NEW YEAR'S CONCERTS 1987 and 1988
PROKOFIEV: Symphony No. 1 in D, Op. Op. 25 "Classical." TCHAIKOVSKY: Piano Concerto No 1 in B flat minor, Op 23.
Yevgeny Kissink piano / Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra / herbert von Karajan, cond.
JOHANN STRAUS: Music of the Sphere's Waltz. Beloved Anna Polka. : JOHANN STRAUSS, Jr.: The Gpysy Baron Overture. Annen Polka. Pleasure Train Polka. Overture to Die Fledermauys. Emperor Waltz. Perpetual Motion. Thunder and Lightening Polka. Voices of Spring Waltz. The Blue Danube Waltz. Radetzki March. JOSEF STRAUS: Delirium Waltz.
Kathleen Battle, soprano. Berin Philharmonic and Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra / Herbert von Karajan, cond.
C MAJOR DVD TT: 157 min.
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LEONCAVALLO: Zazà
Svetlana Aksenova (Zaza). Enlelejda Shkosa (Anaide)..Dorothea Herbert (Florima / Madame Dufrense). Dorothea Herbert (Floriana).Nikolai Schukoff (Milio Dufresne). Juliette Mars (Natalia). Vittoria Antonuzzo (Toto Deffensne). Christopher Maltman (Cascart). Tobias Greenhalgh (Bissy). Paul Schweinester (Marco). Johannes Bamberger (Augusto). Arnold Schoenberg Choir / Vienna ORF Radio Symphony Orchestra / Stefan Soltész, cond)
INTEL DVD TT: 127 min
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DONIZETTI: Le Conveyenze Ed In Convenienze Teatrali
Laurent Naouri (Mamma Agata). Patrizia Ciofi (Daaria). Charles Rice (Progolo). Clara Meloni (Luigia). Enea Scala (Gughlielmo). Enric Martinez (Cesare Salsapariglia). Lyon Opera Chorus and Orchestra / Lorenzo Viotti, cond.
OPUS ARTE DVD TT: 114 min.
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MASSENET: Thaïs
Nicole Chevalier (Thäis).Josef Wagner (Athanäel). Roberto Sacca (Nicias). Ca®olina Liuppo (Crobyle). Sofia Vommol )Murtale / Albine). Arnold Schoenberg Choir / Vienna ORF Rdio Orchestra / Leo Hussan, cond.
NAXOS DVD TT: 111 min.
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C Major offers a DVD containing two New Years Concerts condycted by Herbert von Karajan with theBerlin Philharmonic. From 1988 recorded in Berlin;s Phioharmonhie we have a program that opens with Prokofiev;s Symphony No 1 and features a very young Yevgeny issin as soloist in Thaikovsky's Piano Concerto No 1. Splendid performances but unfortunately the audio is disappointing, surely not 5.1 multi-channel as advertised Audio is superb on the second concert recorded in Vienna's Musikverein in 1987. The program features soprano Kathleen Battle in a coloratura display in Strauss's Voices of Spring. Video director provides performances by the Vienna State Opera Ballet and the amazing horses from theVienna's Spanish Riding School. Karajan's conduting is amazingly sensitive. There seems to be a missprint in program notes. New Year's concerts presented in the Musikverein always feature the Vienna Philharmonic, not †he Berlin Philharmonic.

Ruggero Leoncavallo (1857 - 1919) wrote eleven operas an ten operettas most of which are forgotten today. His first, Pagliacci, premiered in Milan in 1892 conductedted by Arturo Toscanini, and became a favorite with audiences worldwide. Zaza, his fifthth opera, premiered in Milan in 1900 again with Toscana on the podium. The plot is simple. ¹he singer Zaza is in love with businessman Milio Dufresne not knowing he is married and has a daughter. In the final scene she leaves him. There is no high drama or emotion in this opera and it is easy to understand why it has been forgotten. The leading soprano roe is a chalenge for a diva; it is undortunate what she sings is not memorable. This DVD offers a handsome new Vienna production aafrom 2020 staged by Christof Loy. The excellent cast does what can be done for this quite boring opera. Video and audio are excellent.

 

 

Gaetano Donizetti (1797 - 1848) wrote 74 operas during his short life. These include some staples of the repertory:, including Lucia di Lammermoor, L'elisir d;amore, Le fille du regiment, and . However, he had many failures, some of which are now being revived. One is Le convenienze ed Incomvrmze Teatrali, described as, "the battle of egos larger than life." This is about quarrelling singers during rehearsal. It is quite amusing, and the music often sounds more like Rossini than Donizetti. This is a production of the Lyon National Opera July 5 - 8, 2017. Laurent Pelly directed and designed the costumes in this updated production. The singers are excellent,, audio and video first-rate. This is a delightful addition to the catalog, a glimpse of one of Donizetti's neglected comic masterpieces.

