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Wiener Staatsoper Live - Mozart, Verdi, Massenet

Mozart / Verdi / Alvarez / Hampson / Serban
Release Date: 06/25/2013 
Label:  Arthaus Musik   Catalog #: 107531  
Composer:  Wolfgang Amadeus MozartGiuseppe VerdiJules Massenet
Performer:  Carlos AlvarezLorenzo RagazzoAdrianne PieczonkaFranz-Josef Selig,   ... 
Conductor:  Riccardo MutiDaniele GattiPhilippe Jordan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera ChorusVienna State Opera Orchestra
Number of Discs: 3 
In Stock: Usually ships in 24 hours.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews

Vienna State Opera LIVE
(3-DVD Box Set)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Don Giovanni – Carlos Álvarez Il Commendatore – Franz-Josef Selig
Donna Anna – Adrianne Pieczonka
Don Ottavio – Michael Schade
Donna Elvira – Anna Caterina Antonacci
Leporello – Ildebrando d’Arcangelo
Zerlina – Angelika Kirchschlager
Masetto – Lorenzo Ragazzo

Vienna State Opera Chorus and Orchestra
Riccardo Muti, conductor

Roberto de Simone, stage director
Nicola Rubertelli, set design
Zaira De Vicentiis, costume design

Recorded live from Theater An der Wien, 1999

Giuseppe Verdi

Simon Boccanegra – Thomas Hampson
Amelia – Cristina Gallardo-Domâs
Jacopo Fiesco – Ferruccio Furlanetto
Gabriele Adorno – Miroslav Dvorský
Paolo Albiani – Boaz Daniel
Pietro – Dan Paul Dumitrescu
Un Capitano dei balestrieri – John Nuzzo
Un’ancella di Amelia – Songmi Yang

Vienna State Opera Chorus and Orchestra
(chorus master: Ernst Dunshirn)
Daniele Gatti, conductor

Peter Stein, stage director
Stefan Mayer, set designer
Moidele Bickel, costume designer

Recorded live from the Vienna State Opera, 2002

Sets and Costumes from a production of the Osterfestspiele Salzburg, 2000

Jules Massenet

Werther – Marcelo Álvarez
Charlotte – El?na Garan?a
Albert – Adrian Eröd
Sophie – Ileana Tonca
Schmidt – Peter Jelosits
Le Bailli – Alfred Šramek
Bühlmann – Clemens Unterreiner
Johann – Markus Pelz
Käthchen – Maria Gusenleitner

Vienna State Opera Chorus and Orchestra
Philippe Jordan, conductor

Andrei Serban, stage director
Peter Pabst, set designer

Recorded live from the Vienna State Opera, 2005

- Prior to the opening night - Marcelo Álvarez and El?na Garan?a at the Vienna Opera Ball


Picture format: NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo (all operas) / Dolby Digital 5.0 / DTS 5.0
(Werther) / Dolby Digital 5.1 / DTS 5.1 (Simon Boccanegra)
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian
Running time: 7 hours 34 mins
No. of DVDs: 3 (DVD 9)


Recorded at the Vienna State Opera in February 2005, this Werther is a complicated affair, and relatively satisfying. The production, updated to the 1950s, is by stage and opera director Andrei Serban, who is always full of good ideas. He has placed a huge tree center stage that remains there and defines the passage of the seasons; it is sometimes outdoors, sometimes in. This is less a bother that you might think. (The appealing set is by Peter Pabst, who, with Petra Reinhardt, also is responsible for the handsome period costumes.) Girls play with hula hoops; there is a '50s-looking TV in the living room; the furnishings are absolutely right.

Given how repressive the 1950s were, the opera's issues and Serban's characterizations ring true: Werther's and Charlotte's love for one another never can be acknowledged in a pre-'60s atmosphere given the rigidity of marital constraints and "what the neighbors would say." He furthermore turns Albert, who spies on Charlotte and Werther, into a genuinely cold man; his behavior toward Charlotte at the close of Act 3 is a shocker. Sophie is in love with Werther and flirts audaciously; her sexual awareness (and clothing, actually) are slightly anachronistic, but perhaps she is being seen as the generation to come. (Her "minuet" is more Elvis than Haydn.) Werther, neat as a pin in the opera's first half, is disheveled and wildly unhinged by the third act; his emotional collapse is dreadful to watch.

