A chance to view a full range of operas, (including those not normally available locally) from the best opera houses around the world. All are Welcome. If you are not already a member of the group, come along anyway to see and hear what you are missing.
Puccini’s Wild West opera has the California gold rush as its dramatic backdrop for a story in which Minnie, the only woman in a mining camp, gambles on her one chance of happiness. Lorin Maazel conducts a fine cast in Jonathan Miller’s 1991 production of the compelling and evocative opera, which Puccini himself considered his best work.
This DVD of La fanciulla del West presents Jonathan Miller’s atmospheric production for La Scala, with sets by Stefanos Lazaridis and costumes by Sue Blane. The cast is strong, and Lorin Maazel proves a warmer, more idiomatic Puccinian here than he generally was in his audio recordings for CBS/Sony. His direction makes one marvel afresh at the imagination and colour in this score, distinct from other Puccini operas in its obsession with the whole-tone scale.
Daniela Dessì and Delores Ziegler lead the cast in Mozart’s brilliant and witty opera, as the two women whose faithfulness in the face of romantic love is ruthlessly tested in Da Ponte’s comic tale.
“This is one wonderful production of what many feel is Mozart’s most nearly perfect opera. Riccardo Muti is in the pit and his Scala orchestra play like angels for him. The sets are beautiful (and much more so than the somewhat Pop Art-ish Glyndebourne sets). The backdrops overlook the Bay of Naples and the sky and water are blue, blue, blue. The foregrounds are fairly simple – a few columns, some tables, benches, stairs, drapes. When Ferrando and Guglielmo go off to join their military unit they are picked up by a rather nice three-masted ship that sails in from the wings and then carries them off. Costumes are also traditional, typical 17-century trappings with wigs, period-specific military uniforms for the men, lovely gowns for the women. I was amused that the hat worn by Despina when she appears as the magnetic Doctor in Act I looks like a pilgrim hat, but I guess that’s not really anachronistic, just a little funny-looking to an American viewer.”
Rare recording of Pergolesi’s second opera, a comic and colourful tale of tangled love in which three girls resist their arranged marriages in pursuit of the same young man. Rediscovered by conductor Riccardo Muti, this forgotten jewel sparkles in its 1989 period production.
The story of a young geisha who falls madly in love with an american captain that travels all around the world collecting hearts.
November 20th 2019 at 1:30pm
Domingo. Cotrubas. Levine.
A brilliant performance despite it taking place as long ago as 1977. A comparatively young Placido Domingo sang the duke as well as any I’ve heard and I also thought the Rigoletto was the best I’d seen
Gounod’s Faust (1859) was one of the world’s most popular operas from the 1860s to World War II, and remains a core repertory work. The story, adapted by Gounod’s librettists Jules Barbier and Michel Carré from Carré’s play Faust et Marguerite, is based on Part I of Goethe’s epic poem Faust, which was a major inspiration for many composers during the 19th century and beyond.
Gounod added a ballet to Act V when Faust received its first Paris Opéra staging in 1869.
The Italian composer Gaetano Donizetti (1796-1848) adapted his opera Lucia de Lammermoor from the novel by Sir Walter Scott, with its tale of a doomed romance between Miss Lucia, daughter of the Ashtons, and Lord Edgardo, the head of the Ravenswood clan driven to a lonely exile on Wolf’s Crag. The 1992 stage production with The Orchestra and Chorus of the Teatro alla Scala as conducted by Stefano Ranzani comes to home video in the release Lucia de Lammermoor. Renato Bruson portrays Lord Enrico Ashton and Mariella Devia is Miss Lucia. The cast also features Vincenzo la Scola, Marco Berti, Carlo Colombara and Ernesto Gavazzi
This energetic, noisy opera was a product of Verdi’s ‘anni di galera’ when he had difficulty in keeping up with the pressure upon him to compose operas. It has been described as one of his ‘crasser’ products. I can think of several composers who would give their eye teeth to be able to write such an opera. The problem for Verdi is the standard of what had gone before and what we now know was to come………
So, by Verdian standards, not the best of operas; but by any standards this must be one of the best performances of it. Recorded in 1991, all had overcome their curiosity of the camera so there are none of the early distracting sly glances. All is played on stage and how well it is played, with all characters engaging completely with the text.
