CABALLÉ - Beyond Music - A film by Antonio Farre
BELCANTO - The Tenors of the 78 Era (Volume II) including performances
by Lauritz Melchior, Helge Rosvaenge, Jussi Björling, John McCormack,
Georghes Thill, Ivan Kozlovsky and many others
ASAFIEV: The Flames of Paris
Antonio Farre's film about the life and career of Montserrat Caballé is a tribute to the great Spanish soprano. She is seen narrating various points in her illustrious career and appears to be a gentle, kind and very hard-working artist. Many of her colleagues, including Claudio Abbado, José Carreras and Plácido Domingo, speak affectionately of her and there are many (but not enough) excerpts from live performances that show the great Diva in peak form. . Caballé and Maria Callas were friends (how jealous the latter must have been of Caballé's vocal security!). She also had a great sense of humor as evidenced by her collaboration with British rock star Freddie Mercury in 1991—very far removed from Bellini and Donizetti! The title track, Barcelona, was the was the official hymn of the 1992 Summer Olympics held in that city. This DVD is a superb memento of one of the major sopranos of the century. This was issued before on the same label and mentioned on this site in 2005 (REVIEW). Apparently that DVD has been discontinued.
Bel Canto - The Tenors of the 78rpm Era - is a reissue of a DVD covered on this site in August 2005 (REVIEW). It is a fascinating document in spite of some rather stupid comments and illustrations by Jörg Splett and Stefan Zucker in the final chapter which is oddly titled "The Singing Robot." This DVD is worth having if only for the video of Melchior in an early recording session. Don't miss it—but skip the last chapter.
The Flames of Paris, a big-scale four-act classical ballet with a score by Boris Asafiev, was premiered by the Kirov Theatre in Leningrad in 1932. It was a favorite of Stalin and became a landmark of Soviet ballet. Contrasting evil nobility with the common man, it was considered to be a "revolutionary" ballet. The score, replete with brilliant ensemble pieces and spectacular solos, includes Marseillaise and other songs of the French Revolution. Original choreography by Vasily Vaynonen has been brilliantly restored and restaged by Alexei Ratmansky. It's a terrific show in a spectacular performance filmed at the Bolshoi Theatre in March 2010 before an enthusiastic audience. Solo and ensemble dancing are remarkable, the Bolshoi Ballet at its best. The colorful costumes and sets have been vividly captured by producer François Duplat, and audio is of exceptional quality.
R.E.B. (January 2010)