Elîna Garanca is more impressive here than in her solo debut release on DG of bel canto arias. The voice is gorgeous and absolutely even from top to bottom. She looks beautiful and her acting is natural and convincing--when she finally breaks in the opera's second half, it plays with great honesty, and her pent-up sensual feelings for Werther smolder as I've never seen before. Her voice occasionally lacks heft, and save for one or two moments, she refuses to use anything like chest voice, and this hurts the drama. You only hope that she finds a way to darken the tone to greater effect. And while she's at it, she can work on her languages--her French is pretty bad. Adrian Eröd, as suggested above, sings and acts Albert with great profile. Ileana Tonca's Sophie, very knowing, has a non-soubrette edge to her voice that suits the portrayal well.

Marcelo Alvarez's Werther is hampered only by some cruel close-ups that show exaggerated facial expressions; otherwise, this is a portrayal of great style and subtlety. The voice is sounding handsome and healthy; he caresses soft phrases with ease and beauty and he lets loose in the big moments impressively. He acts thoroughly buttoned-up in the opera's early, public scenes, but his disintegration, as mentioned above, is hugely played. You wish for a more tonally varied voice (the same might have been said of Pavarotti), but why carp?

The rest of the cast is good enough, although the opera's "old folks" are very young as portrayed here, and Charlotte and Sophie seem to have innumerable siblings--the stage, when busy, can be too busy.

The Vienna State Opera Orchestra plays rhapsodically for Phillip Jordan. He comes close to delivering a great Werther, but he underlines some passages by slowing down artificially and it spoils the flow. Still, this is a stunning, newly and originally conceived show. By default it is the best version on DVD (the others are either oddly put together films or the baritone version of the opera starring Thomas Hampson which is only in concert), but you won't be settling if you buy it. It sounds and looks marvelous to boot. A 12-minute bonus gives us a peek into the 2005 Opera Ball, all pomp and circumstance and wealth, which contains a very brief interview with Alvarez, Garanca, Jordan, Serban, and Pabst. And our mezzo and tenor sing a wonderfully entertaining Zarzuela duet--he in perfect Spanish, she in God-knows-what language.

--Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com

Simon Boccanegra
Here we have a mostly wonderful Simon Boccanegra directed by Peter Stein, who, though into dark lighting and minimalist sets, is at least, thank goodness, not into Eurotrash. Some of his effects seem obvious and a little cheap, like the dark obelisk onstage that suddenly lights up to a bright white the moment Boccanegra realizes that Amelia is his daughter Maria, but in so many places Stein surprises you with excellent effects like the onstage figures visible through scrims at the start of the Council scene or that moment toward the end of that scene where Boccanegra lifts his arms outstretched while Maria-Amelia, standing at the bottom of the short staircase directly beneath him, raises them partway. It creates a stunning tableau, and both tableaus and psychological “aha!” moments are what Stein is all about.

Feruccio Furlanetto, one of the most underrated of Italian basses, commands the stage with both his superb acting and his resplendent voice, which has become much darker over the years since his time as a Mozart singer. He is a little unsteady in the prologue but warms up about halfway through his aria. The young baritone Boaz Daniel is sensational in the role of Paolo. Considering how relatively unpopular this opera is, it’s surprising that many baritones have gotten their first major recognition in this role, going back at least to Leonard Warren in 1939. Cristina Gallardo-Domás is a hammy, eye-bugging actress and thus uncomfortable to watch, but once she gets her voice under control, about halfway through the duet with Gabriele, she sings marvelously. Earlier, during her opening aria, she unfortunately displays an unruly tremolo and sings flat for nearly one full chorus. Miroslav Dvorský, younger brother of tenor Peter, sounds nearly identical in timbre and phrasing to his older sibling, which is all to the good. Having never seen Peter sing either onstage or on video, I can’t tell if he was as good an actor as Miroslav, but the younger Dvorský is superb in this respect. The opera is so well cast that even the smaller role of Pietro is performed brilliantly by baritone Dan Paul Dumitrescu.

