Verdi Travelogue with Music
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 04/14/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
"Although it is not stated up front, this DVD, a rather superficial video-biography of Giuseppe Verdi originally aired on Austrian and Japanese TV in 2001, hosted charmingly by Thomas Hampson, is associated with a CD by Hampson issued in 2001, a CD in which Hampson, accompanied by The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment conducted by Richard Armstrong, sings a number of Verdi arias. If you are interested in hearing Hampson sing Verdi, I'd suggest you buy that CD, because in this DVD we get Hampson lip-synching (while being filmed in appropriate Verdi-related sites) to four of the arias he sings on the CD. As for the biography itself, it is notable only for showing us in richly detailed videography various sites associated with Verdi's life: his birthplace in Roncole, the church in Busseto where he played the organ, La Scala and other sites in Milan, the Opéra in Paris, and finally Casa di Riposo, the home Verdi founded for retired musicians. Hampson recounts, not always entirely accurately or clearly, incidents from Verdi's life. And then, often with no clear indication as to why, he breaks into song. His singing, of course, is wonderful. One does wonder why, from Il trovatore, he sings the Count di Luna's 'Tutto à deserto ... Il balen' in French as 'Tout est désert ... Son regard.' Also included are 'O vecchio cor, che batti,' from I due Foscari; 'Pietà, rispetto, amore' from 'Macbeth; and 'Di Provenza il mar' from La Traviata.
If you are interested in a detailed filmed biography of Verdi, I'd suggest you look for the 1984 dramatized 'The Life of Verdi,' starring Ronald Pickup. The visual aspect of this original VHS production (now in DVD as well) is not as beautiful as that in the present release, but at least it is not superficial.
One must say, however, that if one is mildly interested in Verdi, and interested in something of a Verdi-related travelogue with music (nicely provided, one must add, by Hampson) this might be for you.
TT=60 minutes; in English, without subtitles; Sound PCM Stereo
Verdi's Life Rather as a Businessman, Told and SUNG by Hampt
BLee | HK | 11/08/2005
(3 out of 5 stars)
This portrayal is very sketchy indeed. The earlier reviewer used the word "superficial", and I can't agree more. There isn't a hint about Verdi's ideas on music or his values in life, nor his own musical development, nor his influence on Puccini...
Hampton is a gifted baritone, but he doesn't strike the audience as a well trained narrator. Note further that Hampton the narrator would suddenly switched his role to Hampton the singer/performer, and he is the only singer in this entire film in the entire Verdi repertoire. The result, it sounds like some of the musicals in the 60s when the characters would go straight into singing whilst in the middle of their dialogues and this time, we have Hampton switching right from his monologues to operatic singing rather out of the blue."
Enjoyable (and Educational) Life of Verdi
Thomas Ramey | 01/31/2010
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I feel more generous about this DVD than many other reviewers. True, it's old, originally aired in 2001 on Austrian and Japanese TV (see note on the audio-CD version below). Obviously too, it was done on a low budget. True there are no subtitles, audio is stereo, video is old 1.33:1. But I feel moved to rise to it's defense. More than once I have shown this to friends (on my 10-ft wide home theater screen with Yamaha sound system) who know nothing about Verdi, as a short introduction, and for that purpose it's brevity (60 minutes) is a plus. It would be useful in the classroom too I suppose. Some guests don't know who Thomas Hampson is either, and it's a bit of an introduction to that ebullient and talented National Treasure of ours. Every time I watch the DVD again with a newbie, it always cheers me up! Verdi was so ingenious both in music and in Life and business. An admirable guy.
Content-wise, the DVD is a nice combination of:
(1) Recounting Verdi's travels and projects: his birthplace in Roncole in the Po Valley region of Italy (which runs east-west for 400 miles across the top of Italy); time in nearby Busseto where he developed as a musician and was mentored; early career successes at La Scala in Milan, success and frustrations with the Paris Opera; and finally a visit to Casa di Riposo, the home Verdi founded for retired musicians (and his piano!) that still exists today funded by Verdi's enduring royalties.
(2) Four Verdi arias Hampson sings for us, to give us a sample of Verdi?s operas.
For those who want more Hampson and Verdi,'Verdi: Opera Arias' is a CD version issued in 2001 by EMI Classics. You can dig it up at Amazon searching ASIN: B000058BGP. Hampson sings 11 tracks, backed by The Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment conducted by Richard Armstrong.
In conclusion, an excellent DVD that should be in every music library's collection, especially yours!"