TANGLEWOOD - 75TH ANNIVERSARY CELEBRATIO
MEYERBEER: Die Hugenotte
This Tanglewood DVD contains a complete concert presented July 14, 2012 commemorating the 75th Anniversary of the Tanglewood Festival. It was a gala event before a very enthusiastic audience, and before viewing the concert you might wish to see the brief bonus which is a history of the Festival from its first concerts in 1936 which were conducted by Serge Koussevitzky. Three orchestras are features, the Boston "Pops," the Boston Symphony, and the Tanglewood Music Center Orchestra. The Anniversary Concert features musicians long associated with Tanglewood, beginning with young American conductor Keith Lockhart in works of Copland and Bernstein, followed by a group of American songs sung by James Taylor with John Williams, who conducted the "Pop" 1980-1993. Emanuel Ax plays two movements of the Haydn concerto. Yo-Yo Ma plays a brief work by Tchaikovsky after which Anne-Sophie Mutter gives a dazzling performance of the Carmen Fantasy. This is an opportunity to watch the dynamic young conductor Andris Nelsons leading the orchestra of which he is now music director, and he shows they made a wise choice. His reading of La Valse is incredibly detailed and powerful. The program ends with Beethoven Choral Fantasy conducted by David Zinman who has appeared in Boston numerous times. A great concert indeed, well photographed, but the audio, although clear and detailed, lacks bass and rich sonorities.
Giacomo Meyerbeer (1791-1864) is considered to be the most important stage composer of the 19th century. Although he was German, he was highly acclaimed in Paris for his grand-scale operatic productions. His Robert le Diable was a sensation in 1913 followed three years later by Les Huguenots, another spectacle. However, Meyerbeer's operas soon lost their popularity. The Met performed Les Huguenots, Robert le Diable and L'Africaine with moderate frequency in their earlier years; in 1977 they staged a new production of Le Prophete with an all-star cast (McCracken, Scotto, Horne, Hines) and gave 18 performances, 8 in 1979, but none since. One reason perhaps is because there are 7 leading roles, all of extraordinary difficulty. During early performances at the Met, it was referred to as "the night of seven stars," the stars including Lillian Nordica, Nellie Melba, Jean de Reszke, Edouard de Reszke, Victor Maurel and Pol Plançon. Quite a lineup, indeed! The plot, to a libretto by Eugene Scribe, tells the bloody story of the historic St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre in 1572 when thousands of Protestant French Huguenots were slaughtered by Catholics who wished to rid France of Protestant influence, vividly depicted in the final scene. There are the usual operatic situations, mismatched lovers, vengeance, love scenes, and a finale in which St. Bris discovers he has killed his own daughter. There are plenty of vigorous choruses, and the vocal writing is challenging to say the least. Joan Sutherland chose Huguenots for her final full-length dramatic performance with the Sydney Opera in 1990. This Berlin production updates the story to divided Berlin, and is sung in German. The sets and costumes by Gottfried Pilz are effective, and director John Dew keeps things moving nicely. This production was highly successful when first given at the Berlin Opera in 1987; this performance was recorded on an unspecified date in 1991. It is a strong cast throughout, particularly on the distaff side, with Angela Denning in fine form in the incredibly difficult coloratura role of the Queen. Costumes are appropriate except for those worn by Angela Denning (Marguerite) that put Joan Crawford's shoulder pads to shame. Although filmed quite a few years ago, video and audio are excellent. Recommended!
This is a superb performance of Rigoletto. Unlike the recent ill-advised Met production (REVIEW), this respects the composer, a solid, realistically staged presentation directed by Stefano Vizioli, with sets and costumes designed and revised by Pierluigi Samaritani and Alessandro Ciammarughi. Singing throughout is of the highest order. This site mentioned an excellent 2006 Zurich Opera production with Leo Nucci in the title role (REVIEW). Here is Nucci again, in far better vocal state than Zeljko Lucic in the Met effort, and we have an assured Gilda in Nino Machaidze. Francesco Demure doesn't quite have the vocal heft for the Duke, but he is more than acceptable.Conductor Andrea Battistoni's fast tempi are always appropriate. Video is excellent, audio well balanced. This is one of the finest products of Teatro Regio di Parma.
R.E.B. (July 2013)