Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Don Pasquale |
Actors: Ruggero Raimondi, Oliver Widmer, Valeriy Murga, Juan Diego Flrez, Isabel Rey
Director: Felix Breisach
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts
Previously released on DVD in September, 2007--this sparkling performance comes to high definition Blu-Ray! Juan Diego Flórez, the king of bel canto tenors, gives a truly charming performance as the lovelorn Ernesto--a rol... more »
An average production with a great Tenor
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 09/26/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848) is still considered something of a journeyman composer, having composed some 65 - 70 operas, most of them fast! Don Pasquale, premiering at the Theatre des Italiens in Paris on January 3, 1843, was composed in 11 days. That is supposed to indicate a hack at work. To me, for what it's worth, it says that Donizetti was a genius whose unflagging inspiration produced one of the three greatest Opera Buffa in music history. Only le Nozze di Figaro and il Barbiere di Siviglia are comparable in terms of melodic beauty and musical wit. Don Pasquale is my favorite Donizetti opera. A recent La Scala production on TDK, conducted by Riccardo Muti, is quite good in a traditional version. This production, directed by Grischa Asagaroff, updates the action to Rome between the wars, sometime during the 1920-1930s. Sets and costumes reflect this. The reason for the update? Beats me! Our heroes now wear spats and pin-striped suits. The decor is Art Deco. And we cannot forget that this is Mussolini's Fascist Rome. Is there a point being made by the Director? Who knows! European productions cannot leave traditional versions alone, these days.
Ernesto, beautifully sung by tenor Juan Diego Florez, first appears swinging a tennis racket. Thankfully, he never says "anyone for tennis"? It wouldn't have surprised me if he had. The director's comic vision struck me as somewhat pedestrian, without that comic sparkle necessary for a great production. The comic bits seem to fall flat. What saves this production is the splendid singing, especially that of Florez, whose lyric tenor voice soars with great beauty of tone. Especially at the upper registers: Florez exhibits a rich, limpid vocal quality, liquid in its movement, precise in its attack. Sort of a male Renee Fleming. It really is a lovely voice!
Ruggiero Raimondi makes an excellent Don in his spats and pin stripes. His warm baritone and age are perfect for the role. He's a pretty good comedian, as well. Norina, described as "a young widow" in love with Ernesto, is sung by Spanish soprano Isabel Rey. She sings quite well, with a warm soprano voice supple enough for Donizetti's vocal acrobatics and restrained fioratura. Unfortunately, she struck me as (please forgive me, Isabel) looking around 20 years older than her part demanded. Also, her voice lacks the unforced sparkle and the youthful quality of Nuccia Focile, who sings Norina in the Muti conducted Pasquale. The rest of this cast is good. The Chorus and Orchestra of the Opernhaus Zurich are capably conducted by Nello Santi. Muti, of course, conducts La Scala's legendary forces.
This DVD has the usual menus, languages and trailers. It was filmed in hi-definition 16:9 anamorphic widescreen. Sound is PCM stereo and DTS 5.1. It looks and sounds great.
What ultimately recommends this production is Florez. His voice is marvelous. Get it for him. Otherwise, the TDK Pasquale is superior. Recommended, but with that caveat.
Not a great production of "Don Pasquale" but worth owning fo
Toni Bernhard | Davis, CA United States | 10/29/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"The Zurich Opera has made a wealth of its productions available on DVD. They are consistently of high quality and feature "house" performers (such as Oliver Widmer) along with star-power guests (such as Juan Diego Florez).
"Don Pasquale" is funny funny funny and then suddenly bittersweet. (The fact that the overture starts with a plaintive cello solo should tip us off that this is more than just an opera buffa.) "Don Pasquale" has some beautiful arias and a great patter duet, but I don't think it sustains the consistently high quality of Donizetti's "L'Elisir d'Amore." For one thing, there's a lot of talking over the music, so much so that what's going on in the orchestra is often more interesting than what the performers are doing onstage. (I would thus disagree with the reviewers who said that the orchestra overpowers the singers; I think it's Donizetti's score that does that!) One example: all the Act II marriage charade business takes place to beautiful orchestral music, the characters just speaking dialogue for the most part.
