BIZET: Carmen
Elena Obraztsova (Carmen). PlácidoDomingo (Don José). Yuri Mazurok (Escamillo). Isobel Buchanan (Micaela). Cheryl Kanfgoush ( Frasquita). Axelle Gall (Mercédes). Kurt Rydl (Zunga). Chorus and Orchestra of the Vienna State Opera/Carlos Kleiber, cond.
ARTHAUS MUSIK DVD VIDEO 107263 TT: 154 min.
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DELIBES: Lakmé
Emma Matthews (Lakmé). Stephen Bennett (Nilakantha). Aldo Di Toro (Gerald). Domenica Matthews (Malika).Edmond Choo (Hadji). Roxanne Hislop (Mistress Bentson). Jane Parkin (Ellen). Angela Brun ( Rose). Australian Opera Ballet, Chorus and Orch/Emmanuel Joel-Hornak, cond.
OPERA AUSTRALIA DVD BLUE RAY VIDEO OPO25602180 163 min.
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GLAZUNOV: Raymonda
Olesia Novikova (Raymonda). Fridedemann Vogel (Jean de Brienne). Mik Zeni (Abderahman).Ballet and Orchestra of La Scala/Michael Jurowski, cond.
ARTHAUS MUSIC DVD BLU RAYT VIDEO 108051 TT: 134 min.
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This is a classic performance of Carmen, a 1978 production directed for TV and video by Franco Zeffirelli. It was issued in 2005 on TDK (REVIEW) and currently is available in several operatic compilations. This was a great night at the Vienna State Opera in every way with lengthy ovations throughout, even for Yuri Mazurok's Escamillo, the only weakness in the cast. It's a pleasure it is to watch Carlos Kleiber on the podium! This historic video should be in every collection. Video and stereo sound are OK for the time. Don't miss this one, if you don't already have it.

Delibes' Lakmé often is presented as a showcase for a coloratura soprano who can sing the spectacular title role. Beginning in 1930, the Met revived it for Lily Pons, who in the next decade sang well over 40 performances. It also has been a vehicle for other sopranos (including Mady Mesplé and Meliza Korjus) who added notes higher than those written. It also has been sung by performers who don't have the technical expertise to sing all those notes, including Maria Callas. This new video from the Australian Opera is strong on the distaff side. Two young Australian sopranos are featured, and both are outstanding: Emma Matthews sings the title role, and Dominica Matthews is her maid Malika (are they related?). The two shine in the first act Flower Duet, and Emma tosses off the Bell Song with the greatest of ease. Unfortunately, male singers disappoint. Stephen Bennett doesn't have the strong voice to suggest the powerful Brahman priest, Nilakantha. Aldo Di Tori, strained vocally, is hardly a dashing British officer physically (he resembles Inspector Clouseau), and Luke Gabbedy's singing as Frederic is awkward to say the least. Emmanual Joel-Hornak's conducting is fine, and the orchestra plays very well. Sets are very colorful; this is a brilliant production visually, and audio is fine although not particularly surround. The Blu Ray version is a feast for the eyes. It's unfortunate the total performance isn't better. The accompanying booklet is poor. If information is meant to be read, it should not be printed in white on an orange background.

This site mentioned two previously-issued DVDs of Raymonda, a 1980 Kirov production (REVIEW), and a 1989 production from the Bolshoi Ballet (REVIEW). This new version, a performance from La Scala on unidentified dates last year with original choreography of Marius Petipa, was revived and staged by Sergej Vikharev. It's a grand spectacular show in every way, with brilliant video and excellent audio. Video director Lorena Sardi generally has cameras in the right place except for her annoying decision during the best-known solo of the ballet, Raymonda's Act III Variations. While we can see Olesia Novikova's superb dancing, we are distracted by two brief blackouts and, for most of the solo, a view of the piano keyboard featured in the accompaniment(!!). Stupid to say the least. However,in spite of this, there is much to enjoy here, and seen in the Blu Ray version, a treat fort he eyes.

R.E.B. (April 2012)

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