Thomas Hampson, who generally has a tendency toward eye-bugging and arm-waving himself, is dignified and minimal in gesture here, which works splendidly. All of his characterization is in the voice, which makes sense for an opera singer who is also a noted Lieder singer. The costumes are very nice, though Boccanegra looks a bit like Nebuchadnezzar. I was pleased to see that Gallardo-Domás, a small-busted woman, wears elegant and beautiful dresses that are not low cut to her navel with her bust shoved up to her throat. Although the early scenes are all fairly dark, a Stein trademark, the Council Chamber is well lit and quite bright.

Unfortunately Boccanegra, unlike Don Carlo and Otello, was somewhat flawed from the start due to a libretto that, as Verdi put it, was like a “wobbly table” that could be made to stand if one of its legs was fixed. Boito strengthened it, as did Verdi himself, who used two of Petrarch’s letters as a basis for the Council Scene, yet there remains a flaw. As one critic put it, the problem is that Boccanegra himself never changes. He reacts to events around him but stays the same. Thus the opera remains, like Macbeth, a piece that is spellbinding in its own right but not quite a perfect dramaturgy.

Gatti conducts extremely well, combining a lyrical flow with dramatic punch, almost the equal of Fabio Luisi at the Metropolitan in 2007. The Vienna Philharmonic plays very well for him; indeed, it was this production that led the orchestra to invite him to conduct subscription concerts in the future.

Despite the caveats noted above, this is by far the best video Boccanegra available, and thus well worth your while if you enjoy the opera as much as I do.

FANFARE: Lynn René Bayley

Don Giovanni

In order to underline the "universality" of the Don Giovanni story, this otherwise quite traditionally presented production changes scenery and costumes with almost every scene, so that the Don, for instance, gets seven costume changes--he's something out of Don Quixote's Spain at first, a commedia dell'arte figure later (with Leporello as a Harlequin-like figure), and a French Revolutionary for the Act 1 finale. Elvira, at first dressed as a man, changes as often; Ottavio and Anna remain more rooted in regular nobility. I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with Nicola Rubertelli's sets or Zaira de Vincentiis' costumes, it's just that after a while we'd like to recognize our main players immediately, and not after figuring how their physical appearance has been altered. Sorry to be sour about it, but it eventually becomes a distraction--albeit a good-looking, entertaining, expensive one. A performance this good didn't need a visual gimmick, even if the luxuriousness of it all can be very appealing.

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
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Works on This Recording

Don Giovanni, K 527 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Performer:  Carlos Alvarez (Baritone), Lorenzo Ragazzo (Bass), Adrianne Pieczonka (Soprano),
Franz-Josef Selig (Bass), Anna Caterina Antonacci (Soprano), Michael Schade (Tenor),
Ildebrando D'Arcangelo (Bass), Angelika Kirchschlager (Mezzo Soprano)
Conductor:  Riccardo Muti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Chorus,  Vienna State Opera Orchestra
Period: Classical 
Written: 1787; Prague 
Date of Recording: 1999 
Venue:  Theater An der Wien 
Simon Boccanegra by Giuseppe Verdi
Performer:  Dan Paul Dumitrescu (Bass), Boaz Daniel (Bass), Cristina Gallardo-Domâs (Soprano),
Ferruccio Furlanetto (Bass), Thomas Hampson (Baritone), Miroslav Dvorsky (Tenor),
John Nuzzo (Tenor)
Conductor:  Daniele Gatti
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Chorus,  Vienna State Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1857; Italy 
Date of Recording: 2002 
Venue:  Vienna State Opera 
Werther by Jules Massenet
Performer:  Marcelo Alvarez (Tenor), Elina Garanca (Mezzo Soprano), Adrian Eröd (Baritone),
Ileana Tonca (Soprano)
Conductor:  Philippe Jordan
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Vienna State Opera Chorus,  Vienna State Opera Orchestra
Period: Romantic 
Written: 1892; France 

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