Met puts best foot forward
Robert G. VanStryland | Denton, TX USA | 08/08/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The Metropolitan Opera went all out to make its production of this rarely performed work a success. The sets are beautiful and match the music perfectly. The conducting and playing could hardly be bettered. Scotto is nearly perfect in the title role (just a few years earlier she would have been absolutely perfect). Domingo was at his best as Paolo. Nevertheless, veteran baritone Cornell MacNeil nearly steals the show as the nasty, brutish Gianciotto. At this stage of his career, his voice was no longer beautiful, but it still had the range, power, and expressiveness to personify this evil character. The opera falls somewhat short of being an unqualified musical masterpiece, but it is a fascinating and dramatically effective work and has some stunning scenes, including the longest battle scene I have ever seen on stage in an opera theater (Die Walkure, Act III Scene 1 is shorter and the actual battle seems always to take place off stage). I recommend that you get this one. You won't be bored."
Francesca da Rimini at the Met (DVD)
David Edgley | Nottingham United Kingdom | 07/12/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Francesca da Rimini is a fascinating opera and in parts - the end of act 1, the second half of Act 3 - truly magical. It is not the sort of opera which would take kindly to a minimalist production or to updating, so - in this case - the lavish sets and costumes provided by the Met are entirely appropriate and highly effective (though I do wish the audience would refrain from applauding the scenery). The opera stands or falls by the casting of Francesca and Paolo and in this production it definitely stands. In 1984, Placido Domingo was a dashing and handsome Paolo acting with verve and on top vocal form. We perhaps too often take him for granted because he has been so good for so long. Francesca is supposed to be young and beautiful. Renata Scotto is neither, but for much of the time she makes you think that she is. Her acting is most certainly of the operatic variety, but it works. At this stage in her career, when she is called upon to deliver the highest notes her voice turns hard and wobbles - fortunately there are not that many of the highest notes in this part. The rest of the voice remains gorgeous and infinitely expressive. Levine and the Met orchestra play superbly."
Kyle E. Lockhart | Texas USA | 02/22/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Being too young to have ever experienced Scotto live, I was confused as to why Met audiences held her so high in her heyday. I had heard her recordings and thought she was interesting but that her floppy high notes were a major turnoff. Then, I saw this DVD. I completely understand her appeal now. She is magnetic and (I can't believe I am saying this) the loose high notes didn't even bother me. Everything else in this production is high quality as well. If you are a fan of Scotto, this is a must have. Also, the score of this piece is worth hearing and I haven't heard it done better than this (in fact, it is hard to find many recordings of this at all)..."
Thumb and a Half Down for Da Rimini
E. DeGeorge | Loudon, TN | 10/11/2008
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I love opera and I'm not picky, so it isn't often that I watch an opera and say, "Gee, when is this going to be over?" But the Met's 1984-85 production of Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini had that effect on me. The staging in the first scene was absurd. As I looked at the little garden in the center of the stage, I kept wondering who had died, for it appeared to be a coffin covered with silk flowers. The action at the meeting of Francesca and Paolo was so hidden that if I hadn't been watching via video, instead of from third balcony, I couldn't have possibly seen it. The battle scene was staged better.
Voices were top notch. Domingo and Scotto lovers wouldn't be disappointed at that. But the acting was so incredibly stilted and ridiculous that I could hardly bear it. This was exacerbated by the fact that Zandonai writes so much interlude that the performers are forced to stalk about the stage acting aimlessly.
The use of Arthurian lore in the central love scene is interesting, but I didn't think it was supported well musically. By the time they kiss, we should be longing with them. I wasn't. Meanwhile, on stage, Domingo is jerking Scotto across the bed in some kind of rag doll style move that reminded me more of puppetry than passion. Renata's decision to turn upside down for the last kiss was, in my estimation, a theatrical mistake.
So the question remains, "Did Franscesca and Paolo deserve to go to Dante's hell?" Based on this production, I'd have to say yes!"