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Prima Donna - Leading Ladies Of Opera

Prima Donna: Leading Ladies Of Opera
Release Date: 07/29/2008 
Label:  Kultur Video   Catalog #: 4385  
Composer:  Giuseppe VerdiJohann Strauss Jr.George Frideric HandelGiacomo Puccini,   ... 
Performer:  Karita MattilaDame Kiri Te KanawaDawn UpshawRaina Kabaivanska,   ... 
Number of Discs: 1 
Length: 1 Hours 21 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

It should be pointed out from the outset that all of these excerpts are from complete DVD recordings. Several of these I have seen, and generally they are well worth seeking out. Anyway, the present selection has a value of its own and those who for some reason prefer to see their favourite singers in isolated scenes will have their fill of morsels here. It goes without saying that we don’t get very much of sets and scenery. Focus is on the artists and only in the Fledermaus scene – and to some extent, the Carmen excerpt – do we get at least a whiff of the staging.

What we are offered is indeed something to savour. Karita Mattila, certainly one of the most attractive sopranos during the last fifteen years or
Read more so, is plainly stupendous in the two excerpts from Don Carlos in the production at Théâtre du Châtelet. It’s sung in the original French, and is probably the most recommendable recording of this version available, whether on CD or DVD. Kiri Te Kanawa’s creamy tones are a treat from the Domingo-conducted Fledermaus from Covent Garden although I have heard more fiery Klänge der Heimat. The production is lavish and we also get glimpses of Hermann Prey (Eisenstein) and Benjamin Luxon (Falke) – the latter even cart-wheeling (not shown here) in this most joyful production.

Dawn Upshaw is restrained and subdued in Peter Sellars’ modernist production of Theodora from Glyndebourne – so sensitively sung by this most discriminating of artists. The cherry blossom duet from Madama Butterfly is realistically set in the vast Arena di Verona, notoriously difficult when it comes to intimate scenes. Kabaivanska and Jankovic are not the most ingratiating couple one can imagine but they are more than acceptable.

More to my liking is Renée Fleming as the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro. Her warm tone and charming image makes her an ideal contessa. The trio from Der Rosenkavalier focuses very much on Kiri Te Kanawa’s Feldmarschallin, which was one of her best roles. Few exponents of the role – Lehmann, Schwarzkopf, Crespin and Söderström included - have peered deeper into the character. A further asset is Barbara Bonney, who has had few superiors as Sophie.

I have always had a special liking for the late lamented Hildegard Behrens. Her Salome in the classic Karajan recording is the only real challenger to Birgit Nilsson’s 1960s recording with Solti. I also admire her Isolde in the Bernstein recording. Her Sentan in Der fliegende Holländer from the Savonlinna Festival is deeply sensitive and intense and is further proof that she was one of the foremost dramatic sopranos of the second half of the 20 th century.

Maria Ewing’s sexy Carmen – again from Glyndebourne – is well known and she once again confirms that she was one of the superior singing-actors of the last twenty years or so. Even more so is Catherine Malfitano’s horrifying personification of the perverse Salome. She sings marvellously but it is her stupendous acting that remains before one’s eyes long afterwards.

Shirley Verrett, a longstanding favourite of mine, is a seductive Dalila. Her vibrato has widened somewhat but the intensity of her delivery is undiminished and her concluding smile is irresistible.

Back at Glyndebourne Renée Fleming and Alison Hagley are a good Contessa and Susanna in the letter duet from Le nozze di Figaro and Edita Gruberova’s brilliantly sung Sempre libera from La traviata is a fine close to this traversal of a number of standard numbers.

We don’t get more than occasional glimpses of the sets – focus is on the singers, and rightly so – but anyone wanting visual as well as auditory glimpses of his/her favourite singers in their best roles need look no further. I suspect though that seeing and hearing these excerpts one will end up wanting the complete operas and in the booklet the full length versions are listed.

-- Göran Forsling, MusicWeb International


Many of the world’s greatest sopranos of recent years appear in highly-acclaimed performances from La Fenice, Venice, Arena di Verona, The Royal Opera, Covent Garden, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Théâtre du Châtelet, Paris, Deutsche Oper, Berlin, and the Savonlinna Festival, Finland.

Don Carlos (Verdi) Ma chère compagne
Toi qui sus le néant des grandeurs de ce monde
Karita Mattila

Die Fledermaus (J Strauss)
Kiri Te Kanawa

Theodora (Handel)
Fond flatt’ring world, Adieu
Dawn Upshaw

Madama Butterfly (Puccini)
Scuoti quella fronda di ciliegio
Raina Kabaivanska • Eleonora Jankovic

Le nozze di Figaro (Mozart)
Dove sono i bei momenti
Che soave zeffiretto
Renée Fleming • Alison Hagley

Der Rosenkavalier (R Strauss)
Hab mir’s gelobt
Kiri Te Kanawa • Barbara Bonney • Anne Howells

Der Fliegende Holländer (Wagner)
Senta’s Ballad
Hildegard Behrens

Carmen (Bizet)
Les tringles des sistres tintaient
Maria Ewing • Elizabeth Collier • Jean Rigby

Salome (R Strauss)
Ah! Du wolltest mich nicht
Catherine Malfitano

Samson et Dalila (Saint-Saëns)
Amour! Viens aider ma faiblesse
Shirley Verrett

La Traviata (Verdi)
Ah, fors’è lui che l’anima…
Sempre libera
Edita Gruberova

Region: 1 (US and Canada)
Running Time: 81 minutes
Format: NTSC, 4.3, Dolby 2.0
Color: Color
Language: English, French, German, Italian
Subtitles: English
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Works on This Recording

Don Carlos: Tu, che la vanitá conoscesti del mondo by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Karita Mattila (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1867/1884; Italy 
Die Fledermaus: Klänge der Heimat "Czardas" by Johann Strauss Jr.
Performer:  Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1874; Vienna, Austria 
Theodora, HWV 68: Fond flatt’ring world, Adieu by George Frideric Handel
Performer:  Dawn Upshaw (Soprano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1749-1750; London, England 
Madama Butterfly: Scuoti quella fronda "Flower Duet" by Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  Raina Kabaivanska (Soprano), Eleonora Jankovic (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1904; Italy 
Le nozze di Figaro, K 492: E Susanna non vien...Dove sono by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Renée Fleming (Soprano), Alison Hagley (Soprano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1786; Vienna, Austria 
Le nozze di Figaro, K 492: Cosa mi narri?...Che soave zeffiretto by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Renée Fleming (Soprano), Alison Hagley (Soprano)
Period: Classical 
Written: 1786; Vienna, Austria 
Der Rosenkavalier, Op. 59: Marie Theres'...Hab' mir's gelobt by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Barbara Bonney (Soprano), Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (Soprano), Anne Howells (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1909-1910; Germany 
Der fliegende Holländer: Jo-ho-joe! Traft ihr das Schiff by Richard Wagner
Performer:  Hildegard Behrens (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1841/1852; Germany 
Carmen: Les tringles des sistres tintaient "Gypsy Song" by Georges Bizet
Performer:  Elizabeth Collier (Soprano), Maria Ewing (Soprano), Jean Rigby (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: France 
Salome, Op. 54: Ah! Du wolltest mich nicht deinen Mund küssen lassen by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Catherine Malfitano (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1903-1905; Germany 
Samson et Dalila, Op. 47: Amour, viens aider ma faiblesse by Camille Saint-Saëns
Performer:  Shirley Verrett (Mezzo Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1877; France 
La traviata: Sempre libera by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Edita Gruberova (Soprano)
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1853; Italy 

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