A stellar Roméo et Juliette from Salzburg!
David | North Carolina, USA | 02/02/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Roméo et Juliette has become one of my favorite operas since seeing it at the Met with Polenzani and Netrebko. I also own the dvd with Alagna and Vaduva. I first saw this Salzburg production in a movie theater last month. The first few minutes had me thinking I wasn't going to like it so much. I didn't care much for Machaidze's opening moments, as I thought she was trying too hard to be "girlish." However, that was only in the initial moments, after which she quickly grew into her character and had me completely riveted to the dramatic conclusion. As much as I loved Alagna and Polenzani in the role of Roméo, I preferred Villazón's take on the character. Roméo is a young man, who falls in love with Juliette at first sight. He's supposed to be head-over-heels in love, and Villazón conveys that brilliantly. It's a frenetic performance, very excitingly sung and acted.
Some may find this performance lacking in "French" style in terms of singing and acting. That might be a valid point, for what we get here is a purely "Italian" Roméo and Juliette, bubbling over with passion. The two lead singers hold nothing back, and the chemistry between them is nothing short of remarkable. Machadize has a dark voice that drips with emotion and passion. Villazón sounds much better, though his top notes might not always be perfect, but so what? With his overall high-calibre performance, however, I can easily overlook that. He certainly doesn't sound like he's experiencing any major vocal troubles here, that's for sure, and it's no wonder this was the hottest ticket at the Salzburg Festival. These two singers truly lose themselves in the characters they are singing, and they give us a hot-blooded performance that is gripping.
I loved the sparse set and the 18th-century update didn't bother me in the least. The sword fight was the most convincing I've ever seen in an opera, and all the secondary characters were fine. The concluding scene was stunning, a real tour de force. I've watched this Salzburg production three times now, and every time I tear up at the end--and I don't usually cry so easily! Their performance is that good. For me, this is the Roméo et Juliette to have. Yes, I'm happy to own the Covent Garden one with Alagna and Vaduva, too--though compared to Machaidze, Vaduva seems more matronly than a young girl in a passionate romance.
The sound is outstanding, and I really have nothing but high praise for everything about this production. Highly recommended!"
THE WORDS ARE FRENCH BUT THE SINGING IS ITALIAN
Charles D. novak | minneapolis, minnesota USA | 01/26/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"If you liked the 70's recording of ROMEO ET JULIETTE with Mirella Freni and Franco Corelli you're going to love this DVD 2008 production from Salsburg. Rolando Villazon and Nino Machaidze give Freni and Corelli a run for their money. Anything you can sing, I can singer louder! I couldn't help getting caught up in the passonite frenzy of the star crossed lovers. I even shed a couple of tears at the end. The conductor Yannick Nezet-Seguin had the orchestra playing like they were performing a symphonic piece and yet managed to support the singers at the same time. The opera is staged by Bartlett Sher and some of his ideas work and a few don't. It's not a very opulent production but none of the staging gets in the way of the singing. The sword fight is especailly well done and believable. I have no regrets about buying this DVD. The sound is spectacular."
A Minimalist R & J
David D. Dollinger | Pasadena, CA | 01/26/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It is interesting that Gounod's Romeo and Juliette now has two relatively distinguished DVD's while his once more popular Faust seems to languish. Unfortunately this new performance has to compete with a superior performance from ROH.
This Salzburg performance takes place in the Felsenreitschule. The action takes place on a slightly raised rectangular platform. Props are brought in as needed. Compared to the sets designed for ROH the effects in this production are too spare and fail to evoke a renaissance ambience. I am no historian as regards costumes but Salzburg clearly has different ideas than those connected with the ROH production, Salzburg would appear off the mark by a hundred years.
All of this would be beside the point if the performance took flight and made all else unimiportant. ROH had Alagna in his first major engagement; he deservedly was awarded an Olivier award. His singing was glorious and what a treat to hear the opera sung by a "native" French speaker, and one with reserves of power. Both tenors are equally at home on the stage and move with grace and comfort. Villazon alas omits the high C at the end of the Act III. I am not a high note freak, but given the drama of the moment (Romeo being exiled) the high note makes for the anguish that is expressed in the moment. (Did Villazon return to the stage too soon? His Hoffman and Infanta at ROH did not receive rave reviews.) Villazon is a wonderful artist who has musical instincts that frequently elude "tenors". I hope that he is able to regain his earlier brilliance. The ROH Juliette has a more delicate sound than her counterpart in Salzburg. Unfortunately Vaduva's career has receded since her Boheme and solo recital disc. The Georgian soprano who was a replacement for Netrebko has a larger voice and would appear to be off to a major career. I found the voice somewhat generic, but time will tell. The smaller roles (Stephano, Mercutio and Frere Lawrence) were well cast in both performance. But in the long run this is a two man show and while there are swings and roundabouts in both performances I would hate to recommend one over the other. Blade to the throat I would ultimately have to award ROH the palm."
A Star Is Born!!!
Signor Destino | Norfolk,Virginia | 01/16/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I wish to thank the independent seller I purchased my DVD recording of this great opera from. I will definitely do
business with you again. This is as good as it will ever get! This is the definitive staging of this opera. This is
a very exciting Romeo et Juliette! Wow,after the simulated rape scene in the Prologue,I knew I had to hold on to my seat. It was going to be a bumpy night. The swordplay was very convincing. Although,Villazon didn't seem as apt as
his compatriots.Villazon seemed to ham it up a little too much at times. Machaidze's Juliette was a bit too coquettish at times. Negatives out of the way, now to the good stuff.
Nino Machaidze is a supernova. Her voice possesses a quality to transport us into the stratosphere. She should
be spoken of in the company of Fleming,Gheorghiu,and dare I say Leontyne Price.While I respect Miss Netrebko's art,
Machaidze's voice has more warmth to it.I hope to hear her in the great roles in the years to come. A Traviata,Tosca
or a Butterfly maybe. The world should be her oyster. I hope she has a good manager working in her best interest.
Rolando Villazon was particularly wonderful in the duets with Machaidze. I've heard better versions of his solos by
other tenors. Jose Carreras to name one.I find his facial affectations a bit disconcerting at times. His is a very
powerful tenor voice. He truly goes all out. I hope he doesn't run out of steam too early in the game. Caruso & Tucker were both "hard" singers in my opinion which may have contributed to their early deaths. He has a beautiful
and moving voice.
The supporting singers were all phenomenal. The effective use of staging and colorful costumes was quite
refreshing. It allowed me to truly focus on the magnificent singing. I,and others, can relive this experience
thanks to the convenience of the DVD or Blu-Ray player. Please buy this fabulous opera recording asap!