As Ernesto, tenor Juan Diego Florez gives a stand-out performance. We are treated to his usual meticulous attention to phrasing, one of the many qualities that make him so unique as a performer. The purity and sheer beauty of his voice is something special for our times. Such is his charismatic presence onstage that, as with his Count Almaviva in "The Barber of Seville" on DVD, he turns a supporting role into a star vehicle.
Ruggero Raimondi is not the greatest patterer. (In this regard, he can't match Alessandro Corbelli's Don Pasquale, also on DVD.) But Raimondi makes up for it with a great comic instinct and by having such a good time in the role that we are irresistibly drawn in.
Unlike Raimondi, Isabel Rey doesn't have a natural feel for comedy. However, her strong singing goes a long way to compensate for it (her duet at the end with Florez is stunning). Rey was so moving as Donna Anna in the Zurich Opera's DVD of "Don Giovanni" that I was curious to see how she'd fare as Norina. I wish she had a light comedic touch, one that could, for example, make "Quel Guardo Il Cavaliere" the delight it should be. We do get some beautiful trilling from her in that aria though, and that will have to do.
The pleasant surprise is Oliver Widmer as Malatesta. I've seen Widmer on several of the Zurich Opera DVD's. This is by far his best performance. What was once an indistinctive baritone voice has deepened and developed the wonderful burnished tone that all great baritones possess. And he's become an excellent actor (maybe he's been tutored by his wife, the mezzo Cecilia Bartoli, who is so expressive onstage). Widmer's and Rey's voices blend beautifully in the Act I, Scene 2 duet where they rehearse the charade they're about to put on for Don Pasquale. I love this piece with its great melodies and continuous key modulations.
The colorful Art Deco costumes are delightful, but this 1930's concept doesn't translate well into the set design. The stage is so cluttered and the colors so garish that the sets and props sometimes swallow the performers (when they aren't trying to maneuver around them without tripping). And, I understand why Norina would insist on including a portrait of Ernesto (her true love) in her redecorating scheme, but frankly, sitting as huge as it is in the middle of the stage (and I do mean huge), the portrait looks like a publicity shot of Juan Diego Florez. I doubt anyone watching the opera is able to see it as representing his character, Ernesto. It's as if the big brass at the Zurich Opera wants to remind us, even when Florez isn't onstage, that they succeeded in booking this big-name star at their opera house. (Sorry for the cynicism; at least I'm not suggesting it was in Florez's contract to have it there!)
I haven't seen the recently released 1994 La Scala production of "Don Pasquale" with Ferruccio Furlanetto in the title role. The other DVD available is the Teatro Lirico production from 2002. I'd also give it four stars. Alessandro Corbelli (Don Pasquale) and Eva Mei (Norina) outshine their counterparts in the Zurich Opera cast. But the Zurich Opera DVD is worth owning just to see Florez as Ernesto."
Humans: 3, Stuffed Animals: 0
David Cady | Jersey City, NJ USA | 03/07/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"What a shame that the only existing DVD of Juan Diego Florez in one of his signature roles is in this wrong-headed "Don Pasquale." Wrong-headed because once again we have an opera director for whom restraint seems to be a four-letter word. Yes, this is opera buffa, but as anyone who has seen a successful performance of this piece knows, the moments of comedy are leavened with those of genuine heart and poignancy. None of which is in evidence here...unless Senor Florez is on stage -- alone. The opening of Act II is magnificently sung, passionate and sincere. Donizetti is known for giving his tenors these moments of emotional clarity in his comic operas, and Florez makes the most of it; honestly, I've never heard him sing better. And then Raimondi and his teddy bears (don't ask) come back onstage and the whole thing once again falls into mindless schtick.
As another reviewer noted, Isabel Rey, while sounding fine, is way too old for the role, particularly in close-up. And who on Earth is that mute servant dogging her every move? It's baffling to me why some modern day opera directors, like this one, feel the necessity to add non-singing characters that the composer and librettist didn't. One can only imagine he has no confidence in the piece as actually written. Raimondi, a solid dramatic baritone, seems not to have a single, naturally funny bone in his body. Nor does he really connect to the piece's darker, deeper moments, when Pasquale must face the realities of ageing and Life having passed him by. Ultimately, the performance makes little impression.
