Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Puccini - La Fanciulla del West / Zampieri Domingo Pons Bertocchi Maazel La Scala Opera|
Actors: Mara Zampieri, Placido Domingo, Juan Pons
Genres: Indie & Art House, Musicals & Performing Arts
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We'll Have to Wait for a Better One
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 08/05/2004
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This 1991 La Scala production of 'La Fanciulla del West' has one major drawback - one that is nearly fatal to it - and that is the singing of Mara Zampieri. Granted, the role of Minnie is a killer, but that's not the problem here; the problem is that Zampieri doesn't have an attractive voice and although she is musical and a reasonable actress (trying hard to fit her matronly presence into the role of a naïve tomboy role), the acidulous quality of her voice simply cannot be avoided. As far as I know, there is only one other competing DVD of 'Fanciulla,' and that is a 1983 production from Covent Garden with Carol Neblett and Placido Domingo. I have not seen it and cannot compare it with this one, but I've read (and heard) that it comes up short as well, primarily because the production is poor. Here, we have Jonathan Miller's expert stage direction and fairly good sets (although I must admit that the first act, in the 'Polka,' looks more like a cell block than a saloon). Loren Maazel conducts a flexible and dynamic performance, and the cast, other than Zampieri, is quite good, with Juan Pons as Jack Rance, and the inimitable Placido Domingo as Dick Johnson (aka the bandit Ramerrez). Also outstanding is Luigi Roni as the Wells Fargo agent, Ashby.
Oh, for the days of Dorothy Kirsten as Minnie! I never saw her in the role, but can imagine how she must have owned it. And Birgit Nilsson, not one thinks of in this genre, must have been outstanding, too. I frankly don't know what soprano singing currently could do justice the role; but I do know it wasn't Zampieri. Too bad.
David M. Barrett | Villanova, PA | 08/02/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)
"There are some great aspects to this production: the orchestra, Domingo's voice and that of Pons. Zampieri's singing is bad, though. I wonder why they gave her the role. Also the supporting members of the cast, while doing some great singing, are poor actors, and their stage movements are usually awkward.
While the Royal Opera House DVD with Domingo and Neblett is pretty good, the great news is that the memorable production by Metropolitan Opera with Barbara Daniels and (yes) Domingo is now available on DVD. It is terrific."
I love all three, this one best!
S. Erickson | 02/03/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"For years before getting this I enjoyed two other videos of this opera with Domingo-at
Covent Garden `82 Puccini - La Fanciulla del West / Santi, Domingo, Neblett, Royal Opera Covent Garden and the Met `92 Puccini - La Fanciulla del West / Daniels, Domingo, Milnes, Croft, Laciura, Fitch, Slatkin, Metropolitan Opera see my reviews. But I can never have too much of Domingo and I finally decided to ignore the rather mixed reviews here and added this Scala performance from '91. It is actually very fine and features an especially intense portrayal of Johnson by Domingo (which is saying a lot, considering the calibre of the other two!). Each production has its strong points and while I would not want to be without any of the three I'm beginning to think, if I had to choose one, this might very well be it.
I feel `Fanciulla del West' is given more of a serious treatment at Scala. There is a certain sense of severity, an earnestness overall that invites me to accept the characters on a more real level. Nothing distracts my central focus from the developing feelings and relationship of our Minnie and her hero/bandit. And I think the duo for this production work most naturally together. Both seem to relish the subtle nuances of their parts, creating apparently casual, everyday people who nevertheless betray the deep longings and regrets of their souls. Each finds a sympathetic response in the other. The end result of their efforts is an evening of drama that is painful, beautiful and moving.
Zampieri's voice doesn't really bother me and I like her portrayal of Minnie. Not so warm and ladylike as Neblett or as flamboyant as the rough-and-ready Daniels and more of an average person, but oh, so believable and sympathetic! Of the three, I consistently find myself most absorbed into Zampieri's performance. Her Minnie is a little shy but strong and she needs and loves "Johnson" as much as he does her (crook though he is!). As that crook, Domingo gives a powerful, heartbreaking performance that is easily my favorite of the three. He maintains an astounding level of intensity throughout, throwing himself heart and soul into the part, by turns confrontational, considerate, passionate, bitterly self-reproachful, etc. The voice has that extra freedom and expressive generosity that seem to come on certain nights when all is going especially well. I get the sense that he and Zampieri are very much `in sync', often not merely finishing at the same time but I feel they finish together. Their Act II love duet is really something, too- oh, and there is a bit of additional music at the end of it. I wasn't aware of an alternate version but I love it this way!
And I do love the dramatic moments. When Johnson, finally exposed as Ramirrez, confesses his past his bitter disgust with himself is painfully evident in tone and movement (and he takes "la mia vergogna! Ahime! Ahime!" all in one breath, like he did for DG 14 years earlier- oh! is it ever good when he can soar right on over the usual break in the middle- the effect is so worth it! Doesn't happen at Met or Covent). Domingo's vehement delivery of such emotional self-abuse is terrible to behold. And this is only further intensified in Act III. Here the miners make rather lame attempts at appearing threatening and violent (try Covent for a menacing mob!) but Domingo hardly needs their help. He simply turns all the more harshly in on himself (ultimately more moving, I think). His demand to "just get it over with" is ejaculated with a viciousness I doubt I've heard from him elsewhere. While fear or anger tend to dominate his response to the miners' abuse in the other productions here he is more calm, aloof- I think too absorbed with Johnson's wretched existence and his leaving his life's only real love to waste much thought on their hate.
The crown jewel is "Ch'ella mi creda libero e lontano". Growing as it does from so complete and committed a performance it is just heartbreaking. This is not merely a tenor singing his showpiece aria but a soul pouring itself out through music. Maazel beautifully lingers over this emotional tenderness and between the two of them we get one of those transcendent moments of musical theatre that are truly special.
The Scala sets may be on the gray side but I love the use of lighting through all those windows in Act 1 as the day progresses from bright morning to the golden glow of evening to the dimness of twilight. The filming is excellent with good angles and reasonable balance of close-ups with the big picture. I prefer the costumes here, too. The principals appear neat and practical- nothing flashy. Domingo gets a simple dark shirt and coat and I must say the look suits him and the production admirably.
Even if you should feel that Domingo is the `only bright spot in the production', his stunning performance alone makes it worthwhile. But I do feel the straightforward production has its merits, too. Compared with the romantic nostalgia of Covent or the American bravado of the Met (both wonderful in their way!) Scala provides a simple canvas for an intense performance. There is a lean directness about it all that is most satisfying.
Optional subtitles are in English only.
Booklet provides an excellent synopsis and the full Italian-only libretto."
This is dreadful!
P. Sutherland | Berea, Ohio, USA | 03/23/2008
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This production is just dreadful compared to the other two available on DVD. Right from the beginning with a saloon that looked like a New York City tenement building, and costumes to match, with a chorus as dull as the gray of the room. Juan Pons as Jack Rance is able to sing the part, but that's all. He doesn't even come close to Sherrill Milnes' mean, tough guy portrayal. And Minnie, oh dear! Mara Zampieri was so all wrong for this role. Her voice I can only describe as "thin." When Placido Domingo finally arrived, he literally lit up the room with his presence. He remained the only bright spot in this entire production.
Definitely skip this one and go directly to the Met production with Barbara Daniels as Minnie, Sherrill Milnes as Jack Rance, and Placido Domingo as Dick Johnson. That one is a five star winner!"