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James Levine's viennese recording of Smetana's famed masterpiece is one of the best performances of the work around today. With clear, full-bodied digital recording and ripe, rich and opulent playing from the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra, it presents a performance that is as comporable to Kubelik as any other. Despite Levine's roots in the theatre (Metropolitan Opera), he manages to grasp a clear sense of drama in the work, and while some might argue that he is mainly concerned with orchestral effect for its own sake, he certainly does not do this but presents every minute detail in this musical kaliedascopic picture.
The Met's first production in more than 60 years is "treated with a keen appreciation for the special requirements of verismo and a practically vanished performing tradition. Scotto has found her ideal role…a great performance… Domingo sang glamorously… Levine's affectionate concern for the music told in every measure… The massive sets by Ezio Frigerio serve the work exquisitely … Piero Faggioni’s graceful direction strikes a perfect balance” (New York Magazine)
In many ways this is a special recording. It features first-desks from the Chicago Sym. playing two of Bach's Brandenburg Concertos, and so far beyond the average Baroque ensemble are they that one yearns for the other four. Just to hear the amazing trumpet solos in Concerto no. 2 by the legendary Adolph Herseth repays the cost of the CD. But we also get James Levine doing double duty at the harpsichord in Concerto no. 5. One deficit from the rise of period performance is that non-specialists have been driven out. The days when an all-around musician like Levine or Leonard Bernstein performed Bach and Handel are more or less over, and their replacements, to be tactful, are not on such an exalted level of talent…. By Santa Fe Listener
Leading the enormous forces to bring Puccini's huge vision to life in this now-legendary performance, James Levine presides over an evening of three one-act operas that cover the full spectrum of human experience. The great singing actress Renata Scotto is featured in all three operas, perhaps most memorably in her searing portrayal of Suor Angelica - a nu whose extreme atonement for he sin ultimately wins her redemption.
James Levine's is a more recent entry in the realm of Dutchman recordings, and sonically the recording is absolutely stunning, with great attention having been paid to the recording process. The casting for this Metropolitan Opera effort is also uniformly first rate, even in the less grateful roles of the hapless Erik, sung by the impressive Ben Heppner, and the scolding nurse, Mary, sung by Birgitta Svendén. Morris's brooding Dutchman is hard to match on any other available recording, and Deborah Voigt is a ravishing Senta. The chorus work is quite good, though not quite as rich as that heard in the Solti/Chicago recording. Overall, Levine does a workmanlike job of conducting these impressive forces, though there are passages in which his tempi seem to drag. This recording is a must for anyone who needs a completely up to date version of Wagner's first major opera.
Decca is proud to present this unique recording of Rigoletto. The only Rigoletto stage production on film featuring Luciano Pavarotti, this performance of one of Verdi's best-loved operas was discovered in the Metropolitan Opera Archives and is available here for the first time. Recorded in 1981, it presents Pavarotti at the peak of his career, supported by an outstanding cast that includes Louis Quilico in the title role, Christine Eda-Pierre as Gilda, Ara Berberian as Sparafucile, and Isola Jones as Maddalena, with Met Music Director James Levine on the podium.
The 1990 Metropolitan Opera performance of Die Walkure ("The Valkyrie") with James Levine conducting is a solid, four-square performance with few frills and no gimmicks, just extraordinarily fine singing and orchestral playing. There is no point in this where you find yourself asking why the director did something: this is the sort of production which could be criticised as unimaginative but defended as serving Wagner's intentions for this instalment of his Ring cycle. Levine and his orchestra give the music an emotional intensity that never overwhelms its grandeur, though perhaps in Wotan's farewell to Brunnhilde, we feel him more as father than as god.
The Darren Smith Band's "Keep the Spirit Alive" is meant to do just as the title says, keep the rock n' roll spirit alive and kicking. The album is stuffed to the brim with songs that focus themselves on the lighter side of life, good times, love trysts and good ol rock n roll. There's also a bitter little piece in here too but it doesn't darken the overall brighter picture. With Harem Scarem's ex-drummer turned frontman and band leader, ,he puts on a surprising show of song penning competency and a grittier take on the Harry Hess vocal sound. Maybe a little Paul Stanley flavor is thrown in here and there. His vocal prowess should not come as a shock, afterall he crooned the lead vocals on "Sentimental BLVD" on Harem Scarem's "Mood Swings" album, which was superb.