Bizet’s Carmen has everything you want from an opera: high drama, passionate characters, a love story. And what’s more it’s absolutely packed with great melodies – even if you don’t know the opera, you’ll definitely know the tunes.
First and foremost – the music is nothing short of awesome
Bizet wrote a fair few great works – the Te Deum for a start – but in Carmen he really went up a gear in terms of writing entrancing melodies.
Superstar tenor José Carreras is Don José, the solider from a small town who … Samuel Ramey is the charismatic matador Escamillo, who lures Carmen away
Loosely based on the life of the Roman Emperor Titus, La clemenza di Tito distills the suspense of Don Giovanni, the warmth of Le nozze di Figaro, and the nobility of Die Zauberflöte into one powerful parable of love and friendship, vengeance and mercy.
La bohème is one of opera’s most popular and unforgettable stories. When young poet Rodolfo meets seamstress Mimì, it’s love at first sight. But faced by the cruel realities of poverty and ill health, will the flame that burns between them flicker and die? Or will the timeless strength of their youthful passion withstand every trial and tribulation that life can throw at them?
Orchestra: Glyndebourne Festival Chorus, London Philharmonic Orchestra
Conductor: Sir Simon Rattle
“This is the most complete video that I have found anywhere
that has “most” of the songs from the original score in their
orginal form as written musically. The sound, scenery, and costumes
make the story come alive; you feel as though you too are living
in Catfish Row!”
‘This is Baker at her finest! Though recorded late in her career the sheer beauty of her phrasing, the accuracy of her pitch and the dramatic intensity of her delivery remind us that this was an exceptional singer of her time.’
‘Dame Janet Baker in one of her greatest roles leads a cast of some of Britain’s finest interpreters of baroque opera under the baton of Sir Charles Mackerras. John Copley’s acclaimed English National Opera production was restaged in studio skilfully using all the technical advantages offered to create this top quality recording.’
“Beautiful cinematography and great performances throughout. I first checked this out from Netflix, watched it several times and then reluctantly returned it. I couldn’t get it out of my head and so, finally got a copy for myself so I could watch any time I wanted!!”
Filmed on location in Rome, 1976.
Real elements of nostalgia here, to see Domingo in full flight. His refulgent voice is one of the enduring joys of this film of Tosca.
September 19th 2018 at 1:30pm Il Trovatore – Verdi
This 1978 performance of Il Trovatore from Vienna is a definitive performance of Verdi’s war opera, under the stern direction of Herbert von Karajan.
Placído Domingo is at the height of his powers here, singing the title role with power and passion, his dark-tinted tenor ideally suited and still capable of the vocal leaps and bounds required by some of Verdi’s most challenging music. His Manrico is a mix of neurosis and sex appeal whose death in the fourth act leaves the viewer feeling hollow. It should say something about his performance that his “Di quella pira” rings down the curtain on Act III with so much gusto and energy that the aria feels like the climactic finish of the opera. You almost forget that there’s a fourth act to come…..more here
Verdi’s Il trovatore is probably best known for its ‘gypsy’ music: the Anvil Chorus, Azucena’s ‘Stride la vampa’ and Manrico’s heroic ‘Di quella pira’ are key examples. But Verdi wrote wonderful music for all four of his leads and the score boasts a host of thrilling ensembles and chorus numbers including the Count’s aristocratic aria ‘Il balen del suo sorriso’ and Leonora’s prayer
Giordano’s Andrea Chénier is one of the greatest of verismo operas, full of heart-stopping big tunes and powerful emotional situations. If it is not as well-known as it should be, it is because in summary it sounds a little too like Puccini’s Tosca: there is a tussle between political opponents over a woman, an attempt to save a condemned man, a tenor aria about writing poetry on the eve of execution. The difference is that Gerard (Giorgio Zancanaro) is not a villain like Scarpia, he is an idealist whom the French Revolution has betrayed as much as it has his rival the poet Chénier (Placido Domingo). His temptation to abuse his power to seduce the virtuous Maddalena (Anna Tomowa-Sintow) is a momentary one, though its consequences are terrible. There is a streak of post-Wagnerian decadence in much of this–Maddalena is at least as much in love with death as she is with Chénier, and the final love duet has a deeply sinister aspect.
