MASCAGNI: Cavalleria Rusticana
Plácido Domingo (Turiddu); Tatiana Troyanos (Santuzza); Jean Kraft (Lucia); Vern Shinall (Alfio); Isola Jones (Lola); Chorus and Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera/James Levine, cond.
Plácido Domingo (Canio); Teresa Stratas (Nedda); Sherrill Milnes (Tonio); Beppe (James Atherton); Allan Monk (Silvio); Chorus and Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera/James Levine, cond.
SONY DVD 791008 TT: 152 min.

VERDI: Simon Boccanegra
Plácido Domingo (Simon Boccanegra); Marina Poplavskaya (Amelia Grimaldi); Ferruccio Furlanetto (Jacopo Fiesco); Joseph Calleja (Gabriele Adorno); Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House/Antonio Pappano, cond..
EMI CLASSICS DVD 17825 TT: 171 min.

VERDI: Simon Boccanegra
Plácido Domingo (Simon Boccanegra); Adrianna Pieczonka (Maria); James Morris (Fiesco); Marcello Giordano (Gabriele Adorno); Patrick Carfizzi (Paolo Albani); Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orch/James Levine, cond.
SONY DVD 80664 TT: 2 hr. 29 min.

BERG: Lulu
Julia Migenes (Lulu); Evelyn Lear (Countess Geschwitz); Kenneth Riegel (Alwa); Frank Little (Painter/African Prince); Franz Mazura (Dr. Schön/Jack the Ripper); Lenus Carlson (Animal Trainer/Acrobat); Metropolitan Opera Orch/James Levine, cond.
SONY DVD 8869791009 TT: 175 min.

The Live from the Met series began in 1977, and what a fabulous series it has been over the years! This coupling of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci was featured April 5, 1978, and is a tour-de-force for Plácido Domingo. He sings the leading tenor roles in both operas, a remarkable feat indeed, and he does so with consummate artistry, both vocal and dramatic. Tatiana Troyanos, who tragically died of cancer in 1993 at the age of 54, is perfect as Santuzza. Another magnificent soprano, Teresa Stratas, also a mainstay at the Met (she appeared in 385 performances!) and can be seen in one of her signature roles, Nedda. What an actress she was! And her voice suits the rule perfectly. And there is the luxury of Sherrill Milnes as Tonio. There's lots of excitement in both of these performances. Video is what one expects from the era, audio is good enough although surely not 5.1 sound.

Simon Boccanegra is one of Verdi's darkest works, relating the tragic life of a Doge of Genoa who lived in the 1300's. The convoluted plot includes mistaken identities, misguided love and murder as Simon dies from poison. The role has been a favorite of baritones and there are recordings by many of the greatest including Tito Gobbi, Sherrill Milnes, Leo Nucci, and Piero Cappucilli. Domingo, who has sung the tenor role of Adorno in two previous recordings, wanted to sing the baritone title role at this stage of his remarkable career; it was Domingo's 127th role. He did so for the first time in Berlin in 2009. In January 2010 at the Met, Domingo gave several performances with James Levine conducting, released on DVD by Sony. Later that year, Domingo sang a performance at the BBC Proms, and, in July 2010, several more at the Royal Opera House, now issued on EMI. Domingo is in top form in both of these issues; it was a wise decision for him to assume the title role. However, the supporting cast is far stronger in the Royal Opera production. Both versions have fine video and audio.

American soprano Julia Migines (b. 1949) was a remarkably versatile artist with repertory ranging from lieder, operetta, opera and Broadway. I once owned an LP of opera arias that included a remarkable performance of the final scene from Salome; to my knowledge, unfortunately, never issued on CD. Her DVD of Bizet's Carmen is among the best, and she has two different performances of Lulu available, this DVD recorded at the Met in their Live From the Met series, telecast December 20, 1980, and a later recording from the Vienna State Opera with Lorin Maazel on the podium. She is a consummate actress and perfect for Lulu. The Met has assembled a first-class cast throughout, and James Levine obviously cherishes this score. What a pleasure it is to watch him conducting at a time when he was in good health! Although this is a TV production there are no telecast announcements. Video is excellent, but audio (surely not true surround) doesn't always capture voices clearly. This performance also is included in last year's 21-disk DVD set celebrating Levine's 20 years at the Met.

R.E.B. (September 2011)