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A 20 year-old production with great sound and picture qualit
Toni Bernhard | Davis, CA United States | 04/21/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"In his book "A Night at the Opera," Denis Forman, after praising L'Italiana in Algeri, writes: "But beware, it needs an alpha production, and if the fizz and sparkle are missing, it can go flat and you will wonder what the heck I am going on about." "Flat" describes my reaction to L'Italiana until I watched this DVD. This production has that fizz and sparkle that Forman is referring to. It is present throughout - from Levine and orchestra to the excellent performances from all the players. This is Rossini as it's meant to be performed. Even if, like me, Rossini isn't one of your favorite opera composers, I doubt you'll be able to resist this production. And surprisingly, the picture and sound quality are excellent despite it having been filmed in 1986.
Special mention must be made of Marilyn Horne as Isabella. She just inhabits the role and her singing is extraordinary. Her mezzo voice is rich, creamy, and smooth; and when she hits those higher notes, the coloratura flowing out from her with such incredible ease, it's just spellbinding to listen to. In addition, the comic moments are made all that more effective by her crisp enunciation (which she's able to maintain no matter how fast the music is going). Strength, beauty, precision, ease. Horne's voice has it all.
The production is full of subtle comedic moments. One of the best occurs in the first act finale when Elvira, played by Myra Merritt, suddenly steps downstage, and lets her soprano voice soar, dominating the ensemble behind her. Horne, good-natured enough to make fun of her star status, turns and gives Merritt a priceless look that communicates that she's overstepping her rank in the cast. But Merritt ignores the look and lets her voice soar again. This time, Horne walks over to her and, with the brush of a hand, shoos her back upstage into the ensemble "pack." (This is before Horne decks the poor soul playing Mustafa, bringing Act I to a hilarious close.)
Led by Marilyn Horne, this is a DVD to treasure. (After all, where else can you see an opera star grating parmesan cheese over pasta in perfect time to Rossini's lightening-fast music?)"
ROSSINI SINGING LIKE THIS IS NO LONGER AROUND
RONALD CORK | BRISBANE/AUSTRALIA | 05/07/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"GET THIS RECORDING OF "L'ITALIANA IN ALGERI" SIMPLY TO SEE AND HEAR MARILYN HORNE IN HER PRIME. WITH A TECHNIQUE AND COLORATURA THAT DEFIES DESCRIPTION YOU MUST SEE AND HEAR THIS LIVE PERFORMANCE FROM THE METROPOLITAN. THE OTHER SINGERS ARE GOOD AND THE RECORDING AND PICTURE QUALITY ARE FIRST RATE. I FIRST SAW MARILYN HORNE LIVE IN BRISBANE/AUSTRALIA IN CONCERT AND WILL NEVER FORGET THE EXPERIENCE OF HEARING THIS REMARKABLE ARTIST LIVE. THIS IS A FINE TRIBUTE TO HER ARTISTRY."
Great performance, Met quality standard
J. Espinosa Ihnen | Santiago de Chile | 06/30/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Underrated masterpiece" is a frequently remark about "La Italiana". And I certainly agree. Generally considered inferior to "Il Barbiere de Siviglia" and "La Cenerentola", this early opera buffa contains some of the most charming Rossini music you can imagine, full of beautiful arias and brilliant ensembles. It reminds me Mozart more than the later.
In this 1987 Met recording, Jean Pierre Ponnelle's production shows colourful yet sober, and you can relax on his good taste to resolve every detail, from sets to costumes. No "modern" crap here: Mustafa's palace is Moorish, and we can see moor pirates, nice moor veiled girls from the "seraglio" and funny looking moor eunuchs, who sing at the very start the haunting chorus "Serenate il mesto ciglio", while they are making their usual embroidery.
Horne's voice may not suit everyone ears, partly due to her aggressive low tessitura and resounding chest notes, but she's always musical and accurate, and that's especially important when singing Rossini. Near her 50's in this DVD, she has some (little) trouble with very high notes, but she excels in every other issue, bravura passages included. Add her natural sympathy and easiness on the stage and you get a terrific Isabella. In my opinion, her arriving on Act I and next "Cruda sorte" delivering is just what defines a great opera artist.
Paolo Montarsolo is a full featured basso buffo, and if he can't sing 100% the fioritura Rossini wrote for the role, he compensates the fact by large with a splendid performance, considering both singing and performing. Though he was past his 60 in this recording, he's an agile Mustafa, looking a lot much younger. It's delightful to watch him absolutely overjoyed with his new degree of Pappataci, singing and dancing in the Lindoro-Taddeo-Mustafa trio "Fra gli amori e le belleze". He'll drive more than a good laugh from you, guaranteed.
Alan Monk, which I had never listened before, was quite a surprise for me as Taddeo. He sings in good voice and more than acceptable italianate sound, playing his part undiminished by the bigger-named Isabella and Mustafa.
Douglas Ahlstedt is the weakest link in the chain, mainly because he seems not to be the quick, spicy, Latin light tenor needed for the role. But he does a decent Lindoro, which I consider one of the most difficult tenor roles in Rossini's operas. Lindoro's notes are high, way high, and Ahlstedt gets to sing them all, and right on the pitch. Visually, he looks perhaps a little too thin and boyish besides the other heavier weighted players of the love triangle, Isabella and Taddeo, but all in all, he does the job nicely.
Secondary singers are also good and visually correct, especially graceful Myra Merrit's Elvira, who's moment of glory is of course the tremendous high note in Act I magnificent finale, cheerfully noticed by Horne, who won't let her steal the show and knocks Mustafa out at the very last moment. Prima donna's privileges are well observed here.
Levine guides the Met forces at the best Rossini pace you can imagine, delivering a precise, swift performance since the Overture's first notes to the happy ending. Perhaps in Act I finale he goes a little too fast, turning the original singing intringulis in a rather undistinguishable mumbling, but this is a minor complaint.
Sound quality is good in all 3 modes (2ch, Dolby 5.1 and DTS), 4:3 format picture is bright and clear. Subtitles in spanish are OK.
If you love Rossini masterful blending of humor and music, you can't go wrong with this DVD. Just enjoy it. And don't forget your limoncello.
The creme de la creme
Sue M. Nagamoto | Richland, WA USA | 01/08/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The brilliant performance by Marilyn Horne in L'Italiana in Algeri proves the worthiness of the assessment by those opera critics who deemed her the best female operatic diva of her time.
Ms. Horne displays her magnificent vocal talents at the peak of her career. As if to say that pure mezzo tones are not enough, Ms. Horne delivers the comedic lyrics with convincing ease, and firmly fixes our admiration for her abilities.
No opera fan or Marilyn Horne devotee should be without this DVD."
The Best Production of the Opera You will Ever see
Judith A. Weller | LaVale, MD United States | 08/17/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Without doubt this is a great production of this opera. There will never be a better one done. Just the singing of Marilyn Horne alone is worth it. And Paolo Montarsolo is another great reason to get this. This is a traditional production ( none of this stark modern nonsense) and is true to the libretto. It is a magnificent production and a feast for both the eyes and the ears."