Domingo is at his best in this Covent Garden Opera House performance from 1985; at once ardent and serious-minded, we believe in his Chénier as a poet and political figure. Conductor Julius Rudel gives the rich score all the weight and lyricism it demands and the Covent Garden chorus is at its occasional best in the scenes of revolutionary excess.
If you have the misfortune to be born into an operatic family you can expect to be murdered by your own mother (Médée, Lucrezia Borgia), killed by your grandmother (Jenufa), or even bumped off by a hitman hired by your father (Rigoletto).
Perhaps most insidious, however, are the crimes not of violence but of absence, neglect rather than active cruelty. Productions of Verdi’s I due Foscari and Britten’s The Turn of the Screw whispered some of the darkest unspokens of parent-child relations, conjuring nightmares all the more potent for their subtle horrors.
Britten’s ‘curious story’ of a governess caring for two orphaned children in a remote house is a miracle of taut construction. Running at less than two hours, with a cast of six and an orchestra of just 13, its slender precision mirrors Henry James’s original. But Britten’s musical narrative has a built-in device denied to the prose-bound James. Constructed around a single theme, the work unfolds in 15 variations, each ‘turning the screw’ just a little tighter on this single idée fixe. In Jonathan Kent’s endlessly inventive production for Glyndebourne (originally seen in 2006), these variations go from musical transitions to the dramatic engine driving this domestic tragedy to its terrible conclusion.
The cosy 1950s naturalism of Paul Brown’s set is framed by a double, circular revolve. Almost perpetually in motion, propelling beds and baths, children and their ghostly doubles into and out of view, it suggests unseen agency. At its centre is a giant glass panel which twists and shifts with each changing scene. Endlessly reinventing itself, first greenhouse, now French windows, then frozen lake, it remains always a membrane — increasingly and terrifyingly porous — between two worlds. Whether these are worlds of sanity and madness or safety and danger remains deliberately unclear as they merge and bleed into one another, echoing the governess’s own question: ‘Is this sheltered place the wicked world, where things unspoken of can be?’
Scene from Glyndebourne Tour’s Turn of the Screw. Photo: Tristram Kenton
Elegant though Kent’s production is, Britten’s opera stands or falls with its cast. Achieving a rare natural chemistry, the children — Flora (Louise Moseley) and Miles (Thomas Delgado-Little) — dominate. So familiar, so instinctive is their play that it loads the dice even more heavily than usual against the governess (Natalya Romaniw) and her suspicions. A brilliant coup de théâtre finds them playing in the dirt of a fresh grave, ripping petals from a wreath — horrors of the sweetest, most innocent kind imaginable.
If all eyes are on the children, all ears are on the adults of the cast. Anthony Gregory’s Quint is exquisitely sung, his villain all the more disturbing for his vocal beauty. He’s paired with an explosive Miss Jessel (Miranda Keys), whose vocal dramatics contrast with Romaniw’s matter-of-fact delivery — only hinting at hysteria in the very final moments — and an unusually robust Mrs Grose from Anne Mason.
On careful inspection, film footage used in the Prologue reveals itself shot in Glyndebourne’s own gardens. We may watch Bly’s tragedy from the safety of the audience, but shouldn’t kid ourselves that we’re safe from its horrors. It’s the final and cruellest twist for a Screw that’s tightly wound indeed.
Many operas around the world cover on the subjects of love, sorrow, and death, that is to say, they are tragic dramas. If you are not good at such negative stories, I recommend you see this opera-“The Barber of Seville.” I’m sure we will burst into laughter many times, because there are some comical points in this opera. You should especially pay attention to the dialogue between Bartolo and Almaviva. Almaviva disguises himself as Bartolo’s right hand man in Act 2. The audience frequently burst into laughter.
Gioachino Rossini who composed this opera is a musical genius. The overture of this opera is very famous. And Rossini’s melodies are bright and smooth, so the opera’s story flows freely. Do you know the “Rossini Crescendo”? This is Rossini’s unique method of composition to increase sound volume gradually in steps. The Rossini Crescendo probably excites both orchestra and audience at the same time.
