VERDI: Otello
Jon Vickers (Otello); Renata Scotto (Desdemona); Cornell MacNeil (Iago); Raymond Gibbs (Cassio); Robert Goodloe (Montano); Andrea Velis (Rodrigo); Jean Kraft (Emilia); Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orch/James Levine, condl
SONY 8869791012 TT: 144 min.

MOZART: The Magic Flute
Papageno (Nathan Gunn); Pamina (Ying Huang); Matthew Polenzani (Tamino); Wendy Bryn Harmer (First Lady); Kate Lindsey (Second Lady); Tamara Mumford (Third Lady); Erika Miklósa (Queen of the Night); Greg Fedderly (Monostatos); David Pittsinger (Speaker); René Pape (Sarastro); Metropolitan Opera Ballet, Chorus and Orch/James Levine, cond.
SONY 88697910139 TT: 112 min.

VERDI: Don Carlo
Rolando Villazón (Don Carlos); Marina Poplavskaya (Elizabeth); Simon Keenlyside (Rodrigo); Sonia Ganassi (Princess Eboli); Ferruccio Furianetto (King Philip); Eric Halfvarson (Grand Inquisitor); Robert Lloyd (Carlos V); Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera/Antonio Pappano, cond.
EMI CLASSICS 50999631609 TT: 126 min. + 85 min.

Canadian-born tenor Jon Vickers made a specialty of Otello. His firsst recording was in the early '70s with Tito Gobbi as Iago and Leonie Rysanek as Desdemona, Tullio Serafin conducting. Vickers was a favorite tenor of Herbert von Karajan and recorded Otello twice with him, one performance used as the soundtrack for a video (REVIEW). This performance was in the Live From the Met series Sept. 25. 1978. Vickers is a force of nature, perfect for the part, although not as subtle as Plácido Domingo who later became the leading exponent of this demanding role. Renata Scotto was at the height of her career, and the late Cornell MacNeil was as well. Video and audio are a bit dated, but adequate.

This Met production of The Magic Flute is stunning visually, and very well sung by all concerned. It was directed by Julie Taymor, famous for her award-winning work on The Lion King and the troubled Spider-Man. She has created a wonderfully imaginative production and costumes. This was first presented at the Met during their 2005-06 season, and later there was a slightly abridged version intended for children. which is on this DVD. George Tsypin's sets and Donald Holder's lighting all work together with Taymor's concept to create a bright fantasy world. There are many charming puppets. This opera is a favorite of Levine; in 1982 in Salzburg he recorded a version for children, a production by Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, available on DVD (REVIEW). In 1991, DG issued a video from the Met in a production by David Hockney with an all-star cast that included Francisco Ariza, Kathleen Battle and Kurt Moll. This new video is a winner all the way, and does justice to Mozart's magnificent opera. Don't miss it.

There are many DVDs available of Verdi's Don Carlos including performances conducted by James Levine, Daniele Gatti, Carlo Maria Giulini, Riccardo Chailly, Bernard Haitink and Riccardo Muti. This new one, taped at the Royal Opera House doesn't match the best of these, but it has its moments. Of particular interest is Rolando Villazón's first major performance since his 2007 surgery to remove a congenital cyst in one of his vocal chords. Since that time he had several attempts at resuming his career with dismal success, but this performance taped June-July 2008 shows he might eventually totally recover from his problem. Simon Keenlyside as Rodrigo and Ferruccio Furlanetto as King Phillip are outstanding, and Pappano's conducting is vigorous. Fine video and audio, but this would hardly be anyone's first choice for a DVD of this opera.

R.E.B. (September 2011)