N Frieder Bernius Il Trovatore / Verona Festival / Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli / Beethoven: Misssa Soemnis /

VERDI: Il trovatore
Luca Salsi (Count di Lua. Anna Netrebko (Leonora). Yusif Eyvazov (Manrico). Dolora Zajick (Azucena). Riccardo Fassi (Ferrando). Elisabetta Zizzo (Inez). Carlo Bossi (Ruiz). Orchestra, Chorus, Ballet and Technicians of the Arena di Verona / Pier Giorgio Morandi, cond
C MAJOR DVD TT: 157 min.

BEETHOVEN: Missa Soemnis , Op. 123
Johanna Winkel, soprano. Sophie Harmsen, alto. Sebstian Kohlhepp, tenor. Arttu Kataja, bass. Kammerchor Stuttgart. Hofkajpelle Stuttgart. Frieder Bernus, cond.
NAXOS 2.110669DVD TT: 131 min (71 min. + 60 min.documentary)

BEYOND PERFECTION - Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli
C MAJOR DVD TT: 79 min.

The famed ancient Verona amphitheater, built in the 1st Century, has more than 22,000 seats. It is famous for its big-scale productions including many operas. these are festive occasions, and in the past they have offered many operas including Madama Butterfly, Aida, Romeo and Juliet, Tosca and Carmen; many of these are available on DVD. Now we have this brilliant production of Verdi's Il trovatore from the 2019 season, with an all-star cast. It was the final production of famed designed/director Franco Zeffirelli (who died June 2019). he also had staged Bizet's Carmen. He has taken full advantage of the huge stage, filled with masses of performers including singers, three chorus, ballet and even five horses! Costumes were designed by Raymonda Gaetani and they are brilliantly colored, jeweled and textured. The massive props impress, and lighting is often spectacular. The cast is uniformly excellent, particularly mezzo Dolora Zajick, who made her Met debut as Azucena in 1988! (available on DVD). For more than four decades she has sung in a wide variety of roles. In 2019, even at her advanced age, she vocally and dramatically was amazing. Anna Netrebko is in top form and easily handles this the demanding role of Leonora. This is her second video of this role. The first was a few years ago, a misguided Berlin production conducted by Daniel Barenboim (REVIEW). Tenor Yusif Eyvazov (Netrebko's husband) impresses as Manrico, with a thrilling Di quella pira in Act III . The Orchestra, Chorus and Ballet of Arena di Verona are directed by one of the most exciting newer conductors, Pier Giorgio Morandi, whose careful attention to detail impresses. I cannot imagine how this performance sounded to the audience in the vast venue, but engineering on this video is remarkable. No microphones are apparent, yet audio is clear and well-balanced Video is just about perfect; video director Tiziano Mancini avoids the annoying super close-ups favored by many video directors and we always have an appropriate full view of proceedings. This is a major addition to the VD opera library.

This recording of Beethoven's Missa Solemnis was filmed during live performances October 16/17, 2018 at the Alpirsbach Abbey, Baden-Württenberg, Germany, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Kammerchor Stuttgart. German conductor Frieder Bernius has been a major figure on the musical scene for more than a half-century It was issued about a year ago on the Carus label (83501 ), and now we have it again this time with a one-hour documentary by Uli Aumüller, Von Herzen - Mögeswieder - Zu Herzen Gehn! (From the Heart - May It Go - To The Heart!). The documentary focuses on conductor Bernius during rehearsals for the performance. He is a highly respected conductor who obviously loves this music. Text is in German with translations in English, Japanese and Korea. There are dozens of recordings of this music including famous versions by conductors Beecham, Karajan, Bernstein, Davis and Harnoncourt. DVDs of Beethoven's masterpiece with conductors Fabio Luisi, Christian Thielemann, Nicholas Harnoncourt and John Nelson. If you have any of these the only reason to acquire this new version is if you wish to experience Bernius' dissection of thee score.

Legendary Italian pianist Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli (1920 - 1995) began his career in 1939. Famous pianist Alfred Cortot acclaimed him as "a new Liszt" and he concertized extensively to great acclaim. However, he did not like to give concerts and in 1968 took a " voluntary retirement." In spite of many invitations, he accepted few concert engagements an often canceled, becoming a rather mystic enigma in the pianistic world. There are a number of videos of live performance on some of which he seems to have contempt for the audience. Now we have this new DVD, a film by Syrthos J. Dreher and Dag Freyer called "Beyond Perfection." According to program notes, it involved three decades of research into the pianist's private life and associations. There are brief comments by numerous writers and performers, but the program notes do not provide details nor is this information provided on screen. There are nine tracks: Introduction, Striving for Perfection, Hunter of the lost sounds, Resurrection, Birth of a legend, The mania of perfection, Exile. Composer and Teacher, and The Drama of Munich. Unfortunately there are no complete performances, just snippets. This DV surely would be more valuable had there been several complete previously unreleased performances; there is plenty of time s this disk is less than 80 minutes in length. This issue is only for die-hard devotees of Michelangeli.

R.E.B. (January 2020)