My All-time Favorite Desert Island Opera Videos

Rafael de Acha © 2008

Opera and opera recordings and opera singers are like anything else that appeals primarily to the senses and only secondarily to the brain: it all is rather personal, quirky, and irrational. One man’s potion = another man’s poison.

So, when it comes to making a selection of video recordings that will accompany us in a course in the History of Opera that we’ll soon be teaching, we inevitably end up with a kind of “My All-time Favorite Desert Island Opera Videos for a Desert Island equipped with a battery-operated DVD player.” Just like this one…

In other words, a list that is close to one’s heart could and probably would elicit sharp criticism and howls of laughter by the aficionados on the other side of the operatic divide.

One could almost hear “The Domingo Otello!?” “What about the Vickers Otello with Peter Glossop as Iago?” Yeah, right, but they didn’t make a video out of that one. “Bartoli’s Rosina?” “But she makes all those faces when she sings…” Yeah, so did Conchita Supervia and Teresa Berganza before her.

Yes, one man’s potion is another man’s poison. So then, we proceed, if not confident in our critical insights, at least sure that we know what we like and we like what we know. I am not familiar with the Tamagno-Maurel 1903 recording of Verdi’s masterpiece but I highly suspect one exists.

Not having viewed each one of the 20 or more DVD recordings of Otello that exist somewhere in the world, including the Estonian National Opera 2004 recording (in Estonian with German subtitles) which indeed I did not see, I have to zero in on some known quantities. At least until the next Othello is released, maybe one with Ben Heppner in the title role…Now, that would make my operatic day!

This list is meant to accompany a survey course I am supposed to be teaching sometime later this year at a university in the city where I live. Unless there is a hiring freeze or the next recession kicks in or they hate my teaching or loathe my choice of ties, I will be using this much-touted list in my class and saying to my students “We will now view…”

The videos listed here exist. I bought them throughout the years that DVD’s and, before them, VHS’s have been in existence. I can offer no assurances as to your being able to get them. But I would bet you could find one of these recordings – if not all – by searching your favorite on-line stores on the Web. More likely than not they are all out there somewhere, as re-releases or on the shelves of your favorite circulating library.

My course is divided into 25 class lectures. The headings that follow correspond to one or several sessions that would cover a particular period in the history of opera or a particular composer. Now on to the partial list, one which will take us through Verdi before we then backtrack to Bel Canto opera and to French opera.

Beyond await us Puccini and Verismo, Wagner, Russian opera, the Spanish Zarzuelas and Operas, Strauss and the other 20th century innovators.

Early Opera – Claudio Monteverdi’s L’Incoronazione di Poppea

Claudio Monteverdi

This is a rare bird found only occasionally these days on the stages of opera houses around the world. Notwithstanding its two juicy lead roles of Nero and Poppea and its steamy story of love and power struggles in Ancient Rome, the opera is a rarity. Lucky then that there are several DVD’s from which to choose. In my reviewing of them I quickly blew off the Bollywood Poppea, the proto-Fascist Poppea, and the – are we still not ready? – post-modern Poppea.

The recording I would take to my desert island if for no other reason just to wake up every morning to hear and watch Maria Ewing caress one of Poppea’s steamier ariosos, is the one with Raymond Leppard in the podium.

Another asset in that cast is veteran Robert Lloyd, a grave basso with Royal Shakespeare gravitas. The production by Sir Peter Hall evokes both Ancient Rome and the Renaissance of Monteverdi’s day in felicitous costuming.

This is a visual and dramatic and musical slam-dunk.

Georg Friedrich Handel

Early Opera – Giulio Cesare and Orfeo ed Euridice

Handel’s Giulio Cesare has been one of the catalysts in the revival of Baroque opera in America and abroad.

Christoph Willibald von Gluck’s Orfeo ed Euridice (or Orphée et Euridice if you prefer) is the best-known and most-often performed opera of the early classical period (Gluck, Haydn and the pre-Da Ponte Mozart).

