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Puccini: La Fanciulla del West / Slatkin, Domingo, Daniels, Metropolitan Opera

Puccini / Domingo / Daniels / Met / Slatkin
Release Date: 08/09/2005 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 000449409  
Composer:  Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  Anthony LaciuraBarbara DanielsPlacido DomingoSherrill Milnes
Conductor:  Leonard Slatkin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera ChorusMetropolitan Opera Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Low Stock: Currently 3 or fewer in stock. Usually ships in 24 hours, unless stock becomes depleted.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

STEREO: PCM / SURROUND: Dolby Digital 5.1 & DTS 5.1
Subtitles: Italien/French/German/English/Spanish/Chinese

Stage Production: Giancarlo del Monaco
Set and Costume Design: Michael Scott
Lighting: Gil Wechsler

Whether it is the prospect of seeing bandits, miners, and a sheriff swaggering around the opera stage shooting rifles and pistols, or the juxtaposition of Puccini’s lyrical sensibilities against the inherent crudities of the lawless Wild West, La fanciulla del West has struggled to gain the popularity of La Read more Bohème , Tosca , Madama Butterfly , and Turandot . In fact, aided by a remarkably inventive and modernistic score, Puccini actually makes it work as opera and drama. Puccini, to his credit, continued to evolve as a composer throughout his career. In Fanciulla , he turns to a more Impressionistic idiom. It may not have the knockout melodies of the big four, but Puccini effectively integrates his arias into the dramatic context of the opera and enters fascinating new ground in terms of orchestration and harmonic development. He is clearly moving in the direction of Turandot . Giancarlo del Monaco’s spectacular ultra-realistic production unashamedly takes the opera for what it is. The first act presents a mammoth saloon setting that is necessary to contain a bar room brawl worthy of Zeffirelli in size and scope. The more intimate second act that contains the opera’s principal interpersonal dramatic developments (reminiscent of the second act of Tosca ) occurs in a cutaway of Minnie’s cabin nestled in an isolated mountain setting, complete with snowflakes when the action occurs outside the cabin. The third act presents a desolate ghost town with spectral figures moving through a maze of grays and dark blues as they attempt to lynch Dick Johnson.

The production provides plenty of dramatic contrast while it nicely captures the Wild West setting. The whole thing works exceptionally well, and is ultimately no more silly than any number of Verdi’s operas. This is rendered all the more realistic by a cast which I cannot imagine being surpassed. Barbara Daniels may not have the big or luscious soprano voice characteristic of the great Puccini sopranos, past and present (think Tebaldi, Price, Gheorghiu), but she immerses herself so completely into the dramatic aspects of her role that any vocal shortcomings are quickly forgotten. Domingo is fantastic in a role that is quite ideal for him, lying vocally somewhere between Rodolfo and Calaf. He is very comfortable meeting the acting requirements of the reformed bandit. Sherrill Milnes’s suave Jack Rance is just about perfect from a physical standpoint, and he refuses to let the role degenerate into a one-dimensional villain. This approach is emphasized in the powerful final scene that frames a frustrated and disappointed Rance remaining alone at center stage. The inspired choice of Leonard Slatkin as conductor appropriately emphasizes the importance of the orchestra in La fanciulla del West . His conducting is as dynamic as it is subtle, and he supports the singers superbly.

The DVD contains subtitles in multiple languages. Sonically, there are PCM stereo, DTS 5.1, and Dolby 5.1 formats. Multichannel reveals a slight increase in the sense of air and depth, but there are no directional effects in the rear speakers, even with the various rifle shots and brawls. DTS has a slight advantage in terms of clarity and presence. The bass drum is thunderous in all formats. If you have any remote interest in La fanciulla del West , you can’t go wrong here. Highly recommended.

FANFARE: Arthur Lintgen
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Works on This Recording

La Fanciulla del West by Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  Anthony Laciura (Tenor), Barbara Daniels (Soprano), Placido Domingo (Tenor),
Sherrill Milnes (Baritone)
Conductor:  Leonard Slatkin
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Chorus,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1910; Italy 

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