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I. Martinez-Ybor "Ignacio Martínez-Ybor" (Miami, FL USA)
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Night & Day
Night & Day
DVD ~ Michael Curtiz
Offered by SURPLUSDVD NEW YORK
Price: CDN$ 16.50
11 used & new from CDN$ 5.58

2.0 out of 5 stars Night and Day on DVD, June 25 2004
This review is from: Night & Day (DVD)
Others have addressed the travesty this movie makes of Cole Porter's life, so I will not rehash. Historically, both Linda and Cole were supposed to have been quite pleased with the flic, which, given the times, probably was the only public reaction they could have had (I'd hope they laughed histerically in private).
On the plus side, we have Alexis Smith as beautiful and elegant as she always was, but younger (presumably Linda Lee Porter suggested her for the role); Jane Wyman vital and sparkling, as far removed from Douglas Sirk as one can imagine; Mary Martin innocently raunchy; Eve Arden putting on a French accent, straight-faced; and about the most gosh-awful-kitschiest rendition of Begin the Beguine I have ever seen, on or off film. Not campy but garish, it becomes fascinatingly repellent .... definitely worth seeing. It is the movie's "Big Number" .... seriously tasteless and ill-conceived, following relatively close on the heels -so to speak- of an acknowledged masterpiece: Begin the Beguine, the "Big Number" in "Broadway Melody of 1940," danced by Eleanor Powell and Fred Astaire.(Available in a pristine transfer to DVD).
What is absolutely shameful is the minimal care evidenced in the movie's transfer to DVD. Scratches and dirt are easily discernible...... worst: whole sections go by in thoroughly faded technicolor, yet there are isolated spots when one is reminded how glorious the process could be. It doesn't appear WB went to a negative but rather picked from various prints in varying degrees of deterioration. I can think of many movies deserving full-fledged restoration before Night and Day,
but, c'mon...... surely Warner can do better than this.
WB partially redeems itself by including a musical short featuring a singing Desi Arnaz and His Band, and a truly charmless, through-composed oddity called "Musical Movieland." Nonetheless, on the balance, if it came to a choice, I would have opted for a better transfer.

Vanity Fair (A&E Production)
Vanity Fair (A&E Production)
DVD ~ Natasha Little
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 45.46
11 used & new from CDN$ 35.62

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fell short of expectations, May 9 2004
This review is from: Vanity Fair (A&E Production) (DVD)
This was a much touted mini-series which I missed on TV and have now watched on DVD. I had high expectations. They were not realized, but by no means can one say that the show is a failure or even a waste of time. No urge to fast-forward here....
Yet..... there is a flatness about the whole production that keeps the emotions, the humor, at arms length. Becky Sharp remains the same, looks the same, inflects the same from beginning to end. The direction reveals no development, no nuance..... certainly charming rapaciousness is more varied than we are shown here. The script is not particularly memorable.
BBC production values are top-notch except in the repeated use of extreme closeups to mask a penny-pinching budget..... the Belgium battle segments are particularly cheesy...... but overall, things are shot handsomely, and some visual commentary is downright witty e.g., pigs crossing the frame as we approach the Crawley manor. The music score, hilarious and anachronistic, is rather refreshing.
This is nowhere as exhilarating a show as the BBC's Pride and Prejudice. Which leads me to the odd realization that perhaps the better writer for Vanity Fair would have been Balzac. Now.... why doesn't somebody do something with his stuff..... Lost Illusions, for example. There we have meatier stuff.

Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake / Makarova, Dowell, Royal Ballet Covent Garden
Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake / Makarova, Dowell, Royal Ballet Covent Garden
DVD ~ Natalia Makarova
Price: CDN$ 27.28
16 used & new from CDN$ 21.55

3.0 out of 5 stars 'Follow up on previously submitted review, June 22 2003
I submitted a review of this DVD about two weeks ago and have not seen it. I thought it followed your guidelines. Could you please advise what happened. I do not have an address where to correspond with you ..... so I am using this venue. I devoted some time to composing it and have reviewed other Swan Lakes for you, so I'd like to hear from you if there are editorial issues......
Thank you,
Ignacio.

Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake / Makarova, Dowell, Royal Ballet Covent Garden
Tchaikovsky - Swan Lake / Makarova, Dowell, Royal Ballet Covent Garden
DVD ~ Natalia Makarova
Price: CDN$ 27.28
16 used & new from CDN$ 21.55

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Total is significantly less than the sum of the parts, June 14 2003
Makarova was, obviously arguably.... given some of the reviews below, the Odette/Odile of her generation. I have not seen a "better" one since. Therefore, this DVD is a must: it's the only visual record we have of her performance. And, notwithstanding criticisms by other reviewers below, I think her performance is a pretty eloquent one, in technique and style. I have seen her quite a few times in the role, and though this is a bit short of the magic I know she could generate, it is fairly representative. I consider myself lucky to have it.
Now, as to the rest and why I think, in general, this performance is disappointing. Dowell was a very fine dancer: crisp, clean lines, elegant and satisfactory virtuosity, all in evidence here, as is his natural reticence which is out of place in this piece....... There is no chemistry between him and Makarova. He might as well have been reading the phonebook as he danced. In some ways he struck me as the all-purpose, highly skilled partner doing his job for the visiting ballerina of the evening. Makarova had great partners in this role throughout her career, most notably Ivan Nagy. Together they could make the second act pas-de-deux a truly moving experience. It's a pity such wasn't the case here.
Another drawback to this performance was the Royal Ballet itself. I think it was in a rather fallow period at the time. The swans sleepwalk through their part and are off-and-on sloppy. The various dances in the third act are a bore, the Spanish Dance is particularly ludicrous. Though Wayne Sleep does a very good job in the Italian number, everybody else in all the other dances reek of mediocrity, particularly the women. There's no virtuosity, no command of line or technique.... Where's the zest? It didn't help that the conducting was somewhat feeble.
In short...... if you are interested in having a record of Makarova's Odette/Odile, get it.....It's a pity she wasn't helped by the framework she was given but c'est la vie. With that very restricted goal in mind, you will not be disappointed. If you are interested in Swan Lake proper and plan in having only one version, stick with the Kirov.
DVD quality is quite fine .... the sound is ok but not much more than ok.

Berlioz;Hector Les Troyens [Import]
Berlioz;Hector Les Troyens [Import]
DVD ~ Jon Villars
Price: CDN$ 35.61
16 used & new from CDN$ 31.51

3.0 out of 5 stars Spartan Production, March 16 2003
Without being outstanding, there are solid musical values in this performance, particularly by conductor, orchestra and choruses. The singers acquit themselves professionally without providing thrills. Ms. Polaski makes a fine Cassandra but falls far short for Dido...the voice isn't rich enough.... very few can perform both parts ably; only Jessye Norman comes to mind. Dido sounds better as a mezzo than as a soprano (Christa Ludwig wins my sweepstakes, closely followed by Jessye). Mr. Villars is quite a find for this very difficult part. No one in my memory has owned the role as decisively as Jon Vickers. Mr. Villars' instrument is quite different from Vickers' in timbre and heft, but on his own terms, he is quite outstanding. And it's a fresh, young voice.
The disappointment is the production. And a huge disappointment it is. It amounts to a white, plaster cyclorama with a narrow crack in the middle through which one gets glimpses of what is supposed to be happening. This is just totally unsatisfactory. One can put up with such nonsense in Troy..... after all, it's going to get destroyed..... but Carthage? The Carthage music is some of the most sensuous, poignant compositions ever written.... this production goes out of its way to annihilate beauty and delight. One is left with Messrs. Wernicke's and Tarta's arid pretensions. For all its Salzbourg pedigree, the production looks cheap.
It is a shame. Les Troyens is one of the greatest operas ever written. It is powerful drama conceived in extraordinarily beautiful musical terms. It is not performed frequently. It adds insult to injury that Salzbourg, with all its financial resources, could not come up with something better than this. It's shameful.
So..... should you buy this DVD? The Met's old production is infinetly better and it is served well in its DVD. As for this contraption..... well, it's ok if you like to watch your DVD operas with your eyes closed.

Verdi:Requiem-Claudio Abbado
Verdi:Requiem-Claudio Abbado
DVD ~ Jos Carreras
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 145.50
7 used & new from CDN$ 72.87

