LA Opera's latest production of Verdi s Macbeth (2016) features Plácido Domingo in the title role and Russian mezzo-soprano Ekaterina Semenchuk as Lady Macbeth. The opera is staged by Darko Tresnjak, who won a Tony Award for his direction of the Broadway musical A Gentleman's Guide to Love & Murder.
Eve Queler has her shortcomings as a conductor. But a conductor's main task is to make a performance happen, to bring all the elements together, and Ms. Queler has been doing this with scrappy determination for 30 years in her role as music director of the Opera Orchestra of New York. Her invaluable mission has been to present concert performances of little-known or problematic operas with the best casts available.
Conductor and pianist James Levine is one of the powerhouse figures of the classical music scene today. As a child he undertook both piano and violin; he was so accomplished on the violin that at the age of ten he played Mendelssohn's second violin concerto at a Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra youth concert. He studied piano at various summer music festivals before enrolling at New York's Juilliard School, where he took conducting courses with Jean Morel and continued piano studies with Rosina Lhevinne.
Renée Fleming stars in the title role of this rarely heard diva showcase, in a production by Tony Award® winner Mary Zimmerman. Rossini's opera, set in the time of the Crusades, tells the story of a vengeful sorceress who enthralls men in her island prison. This DVD captures the production's Live in HD presentation, as seen in cinemas around the world.
The aria Ombra mai fu at the start of Act I of Handel's opera seria Serse (Xerxes) is likely to be its best-known asset. Serse was written in 1733-38, at the end of Handel's career as an opera composer: he concentrated on oratorio after 1741. It is a great achievement. Not least because it uses the music, and the marriage of words and music, to evoke in the audience pathos, sympathy, delight, and as much tempered ridicule as tempered tenderness.
In his latest Decca DVD release, bel canto star Juan Diego Flórez undertakes the role of Elvino in Bellini’s romantic drama, playing opposite the mercurial French soprano, Natalie Dessay, in the Met’s striking, modern-dress production from March 2009. Bellini’s romantic opera La Sonnambula (1831), hinges on the love and misunderstanding between Elvino and Amina (the ‘sleepwalker’ of the title). Discovered in the bedroom of Rodolfo, Amina is assumed to have been unfaithful, and Elvino cancels their wedding. But in the dramatic final scene, he witnesses Amina sleepwalking, understands her innocence, and all ends happily. Mary Zimmerman’s production plays with the dual realities of a rehearsal of the opera and a performance of the opera itself.
It would be hard to imagine a better performance of Donizetti's comic masterpiece. If there was one role that ideally suited Luciano Pavarotti's voice and stage personality, it was Nemorino, the impoverished and not-very-bright peasant who worships the village's prettiest and richest young woman from a distance, is swindled by a traveling vendor of "miracle" medicines, but wins her hand by dumb luck. The story has comedy, pathos, and a put-down of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde (or at least the Tristan story) written long before Wagner composed it.
"A Showcase for and a love letter to a century of amazing music" is how the creator of The Enchanted Island, Jeremy Sams, described this spectacular operatic pasticcio of music by Handel, Vivaldi, Rameau, Purcell and others. Premiered at the Metropolitan in New York on New Year's Eve 2011, it stars Joyce DiDonato, David Daniels, Danielle de Niese and Placido Domingo, and is conducted by William Christie.
“This is straight and unfussy in its staging, and the video production by Brian Large could not be more expert and unobtrusive (save for one or two close-ups of Jessye Norman's larynx). Tatiana Troyanos's Composer is quite superb, and neither Battle nor Norman can be faulted vocally” (Penguin Guide)