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Highlights from Glyndebourne
Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792–1868)
Il barbiere di Siviglia: Largo al factotum; Una voce poco fa;
John Rawnsley (baritone) – Figaro; Maria Ewing (mezzo) – Rosina; London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sylvain Cambreling
Director: John Cox, rec. August 1981
Christoph Willibald GLUCK (1714–1787)
Orfeo ed Euridice: Che puro ciel!; Che faro senza Euridice
Janet Baker (mezzo) – Orfeo; London Philharmonic Orchestra/Raymond Leppard Director: Peter Hall; rec. August 1982
Georges BIZET (1838–1875)
Carmen: Habanera; La fleur que tu m’avais jetée;
Maria Ewing (mezzo) – Carmen; Barry McCauley (tenor) – Don José; London Philharmonic Orchestra/Bernard Haitink Director: Peter Hall, rec. August 1985
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756–1791)
Idomeneo: Andrò ramingo e solo;
Philip Langridge (tenor) – Idomeneo; Yvonne Kenny (soprano) – Ilia; Jerry Hadley (tenor) – Idamante; Carol Vaness (soprano) – Electra; London Philharmonic Orchestra/Bernard Haitink Director: Trevor Nunn rec. August 1983
Gioacchino ROSSINI
La Cenerentola: Del barone le figlie io chiedo; Signor … Altezza è in tavola;
Kathleen Kuhlmann (mezzo) – Cinderella; Laurence Dale (tenor) – Ramiro; Marta Taddei (soprano) – Clorinda; Laura Zannini (mezzo) – Tisbe; Claudio Desderi (bass) – Don Magnifico; Alberto Rinaldi (baritone) – Dandini; Roderick Kennedy (bass) – Alidoro; London Philharmonic Orchestra/ Donato Renzetti Director: John Cox; rec. August 1983
Claudio MONTEVERDI (1567–1643)
L’incoronazione di Poppea: The Coronation;
Maria Ewing (mezzo) – Poppea; Dennis Bailey (tenor) – Nero; London Philharmonic Orchestra/Raymond Leppard
Director: Peter Hall rec. August 1984
Picture format: NTSC 4:3; Linear-PCM stereo
WARNER MUSIC VISION 50-51011 6778-2-3 [59:00]

This is, as can be seen from the heading, a collection of snippets from performances at Glyndebourne during the early 1980s. As such it gives the viewer an opportunity to see and hear some good singers and actors from the period; some of them none too well represented in the commercial catalogue. There is also a certain frustration in this: as soon as one gets involved in a piece there is a quick fade-out and then over to the next number. This is what we have been living with for decades in the shape of operatic recitals on LP and CD. However, with the visual element so central, one would have liked longer scenes and since the running-time is not exactly over-generous, it could have been possible to make something more of it. What actually is on this DVD is mainly of high quality. We meet some splendid singing actors and we catch a few glimpses of the sets, none of them more beautiful than in Rosina’s cavatina from Il barbiere. The wide staircase in blue lighting that meets the eyes in the opening number, Figaro’s Largo al factotum, is also attractive. John Rawnsley is a charming Figaro who immediately creates contact with his audience and then never lets go. He is in glorious voice with impressive top notes but could possibly have found more nuances. Maria Ewing has more of that quality and makes a sparkling Rosina with her dark eyes especially telling.

There is little room for expressive acting in Orfeo’s two arias and Janet Baker can’t do much more than look as sad as possible but her voice is so much more telling. It isn’t as rock-bottom steady as it was a decade earlier but this is still great singing.
Maria Ewing returns as a seductive Carmen, singing as well as ever but it seems that Haitink’s glow is a bit faded. Carmen needs more fire than this. Barry McCauley looks over-aged as Don José and his singing is marred by a wobbly and unsteady delivery. He does what he can to obey the nuances in the score and he ends the Flower Song fairly pianissimo but this is not a version of the aria I would like to return to.
The quartet from Idomeneo finds Philips Langridge in dramatic voice. It is also good to see the young Jerry Hadley while the two ladies play more secondary roles and the whole number becomes quite long-winded. Much better then to move on to the two excerpts from La Cenerentola with Kathleen Kuhlmann, a good down-to-earth Cinderella and Laurence Dale an elegant Prince Ramiro. The final ensemble of  act 1 takes place in a labyrinth which during a typical Rossinian crescendo becomes filled with people – everything taken at a rollicking tempo.
The DVD could have finished here but we also get the real end of L’incoronazione di Poppea, where the singing of the chorus during the coronation is rather unpolished. The Nero-Poppea duet, in some sources attributed to Cavalli, is expressively sung by Maria Ewing, who tends to over-shadow Dennis Bailey’s fine, lyrical but too pale tenor.
This DVD functions well enough as an appetizer for the complete productions and there are enough good things to make it intrinsically attractive for those who don’t mind snippets. I have no complaints about the quality of the sound or the picture.
Göran Forsling



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