Both Giulio Cesare and Orphée have plumy roles for star singers with an affinity to the genre and the voice to sing it.

The role of Cleopatra (the real lead in spite of the title) calls for a soprano with prodigious agility, good looks, and a larger than life personality. In other words, Beverly Sills in her prime… Alas, she left no video recording of this work!

Our options, briefly, are Peter Sellars’ production set in modern-day Egypt with the late Lorraine Hunt-Lieberson as a formidable Cornelia and Susan Larson’s slinky Cleopatra lounging by the Cairo Hilton pool in swimsuit and sunglasses.

There is David McVicar’s glossy-campy Glyndebourne production with the stunning Danielle de Niese as Cleopatra.

There is the Teatro Liceu de Barcelona’s confounding take, complete with Land’s End outfits for the conquerors, a pet crocodile for Cleo (I swear I am not making this up!) and a set of draconian cuts of some of the best airs in the opera. Best in show is the awesome Polish contralto Ewa Podles as Cornelia, who places us squarely in Cornelia’s corner.

Fourth in the line up is the Andreas Scholl recording (he is Caesar) with a second-tier cast in another director-driven, hysterical, sadly misconceived production.

Were I you, I’d opt for a good sound CD with any number of wonderful casts, including the City Opera one with Sills in her glorious prime and the prodigious basso Norman Treigle as Caesar, and with the wonderful Canadian contralto Maureen Forrester as Cornelia helming an excellent supporting cast.

As for Orfeo ed Euridice, I find but one choice – a great one: The 1982 Glyndebourne classy, visually sumptuous and insightful production directed by Sir Peter Hall with Janet Baker’s iconic Orfeo and Raymond Leppard doing yeoman work in the pit. Look no further.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Three options: his best opera seria, his best Singspiel (Die Zauberflötte), his best Italian opera buffa (Le Nozze di Figaro.) And I sneak in Don Giovanni in its own hybrid category of comic drama.

Inquiring minds, part one: Why not Così fan Tutte? Up front we stated this was going with us to our private desert island. Don’t ask. I won’t tell why I dislike Così with a passion.

Idomeneo

Prime target is this hapless opera for the slings and arrows of directorial capriciousness, ranging from the fantastical (Neptune sitting silently by an onstage pool as tenor Ramon Vargas sings Fuor del Mar) to the plain silly (female choristers as Cretan maidens with prosthetic breasts.)

I like my opera straight, not on the rocks of mannered directors where Idomeneo’s ship wrecks time and again. I will cast my vote accordingly: Pavarotti, Levine, Cotrubas, von Stade, Behrens, Jean Pierre Ponnelle. It is the old DG recording of the Met production of almost a quarter century ago.

The cast is luminous. Pavarotti conclusively proves that he could sing anything, including one of the most difficult non-Italian roles in the operatic canon.

Cotrubas as Ilia, Von Stade as Idamante and Behrens as Elettra are perfection incarnate.

The Ponnelle production is original in conception and impeccable in execution: he creates an Enlightenment world battling the forces of pagan irrationality in which reason triumphs at the end. The costumes are high Baroque and the setting coldly elegant: an arcane mix of Helenic architectural purity and French Rococo elegance. Levine’s conducting is magisterial. Buy it or borrow or steal it at your own risk now.

Die Zauberflötte

Being that this is the most fantastical opera in the Mozartian oeuvre, there is a lot of latitude in it for the directorially-challenged.

A misconceived Magic Flute can still ride on charm and on the strengths of a good cast.

A misconceived Abduction from the Seraglio is a day in Purgatory. That’s why there’s no Abduction in my list. The last one I saw took place on board the Orient Express in the 1920’s and should have been titled Abduction from La Gare du Nord. All aboard!

That said here is my dark horse favorite: Trollflöjten. Troll who? Trollflöjten – Ingmar Bergman’s enchanted, enchanting, visionary take on Mozart’s fantasy, preserved in film for us all to enjoy.

