DONIZETTI: L'Elisir d'Amore
Armida was written by Rossini in 1817 for the gala reopening of Teatro San Carlo and he went all out for the occasion. San Carlo had a first-class orchestra and a good supply of tenors, so Rossini included in his score demanding roles for no less than six of them. The leading diva was the leading mezzo of the time, Isabella Colbran, who later became the composer's wife. As she was a virtuoso singer, the role is very demanding. The opera takes place near Jerusalem during the Crusades. The convoluted plot is about the sorceress Armida's plan to weaken the Crusade by enslaving some of their best soldiers including Rinaldo, a previous lover of Armida who ultimately deserts her. The opera is a favorite of Fleming's and her 1993 Teatro Rossini performance is available on CD. The Met mounted their new Mary Zimmerman production for Fleming and it was telecast in May 2010. Fleming is remarable in the title role, although not as agile as she was 17 years earlier, and all of the tenors, particularly Lawrence Brownlee and John Osborn.Deborah Voight was hostess for the telecast, and her comments are included.
Donizetti's charmer, L'Elisir d'Amore, is given a routine performance from the Glyndebourne Festival recorded August 2009. An excellent cast, but when DVDs are available with super-star casts, I cannot imagine viewers choosing this unless they insist on state-of-the-art video and audio. The "bonus" is an illustrated synopsis of the plot and a very hasty gallery of artist photos. The booklet makes the error of printing important information (timings) in white over pale orange, virtually impossible to read. This site mentions recordings of this opera with Bergonzi/Scotto (REVIEW), Pavarotti with Blegen (REVIEW), Pavarotti with Battle (REVIEW), and Villazón with Netrebko (REVIEW). All are superior to the new issue.
Harmonia Mundi's DVD devoted to conductor Marek Janowski is one of a series of videos devoted to leading contemporary performers. Supposedly a "private music lesson," it features Janowski in conversation with young conductor Olivier Dejours who, since this taping in 1989, apparently has achieved some fame in the world of contemporary music. Excerpts from three works are featured, Beethoven's Egmont Overture, Mozart's Symphony No. 41, and the Berlioz Requiem., with excerpts from rehearsals with the Cologne Gürzenich and French Radio Orchestras. The film was "proposed" by François Manceau and Olivier Bernager, directed by Michel Follin. It is among the most boring documentaries I've ever seen, with stereo sound that does not impress. Skip this one.
R.E.B. (September 2011)