"I have seen several productions of this opera on video including Pierro Faggioni's staging for the met with Pavarotti and Millo. While the Met's production was fine indeed, I have to say that it pales in comparison with this opulent dramatically charged ballo from Salzburg. First of all Domingo is GUSTAV III and infuses this role not only with passionate ringing tone but typifies the enlightened dandified monarch that the real Gustav III was. Pavarotti while excellent vocally, wasn't really convincing dramatically and looked cardboard stiff and utterly ridiculous at times(especially in his sailors outfit). The fiery Amelia of Josephine Barstow leaves Aprile Millo in the dust. Here she sings Verdi's heroine with reckless passion pushing her dramatic soprano to dizzying heights. Barstow is every bit the regal and elegant woman of the court. Millo's voice is coventionally beautiful, but I found her performance to be rather matronly and stodgy. I'm so sick of hearing the complaint that Barstow doesn't sound Italianate, Like DUHHH she's British. Besides who cares when you have a viceral singing actress of Barstow's caliber who really gets into the meat of this role. Vocal beauty if fine but when it doesn't have much else to recommend it, after a while it gets boring. Verdi wrote for voices not nationalities. I actually found that Leo Nucci and Florence Quivar as Renato and Ulrica were acutually better here that in the met performances. Both are terrifying in their dramatic power. Solti's conducting is crackling powerful and wonderfully over the top. And lastly I must praise the opulent staging of director John Schelsinger. This man really does his homework when he mounts a production. I am a period/costume junkie so I know what I'm talking about. There is not a single flaw as is the case with his fabulous Rosenkavalier with Te Kanawa. Gustav's murder at the ball is far more dramatically charged and far more historically accurate than the Met's. One of the major flaws I found in the Met's production was that Faggioni had the same staircase scenery from Gustav's throne room scene, included unchanged in Ulrica's scene and in every other after. They stuck out like sore thumbs. Gustav was actually shot, not stabbed, and Domingo wins hands down in the final scene. Sumi Jo as Oscar is utterly terrific, and I strongly disagree with the reviewer who thought that her interpretation was over the top. Simply the best ballo ever to be released on DVD!!!!!"
C. Boerger | Columbus, OH USA | 05/22/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Wow! Before watching this, I would have thought it was impossible to equal, let alone outdo the Met Ballo with Pavarotti and Aprile Millo, conducted by James Levine. But this is absolutely phenomenal. Like the Met production, this Ballo restores Verdi's original Swedish setting, which is always a plus, but with music-making this good they could have set the damn thing in Antarctica for all I care. Domingo is in top form, both vocally and dramatically, as the well-intentioned king who suffers from hubris, and Josephine Barstow proves herself an excellent interpreter of the heavier Verdi roles(see the recent Glyndeborne Macbeth release for further evidence). Leo Nucci and Florence Quivar repeat their roles from the Met release, without a smirch on either of their performances. Sumi Jo is a delightful Oscar. And Sir Georg Solti ekes out every ounce of dramatic impact from this marvelous score(and believe me, there is plenty). Finally, filmmaker John Schlesinger's production is appropriately epic, colorful and cinematic. I'm trying to think of something negative to say, I can't come up with a single thing.
Ballo is one of my favorite operas, and I feel blessed to have two such perfect productions available on DVD. Ballo enthusiasts rejoice!"
Preserved for posterity
Robert Petersen | Durban, South Africa | 05/26/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This performance of Verdi's opera was recorded in 1990 at the Salzburg Festival. The team of principals are excellent and the production designed by John Schlesinger is beautifully costumed. Barstow as Amelia may not be to everyone's liking, but she risies magnificantly to the challenges of the role's demands, with an intense and well-acted portrayl of her character. Domingo is as usual his awesome self, with Nucci, Jo and Quivar as excellent support. Solti conducts the Vienna Philharmonic magnificantly. A must-have for fans of this masterpiece. An excellent performance, well preserved for posterity. PS, another reviewer states that this performance filmed is the General Rehearsal. It is however the actual opening night, filmed on July 28 1990 (as stated on the cover). The general rehersal was also filmed, but took place 3 days earlier.
This is the kind of production you get with a terrific direc
DodgyUSA | Jamaica Plain, MA United States | 03/05/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Most of the other reviews concentrate on the singers--which they should because they all do an excellent job, but I was impressed with the direction of the piece. John Schlesinger directs BALLO with an eye for detail. Small nuances, like seeing the child of Renato and Amelia, add drama and interest to the story. Even the character of Ocscar (which is one of my least favorite characters in the opera repertoire) is given direction instead of just bouncing around like a hyper-active super ball as he/she is often depicted. This dvd is a worthy addition for Verdi enthusiasts, and BALLO collectors."
SkookumPete | Canada | 07/23/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"It occurred to me after watching this production, which reverts to Verdi's original setting of the Swedish court, that the usual, silly Massachusetts setting may be the reason why Un Ballo in Maschera has never quite made it into the top tier of favorite Verdi works. Certainly the music, apart from a few plodding passages reminiscent of the earlier Verdi, is in the same league with Rigoletto and La Traviata. Verdi never wrote a more affecting love scene than the one beneath the gibbet (I reach my melting point at "Ebben, si, t'amo"), or a more moving baritone aria than "Eri tu". This performance, with Domingo a true king instead of a colonial governor, and the traitors high-placed officers rather than yokels named Tom and Sam, puts the music in a much more believable context. It also gives the designers full scope for some of the most lavish sets and costumes you are ever likely to see.
As far as the cast goes, you first have to overcome the uncomfortable awareness that this is middle-aged love arousing such passions. But Domingo, as usual, gives 100 percent, and he is ably backed up by Barstow and Nucci. My only complaint is that Sumi Jo as Oscar, whose clear voice should ring out in announcement of almost every new episode, either does not project well or is poorly miked; too often she's simply not loud enough.
The video was made for Austrian TV and is shot in 4:3 ratio. The picture is of acceptable quality, and the sound is good given the constraints of a live performance. I don't see this DVD as a replacement for a good studio recording, but for the spectacle alone, and some fine singing, it's well worth having."