The stellar cast of young Swedes is up to the task, including a spectacular young, active Sarastro – Ulrik Cold – who, for once, does not put us to sleep with all the Masonic blah blah. There’s also a wonderful Papageno – Hakan Hagegard – and the funniest and scariest Monostatos in memory, the veteran Ragnar Ulfung.

The three Ladies look like three ladies rather than three housewives on the brink of a nervous breakdown, which they often do. Oh and they do not move in unison, thank Heavens!

The three little boys are three little boys. The two armed man look menacing. The Queen of the Night and Pamina look like Mother and Daughter and Tamino is a Swedish Hunk. And, oh, they can all sing!

Clocking in at 135 minutes one is safe to guess there are no major cuts in here to speak of, other than in the spoken dialogue. Buying this for your video collection gets you a bonus: it is one of the Swedish master’s finest achievements.

Le Nozze di Figaro

Give me a terrific cast of singing actors with two great bass-baritones, two great sopranos, one great lyric mezzo, a handful of top-notch comprimarios, al of them led by a stylish conductor and staged by an intelligent director willing to put his ego aside and simply do Da Ponte’s and Mozart’s ‘capolavoro.’ Easier said than seen!

There are well over a dozen versions available on Amazon.com, but I cast my vote by sinning on the side of common sense.

Take the cast: Walter Berry (Figaro), Reri Grist (Susanna), Edith Mathis (Countess), Imgar Vixell (Count), Claire Watson (Cherubino) all in Günther Rennert’s production with Karl Böhm leading the Salzburg Festival orchestra.

The year was 1966 and Berry, Grist, Mathis, Vixell and Watson were all of them in their 20’s and 30’s, fresh-voiced and with style by spades. Hands-down, the best of the best!

Don Giovanni

Past the issue of whether your baser instincts want a bass on first base (Don) and a bass on second (Leporello) and a bass on third (Commendattore) or if you prefer the less rumbling line up of a Kavalier Baryton Don Giovanni (Dieskau) and a buffo Leporello (Corena) and a Talvela heavyweight basso with power tools for the Statue, a main issue remains: you need the best of the best for this one

.

Yes! The main issue involved in casting Mozart’s drama giocoso is the seemingly simple one of hiring an ensemble of eight superb Mozartians and turning them over to the TLC of a very fine conductor and a very fine director. I do not recall ever seeing the perfect Don Giovanni in over forty years of opera going. Sorry! I am probably ungrateful.

The fact that the 1954 Salzburg Don Giovanni ever got recorded and is now available is nothing short of a miracle. With Furtwangler in the pit, Siepi as the Don and Paul Czinner as cinematographer, I can willingly put up with the Germanic sounds of Otto Edelman’s Leporello (“Madamina, il catalogo e kvesto”), Elizabeth Grümmer’s hooty Donna Anna and Lisa della Casa’s arctic Elvira.

But I could also hug the Zerlina of Erna Berger anytime were it not for the jealous presence of the best Masetto this writer ever saw: Walter Berry.

Siepi is the gold standard Don of the past century. Period. He is the leader of the pack with also-rans trailing behind him; a Don with the vocal heft of a Pinza and the honeyed legato and easy top that were Siepi’s career-long trademark. And he looks and acts the part to consummate perfection.

The production is straightforward, unencumbered by directorial idiocy (Giovanni in Spanish Harlem…) or visual fuss (the all-white recent Salzburg Don that a beloved American baritone all but walked out on.)

Ludwig van Beethoven

FIDELIO

Karita Mattila, Ben Heppner, Rene Pape, Falk Struchmann, Robert Lloyd, Jennifer Welch and Matthew Polenzani / Jürgen Flimm / James Levine / MET 1992

Some modern dress productions of operas which were written and set by their composers and librettists in times gone by simply do not work. Others are dour and dismal disasters that go into the annals of Bad Opera Productions of All Time. A few others of these directorial adventures fly by the seat of their pants and sort of crash-land, with few or no casualties.