Opera in three acts, Libretto by Giovanni Battista Varesco
Music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Returning home from the Trojan Wars during a storm, Idomeneo, the king of Crete, vows to sacrifice to Neptune (the Greek god Poseidon) the first living creature he meets ashore in return for his own safety. The first person he sees turns out to be his own son Idamante, and Idomeneo attempts to escape from fulfilling his vow. Idamante, meanwhile, is loved by orphaned prisoner Ilia and by the jealous Electra. Who will be sacrificed, and who will stay with Idamante?
Chorus and Orchestra of the Metropolitan Opera
Conductor James Levine Chorus Daniel Palumbo
This high-definition broadcast of the Met’s sumptuous Sonja Frisell-Gianni Quaranta production brings Verdi’s beloved opera to breathtaking life. The spectacular sets and costumes, the thrilling triumphal scene, and the newly created choreography by Alexei Ratmansky all frame Verdi’s poignant story of impossible love in an incandescent way. Violeta Urmana is the slave girl of the title who loves the warrior Radamès (Johan Botha). Dolora Zajick sings Amneris, the Pharaoh’s daughter and Aida’s rival for Radamès’s affection. The love triangle ends in treason, imprisonment, and death.
Marie was found on a battlefield as a baby and adopted by a regiment of soldiers. When she falls for Tonio – a civilian – she faces a choice between love and her adopted family.
Pelly’s production fizzes with exuberant humour. It features wonderfully inventive sets: large maps evoke the mountains of Tyrol, the regiment’s camp drowns in laundry and an armoured tank bursts into a drawing room. Gaetano Donizetti’s score weaves robust, military melodies with moments of pathos. Musical highlights include the bravura tenor aria ‘Pour mon âme’, with its vertical leaps to a succession of high Cs, and the delightful duet ‘Quoi? vous m’aimez!’ in which Tonio expresses his love for Marie.
Ileana Cotrubas is stunning as Violetta, the glamorous courtesan who gives up everything for love. Her portrayal is filled with countless little touches that make even the most familiar role seem totally new, and audiences suffered with her plight, and wept at her death.
Plácido Domingo’s golden, seductive voice would make any woman want to run away with him, and Cornell MacNeil is his stern but understanding father.
One of the world’s oldest and most celebrated opera festivals, running through the summer months in a magnificent modern theatre situated in the grounds of a country house. This isn’t simply a fluffily glamorous summer beano for the idle wealthy, but one of the world’s great opera houses, boasting unfailingly high musical and production standards that are a byword among the cognoscenti.
The impoverished Franconian knight Walther von Stolzing has come to Nuremberg to dispose of his lands with the aid of the wealthy goldsmith Veit Pogner. He has fallen instantly in love with Pogner’s beautiful daughter, Eva, and followed her this morning to church. As the congregation sing a final hymn and file out, he seizes his chance to talk with her alone…………..
‘Meistersinger is the best-liked Wagner opera, not such a monster as The Ring, clearly better than the slightly ludicrous Tannhauser and Lohengrin, less holy than Parsifal, not so taxing as Tristan. So it is played a lot, and loved by not only Wagnerites, but a lot of the generality of mankind as well.
Meistersinger is the acceptable face of Wagner. There are no hang-ups with sex and sin, no power-mad dwarfs, no sprouting staves, no swans and not a holy grail in sight. Even the racial propaganda mentioned in the notes above can be played down to zero effect except for the unavoidable and disagreeable final outburst about the ethnic cleansing of the arts.
The story is simple, strong and rather slow……….
But the great glory of Meistersinger is its music.’
October 18th at 1:30pm Acts 1 & 2
A superb performance of this melodic comic opera performed at Glyndbourne in 2011. It has freshness, colour and movement which keeps your attention. The storyline is there throughout and easily splits into two halves enabling us to show this exciting video in successive months. We will give an intro to Act 3 to remind you of the story.
November 15th at 1:30pm Act 3 of Die Meistersingers von Nϋrnberg,
Wagner from Glyndbourne Act 3, 2h 08m
In which an elopement is frustrated and a serenade leads to an altercation which becomes a riot, our hero rehearses his bid for winning a song contest, a journeyman is promoted and an unscrupulous town clerk makes off with someone else’s poem.
