THE MET "FALSTAFF"...a divine comedy !!! Thanks again DG.
Anthony Rossi | Florida | 06/09/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I was not around for this production of Zeffirelli's Met Debut in 1964...but fortunately I was a Met Subscriber by 1992 when this was revised and had it on one of my subscription evenings. When I watched this DVD, all the great memories of the production came back to me. Levine conducted a GREAT CAST (Plishka, Freni, Horne, Bonney, Graham, Pola and Lopardo. Two of the Met's great comprimarios, De Palma and Laciura also make this a perfect "Falstaff".
It is a beautiful no-nonsense staging with all the color, emotion and humor which Verdi intended. Simply, it is fun to watch and everyone on stage is having fun presenting it.
When I saw on the DG web-site that it was going to be released, I checked amazon.com for its availability and noticed the release date of June 30, 2009. I couldn't wait until then...lol. So I went into the Amazon.canada site and it was there....so I purchased it from Canada. Not a great price difference and the shipping was wonderful.
This is a Met performance which you must add to your collection. DG always outdoes itself. Video and audio was fantastic."
A Falstaff of great beauty and tender wit
Mike Birman | Brooklyn, New York USA | 07/12/2009
(5 out of 5 stars)
"It is to composer and librettist Arrigo Boito and his constant pestering of the octogenarian Verdi that there remained within him one last great comedy fighting to get out that we owe this absolute miracle of an opera. Produced in 1893 as Verdi turned 80 there is much in this masterpiece that can be identified as a modernist neoclassical work. The use of short motifs instead of long arioso melodic lines, the spry and reduced orchestral textures and the lack of a single 'stand and deliver' dramatic declamatory aria all serve to make this more of a 20th century work than an example of 19th century late-Romanticism. Despite his many years of writing for the stage Verdi refuses to give in to either age or time. There is an eternally youthful freshness to this score that is often breathtaking, culminating in the celestial final scene in Windsor Park. Like the enchanted Forest of Arden in As You Like It, we are in a world of nocturnal magic and human redemption that an Ovidian Verdi transforms into a wondrous fugue proclaiming that all the world's a joke. Any successful production of Falstaff must celebrate this magic.
This new DVD release of a performance filmed in October 1992 features Franco Zeffirelli's venerable 1964 production, his first appearance at the Met. Although it occasionally shows its age it is strong enough to overcome some minor shortcomings. Visually stunning in depicting Tudor era Windsor, there is something deeply satisfying in the way the singers interact with their surroundings. Each performance has a calm organic rightness at its core that transcends the frenetic pace of the opera, giving this Falstaff a sense of balance that always remains sure-handed. Paul Plishka is a wonderfully affecting Falstaff, comic yet vulnerable. Mirella Freni is superb as Alice Ford. Barbara Bonney as Nannetta and Marilyn Horne as Mrs. Quickly are excellent. The cast submerge themselves in their roles.
James Levine's conducting of this difficult score approaches perfection. In many ways his vision of the opera is reminiscent of von Karajan's brilliant EMI recording from the 1950s. The Met orchestra are at their early 1990's performance peak. DGG have cleaned up the nearly two decade old video, which is slightly fuzzy but clear. DTS and PCM sound are both excellent with DTS providing a nice sense of space and presence to the proceedings.
There are several fine DVDs of Falstaff now available. My favorite remains the magical and revelatory Solti conducted Falstaff featuring the Vienna Philharmonic from a few years back, also on DGG (DVD 073 4080). But this production gives that one a run for its money. In an ideal world one would own both. This opera exhausts superlatives and fairly cries for a multitude of different interpreters.
Captivating, but not a perfect Falstaff. 5 stars to Barbara
J. Espinosa Ihnen | Santiago de Chile | 10/27/2009
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I've just watched this Falstaff for the first time. Big names cast, Met forces under Levine, classic Zeffirelli settings... I had great expectations.
Plishka's Falstaff is outstanding, both from the acting and singing point of view. It has everything required: the right age, attitude, voice and comedy doses. Freni's Alice and Horne's Quickly are also quite enjoyable, but they both lack something I would describe as "agility": there's some stiffness in their acting and singing, which is not present in Plishka nor Susan Graham's Meg Page, a small role perfectly rendered. My Top-One lady in this production is Barbara Bonney, just wonderful as Nannetta. Her "Sul fil d'un soffio etesio" is absolutely magic, though the white horse she rides while singing the aria's first part seems to disagree (oh, these regisseurs!...). Frank Lopardo is very good as Fenton, though his voice is a little too spinto for the role, anyway the result is quite pleasing. Bruno Pola seems not at ease with Ford, his emission looses perfection here and there, but all in all, he delivers a solid performance. From the Bardolf-Pistol-Caius trio I pick veteran Piero di Palma (Dr. Caius), for his musical, smooth tone and perfect diction, which old timers like me recognize in so many opera recordings from the 50's and on. The guy set a standard. Levine conducts with his renowned masterful Verdi expertise.
The sound is very good, and balance between stage and pit is well done, not an easy task in this highly complex score. I believe 4:3 image quality isn't up to 1993 standard, and this is a disappointing first impression, but you should soon forget it and get captivated by the performance. There's no interesting bonus material, and we have subtitles in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish (very good), and Chinese. My first impression: four stars and a half.