Conductor and pianist James Levine is one of the powerhouse figures of the classical music scene today. As a child he undertook both piano and violin; he was so accomplished on the violin that at the age of ten he played Mendelssohn's second violin concerto at a Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra youth concert. He studied piano at various summer music festivals before enrolling at New York's Juilliard School, where he took conducting courses with Jean Morel and continued piano studies with Rosina Lhevinne.
Renée Fleming stars in the title role of this rarely heard diva showcase, in a production by Tony Award® winner Mary Zimmerman. Rossini's opera, set in the time of the Crusades, tells the story of a vengeful sorceress who enthralls men in her island prison. This DVD captures the production's Live in HD presentation, as seen in cinemas around the world.
In his latest Decca DVD release, bel canto star Juan Diego Flórez undertakes the role of Elvino in Bellini’s romantic drama, playing opposite the mercurial French soprano, Natalie Dessay, in the Met’s striking, modern-dress production from March 2009. Bellini’s romantic opera La Sonnambula (1831), hinges on the love and misunderstanding between Elvino and Amina (the ‘sleepwalker’ of the title). Discovered in the bedroom of Rodolfo, Amina is assumed to have been unfaithful, and Elvino cancels their wedding. But in the dramatic final scene, he witnesses Amina sleepwalking, understands her innocence, and all ends happily. Mary Zimmerman’s production plays with the dual realities of a rehearsal of the opera and a performance of the opera itself.
It would be hard to imagine a better performance of Donizetti's comic masterpiece. If there was one role that ideally suited Luciano Pavarotti's voice and stage personality, it was Nemorino, the impoverished and not-very-bright peasant who worships the village's prettiest and richest young woman from a distance, is swindled by a traveling vendor of "miracle" medicines, but wins her hand by dumb luck. The story has comedy, pathos, and a put-down of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde (or at least the Tristan story) written long before Wagner composed it.
“This is straight and unfussy in its staging, and the video production by Brian Large could not be more expert and unobtrusive (save for one or two close-ups of Jessye Norman's larynx). Tatiana Troyanos's Composer is quite superb, and neither Battle nor Norman can be faulted vocally” (Penguin Guide)