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James Levine - Celebrating 40 Years At The Met [21 DVD Box Set]

Release Date: 12/07/2010 
Label:  Decca   Catalog #: 1135701355  
Composer:  Alban BergJohn CoriglianoWolfgang Amadeus MozartGiacomo Puccini,   ... 
Performer:  Franz MazuraJulia MigenesEvelyn LearKenneth Riegel,   ... 
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera OrchestraMetropolitan Opera Chorus
Number of Discs: 21 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

The Met Celebrates the 40th Anniversary of James Levine’s Company Debut with James Levine: Celebrating 40 Years at the Met: a Box Set of 21 DVDs featuring 11 complete operas plus highlights from historic concerts from the longtime Music Director’s record-breaking career with the company.

Berg: Lulu
Julia Migenes, Franz Mazura, Evelyn Lear, Kenneth Riegel; December 1980

Berg: Wozzeck
Falk Struckmann, Katarina Dalayman, Wolfgang Neumann, Graham Clark, Michael Devlin; October 2001

Corigliano: The Ghosts of Versailles
Teresa Stratas, Håkan Hagegård, Marilyn Horne, Gino Quilico, Graham Clark, Renée Fleming; January 1992

Mozart: Le Nozze di
Read more Figaro
Carol Vaness, Kathleen Battle, Frederica von Stade, Thomas Allen, Ruggero Raimondi; December 1985

Puccini: Il Trittico
Renata Scotto, Cornell MacNeil, Vasile Moldoveanu, Betsy Norden, Jocelyne Taillon, Gabriel Baquier, Italo Tajo, Philip Creech; November 1981

Smetana: The Bartered Bride
Teresa Stratas, Nicolai Gedda, Jon Vickers, Martti Talvela; November 1978 R. Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos (Virgin Classics release)
Deborah Voigt, Natalie Dessay, Susanne Mentzer, Richard Margison, Nathan Gunn; April 2003

R. Strauss: Der Rosenkavalier
Tatiana Troyanos, Kiri Te Kanawa, Kurt Moll, Judith Blegen, Derek Hammond-Stroud, Luciano Pavarotti; October 1982

R. Strauss: Elektra
Hildegard Behrens, Deborah Voigt, Brigitte Fassbaender, James King, Donald McIntyre; January 1994

Verdi: Don Carlo
Vasile Moldoveanu, Renata Scotto, Tatiana Troyanos, Sherril Milnes, Paul Plishka, Jerome Hines; February 1980

Weill: Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny
Teresa Stratas, Astrid Varnay, Richard Cassilly, Ragnar Ulfung, Cornell MacNeil; November 1979

In Concert at the Met (Highlights)
Plácido Domingo, Tatiana Troyanos (February 28, 1982); Leontyne Price, Marilyn Horne (March 28, 1982); Plácido Domingo, Sherrill Milnes (January 30, 1983).

Review of The Ghost of Versailles:

Decca has recently released a 21-DVD celebration of the 40 years connection between James Levine and the Metropolitan Opera. The present 2-DVD set is taken from the larger box but unfortunately is not being sold separately. It has been sent for review as it contains Levine’s first world-premiere at the Met, that of John Corigliano’s opera The Ghosts of Versailles.
This opera was originally commissioned in the early 1980s, but did not reach the Met until 1991. Its origins lie in a conversation between Levine and the composer, with the latter saying he had long been interested in writing an opera buffa that would be on a grand scale. Levine was enthusiastic and Corigliano enlisted his friend, librettist William Hoffman. Together they delivered an opera that is indeed “buffa”, but almost Wagnerian in scope. The Met gave its all in terms of production and magnificence of casting.
The “Ghosts” of the title are Marie Antoinette, Louis XVI and their court. Though dead for 200 years, they still haunt their home at Versailles. The Queen remains sad about being executed and the ghost of the famous poet Beaumarchais attempts to cheer her up by presenting the third Figaro play “La Mère Coupable” as an opera for the court to watch, but now in the form of “A Figaro for Antonia”. By so doing he hopes to change history and save the Queen - with whom he is in love - from the guillotine. Much of the rest of the first act presents the opera within an opera with Figaro and Susanna twenty years after The Marriage of Figaro attempting to save Almaviva (now Ambassador to France) and Rosina from the French Revolution in the person of the evil Bégearss. The first act ends in truly grand style at the residence of the Turkish ambassador. In the second act the ghosts and the characters of the opera within the opera interact. Figaro and Beaumarchais save the Queen and Almaviva and Rosina from the force of the Revolution, but the Queen decides that she is no longer embittered and must fulfil the mandate of history by dying, only to be reunited with Beaumarchais in Paradise.
It must be said that, overall, Corigliano’s music is not as distinctive as that of some of his orchestral works, with some notable exceptions such as Marie Antoinette’s “They are always with me ...”; Beaumarchais’s “Magic. It is Paris …” and Bégearss’ big aria. In the second act “As summer brings a wistful breeze”, a quartet, is a stand-out. However, the music is consistently evocative of the emotions on the stage and never bogs down. The composer’s variations on Mozart and Rossini are first-rate.
In terms of the cast, the central duo of Teresa Stratas and Håkan Hagegård could not be excelled. Ms. Stratas was a little past her prime vocally at the time of this recording and her singing is occasionally shrill, but overall she has remarkable control and vocal characterization. Hagegård is riveting when he sings and his acting is superb. James Courtney as the King is also outstanding. Of the “stage” characters, Gino Quilico is almost “over the top” in his characterization of Figaro, but his singing is lively and nuanced throughout. Judith Christin is touching as Susannah and there is a guest appearance by Marilyn Horne that has to be seen to be believed. Needless to say, Levine’s conducting and indeed control of all that is going on on-stage is masterly.
The original production of the opera was among the Met’s most magnificent, even more so than their Turandot. In fact, it is almost too elaborate, sometimes distracting one from either the music or the plot. Music, acting and production are all well brought out on this disc, in spite of its origins in a 1992 television presentation that was recorded on laser-disc and then enhanced and transferred to DVD for this disc. Needless to say there is some lack of visual clarity, but the sound is quite serviceable. The 2-DVD set was presented to me as being playable only in Region One (USA), but the box itself seems to indicate differently. In any case, it is to be hoped that the set will become generally available as the overall performance is quite an experience.  