Sometimes for it all to work it takes a cast, the confluence of a conductor and a cast, the happenchance of being in the right opera house in the right season…When such a coincidental or carefully planned event occurs, operatic fireworks happen, even if the set and costumes are less than right.

The cast of the 1992 Met Fidelio on DVD is magical. Karita Mattila simply dispels any memories of Traubel or Flagstad or you-name-your soprano in the role of Leonore. Mattila – all 5’10” of her in tight khaki jodhpurs and boots and work shirt – is a dream Leonore: tomboyish, nosey, deliciously-pretty, self-assured by and of her mission. That is the dramatic part.

The vocalism of our Leonore is of the historic recording ilk. One imagines voice students will be watching and listening to this DVD a hundred years from now and learning. Mattila sings the best Abscheulicher this writer has ever heard. She then gives us some extraordinary vocalism in the ensuing scene with Pizarro and Rocco, and then turns around and outdoes herself with some more of the same kind of singing in the duet with Florestan. Mattila is one of a kind in this repertory.

Heppner is – even fifteen years ago – the true Jügendliche Heldentenor, fully ready to scale the heights of this role before graduating to the school of hard Tristan and Siegfried knocks. Dramatically he is dignified and quite able to let Leonore wear the pants this time around without loss of manliness.

Pape is a young Rocco whose old man make up can not quite hide the fact that he is in his early thirties, but one whose vocalism is gorgeous and lyrical in a role basses often bark.

Struckmann’s Pizarro does his share of barking, but then Beethoven wrote the role to be half-spoken, half-yelled in the upper half of the baritone range.

Robert Lloyd is a sonorous and dignified Don Fernando. Polenzani and Welch are a Jacquino-Marzelline pairing prematurely on the brink of their now or never about-to-be middle aged marriage. Rather that the usual leggiero-leggiero pairing more suited to Singspiel this is a couple suited to this heroic work.

Under Levine’s magisterial baton, the Met orchestra and chorus do phenomenal work. He defines the score for our time.

The production has sets by Robert Israel and costumes by Florence von Gerkan which, under the “regie” of German director Jürgen Flimm manage to serve a unified concept well. The concept is, as one perceives it, a universalist one, where the prison where Rocco and Jacquino work could be anywhere in the Western world – especially one with Latin American flavor – and in any century.

Usually this sort of equal opportunity setting tends to water things down dramatically. This time, the quintessential Enlightenment-transitions-to-Romanticism opera, all but works, aided no doubt by the great Mattila-Heppner-Pape triumvirate and the genius of Levine in the pit.

ITALIAN OPERA

Giuseppe Verdi

DON CARLO

Luciano Pavarotti, Samuel Ramey, Daniella Dessi, Paolo Coni, Luciana D’Intino, Alexander Anisimov / Ricardo Mutti / SCALA / EMI / 1992

DVD’s like good wines can and do have great years and 1992 seems to have been a great among greats in this grand cuvee of video recordings.

In 1992 Pavarotti was 57 and no hint of vocal decline was discernible in his brilliant and seemingly inexhaustible vocalism. Samuel Ramey, at age 50, was at the top of the bass game, delivering the goods in all the great basso roles in his vast repertory.

The lesser lights in this cast are still luminous, with an excellent Elisabetta in the person of Daniella Dessi. Paolo Coni is not one of your great Rodrigos, but it is enlightening to hear what a “secondo baritono” at La Scala can do these days, which is quite a bit. Alexander Anisimov’s perilous wabble as the Grand Inquisitor does not bode well for his future in the big leagues outside of whatever Russian provincial theatre for which he sings or sang. He in fact was never heard from again.

The Eboli is sung in the big bad Spanish girl tradition of Simionato and Barbieri by the young mezzo Luciana D’Intino. Having heard her sing O Don Fatale in the Richard Tucker Gala this past year (2007) I can vouch for her vocal longevity: she can still sing the big rep fifteen years later.

The main event here is the Pavarotti-Ramey-D’Intino triumvirate, with the solid support of Muti in the pit long before his Scala debacle.

