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Handel: Alcina [DVD] [2011] [NTSC]

Anna Harteros , Vesselina Kasarova    Exempt   DVD
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
Price: £22.88 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Handel: Alcina [DVD] [2011] [NTSC] + Handel: Rinaldo (Glyndebourne 2011) (Sonia Prina/ Varduhi Abrahamyan/ Tim Mead/ Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment/ Robert Carsen/ Ottavio Dantone) (Opus Arte: OA1081D) [DVD] [2012] [NTSC] + Handel: Giulio Cesare [DVD] [2012]
Price For All Three: £65.86

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Product details

  • Actors: Anna Harteros, Vesselina Kasarova, Kristina Hammarström, Veronica Cangemi, Les Musiciend du Louvre - Grenoble
  • Format: Classical, Colour, DVD-Video, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: Italian
  • Subtitles: German, English, French, Spanish, Italian, Japanese, Korean
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 2
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: Arthaus
  • DVD Release Date: 30 Aug 2011
  • Run Time: 205 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B005FAH1AC
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 73,780 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Reviews

Product Description

Handels operas are now so thoroughly a part of modern musical life that you might think every major opera house welcomes them. But until November 2010, when it introduced an absorbing new production of Alcina, the Vienna Staatsoper resisted them, not having done a Baroque opera since Monteverdis Poppea in the 1960s. The present production boasted an all-star cast of Baroque specialists, a former director of the Royal Shakespeare Company Adrian Noble, the highly-acclaimed conductor Marc Minkowski and his Les Musiciens du Louvre-Grenoble in the pit. Adrian Noble places his Alcina into a framework which begins in the magnificent ballroom of the Devonshire-House in London Piccadilly. The legendary Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, stages a play in which she is acting together with her friends, a stage on the stage. Alcina is a great musical experience geared to the Baroque curiosity. Marc Minkowski revives Handels music in an outstanding way.

Product Description

Alcina (2 Dvd)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Attractive staging of a Handel masterpiece 21 Mar 2012
By Simon F
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The production looks good, enhanced by effective lighting and stage design. The idea of having a play within a play works much better than might be imagined, partly because the lighting so effectively isolates the main action from the background. The surround stage action often provides a human frame that actually focuses attention on the centre. Sometimes that focus shifts, as when the fine solo 'cellist becomes a deserved on-stage object of attention in some of the arias.

The acting doesn't always match the ambition of the production. Suspension of disbelief is harder when there's a stage audience, and not all the soloists rise to the challenge. Vocally the performance is uneven. There's too much vibrato in general for it to be successful as an authentic sounding approach. The fast arias seem just a little beyond some of the singers and there are occasional lapses of speed and intonation. Fortunately the best singer has the title role. Anja Harteros is also one of the most convincing actors.

To hear this magnificent music at its best, though, I suggest you try the wonderful Alan Curtis CD, with Joyce di Donato as Alcina and some stunning singing from her co-principals.
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0 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Alcina Handel 28 Jan 2012
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A delightful production with enchanting scenery and costumes set as an oper performed for the 18th C, Duchess of Devonshire
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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
21 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars pleasant but not compelling 6 Oct 2011
By C. Sarkozy - Published on Amazon.com
This production is a mixed bag. On balance, the performances are good to very good. Anja Harteros as Alcina is fantastic - "Ah, mio cor" gets deservedly enthusiastic applause from the audience, and she's equally effective in the other big set-pieces (E.g. "mi restano le lagrime"). Veronica Cangemi is a wonderful Morgana, with the type of clear, agile voice that is perfect for this character and this music. And that choirboy singing Oberto KILLS. Wherever they found him, I hope there are more such young singers forthcoming.

And then there's Vesselina Kasarova, whose voice is definitely an acquired taste. I have not acquired it yet. She was a great Sesto in a Salzburg production of La Clemenza di Tito and I don't remember being puzzled by her voice in that instance. But having listened to this Alcina I can see why some people love her voice, others viscerally dislike it, and still others (me included) just find it . . . intriguingly weird.

And w/r/t intriguingly weird: this is probably the best description of her acting as Ruggiero. I don't know whether this is weird directing or weird acting, but it comes off as mannered and a little kooky.

But in general, this production sounds good. And it looks good. The opener indicates that the drama is an evening of fun staged by some eighteenth-century aristocrats, and the scene is part drawing-room, part bright blue sky and sea grass. It's pretty. The lighting is nice, costumes are both attractive and make sense - nothing wrong here.

The big thing about this production, though, is that one ends up not caring all that much. Nothing appears to be at stake. The play-within-a-play conceit takes the edge off the drama, and this is not an opera that has a lot of edge to begin with. (Also: the fact that without reading the liner notes you wouldn't know that the aristocrat staging this play-within-a-play was the Duchess of Devonshire indicates that this detail is a little bit pointless.) There is no sense of urgency - the play-within-a-play concept suspends our disbelief for us, and the result is that it's not very compelling. We know that they know that Alcina's magic isn't real. Had the concept been a play within a play that got out of hand and the characters became caught up in relationships that turned all too real - a 'real' enchantment -- then it might work. But 1) then the Duchess of Devonshire racket would probably have to go: it'd have to be less specific 18th century nobles to whom this happened and 2) this would be fairly difficult to get across without some very clever staging and even cleverer acting.