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Worthwhile for the soloists, Aug. 17 2002
This review is from: Verdi:Requiem-Claudio Abbado (DVD)
This is not by far the best Verdi Requiem I have seen and/or heard. The negatives leap at you: compressed sound, lack of eloquence, bite and power in the choir, and a somewhat tepid, let's-keep-Apocalypse-tidy Abbado. In short, this is not the Verdi Requiem I'd choose were I to have only one..... But one should not limit oneself to only one, pocketbook permitting, where great masterpieces of music are concerned.
The soloists are superb. In 1982 they were all in their prime. It is a rare privilege indeed to hear Jessye Norman perform a part which lies almost exclusively in the richest and most powerful range of her voice, middle-to-low. I love it. We don't have too many samples of that. It is also a joy to hear Margaret Price, the great Welsh soprano, and arguably the greatest soprano voice to have come out of the UK so far, in top form. She soars with crystal-bright, perfect intonation and minimal vibrato.... Again, she's under-represented on DVD. Her voice contrasts well with Jessye's (though not as stunning a pairing as Caballé/Cossotto under Barbirolli on EMI CD). Carreras sounded even and full in all registers, fresh, and golden throughout. The voice was at its peak before he started abusing it and, of course, before leukemia. Raimondi, even if not a dark base, is, as always, a pillar of strength, musicianship and a moving, noble artist. If one loves singers, that is one good reason to purchase this DVD.
There was around that time a live PBS broadcast of the Requiem with the NY Philharmonic under Mehta with Caballé, Domingo and others. I saw it. I remember Caballé's performance being legendary. A commercial recording of the performance was issued by CBS which edited a slip Domingo made in the Ingemisco (if I recall, he came in early which resulted in a repetition of the "inter oves" phrase....everything handled most professionally and with total aplomb....if you were not familiar with the score you probably wouldn't have noticed it). We are all aware of Domingo's greatness... I hope this does not inhibit the issuance of this live performance on DVD.
I understand Abbado's new performance for EMI is superb but I haven't seen it.

If it Ain't Broke...Break It!: And Other Unconventional Wisdom for a Changing Business World
If it Ain't Broke...Break It!: And Other Unconventional Wisdom for a Changing Business World
by Robert J. Kriegel
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 21.84
73 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

1.0 out of 5 stars So easy to misapply, July 3 2002
More so than any other business-advise book I have come accross, this one lends itself to misinterpretation and mishandling by the well-intentioned but dim or by the unscrupulously mischievous. If you are, and know you are, an effective manager, you probably are already doing what this book "dares" you to try. ... you can safely read it and it will cause no harm... you know what to take and what to leave, how to challenge conventional wisdom and how to hedge your bets. You know instinctively most if not all of it. .... after all... most importantly, you also know no real-life situation is identical with edited examples on a book (which of course are always tailored to illustrate a point). Mediocre to self-serving nefarious managers may become equally prone to cite these pages as remedy for their own shortcomings. You want those people out.... not taking advise from Mr. Kriegel. In their hands this work becomes a cookbook for disaster. I've seen it operate at its worst.
There are better ways of spending [money] than buying this book ... including having drinks with a timid supervisor who could use your personal encouragement.

Verdi I Vespri Siciliani
Verdi I Vespri Siciliani
DVD ~ Giorgio Zancanaro
Offered by M and N Media Canada
Price: CDN$ 47.91
7 used & new from CDN$ 24.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful Performance....Lousy DVD, April 1 2002
This review is from: Verdi I Vespri Siciliani (DVD)
Vespri is a wonderful, underappreciated opera. It probably has the most ensemble numbers of all of Verdi's operas, even more so than Ballo. It requires great singers but has relatively few "showy" numbers for them, a fact star singers may resent given the length of the work. The soprano gets the haunting "Arrigo...." which is really part of a duet, the well known Bolero, and a melodramatic ballad in the first act; the base gets the eloquent "O tu Palermo." The musical and dramatic quality of tenor and baritone arias are not as high, yet their music is equally demanding. The ensembles are magnificent: all sorts of combinations from a-capella quartets to choruses to full-out unison oh-so-beautiful-italian-melodies. Most of the opera seems written in long melodic lines in minor keys (I have not checked a score.... it sounds that way to me). Yes, there are some passages where the inspiration is not up to the rest, but those do not occur often.
I first became acquainted with this opera when the Met did it years ago with Montserrat Caballé, Nicolai Gedda, and Sherrill Milnes, in a somewhat undistinguished Swoboda/Dexter production. Caballé's singing was the "stuff of legends," as subsequent hearings of the broadcast performance continue to attest. And she was followed in the part by the likes of Scotto, Deutekom, et al.
The La Scala performance is particularly distinguished by Muti's conducting. I'm not a fan of his conducting in general, but here he excels: energetic, lyrical, propulsive. It is a pleasure to hear Giorgio Zancanaro, a truly robust italian baritone the likes of which we don't seem to hear in America often. His Met appearances were brief. Ferruccio Furlanetto is a good singing base, elsewhere a good Leoporello; Studer and Merritt are fine, but ...... one longs for great voices as Elena and Arrigo, and good as they are, the greatness one has heard totally eludes them. The opera is given complete, even with the ballet (one wishes they would have used the Jerome Robbins choreography.... this one is undistinguished and boring, and so is the dancing). The production is sumptuous. Much love seems to have been placed by all concerned into this project, and in general it shows.
The sound is excellent.... uncompressed stereo. Unfortunately, this is probably the worst DVD I have ever seen (the reason for the 3 stars). I do not know the reason for this utter failure. I have not seen this performance on tape or disc. It looks like the performance was underlit for the source television broadcast and therefore the problem may never be resolved. At points I found it hard on the eyes as I tried to focus in utter futility.
The question then becomes..... if this is as good as it gets, is there another Vespri in the works? I doubt it. Get it..... close your eyes from time to time..... it certainly is not unwatchable.... the worst moments occur in the luxurious ballroom scene.... close-ups are ok. Why could La Scala not gotten somebody like Brian Large to supervise things? Italian unions? Pity.

