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The Odeonsplatz Concert 2013
Rolando Villazón (tenor); Thomas Hampson (baritone)
Bavarian Radio Symphony Chorus
Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra/Yannick Nézet-Séguin
rec. live, Odeonsplatz, Munich, 2013
Picture format: High Definition, NTSC 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo/DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish, Korean, Chinese, Japanese
Booklet notes: English, German, French
Contents-List at end of review
C MAJOR DVD 716708 [111:00]

Highlighted as a bicentenary celebration of the birth of both Verdi and Wagner I found myself writing this on the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War. After the performance I thought of the words of politicians. Those of 1914 about the lights going out over Europe; not just for a few years as it turned out as a Second World War was followed by a Cold War. Those lights were dimmed for a long time and perhaps were only relit after the unification of Germany in 1989. That relighting is particularly germane to the venue and presentation of this concert in Munich. First staged in 2000 as a Millennium Concert in celebration of Franco-German reconciliation it has, since 2002, become an annual outdoor extravaganza. The architecture, the natural lighting as well as the illuminations as twilight falls combine to give an added enjoyment to the occasion. It tempted me, when faced with a lack of Roman arena, to adapt the trio of words of a more recent politician to "Location, location, location". The square of the Odeonsplatz and its grand surrounding architecture is a quite magnificent venue which seats nearly eight thousand for this event.

After a quiet opening to the overture from Verdi’s I vespri siciliani, Canadian conductor Yannick Nézet-Séguin let the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra off the leash. This was a vibrant introduction to the concert whilst the cameras showed the local architecture, rooftops and statues (CH.1). The orchestra was then joined by the sonorous and vocally disciplined Bavarian Radio Chorus in the Auto da fé scene from Don Carlos with the camera focusing on the adjacent church. In view of the raison d’être of the occasion, French composers followed, introducing both soloists. In the first, Thomas Hampson, tall and elegant as ever in open-necked shirt, sang with immaculate line and diction in Ce breuvage pourrait me donner from Massenet’s Hérodiade. Rolando Villazon shared Hampson’s elegant vocal characteristics in Ah! tout est bien fini...O Souverain, ô juge, ô père from Le Cid. His voice is now darker than a decade ago, but holds an even vocal line when singing full-out (CHs.3 and 4).

After the sterling vocal efforts of the soloists, the languor of Ravel’s La valse seemed rather drawn out (CH.5). The opening Wagner item of guests entering the Wartburg was some compensation, orchestra and chorus giving an excellent rendition. Fate and superb singing, in German, from Hampson combined to add poignancy to the words as twilight and darkness fell (CHs. 6-7).

In the second half of the concert, sunset having come and gone, Villazon’s introductory singing of the little known arrangement of L’esule included some elegant mezza voce (CH.9) before the Anvil Chorus from Il Trovatore was given in vibrant, committed and well articulated manner (CH.10). What was surely the highlight of the concert followed, the long duet between Rodrigo and Don Carlos, E lui Desso l’infante … Dio, che nell' alma infondere (CH.11). By then, as a listener, I had become more used to the somewhat different acoustic of the solo voices, inevitably miked, as the thrilling singing, orchestral playing and Verdi’s music really got to me (CH.11). Then flowers were distributed and bows taken. Short measure? No, merely a false alarm as three encores followed concluding with a sonorous singing of what should surely be the basis of the Italian national anthem (CH.15). This was preceded by Hampson, as Said, in an extract from Il corsaro, reflects on his love for Gulnara whilst he holds the corsair prisoner. His vocal elegance, diction and concluding high note to the cabaletta mark out his status as one of the great Verdi lyric baritones of our day. Regrettably this fact is ignored by his own country’s major theatre in its preference for east Europeans and Russians who mangle the prosody of the great Italian composer’s words (CH.13). Between these last two items Villazon rather throws his voice at Ciel, che feci! from Verdi’s first completed opera Oberto Conte di San Bonifacio (CH. 14). He holds the final note somewhat beyond Verdi’s intentions, but the audience are enraptured and love it.

This performance is also available on Blu-Ray in 1080i definition. I have to say that the upscaling via my Panasonic player gives an excellent picture on its matching TV with the sound into my reference speakers also being of good standard allowing for the location.
Robert J Farr

Contents List

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901)
Les vêpres siciliennes - Overture [9.45]
Don Carlos - Auto da fé [8.17]; Dio, che nell' alma infondere [10.50]
Il trovatore - Vedi, le fosche notturne (Anvil Chorus) [3.24)
Il corsaro - Alfin questo corsaro … Cento leddiadre vergini [7.14]
Oberto, conte di San Bonifacio - Ciel, che feci!, [5.03]
Nabucco - Vá pensiero, (Chorus of the Hebrew Slaves) [5.24]; L’esule (arr. L. Berio)
Jules MASSENET (1842-1912)
Hérodiade - Ce breuvage pourrait … Vision fugitive [4.58]
Le Cid - Ah! tout est bien fini … Ô souverain, ô juge, ô pere [5.33]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
La valse (version for orchestra) [13.34]
Richard WAGNER *1813-1883)
Lohengrin - Preludes to Acts 1 [10.01] and 3 [3.30]
Tannhäuser - O du mein holder Abendstern (Entry of the Guests on the Wartburg) [6.28]