Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
Actors: Susan Neves, Alberto Gazale, Orlin Anastassov, Yasu Nakajima, Annamaria Popescu
Genres: Indie & Art House, Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Fantastic cast, chorus, conductor and staging
Niel Rishoi | Ann Arbor, MI USA | 03/27/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My delight at the opera DVDs that continue to be spewed out like candy out of a malfunctioning machine is no less so for the most recent release of NABUCCO, recorded by Dynamic from the Teatro Carlo Felice di Genova in June 2004. This has one of the best casts I would have imagined possible in these Verdi-starved times. Where did these huge voices come from??! If this splendid cast had been the one featured in the recent MET broadcast, it would have gone down as one of the best this season - many seasons. The audience goes absolutely wild over the cast and conductor in the final curtain calls. I will be playing this for weeks (the great thing about DVDs is that that can be played like CDs - you don't HAVE to pay attention to the images).
The conductor, Riccardo Frizza, gives a conversely hot-blooded, thunderous and sensitive reading of the score, rousing and beguiling all at once. Strikes just the right balance of precision, tastefulness and letting the opera roar out in all its glory. I got caught up in the blatantly tuneful music, so much so I listened to it all over again immediately - what a fun opera.
First of all the magnificent chorus: the "Va pensiero" is given one of the most heart-wrenchingly beautiful renditions I've ever heard, perfectly controlled, the dynamics observed and sung with precision. They sing passionately, lustily throughout, and the voices are healthy and in tune in unison.
To begin with the low end: the Zaccaria of Orlin Anastassov is one of the best I have encountered in I don't know how long. Seems this role always suffers from juddery, ill-equipped basses. I have rarely heard a truly outstanding Zaccaria - ever. The best I ever heard was Cesare Siepi in the MET broadcast of the early 60s, and he recorded the most outstanding account of "Tul sul labbro" on Decca/London in 1954. Anastassov beats most of the other competition in all the complete recordings and on video - the awful Petkov, the awful Burchuladze, the past-his-prime Ramey. The voice is a true bass-baritone in the best way for Zaccaria. It is a transition-type of bass part, one that has the range and requirements of a Bellini-Donizetti role, needing flexibility and a true bel canto precision - but needing the thrust inherent in Verdi's music. There is a touch of Ghiaurov in Anastassov's voice, but more penetrating, incisive, and also slightly stronger in the lower register, if not with Siepi-like sonority. There is enough of an Eastern European burr in the tone and vowels, but showing respect toward an authentic Italian line. If I had to suggest, it would suffice to work on the integrity of the vowels, so that some of them don't have that "covered" sound, esp. on low. He even looks a bit like a young Ghiaurov -oblong face, same jawline beard, huge blue eyes. Anastassov has an absolutely steady, dark-toned instrument, big, full and penetrating, especially in the upper register, where it projects effortlessly, even over the chorus. He copes terrifically well with the cabaletta, "Come notte al sol fuggente," negotiating, undauntingly, the rather scrambly line with admirable control and vocal focus. "Tu sul labbro" is beautifully sung, reverently grave, lyrical and the line done with poised skill. Complete authority is not Anastassov's yet, as the placement of the tone in tricky intervals sometimes takes a split second to settle, despite his obvious intentions. But those intervals are carefully heeded; the B on 'spezzati' to the one the octave below is well placed. This particular section is always the test-mettle of whether a technique and good tuning skills are in order. "Oh chi piange...Del futuro" is gripping, riveting, also skilfully sung, with equally treacherous intervals well handled. Anastassov, in addition, performs throughout with intense expressiveness, a commanding, confident actor. And there is no visible strain in his vocalism. He holds his own in the ensemble scenes with authority. I hope to hear more of this young bass in the future.
As for the Nabucco, Alberto Gazale gives a true star turn here. This young baritone is not only tall, slender and with dark, good looks, but he has a huge voice, somehow recalling Giangiacomo Guelfi, but with a more refined, securer technique. Gazale, like Anastassov, is a superb actor, singing with so much intensity and rip-your-guts-out passion, the camera catches him often sweating profusely. The big duet with Abigaille scorches, and he seems like a man possessed. Here we have all the red-hot blooded frisson of an Italian temperament, channeled through this dark, wall-like, house-filling sound of a baritone voice - how is that possible today? Gazale pours the voice out, constantly, unflinchingly, with such near-arrogant confidence, you worry if it will lose its bearings. There can be at times a hint of bluster, but I think it is justified; what with the intensity Gazale gives out, it is a miracle at all that the voice just doesn't self-combust. I do not recall seeing or hearing a baritone of this caliber in...years. I never enjoyed Milnes this much. After Gazale sang a deeply felt, eloquent, deep-pile-toned "Dio mi guida," and stormed through "O prodi miei," and fairly blew the roof off with a huge high ending (A flat?) - I felt like shouting along with the audience.