The production is in the “more is more” tradition of La Scala big shows: the auto da fe scene seems to have more people on stage than Times Square does before midnight on New Year’s Eve. But the camera helps get up close to Ramey as he soul searches and maps out the fate of the Spanish Empire in his scene with the Grand Inquisitor. It also helps Pavarotti show us that he was not at all a bad actor.

The good – and there is much good and great here – is the honesty of the singing, the dramatic integrity of Pavarotti’s and Ramey’s and D’Intino’s work, the quintessentially Italian sound that seems to permeate every square inch of that theatre before anybody even opens his or her mouth to sing.

And when Dessi opens up into “Tu che la vanità” or when Pavarotti and Coni shake the rafters with “Dio che nell’ alma infondere” you know they mean operatic business. These are big league big voices in a big house singing a big opera.

The “lunga tradizione” of season after season of Verdi, going all the way back to performances conducted by Verdi himself, and then generation after generation of singers is mystical. Ramey stepping onto that stage and knowing that, before him, Siepi and Christoff and Ghiaurov and Pasero and Pinza and Neri and Mardones all knelt at the same or at a similar prix-dieu and sang “Ella giammai m’amò…” is emotional, great stuff.

FALSTAFF

Giuseppe Verdi

Giuseppe Taddei, Rolando Panerai, Francisco Araiza, Raina Kabaivanska, Janet Perry, Trudeliese Schmidt, Christa Ludwig / Herbert von Karajan / Sony

The reading of the score in this 1992 Salzburg Festival is just about perfect. The cast in the video is the cast I was lucky to hear in person in the summer of 1992. The fact that this is preserved for all generations to come to see and hear is nothing short of miraculous.

Karajan handpicked his singer-actors at a time when the veterans were approaching retirement age (Taddei, Kabaivanska, Ludwig, Di Palma, Zednik were pushing their sixties or already there) and the newcomers were fresh out of the conservatory. Thus we get Taddei at age 74 (!) stunning in his ability to still sing a not lean but mean Falstaff.

His outbursts at L’Onore, Laddri! and his vocal blow-by-blow matching of the almost half-his-age Rolando Panerai in the Ford-Falstaff scene is extraordinary. Above all, this is the performance of a lifetime; a complete melding of dramatic instinct, textual understanding and vocal maturity that only comes at the end of a long and illustrious career.

The rewards await us at every turn: Panerai is a sanguine, supple Ford with his ever-reliable Italianate sound. Federico Araiza and Janet Perry are two lovers made in singer’s heaven. The trio of Raina Kavaibanska, Trudeliese Schmidt and Crista Ludwig can not be bettered, managing to be utterly funny and flawlessly musical at the same time.

Not one to stint, Karajan does deluxe casting of the comprimario roles with Piero di Palma and Heinz Zednik, no less, and the young Italian basso Federico Davia as, respectively Bardolf, Caius and Pistol.

With the Vienna Philharmonic in the pit and a rehearsal process rumored to have lasted close to two months, this was bound to exceed perfection. And it does, with Karajan doing double-duty as stage director in a production that is dramatically solid and picture-postcard-pretty in its Elizabethan authenticity and in every visual department, from lighting to sets to the underwear hung out to dry in a clothesline.

This kind of carefully-curated, exhaustibly-rehearsed, fastidiously polished, festival-level production is alarmingly and gradually becoming as quaint a relic of the past as vocal concerts where a singer would sing an all-Lieder program or a chamber music program played outside New York or Chicago. That is a frightening thought.

But it appears that assembly-line opera with productions designed in San Diego, cast in Toronto, rehearsed in Houston and delivered in Miami are the order of the day. A sad day.

MACBETH

Giuseppe Verdi

Thomas Hampson, Paoletta Marrocu, Robert Scandiuzzi, Luis Lima / Franz Welser-Möst; David Pountney, Zurich Opera.

