VERDI: Il trovatore
TCHAIKOVSKY: Polonaise from Eugene Onegin. MUSSORGSKY: Dance of the
Persian Slaves from Khovanshchina. BORODIN: Polovtsian Dances from Prince
Igor. DEBUSSY: La Mer. STRAUSS: Dance of the Seven Veils from Salome.
PONCHIELLI: Dance of the Hours from La Gioconda. JOHANN STRAUSS II: Vienna
Blood Waltz. GIMÉNEZ: Intermezzo from La boda de Luis
This Met Trovatore, from a telecast April 20, 2011 is excellent. The opera itself, a potboiler with a nonsensical plot, is filled with arias and scenes that delight the operatic world. While producer David McVicar has somewhat updated the plot, he has respected what Verdi wrote. Costumes by Brigitte Reiffenstuel are appropriate, and brooding, dark sets by Charles Edwards are effective, utilizing the Met's revolving stage for quick scene changes. Singing throughout is exceptional, particularly Sondra Radvanovsky as Leonora. Her velvety, controlled voice seems to have it all, and she has no difficulty with all those high notes. Dimitri Hvorostovsky's rather pompous stage manner is perfect for Count di Luna, and Marcello Álvarez, although a bit taxed as Manrico, impresses. Dolora Zajick has been singing the role of Azucena for decades and still is supreme in the role, although in this performance she gets off to a rather docile beginning in "Stride la vampa." . Marco Armiliato leads the fine chorus and orchestra taking full advantage of rousing moments. Video and audio are state-of-the-art. Renée Fleming is the host and interviews Álvarez and Zajick, all separately tracked so it is easy to skip them.
About a year ago this site mentioned Vienna's 2011 "Summer Night Concert" featuring the Vienna Philharmonic directed by Valery Gergiev (REVIEW). This year's concert in the magnificent Baroque gardens of Schönbrunn Palace was televised and broadcast in over 60 countries, and now you can experience it on DVD. The program commemorated Claude Debussy's 150th anniversary. On the podium was Gustavo Dudamel, his usual exuberant self, and the program was devoted to "Dances and Waves," the "waves" doubtless relating to Debussy's La Mer, which was danced by young students of the Vienna State Opera Ballet School, to choreography by Gregor Hatala.The dancers performed on a stage with several inches of water, and this interlude, like the entire concert, was a play of dazzling lights and color. Dancers also are seen in the Mussorgsky and the Strauss waltz, and they dance beautifully. While the VPO is in top shape, their rich sounds aren't conveyed in this outdoor venue; they are at their best in the dazzling Giménez Intemezzo that ends the concert. Michael Beyer was video director and he shows us many scenes from the event, capturing the vivid color effects some of which actually seem to be timed to the music. It's a great show visually, but sonically leaves much to be desired.
This site mentioned a DVD of Arabella about three years ago, a production doomed because of the disappointing Mandryka of Morten Frank Larsen, who was a last-minute substitute for Thomas Hampson; thus Renée Flemming's lustrous Arabella was wasted. Franz Welser-Möst conducted that Zürich Opera performance and he also is on the podium in this superb Vienna State Opera performance from May 2012. His conducting captures all of the score's incredible beauty, and the cast is perfect throughout. American soprano Emily Magee, one of the most exciting of the new crop of sopranos, is magnificent both vocally and dramatically. And Polish-born bass-baritone Tomasz Konieczny (b. 1972) is at the beginning of what doubtless will be a memorable career. The handsome singer's roles include Figaro, Alberich, Wotan, Amfortas, King Mark, Johanaan, Orest, as well as Verdi. His voice is rich, controlled, and he is a superb actor. I cannot imagine the role of Mandryka sung better than it is here. Video is stunning, audio equally fine. This sets the standard for videos of Arabella. Don't miss it!
R.E.B. (December 2012)