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Discover Opera with Naxos DVDs

December 16, 2008

Naxos Opera DVDs, including an innovative and compelling staging of Monteverdi Madrigals, are attracting critical praise. Alongside the bel canto high drama of Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux and Verdi’s Luisa Miller, comic operas such as Rossini’s La Cambiale di matrimonio and Wolf-Ferrari’s La vedova scaltra are sure to delight lovers of vocal music.


WOLF-FERRARI La vedova scaltra

Naxos DVD 2.110234-35

“This is an elegant production with superb staging that complements the time and action of the opera.”
- Raymond J Walker, MusicWeb International, 19 September 2008

“Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari’s La vedrova scaltra…is a genuine discovery—it has never been on DVD before—and a most pleasant surprise…The staging is expert, the singing very fine, and the conducting nicely balanced and well paced… in Naxos’ high-quality DVD presentation very much worth viewing as well as hearing.”

- Infodad.com, 14 August 2008













 
Naxos CD 8.660225-26

  “It is not every year, probably not even every decade, that we get an opportunity to see or hear an opera by Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari… It seems quite natural that this recording was made in Venice, where playwright as well as composer were born…the balance between orchestra and soloists is as good as any other live recording I have heard. Karl Martin appears well attuned to Wolf-Ferrari’s music and the playing and choral singing cannot be faulted. In fact there is real gusto in the chorus. Of the male soloists the two tenors, Emanuele D’Aguanno and Mark Milhofer, are both excellent with light lyrical voices. Alex Esposito as Arlecchino obviously enjoys himself greatly…The star of the performance is however the Norwegian soprano Anne-Lise Sollied as Rosaura. She is a splendid actress and sings with nice care for nuance, especially noticeable in her long solo Nella notturna selva. In the final reconciliation she rises to ecstatic heights…The presence of an audience is hardly disturbing and stage noises are reduced to a minimum.”

 - Göran Forsling, MusicWeb International, November 2008

 

DONIZETTI Roberto Devereux

Naxos CD 8.660222-23, Naxos DVD 2.110232

“The sound is excellent; the emotive, dramatic power of the opera comes across effectively and the performances are genuinely intense and expressive…The cast of this production is a distinguished one, formed of singers who are not world famous but nevertheless, very effective and dramatically eloquent…Dimitra Theodossiou, who plays the Queen, is a Greek soprano, best known in Italy where she has performed in all the major theatres, including La Scala in Milan…Her interpretation of Elizabeth I, in this Naxos recording, is effective and powerful, particularly in the final parts of Act III when the Queen becomes emotionally unhinged. Her voice is beautifully dark and expressively tortured throughout the opera and her rendition is particularly excellent in the trio with Roberto and the Duke of Nottingham in Act II, and in the scene that follows where she signs Roberto’s death warrant. Theodossiou has here one of her finest moments and when she dismisses Essex, the storm raging inside her is so vividly depicted in her singing that one is left numb, as if one’s blood has congealed in one’s veins…Massimiliano Pisapia as Roberto is very good, audibly making a believable Earl of Essex for whom Elizabeth could fall…His warm, flexible and expressive tenor voice is at its best in the tender moments with Sara, the Duchess of Nottingham who he is in love with. However, Pisapia’s rendition of the aria Come uno spirto angelico, in Act III, sung when Roberto is alone in the tower, awaiting his death and dreaming of defending Sara’s chastity to her husband, is not only beautifully poignant but also moving.

The other members of the cast all give very effective, solid performances, notably Federica Bragaglia, as Sara, who sounds suitably sweet and innocent, in particular during the tender moments with Roberto; and especially American baritone, Andrew Schroeder, who is excellent as the vindictive Duke of Nottingham. His voice is colourful and clear, with threatening nuances when the music and the plot so demand but also capable of warmth, making his performance, alongside those by Theodossiou and Pisapia, very convincing.

Marcello Rota is a distinguished, talented conductor, with an illustrious career that features some of the best orchestras in the world and the most renowned opera houses. He is a very good conductor of opera with a strong dramatic sense. This comes across in his powerful interpretation of Donizetti’s score, assuredly leashing the singers in an emotionally intense rendition but never losing sight of the impact of Donizetti’s music. Rota leads the orchestra and chorus of the Bergamo Musica Festival in an excellent performance. He conducts with clarity, conscious of the sound, making it luminous at times or wonderfully subtle to cushion the soloists’ voices to best effect…this recording of Donizetti’s Roberto Devereux…brilliance as well as powerful, dramatic expression. Donizetti’s score…is rich in beautiful, at times, unusual melodies and interesting orchestrations, which always make for enjoyable listening.”