The Ismaele of Yasuharu Nakajima is another delightful surprise. For what little the character has to do, the tenor has a truly Italianate ring, and it is well-produced, with a pleasing ringing quality. He adds much to the integrity of the scenes he's in.
The Fenena, Annamaria Popescu, and Anna, Sabrina Modena (my, this is certainly a melting-pot cast) have bright, shining voices and contribute good work to the proceedings; Popescu has a fine few moments with "Oh dischiuso è il firmamento."
And we come to Susan Neves, undoubtedly the best Abigaille in these times. That's saying a lot, too. This role surely must be the most infernal one in the entire soprano repertory. It demands almost too much of a singer, encompassing almost impossible requirements - a contralto, mezzo, and soprano all-in-one. In addition, the soprano must not only be conversant with a sense of bel canto style (this opera bridges the transition from the bel canto era into Verdi's own), but the voice must be large, have a dramatic thrust to it, a technical command, a flexibility as well as finesse - achieving the complete package is like wishing for a true blue rose. Callas in Naples, 1949 - there is no getting around it - really did have what it took, about as close to fulfilling the role as could be desired: but it took every bit of her capital, and it's not surprising that she elected never to sing it again. It's a cruel, voice wrecker of a role.
Neves scores a triumph in this performance. This is a gigantic voice, one that cuts effortlessly throughout all the ensembles. In fact, one wishes there were more distance between her and us; that's not a bad thing, but it's such a massive instrument, she needs space. She really does dominate the ensembles, where the voice makes itself heard clearly; there is no mistaking her presence. Best of all, there are no rough edges, and NO cringe-factor at all. I wouldn't call the voice an Italianate one, in fact it is undefinable in terms of a specific nationality. I could wish for more clarity in both the pronunciation and diction, and perhaps that contributes to its ambiguity of a specific cultural flavor. Neves is always musical, and never gives the impression that the role is too much for her to handle; in fact, she rather puissantly attacks the challenges with a minimum of effort, striding fearlessly through the music. Nerves, (No Nerves Neves?) thankfully, do not seem to be part of her persona, and it's good to see a singer confident in what she can do. What amazed me most is how judiciously Neves handled her lower register. Sometimes she uses chest, other times not; it is a sign of her technical security that she actually has the existence of such choices. But that clarion, flaming top! What a pleasure to hear no strain, no SCREECHING for a change, such confident deployment of all those high notes. Neves is best in the ensembles, where her security is such a luxury, and in the duets with Gazale, where they fence and play off each other superbly; their voices are a perfect match.
Neves' biggest challenge comes, not surprisingly, in Abigaille's big scena, 'Ben io t'invenni...Anch'io dischiuso un giorno...Salgo già di trono aurato." She copes superbly with the recitative, taking care not to throttle down the tone at all, sometimes using chest, sometimes not. She manages the big octave drop from C to C as well as anyone, never losing tonal focus at either end, and staying in tune. The Donizettian cavatina that follows is deeply felt, with the line nicely gauged, retaining the dynamic levels in control nearly at all times; sometimes the ascension to an upper interval can be slightly pushed sounding, but it never loses its sense of integrity. Neves has awesome diminishing capabilities for such a large voice, and best of all, (unlike Caballé, who could fine down the tone but could *sometimes* have a "trick" quality to it, and which could not be swelled out from into another dynamic level), the soft tones are the alter ego of the fortes. The cabaletta is heroic, brilliantly sung - and - and - she uses variants for the second melodic statement, something I've never heard before - and it's about time. This piece is in the formulaic manner of bel canto, and it *should* be altered; how stupid is it to repeat a cabaletta in exactly the same way? Neves barnstorms through the piece; in fact watch the glint in her eyes. It is not only the triumph of Abigaille, but of Neves' utterly gutsy rise to the challenge, which causes not an ounce of strain. Some of the ascending scales clatter ever so slightly, but a voice this size even being able to do it at all is impressive enough The trills, sure enough, are there, not Sutherlandian perfect, but who the heck takes the trouble even to observe them? Best of all, though, are those roman-candle high Cs, which shoot out indeed like beams of brilliant light. Strain? What, Neves? She doesn't know the meaning of the word.
Looking unerringly like Margaret Price in her black wig, Neves has no awkward physical limitations, at least, she does not let her generous size get in her way. Though hot-blooded, mediterranean intensity is not part of her obviously anglo-saxon temperament, her performance left me with, frankly, awed admiration. She seems like an honest, professional artist, a sterling musician and thoroughly competent in every way.
