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Opera Stars Live In Barcelona
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)

Linda di Chamounix (1842) – O luce di quest’animaa. L’elisir d’amore (1832) – Una furtiva lagrimab.
Ruggiero LEONCAVALLO (1857-1919)


Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)

Macbeth (1847) – Pietà, rispetto, amored. Don Carlo (1867) – O don fatalee. Rigoletto (1851) – La donna è mobilec. La traviata (1853) – Libiamo ne’lieti calici (Brindisi).
Francesco Paoli TOSTI (1846-1916)

L’alba separa dalla luce l’ombrac.

Salvatore CARDILLO (1874-1947)

Core ‘ngratoc (1911).
Rodolfo FALVO

Dicitencello vuiec.

Franz LEHÁR (1870-1948)

Die lustige Witwe (1905) – Vilja-Liede.

Gioacchino ROSSINI (1792-1868)

La danzab.

aMelanie Holliday, eRenata Scotto (sopranos); eGail Gilmore (mezzo); cAlfredo Kraus, bRamón Vargas (tenors); dPaolo Coni (baritone)
Slovak Philharmonic Orchestra/Konrad Leitner.
Dolby Digital. Stereo. 4:3. NTSC, All regions. Live concert from Barcelona.


A curious affair, this. Picture quality is fairly poor (the NTSC format?), on the verge of being blurred. Playing time is under an hour (although it seems more). Neither Alfredo Kraus (who, with the lion’s share of the solo items, is the ‘star’ of the evening) nor a rather diva-ish Renata Scotto are in the first flush of youth ... and it does show. The Slovak Philharmonic is the dutiful accompanist, and that is what it sounds like, accompaniments routinely drilled out under Konrad Leitner (a name almost new to me – he’s appeared on Naxos, again as operatic accompanist). The audience is appreciative, though, which does help to lend the whole a sense of occasion.

The first item comes from Linda di Chamounix – by Donizetti, not Verdi as the back cover of the DVD claims. An interesting choice. The recorded sound is on the recessed side though, and too much facial close-up is off-putting. But Melanie Holliday can do the various manouevres well (nice even scales up into the higher reaches), even if she does shriek out the top note of the cadenza.

Alfredo Kraus makes a grand entrance – in slow-motion!. He proves, in Leoncavallo’s Mattinata, that he still has a hefty upper register (he was born in 1927); his next ‘number’, by Tosti (L’alba separa dalla luce l’ombra) is clearly a labour of love, and it is obvious he simply adores the words. He seems to know this is appropriate repertoire for him now, as he sticks mainly to songs and, indeed, he cuts a suave Core ’ngrato (finishing on a powerful high note). His ‘La donna è mobile’ proves he can float notes as well as the next man; the hyper-Romantic Falvo brings the likes of Tito Schipa to mind (and, by the way, its Lehár-like tendencies form the perfect preamble to Renata Scotto’s Merry Widow excerpt). Scotto’s Lehár is, alas, hopelessly affected in gesture when the orchestra has the tune, one time video is definitely not an advantage (and her eyes are glued to the music when she sings!). A definite miscalculation that culminates in a totally inappropriate and crass crescendo on the final note.

The excerpt from Verdi’s Macbeth is taken by the baritone Paolo Coni, whose discography includes Rodrigo on the Muti/La Scala Don Carlo. Coni displays a firm sense of line and his cadenza is impressive. A highlight.

Ramón Vargas is no small name, and his good reputation is confirmed here. ‘Una furtiva lagrima’ (‘lacrima’ on the back cover) is one of the best-loved of all operatic tenor excerpts, and Vargas does not disappoint. His pitching and legato are both superb servants to his touching espressivo. His other solo, Rossini’s La danza, is a catchy, contrasting tarantella napolitana that he despatches with real aplomb.

Gail Gilmore is a real performer. To watch her eyes in ‘O don fatale’ is worth the price of the DVD alone. Her low register is strong, her high notes firm, the enthusiastic ovation thoroughly deserved. Her name is new to me and I shall be watching out for her again.

As is the case with such occasions, an ensemble finale provides the ‘climax’, here the Brindisi from Traviata. Everybody enters into the spirit of the thing (the audience even claps along) and it probably worked wonderfully if you were there at the time. The audience shot to its feet at the end.

A very, very mixed bag, then. Neither is it clear exactly who this is aimed at, given the mix of young(er) and old singers. Interesting as a curiosity but really, I would suggest, only for fervent Kraus-fans.

Colin Clarke

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