Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Rossini - La Cenerentola / Frederica von Stade Francisco Araiza Paolo Montarsolo Claudio Desderi Laura Zannini Claudio Abbado|
Actors: Frederica von Stade, Paolo Montarsolo, Francisco Araiza, Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, Claudio Abbado
Genres: Indie & Art House, Comedy, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
A luminous Cenerentola
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 01/10/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Ah Rossini...! The real inventor of the assembly line. That Ford fellow was just a copycat. One-size-fits-all overtures. Arias you swear you've heard before (you did). Plots that are reused more often than a sandlot league baseball. Why do we love him so much? Because his music is so infectious that it gets under your skin faster than a splinter from a bamboo shade.
This production of Rossini's take on Cinderella, another filmed Opera from Director Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, is beautiful. A joy from beginning to end. Frederica von Stade is luminous in the role of Cenerentola. Literally luminous. Ponnelle illuminates her for much of this film as if he were a graduate of the Spielberg school of backlighting. In fact he backlights just about everything and everyone, sooner or later. Filmed in 1981, (Spielberg had made that technique ubiquitous back then), La Cenerentola had me searching for ET in the long shots. Yet, oddly enough it works. It is a fairy tale, after all.
The Overture has the camera weaving through the empty lobby of La Scala, fixing on the marble statues of famous Italian composers. From there it meanders into the theater and finally the stage. The film records a virtual "La Scala" (it isn't, though) staged performance without an audience. Yet it seems larger, and occasionally it does open up to a larger location. The sets are stunning. Every visual element has been carefully chosen to emphasize beauty. This is a lovely film, thoroughly enjoyable just for it's aesthetic excellence!
But there's a beautifully performed Opera here, as well. The youthful Von Stade is a lovely heroine. Her singing is wonderful, her voice lighter than Cecilia Bartoli's smokey mezzo found on her DVD of Cenerentola; now that I have both singers, it is fascinating to compare the two.
Francisco Araiza is Don Ramiro and Claudio Desderi is Dandini. Paulo Montarsolo sings Don Magnifico. Margherita Guglielmi sings Clorinda. Paul Plishka is Alidoro. The entire cast is superb. The Chorus and Orchestra of La Scala, under the direction of the Conductor Claudio Abbado, live and breath this music. They have that authentic Rossini sound unique to native Italians. Nevertheless, they often perform with manic energy; as if this were the first time they were inhabiting Rossini's sound world.
The DTS 5.1 sound is crystalline and full. The picture is well-nigh perfect, as befits a film that's been digitally remastered.
As usual, Ponnelle recorded the music first in January 1981, then had the singers lip sync for the filmed performance in Vienna during August & September that same year. Thus, the singers can focus on their acting; not where the next note is coming from. This works for me, for what it's worth, but purists may not like it. I think the film's beauty and lofty production values can overcome any obstacle. My strongest possible recommendation for this superbly performed and beautifully filmed La Cenerentola from Director Jean-Pierre Ponnelle and a great cast and Orchestra under Claudio Abbado!
Ted Zoldan | Los Angeles, CA, USA | 01/24/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Cenerentola has been served well on DVD, with four fine productions available, but Ponnelle's film (set somewhere near the Victorian area, given the costumes) is truly an achievement. It's incredibly funny, has great musical values and is also very, very touching. A few of the jokes misfire, (I could do with less of the sister's squealing), but the production, filmed in and around La Scala, is wonderfully innovative. During the overture, we get a tour of the La Scala house and lobby, with it's statues of great Italian Composers singled out, especially that of Rossini (of course). This is a fairy tale with a genuinely happy ending, by the way, and it's exquisitely staged: The Magnificos, who have worn extravagant clothing and hair-dos throughout, appear at the wedding in Victorian grey, looking plain and penitent, only to be forgiven by a dewy-eyed Von Stade. The Sisters break down in tears, and Magnifico is wonderfully and genuinely humbled and forgiven. The scene is nowhere near as touching on the other videos.