An introduction will be given to remind you of the story so far.
“So it’s three hearty cheers for Meistersinger, a noble life-enhancing work which, although a long sit-down, can give you one of the happiest and most rewarding of evenings in the opera house .”
20th September 2017 at 1:30pm
L’Elisir D’Amore – Donizetti
Except for three passages, Nemorino in ”L’Elisir d’Amore” is nearly a perfect role for Luciano Pavarotti, who sang it at the Metropolitan Opera Friday night in the season’s first performance of the work. It doesn’t overtax the stamina or volume of his voice (both were more than ample Friday); it isn’t too high; it benefits from his lively, pointed diction, and it gives generous opportunities for both of his strongest traits as an actor – clowning and simple pathos. He mugged with relish but was almost never excessive, and he was believable and touching at the moment when poor Nemorino’s hopes topple in the first finale.
Although thought by some to be one of Rossini’s greatest Neapolitan operas La Donna del Lago is rarely performed, probably due to its demanding florid bel canto vocal writing. I side with Amazon’s staff reviewer, who says that La Scala’s glorious production is graced by some of today’s finest singers and that Riccardo Muti brilliantly emphasizes the work’s dramatic plot, beautiful melodic ideas and touches of local colour.
Set in a dark, glowering ancient Scotland in perpetual strife, battles off stage and three men vying for the love of the soprano. The singing is in this opera … well pointed by Muti. But what singing, as florid as you’ll find and better than you’re likely to encounter in another live performance.
In a giant courtyard of the Forbidden City, a woman’s voice soars gloriously into the night sky.
Spotlights illuminate a 580-year-old Ming Dynasty temple where emperors once made sacrifices to their ancestors. Now hundreds of Chinese soldiers and dancers move to the music and to instructions shouted over a loudspeaker. Two ancient-looking pavilions at the front of the vermilion temple hall eerily glide toward center stage, then spew forth dozens more soldiers.
21st June 2017 at 1:30pm
Traviata – Verdi
“Netrebko and Villazón . . . are young, attractive and able to convey dramatic emotions. . . . There is not a cough to be heard, nor a crinoline in sight. Yet the passion each lover feels for the other is tangible, and Violetta’s desperation unbearably acute.”
A gorgeous Anna Netrebko not only looks the part in Act 1, she also seizes the sexy essence of the fameous courtesan through sultry actions. There’s no question why man fall for this Violetta. Her conquests include Alfredo, portrayed with equal aplomp by the consummate artist Rolando Villazón. With excellent audio and superb video direction, Netrebko and Villazón’s rather magical rapport comes to the fore, and vocally the two blend superbly . . .Villazón . . . is pure gold throughout. Not content just to blow the audience away with his burnished tenor, he imparts every ounce of Alfredo’s naive and conflicting emotions without losing the larger melodic contours. His singing is expansive and dark of timbre yet nimble.”
Netrebko · Villazón · Hampson Konzertvereinigung Wiener Staatsopernchor Wiener Philharmoniker · Carlo Rizzi Staged by Willy Decker · Directed by Brian Large
A youthful Placido Domingo makes a dashing Dick Johnson his greed turned to love on meeting Minnie. His final act aria in which he appeals to the mob not to tell Minnie that they have hanged him but rather let her believe that he has ridden away remorseful to a new life is particularly appealing.
Dick Johnson (alias Ramirez the bandit)…Placido Domingo
Jack Rance…Silvano Carroli
Jack Wallace…Gwynne Howell
The Royal Opera Chorus and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House/Nello Santi
Recorded in the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London in 1983
NVC ARTS/WARNER 50466-8356-2-8 [140 mins]
“This is a truly inspired opera with some wonderful music that to my mind admirably evokes the wild west. A soaring performance by the 3 principals, supported admirably and with considerable charm by the supporting cast. I can’t stop watching it”
A Film by Franco Zeffirelli From the rousing opening to the desperate and tender finale, this is perhaps Verdi’s most highly charged, sweeping score: a complete masterpiece. It’s a natural project for Zeffirelli, who has filmed both Shakespeare (Romeo & Juliet; Taming of the Shrew) and Opera (La traviata) successfully. And he pulls out all the stops here.
His storytelling is lucid, if sometimes overstressed, with dreams and flashbacks, but led by the music.
Domingo is magnificent, the greatest Otello of his generation, no question, with Ricciarelli the most lovely and radiant Desdemona imaginable. Diaz at Iago is fine and the whole production is eye-poppingly sumptuous, as you would expect from Zeffirelli.
Les Vêpres siciliennes is one of Verdi’s lesser-known mature operas, but was vital to his development as a composer. It was created for the Paris Opéra in 1855, providing Verdi with an opportunity to embrace the elaborate style and traditions of French grand opera.
Stefan Herheim brings Verdi’s tale of revenge, family relations and patriotism to Covent Garden for the first time. His imaginative production draws parallels between the opera and the opera house for which it was written, including a spectacular re-creation of the Paris Opéra itself. Musically, the work contains impressive choruses, passionate duets and some wonderful showpiece arias for the principal singers. Particular highlights include Procida’s aria on returning to Sicily ‘Et toi, Palerme’, the Act IV duet ‘De courroux et d’effroi’ in which Hélène expresses her sympathy for Henri’s dilemma and Hélène’s brilliant Act V boléro, ‘Merci, jeunes amis’.
Leo Nucci, Susan Dunn, Veriano Luchetti, Bonaldo Giaiotti, Gianfranco Casarini,
All the passion and spectacle of Bizet’s Carmen comes to life in this dazzling screen opera starring Placido Domingo and Julia Migenes-Johnson. In 19th century Seville, the lusty, tempestuous Carmen (Migenes-Johnson) seduces a naive Army corporal, Don Jose (Domingo), newly assigned to the village fortress. Jose abandons his career, his fianc‚e and even his dying mother for the love of this sultry gypsy. But soon she spurns him in favor of a toreador, Escamillo (Ruggero Raimondi). Crazed with jealousy, Jose begs Carmen to return to him, but her taunting declaration of independence results in tragedy. Shot entirely on location in Andalusia Spain, Bizet’s Carmen has been hailed as the definitive version of this classic opera.
There are a lot of famous melodies in this opera, for example, the famous prelude, “Habanera” sung by title role, Carmen, and other songs. You would never be bored by this opera, though operas generally are long. “Toreador Song” sung by Escamillo who is a bullfighter in Act 2 is outstanding, and the Aria sung by Micaela in Act 3 is lyrical and beautiful. Many first time opera-goers would enjoy seeing this opera.
Rimsky-KorsakovPuccini (174mins.) Marinsky Theatre, Kirov Opera Chorus, Kirov Opera Orchestra
You can really smell the sea in this opera – the simple evocation of the rocking sea that opens the opera weaves itself into every corner of the score.
The opera tells the story of Sadko, a gusli player, who leaves his wife, Lubava, and home in Novgorod and eventually returns a wealthy man.
17 August 2016 pm
Pelleas and Melisande
opera by Claude Debussy (Theater an der Wien 2009) (163 Mins)
The only opera Debussy ever completed, it is considered a landmark in 20th-century music.The plot concerns a love triangle.
“This is one of the most beautiful operas of all time.
Debussy’s subtle music frames this mysterious love drama, in which the action and the words dominate. The result is a perfect matching of words, theater and music. In this opera there are no arias, the melody is in the orchestra, not in the voices, it may seem strange to those accustomed to romantic opera, but as one gets used, it’s beauty shows itself. “
21 September 2016 pm
Ariadne Auf Naxos
Richard Straus (134 mins)
Combining slapstick comedy and consummately beautiful music, the opera’s theme is the competition between high and low art for the public’s attention.
19 October 2016 pm
Four internationally celebrated Verdians gather on the stage of The Royal Opera for an unforgettable night of music and drama. Tenor José Cura is thrilling as the freedom-fighting troubadour of the title; seductive baritone Dmitri Hvorostovsky is his nemesis Count di Lina; acclaimed soprano Verónica Vilarroel is the object of their love; and Yvonne Naef dazzles as the vengeful gypsy Azucena. Carlo Rizzi conducts, and Elijah Moshinsky’s lavish production, which updates the action to the mid-19th century, fills the stage with breathtaking fight sequences and grand sets.