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Three Operas on DVD

Gluck: Iphigénie en Tauride

Live Recording from
The Zurich Opera House, 2001

Juliette Galstian (Iphigenie), Rodney Gilfrey (Oreste), Deon Van Der Walt (Pylades), Anton Scharinger (Thoas) & Martina Janková (Goddess Diana) Orchestra « La Scintilla » of The Zurich Opera House/ William Christie
Claus Guth (stage director)

Arthaus 100 377 DVD Video £25.00

Previously reviewed upon its first release, this reissue (with a new cover illustration) is shorn of the documentary extra which we had found important:-

Klaus Guth’s modernist production of Iphiginie at Zurich was placed in perspective by an illuminating documentary film. We'd watched the first Act with mixed feelings of admiration and bemusement - - We then turned to the documentary, and would advise you to do likewise. Klaus Guth explains his use of masks and overall conception, with several significant details which without the documentary would pass unnoticed or fail to be understod.
William Christie and John Eliot Gardiner discuss this quite extraordinary opera in detail, with illuminating contributions from the main singers.

So, read that review and try to find the other version which we had recommended - ARTHAUS 100 354.

Donizetti Marino Faliero
Bergamo Musica Festival Gaetano Donzietti

Teatro Donizetti, 2008

Naxos 2110616-17 [DVD - 2 Discs]

The Bergamo Festival explores rare Donizetti operas - "Gaetano Donizetti is arguably the established opera composer with the highest ratio of failures to successes" [Opera Today].

Digital filming has now become easy and ubiquitous, and monthly release lists get ever longer and harder for reviewers to choose amongst them. This resurrection of the one which preceded Lucia is strictly for opera 'completists'...

The Bergamo staging is simple and serviceable and their period costuming comforting for those opera fans resistive to experimental modern productions. But the rub is the poor quality of the singing. We stuck with it until the delayed entry of Faliero's wife Elena (Rachele Stanisco), whose strident, ugly singing turned us off finally...

We didn't stay the course, which perhaps disqualifies us from reviewing that 2-DVD recording, but suggests that caution may be in order for two more Donizetti/Bergamo operas boxed & newly re-released October 2011 - Don Gregorio - first released on its own as Dynamic 33579 - is now packed with L'elisir d'amore.

Verdi: Les vêpres siciliennes

Netherlands Opera

Hélène Barbara Haveman
Ninetta Lívia Ághová
Henri Burkhard Fritz
Guy de Montfort Alejandro Marco-Buhrmester
Jean Procida Balint Szabo
Thibault Hubert Francis
Danieli Fabrice Farina
Mainfroid Rudi de Vries
Robert Roger Smeets
Le Sire de Béthune Jeremy White
Le Comte de Vaudemont Christophe Fel

Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra
Koor van De Nederlandse Opera

Director Christof Loy
Conductor Paolo Carignani

Recorded live at the Amsterdam Music Theatre
, 23 & 29 September, 2010

Opus Arte OA BD7092 D [208 mins; blu-ray DVD]

Les vêpres siciliennes, conceived as a grand opéra for Paris and supplied with an Act 3 ballet as required, is here given complete in the original French version, updated to "a 1940s world of sudden violence and shadowy double-dealing - - The Vêpres ballet, The Four Seasons here, is about the youth of Henri, Hélène and her brother in Austria - half Freudian, half Tiroler sex comedy" [OperaNews].

Incongruous maybe, but this is an ever inventive staging which disarms disbelief partly because of the vigour of the production and the acting as developed by Christof Loy - illustrated in a useful Extra which documents the early rehearsals.

A great deal of the music is exciting and (as recorded) holds the centre of attention, despite some confusions felt with the action on stage. I found myself accepting the incongruities which gave pause to Paul Korenhof in the review linked above, and took it all in my stride. On the home screen (with a chorus of c. 100, a large one helps) it all looked and sounded great, and I was not troubled by any serious weaknesses.

You are unlikely to have a DVD of Les vêpres siciliennes and this one is to be welcomed and acquired, another Verdi opera centring on a troubled father/child relationship, a theme important throughout his oeuvre. We were perhaps led to expect more of the final massacre of the French invaders, but with the tolling of the bells as signal, the curtain drops and it was left to our imaginations.

A flawed masterpice it may be, definitely recommended to Verdi collectors and open minded opera lovers. The presentation is a little daunting, with pale miniscule type in the booklet, needing a bright light + magnifyingglass, small type on screen for navigation, and white subtitles which are often hard to read.

Peter Grahame Woolf

Verdi enthusiasts should explore also the Musica Rara CDs, welcomed as: "With this issue Verdi enthusiasts can really celebrate that the whole of the composer’s operatic canon is accessible on disc. For the foreseeable future I suspect this will be the only original language performance of this somewhat rambling, but ever interesting, mature Verdi opera available on CD. I am grateful that its positive attributes far outweigh its minor limitations" [Music Web].