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Glorious Glyndebourne - Opera highlights
see end of review for contents
Links to reviews of full productions in text
Interval feature: See Opera Differently [6:00]
English, French, German subtitles
Sound format: 2.0 LPCM + 5.1 (5.0) DTS
OPUS ARTE OABD7138D Blu-ray [152:00]

This generous Blu-Ray disc gives us the opportunity to sample twelve productions from that unique operatic institution, Glyndebourne. It’s issued to mark the end of Vladimir Jurowski’s thirteen-year tenure as Musical Director - Robin Ticciati takes over in 2014 – though Jurowski was in the pit for only half of these selected productions. Many of these filmed performances have already been reviewed in full, either as DVDs or as Blu-Rays, by some of my MusicWeb International colleagues.
 
As is often the case, there’s a ‘bonus’ feature. However, in this instance the feature, ‘See Opera Differently’ is integrated into the programme. Mimicking the celebrated, leisurely timetable at Glyndebourne we are offered the first six extracts as ‘Act One’ after which the feature is inserted as the ‘Dinner Interval’ with the remainder following as ‘Act Two’. One can always select individual excerpts to view. The bonus feature gives viewers an extremely brief look behind the scenes at Glyndebourne, courtesy of snippet comments by people connected with the place - oddly, Vladimir Jurowski is not included.
 
Right, let’s settle into our seats: we’ve got good ones, right in the front stalls. It’s ‘Overture and beginners’. Curtain up - and what else could it be since this is Glyndebourne? We see the Overture and opening scene of Le nozze di Figaro, the first opera to be performed there. For this new production the action has been updated to 1930s Spain and as the overture - here vivacious under Robin Ticciati - draws to a close we see the Almavivas arriving at their country seat in a red open-top sports car. The stage business that goes on during the overture, the servants readying the house for the Almavivas’ arrival under Figaro’s direction - will prove to be typical of the lively way in which such scenes are usually directed, with close attention to detail, in several of the productions that we glimpse on this disc. Lydia Teuscher is a pert Susanna and Vito Priante a virile Figaro. Susanna is already wise to the Count’s intentions and once she’s put her husband-to-be in the picture you sense that Figaro will be more than a match for the Count. This well-sung and well-directed extract is a delight.
 
Janáček’s animal fable/allegory, The Cunning Little Vixen, is enchanting here. Lucy Crowe and Emma Bell sing and act very well, as do members of the supporting cast. However, what grabs the attention just as much is the highly imaginative set and the marvellously atmospheric way in which it is lit. 

We have already published a full review of Gianni Schicci by Ian Lace. The extract here gives us the lead-up to the opera’s ‘hit’ aria, ‘O mio babbino caro’. Sally Matthews, a determined Lauretta, sings that aria very persuasively.
 
The production of Cosi fan tutte looks familiar: perhaps I’ve seen it on TV? The two pairs of young lovers - very glamorous here - are convincing. In this extract we get too little opportunity to savour the suave cynicism of Nicolas Riveno as Don Alfonso - but you see enough to know that’s what he’s like. What we do get, however, is a gorgeously spun quartet of farewell, ‘Di scrivermi ogni giorno’ and then a creamy account of the great trio, ‘Soave sia il vento’, surely one of Mozart’s happiest inspirations. See review by Tony Hayward.
 
The 2010 production of Billy Budd has been widely praised, not least by Simon Thompson (review). Here, in the scene which includes the fateful confrontation between Billy and Claggart, we get a taste of John Mark Ainsley’s fine portrayal of Captain Vere and the domineering Claggart of Phillip Ens. As Billy, Jacques Imbrailo is wholly convincing in his innocent eagerness. The moment when he struggles against his speech impediment, attempting to deny Claggart’s charge, shows that he can act just as well as he sings. My only regret is that since this scene takes place in Vere’s cabin we don’t get to see the imposing set of the innards of the ship itself.
 
Act I of this programme closes with the scene from Falstaff in which the Fat Knight attempts to seduce Alice and gets his comeuppance in the laundry basket. I’ve only seen an extract whereas my colleague, Margarida Mota-Bull was able to view the whole production (review). However, I liked what I saw rather less than she did. It seems to me that when Ford and his colleagues crowd on stage in their pursuit of the lover that Ford suspect his wife is hiding there’s far too much of the busy type of stage business that one might see in an over-directed amateur production of a farce - perhaps that’s entirely the point that Richard Jones was trying to make but it doesn’t work for me. Even allowing for the update to post-War Britain (why?), I don’t understand why Ford’s retinue of pursuers includes five young men dressed as though for an athletics meeting. Falstaff’s costume makes him look even more ridiculous than should be the case. This was the only instance on the programme where the extract didn’t make me eager to seek out the complete performance. 