- Margarida Mota-Bull, MusicWeb International, 30 November 2008

 

ROSSINI: La Cambiale di matrimonio

Naxos DVD 2.110228

“The mainly Italian cast are committed actors bringing out the humour of the opera with the musical brio of Rossini’s music well handled from the podium. Paolo Bordogna as the English merchant Mill, and Fabio Maria Capitanucci as Slook, have nicely differentiated vocal timbres, and a pleasing ability for vocal characterisation and acting. Their clear diction is a virtue throughout and particularly in the duet when Slook tries to warn Mill that all is not well with his plans. The duet that follows is a real Rossini buffa gem, well delivered and acted…The orchestra under the idiomatic direction of Umberto Benedetti Michelangeli plays with verve. The sound is adequate and the video direction is fine…whilst Dynamic is shown as copyright owners this DVD is among the first to be issued by Naxos in the medium. This seems to me to be wholly appropriate as Naxos is second to none in their promotion of audio recordings of Rossini’s operas, both studio and also of live performances at the Bad Wildbad Festival. If a developing relationship between Naxos and Dynamic brings worthwhile DVD performances by other composers from the various Italian Opera Festivals it will be welcome. This is particularly so in respect of the booklet presentation. This follows the Naxos tradition of including detailed artist profiles, regrettably so often lacking elsewhere, not least with Dynamic CDs and DVDs.”

- Review by Robert J Farr, MusicWeb International, June 2008

 

VERDI: Luisa Miller

Naxos DVD 2.110225-26

4 STARS for Interpretation and Audio Quaility - klassik.com, 6 September 2008

Based on Schiller’s Kabale und Liebe (Intrigue and Love), Verdi’s tragic melodramma Luisa Miller revolves around the loves of the heroine of the title and Rodolfo, son of Count Walter, and the machinations of the Count’s steward, Wurm, who wants Luisa for himself, resulting in the death of all three. Directed by Arnaud Bernard, who took as his inspiration Bernardo Bertolucci’s 1976 film 1900, this La Fenice production is led by the outstanding Bulgarian soprano Darina Takova whose intense characterisation of Luisa emphasises the heroine’s inner torture, and Giuseppe Sabbatini, who brings a thrilling theatricality to the role of Rodolfo, especially in the most famous aria from the opera, Quando le sere al placido.

 

MONTEVERDI: The Full Monteverdi - Madrigals, Book 4

Naxos DVD 2.110224

“5 STARS
This brilliant film… sung with consummate artistry… The passion in the music is tellingly matched by the suffering on the faces of the characters. The film demands to be seen.”
- Richard Lawrence, ClassicFM Magazine

“Fantastic! I wish the word ‘brilliant’ had not been so overused, so that I could summon it to praise this film. And, yes, ‘film’ is the right word. John La Bouchardiere, a noted opera director, has created this film (The Full Monteverdi) that winds in with the words and music of Monteverdi's wonderful madrigals the way that they intertwine with each other—and the result is superlative… La Bouchardiere has taken Monteverdi's madrigals, a collection showing him at the peak of his mastery, the spectacularly good I Fagiolini and a story.

A story? Well, here's how that works. If you string together 19 pieces about the pain and sorrow of love and loss and look carefully at them, you can find some threads connecting them. La Bouchardiere seems to have asked himself what story could be illustrated by these madrigals, and, like magic (or magic and a lot of hard work), it emerged. We open in a restaurant where the six singers are paired with six actors to whom they sing the words of the madrigal. And so it plays out for the next hour. Instead of abstract music and poetry about sorrowful love, we see six attractive couples' relationships dissolving in scenes of longing, betrayal, loss, anger, and hurt. It all ends up back in the same restaurant, with cool day replacing elegant evening and the six singers without their actor mates, singing the last madrigal in the collection, Tasso's lines about the woman who lost her love and carved his name and her misfortunes on the bark of a tree, weeping as she read and re-read what she had written.

The musical component here could compete with the best recordings made, but there is no competition for what this is: a stroke of genius that defines a genre, something that sets a standard for what can be done.”
- Chawkin, American Record Guide, May/June 2008


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