TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No. 1 in B flat minor, Op. 23 (Royal Philharmonic Orch/Sir Charles Groves). PROKOFIEV: Piano Concerto No. 3 in C, Op. 26. (London Symphony Orch/André Previn). Martha Argerich, piano
IDEALE DVD 3079858 TT: 62 min.
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PUCCINI: Il Tabarro
Lucia Gallo (Michele), Eva Maria-Westbroek (Giorgetta), Aleksandrs Antonenko (Luigi), Alan Oke (Tinca), Irina Mishura (Frugola), Jeremy White (Talpa), Ji-Min Park (Song Seller), Royal Opera House Chorus and Orch/Antonino Pappano, cond.
PUCCINI: Suor Angelica
Elena Zillo (Montress), Melissa Alder, Kate McCarney (Two Lay Sisters); Elizabeth Sikora (Mistress), Eryl Royale (Sister Osmina), Anna Devin (Sister Genovieffa), Katy Batho (Novice), Ermonela Jaho ( (Sister Angelica), Elisabeth Key (Sister Dolcina), Elisabeth Woollett (Nursing Sister), Irina Mishura (Abbess), Anna Larsson (The Princess), Royal Opera House Chorus and Orch/Antonio Pappano, cond.
PUCCCINI: Gianni Schicchi
Peter Curtis (Buoso Donati), Gwynne Howell (Simone), Elena Zillo (Zita), Francesco Demuro (Rinuccio),Ekaterina Siurina (Lauaretta), Alan Oke (Gheraldo), Filippo Turkheimer (Gherardino), Jeremy White (Betto di Signa), Robert Poulton (Marco), Marie McLaughlin (La Ciesca), Lucio Gallo (Gianni Schicchi), Royal Opera House Chorus and Orch/Antonino Pappano, cond.
OPUS ARTE DVD PT: 180 min. + 20 min. features
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VERDI: Falstaff
Ambrogio Maestri (Sir John Falstaff), Massimo Cavalletti (Ford), Javier Camarena (Fenton), Patrizio Saudelli (Dr. Caius), Martin Zysset (Bardolf), David Fersini (Pisstola), Barbara Frittoli (Mrs. Alice Ford), Eva Liebau (Nannetta), Yvonne Naef (Mrs. Quickly), Judith Schmid (Mrs. Meg Page), Domenic Gloor (Robin), Royal Opera House Chorus and Orch/Daniele Gatti, cond.
C MAJOR DVD TT: 126 min.
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It always is a pleasure to watch Martha Argerich work her magi , and here we have two previously unreleased live recordings from early in her career. The Tchaikovsky is from Guildhall, Preston, February 6, 1977 with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic conducted by Sir Charles Groves, the Prokofiev from Croydon's Fairfield Hall, May 3, 1977, with André Previn and the London Symphony. Both of these concertos have been showpieces for Argerich throughout her career. There are three recordings of the Tchaikovsky, the first from 1971 with the Royal Philharmonic directed by Charles Dutoit (who at the time was her second husband), there is a live Bavarian recording from 1980 with Kiril Kondrashin conducting, and another live performance from 1994 with Claudio Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic. In 1967 she recorded the Prokofiev with Abbado and the Berlin Philharmonic, in 1977 in Montreal again with Dutoit; there also is a performance with Riccardo Chailly and the RCOA in Radio Nederland's multiple-disk set of live performances by Chailly with the Dutch Orchestra (REVIEW). And if you check around on the internet, you'll find several other performances as well. Excellent video and stereo sound on the new issue, valuable indeed for Argerich's legion of admirers.

Puccini intended the three operas of his Il Trittico to be performed together, beginning with the brooding Il Tabarro (The Cloak), followed by the even more tragic Suor Angelica, which takes place in a convent, the story of an unfortunate unwed mother victimized by her aunt who in death is reunited with her son. Puccini's music is appropriately emotional and powerful. The final opera in the series is the most popular, Gianni Schicchi, which often is presented by itself, usually combined with another short opera—but not always. At the Met, Schicchi often was used as a curtain-raiser for Salome, including the unforgettable 1949 performance of Ljuba Welitsch with Fritz Reiner on the podium (REVIEW). Talk about opposites!! This new stunning new DVD offers the Royal Opera House's first complete production of Trittico in 65 years, and they have done it right. Director Richard Jones has somewhat updated the action, but not offensively so, and the singers are outstanding, particularly Lucio Gallo who is the murderer Michele in Tabarro and the comic Schicchi in the third opera. Video and audio are outstanding, and this can be recommended without hesitation as an ideal presentation of Puccini's trilogy.

It is incredible that Verdi composed Falstaff when he was almost 80. It is a brilliant, imaginative, vital work highlighting ensemble writing rather than the display arias in his earlier operas with many episodes of rapid-fire interplay among the singers. A successful performance requires top-quality singers working closely together during the many intricate scenes, many of which have a touch of Rossini. For years, Arturo Toscanini's 1950 recording has been recognized for its incredible precision and strong performances by a cast able to cope with the ensemble interludes. There are more than sixty recordings available of Falstaff, with some of the greatest conductors on the podium, and a number of these are on DVD. However, this new production from Stuttgart surely is among the finest. Staged by Sven-Eric Bechtoli with sets by Rolf Glittenberg, it is a visual delight with stark, simple sets in the first two acts, a magic forest scene of elves and witches for the third. And the cast is splendid in every way, particularly Ambrogio Malestri in the title role.Conductor Gatti keeps the intricate score moving swiftly. Seen on the Blu-Ray version, video is brilliant, audio well well-balanced. A quality issue in every way, if Falstaff is your cup of tea.

R.E.B. (July 2012)

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