I would give this Nabucco top recommendation as one to have on video. It restores my faith that good Verdian singing is still possible, and this cast is about as good as one could hope for.
THIS NABUCCO KICKS BUTT!!!!!!
Mark the music lover | Virginia | 05/04/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is vocally the most outstanding peformance of this opera on DVD. Every singer, much like the recent Chatelet Les Troyens is above absolute perfection. The sets and the costumes possess a wonderful ancient middle eastern flavor without being gaudy or over the top, thereby dwarfing the principles. I couldn't get over the strength of these voices and the depth of each portrayal. These singers are truly gifted in the sense that each of them know how to act with the voice and not resort to melodrama to cover up vocal incapabilities. Isamael, Fenena, the conductor Frizza, the chorus and orchestra are all First Rate and provide a thunderbolt of a performance. Now with that said, my main reason for writing this review is to praise the utterly phenomenal singing of Gazale, Anastassov, and Neves. Gazale sings nabucco with utter conviction and power to spare. One of the outstanding aspects of this production is the fact that the cast consist of all young singers. Who says nabucco and zaccaria have to be sung by old men. Gazale and Anastassov's relative youth just wonderfully reaffirm the arrogance of the characters they are fleshing out on stage. Gazale as Nabucco and Anastassov as Zaccaria sing with such full richness of voice and power without the slightest hint of strain, that they rank in my opinion as the greatest on Disc along with Tito Gobbi. And Now to the lady of the hour Madame Neves. I had never heard this singer until I viewed this performance and I was so excited about hearing her for the first time after reading review after review of her magnificent portrayal of this role. Well let me tell you that every superlative is warranted and then some. I haven't heard an Abigaille like this since Dimitrova, Vocally and Dramatically the greatest Abigaille I have ever heard. Now after hearing Neves, I place her on the same level as Dimitrova. Neves not only has a gargantuan dramatic soprano voice, but it is also from a bel canto standpoint, sensuously beautiful and flexible. Her pitch, intonation, coloratura, pianissimi, rock solid skyrocket high notes and trills are all perfection. Her interpretation of this role is very well thought out. She doesn't present an abigaille full of the usual warrior rage and anger, but a deceitful, conniving, and calculating woman who's pride and personhood have been terribly wounded. I would suggest this production to anyone as THE Nabucco to own on DVD. In addition Get the Met's recent release of the same opera which is just as good, even if Guleghina is an occasionally wobbly Abigaille, she is nevertheless dramatically riveting to watch, a true animal di palco. In the meantime, I eagerly await the met's release of Karita Mattila's infamous Salome on DVD!!!!!!"
Great, what I saw
E. DuPont | pa, usa | 06/29/2005
(1 out of 5 stars)
"What I saw of this performance was great, but there is a flaw, I could not navigate the menu or play it on two of my machines, on the third it played to chapter 12 then just stopped! I could not play it further or get passed the glitch. I am waiting for my second replacement from Amazon, I think they got a bad lot of discs from the supplier. I hope the third one will be the charm."
Abigaille no longer a 'Battleaxe' in Verdi's 'Nabucco'
Gerard Fagan | Dublin Ireland | 06/03/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The best Nabucco on DVD to be had is the performance at Genoa's Carlo Felice theatre.Scenically and in terms of costumes it cant be faulted. Normally the opera can sound rough-hewn especially in the orchestral playing but Riccardo Frizza gets a refined sound from the Carlo Felice orchestra. As for the casting Dynamic have come up trumps. Alberto Gazale in the title role sings and acts magnificently conveying both the megalomaniac tyrant and the tormented father. Orlin Anistassov is a noble Zaccaria and Susan Neves is simply the best Abigaille ever.This Abigaille is no mere battleaxe but a flesh and blood creature. Solera's libretto provides a very pasteboard figure but Neves by dint of her singing and acting presents a very human and believable character. In Act I one believes in her love for Ismaele. In the second Act one can empathise with her pain as she discovers she is not Abigaille's daughter. Only Lauren Flanigan in the San Carlo version is as moving here. In the Act III duet with her bogus father one feels as she sings 'Un' altra figlia' that she is hoping against hope that Nabucco will not reject her and at the duet's end she orders Nabucco to be taken away more in sorrow than in anger. Her final aria is beautifully sung.Gulegina in the Met and Flanigan in the San Carlo come close to Miss Neves in conveying the role but Miss Neves wins by a whisker. Nakaijima as Ismaele sings so well as to m,ake one wish his part was bigger and Popescu is a wonderful Fenena. The only reservation I have about the production is that Gazale's Nabucco looks more like Abigaille's brother than her father. The San Carlo make up department should be less stingy in future. In the final analysis this seems like a small quibble when measured with the above-mentioned advantages"