James Levine's viennese recording of Smetana's famed masterpiece is one of the best performances of the work around today. With clear, full-bodied digital recording and ripe, rich and opulent playing from the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, it presents a performance that is as comporable to Kubelik as any other. Despite Levine's roots in the theatre (Metropolitan Opera), he manages to grasp a clear sense of drama in the work, and while some might argue that he is mainly concerned with orchestral effect for its own sake, he certainly does not do this but presents every minute detail in this musical kaliedascopic picture.
The Met's first production in more than 60 years is "treated with a keen appreciation for the special requirements of verismo and a practically vanished performing tradition. Scotto has found her ideal role…a great performance… Domingo sang glamorously… Levine's affectionate concern for the music told in every measure… The massive sets by Ezio Frigerio serve the work exquisitely … Piero Faggioni’s graceful direction strikes a perfect balance” (New York Magazine)
In many ways this is a special recording. It features first-desks from the Chicago Sym. playing two of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, and so far beyond the average Baroque ensemble are they that one yearns for the other four. Just to hear the amazing trumpet solos in Concerto no. 2 by the legendary Adolph Herseth repays the cost of the CD. But we also get James Levine doing double duty at the harpsichord in Concerto no. 5. One deficit from the rise of period performance is that non-specialists have been driven out. The days when an all-around musician like Levine or Leonard Bernstein performed Bach and Handel are more or less over, and their replacements, to be tactful, are not on such an exalted level of talent…. By Santa Fe Listener
Leading the enormous forces to bring Puccini's huge vision to life in this now-legendary performance, James Levine presides over an evening of three one-act operas that cover the full spectrum of human experience. The great singing actress Renata Scotto is featured in all three operas, perhaps most memorably in her searing portrayal of Suor Angelica - a nu whose extreme atonement for he sin ultimately wins her redemption.
The Italian mezzo-soprano Cecilia Bartoli is one of the most charming and talented singers to appear on the scene in recent years, and this collection of Italian songs by three great opera composers–Bellini, Donizetti, and Rossini–is a most deserving bestseller. There are many small pleasures in the selections, which reflect the bel canto predilections of their authors, and Bartoli renders them artfully. Some will be familiar even to casual listeners (Rossini's La Danza, the famous tarantella); others will be new to most, but equally deserving of a hearing. The sensitive and skillful accompaniment is by conductor-pianist James Levine.
This MET production of Bedrich Semtana's classic folk opera boasts a superb cast, including Nicolai Gedda, Jon Vickers, Teresa Stratas, and Martti Talvela. The staging and mis-en-scene is traditional and very well done. Everyone seems to be enjoying this presentation. Although not to the same standard as today's HD productions, this is still a wonderful way to get to know this delightful opera.
This fabulous 2000 production of Don Giovanni is the best - bar none. I have seen many, many productions of this greatest of all operas and none come even close to this brilliantly cast production. Outstanding are Solvieg Kringelborn, who nearly (but not quite) steals the show as a very funny! Donna Elvira and Paul Groves, much more sympathetic than usual in the role of Don Ottavio. Fleming, Hong, Relyea and Koptchak are terrific. But, Don Giovanni lovers literally haven't lived until they see and hear the matchless pair of Bryn Terfel as the Don and Ferruccio Furlanetto as Leporello. They both possess wonderful voices and first-class acting chops. In fact, IMO, Furlanetto is a comic genius and the best actor in opera. The fact that both Terfel and especially Furlanetto are very attractive men doesn't hurt either,I could watch them forever..
Giovanni Bononcini (1670-1747) was a gifted cellist and a rival of Handel's; he wrote more than 30 operas and 300 cantatas. I approached this "serenata a tre" with trepidation, fearing something coy and intermezzo-like; in fact, it's simply beautiful. The not-riveting plot concerns soprano nymph Cloris' refusal of love for countertenor shepherd Tirsi, and her subsequent turnaround. Baritone Fileno, a satyr, loves her but convinces her that love is cruel because he is jealous of her love for Tirsi. In the end, Fileno vows vengeance and departs, and the lovers unite, praising fidelity and love. Bononcini manages to capture truly felt moments of love, anger, warmth, happiness, and heartbreak with minimal forces–just a few strings, all played stunningly (as usual) by Ensemble 415–and fine melodies. The prominent, delicately played theorbe in the opening sinfonia is a hint of niceties to come; a solo violin winds around Cloris' "Tortorella inamorata" and adds to its meaning… –Robert Levine