More than a decade ago this site unenthusiastically mentioned a performance of Thaïs that featured soprano Barbara Frittoli in the title role (REVIEW). Now we have a new staging of the opera by Peter Konwitschny at Theater an der Wien, recorded live in 2021. It is a superb performance featuring young American soprano Nicole Chevalier as the infamous courtesan, and young American bass-baritone Josef Wagner as the monk Athaenäl, who persuades Thaïs to give up her life style and than falls in love with her. The set, designed by Johannes Leilacker, is basically a baren with occasional props. Chevalier's costume is extraordinarily flamboyant, particularly the one worn by Thaïs in her opening scene. Many of the other performers wear ill-fitting angel's wings. This is an odd, and rather basic production. The chorus and orchestra are excellent. Video is fine, and the multi-channel is well-balanced. Oddly there is no applauyse at the end.

R.E.B. (December 2021).

 

With the "Méditation", Jules Massenet probably wrote one of the most famous melodies of our time. It originates from his Comédie-lyrique "Thaïs", which – unlike Massenet's operas "Werther" or "Manon" – never made it into the international opera repertoire. Presumably because the two main roles of Thaïs and Athanaël demand something almost superhuman from the singers. In the new production by Peter Konwitschny at the Theater an der Wien, the American soprano Nicole Chevalier is one of the most exciting singers currently on stage in the title role. At her side, the young Austrian bass-baritone Josef Wagner celebrates his house debut. This is a fascinating and musically excellent performance of a timeless classic of the opera repertoire. 'Gigantically well told (...) Grandiose!' (Der Kurier) // 'An acoustic delight' (Der Standard)

Infatuated by American soprano Sybil Sanderson, Massenet wrote two operas for her, Esclarmonde in 1889, and Thaïs in 1894. He called the latter a "lyric comedy" which it hardly is—there's nothing amusing about the story of a courtesan who gives up her wild life for redemption in a convent, and a priest who saves her from her lurid past and then realizes he is desperately in love with her. The redeemed Thaïs dies in the arms of the despairing Athanel. At the Paris premiere, Anderson, either on purpose or by accident, exposed more of her body than was intended, thus creating a sensation. Since that time, some other sopranos have followed the exposure routine. Barbara Frittoli almost joins the group; however her bosom defies the laws of gravity and she doesn't quite make it. Thaïs has attracted many leading sopranos. Geraldine Farrar sang the premiere at the Met, followed by Maria Jeritza, Beverly Sills and, more recently, Renée Fleming. This new Turin production by Stefano Poda provides more nudity than most would wish to see. The chorus and dancers, on stage much of time, wear only G-strings, and Poda's direction keeps them in almost constant meaningless motion. In this production, Thaïs wears a pin-wheel costume at the beginning of the opera, wisely only for the opening scene; after that, her costume is less flamboyant. None of this would matter very much if Frittoli sang well, but she is miscast and sometimes off-pitch. The two principal men are better vocally, but if you don't have a sympathetic heroine, there's little point in presenting this opera. This ill-fated production has been captured in ultra-clear HD video, and well recorded. The Blu-Ray version offers HD Masteraudio 7.1, reasonably effective although hardly the sonic blockbuster of the Valencia Ring recently mentioned on this site. Massenet's opera today remains best-known for the exquisite Meditation from Act II, which is not played very played here. Skip this one,

 

The staging consists of a mainly empty stage, entry and exit from whatpasses as a set is by lifting the back curtain, Occasionally a prop such as a setee or chair is provided. The costumes are for the religious monks including Atthanael black robes with wings. Extras are in modern dress, men in suits and ladies in cocktail dresses. Thais wears ann evening dress but Crobyl and Myrtale do have rather revealing and more exotic costumes. Nicias does have a white lounge suit but with wings,
The cupid runs round like a demented chicken and annoyed me .
The artistes however have good voices and are pleasing to the ear.
Perhaps one lowlight is when athaniel shoots cupid with pistol and holds the crowd at gunpoint.
To cross the wilderness which appears to be a wasteland of litter Thais has put a raincoat over her dress.
I would suggest La Fenice with Eva Nei or Teatro Regio with Barbarara Frittoli