staged at the recently reconstructed Petruzzelli theatre of Bari, this Cenerentola shines with the bravura and comic verve of its interpreters. Daniele Abbado's direction and Evelino Pido's conducting bring out the best of this opera, which for much of the 19th century vied with Il barbiere di Siviglia as Rossini's most popular and most frequently performed comic opera.
L'equivoco stravagante was written on 1811 and its Rossini's first two-act comic opera, the only one written for a theatre in Bologna (his adoptive home after he abandoned Pesaro). A truly peculiar opera; not so much in its music but with the text written by Gaetano Gasbarri which led the work being ostracised from theaters for nearly two centuries.
L'equivoco stravagante stages the classic situation of the young girl who does not intend to be wedded to the traditional rich braggart but prefers a timid young man who is short of money; this time the expedient used to drive off the undesired wooer is to have him believe that in reality the girl is a young boy who has been castrated - or in the euphemistic parlance of the time a musico . Seasoned with fanciful language, made up of bold neologisms and licentious double meanings, with expressions that are in turn silly, absurd, or hyperbolic, Gasbarri's libretto offers no few aspects of modernity, while Rossini's music already contains the melodic invention, the frenzied rhythm, the musical electricity that within just a few months were to project the composer unstoppably towards worldwide success.
Ermione is an opera of string colours, dominated by violent, shifting feelings, with passages of remarkable dramatic intensity and vivid pathos, rendered with masterly skill by the performers in this edition from the Rossini Opera Festival. The subject was taken from Jean-Baptiste Racine's tragedy Andromaque(1667) and the libretto was written by prolific librettist Andrea Leone Tottola . It premiered at the San Carlo Theatre in Naples on 27th March 1819 but was not a success for it was withdrawn after only seven performances until it was revived in concert form in Sienna on 22nd August 1987.
Together with librettist, Giovanni Gherardini, Rossini opened La gazza ladra at Teatro alla Scala in Milan on 31st March 1817. The opera was a success from its premiere and deservedly entered the already substantial catalogue of Rossini's works and, at the same time, generated a new group - the semi-serious genre. With La gazza ladra Rossini succeeds in mixing comic-sentimental and dramatic elements, thus achieving a music style which is enriched, modulated to suit events, forerunning an aesthetic ideal that was to be formalised some years later. The brilliant, rousing ouverture was made famous thanks to the soundtrack of Stanley Kubrick's motion picture A Clockwork Orange .
The story, inspired by a sad event that had really happened, is based on a rather complex plot but does have a happy ending, and exploits mainly a weepy, pathetic tone, concentrating on the character of Ninetta, who is innocent but considered guilty.
Misunderstandings and plot twists abound in this opera buffa. The Opera Royal de Wallonie (ORW) ended its 2014 season with La Gazzetta , a comic opera by Gioachino Rossini taken from a play by Carlo Goldoni . This Liege production of the 1816 opera was directed by Stefano Mazzonis di Pralafera. The plot revolves around the bizarre idea of a man who decides to find a husband for his daughter through an ad in a newspaper. This production includes, for the first time, a quintet found In 2012 by the librarian of Palermo's Conservatory: authenticated by US musicologist Philp Gosset, it has been given back its rightful place in Act One of Rossini's opera.
This production of L'inganno felice , a semi-serious opera that is quite popular also in our day, was recorded in the summer of 2015 at the Rossini in Wildbad Opera Festival. The performance had a resounding success, thanks to the direction of Jochen Schonleber, the vigorous conducting of Antonino Fogliani and the presence of the bass Lorenzo Regazzo in the role of Tarabotto, the true star of the soiree, supported by a splendid Silvia Della Benetta as Isabella.
When the 21-year-old Gioachino Rossini wrote his L'Italiana in Algeri (The Italian Girl in Algiers) for Venice in 1813 he had already made his debut as an opera composer two and a half years earlier, yet this was his tenth opera-a quarter of all the operas which he was to write up to 1829.
