Notes and Editorial Reviews
CARMEN (Georges Bizet)
Elena Obraztsova (Carmen); Plácido Domingo (Don José); Yuri Mazurok (Escamillo); Isobel Buchanan (Micaëla); Cheryl Kanfoush (Frasquita); Axelle Gall (Mercédès); Kurt Rydl (Zuniga); Hans Helm (Moralès); Heinz Zednik (Remendado); Paul Wolfrum (Dancaïre); Chorus and Orchestra of Vienna State Opera; Carlos Kleiber, conductor
Franco Zeffirelli, stage director
Recorded at the Vienna State Opera, December 1978
DON GIOVANNI (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart)
Carlos Álvarez (Don Giovanni); Adrianne Pieczonka (Donna Anna); Anna Caterina Antonacci (Donna Elivira); Angelika Kirchschlager (Zerlina);
Michael Schade (Don Ottavio); Ildebrando d'Arcangelo (Leporello); Lorenzo Regazzo (Masetto); Franz-Josef Selig (Il commendatore); Chorus and Orchestra of Vienna State Opera; Riccardo Muti, conductor
Roberto de Simone, stage director
Recorded at the Vienna State Opera during Wiener Festwochen 1999
FIDELIO (Ludwig van Beethoven)
Camilla Nylund (Leonore); Jonas Kaufmann (Florestan); Alfred Muff (Don Pizzarro); László Pólgár (Rocco); Elizabeth Rae Magnuson (Marzelline); Christoph Strehl (Jaquino); Günther Groissböck (Don Fernando); Boguslaw Bidzinski (Erster Gefangener); Gabriel Bermúdez (Zweiter Gefangener); Chorus and Orchestra of Zurich Opera House; Nikolaus Harnoncourt, conductor
Jürgen Flimm, stage director
Recorded at the Opernhaus Zürich in February 2004
Picture format: NTSC 4:3 (Carmen) / 16:9 (Don Giovanni, Fidelio)
Sound format: PCM Stereo (all operas) / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1 (Fidelio)
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish
Booklet notes: English, French, German
Running time: 7 hours 36 mins
No. of DVDs: 3
Read about the individual titles that make up this exceptionally-priced 3-opera DVD set:
Bizet: Carmen / Kleiber
"For a long time it had been regarded as impossible to publish the live recording of the famous Zeffirelli production from Vienna as Kleiber was generally not expected to agree to a public release. However, luckily and surprisingly, he gave his consent to publication in spring of 2004, so that TDK can now present to the public one of the most awaited for opera recordings."
Q: Who knew this existed? A: Austrian Broadcasting. Yes, it's been in their "vaults", waiting for who-knows-what, and just last year they asked Carlos Kleiber--a "great but difficult man"--if they might release this video, and he agreed. And then he died. Here it is, the opening night of Carmen, from December 9, 1978, which was telecast in Austria two days later. And indeed, it's quite an event, a Franco Zeffirelli production to end them all, with so many people on stage milling about, dancing, interacting, and running that even Carmen herself occasionally gets lost in Act 2, with an additional cast of horses showing up at strategic, opulent moments. In fact, aside from the unstoppable busy-ness, the opulence is just fine, with the first act properly languid and sensual, Lillas Pastia's Tavern quite a fun-filled, expensive dive, the Smuggler's Hideout (with very well-dressed smugglers) as mountainous as it should be, and a final act that catches the noon-day sun, the mania of the bullfight, and somehow, time for a brief flamenco-like ballet interlude.
Zeffirelli also directed for TV and his choices are wise and dramatically apt. It doesn't hurt that his cast looks good and is comfortable on stage. Zeffirelli sees Carmen as a lusty, sort-of dopey, not-very-wicked, skirt-twirling wench who believes what she feels when she feels it (she really does seem to want to go away into the mountains with Don José in Act 2), but who somehow turns serious when the cards tell her she's going to die in Act 3. From then on, she's the fatalist we know, and a pretty nasty one at that. Not that it matters.
