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Donizetti;Gaetano Don Pasquale

Ferruccio Furlanetto , Nuccia Focile , Stefano Vizioli    Unrated   DVD

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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
26 of 28 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The Opera Gods Were Listening Nov. 29 2007
By David Cady - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
A few years ago I purchased a DVD of "Don Pasquale" produced by Teatro Lirico-Cagliari starring Eva Mei and Alessandro Corbelli. The singing was great, as expected, but I found the direction way too over-the-top. Everyone was mugging uncontrollably and it really got in the way of my enjoying the performance. Too bad, as the production was one of the most gorgeous and clever I'd ever seen. If only, I thought, the same production had been directed in a more subdued, realistic fashion.

Well, apparently the opera gods were paying attention to my plea, because here it is: the same production presented at LaScala, but this time toned down a notch. Admittedly it's a little TOO subdued at times (Ferruccio Furlanetto is not the natural comedian that Corbelli is), but if I complain too much in that regard, I'll be (rightly) opening myself up to accusations of never being satisfied. The production is still lovely, if not quite as sumptuous as I remember (egads, there I go again), but Riccardo Muti does miraculous things with the score, literally from first note to last. The cast is low-wattage -- not a Netrebko or Florez in the bunch -- but they're certainly up to the task, particularly Gregory Kunde, who's got a real Kenneth Branagh thing going on. (What that has to do with anything I'm not really sure.)

Of the "Pasquale"s out there, I'd say this is the best I've seen. I even think it beats the Florez version, which, like the Teatro Lirico one, has been directed like a Warner Brothers cartoon (complete with teddy bears). Thank you, Opera Gods, for listening to this opera lover's dilemma. Now, can you get Peter Gelb to tape Netrebko in the Met's Otto Schenk production?
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ferruccio Furlanetto shines as Don Pasquale but Riccardo Muti and his orchestra are the real stars of the production March 23 2008
By Toni Bernhard - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
For me, the stars of this production are Riccardo Muti and his orchestra. There are many scenes in "Don Pasquale" (e.g., the fake marriage) where what is going on in the orchestra is more exciting than what the performers are doing onstage. In other words, Donizetti wrote a magnificent score, beginning with an overture that can easily stand alone as an orchestral piece. Muti conducts with great energy and with careful attention to detail, the latter allowing the solo instruments to shine. He also varies the pace perfectly to bring out the contrasts in the mood onstage.

Ferruccio Furlanetto gives a refreshingly different portrayal of Don Pasquale. He doesn't play him as a buffoon but as an aging lonely man, hoping to find love. (By starting the overture with a plaintive cello solo, Donizetti tells us that he has composed more than just an opera buffa.) Furlanetto is one of the great bass-baritones of our times, able to move seamlessly between Mozart and Verdi. Here, he just as easily masters Donizetti's patter music (which Muti takes at a lightening-fast speed). Bravo to the composer, the conductor, and the singer.

Nuccia Focile is disappointing as Norina. (Here, I respectfully disagree with several other reviewers.) She is a good actress, but despite a nice vibrato, her voice sounds harsh and even grating at times, especially when she's reaching for the high notes. Fortunately, the opera gives her ample opportunity to show off her acting skills. She does a particularly good job turning from the sweet bride to the nasty, arrogant wife.

As Ernesto, Gregory Kunde has a beautiful lyric tenor voice. His singing lacks the fireworks of Juan Diego Florez (also on DVD in this role) but Kunde's interpretation of Ernesto is, well, touchingly earnest.

Lucio Gallo (Dr. Malatesta) has a deep, burnished baritone voice. His patter duet with Furlanetto, driven by the fast pace set by Muti, is the highlight of the production.

All in all, an enjoyable time at the opera.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great production! Aug. 27 2007
By P. Sutherland - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
I'm a fan of Riccardo Muti and this opera production shows him at his best, including smiles of satisfaction, pleasure and amusement throughout. How often do you see that? The overture is simply wonderful and sets this production apart immediately from the other recent Don Pasquale DVD with Alessandro Corbelli. The same notes, but Muti's is better. (I'm not a musician but I know what I like.)

Speaking of that other production, if you watch both, you will notice immediately that you are seeing the same sets, costumes and direction. The only differences are the singers, conductors, orchestras and opera houses! I liked this one better. But the very funny Alessandro Corbelli is a terrific Don Pasquale, too--watch him with the pistols--so, you should get both!

This cast of four are all terrific singers and actors. But Gregory Kunde is also eye candy as Ernesto and he is obviously having fun. His singing is excellent. Nuccia Focile is a pretty and perky Norina, playing the part of the arrogant, demanding new wife with ease and vocal dexterity. Ferruccio Furlanetto is in top form and produces his usual comic genius. I found it a little disturbing to see him playing the part of a seventy-something Don Pasquale--he was only 45 years old in 1994 when this was recorded--as I would like to see him preserved forever and not get any older! The doctor, Lucio Gallo, is also excellent.

