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Verdi: Un Ballo in Maschera [Blu-ray]


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Amazon.com: 6 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
An Imperfect Ballo Made "Perfect" With Cutting Edge Engineering April 28 2013
By Noam Eitan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray
This production was a big success in Parma in 2010. The video and sound engineers needed all 6 performances of the run to piece together a perfect Ballo (they usually require 2-3 performances). Once the video and sound engineers were done they produced a Ballo too good to be true. I am ashamed to admit that I enjoyed it more than any Ballo I ever experienced in any form - it's simply addicting.

This was Meli's debut as Riccardo (the Boston version was used). They cast him (at least in the first cast) with an Amelia he had to work hard to keep up with. Since body mikes were used as usual, it was possible to "correct" the imbalance so that Meli comes out with a Pavarotti sized voice, easily overshadowing his colleagues. So you get a Riccardo not only with a golden tone, elegant phrasing, passions well projected, style, acuti - you also get a rock solid "di' tu se fedele" barcarolle with its low tessitura and the most perfect 12 note leap from high Ab to middle C. Really? Meli has such a powerful lower register? I don't think so, no lyric tenor ever had such a powerful lower register, but it sure sounds that way on this recording.

This is not just an esthetic issue but also an ethical one. Loudness is not a zero sum game in a live performance (attended inhouse). A louder voice doesn't necessarily win over a smaller one. The louder voice doesn't make a smaller voice smaller because you have the external reality with its parameters of sound as a frame of reference. But in a recording it is a zero sum game, because you can turn the volume up or down and anything is loud or not only relative to something else. So making one singer louder is at the expense of the other singers. The young soprano Kristin Lewis was making her debut as Amelia (as well as her house debut). Her articulation of Italian words and musical phrasing deteriorated in her more difficult parts (the latter acts) and she has almost no dramatic persona (she received some boos on opening night). Her biggest asset is the combination of her rich, enchanting timbre and the size of her voice - she has a wide dynamic range and can shoot volleys of gorgeous sound. Turning the volume up on Meli at her expense robs her of her main asset. Same with Stoyanov as Renato - the audience gives his "Eri tu" the biggest standing ovation of all principals in this production, but you wonder why. The engineering (relatively) robs him somewhat of one of his assets - his power of delivery.

Elisabetta Fiorillo as Ulrica has a very impressive, booming low register - the rest of her voice is completely in tatters. Serena Gamberoni (Meli's wife in real life) as Oscar is almost perfect (no trills, though). She is no feather-light-voiced Oscar - her tone is full and impressive. She executes neatly the intricate acciacature, turns and staccatos in "Volta la terrea" and her "Saper vorreste" is incisive.

I was very impressed with Gianluigi Gelmetti's conducting. The opening immediately shows how he can make the rhythm dance. His rubati have an energy that comes not simply from propulsive thrust like in early Verdi, but from alertness and attention to the context. For example, at the end of act I scene I he accelerates: this is after Riccardo decides they should all go to Ulrica's house, and that it would be lots of fun. In that context the accelerando makes them sound very eager to go. He gives excellent support to the singers, the instruments blend well with the voices and the exemplary miking of the orchestra reveals wonderful attention to balance and detail.

Tiziano Mancini's superlative video direction turns a traditional, not-very-original staging into magic. The camera work manages well the difficult to shoot, semi-dark scenes. It's dynamic and very grand in a romantic way, with the fog, capes blowing in the wind and the grand tableaux vivants, like the one on the cover.

Is the job of the engineers to render a reflection of the live performance as accurate as possible, or to give the best version possible of it, to give the most pleasure to the home audience and make the product sell? With a major opera company issuing a Ring with a Siegfried who couldn't even be heard clearly inhouse, and another major company issuing performances with a lyric coloratura Diva doing (verismo) spinto parts despite a voice that has been shrinking, it's clear that sound engineers are expected to perform miracles.

