A Desert Island 'Tito'!
Smorgy | Southern California, USA | 05/20/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I saw photos of this show on operajaponica and other sites before it was released, but they don't do it justice. The two trouser roles are marvellously sung and believable! Kasarova and Garanca may not look butch but one won't forget they're playing male characters. And the romantic scenes are tastefully done, and don't look gratuitous (gotta show how Vitellia controls Sesto, after all). There is no nudity in it (Vitellia changes her clothes a lot on stage,but she is always covered).
The singing is wonderful. 'Vitellia''s music is extremely difficult and Dorothea Roeschmann acts all out on stage very convincingly. Her Vitellia really comes to life ..all blood and guts! As convincingly in-character during the arias as in the recitatives.
Vesselina Kasarova is the gold standard Sesto today. She sings breathtaking pianissimo, but that carries more effect when heard live than recorded. She is known for her soft-singing for good reasons. And when she abruptly blasts you with ff passages straight out from a pp and then right back to it in pieces like 'Deh, per questo istante solo', the effect is very dramatic. What a fascinating artist! Everything she does enhances her story telling. This Sesto isn't a wimpy caricature (like all the other versions on film.. Paris included) but a man who, presented with a choice of either his lover or his friend, decides on his own that he could live without Tito. A passionate and believeable performance by one of best 'Sesto' ever.
Kasarova, Roeschmann, and Schade share the rare quality of being able to make what they sing sound so spontaneously natural with their acting and not like they are singing a rehearsed music at all.
Young Elina Garanca is a revelation to me. I did not like her in the Vienna 'Werther' DVD, tho much was the fault of the stage direction, but she turns in a very natural 'Annio' here. Not very facially expressive yet. Good chemistry (barring a disconnected look during the love duet) with the gorgeous Barbara Bonney's 'Servilia', who turns in another outstanding performance. Her top may not be as crystaline as before (and I wish she wasn't made to do so much singing lying down during 'S'altro che lagrima'), but otherwise she is exquisite.
Michael Schade plays 'Tito', and gosh he looks hot! Sweating like he's trying to flood the town. Was there a heat wave in Salzburg during that festival? He sings wonderfully, tho. Here is a tenor who can and does sing softly to great effects (tho, like Kasarova's, his pianissimo is often barely audible in the recording). Vocally there isn't a better Tito out there today. His 'insane' choreography takes some getting used to. It's as if he's been watching Vincent D'Onofrio too much. Very neurotic. I thought Tito is supposed to be a bit more sane looking. Truth be told, his mentally iffy Tito does make it understandable why Sesto would choose Vitellia (for all her touchiness) over him.
The young bass Luca Pisaroni acts and sings 'Publio' perfectly, tho his Publio seems to think the 'Se al volto mai ti senti' trio in Act II is a scene where he wants to bed Sesto and Vitellia... Apparently Kusej has Publio out looking for love in all the wrong places through out the opera (wrong places for Publio, that is). All in all, there just isn't a weak link in this cast!
The set is clever; a modern 3 stories see-through building and the actors/singers have to navigate the thing sometimes singing ensemble pieces from different levels! It works great since they can show actions away from the singer doing his/her aria so it isn't static like other productions tend to be. I especially love the burning of Rome sequence and like the use of lighting to direct attention to the characters key to the scene.
Maestro Harnoncourt is excellent in the pit. He sets quite slow tempi (but the music doesn't drag). This makes this production quite a bit longer than the others (tho it helps that the recitatives are shorter in general). Harnoncourt succeeds in bringing out all the nuances in Mozart's last opera with it, tho. And he has a cast of singers with superb techniques capable of coping with the tempi. As a result this production is much more dramatically affecting than the others. The 2 clarinet-soloists are marvellous in the two obbligato arias, too.
I enthusiastically recommend this DVD. A gorgeous musical performance that is passionately acted, too. There are clips from 6 other TDK releases on the 2nd disc (from: Don Giovanni, Die Zauberflote, Ariadne auf Naxos, Un ballo in maschera, Turandot, and Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail).
PS: A star is omitted because of some choreography for the chorus (and those boys in underwear) is so abstract I can't understand it even after many viewings. It is still the best production of this opera on DVD, in my opinion."
I'm (almost) in complete agreement....
Nancy Eckert | Bellefontaine, OH USA | 07/09/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
".... with Smorgy. So why am I bothering? Well, I felt sorry for this DVD because there WAS only one review. I'm always dubious about more contemporary productions, but this one really didn't bother me except I never understood the men's skirts and in such ugly (glittery) fabric.
I had never heard Schade before and he did take some getting used to. He rather reminds me of a tenor Hampson, the timbre and the way he uses his mouth. This is not a criticism, merely my obervation.
I found all the singers really quite stunning, and Roschmann was
terrific, particularly in one of the more difficult roles ever written for a, um, normal female. As for Kasarova, I, too, was disappointed that her pianissimi didn't really show up to any advantage.
As for Bonney, as much as I like and admire her, I felt that the bloom was off the rose, although that may not be fair since I've only heard her sing very lyrical roles, none requiring anything gutsy or glottal.
CHANGED MORALITY, UNBALANCED STAGING
drkhimxz | Freehold, NJ, USA | 09/28/2008
(4 out of 5 stars)
"There is no getting around the problem that an opera which requires two natural sopranos, two castrati sopranos, one tenor and one bass cannot achieve a dramatic equilibrium. Perhaps pants roles can be made to work for those sitting in the far reaches of the auditorium but not when camera closeups allow us to count each bead of sweat on a performers brow.
The two male roles are ably sung but the scenes in which they interact with their loved ones simply fail to be convincing.
I found the tenor playing the Emperor lacking in the dramatic weight one expects of a stage monarch (even though reality often fails to meet the criterion). The bass playing The Leaders Chief of Police also lacks the sonorous qualities required to lend weight to The Mighty Caesar.
With all this, and a set reminiscent of Broadway in the 30's and 40's (as well as the Busby Berkely musicals) the performers rise to the occasion and give us a satisfying (if not thrilling) version of the Master's composition. Certainly, it is more than adequate to take its place in the Mozart 22 Collection. If one is buying only this opera, perhaps another version would be more successful in resolving the inherent dilemmas."