How this opera grows in the affections. And how it strengthens the larger, ever-deepening appreciation not merely of Donizetti's work but of operatic conventions as such. I mean that the frequently derided forms of opera (the set pieces, aria-and-cabaletta and so forth) can increasingly be a source of pleasure and of perceived power in the writing. Here, for instance, part of the exhilaration arises out of the composer's skill in suiting the conventions to his dramatic and musical purposes. Elizabeth's first aria, meditatively hopeful yet anxious, fits the lyric-cantabile form; then the arrival of Talbot and Cecil with their opposing influences provokes the intensified turbulence of irresolution that makes dramatic sense out of the cabaletta. It is so with the duets and ensembles: they look like conventional set-pieces, but established form and specific material have been so well fitted that, with the musical inspiration working strongly (as it is here), you have opera not in its naive stage awaiting development towards freedom from form but, on the contrary, opera at the confident height of a period in its history when it was entirely true to itself.
“A moving performance, well cast and with sympaethetic conducting from Carlo Rizzi…Shicoff is in splendid voice, phrasing and shaping his big set-pieces sensitively, and Edita Gruberova makes a moving Violetta.” (Penguin Guide)
All of Richard Strauss' stage works inhabit a special world of their own and Arabella is certainly no exception. Set amid the flamboyant aristocracy of 19th-century Vienna, the story centres on Arabella whose family fortunes have come to depend on her managing a wealthy man.
Determined to marry for love rather than riches, she encounters a mysterious and foreign nobleman in the form of Mandryka and after several romps, the opera ends positively on a blissful note… Gerald Fenech
"This is rather old fashioned production but I liked it very much. Thomas Allen is an excellent Don, Zerlina is just charming, one of the sweetest I have ever seen. The staging of the final Commendatore scene was little strange and confusing, but his singing was great. Special praise must be reserved for Edita Gruberova as Donna Anna, her singing is just impeccable, and Non mir dir aria is the highlight of the evening. She gets the biggest ovation at the of the show. This DVD would be a great first Don Giovanni for any opera lover, with its traditional production and excellent singing."Zenka B
Filmed live at the Vienna State Opera in December 1983, Jean-Pierre Ponnelle’s elegant staging of Manon captures all the pathos of Massenet’s masterpiece. Adam Fischer leads an all-star cast featuring the incomparable Edita Gruberova in the title role and the brilliant Francisco Araiza as Le chevalier des Grieux. Massenet’s Manon was immensely successful from the outset, and it has remained a hit ever since its world premiere in Paris in 1884.
This production, by Andrei Serban with sets and costumes by Michael Yeargan, originally was conceived for the Welsh National Opera in a co-production with the Netherlands Opera, and it was premiered in Cardiff in 1982. It also appeared with great success at Covent Garden 10 years later. The present video is of a performance given at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in Barcelona, to which the production traveled in 2001 as part of the Bellini bicentennial celebration.
–Robert Levine, ClassicsToday.com
This new production of Bellini’s Norma by Jürgen Rose (sets, costumes, stage direction, and lighting) to honor Edita Gruberova’s first staged assumption of the title role was taped in January and February of 2006 in Munich. It does neither the opera nor the soprano any favors. In most ways, it’s a pretty gloomy affair.The sets are minimal angular wood constructions comprised of a step or two here and there and a not-very-high platform or two that the players can climb up and down. Everything is dark. The costumes are modern but only can be defined as such because they evoke no particular era; Norma’s rich blue outfit for the first scene, complete with scarf/hood that effectively covers everything but her apple-shaped face and hands, allows for little expressivity.
Sometimes when it comes to deciding how to stage an opera, whether in a traditional style or otherwise, it’s more than enough to just set the scene in as simple a fashion as possible and let the work speak for itself. This can be tricky in the case of a bel canto opera, particularly with Donizetti and certainly with his Tudor trilogy of operas (Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda and Roberto Devereux), where there is often not a great deal going on dramatically. Many directors will try to cover up the lack of dramatic action with elaborate sets and costumes, but not Christof Loy. Even though there isn’t indeed a great deal to the sets here in this 2005 production for the Bavarian State Opera in Munich and, yes, even though it is inevitably taken out of its original historical Tudor setting, Loy nonetheless clearly recognises where the real strengths of the work lie and gives them prominence through attention to character and the acting performances, particularly in how they are expressed through the singing.
Ariadne auf Naxos (Ariadne on Naxos) is an opera by Richard Strauss with a German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal.