Set in Egypt, Massenet's drama 'Thais' (1894) traces the ill-fated attempt of the monk, Athanaël, to rescue the soul of the celebrated Alexandrian courtesan, Thaïs. Though she is presently living with his wealthy friend Nicias, Athanaël persuades her to renounce her way of life and riches, but as she dies in the desert in a state of grace, he realises he has succumbed to her worldly charms and begs God for mercy. Renée Fleming triumphs as the glamorous courtesan Thaïs in Massenet’s romantic tragedy set in fourth century Alexandria and the Egyptian desert. The timeless struggle between earthly desire and spiritual redemption finally destroys the resolve of the monk Athanaël (Thomas Hampson), just as the newly penitent Thaïs ascends heavenward. Jesús López-Cobos gives a masterly performance of Massenet’s sensuous score, with concert master David Chan contributing a ravishing ‘Méditation’.
The title role, in this excellent production, is sung by an Eva Mei in great vocal form, who gives an interpretation of extraordinary depth. Beside her, the famous bass-baritone Michele Pertusi, as Athanaël, shows once again his unquestionable style. On the podium is Marcello Viotti, music director of the Venetian theatre. The story of the conversion of the beautiful courtesan, and the clash between spirituality and sensuality have been portrayed brilliantly by Pier Luigi Pizzi, one of today’s most talented opera directors. The visual quality of this production is indeed one of its strong points, and the DVD recording will not fail to fascinate the viewer.
American soprano Renee Fleming's first-ever holiday album celebrates the beloved and iconic Christmas season in New York City. From the holiday windows lining 5th Avenue to the red and green-lit spire of the Empire State Building, the essence of the city at the most wonderful time of year is captured on Christmas in New York. Pop, Broadway and jazz greats Chris Botti, Kurt Elling, Wynton Marsalis, Brad Mehldau, Kelli O Hara, Gregory Porter and Rufus Wainwright join Renée as she lends her sublime voice to hits like Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, Silver Bells and other gems, including Central Park Serenade a brand new duet by songwriting legend Diane Warren.
"…Stefan Irmer has clearly studied and truly learned this music. So often on a disc of rarely performed music one gets the feeling that the pianist is sight-reading the notes in order to make a recording of previously unrecorded music. Not so here. Irmer performs with wonderful clarity, variety of tone, panache, and commitment. He truly sells the music.
Natural recorded sound, capturing very well the 1901 Steinway used for the recording, rounds out a delightful disc." ~Fanfare
This film of Kenneth MacMillan's hugely-popular ballet Manon is the perfect twin to his classic Romeo & Juliet, released on September 29th, 2009. Once again, the romantic male lead is taken by the charismatic Carlos Acosta, and once again his beautiful partner is Tamara Rojo. Prévost's famous tale is set to the sensual music of Massenet and the Royal Ballet's staging is played out against the sumptuous set and costume designs of Nicholas Georgiadis. Manon is the third DVD release from Decca's new exclusive artist, Carlo Acosta. The Cuban superstar builds on his stunning Spartacus and romantic Romeo & Juliet performances as the ardent young lover, Des Grieux, in MacMillan's classic version of the tragedy. This high-definition film of Manon is one of the most popular ballets in the Royal Ballet's repertory, having received over 200 performances since its premiere in 1974. The DVD also includes an extensive (40 min) and fascinating documentary film, `Dancing Manon', featuring interviews with Carlos Acosta, Tamara Rojo, Monica Mason (Director of the Royal Ballet) and Ross MacGibbon (TV Director).