The opera portrays the adventures of the astute Isabella, Italian prisoner of the sultan Mustapha, who has wearied of his docile, submissive wives and seeks a new wife who can stand up to him: in this Isabella succeeds all to well, wrapping the sultan around here finger and then reducing him to despair as she finally returns to Italy with her beloved Lindoro and suitor Taddeo. Alongside the dizzying speeds of its action, the opera contains an element that is wholly new for the Italian stages of the day: pervasive, at times even explicit, sexual allusion, starting with Isabella's aria Cruel lot, tyrannous love (All men want it/all men ask for it/happiness/from a fair woman).
It was customary for Rossini to modify his scores and develop second and third versions for theatres that wanted to stage his operas. The Maometto II here recorded corresponds only in part to the original score (Naples, 1820), which is the version generally performed nowadays; it is, instead, the revision made for Venice's Teatro La Fenice staged on 26 December 1822 as opening title of the 1823 Carnival season, the same season which, on 3 February 3, would also see the debut of Semiramide . For Venice Rossini tried to soften the monolithic character of his Neapolitan score, introducing an opening symphony, making changes - some of them quite substantial - to the score and, especially, giving the plot a happy ending. The title role is sung by the young Italian bass Lorenzo Regazzo; Claudio Scimone, on the podium, is responsible for the revision of the score.
The composition of Semiramide took approximately four months, which is an unusually long span for Rossini . The premiere took place on the 3rd of February 1823. The opera's libretto is based on Voltaire's drama Semiramis , written by the French philosopher and scholar in 1748. For some respects a conclusive works, Semiramide contains, like all masterpieces, traditional elements alongside innovative ones.
Rossini accentuated the role of the orchestra, compared to his previous serious operas: the Sinfonia, the longest and most elaborate Rossini ever wrote, immediately suggests Rossini endeavoured to give the instrumental part a more important role yet than usual. At the same time, the bel canto dimension is probably more developed than in any other previous Rossinian serious opera. Indeed even recently, the difficulty of finding interpreters up to tackling Rossini's vocal writing, often prohibitively difficult, has contributed to the few and far between performances of this masterpieces. The role of Semiramide calls for a singer with qualities both of dramatic and coloratura soprano; bel canto agility is, in any case, required of all the main interpreters of this opera. This is a huge opera from all points of view. It summarizes and completes Rossini's serious arc, and is...
Domenico Scarlatti's La Dirindina and Albinoni's Pimpinone are two intermezzi buffi, which were comic operatic interludes inserted between acts or scenes of an opera seria. Pimpinone was performed for the first time in Venice in 1708, as the interlude for Astarto , Albinoni's own opera seria.
The work was an immediate success and was given many further performances, both in Italy and abroad. La Dirindina was composed seven years later, in 1715, by Domenico Scarlatti, son of Alessandro. Both intermezzi are premiere video recordings, filmed in high definition of 16:9 aspect ratio with stereo PCM sound.
One ought to feel, or sense, that behind these simple events something else is hidden; that these everyday characters and happenings are being used to show how above, and beyond this simple story of a marriage, the so-called modern, the merely modish exists only from today till tomorrow, from shaky hand to a greedy mouth - not only in marriage, but no less in art, in politics and in attitudes towards life.
Most of Schubert's operas were written without a specific commission, in the hope that, once completed, some theatre might find them interesting simply by virtue of their musical value. This unrealistic optimism proved almost always wrong and Schubert suffered bitter disappointments, very often working for nothing. Begun on 20 September 1821, Alfonso und Estrella was completed on 27 February 1822 but was first staged, on the initiative of Franz Liszt, only in 1854, after Schubert's death. Alfonso und Estrella has the characteristic climate of a romantische Oper. If it is true that Schubert lacks the sense of theatre which is typical of the best operatic composers of his day (for example Weber), the power of his creativity and beauty of many arias cannot be denied.