What is the point of going through all the hassles and expense of attending a live performance when for a fraction of the price you can watch an improved version of it at home? Because it's fake. When it comes to sound engineering, less is more (the less you tamper with the sound the better the result).
Just OK Jan. 24 2014
By Robert E. Smith - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Parma sure has a gorgeous house - the gift of Maria Louisa, I believe, to her adopted duchy. It's a small provincial company, about equivalent to the Teatro Donizetti in Bergamo, and it's silly to expect more than you get here. Except the hype is absurd, and consequently I spent nearly 40 bucks for a distinctly sub-par performance of one of my favorite Verdi operas.
The singers are ....OK (except the Ulrica, often a problematic role as who is going to engage/pay a major talent for one scene?). Acting is nothing much one way or the other. Some pretty sets, but the transition to the ball scene at the end is depressingly anti-climatic.
If you can find it, there is a performance from LaScala in the late 70s floating around with a glorious pair of doomed lovers in Pavarotti and Mara Zampieri. The cast is first rate throughout and puts this Parma thing entirely to shame. Decors are magnificent and I've never seen a more spectacular coup de theatre than in the transition from Riccardo's electrifying (as sung but this young and un-fat Pavarotti) double aria to the ball. The singing and stage craft rightly bring the house down.
I'm writing about something other than what I bought, because there isn't anything much to say about it.
Five Stars Dec 16 2014
By Sam Staggs - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Yes it's a great traditional version. loved it!
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Sublime!! Optimal performance,worthy of Verdi. Aug. 11 2013
By dongiovanni - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD
NOTE: THIS REVIEW IS A REPRINT (with some modifications) OF SAME APPEARED IN THE WHOLENOTE MAGAZINE, WRITTEN BY MYSELF (JANOS GARDONYI)SEPT 2013 ISSUE AND IT IS UNDER THE MAGAZINE'S COPYRIGHT.

Looks like I am here first and I am happy not to be influenced by other belly-aching, jaundiced 'reviewers'.
This a wonderful performance, even better than Boccanegra. Conductor Gianluigi Gelmetti, an unlikely looking gentleman at first glance but at his first wave of the baton I felt he was a master. His upbeat tempi has a big sweep throughout that gives the opera the brilliance Verdi intended. Every bar has deep significance because he knows this opera and its complexities to a Tee. Karajan had it too in Vienna, in fact the Ballo was one of his favorite and a big challenge.
Stupendous singers. Francesco Meli as Riccardo is a young fresh voice, powerful and sensitive, thoroughly in empathy with the character.Vladimir Stoyanov is beginning to take over from Nucci. Again he is young and the voice is powerful, well shaded and his acting puts a menace into his Renato and at the same time we really feel his agony of being betrayed.Serena Gamberoni (Oscar) is a delight to behold. Far from the usual petite, cutesy soubrette coloratura: she is a stunning beauty, her voice brilliant and light as a feather, moves like a real opera star! Ms. Kirstin Lewis (Amelia)is a radiant soprano with power and secure in her top notes acting with passion. Elisabetta Fiorillo (Ulrica)
is an old timer who perhaps have seen her glory days, but here as an alto she makes a truly three dimensional portrayal
of the wise and not at all wicked soothsayer.
About the scenery: it's simply eye-popping and stunning, grandiose highly artistic architectural and even monumental creations, gorgeous coloring. Unsurpassed. Highly recommended. You won't be sorry.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
The production saves the show. Nov. 6 2013
By Lois Rochetti - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Two reasons for a three star. One, the "Ulrica"of Elisabetta Fiorillo and the conducting of G. Gelmetti.
In Act One Gelmetti speeds up on "Volta la terra fronte" and "Ogni cura si doni al diletto" and in Act Two he ruins "O figlio d'Inghilterra" using the same speed as in Act One.
Fiorillo does not have the low notes for the role of Ulrica, something that Simionato and Barbieri had plenty of.
In order of vocal quality Vladimir Stoyanov, "Renato" is the best of the bunch, followed by Francesco Meli, "Riccardo", Serena Gamberoni, "Oscar" and Kristin Lewis "Amelia".
Act after act the production is beautifully convincing.


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