Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Bellini I Puritani|
Actors: Anna Netrebko, Eric Cutler, Franco Vassallo, John Relyea, Patrick Summers
Genres: Indie & Art House, Musicals & Performing Arts
Live from The Metropolitan Opera, international sensation Anna Netrebko sings Elvira Walton (and her famous mad scene) in I Puritani, a spectacular production revived especially for Ms. Netrebko. The stellar cast includes ... more »
Superb Performance of Bellini Jewel
I. Martinez-Ybor | Miami, FL USA | 12/03/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This performance which I saw in HD broadcast, is superb in all respects. Puritani, though quite beautiful, is quite a static opera. Musically, what creates momentum is the profligacy and haunting quality of its melodic content, and the underlying rhythmic diversity present throughout the work. Thus much depends on the conductor. He has to let the melodies soar but keep taut control of the rhythms, flexibility without slackness. How Bellini came to use so much polonaise in dealing with Scottish Puritans is a puzzlement, but it works very well. Mr. Summers, whom I had never heard of before, is very good and he succeeds admirably in not letting matters wilt while never rushing anything. Besides its admirable set pieces, Puritani is full of little musical moments, almost throwaway beautiful two- or three-bar melodic phrases that make one comprehend the great respect with which Bellini was regarded by both Chopin and Wagner. A conductor cannot underline all of these, otherwise the performance becomes one of fits and starts, but they need to be noticed, with subtlety. Mr. Summers understands this very well and executes accordingly. It is ironic how much this opera, considered pre-eminently a singers' work, depends, to be truly effective, on the person silently wielding the baton.
Of course, there is the very dramatic "mad" scene Bellini provided for Elvira, pretty much out of nowhere, but even that is anchored by one of the most beautiful melodies ever written. Anna Netrebko is marvelous throughout, and excels in Qui La Voce and its aftermath. It's quite a haunting, dramatic performance that will long be remembered. You will gasp. The rest of the cast performs admirably, Mr. Cutler providing solid technique, poise and feeling in one of the highest tessitura tenor roles around.
The production is handsome and simple. The direction is smart, and in the case of Netrebko, brilliant. This is a DVD I will get and I'm sure I'll return to several times."
Not Stylistically Correct Performance
Wayne Leigh | Singapore | 12/28/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I read with surprise the rave reviews of this performance. While it has to be agreed that many aspects of Netrebko are wonderfully suited to this role, there are also critical shortcomings which are probably not obvious to audiences who are not well acquainted with the demands of Bel Canto. First on her plus points - she definitely looked the part, which is not often so, and while many viewers don't mind whether the singer looked the part, many also do, and this will keep these people happy. She has a lovely voice and a good acting ability - which certainly brings the role to life - again something not to be taken for granted. Thirdly she has star appeal, which will bring greater audiences to this sadly and unfairly neglected masterpiece by Bellini (even if its not Norma or La Sonnambula, it certainly deserves a revival).
However, viewers must also be aware that Bel Canto also requires the singer to have a good coloratura ability. This is unfortunately sorely missed here in Ms Netrebko's performance. Indeed audiences who are well acquainted with this work will have picked the glossing over of running notes and other obvious faults Ms Netrebko should have overcomed.
Perhaps it is wise of her to have appeared in a video recording rather than an audio one, where these faults would have been accentuated in the absence of her glamorous personality and great thespian skills. For it would have brought up very unfavorable comparisons with those who have managed the coloratura successfully - the legends of the past like Callas, Sutherland, Sills or even Freni, just to name a few.
Nonetheless, in times like ours, a greatly welcomed release."
Beautiful Bellini; charismatic Netrebko
Toni Bernhard | Davis, CA United States | 02/19/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Several reviewers have criticized Anna Netrebko because her coloratura skills do not match those of Maria Callas. Joan Sutherland, Beverly Sills, or Edita Gruberova. On that point, I have to agree. Although Netrebko does an exemplary job of sustaining long notes at the end of phrases (a Bellini specialty), she doesn't display the trills and ornamentation skills of a true coloratura soprano. If the ability to sing coloratura is of primary importance to you, then this production will be a disappointment. However, I am willing to rely on "I Puritani" CD's to hear Elvira in her full coloratura glory because Netrebko brings so many other fine qualities to the role. Those qualities include: a full-bodied dark and dusky voice that, at the same time, is gentle and supple; superior acting ability; a charismatic stage presence. These combine to make for a performance that is both dazzling and haunting. Sadly for the other players, the stage often feels empty when she's not on it.
The male performers don't fare as well, but I think it's partly that Netrebko's stage presence is so strong that The Met needed to dig deep and find three males who could keep pace with her. Unfortunately, none of the three do. As Riccardo, Franco Vassallo has a strong baritone voice, but he doesn't convincingly express the pain of a rejected suitor. Eric Cutler fares better on the acting side as Elvira's true love, but he struggles with the high tessitura of the tenor role. (Nevertheless, he and Netrebko have good stage chemistry even though her voice dominates the duets.) As Uncle Giorgio, John Relyea's bass is too gravely for Bellini's melodic score.
The orchestra, conducted by Patrick Summers, does a superior job bringing out the melodic beauty of Bellini's score. Unfortunately, only Anna Netrebko does it justice vocally (and this, despite her not being a coloratura specialist).
The DVD has many special features. The highlights are Renee Fleming interviewing Netrebko between each act and a wonderful set of interviews with the late Beverly Sills in which she discusses (with her characteristic warmth and humor) her own experience playing Elvira."
"Good, But Not Great"
Stanley H. Nemeth | Garden Grove, CA United States | 12/28/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Star singer Anna Netrebko has a beautiful lyric soprano voice and is a pleasing actress. What she is not, however, is prodigiously gifted with coloratura skills. In this production of Bellini's masterpiece, she is enchanting to listen to and watch as long as one is prepared to ignore smudged fioriture, the absence of true trills, and the presence of scooped topmost notes. Whether she could benefit from more schooling, should she choose to continue in this repertoire, is an open question.
"I Puritani," was written for four spectacular singers, but, Netrebko apart, the Met has not cast this production from particular strength. Eric Cutler in the nearly impossible role of Arturo is a commanding figure, though he is undermined by an unpleasing, frequently nasal vocal production. True, he hits his notes, but his voice is not markedly beautiful. Similarly, John Relyea looks his part, but his rather gravelly voice gets in the way of any memorable impact. As Riccardo, Franco Vassalo is competent, but also in no way memorable. In sum, this production, for all the raves it has received, is hardly the night of four supreme stars expected in performances of this opera.
Further, the camera locations for this DVD performance are sometimes questionable. We, the viewers, are at moments in the wings or seemingly onstage with the singers, facing the conductor and looking out at the house, for no discernible purpose, except perhaps to give the bored among us the illusion of some few minutes of personal operatic fame. Even worse are the backstage visits conducted by Renee Fleming in Barbara Walters mode, asking dumb, unnecessary questions. The appeal here, I suspect, is the same as the one to diners in a fancy restaurant who, it is thought, like to watch the chef through a window open to the kitchen, or even worse cooking at their tableside. The idea that the production and stars should remain onstage and the audience in its seats probably was thought too non-interactive for contemporary multitaskers.
On the other hand, valuable among the special features of the DVD is the relevant between-scene commentary from the broadcast booth (thank God!) with the witty and charming Beverly Sills who shares her insights about this opera along with anecdotes of her own performances in it. Sills' remarks and the beauty of Netrebko's lyric singing, I'd argue, are the endearing features of this otherwise ordinary DVD."