Fortified by our dinner interval - or at least by the ‘See Opera Differently’ feature - we head straight off to Seville for Carmen. This extract, set in the tavern, is another example of an exceptionally well-directed and filmed crowd scene with copious attention to detail. Anne Sofie von Otter is a smoky-voiced, sexy Carmen and when Escamillo makes his grand entrance Laurent Naouri is the real deal. His swaggering portrayal dominates the action, as it should at this point. I must say, though, that it seems a little odd to have an extract from Carmen with no sign of Don José. See review by Tony Haywood.
 
Continuing the travelogue motif for a moment, we move from Seville to Egypt - not to ancient Egypt but to turn of the 20th century Egypt. Like Carmen, Handel’s Giulio Cesare was directed by David McVicar but this production seems more stylised - appropriately so. The extract we see is visually impressive but it’s the sumptuous singing of Sarah Connolly and Danielle de Niese that leaves the strongest impression. Their duetting ravishes the ear. See review by Kirk McElhearn.
 
The 2003 production of Tristan und Isolde, here glimpsed in the 2007 revival, was a landmark in that it was the first Wagner production in the house. The small size of the original theatre thwarted John Christie’s dream to present Wagner at Glyndebourne but this became possible when the new theatre was opened. Here we see the lovers in duet. Robert Gambill’s acting seems a bit wooden to me but the show is stolen by Nina Stemme who shows why she’s so highly regarded as a Wagner soprano. I’m not sure what to make of the blue vortex set against which the action takes place. See review by Göran Forsling.
 
The extract from The Rake’s Progress reunites us with two of the lovers from Cosi but in different guises. Miah Persson is a gorgeous Anne Trulove in every sense: she suggests brilliantly the vulnerability and apprehension of Anne, in London to find Tom. Topi Lehtipuu is good as Tom Rakewell and there’s a cameo appearance as Baba by Elena Manistina who is entertainingly funny and, at the end, sports a truly ghastly beard. See review by William Hedley.
 
Rossini’s operas have been a staple of the Glyndebourne repertory down the years and La Cenerentola offers a choice example here. In this scene, where Angelina is begging to go to the ball, Ruxandra Donose is an appealing Cenerentola, agile of voice. Luciano di Pasquale’s Don Magnifico is a seedy, duplicitous bully. The following ensemble, when Magnifico is asked about his three daughters, is razor-sharp. See review by Evan Dickerson.
 
So we come to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and the opera’s closing scene - what a fitting finale to such a collection. Here Marco Jentzsch, as Walther, sings the Prize Song, sounding somewhat effortful, I thought. There’s no trace of effort in Gerald Finley’s Hans Sachs, however. He may be physically young for the part by comparison with some illustrious predecessors but he seems completely convincing to me. Not only is he vocally splendid but his compelling portrayal is reflected in the intensity that you see in his eyes. Once again, the detail of characterisation that’s evident in the crowd is admirable. See review by Simon Thompson.
 
I enjoyed this selection very much. The musical standards are universally high, as are the stage and camera direction. Such a selection acts as a tempter and this one has certainly tempted me to investigate the complete films of several of the operas: both of the Mozart operas, Billy Budd, Carmen,La Cenerentola and Die Meistersinger.
 
So the Jurowski era has come to an end but Glyndebourne is ready for the Ticciati years and appears to be in fine fettle as an institution. If, like me, you’ve never been there this well- produced sampler should whet your appetite and if you can’t get there in person the house’s outreach programme of web streaming, cinema relays and releases on DVD and Blu-Ray ensures that as it begins to celebrate its 80th anniversary year its doors are open to the public as never before.  

John Quinn 

Full contents
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Le nozze di Figaro , K492
Overture
Act 1
Cinque…dieci..venti
Se a caso madama
Se vuol ballare
Figaro - Vito Priante
Susanna - Lydia Teuscher
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Robin Ticciati 
Director: Michael Grandage
rec. live, Glyndebourne Opera House, August 2012 
Leoš JANÁČEK (1854-1928) The Cunning Little Vixen
Act 2
The Vixen and the Fox declare their love and disappear to consummate their union
The pair decide to get married and the forest creatures celebrate their wedding
Vixen Sharp Ears - Lucy Crowe
Fox - Emma Bell
Owl - Jean Rigby
Jay - Eimear Collins
Woodpecker - Mae Heydorn
Glyndebourne Chorus
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski
Director: Melly Still
rec. live, Glyndebourne Opera House, June 2012
 
Giacomo PUCCINI (1858-1924) Gianni Schicchi - Opera in one act (1917/18)
Frenze é come un albero florito
O mio babbino caro
Rinuccio, Zita’s nephew - Massimo Giordano
Lauretta, Schicchi’s daughter - Sally Matthews
Gianni Schicchi - Alessandro Corbelli
Zita, Buosco’s cousin - Felicity Palmer
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski
rec. live, Glyndebourne Opera House, 11 July 2004
Director: Annabel Arden

Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791) Cosi fan Tutte - Dramma giocosa in two acts, libretto by Lorenzo da Ponte (1789)
Act 1
Bella vita militar!
Di scrivermi ogni giorno
Soave sia il vento
Fiordiligi - Miah Persson
Dorabella - Anke Vondung
Ferrando - Topi Lehtipuu
Guglielmo - Luca Pisaron
Don Alfonso - Nicolas Riveno
Glyndebourne Chorus
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/Ivan Fischer
Director: Nicholas Hytner

Benjamin BRITTEN (1913-1976) Billy Budd , Op. 50
Act 2
Claggart, John Claggart, beware!
Master-at-Arms and foretopman, I speak to you both
The mists have cleared
Captain Vere - John Mark Ainsley
Billy Budd - Jacques Imbrailo
Claggart - Phillip Ens
Mr Flint - Matthew Rose
Mr Redburn - Iain Paterson
Lieutenant Ratcliffe - Darren Jeffrey
The Glyndebourne Chorus
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Sir Mark Elder
Director: Michael Grandage
rec. live, Glyndebourne, June 2010

Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) Falstaff - a lyric comedy in three acts (1893)
Libretto by Arrigo Boito, after The Merry Wives of Windsor and Henry IV Parts 1 & 2 by William Shakespeare
Act 2
Alfin t’ho colto
Egli scavalca
C’e…Se t’agguanto!
Sir John Falstaff - Christopher Purves
Bardolph - Alasdair Elliott
Mrs Page (Meg) - Jennifer Holloway
Mrs Ford (Alice) - Dina Kuznetsova
Mistress Quickly - Marie-Nicole Lemieux
Nannetta - Adriana Kucerová
Fenton - Bülent Bezdüz
Ford - Tassis Christoyannis
The Glyndebourne Chorus/Richard Jones
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski
rec. live, Glyndebourne Opera House, Lewes, East Sussex, June 2009.
Producer: Richard Jones

Georges BIZET (1838-1875) Carmen, Opera in Four Acts (1873-75)
Libretto by Meilhac and Halévy, after Mérimée
Act 2
Entr’acte
Les tringles des sistres tintaient
Vivat, vivat le Toréro!
Votre toast, je peux vous le rendre
Carmen - Anne Sofie von Otter
Escamillo- Laurent Naouri
Zuniga - Jonathan Best
Mercédès - Christine Rice
Frasquita - Mary Hegarty
Glyndebourne Festival Chorus
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Philippe Jordan
Director: David McVicar
rec. live, Glyndebourne Opera House, Sussex, England, 17 August 2002

Georg Friedrich HANDEL (1685-1759) Giulio Cesare (1724)
Act 2
Sinfonia
Bellissima Cleopatra!
Caro! - Bella!
Goda pur orl’Egitto
Ritorni omai nel nostro core …. Un bel content il sen giá se prepara
Cesare - Sarah Connolly
Cleopatra - Danielle de Niese
The Glyndebourne Chorus
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/William Christie
Director: David McVicar
rec. August, 2005, Glyndebourne Opera House

Richard WAGNER (1813-1883) Tristan und Isolde (1865)
Act 2
Doch unsre Liebe, heißt sdie nicht Tristan und Isolde?
So starben wir, um ungetrennt
Robert Gambill - Tristan
Nina Stemme - Isolde
The Glyndebourne Chorus
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Jiří Bĕlohlávek;
Director: Nikolaus Lehnhoff 
Igor STRAVINSKY (1882-1971) The Rake’s Progress (1951)
Act 2
How strange! Although the heart for love dares everything
Anne! Here!
Could it then have been known
I have not run away, dear heart
Anne Trulove - Miah Persson)
Tom Rakewell - Topi Lehtipuu
Baba the Turk - Elena Manistina
The Glyndebourne Chorus
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski
rec. live 18-19 December 2010, Glyndebourne Opera House 
Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868) La Cenerentola (1816-1817)
Act 1
Signor, una parola
Angelina (Cenerentola) - Ruxandra Donose
Don Magnifico - Luciano di Pasquale
Alidoro - Nathan Berg
Don Ramiro - Maxim Mironov
Dandini - Simone Alberghini
The Glyndebourne Chorus
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski
Stage Director: Sir Peter Hall

Richard WAGNER (1813-1883) Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Act 3
Morgenlich leuchtend im rosigen Schein
Verachtet ’mir die Meister nicht
Hans Sachs - Gerald Finley
Walther - Marco Jentzsch
Eva - Anna Gabler
Pogner - Alastair Miles
The Glyndebourne Chorus
London Philharmonic Orchestra/Vladimir Jurowski
Director: David McVicar
rec. live, Glyndebourne, June 2011 
 


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