Visually this is a bright, at times garish and ugly production. One can only hope that someone will have the wherewithal to film Florez again, hopefully under the aegis of a director who understands the subtleties that are required for making this kind of operatic treat both hilarious AND moving."
Juan Diego Florez is the real deal...but what's with all the
C. Boerger | Columbus, OH USA | 10/22/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is generally a great DVD of Don Pasquale, with plenty to love, but also with a couple of caveats.
Let's start with the good stuff, which far outweighs the bad.
The main attraction here is the singers. Juan Diego Florez is the hot bel canto tenor right now, and with good reason, his voice is a miracle, full of fluidity and grace, with brilliant high notes, free of any rough patches, a joy to listen to. Dramatically, he's no Placido Domingo, he's handsome enough, sure, but his stage presence can be a little stiff at times, he still hasn't outgrown the common tendency of romantic tenors to raise a fist whenever he wants to make a dramatic point, which is just nitpicking basically, the bottom line, Florez is the real deal. Let's hope he has a long career, because he is the type of singer who, if you see his name on a production, you know it is something you want to see.
HOWEVER...I can't agree with other reviewers who suggest that his presence is the ONLY reason to purchase this DVD. I thought all four of the leads were outstanding, easy on the ears. Having Ruggero Raimondi as Don Pasquale is a major coup for more than just sentimental reasons, the guy still sounds great, his voice has the agility to handle the tougher bel canto moments, particularly the patter duet, going so far as to reward the audience with a much welcome encore! And speaking of agile, he does a pretty good job of prancing about the stage at the moment when the old Don has his moment of, how shall I put this, rejuvenation. I really enjoyed Isabel Rey's performance, her voice is stronger than some of the more lilting coloratura specialists but still beautiful, and definitely full of life. She's a bit older than the young widow Norina but very attractive, not to mention strong-willed, and she seems to be having fun with all the madcap proceedings. Oliver Widmer gives us an amusing, extremely well-sung Dr. Malatesta(he matches Raimondi patter for patter), a bit more lecherous than usual, but, hey, this is commedia del'arte material, at heart anyway, so why not?
I enjoyed many aspects of the production, I wasn't put off by the updating of the time period, and I thought the revolving stage and large, detailed set pieces were nice touches, but some things bothered me, and here is where we get into the negative aspects of this DVD. The sets and costumes themselves are generally eye-catching, but a little busy at times, just like the stage direction, busy being an understatement, the term I really should use is over the top. Having Don Pasquale cradling a teddy bear is amusing at first, but after about the tenth teddy bear I was ready to shout "Enough!," especially after his tormentors seem to take such glee in ripping the poor things apart. The ruse in Don Pasquale is supposed to be a mild joke with the purpose of imparting a life lesson, it isn't supposed to be destructive. But they don't stop with teddy bears, before you know it they're rending appendages from his statues, tearing off strips of wallpaper, ripping his curtains, defacing his paintings. Again, this is just too much stage activity, too much clomping around. Fortunately it doesn't distract from the singing(for an example of a production really overpowering the performers, see the recent Met production of Barber of Seville, also with Florez), but come on. On top of all that, many of the set pieces are banal, from a statue of a teddy bear to a painting of Florez' smiling countenance to a giant foot in the last scene(what the heck?). If these are supposed to be symbolic, well, I'm not sure what they're supposed to represent, to me they're unnecessary. What is it with all these directors who think that opera buffas aren't funny enough on their own, they have to add all this garish nonsense? Sheesh!
Finally, I agree with the reviewer who found the orchestra too brash at times, overpowering the singers, especially since this isn't that kind of an opera. Don Pasquale is not Nabucco, although I sometimes felt as though I were listening to Nabucco(not that listening to Nabucco is a bad thing). Despite its frantic moments, Don Pasquale is basically a lower key outing than early Verdi and should be performed as such. There are also moments I found a little slow in terms of the conducting, which violates the fast-paced Rossinian ethos Donizetti was trying to adhere to.
I hope by giving such intricate detail to the negatives I haven't given the impression that this is a weak performance. Overall, it's wonderful listening(with singing that could hardly be bettered), a generally good but far from perfect production, with great video and sound quality, and in widescreen! It evens out in the long run, producing an opera experience that comes highly recommended."