The creation of Daphne was not a simple affair, especially for what concerned the poetic text (due to the modest talent of the librettist Joseph Gregor), but on 15 October 1938 the opera was finally premiered at Dresden's Staatstheater. On the podium was the young conductor Karl Bohm. Daphne is a masterpiece of early 20th-century vocal music. Structured in a single act, this opera is a solid work with a rich musical vein. Strauss's orchestration appears, as always, remarkably refined. The vocal writing is demanding for all the main characters, but especially so for the protagonist, here interpreted by a magnificent June Anderson. Filmed in high definition at Venice's La Fenice, the present production is directed by Paul Curran.
Milan's la Scala theatre as told by the protagonists of its golden years, interviewed by the renowned Italian journalist Enzo Biagi . A series originally produced on 16mm film, now restored and offered to the public at large by Accasfilm.
Milan's La Scala theatre as told by the protagonists of its golden years.
Enzo Biagi was one of the Italy's most famous and beloved journalists. His fondness of the prestigious Milanese venue led to the programmes presented now but was made in 1981 to 1982. Documenting the La Scala productions of those years, Biagi entered the theatre during the rehearsals and interviewed not only the conductors, singers and directors of the time, but also some of the great stars of the past.
Milan's La Scala theatre as told by the protagonists of its golden years.
Enzo Biagi was one of the Italy's most famous and beloved journalists. His fondness of the prestigious Milanese venue led to the programmes presented now but was made in 1981 to 1982. Documenting the La Scala productions of those years, Biagi entered the theatre during the rehearsals and interviewed not only the conductors, singers and directors of the time, but also some of the great stars of the past.
Il Corsaro is still one of Verdi's less known and performed operas. Chronologically speaking, it belongs to the famous "years in the galley", even though it dates from a period (the autumn of 1848) when the composer's name, in Italy, could already be considered established. Although this is considered one of Verdi's minor works, there are many exciting and poignant passages in it, and the tight dramatic action makes for music that has a pressing and incisive rhythm. The renowned baritone Renato Bruson and conductor Renato Palumbo stand out in the cast and this recording makes the most of Lamberto Puggelli's beautiful sets.
The premiere of Ernani at Venices' Teatro La Fenice in 1844 failed to come up to Verdi's expectations, primarily because of the poor health of some of the singers. Both critics and audiences, however, soon warmed to Ernani , especially after the following performances. The opera contains some of Verdi's most successful, impassioned arias (first and foremost Elvira's cavatina and Silva's cantabile) and clearly denoted an evolution in terms of dramatic structure, more cohesive and with lesser use of blocks of closed numbers. Despite a turbulent 'premiere', Ernani became a real international success, beginning with the felicitous Vienna productions of May/June 1844. The cast of this Teatro Regio of Parma production features some of today's best singers for this type of repertoire.
The nearly eighty-year-old Verdi debuted Falstaff at La Scala on the 9th of February 1893. Based on the play The Merry Wives of Windsor , Falstaff was Verdi's last opera, which covered nearly fifty-four years of creative activity and the most perfect enigmatic work ever composed by the musician from Busseto.
Boito Arrigo skillfully preserved his original traits, converging them into a libretto that is agile, concise and imaginative. His Falstaff is not a solely comical figure; he is a complex character with a cynical outlook on life.
It all started with an agreement with the Russian music authorities and on the suggestion of Mauro Corticelli (an impresario from Bologna), to asked the composer to write a new opera for the imperial theatre. Verdi choose Don Alvaro o La fuerza de sino by the Spaniard Angel Perez de Saavedra for his subject and libretto and contacted to Piave to set the work right away.
On the evening of 10th November 1862 La forza del destino was finally staged at St. Petersburg's Imperial Theatre, obtaining resounding success. The performance was "excellent", according to what Verdi wrote to Tito Ricordi in his telegraphic account of the soirre. The Czar Alexander II, who could not see the first performances due to illness, attended on the fourth evening, and summoned the Maestro to congratulate him in person. La forza del destino is, indeed an experimental creation by a composer who was already mature but still looking for new incentives and challenges.
