The Opera Gala

 

The Opera Gala recital concert. Anna Netrebko (soprano), Elīna Garanča (mezzo-soprano), Ramón Vargas (tenor), and Lodovic Tézier (baritone) sing opera favorites for the 2007 Gala Concert at the Baden-Baden Festival. Here's the program:

  1. Bellini  "Sinfonia" from Norma
  2. Bellini  "Mira, o Norma" from Norma
  3. Donizetti "Una furtiva lagrima" from L'elisir d'amore
  4. Bellini "Or dove fuggo io mai?--Ah! per sempre io ti perdei--Bel sogno beato" from I Puritani
  5. Bellini "Casta Diva--Ah, bello a me ritorna" from Norma
  6. Rossini "Nacqui all'affanno e al pianto" from La Cenerentola
  7. Verdi "È lui!...Desso!...L'Infante! from Don Carlo
  8. Saint-Saëns "Bacchanale"  from Samson et Dalila
  9. Delibes "Viens, Mallika--Dôme epais, le jasmin" from Lakmé
  10. Bizet "Au fond du temple saint" from Les Pêcheurs de perles
  11. Saint-Saëns "Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix" from Samson et Dalila
  12. Verdi "Oh! fede nocgar potessi-Quanda le sere al placido" from Luisa Miller
  13. Verdi "Felice ancor io son" (Morte di Rodrigo) from Don Carlo
  14. Puccini "O soave fanciulla"  from La Bohème
  15. Verdi "Un di, se ben rammentomi" from Rigoletto
  16. Lehár "Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiß" from Giuditta
  17. Rossini "La danza"
  18. Ruperto Chapí "Al pensar en el dueño de mis amores" from Las hijas del Zebedeo
  19. Bizet "Toreador Song" from Carmen
  20. Verdi "Brindisi" or "The Toast" from La Traviata

Marco Armiliato conducts the SWR (Südwestrundfunk) Sinfonieorchester of Baden-Baden und Freiburg. Released 2008, disc has 5.1 PCM and 5.1 dts-HD sound. Grade: A-

Beautiful young singers! It's great to hear the 4 different voices instead of 3 tenors. Intelligent program gets slightly off the beaten path and gives us 20 numbers from 10 composers in 8 voice combinations. Everything sounds and looks so pretty in the elegant Baden-Baden palace! It's the perfect show for anyone who wants an introduction to the art of opera singing.

This was filmed and released early in the days of classical-music HDVDs. I was bowled over and gave it an "A+" grade. Later I learned more about how a symphony orchestra should be recorded for HDVD presentation. Of course, in a concert featuring opera singers, the role of the orchestra is sharply diminished. But this title does have two numbers just for the orchestra, so this part of the video has to be considered. Unfortunately, the video of the SWR Sinfonieorchestra is not very good, as will be demonstrated with some screen shots. Also, this record was probably made with 48kHz16bit technology, and we now believe that symphony concerts should be recorded with 96kHz24bit specs to get the highest grade. So  I have now reduced the grade to "A-." Now for some screenshots.

The shot below is not the kind of "whole-orchestra" shot that one wants to see in a good video of a symphony. This is an architectural shot showing the concert hall. The orchestra only occupies maybe 10% of the screen space. (A whole-orchestra shot show all the musicians in a view that where the musicians on the extreme left and right are right next to the left and right margins of the picture frame. The orchestra should take up 75% or so of the screen space.) In the Opera Gala title we see the shot below many times when once or twice in enough:

This Opera Gala does not have a single whole-orchestra shot. The three shots below are pretty good, but we see shots like this only a few times and then only briefly:

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Most of the video of the orchestra suffers from the dread disease DVDitis. Shots of the conductor made over the backs of the musicians is an easy-to-diagnose symptom of DVDitis:

Another symptom of DVDitis is a large numbers of lazy instrument-only shots. This title has far too many instrument-only views such as the clarinet below. (The fact that the instrument shown is taking the lead in the melody normally does not justify the shot; we want to see the instrument together with the musician playing it:

Why do I want to see the concert-master's knees? There was a robot camera running all along the front of the stage making pictures like this. This gives us relatively little information, and it must have been exasperating for the folks on the front row who paid big money to see the show:

Now finally to the singers! Could there be a gala without "Mira, o Norma"? Elīna Garanča is on the left; Anna Netrebko is on the right:

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Ramón Vargas in "Una furtiva lagrima":

Lodovic Tézier sings "Or dove fuggo io mai?--Ah! per sempre io ti perdei--Bel sogno beato":

Netrebko solo in "Casta Diva--Ah, bello a me ritorna":

Garanča solos in "Nacqui all'affanno e al pianto":

Now we see a duet from Don Carlo with Tézier and Vargas:

The next three shots show what has always been the high point of this show for me---Garanča in "Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix" from Samson et Dalila. Since seeing this in my home theater, I've thought of it as my reference for what a love song can be.  Several years later, my brother send me an email about an aria he heard on the radio (I think) that floored him: "Mon cœur s'ouvre à ta voix." He urged me to check it out. Can the inclination to like a song be inherited like the color of your eyes?

I guess every gala has to have Rudolf and Mimi from La Bohème falling in love in the cold garret:

And here's the famous quartet at the end of Rigoletto:

Netrebko goes crazy in her encore, the Lehár "Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiß." She starts off pelting the richest patrons with roses:

Then she puts on a dance act:

This is the girl who likes to sings upside down:

But this time she tries to kidnap the concert master:

Does she get away with it? Sure:

The famous drinking song from La Traviata:

This Opera Gala came out almost 5 years ago. It's still the best opera music title ever published for easy listening and entertaining your relatives and friends on holidays.