An All-Star Operatic Gala from Berlin to Benefit AIDS Found
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 09/18/2005
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This DVD is a somewhat abridged presentation of an all-star operatic AIDS benefit gala from 2003 at the German Opera of Berlin (Deutsche Oper Berlin), conducted by Kent Nagano, and featuring some glittering opera singers from around the world as well as some newcomers. The festive crowd, dressed to the nines, were a very well-behaved opera crowd considering the level of the performances. Perhaps this wasn't a dyed-in-the-wool opera-going audience. Aside from some bravos for Salvatore Licitra (and not particularly well-deserved) the crowd simply clapped rather like a group of Prince Orlofskys.
But the program! Amazon hasn't listed it as of the date of this review, so I'll do so now.
1. 'La Rejouissance' from Handel's Water Music, played by the very fine Deutsche Oper orchestra, led by Nagano who was conducting them for the first time ever.
2. Angelika Kirchschlager, mezzo, singing 'Non so più' and 'Voi, che sapete' from 'Marriage of Figaro. Elegantly done. I love this mezzo's sound, and her look!
3. René Pape, bass, singing the 'Madamina, il catalogo' from 'Barber of Seville,' with lots of sly understated acting and sung gorgeously. What a talent he is, and how lucky we are that he is singing in America these days.
4. American soprano Michèle Crider singing 'Vissi d'arte' from 'Tosca' in a big, not always perfectly controlled dramatic soprano voice. Thrilling nonetheless.
5. Rising Canadian soprano Adrianne Pieczonka singing the 'Song to the Moon' from Dvorák's 'Rusalka.' Wonderfully done, but not quite erasing memories of Renée Fleming's recording. Wonderful floated high pianissimi.
6. 'Elsa's Dream' from 'Lohengrin' sung by Anne Schwanehilms, an elegant looking woman whose large voice is a bit surprising coming from such a slender young woman. Not entirely world-class but wonderful acting with the voice.
7. 'Hab mir's gelobt' (the Act III trio) from 'Rosenkavalier' sung by Juliane Banse (Sophie), Kirchschlager (Oktavian) and Pieczonka (the Marschallin). Sung in precisely the right exalted manner, and with fabulous support by Nagano and the orchestra. Banse was a match for her colleagues with her ethereally beautiful high notes.
8. Salvatore Licitra singing 'Nessun dorma' from 'Turandot.' This is a fine tenor voice but not quite in the class with Domingo or Pavarotti as some had hoped. The crowd, insofar as they were at all demonstrable, went semi-wild for this. I don't know if this is because it was not long after Licitra had made his vaunted replacement of Pavarotti at the Met or not, but the German crowd was obviously pumped for his performance.
9. Grace Bumbry, 66 years old in 2003 and still going strong, singing 'My heart at thy sweet voice' from 'Samson and Delilah.' What a phenomenon she is. No evidence of declining powers at all.
10. Vesselina Kasarova, Bulgarian mezzo, in the Letter Scene from Massenet's 'Werther.' An incredibly rich voice with a spinto thrust. A riveting account of this dramatic scene. This was the first time I'd seen her and was struck by her slim, regal look.
11. Russian tenor Vladimir Galouzine in 'Recitar! ... Vesti la giubba' from 'Pagliacci.' My goodness, this is a fabulous spinto tenor voice in a singer only now getting recognition in the West. He has sung primarily at the Kirov but his Calaf at the Met a couple of years ago was wonderful and he'll be back this year as Canio.
12. Charles Castronovo, a very young tenor from Los Angeles being mentored by Plácido Domingo, singing Lehár's 'Dein ist mein ganzes Herz' and doing a whale of a job. This is no tenorino; he's a spinto and headed, I suspect, for big things.
13. The whole cast of soloists, plus some who were not identified (their solo arias must have been cut from the abridged DVD), plus the Deutsche Oper chorus in 'Brüderlein, Schwesterlein' from 'Die Fledermaus.' The big surprise was when the unidentified Jochen Kowalski opened his mouth and out came this beautiful soprano sound. I honestly thought for a moment that the camera was trained on the wrong singer. But he was identified in the credits that followed and then I realized who he was, one of the better countertenors of the day.
