Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Plcido Domingo, Jennifer Holloway, Luigi De Donato, Sara Mingardo, Monica Bacelli
Genres: Indie & Art House, Musicals & Performing Arts
Handel's Tamerlano from Madrid
T. C. | 03/29/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Tamerlano is considered as one of Handel's greatest operatic masterpieces. He wrote this opera in the space of twenty days, in July 1724. This was a very productive year for Handel's operas: Gulio Cesare and Rodelinda were written in 1724 too, all three great operas to a libretto by Italian poet Nicola Francesco Haym.
Tamerlano had been recorded a few times. The best CD recording for my taste is the last: A MDG recording that is conducted by George Petru. On the Arthaus label there is a DVD version from the Handel Festival at Halle 2001. The conductor is Trevor Pinnock and stage director is Jonathan Miller. Musically this is an excellent performance, led by Italian mezzo-soprano Monica Bacelli as Tamerlano. But as a stage experience this performance is quite boring, with the singers standing on a small bare stage and singing long dacapo arias almost with no movements.
This month, Opus Arte released a new DVD version for Tamerlano. This is a 2008 production from Teatro Real in Madrid. Stage director is Graham Vick. The stage here is much more interesting, although it almost doesn't change during the opera. It has big white walls in the shape of a semicircle with a number of doors. Stage design is quite minimal but effective and always very esthetic and pleasant to the eye. But the main difference between the directors is in the singer's guidance. With Miller you get `stand and deliver', almost no interaction between the singers. In Madrid Graham Vick achieved totally other results: all the singers are acting effectively and impressively.
The Orchestra of Teatro Real is playing on modern instruments and is conducted by Paul McCreesh. He definitely knows how to conduct Handel, but I usually prefer HIP instruments in this music. There are a few "authentic" additions to the orchestra in particular in the wind department, flutes, recorders and old stringed instruments like a theorbo.
With respect to the singers - a very special feature of this production is the participation of Placido Domingo. In the age of 68 Domingo does not cease to surprise and he is singing for the first time in a Baroque opera the role of the Turkish sultan Bajazet, one of the greatest roles Handel created for a tenor.
The voice is relatively big and not flexible enough to be an ideal Baroque singer. But although the singing is technically not perfect, it is very impressive first of all on account of the phenomenon - a singer in the age 68 able to sing so, but in addition to this, Domingo, a really great artist brings his rich theatrical experience to portray very convincingly the suffering of the tormented ruler that fights in captivity for his daughter happiness. Luckily, the role is not very difficult...
The leading role - Tamerlano - is sung again by Italian mezzo-soprano Monica Bacelli. She is excellent both in singing (especially in her act III aria) and acting, portraying amusingly the Tartar ruler as an extrovert and capricious man. The role of Androniko, the Greek prince in love with Bajazet's daughter Asteria is sung by Italian contralto Sara Mingardo. She is excellent.
Asteria, Bajazet's daughter is sung by Swedish soprano Ingela Bohlin. She is outstanding. She is a very beautiful woman, with a lovely and angelic voice, and excellent technique. The other two minor roles are more than adequately taken by American soprano Jennifer Holloway as Irene and baritone Luigi di Donato as Leone.
To sum up: Highly recommended for all lovers of Baroque operas. This is a worthy performance for one of Handel's greatest creations.
E. Lyons | Ann Arbor, MI | 09/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Just wanted to get my two cents in here since there is only one review so far. This is a very good dvd of Tamerlano, and I think it is much more interesting than the Pinnock dvd. The production is typical Graham Vick, which is to say: stylish, thoughtful, a little unconventional but still very true to the work. He contributes some new ideas here and there, but in a respectful way. The costumes vaguely suggest 18th c. ideas of turquerie, but are schematic and exaggerated in some cases, with sober white costumes setting Bajazet and his daughter apart from the rest of the characters. Tamerlano himself (Monica Bacelli) is a sort of flamboyant, Liberace-type character with very colorful costumes and lots of makeup, who interpolates some turkish-looking dance moves into his arias. Very neat idea for this character, as his arias are very bouncy and dancelike tunes (shades of the McVicker Giulio Cesare? perhaps). Asteria also is very well sung, and brings interesting middle-eastern style hand gestures into her first aria. Domingo's Bajazet is good, altho he is not really a Handel singer, but this role suits him, and he is much more convincing as a father figure than some Bajazets are (young tenors don't seem grave enough...Randle is very young on the Pinnock dvd, and not really made to look old). Mingardo's Andronico is well sung, although I thought she wasn't as comfortable in the trouser role; not charismatic, but vocally has the ability for this very, very difficult Senesino role.