Frederica Von Stade's exquisite Cinderella brought tears to my eyes with her performance of the finale: it's a testament to her skill that this was not her most famous role. It doesn't hurt, of course, that she is a genuine beauty. My Favorite moments: the look on her face as Cenerontola Discovers love in the Prince's Valet and then her wonderful, wonderful smile as she relives the ball and strokes the bracelet on her arm (only to hide it, with excellent comic timing, when her family comes back.) As her Prince Charming, Don Ramiro, Francisco Ariaza is in fine voice. His falling-in-love duet with Von Stade has to be heard to be believed, and his big aria goes over very well.
Paolo Montarsolo's Magnifico is simply the best on disk or video. His singing and diction are impeccable and his Mugging is less evident and more appropriately handled than in his performance as Basilio and Bartolo in Ponnelle's films of BARBIERE and NOZZE DI FIGARO Films. His Magnifico is both a cruel man, but he's not a buffoon and there's a something sympathetic about his downfall. His nearly-silent work in the finale shows that there was much more to his skill as a singing actor than being funny.
He matches wits with Claudio Desderi, an Excellent Dandini. Chubby-Faced and expressive, (he bares a passing resemblance to Dom DeLuise) he's an excellent musician and very funny. His opening ballad and ensemble features a wonderfully held line, excellent coloratura and impeccable patter. He appears as Magnifico on another video, but his work is nowhere near as good as it is here.
Paul Plishka is given an expanded role as Alidoro, who observes much of the antics of the other characters silently. He sings his aria well, and is provided with the production's one major departure from tradition. Usually, On the line "Look, and see who I am", Alidoro takes off his begger disguise and reveals his rich clothing. Here, Alidoro is already in his court dress, and on the aforementioned line, he points to the statue of Rossini, which comes to life. Plishka appears made up very convincingly as Rossini and, at one point, appears on screen with (and duets with) himself, as Alidoro appears to drive Cenerentola off to the ball.
The Sisters (Maria Guglielmi and Laura Zannani) both sing well and are very funny, though, as I said before, I could do without much of their squealing (which is not in the score).
Abbado repeats his fine work from his CD set (the Magnifico family are also the same). A true Rossian, his work is impeccable with an irreproachable sense of style and speed, making the all-important ensembles work like polished clockwork. Even without the visual aspect, this is one of the finest CENERENTOLAS on record. If the soundtrack to this film was released, I'd buy it in a second.
This film, by the way, makes an excellent companion to the Saltzburg Festival video with Ann Murray. Murray is nearly on Von Stade's level as a Cenerentola, Ariaza repeats his performance (if not in as fresh a voice), and plays Ramiro with an angry streak. Gino Quilico is good without approaching the brilliant Desderi as Dandini, and Walter Berry, while not on stable ground vocally, is a nasty Don Magnifico with very little that's funny about him, an interesting and appropriate characterization that counter-points Montarsolo's interestingly. There is an attractive (both physically and vocally) pair of sisters and Wolfgang Schone, a great Alidoro. Either of these Versions would be proud assets to a collection, but I would never want to be without Montarsolo, Von Stade, Desderi and Abbado.
The Greatest Opera Movie Ever!
G P Padillo | Portland, ME United States | 09/03/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I finally received my long-awaited copy of the Ponelle/Abbado/von Stade DVD
and I can tell you the thing is pure wow! I truly believe this effort is
one of the most perfect attempts at committing opera to film, drawing as
close a relationship as possible between actual opera house performance and
studio film. The balance is nothing less than remarkable resulting in a
very special work all on its own.
Ponnelle gets his wonderful cast to truly work as a team and the result is
never less than magical. von Stade, for me, is the most radiant Cenerentola
of all time and I have to wonder; has there ever been a more willowy,
beautiful heroine? Her subtle facial expressions are more numerous than
many other mezzos in this role yet she never once comes close to becoming
cloying or hammy - each is just right and feels perfectly natural. Her
singing throughout is exciting.
Abbado sometimes (in my opinion) pushes things along at breakneck pace, but
this still feels Rossinian in spirit and makes the thing crackle with a
vivaciousness that is not impossible to get caught up in, ever bubbly and
buoyant. The La Scala forces all seem caught up in it as well and it makes
for a very special presentation of a very special work.