A terrific evening at the opera house with lots of favorite music (bleeding chunks, if you like - I like!) and some new singers to become acquainted with.
TT=73 mins; Dolby 5.1, DTS 5.1 or PCM Stereo; Subtitles in German, Italian, English, Spanish
Can only concur:
operamaryc | DIAMOND BAR, CA United States | 11/18/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I can only concur with J. Scott Morrison's review - again! We seem to hear and see the same in viewing opera videos. I was surprised to hear Crider do as well on Vissi and not surprised by Bumbry who is one of my favorite mezzo sopranos. I've heard much better Nessum Dorma's but overall enjoyed this gala very much. I too could not erase Fleming's Hymn to the Moon but love the Canadian soprano whom I've heard several times live. She is wonderful! I do recommend this concert to all opera lovers! How nice to see an audience dress with respect for the artists or one heck of a party afterward! The shots of the audience were as much fun as the performers. J. Scott Morrison is right on all his points. A nice addition to an opera collection."
Wish it is longer!
Smorgy | Southern California, USA | 05/11/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I didn't know a lot of the singers shown on this DVD, so this was a nice introduction to them. It is just intriguing to see how different singers do their stuff in recital.
I like Angelika Kirchschlager's voice, and she looks like she is seeing her Cherubino scenes while singing, but somehow that doesn't translate into the voice (guess I'm spoiled by having heard Susan Graham's and Vesselina Kasarova's versions of the pieces before). She is wonderful in the Rosenkavalier trio, tho, and did not get killed by Nagano and his 5 French horns... or Juliane Banse's really big-voiced Sophie (Banse nearly single-handedly killed the sweet voiced Marschallin Pieczonka in that trio, however).
Rene Pape gives a slick 'Madamina, il catalogo' and Michele Crider gives such a thrilling 'Vissi d'arte' even she herself doesn't want to leave the stage afterward. This is the first time I hear (and see) Adriane Pieczonka and I like her Rusalka and Marschallin a lot. Anne Schwanewilms is a true spinto. What a voice! Like the other reviewers have noted, she doesn't look half the size of her voice. And what she feels comes out in the voice, too. I'll be on a look out for her if any theatre within 1000 miles from me stages the Ring Cycle.
Grace Bumbry... the Black Venus still has the voice! I prefer a faster paced 'mon coeur s'ouvre a ta voix', but Bumbry makes it works her way... and then blasts off with a high B at the finish. Amazing!
Vesselina Kasarova... what more can I say about this mesmerizingly dramatic lyrical mezzo? She and Nagano practically transport everyone right into Charlotte's ominous letter scene so dramatically the audience (and me) took a while to recover when the piece ends before they start clapping. Her voice has darkened a bit more since she made her 'Werther' CD (1999), so this edition isn't as shrill as on that disc... but darker and even more potent.
Vladimir Galouzine and Charles Castronovo are 2 names I'll be looking out for more, too. Galouzine takes the stage after Kasarova, and successfully grab the audience back from Werther with his 'Recitar!' from Pagliacci. The ending with 'Bruderlein und Schwesterlein' from Prince Orlofsky's party in Die Fledermaus is a fun ensemble piece. I wish they had included the countertenor who sings Prince Orlofsky's line's aria tho.
All in all, a good survey disc. For the price, tho, I wish it is longer (it is only 73 min long). Makes me want to go out and browse the local music shop's opera section."
Berlin Opera Night
Xavier | 04/19/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Circa 20+ years ago a statement was made that Grace Bumbry's voice would be torn to shreds in a couple to 10 years. It is 20+ years later and the voice remains as glorious as ever. She even shows everyone how it's done. Bumbry is the reason I bought the dvd and am pleased.
Well worth the purchase!!!!!!!!"