As suggested, the true value of this set is the elusive Kleiber's leadership. This is a brilliant reading, full of sunlight and very strong rhythms, with quick tempos, no sentimentality, and a string section that slashes away maniacally during the Gypsy Song and third-act knife fight, but caresses Carmen's Habanera and José's Flower Song. The Quintet is taken so fast that you fear for the ensemble, but there's no need: this show has been impeccably rehearsed and it's as clean as possible. Kleiber even finds a lilting rhythm in the usually dull Smuggler's chorus in Act 3, and the tension in the final scene is almost terrifying, with José's desperation growing out of control. In short, you'll hear much that seems new--or as if you're hearing it anew--with Kleiber at the helm. The camera cuts to him often and it's always a pleasure to watch his elegant dignity and control.
The singing is pretty razzle-dazzle too. Elena Obraztsova, even with her covered vowels and outrageously off-key singing in the Gypsy Song, is a splendid Carmen. She offers singing alternately sultry and sarcastic ("Bel officier") and mostly alluring, until she turns gloomy and vicious in Act 3 and unleashes her chest voice. She's never actually subtle, but she's very convincing and always full of personaility. And it's likely that Placido Domingo has never been better. He looks handsome, the voice is absolutely free and intensely expressive, and he gets a three-minute ovation after the Flower Song. He and Kleiber clearly inspire one-another. Yuri Mazurok is a weakish Escamillo, singing well but looking awkward and poorly wigged (or coiffed). Isobel Buchanan's Micaela is just about perfect--innocent without being cloying--and her silvery tone is ravishing. The supporting cast is well-drilled, both musically and dramatically, with no rough edges or inept moments. Needless to say, the orchestra plays gorgeously.
The version of the opera used contains some spoken dialog, which the microphones sometimes miss, but otherwise the quarter-century LPCM Stereo sound is flawless, with fine orchestra/voices balance. There are subtitles in German, French, Italian, and English, which allow us to learn that Carmen's first words in the Gypsy Song are "The rods of the sistrums jingled with a metallic ring". There are 56 tracking points--very generous and great for pinpointing special moments. This is a remarkable release. I wonder what else is in "the vaults". [2/10/2005]
-- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Mozart: Don Giovanni / Muti
To the men first: Carlos Alvarez's Don is terrific both vocally and dramatically. This was taped in 1999 and Alvarez has since become a leading Verdi baritone; even here he's big-voiced. But he's also smooth and sensitive to Mozartian niceties--he whips through "Finch'an del vino" in record time while gently caressing "Deh vieni" and dominating the ensembles as he should. His is not a spiteful Don; he's merely oblivious to others' feelings and he wants what he wants when he wants it. His Leporello, totally unlike him tonally, is the superb bass Ildebrando d'Arcangelo, whose vocal snideness can be either captivating or menacing, and who sings the role in a true cantante fashion. Michael Schade's Ottavio is classy and clearly at the service of Anna; his kowtowing is textually correct and is not without a certain strength. He delivers both arias eloquently, with fine breath control and nuanced dynamics. Lorenzo Regazzo's Masetto is full-voiced and fully realized; he doesn't seem afraid of Giovanni at all, and his naiveté wears off quickly. And Franz-Josef Selig's Commendatore is grave and unhappy--not particularly appealingly sung but effective nonetheless.
Angelika Kirchschlager's Zerlina is the ripest since Horne and Berganza--charming and theatrical. Anna Caterina Antonacci has all the notes and the long breaths--even the longest--for Elvira's difficult music, and the occasional "hootiness" in some top notes is forgivable. She underplays the bizarre humor this part calls for, but perhaps director Roberto de Simone, otherwise right on, is to be blamed for the reserve she exhibits. Adrianne Pieczonka is a strong Anna, with an even range and a true Mozartian style. Her "Non mi dir" has everything; throughout the opera her power and sensitivity go hand-in-hand.