HAVANA
HAVANA
by Robert Polidori
Edition: Hardcover
9 used & new from CDN$ 419.35

5.0 out of 5 stars Melancholia made graphic, March 3 2002
This review is from: HAVANA (Hardcover)
This is an extraordinarily beautiful book, extraordinarily well produced. Polidori is a graphic poet.
But then, what is it all about? No travel book, this.
There was a grand city, with grand, refined living, there was a sense of the visual, even in the simplest laying of stone upon a stone. The photographs attest to that. The grace, like the decay, is real. The rich, varied hues are real, if from fraying, unretouched paint, destined to change and pale with each passing day. Polidori's colors are not meant to be restored nor will ever there be a patina to be cleaned. Their destiny is to fade. One would like to think of this Havana as a grand opera set for a Nozze or an Ariadne where protagonists move like ghosts among the ruins, talking of betrayals, regrets and happy loves that are now merely wise. For some of us, that it is. For some of us it is the stones that are real, the peeling paint and the broken down chandeliers. People are the interlopers, people are like things, being where they do not belong. Yet in a grander sense those of us may be self-deceived. For in these pictures there is no real tension between flesh and wall. The grandiloquent decay, like an ever swelling musty velvet cape, gathers crumbling stone to unweeded garden to limpid sky to people ...... all into a deeply bundled melancholic recessional that will swallow everything and leave only moonless night behind. There is no future in this past, perhaps the most melancholy conjecture of all. It seems to me most photographs are lit by the late afternoon sun. The beauty makes one cry, we see our lives in the peeling paint and broken balustrades, the broken window frames, cracked marble, the rusted iron gates ....perhaps nowhere more than in the curious compromises of antiquated artifacts for everyday living pragmatically juxtaposed to broken down rococo splendor or dismembered bourgeois grandeur, trying to make do but never quite. This is brutally the passage of time with no attempt at cosmetic dissimulation or philosophical delay. We are all beyond reflection. Each picture seems to say unequivocally: all this has passed and all this will pass. Perhaps Havana has come to an old preordained denouement, arrived at a culmination old and forgotten, in the event, a summit, an end: Havana as a place never meant to truly be, a creature of our dreams, an incantation..... Wallace Stevens who only visited the Havana of the mind, wrote in "Academic Discourse in Havana" (1936):
"This may be benediction, sepulcher, and epitaph......
An infinite incantation of our selves
In the grand decadence of the perished swans."

Belle Helene (Widescreen)
Belle Helene (Widescreen)
DVD ~ Vesselina Kasarova
Offered by thebookcommunity_ca
Price: CDN$ 128.49
8 used & new from CDN$ 40.26

5.0 out of 5 stars Delicious Work Masterfully Performed, Oct. 27 2001
This review is from: Belle Helene (Widescreen) (DVD)
It is so rare to see an Offenbach operetta performed today that, if nothing else, this is worth the price for the sake of curiosity. It happens to be a delightful work (much of it used in Rosenthal's ballet arrangement "Gaité Parisienne"). The text is insouciant and witty, and the music sparkles. The beautiful Zurich Opera cast from strength: Vasselina Kassarova as Hélène is a delight. She also happens to be one of the pre-eminent artists of our time, a mezzo of radiant voice, temperament, splendid technique, with rare coloratura skills. Mr. van der Walt whose name looks Dutch sounds like a French tenor of old, a light but carrying sound, full of color, with heady top notes and truly elegant musical artistry. The supporting cast is all superb, with exact singing and plenty of joie. Nikolaus Harnoncourt, so long associated with Zurich in Monteverdi and Mozart does wonders for Offenbach. It is my understanding that 19th century instruments were used. The clarity, color, inflections he gets from his orchestra are astonishing. His inner drive, rubato, his sheer joy of music making comes through in every bar of the score. It is indeed a pleasure to see this conductor whom I first encountered in ascerbic albeit moving, austere performances of Bach Cantatas and Passions, making such successful excursions into the romantic theatre repertoire. I hope he has more up his sleeve. Get this DVD..... you'll go back to it. By the way, the production is nothing special but the acting is invariably good, with excellent rapport within the ensemble. It looks well directed.

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