From "Una volta c'era un re" the entire role is stamped with that
unmistakable von Stade magic. I don't know of a singer who has a
better "melancholy" quality built right into her instrument and in this
role it works like magic. This quality makes the contrasts stand out more
than usual and are so effective, noticeably in the first great ensemble,
the Act I quintet, where her melancholia transforms into a sparkling, put-
upon quality. Here, Rossini shows his hand as one of the greatest, most
inspired "technicians" ever to put pen a score. This ensemble (one of my
favorites in all of opera) also includes one of my favorite musical
moments; during Cenerentola's patter-commentary (spat out with amazing
clarity) - "Cenerentola vien qua, Cenerentola va la, Cenerentola va' su,
Cenerentola vien giu" then the amazing little four note scale repeated over
and over "Questo e proprio uno strapazzo! Mi volete far crepar" is mind
boggling in its simplicity and effectiveness at portraying the moment. (Can
you tell yet this is one of my very favorite operas, too?) In the
first "go" at the "Questo..." von Stade (with her back to the camera) throws
herself like a rag doll being pulled in separate directions - and it is a
wonderful effect that is the perfect visualization of Rossini's breathless
Francisco Araiza is a thoroughly charming prince, although his aspirate-
tackling of the coloratura work is sometimes a bit too much (for my own
taste) which is odd, as when in duetto with von Stade he seems able to
smooth out the passage work. But these two make as handsome a couple as
ever seen in opera and their first sighting of each other and their ensuing
duet is charm personified.
The rest of the cast includes Paolo Montarsolo as an over-the top Don
Magnifico who really seems intent on burning his bridges in his treatment
of his stepdaughter; the comic book sisters of Clorinda and Tisbe of
Margherita Guglilmi and Laura Zannini - who manage to make the girls into a
hilarious Lucy and Ethel act.
Forgive me if I'd forgotten just how amazing a singer was Paul Plishka. The
voice is huge, robust, commanding and warm. His Alidoro - Rossini coming to
life, made my heart just swell to almost bursting. There is a spiritual
quality here that looks forward to Parsifal (another of my favorites). The
sense of wide-eyed wonderment von Stade's heroine wears has an honesty that
is hypnotic. She, like Parsifal, at the end of the first Grail scene, is
rendered speechless. Here, Rossini raises his heroine, changing the
simplicity of a fairy tale into a miracle, a lesson about the power of
faith and goodness. It's impossible not love her. Plishka's performance is
complete in every way.
Claudio Desderi is hilarious - strongly recalling Dom Delouise (which I'm
guessing was not intentional on his part) and, like everyone else, having
the time of his life here. Like Araiza, Desderi ascribes to the aspirate-
ridden method of coloratura, but in this comical role it works to his
Ponnelle's staging of the Act II Sextet is perhaps my very favorite staging
of any operatic ensemble on video. Back lighting throws the entire scene
into silhouette with the singer's robotic movements resembling the
intricate motions of a great Bavarian Cuckoo Clock. Remarkably, each singer
retains their individuality by becoming part of something larger. Musically
and cinematically it's amazing, and at it's conclusion, with all of the
intricate movements, Ponelle somehow - as by magic - has each character
returned to their starting positions. Awesome.
Flicka gets to shine like a genuine diamond in the final scene, once again
imbuing that heartfelt melancholia into "Nacqui all' affanno..." and then
blazing triumphantly through "Non piu mesta."
Ponnelle's control of everything (including costumes), attention to the
smallest of details, shows just how much he loved this work and we are
indebted to him for bringing this gem to a different level.
One midnight five years ago, I got out of bed after tossing and turning for
hours, and put on the VHS copy of this. I watched the entire thing and all
my worries seemed to disappear. Later that day I found out it was the
anniversary of the first performance of La Cenerentola. I'm still convinced
Angelina woke me up on purpose!
I really do believe Rossini's girl is one of the most perfect creations in
all of opera and Ponnelle's film version is a vision and just about one of
the most perfect ways to spend a couple of joyous hours.
Ponnelle poorly served by remastering
P. C. Vogel | USA | 07/30/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Unitel-DGG has remastered this marvellous performance poorly. The frame has been made smaller and much of Ponnelle's masterful placement of singers is lost as the singers on the left and the right are now out of the frame. Get the older video tape (1988) if you can. Otherwise, the sound is good and the singers great."