The main reason for including this video in our list is Thomas Hampson in the title role. In this Zurich Opera production recorded live a few years ago, Hampson already evidences utter comfort with the vocal demands of the title role. The Zurich Opera with 1,100 seats is not a Met-size house, and thus allows a mid-career singer such as Hampson was in 1992 to try out a role such as Macbeth before singing it in a large house, which he would do precisely a few years later.

The results could not be better. Hampson’s take on the title role is exemplary, his singing always subservient to the text but never at the expense of the vocal line, which remains at all times firmly anchored in a legato approach Verdi was fond of calling “lunga la frase…

From Due Vaticini – here beautifully partnered by the Italian basso Roberrto Scandiuzzi’s Banquo – Hampson makes a potential voice breaker into a Bel Canto baritone role. Alas, I wish such were the case with Paoletta Marrocu’s Lady M!

Hovering between semi-educated middle-voice parlando and uneducated yelping stabs at the top notes of this most treacherous of all Verdi soprano roles, the Italian soprano sets the tone for her Lady Macbeth right out of the gate with a reading of the letter in a Milanese accent one could slice with a blunt knife.

Her subsequent Vieni t’affretta only approximates the notes Verdi lays down. It is a given that Verdi did not want a beautiful sound from his Lady Macbeth, but sounds – musical sounds – he did want or he would have written the part in Sprechstimme, long before Berg and Schönberg first conceived it. And her sleep-walking scene features neither sleep nor walking, with the soprano on her knees by a white wooden box and a box of used matches and a candle for props. Oh, yes, and a red magic marker with which she is provided to make bloody graffiti on a mirrored wall. All that leads to a high D she should have been advised to skip.

Scandiuzzi has a true lyric basso cantante sound and the requisite authority to bring gravitas to a short but important role. Lima’s “O figli miei…dalla paterna mano” is worth the wait: solid work from a quite underrated tenor.

Pountney’s production is short-changed by inter-galactic costuming and plexiglassy sets that do not advance the cause or integrity of the fine English director’s usual work.

Welser-Möst – known in our neck of the woods as “Franz Worst than Most” due to his listless conducting of the Cleveland Symphony Orchestra during its South Florida annual residences, does neither better nor worse here: a by-the-numbers, not very idiomatic interpretation of a Verdi score dependent on a constant give and take between stage and pit. He actually sleepwalks better than the soprano.

But Thomas Hampson may just be the best Macbeth on video.

OTELLO

Giuseppe Verdi

Placido Domingo, Justino Diaz, Katia Ricciarelli / Lorin Maazel; Zeffirelli / MGM

This one just about gets it right: Domingo was at the time of the making of this film the greatest living Otello. His Esultate, Dio mi potevi scagliar and Niun mi tema are exemplary: baritonal in timbre, lyrical when needed, stentorian in a way that recalls Tamagno and Caruso in their recordings of the Moor’s music.

Katia Ricciarelli is gorgeous and so is her singing of Desdemona’s duet with Otello and her last act Ave Maria and Willow Song.

Diaz is a terrific Iago. His bass-baritone is a bit taxed by some of the high-lying passages but he acquits himself with plenty of reserves in the Credo and later sings with a solid mezza voce in Era la Notte.

Although they won’t erase memories of Vickers or McCracken and Glossop or Gobbi in their roles, the Domingo-Diaz pairing is just about the best one on record in DVD format.

Maazel delivers a rock solid reading of the score and Zeffirelli gives us a cinematic masterpiece with world-class production values.

Zeffirelli is really a genius cinematographer and designer. He sets the opera in the proper location and time: Cyprus, in the years after the Battle of Lepanto, a period of time which forever changed the equation in the military dominance of the Eastern Mediterranean and the adjacent regions of the Veneto and of what today (or just yesterday) would have been called Albania and Yugoslavia.