This production will make you laugh out loud! I recommend it highly.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Oh giubilo Aug. 18 2007
By Todd Kay - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD|Verified Purchase
The curtain opens on a study appointed with appropriate masculine elegance, dominated by shelves and cabinets of dark wood; Pasquale mutters to himself as he fusses over the arrangement of his collection of classical sculptures. A little later, he stands in front of an impressively stocked bookcase while blustering at nephew Ernesto, who is slouched/sprawled sideways across a chair -- a physical attitude familiar to anyone who has ever seen (or, indeed, *been*) a teenager. Ernesto is looking at a newspaper and listening to his uncle, but not seeming to be paying much attention to either; he had entered yawning. The reading materials are one useful contrast (the hardbound volumes, which suggest the wisdom of posterity, versus the up-to-the-minute, disposable ephemera of a periodical); the clothes are another (Pasquale soberly and traditionally attired in a dark robe, Ernesto less so in pale blue silk). When Ernesto's lover Norina, in her guise as the virago Sofronia, marries old Pasquale, then moves in and sets about making him miserable, her redecoration not only feminizes but modernizes his home (not to our time, but to that of the opera's setting). Pasquale's sculptures and books are not removed but simply covered up; they vanish before our eyes. Throughout, stage director Stefano Vizioli emphasizes a confrontation between antiquity and modernity, old ways and new, and he locates a vein of melancholy running beneath the bumptious carrying on. Perhaps none of us will ever be conned into a frustrating sham marriage to serve someone else's ends, he seems to be saying, but we all eventually must yield to the baffling whirlwinds of succeeding generations. If we will not step aside gracefully, at least may we land gently. Nearly two centuries of operagoers have left the theater debating whether Pasquale's deception and humiliation at the hands of his friend, nephew, and "wife" are cruel out of proportion to his own wrongdoings (or intended ones), and thus whether the story misaligns our sympathies. Vizioli cannot be said to have entirely conquered the problems this libretto poses for a director, and the plot eventually boxes him into conventional solutions (the more cultivated Pasquale sketched out in the early scenes is, alas, stranded at midpoint), but his work is thoughtful, clever, even provocative in its understated way. At the levels of lighting, costume, and set design, this opulent production is consistently a pleasure to behold.

The singing, not exactly the stuff of the Golden Age, nevertheless is an above-average night of bel canto at La Scala, circa 1994. The American tenor Gregory Kunde takes top honors as Ernesto. This performance took place the same year his debilitating cancer ordeal began (he survived, and his performing and recording career continues -- good fortune for him and for his audiences), but there is no hint of infirmity in the singing. The tone is sweet, the phrasing aristocratic, the tessitura comfortable for him. He does not have a sanguine Italianate sound, but as lighter Ernestos go, he is a dream. Nuccia Focile has a bright instrument with more spice than cream in it, and the microphones catch and amplify that tight, quick style of vibrato that calls to mind a hummingbird. My own ear had to adjust, but eventually did. She is petite and attractive; at moments I was reminded of Teresa Berganza (in her style of playing) and Victoria de los Angeles (in her look). The lower-voiced men, Lucio Gallo (the enigmatic Dr. Malatesta) and Ferrucio Furlanetto (our long-suffering eponymous figure), are thoroughgoing and competent rather than strongly individual and magnetic. Furlanetto does have some good low notes and can patter at very fast tempi (and must, with this conductor). He manages a few affecting moments. Vizioli has him play the final scene with the sad kind of acceptance, not the good-humored "you can't win 'em all!" kind, and this proves poignant rather than soggy. But he is not the most engaging protagonist one can envision at the center of this production.

The real musical stars of the performance are in the pit. Riccardo Muti induces the Scala Orchestra to play the overture with such meticulous care and virtuosity that it sounds like a Beethoven symphony...performed with Beethoven's ghost in the theater, in foul temper and needing to be appeased. I mean that as a compliment. This sets the tone for the whole evening: there was hardly a moment in this performance, no matter what one of the singers (or more than one) was doing on top, when I was not aware of some succulent orchestral detail bobbing up for my attention and gratification. Inner and outer parts mesh with a clarity unexcelled in my experience; solo details such as the exposed cello in the overture and the mock-lugubrious cornet prelude to Ernesto's first solo are rich with tonal suavity; and the orchestra hangs together through the fastest, sharpest turns of Muti's thrill-ride through the score. This is a sleek, high-powered interpretation, all sheen and panache; if that sounds like the way you would like to hear DON PASQUALE, you should investigate it. I do not claim it is the only way to approach DON PASQUALE, or even the best way, but it is the thing that has been done, and I cannot imagine the thing being done more effectively elsewhere. The chorus, which has comparatively little to do in this opera and does not appear until Act III, makes a strong impression in its one big scene, the business with the gossiping among the house staff, which is wittily staged.

Patrizia Carmine's direction for television/video is notably good, with special praise for the intelligent use of long shots. Thank heavens we are past that unfortunate late 1980s period at La Scala, captured on several humdrum Opus Arte DVDs, when the camera often would cut away to Muti during an act, or even superimpose his image on the stage action. Audio and video meet the high standards we have come to expect from TDK, which continues to be the pacesetting label in this boom period for opera on DVD.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An impeccable performance Dec 21 2008
By Thomas J. Goldthwaite - Published on Amazon.com
Format:DVD
An Amazon opera video shopper trying blindly (or deafly) to select one of several tempting DVDs of Donizetti's "Don Pasquale" couldn't go very wrong with this Teatro alla Scala production, despite some favorable critiques of other versions available. I don't know the others but am very happy with this one. The singing and Riccardo Muti's artistic control are impeccable, the staging is without fuss, the acting intelligent, the ensemble work merry and the sound (live perfomance at La Scala) is satifying. Important DVD Opera emphasis here: the stage direction is unobtrusive and minimal. Title virtuoso role of miserly,old and romantically deluded Don Pasquale trying to out-maneuver his nephew in marriage is finely sung by Ferruccio Furlanetto, who with deep rich voice (and only bland makeup) finds some sympathy for the old monster, downplaying some comic opportunities. The DVD deserves 5 Stars just because this great comic opera, a much shorter equivalent to "Barber of Seville," and "Cindarella" is so rarely performed. Lovely melodies and only two rapid-fire tongue-twisters. If you have to select, this recording is probably what you might wish for in a tour of European opera houses and seldom find in contemporary stage business dominated American or festival opera houses.

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