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Puccini: Il Tabarro; Leoncavallo: I Pagliacci / Pavarotti, Et Al

Puccini / Leoncavallo / Pavarotti / Mooc / Levine
Release Date: 10/11/2005 
Label:  Deutsche Grammophon   Catalog #: 000476909  
Composer:  Giacomo PucciniRuggero Leoncavallo
Performer:  Teresa StratasJuan PonsPlacido DomingoLuciano Pavarotti
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera ChorusMetropolitan Opera Orchestra
Number of Discs: 1 
Back Order: Usually ships in 2 to 3 weeks.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Stage Production, Set and Costume Designer: Franco Zeffirelli
Video Director: Brian Large

STEREO: PCM / SURROUND: Dolby Digital 5.1 & DTS 5.1
Subtitles: Italian/German/English/French/Spanish
A production of Metropolitan Opera Association, Inc.

R E V I E W S:

“Cav and Pag” are more common of course, but there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be a “Tab and Pag,” as we have here. This was a double-bill at the Met on opening night in 1994. What an opportunity—to see two of the “Three Tenors” on the same stage on the same night. (But not at the same time, obviously.) Add Teresa Stratas, one of the great singing Read more actresses of that era, and a very acceptable Juan Pons in both operas, and it’s hard to complain.

Complain I will, though, at least a little. As with his film of the same opera, Franco Zeffirelli’s staged Pagliacci suggests that the director doesn’t quite trust Leoncavallo’s opera to make an impact without his help. Typically for Zeffirelli, the stage is cramped and crowded, sometimes even flying in the face of good dramatic sense. (Why would Tonio woo Nedda right in front of several other members of the troupe?) There’s not much that he can do with a stolid Pavarotti, but Zeffirelli has a too-willing colleague (or victim?) in Stratas, who hardly is allowed to stand still for a single second in this production. Unfortunately, this creates musical problems for the soprano; she frequently is behind the beat, thanks, I think, to the relentless animation required of her. It’s too bad that such a wonderful singer is allowed to sound so lax.

In both operas, it’s clear that Stratas is running out of vocal resources. Her tone is dried out and she no longer seems to have one voice, but several, as she moves between different registers. “Beautiful” is not a word one can use to describe this singing. It’s penetrating and dramatic, but it requires the listener to make allowances. This listener is willing to make them, but only because she is such a compelling actress—not just with her voice, but also with her face, her hands, and her entire body. Both Giorgetta and Nedda are world-worn women here, and Stratas brings them to life with fierce realism. If her acting sometimes seems exaggerated, one can either (a) blame Zeffirelli, or (b) explain it away by remembering that gestures and expressions that might seem too big on the television screen probably look just right within the actual auditorium. Pons is a compelling Michele, and a truly repulsive Tonio. His “Prologo” won’t efface memories of (insert the name of your favorite “Golden Age” baritone here), but there’s nothing here for him to regret.

Domingo is an intelligent, believable Luigi in Il tabarro , and he sings “Hai ben ragione” as if it were a real plum. Il tabarro is far from Puccini’s most popular opera, of course, but that doesn’t mean that it is of inferior quality. This is an opera about mood, and it depends on the strength of the ensemble; no single singer can “carry” this opera. Fortunately, the Met assembled a fine cast for this production, and if Charles Anthony’s Il Tinca sounds as strained as Stratas’s Giorgetta, at least it makes dramatic sense, given their difficult lives. Quivar is a lusciously sung and surprisingly elegant La Frugola. Fabrizio Melano’s production has none of the excesses of Zeffirelli’s Pagliacci .

Domingo was no stranger to Luigi, but this was Pavarotti’s first Canio, unless one counts the Decca recording from the 1970s (many people dislike it). Pavarotti has the vocal goods for this role, but the tenor’s natural charm doesn’t find an outlet here, and his interpretation lacks a center. Is Canio a dangerous man, or is he a weak one, easily led by the manipulative Tonio? Domingo is a far more effective Canio in Zeffirelli’s film of this opera. Kenn Chester is a young and appealing Beppe. Dwayne Croft’s Silvio pumps out the beautiful notes, but he seems to be thinking about them one at a time, rather than shaping them into beautiful Italianate phrases.

Levine takes the standard cuts in Pagliacci , which is fine by me, because he has a tendency to drag the music along. This also is true, albeit to a lesser extent, in Il tabarro .

The picture (4:3) is crisp and clear. Video director Brian Large’s fondness for close-ups will allow viewers to examine their favorite singer’s dental work and blemishes in detail. The sound, in the three usual formats, also is up to par. The negligible bonus material is a “picture gallery” of these two operas at the Met, plus a trailer of other Deutsche Grammophon DVDs. The English subtitles are ample and blessedly free of unintended humor.

FANFARE: Raymond Tuttle
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Works on This Recording

Il Tabarro by Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  Teresa Stratas (Soprano), Juan Pons (Baritone), Placido Domingo (Tenor)
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Chorus,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1918; Italy 
I Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo
Performer:  Teresa Stratas (Soprano), Juan Pons (Baritone), Luciano Pavarotti (Tenor)
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Chorus,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892; Italy 

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