New Year’s Concert 2012 - La Fenice, Venice
Jessica Pratt (soprano); Walter Fraccaro (tenor); Alex Esposito (Bass)
Orchestra And Chorus of The Gran Teatro La Fenice, Venice/Diego Matheuz
rec. La Fenice, Venice, 2012
PCM Stereo, dts-HD Master Audio 5.1
Picture Format: 16:9, 1080i High Definition. All regions
Menu language: English only
Contents list at end of review
ARTHAUS MUSIK BLU-RAY 108 056 [108:00 + 27:00 (bonus)]
They do say that to copy is the ultimate form of flattery. If that is so and La Fenice is seeking to emulate Vienna with its immaculately choreographed New Year Concert then they have set the bar very high and on this evidence have a long way to go. Vienna starts with the advantage of being able to choose a world famous conductor at the height of his powers and fame. The introductory essay is titled A Breath of Fresh Air from Venezuela. Having paid dues to the influence of Italy in opera and to the wonderful La Fenice theatre, burnt down in 1836 and 1996, the DVD focuses on the young conductor of this concert. It tries to hype it up on the back of the current euphoria surrounding Gustavo Dudamel and all things musical in Venezuela.
The essay claims that it is the tradition to include a major orchestral work in the first half of the New Year concert. Fair enough, but why choose a Russian one and a piece with a not very joyous spirit, one that the composer himself dismissed as mediocre (CHs.1-5)? Appointed Chief conductor in 2011 Diego Matheuz is not in the same league as his compatriot. Looking for a young aspiring conductor of Tchaikovsky symphonies my mind went back to Mariss Jansons; there is a man who can make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear; a skill not yet available to Diego Matheuz.
The Vienna concerts have the great advantage of the tradition of the waltz. Fine, but Italy has the even greater tradition of opera composition. Given that this theatre has a nearly unrivalled tradition of premieres by the great opera composers that provides a reasonable focus for the second half of the concert. The Fenice choir open with a vibrant Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore (CH.7) but give a rather cool rendition of the ever-famous Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves (CH.15). In between there are arias sung by three soloists, these of very variable quality. The best comes from Alex Esposito who makes much of Leporello’s Catalogue Aria (CH.11) relishing the phrases in his face, and eyes in particular, as well as in his voice. Neither phrasing or voice are the strong suites of the tenor and I will draw a veil over his lack of any vocal elegance. As to the soprano, Jessica Pratt, I heard her in Rossini’s Armida in its British premiere at Garsington a couple of years back and was impressed by the range and purity of her coloratura. Her rendition of the well known coloratura party piece O luce di quest'anima from Donizetti’s Linda di Chamonix is well done (CH.13). Less satisfactory is her lack of vocal colour in Ah! Non creda mirarti from the closing scene of Bellini’s La Sonnambula as Amina regrets that her posy of flowers is to die so soon. Ms Pratt tries hard to put some drama and pain into the aria and loses ideal focus and steadiness (CH.9).
The Valzer del commiato from one of Rota’s ten operas. II gattopardo, is conveyed with some elegance by the dancers (CH.10). I would have liked to see more of Ponchielli’s Dance of the Hours rather than just a brief extract (CH.14). The views of the restored Fenice (CH.1) are a delight to the eye. As to the well-coutured audience, they seemed happy enough. I merely hope they could afford such poor value without too much pain but I suppose the event and being seen is all.
Robert J Farr
If you want a New Year Concert go for Vienna and far better quality than offered here.
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Symphony No. 5 in E minor op. 64 [49.13]
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Un giorno di regno
Vedi! Le fosche notturne spoglie (Chorus) [3:14]
Va' pensiero sull'ali dorate (Chorus)
Libiam ne lieti calici
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924)
E lucevan le stelle (Walter Fraccaro) [3:33]
Vincenzo BELLINI (1801-1835)
Ah! Non credea mirarti (Jessica Pratt) [5:34]
Nino ROTA (1911-1979)
Valzer del commiato (dancers) [4:51]
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Don Giovanni Madamina, il catalogo e questo (Alex Esposito) [6:48]
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)
Viva il Vino Spumeggian (Walter Fraccaro) [3:21]
Gaetano DONIZETTI (1797-1848)
Linda di Chamounix,
O luce di quest'anima (Jessica Pratt) [3:36]
Amilcare PONCHIELLI (1834-1886)
Can-can dalla Danza delle ore (dancers) [2:23]