Rossini: La Donna del Lago [Import]
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La Donna del Lago, based on Sir Walter Scott's long narrative poem "The Lady of the Lake" about military conflicts and lovers' problems in feudal Scotland, is one of Rossini's best operas. It is not performed as often as it deserves, and this video production (not problem-free) may be the only one available for quite a while. Fans of Rossini will find it worth playing. Like most opera videos, it was recorded in a live performance, including audience applause in which viewers may or may not wish to join. Live recordings can have a spontaneity not always heard in studio work, but small vocal problems--particularly near the beginning when voices are warming up--go uncorrected. The singing often needs to be spectacular, and it usually is once the solo voices have settled down, but you have to make a few allowances. In many scenes, the lighting is quite dim, but the chorus and orchestra are splendid. --Joe McLellan --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
This performance, from La Scala, in Milan in 1992, fully captures the gorgeous music. I emphasize this, because any bel canto opera lover really should hear this music. The singing performances are excellent. June Anderson is terrific as Elena and the rest of the cast is also very strong. And Riccardo Muti does a superb job as conductor. Music-wise this is 5 stars all the way.
But the production- that's a different story.
The first, and probably fundamental problem, is the opera itself. The story is weak (three men love Elena during a war in the Scottish Highlands). The libretto is terrible- there is one extended scene towards the end of Act One that is completely incomprehensible. After several viewings and reading the script, my wife and I till can't figure it out.
And that's probably why this opera is almost never staged. In 5 years of following this closely, I have yet to see a single performance anywhere according to advertisements and listings. This is the only extant production, and it has serious flaws.Read more ›
A less visible hero of this performance is the conductor Riccardo Muti. Albert Innaurato wrote in his article titled "INSIDE LA SCALA: TEMPLE OF MUSIC OR TEMPLE OF DOOM?" in Opera News magazine, July 1999: 'Riccardo Muti is the world's most publicly detested conductor.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
A less visible hero of this performance is the conductor Riccardo Muti. Albert Innaurato wrote in his article titled "INSIDE LA SCALA: TEMPLE OF MUSIC OR TEMPLE OF DOOM?" in Opera News magazine, July 1999: `Riccardo Muti is the world's most publicly detested conductor. In her book Cinderella and Company, Manuela Hoelterhoff calls him "the famously short maestro of fear".' IMHO he is one of the century's greatest conductors and could have reached Toscanini's fame had he not tied the knot with La Scala's lion's den. It would be a cliché to call him a "Rossini scholar": he conducts this opera with sensitivity, discipline and just the right amount of vigor without distorting Rossini's simple and linear composition style by underlining crescendos or changes in rhythm excessively to achieve a crowd pleasing effect.
Herzog's stage evokes Walter Scott's northern romantic atmosphere to which he adds some Gothic accents. His set designer uses huge fantasia-like sets with immense stalactites coming down from nowhere and the whole scenery changing in concentric circles - best appreciated in fast forward. The fairy-tale element that seems to be Herzog's forte reaches its smashing climax at the finale, in the throne room scene.
So what's the problem? The stage is so dark you can hardly see the details, and that is on top of the usual problems with the La Scala re-issues (because of problems with getting the rights, in large measure because of region coding, the Image releases have rights only to the previous LaserDisc masters with titles, not to the source material without). It was unfortunately in vogue at the time to use dimly lit scenery for "dark" subjects. This trend reverberated in some MET productions including the last "Ring" (despite the wonderful music the darkness beckoned me to sweet sleep at both the Rheingold and Die Walküre earlier this year. This silliness has to stop, you can't sit for hours in semi-darkness past dinnertime without falling asleep to the lullaby coming from the stage). The audio is good (obviously not as good as the new 5.1 Dolby surround DVD's). This DVD is gradually becoming difficult to get.
The music of "La donna del lago" evokes lively, richly colored stage pictures. There are echo effects; the musical illusion of sounds coming from far to near, or bouncing across the hills; double-chorus numbers; antiphonal hunting horns, etc. The shepherds and the hunters should be visually differentiated, as should the groups of warriors. Their costumes should define their social roles. And they're supposed to be moving around in the opening scene - heading out to the fields and forests. Instead Herzog gives us ragged lines of people in shapeless, ragged clothes. They shuffle on, sing for an inexplicably long time, and shuffle off.
The decision to leave the women's chorus onstage during Elena and Uberto's long duet also makes NO sense...why would these two carry on an intimate conversation in front of a squad of listeners?
Elena (June Anderson) and Malcolm (Martine Dupuy) are the only ones with flattering/appropriate costumes (and some might quarrel with Malcolm's "mountain lion" headress... I liked its golden color and the way it disguised Dupuy's feminine head). Uberto (Rockwell Blake) is saddled with a hat made of a whole dead bird. Rodrigo (Chris Merritt) is draped in an enormous dark pink bedsheet, totally unflattering and about as unheroic as you can imagine. His headband and goatee are bad too. Yes, he's huge... all the more reason for the costumer to give his clothes some structure.
You would never guess that the action is supposed to be taking place in the 16th century... the costumes and architecture are closer to Stone Age. Maybe Herzog wanted to avoid a sentimental "picturesque" approach, but this dark, prehistoric "crags and caves" aesthetic is totally out of sync with the music. The static and uninspired stage pictures make the music seem overlong, repetitious, and boring. In all, a disservice to a lovely opera that deserves a lovely treatment.
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