This disc of Mozart's opera arias manages to capture the perfection of Kathleen Battle's first disc of Mozart concert arias conducted under Previn. We are accorded the opportunity and privilege to hear Ms. Battle essay characters that she never did in the opera house, Constanze, Cherubino, and the Countess among them. In "Porgi amor," the CD's opening track, she negotiates the long passages of the Countess' aria with seeming ease. Hers is a smaller voice than we are used to hearing in the role but this is unimportant as her vocal acting is superb, bringing the heartache housed in the libretto fully to life…By M. Bish
Kathleen Battle and Placido Domingo delight the listener from start to finish in this complilation. Most notable are the duets from La Traviata and The Merry Widow. In my experience of soprano/tenor performances, one voice usually is stronger or more powerful than the other, thus disappointing to that listener who is seeking a perfect blending of voices. Ms. Battle and Mr. Domingo achieve that perfect blend on each duet on this CD. Their solo performances are equally outstanding. It is no wonder they are in such demand with audiences in Japan where this CD was recorded live, as well as throughout the world.
Verdi's brilliant final masterpiece Falstaff, in its first new Met production in 50 years – and conducted by Met Music Director James Levine in his first new production since his return to his podium at the Met. When it comes to theatrical flair, captivating costumes, stage antics and imagination, there are not many shows on Broadway to rival the Met s new Falstaff. “Ambrogio Maestri is made for the title role, with the apt physique, nimble acting and superb vocal presence that make him the leading Falstaff of the day. There is no weak link in a finely balanced, comically-attuned cast (the women are especially impressive) and Levine’s conducting is pitch-perfect. The show fizzles from start to finish and is tremendous fun” (Classical Music).
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..
The 1990 Metropolitan Opera performance of Die Walküre with James Levine conducting is a solid, four-square performance with few frills and no gimmicks, just extraordinarily fine singing and orchestral playing. There is no point in this where you find yourself asking why the director did something: this is the sort of production which could be criticised as unimaginative but defended as serving Wagner's intentions for this instalment of his Ring cycle. Levine and his orchestra give the music an emotional intensity that never overwhelms its grandeur, though perhaps in Wotan's farewell to Brunnhilde, we feel him more as father than as god.
It takes a certain amount of forethought if Das Rheingold is to be more than a series of special effects scenes, though moments like the appearance of the giants through the mist or Alberich's transformations need to be as thrilling as they are here. As always in his Wagner, and perhaps especially in this very traditional 1990 Metropolitan Opera production of the Ring cycle, James Levine keeps to the forefront the underlying humanity of Wagner's gods and monsters. In the first scene, for example, he brings out the thoughtless, callous frivolity of the Rhine maidens as they precipitate the events of the four operas by taunting the gnome Alberich: it helps that they swirl around, green and gold, in a convincing representation of the bottom of the Rhine, but the emotions are the point. Ekkehaard Wlaschiha is a convincingly menacing Alberich partly because Levine brings out his vulnerability as well as his evil temper. James Morris is splendid as the younger less care-worn Wotan and Siegfried Jerusalem as Loge enjoys the sarcasm of his cynical commentary on Wotan's aspirations. The smaller parts have luxury casting: Matti Salminen as Fafner and Christa Ludwig as Fricka, for example.(Roz Kaveney)
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. Throughout, Bononcini shows himself a master at setting words to suitable music for the deeper significance of both. The entire work is both moving and charming–and doesn't have an inelegant moment.