Giovanna d'Arco , Verdi's seventh opera, was premiered at La Scala in Milan on 15th February, 1845. It was written between the composition of I Due Foscari (November 1844) and Alzira (August 1845), a period when Verdi was already enjoying popularity as a recognized heir to Bellini and Donizetti. After the success of Nabucco, which had launched him on the Italian operatic scene, the Venetian triumph of Ernani cemented Verdi's repuation as a composer of international stature, both of home and abroad.
This opera undoubtedly marks an important turning point in Verdi's operatic writing, because it brings to the foreground the characters' introspective, psychological aspect, which would be the fundamental feature of most of the maestro's later creations.
This recording documents the production staged at Novara's Teatro Coccia during the 2013-2014 season, with Dario Argento tackling for the first time the direction of an opera.
Although not a success like the La Traviata when it premiered on 6th March 1854, Verdi's Rigoletto is considered, in Italy at least, as by far his most popular opera up to this date. With the text written by Francesco Maria Piave , the plot found much of its interest and its emotive impact on the public in the fact that the events it related were "real life" of the day.
La traviata is Verdi's most popular opera and one of the best loved of all stage works. Romance, tragedy and unforgettable tunes - this opera has it all. But modern audiences have largely lost sight of the fact that its plot was altogether unprecedented at the time of the work's composition: with the tale of high-class prostitute dying of consumption, Verdi raised his fondness for daring subjects to a whole new level.
Les vepres siciliennes , a five-act opera on a libretto by Eugene Scribe and Charles Duveyrier with music by Giuseppe Verdi , was first staged at the Paris Opera on 13th June 1855. The subject of the opera was nothing other than an adaptation of a libretto that Scribe had written some years before. At first the opera was greeted with great success, even Hector Berlioz , usually far from kind to Italian musicians, exalted the grandeur of its conception and its masterly composition. However its Parisian success was to be short lived, and after 1865 Les vepres siciliennes disappeared from the repertoire of the Opera.
Partenope with the maiden was one of the three sirens defeated by Ulysses, whose body washed ashore in the spot where Naples was founded. Or was she the Greek princess of the libretto. who founded a city that took her name and successfully defended it against the neighbouring Cumaeans? Set to music by a number of composers - such as Caldara, Hasse, Sarro, Handel and Vivaldi - the myth of Partenope was very popular and known in as many as sixteen different versions. Neapolitans, even today, call themselves "partenopei", "children of Parthenope". A rich and colourful production, entrusted to world-renowned specialists of the Baroque repertoire and with the added value of the some very comic intermezzi, as was customary in 18th-century music theatre.
The world premiere performance of a lost Vivaldi masterpiece, Ercole su'l Termodonte reconstructed by Alessandro Ciccolini and edited by Alan Curtis, directed and designed by John Pascoe for the Spoleto Festival dei Due Mondi.
Il Farnace is the most written and re-proposed of Antonio Vivaldi's operas, it's like a beloved child who worries his father, and to whom the parent always wants to give the best. Versions of Farnace , two in 1727 and one each in 1730, 1731 and 1732, had been conceived and adapted to the different circumstances for Venice, Prague, Pavia and Mantua, always with a cast to Vivaldi's satisfaction and with the composer in control of the production.
The greatest appreciation of Vivaldi's operatic music was expressed in a letter by a spectator of the 1727 Carnival season, the abbot Antonio Conti . He wrote to Madamde de Caylus that of all the operas of the Venice season he like best Farnace because its music was very varied, "between the sublime and the tender", and because Vivaldi's pupil worked wonders.
Directing the Complesso Barocco and a vocal cast of specialists, Alan Curtis, one of the world's greatest experts on Vivaldi operas, brings a recently rediscovered masterpiece of the Red Priest's, offered here for the time. Motezuma , first staged at the Teatro Sant'Angelo in Venice in autumn 1733, is one of the operas of Vivaldi's full maturity. The score was long thought lost, but the fortunate rediscovery in 2002 of a large majority of the original music, some of it in fragmentary form, has allowed the expert Alessandro Ciccolini to produce a reconstruction that is reliable and true to the Venetian composer's original intentions.