So. I am glad to be able to watch a DVD of this that is easy on the ears and reasonably entertaining, but I'm still waiting for one that's really gripping.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Pleasing 16 Sep 2012
By MK - Published on Amazon.com
Musically, the performance is vibrant, delivering both the energy and the poignancy of the score. The credit goes to Marc Minkowski as the conductor. His love of the music and his belief in it shine through and the musicians follow him.

Handel is difficult to stage because with most of his operas, the director has to overcome the romance-novel libretto. Adrian Noble offers an eye-catching and sumptuous but ultimately unimaginative stage: the colours are gorgeous and the lighting luxurious but the emotional range expressed is narrow and the direction uncompelling. The liner notes by Donna Lean illustrate the discrepancy between the music and the stage direction. For Lean, Alcina, `well, its all about sex, isn't it?' whereas for Minkowski, `Alcina is all about love--all forms of love'. I wish that Noble had trusted the communicative power of the music. When he does, as in Alcina's `Ah! mio cor!', the impact is unforgettable. Alas, he often does not.

For lovers of Handel, this Alcina is better both musically and visually than the other version available on DVD today. There is still ample room for a performance in which the stage director goes beyond the surface pleasure of the music and dares to explore its full range of emotional and political possibilities.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The best Alcina DVD. 2 May 2012
By Abert - Published on Amazon.com
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This production is a very successful one. If one watches the DVD right from the beginning, one would not miss the fact that the production meant the opera to be a 'play within a play'; and that Ruggiero is actually portrayed by a woman instead of a castrato, and why there are presence of 'men' on the stage apart from the actors and actresses.

The opera itself is splendidly performed. Of the entire performing cast, three sopranos stand out.
Firstly, the boy soprano Alois Muhlbacher as Oberto is simply the BEST portrayal of this characther. He surpasses all the previous sopranos, let alone that on stage, he fits in the role absolutely. Alois sings gloriously. Not only does he own a marvellous voice, but that he also knows precisely how to use his voice. What is even more jaw dropping is that even in his tender age, he is able to perform with dramatic conviction - his vocal acting is truly superb and in the rank of the adult top singers in the field.
As Morgana, Argentinian soprano Veronica Cangemi is clearly more than competent - she pulls off all the arias with real aplomb, and acts with total assurance and conviction. Arguably the best ever Morgana.
Last but by no means the least, Anja Harteros in the title role proves that she is the current reigning Alcina.
Tall and elegant, with a fully commanding stage presence, Harteros owns a lush and fully expressive timbre that really suits this role to a "T". Her vocal range throughout all the passages of Alcina is beautifully flexible and highly effective, at the same time movingly rendered in that she imbues her singing and acting with high emotional voltage, and each scene of Alcina in this performance by her is truly exemplary.
The trouser role of Bradamante is competently handled by Hommerstrom, but it does not appear to be her best performance on this particular night of this recording.
The only possible query one may have in this entirely exceptional cast is Ruggiero, portrayed dramatically very effectively by Vesselina Kasarova, but vocally more controversial.
Kasarova virtually 'shifts gears' in each of the arias' differing registers, and this makes listening to her singing tiring after a good while.
However, it would be a gross overstatement to demounce this wonderful production solely for Kasarova's special vocal treatment of Ruggiero.
The scenary and costumes are elegant and tasteful, and all in all, this is a DVD that deserves viewing on top of all others of the same opera.
5.0 out of 5 stars a thoroughly enchanting production of this magical opera... 1 Mar 2014
By Jpet - Published on Amazon.com
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Alcina particularly lends itself to an opera-inside-a-frame approach. Here, Minkowski, Noble, and Ward have carried this off as high art. The frame is 18th century London with Anja Harteros playing Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, hosting a production of Alcina in her ballroom and taking the part of Alcina. Georgiana's friend Lady Elizabeth Foster playing Ruggiero taken by Vesselina Kasarova makes explicit from the opening moments the stacking of mutually re-enforcing levels (a pants role inside a pants role inside a magical island inside a transformed ballroom on an operatic stage). Both of these leads carry off these layers upon layers of magical and romantic manipulation with the highest musicality and dramatic art. Likewise, this same level of singing and acting is maintained by all the other principals; not a weak link or flawed moment in the whole piece.

Particularly satisfying is the way the dancers are integrated throughout the production. Georgiana has hired a troupe of dancers to augment the roles taken on by her family and friends. These dancers entertain while the others are getting their ballroom performance organized. Then at various moments in the performance the dancers take on silent roles as spirits which Alcina controls or as enchanted former lovers whom she has imprisoned by transforming them into rocks, trees, streams, or wild beasts. The contribution of the dancers reaches a high point with the balletto at the end of Act II, where they carry out Alcina's dream sequence as a dance pantomime foreshadowing the unravelling of Alcina's magical powers.

And for anyone whose had the misfortune of viewing the Hacker and Morabito travesty on Alcina and would like some way to erase that bad taste from your mouth, look no further than this wonderfully wrought tribute to Handel's art.
2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb performance 13 Nov 2011
By G. Stefan Lazar - Published on Amazon.com
Verified Purchase
Baroque opera has never been my forte and I readily admit that I may not understand everything this is need to sing/production this style. However, I found the performance on this DVD simply amazing and highly recommend it.
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