Here's a splendid idea for a Christmas present. A compilation of operatic favourites, many familiar as source music for countless movies but spiced enough with less familiar fare to captivate the interest of even the most jaded opera buff.
The list above is self-commending, customers will be drawn by its content. It is assumed that all these selections have been drawn from the ever-expanding NVC Arts video opera catalogue.
The Puccini excerpts have been artfully selected. They begin with a winsome performance of the ever-popular big Act 1 romantic duet from Madama Butterfly with Kabaivanska and Antinori looking somewhat lost in the large Arena di Verona. It is pleasing that no less than five excerpts have been included from the sumptuous Covent Garden production of Manon Lescaut. The ardent but vacillating Placido Domingo is putty in Kiri Te Kanawa's hands in the Act 2 duet under Sinopoli's intensely romantic direction.
Te Kanawa features strongly in this compilation: tragically affecting in her Otello (Verdi) 'Willow Song' and, as Rosalinde, cheerily dismissive of her philandering husband, Eisenstein, in the Act I trio from Die Fledermaus with a cockily debonair Hermann Prey and a very cheeky Adèle as portrayed by Hildegard Heichele.
Domingo also features in a number of excerpts including three lusty numbers from Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffmann with Domingo in the title role first seen drunkedly singing the ballad about a grotesque dwarf but then drifting off into a reverie about a beautiful woman before returning to the song about the dwarf. He is gallant in Verdi's Ernani, soulful in his duet 'Ah, morir potessi adesso with Mirella Freni.
Returning to Puccini, Domingo is remorseful and self-sacrificing in Dick Johnson's big aria 'Ch'ella micreda'from La Fanciulla del West and winsome in his pursuit of Minnie (Carol Neblett) in their duet 'Non potro mai capire'. The Il Tabarro excerpt, from Puccini's Il Trittico, is most welcome, Sass and Martinucci splendidly expressive as the murderous, adulterous pair. La Bohème eschews the popular Act 1 duet in favour of the subtler but more affecting romantic exchange of Act 3 where Mimi gently tries to withdraw from her romance with Rodolfo and her Act 4 death scene. Ileana Cotrubas as Mimi is most affecting.
A popular compilation of 1980s opera productions with many excerpts familiar as movie source music but enough less familiar selections to interest the cognoscenti. The Covent Garden sets are lavish. An ideal Christmas present.