This set also showcases Riccardo Muti at his best. He has recorded this opera on CD (and DVD) more than once (I believe), but here, everything gels. Tempos are fleet, but the singers have room; the precision he's known for is in evidence, but he's not dogmatic. This is "Classical" Mozart at its most superb--no nonsense, no other-worldly or "Romantic" interpretation--the winds are prominently featured, and the lower strings are always commenting. Bravo! The Vienna orchestra does itself proud; the chorus sounds a bit under-staffed.
The picture format is 16:9; the sound is a very fine LPCM Stereo. There are subtitles in English, German, French, and Italian. Brian Large directs for the small screen with his usual fine eye. The costume and set changes may just enchant you as well. Highly recommended.
-- Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
Beethoven: Fidelio / Harnoncourt
"A taut and tense traversal of a familiar work, very personally conducted . . . this is by and large a consistent and engrossing experience, especially on the musical side. Harnoncourt, as he showed in his CD version (Teldec, 10/95), has–-as always-–decided views on the work in hand as regards tempi and texture. This predominantly light but dramatic reading harks back to the 18th century rather than forward to the 19th, with romantic feeling at a premium. The orchestra foretells the rest in its crisply accented rhythms, clean sound and sense of the impending drama: they play splendidly. Once the curtain is up, we realise that Jürgen Flimm is to offer a fairly minimalist production, one set more-or-less in period and concentrating–-rightly-–on the characters of the principals. . . . Rocco–-a wonderfully moving, warm and eloquent performance from László Polgár–-is kindly, cowed by his surroundings, and alert to every nuance of feeling in those around him. His body language and his eyes tell us everything about the jailer’s torment. . . . Leonore, in the arresting figure of Camilla Nylund, is slim and appealing, truly believable as a young man. . . . In support, the Zurich Opera forces sing and play with well-prepared assurance under Harnoncourt’s concentrated and elevating direction."
-- Alan Blyth, Gramophone
Works on This Recording
Carmen by Georges Bizet
Paul Wolfrum (Baritone),
Placido Domingo (Tenor),
Isobel Buchanan (Soprano),
Yuri Mazurok (Baritone),
Hans Helm (Baritone),
Elena Obraztsova (Mezzo Soprano),
Kurt Rydl (Bass),
Axelle Gall (Mezzo Soprano),
Cheryl Kanfoush (Soprano),
Heinz Zednik (Tenor)
Vienna State Opera Chorus,
Vienna State Opera Orchestra
Written: 1873-1874; France
Date of Recording: 12/1978
Venue: Vienna State Opera
Don Giovanni, K 527 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Franz-Josef Selig (Bass),
Lorenzo Regazzo (Bass),
Michael Schade (Tenor),
Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano),
Carlos Alvarez (Baritone),
Adrianne Pieczonka (Soprano),
Ildebrando D'Arcangelo (Bass),
Anna Caterina Antonacci (Soprano)
Vienna State Opera Chorus,
Vienna State Opera Orchestra
Written: 1787; Prague
Date of Recording: 1999
Venue: Vienna State Opera
Fidelio, Op. 72 by Ludwig van Beethoven
Camilla Nylund (Soprano),
Christoph Strehl (Tenor),
Jonas Kaufmann (Tenor),
László Polgár (Bass),
Elizabeth Magnuson (Mezzo Soprano),
Günther Groissböck (Baritone),
Alfred Muff (Bass)
Zurich Opera Chorus,
Zurich Opera Orchestra
Written: 1804/1814; Vienna, Austria
Date of Recording: 2/2004
Venue: Zurich Opera House
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Three Great Operas November 16, 2012
By Michael Nystrom (Aloha, OR) See All My Reviews
"I bought the set because I wanted to have Carmen, but was delighted to find that I could also enjoy watching and listening to Fidelio and Don Giovanni as if I was actually there...for a real bargain! I've seen Carmen and Fidelio...and enjoyed them both immensely! I plan to see Don Giovanni in the next few days before Thanksgiving Day and expect to enjoy Mozart every bit as much as I've enjoyed Bizet and Beethoven."