Often accused of being a tired traditionalist, Zeffirelli is, to the mind of this writer, a superb Gesamtkunstwerk artist in the grand old tradition of the director-designers Louis Jouvet, Gordon Craig, and Vsevolod Meyerhold. There are no known instances of clashes between Zeffirelli and singers: his direction is always singer-friendly, logical, organic and endlessly inventive. Even with his stunning flair for the pictorial, his designs always serve the piece and seem to disappear into the background as his singing actors move into the center of his world and inhabit it.

SUMMING THINGS UP…

We predict that long after the enfant terrible auteur-directors of mostly European provenance have vanished along with their auteur hauteur and their Eurotrash sensibility, the work of Zeffirelli will be upheld as some of the best design and directorial art of the 20th century.

Inquiring minds, part two

How come no Rigoletto, no Forza…Ballo…? What are you, some kind of revisionist insurrectionist musicological monster?

We’re just trying to compile a list that includes those operas that we could not live without. Horrible as the thought may be, I could actually never again listen to La Forza del Destino and the course of Western Civilization would not be affected.

A year or a lifetime without another so-so performance of Rigoletto and, frankly, I would not die of a broken heart. Un Ballo in Maschera? Let me just have Bjoerling singing a few highlights and I’ll die happy.

There is one conspicuous absentee from this list: La Traviata. It was, you see, my first opera at age fourteen. Just drop the needle on the first pianissimo strains of the prelude and I’m a wreck. What can I tell you? I’m nuts for Italian opera.

Nöel Coward spoke of the potency of cheap music… Even though La Traviata is anything but cheap, it is so unabashedly sentimental. It would be impossible for us to zero in on one recording of this most heart-on-the-sleeve of all of Verdi’s works. So let us assemble a never-would-happen cast for this most-personally-meaningful opera and I’ll take it to my desert island.

Violetta will be Teresa Stratas – not the prettiest sound in history but a Violetta with the inner fire of a Greek tragic character – which Stratas was. Alfredo would be Rolando Villazón pre-vocal crisis. Our Germont would be Gabriel Bacquier, a baritone who could act as well as sing the role. The production would be designed and directed by Zeffirelli and conducted by Levine. And the course of mankind’s progress would move forward.

Advertisements

4 Comments

  1. Gail Gersh
    Posted February 6, 2008 at 4:02 pm | Permalink

    I am looking for the VHS of Manon by Massenet with Beverly Sills. I can’t find the darn thing anywhere. Can you help?

    Thanks, Gail Gersh, fan of Sills

  2. Posted February 6, 2008 at 5:42 pm | Permalink

    Dear Fan of Sills,
    Other than Amazon.com, there are two other sources that I check into all the time. One is http://www.hbdirect.com/index.php?tab=Classical. The other is http://www.premiereopera.com/

    I am familiar with that Sills recording – which I remember only as an LP, so if there is a re-issue in CD that would be news to me. But the search will be worth it. Good luck!

    Rafael

  3. Nina
    Posted February 6, 2008 at 11:02 pm | Permalink

    Please include Manon, Barcelona, Liceu.2007.
    Villazon is out of this world, last scene like all life is in a capsule. Absolutely unforgettable. All his genious imprinted in one’s memory who saw him in this role.
    Manon is Dessay. Very different from all Manons, finally is really 16 years old girl who does not know where she is getting in.
    Anyway, please look at that and you will not want anybody else.

  4. Posted February 12, 2008 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Dear Nina,
    Thanks for the tip on the Villazon-Dessay CD of Manon which I will order and look at… I have no doubt that they both are amazing in those roles. He sang last year here in Miami the best opera recital I ever heard…I find Dessay a bit mechanical in some of the stuff she does as I do Dianna Damrau too. My idea of Manon harks back to De Los Angeles, whom I saw in Havana in 1960 and the accounts of Manons by Sayao and those divas. Modern day Manons??? Sills for the singing, although she was a bit matronly when she finally got to do it at City Opera in the 1960’s and 70’s. I hope against hope that Dessay will turn my head in this role as her awesome Lucia did recently. Happy listening!

    Rafael


Post a Comment

Required fields are marked *
*
*

%d bloggers like this: