Early Rossini has something buoyant, vibrant, youthful about it – even when it is a “dramma per musica” such as “Sigismondo”, a dark swirl of an opera revolving around a mad king and his delusions, his wife who is allegedly dead but very much alive, the fate of Poland and much more. Premiered in 1814 but rarely played thereafter, the work deserves to be resurrected, if only for its many beautiful and original arias and ensembles, some of which were such brilliant little masterpieces that he reused them in his later successes such as “Il turco in Italia”, “La Cenerentola” and “Il barbiere di Siviglia”. The work was given its first performance from the critical new edition at the 2010 Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro. The press hailed the production as a “perfect symbiosis of music and stage work” that yields “truly brilliant theater”.
English-speaking audiences have always found Die Meistersinger to be a life-enhancing celebration of wisdom, art and song. So it proves in David McVicar's production – the first at Glyndebourne – which is updated to the early-19th century of Wagner's childhood. At the centre of a true ensemble cast is Gerald Finley, a 'gleamingly sung', 'eminently believable' Sachs (The Independent on Sunday), supported by the dynamic conducting of Vladimir Jurowski which, like McVicar's production, uses Glyndebourne's special intimacy to bring sharp focus to bear on the subtlety of Wagner's musical and dramatic counterpoint.
Puccini’s musical vision of the American West is vividly brought to life in Giancarlo Del Monaco’s atmospheric production. Deborah Voigt is Minnie, the girl of the title and owner of a bar in a Californian mining camp. Marcello Giordani sings Dick Johnson, the bandit-turned-lover hunted by the cynical sheriff Jack Rance (Lucio Gallo), who wants Minnie for himself. Complete with whiskey-drinking cowboys, gunplay, a poker game, and a snowstorm, La Fanciulla del West is Puccini at his most colorful.
In spring 2011, the first-ever performances at New York's Metropolitan Opera of Rossini's Le Comte Ory brought standing ovations and critical-acclaim. The spectacular trio of Juan Diego Florez, Diana Damrau and Joyce DiDonato ignited vocal and theatrical fireworks. Le Comte Ory tells the story of a libidinous and cunning nobleman who disguises himself first as a hermit and then as a nun ("Sister Colette") in order to gain access to the virtuous Countess Adele, whose brother is away at the Crusades. The 2011 Met production was directed by the Tony Award-winning Broadway director Bartlett Sher, who in recent years has also staged Il barbiere di Siviglia and Les Contes d'Hoffman for the Met. Sher presented the action as an opera within an opera, updated the action by a few centuries and giving the costume designer, Catherine Zuber, the opportunity to create some particularly extravagant headgear. Juan Diego Florez starred as the title role while Diana Damrau plays his love interest, Countess Adele, and Joyce DiDonato was in breeches as his pageboy Isolier. The trio had appeared in Sher's production of Rossini's Il barbiere di Siviglia.
In Vincenzo Bellini’s last opera, Elvira’s love for Arturo overcomes the power games in Puritan England, staged with darkly dramatic flair by Francisco Negrin as a world of blind dogma. Mariola Cantarero is compelling as the heroine on the verge of insanity in one of the greatest mad scenes in the history of opera. One of the leading lyric tenors today, John Osborn sings Arturo with fearless commitment and some spectacular top notes. In the pit is the bel canto specialist Giuliano Carella.
With its majestic themes soaring upwards like gothic pillars and its brilliant chorales and fanfares glowing like stained – glass windows, Anton Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8 is the most monumental of his orchestral works, a cathedral in sound that grows out of pianissimo murmurs. Coming after the triumphs celebrated by the composer’s Seventh Symphony and Te Deum, the Eight was considered by Bruckner as the artistic climax of his career. Cleveland‘s Severance Hall is the venue for this performance. This hall, an eclectic yet elegant mix of Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Classicism, Egyptian Revival and Modernism was inaugurated in 1931 and is still hailed today as one of the world‘s most beautiful concert halls. The Cleveland Orchestra, founded in 1918, began its ascent to the upper ranks of the world‘s ensembles after it moved to Severance Hall in 1931.
For over 20 years, the world-renowned Berliner Philharmoniker have celebrated their founding on May 1 with the annual Europa Konzert. The 2006 event was an all-Mozart program featuring Daniel Barenboim in his familiar dual role as both soloist and conductor. Sparkling high definition Blu-Ray brings the gorgeous Theatre of the Estates in Prague to life, highlighting this historic venue in its timely finery - attired to evoke the 1787 premiere of Don Giovanni, conducted by Mozart himself. A bonus Cultural Portait of Prague video makes this even more valuable to the curious viewer.