As with Graham Vick's production of Mitridate re di Ponto from Covent Garden (also on DVD), there are groups of dancers who sometimes contribute to the ebb and flow of the emotions and music in the arias. In only case case did I feel this didn't work quite right (Leone's aria). It was a wonderful idea, and in fact, if you have seen that dvd of Mitridate, you can have a good idea of the overall feel of this production. My only complaint about the dvd is that the video director made some annoying choices. He regularly focuses on Paul McCreesh and the orchestra for longish periods of time, even though things are happening onstage. I don't want to see the orchestra that much, and especially with a production as stimulating as this one, I want to see every moment onstage. He also didn't do a good job of focusing on, or even showing, the dancers sometimes. It was almost like he didn't like the dancing and wanted to show it as little as possible. This was really annoying. Finally, when Domingo was singing, he seemed to just want to go closer up on Domingo and ignore everything else on stage entirely. Bad move. I hate it when a stupid video director makes weird choices and ruins a perfect performance (Pierre Audi's dvd of Zoroastre is another example of this). However, I should close by saying that the director doesn't do this kind of thing constantly, and overall he avoids close-up, going in only for waist length shots usually, which I like better. So it is good in that respect most of the time.
Overall: highly recommended. Certainly better than Pinnock's, and worth getting even if you are new to Handel opera. I sold my dvd of the Pinnock one. This is great. I think there are lengthy clips from it on YouTube if you want to sample it before you buy this very expensive set."
Virtually Uncut? - Not Act Three
M. Dubin | 09/30/2009
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The production and perfomance of this opera on DVD was excellent. Placido Domingo was in excellent form considering his age and handled the demanding role of Bajazet beautifully.
But it was billed as "virtually uncut". Even in the documentary by McCreesh, he states the score was performed virtually uncut. That might be true for the Acts One and Two. But not so for Act Three.
Bajazet's opening aria in Act III only has the "A" section (this aria was recorded complete by Gardiner). Later in the 3rd act, arias for Irene, Leone, and Andronico are omitted. Two of these arias were recorded by Petrou and the other one by Malgiore.
In actuality, the third act as performed here is practically the same as in Gardiner's heavily cut recording on CD.
I really was hoping for a production of this opera containing all the music Handel wrote for 1724. The false advertising about its completeness prompted me to purchase this 3 DVD set and because of that I am disappointed and cannot give it more than 3 stars, even though the singing throughout was superb.
Superb production which should be on the shelf of all opera
Mr. John A. Coulson | Australia | 10/22/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is another opera where viewing the extra feature discussion with the conductor Paul McCreesh is very helpful preparation to better appreciate this very long opera so should be viewed first. He explains some fundamental differences between Baroque Opera and the later genre and this makes appreciation of this Handel work so much better.
Tamerlano is spread over 2 BD discs but is like Rameau's Zoroastre in that it is a work I'm attracted to come back to again and again. As with most Baroque operas it is a very long winded story caused basically by lengthy recitatives and arias with considerable repetition in its 3+ hours. But the Handel's music and its singing is so good in this production one can just relax and wallow in the emotion it generates so its length becomes an asset rather than a liability.
The voices of the female singers are not powerful but have a lovely timbre and are backed up by Placido Domingo who has never tackled baroque opera before but does so here brilliantly. The final duel with Monica Bacelli and Sara Mingardo is beautifully done and very touching. Their voices blend superbly and the recording generally is very well balanced..
And one should not ignore the musical contribution from the Orchestra of the Teatro Real (Madrid Symphony Orchestra) so ably and intelligently conducted by Paul McCreesh. Somehow he has managed to extract a very appropriate Baroque sound from these players using standard instruments.
The staging is relatively stark but very effective with the artists in appropriate costumes highlighted by clever lighting and stage effects.
But I'll level the same criticism at this presentation as I did with Zorostrate. It is not acceptable to omit a written synopsis of the plot and replace it with a few minutes of display among the extras. These plots are rather involved, not so much as to be incomprehensible, but complex enough to need written description, particularly for anyone like myself coming to this for the first time. So I hunted up a description on the net but that should not really be necessary.
Anyone who loves opera should be able to enjoy Baroque operas such as this, but it does help to understand that it is the recitative that guides the story rather than the aria as in Verdi etc works. Yes it does seem to carry on and on in some of these recitatives and arias but this is forgivable when the singing and the music is as good as it is here. It is a sound idea to follow Paul McCreech's suggestion of seeing an Act at a time and must admit I would find it difficult to appreciate it as much if I had to sit through the complete opera in the one session. But that is the beauty of being able to view it in the home at leisure.
This production is a gem and deserves to be on the shelf of all opera lovers. Unreservedly recommended."