-- William Kreindler, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

Lulu by Alban Berg
Performer:  Franz Mazura (Baritone), Julia Migenes (Soprano), Evelyn Lear (Soprano),
Kenneth Riegel (Tenor)
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1929-1935; Austria 
Date of Recording: 12/1980 
Wozzeck, Op. 7 by Alban Berg
Performer:  Michael Devlin (Bass Baritone), Katarina Dalayman (Soprano), Wolfgang Neumann (Tenor),
Falk Struckmann (Baritone), Graham Clark (Tenor)
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra,  Metropolitan Opera Chorus
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1917-1922; Austria 
Date of Recording: 10/2001 
The Ghosts of Versailles by John Corigliano
Performer:  Graham Clark (Tenor), Håkan Hagegård (Baritone), Marilyn Horne (Mezzo Soprano),
Gino Quilico (Baritone), Teresa Stratas (Soprano), Renée Fleming (Soprano)
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1991 
Date of Recording: 1/1992 
Le nozze di Figaro, K 492 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Kathleen Battle (Soprano), Frederica Von Stade (Mezzo Soprano), Carol Vaness (Soprano),
Thomas Allen (Baritone), Ruggero Raimondi (Bass)
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Chorus,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1786; Vienna, Austria 
Date of Recording: 12/1985 
Il Trittico by Giacomo Puccini
Performer:  Vasile Moldoveanu (Tenor), Gabriel Baquier (Voice), Betsy Norden (Soprano),
Jocelyne Taillon (Mezzo Soprano), Cornell MacNeil (Baritone), Renata Scotto (Soprano),
Italo Tajo (Bass), Philip Creech (Tenor)
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Chorus,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1918; Italy 
Date of Recording: 11/1981 
Bartered Bride, B 143/T 93 by Bedrich Smetana
Performer:  Martti Talvela (Bass), Nicolai Gedda (Tenor), Teresa Stratas (Soprano),
Jon Vickers (Tenor)
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Chorus,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1863/1870; Czech Republic 
Date of Recording: 11/1978 
Der Rosenkavalier, Op. 59 by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Derek Hammond-Stroud (Baritone), Tatiana Troyanos (Mezzo Soprano), Judith Blegen (Soprano),
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa (Soprano), Kurt Moll (Bass), Luciano Pavarotti (Tenor)
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Chorus,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1909-1910; Germany 
Date of Recording: 10/1982 
Elektra, Op. 58 by Richard Strauss
Performer:  Deborah Voigt (Soprano), Brigitte Fassbaender (Mezzo Soprano), Hildegard Behrens (Soprano),
James King (Tenor), Donald McIntyre (Bass)
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Chorus,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1906-1908; Germany 
Date of Recording: 1/1994 
Don Carlos by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Paul Plishka (Bass), Sherrill Milnes (Baritone), Vasile Moldoveanu (Tenor),
Tatiana Troyanos (Mezzo Soprano), Renata Scotto (Soprano), Jerome Hines (Bass)
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Chorus,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1867/1886 
Date of Recording: 2/1980 
Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny by Kurt Weill
Performer:  Richard Cassilly (Tenor), Astrid Varnay (Soprano), Teresa Stratas (Soprano),
Ragnar Ulfung (Tenor), Cornell MacNeil (Baritone)
Conductor:  James Levine
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Metropolitan Opera Chorus,  Metropolitan Opera Orchestra
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1928; Berlin, Germany 
Date of Recording: 11/1979 

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