It tells the gripping stories of Mitrena and Montezuma, and of Teutile and Ramiro, and particularly the trials of Fernando Cortez in conquest, set against Montezuma's love for his own people, stimulated the imaginations of many composers.
In the course of Franco Corelli's long artistic career, year 1971 was an important one. The tenor, then at the apex of his international fame, turned fifty, twenty years of which had been spent busily active on stage. Few opera singers, in the 20th century, could compare with him for passion, variety of repertoire and quality of interpretation. These short but memorable performances wish to trace the most important stages his incredible artistic parabola, during which the Italian singer appeared beside the all the greatest protagonists of the operatic world
Edgardo the Duke of Mantua, Federico, Werther, Des Grieux, Hoffmann, Romeo: the aroas of this Las Palmas recital are flashbacks of a career, of a style and an interpreter that were out of the ordinary.
At the age of 69 the voice of Alfred Kraus is unchanged; time has only dimmed a few notes. His still flawless technique and dedication to the repertoire, which he has built up and preserved with determination, allow him to tackle demanding pieces with results to absolute excellence.
The recital featured on this video dates back to 1984 and photographs a Renata Scotto in her full artistic maturity. At the time of the singer was 50 years old, 32 of which she spent on stage. The programme is vast and varied in epochs, styles and composers and shows the elasticity of an artistic of solid technique gifted with absolutely extraordinary musicality.
Alongside famous pages of opera, like Lascia ch'io pianga from Handel's Rinaldo or Tu che la vanita from Verdi's Don Carlo , Renata Scotto tackles lesser-known pages, like the beautiful Petrarchan sonnets by Franz Liszt in 1844/45. Here perhaps the artist gives the best of herself, exhibiting a palette of colours that is truly rich in nuances and dazzling control of vocal emission. At the end of this demanding programme, based chiefly on chamber music, Renata Scotto offers four encores, tow of which are dedicated to Puccini operas Tosca and Butterfly shrewdly kept back for a grand finale.
In November 1957, while the Berliner Philharmoniker were on tour in Japan, Karajan proposed some of the best works in his repertoire, starting with the Prelude to Die Meistersinger by Wagner and continuing with Richard Strauss' Don Juan and Beethoven's Fifth Symphony - the "symphony" par excellence which he had on November 1954 for EMI with the Philharmonia Orchestra.
Parsifal, Wagner's last opera, was premiered in Bayreuth in 1882. In the fifty years of his artistic life Wagner did not only mature and outline more and more clearly the aesthetic ideals that formed the intellectual substratum of his composing activity but definitely upset the course of the history of music and of the music theatre. The wide range of his cultural interests, his operational daring, ability to blend elements of different origin, complete rejection of any form of operatic routine and grandiosity of conception make of each and every opera that he wrote a sort of artistic case in its own, where the experiences of previous works are salvaged or abandoned according to the expressive needs, which are never subordinate to contingent necessities. Performing this complex work is no simple task, but the cast on stage at Teatro La Fenice in Venice did so with flying colours.
After his success with Freischütz , Weber wanted to write a grand romantic opera and in the end the subject of Euryanthe was chosen, a tale inspired by a legend going back to the thirteen century. Euryanthe is music of inspiration and originality such as is rarely found in the history of German opera in the first half of the nineteenth century. The Italianisms that are occasionally glimpsed in Freischütz are eliminated almost completely. Euryanthe is set to music in its entirety, with accompanied recitative passages that are often of great beauty. We may say that in an opera that has many experimental features Weber sought for the first and only time in his life to overcome the traditional dichotomy between spoken and sung parts, between recitative and closed numbers, creating a highly supple musical structure. The present production features a cast of specialists of German opera and the outstanding direction of Pier Luigi Pizzi.