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  • Verdi: Falstaff (Parma 2011) [Ambrogio Maestri, Luca Salsi, Antonio Gandia] [C Major: 725208] [DVD] [NTSC] [2013]
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Verdi: Falstaff (Parma 2011) [Ambrogio Maestri, Luca Salsi, Antonio Gandia] [C Major: 725208] [DVD] [NTSC] [2013]


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Verdi: Falstaff (Parma 2011) [Ambrogio Maestri, Luca Salsi, Antonio Gandia] [C Major: 725208] [DVD] [NTSC] [2013] + Verdi: Aida (Arena Di Verona 1992) (Arthaus Musik: 107253) [DVD] [2012]
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Product details

  • Actors: Ambrogio Maestri, Luca Salsi, Antonio Gandia, Barbara Bargnesi, Romina Tomasoni
  • Format: Classical, NTSC
  • Language: Italian
  • Subtitles: English, German, French, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Japanese
  • Region: All Regions
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9 - 1.78:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Classification: Exempt
  • Studio: C Major
  • DVD Release Date: 1 July 2013
  • Run Time: 131 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B0094AH3HK
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 183,938 in DVD & Blu-ray (See Top 100 in DVD & Blu-ray)

Reviews

FALSTAFF
TEATRO FARNESE/VERDI FESTIVAL PARMA, OCTOBER 2011


AMBROGIO MAESTRI, LUCA SALSI, ANTONIO GANDIA, BARBARA BARGNESI, ROMINA TOMASONI, DANIELA PINI, SVETLA VASSILEVA
ORCHESTRA E CORO DEL TEATRO REGIO DI PARMA
ANDREA BATTISTONI
STAGED BY STEPHEN MEDCALF

To celebrate Giuseppe Verdi's bicentenary in 2013, C Major is proud to present the truly unique project, TUTTO VERDI: All 26 operas released on DVD and Blu-ray, together with his immortal Requiem and special documentary.

C Major approaches the end of its Tutto Verdi project with a production of Verdi's Falstaff.

The cast includes Ambrogio Maestri a recent performer at Teatro all a Scala, Metropolitan Opera New York, Opera de Paris, Covent Garden and Vienna State Opera - alongside Svetla Vassileva and Luca Salsi.

"This is how Verdi should be played" Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on Tutto Verdi

NTSC
PICTURE: 16:9, HD
SOUND: DTS 5.1, PCM STEREO
RUNNING TIME: TOTAL: 142 MINUTES
(OPERA: 131 MINUTES, BONUS: 11 MINUTES)
SUBTITLES: ITALIAN (ORIGINAL LANGUAGE), ENGLISH, GERMAN, FRENCH, SPANISH, CHINESE, KOREAN

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Durval Castro on 3 Aug. 2013
Format: Blu-ray
Falstaff, the last of Verdi's operas, is possibly his masterpiece. The music is extremely rich and Boito's libretto, based on Shakespeare, is one of the most inspired and inteligente texts ever written. Falstaff is one of the most interesting characters ever created, as demonstrated by the number os operas and films about him, and Verdi's -- except for Shakespeare's, of course -- is the best.

This is a traditional staging, the singers are all good, but it must be said that Ambrogio Maestri is probably the best Falstaff of our time. His acting is precise and funny, his singing is extremely beautiful, even his size is perfect for the role. He makes us love Falstaff and identify with him.

This is one of the best Falstaffs in vídeo, except for the one filmed at Bussetto, also with Maestri as Falstaff, and Riccardo Muti conducting the La Scala orchestra. Besides these, there are other highly reccomendable renderings of Verdi's masterpiece, each one with its own qualities and ecellences. I have some of them and love them all.
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4 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Noam Eitan on 30 May 2013
Format: Blu-ray
This was staged at the Teatro Farnese in Parma in October 2011, an unusual baroque arena. It's a gorgeous venue but the acoustic is problematic. This was the first and only time a Verdi opera was staged there. Body mics were used and the first impression you get is of the flat sound, with no ambiance. The sets were designed to help the singers - there are huge wood panels at the back of the stage; Falstaff's huge bed has an even huger headboard, again, to help reflect the sound. Fenton and Nanetta sing their duet from the most sound reflecting corners on stage. But the miking strips the sound of any sense of location and you can't hear any effect of the sets on the singers' projection. Any off-stage sounds (the women in the end of act III part one, and the "molto lontano" horn that follows) come from the same "no place" because the miking cannot locate the sound on or off stage.

The next impression is Ambrogio Maestri's Falstaff. It seems that God created this singer to sing Falstaff. Boito's verses are given the clearest, most detailed expression. The singing is unstrained with beautiful tone. Every musical line is given a specific nuance in a way that draws you in. The marriage of Boito's poetry and Verdi's music never sounded so perfect, you hear the innate musicality of the text like never before. As a stage presence Maestri is Falstaff incarnated and the detailed musical expression is matched by a detailed dramatic performance.

In Stephen Medcalf's superb staging none of the singers is trying to be funny, the acting is naturalistic. This enhances the drama and makes the comedy funnier. Familiar comic situations are clarified and placed in focus. It's as if someone took an old fresco and cleaned it of centuries of dirt - the original vivid colors spring back to life.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 4 reviews
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
Singing in Body-mic Mode 3 Jun. 2013
By Noam Eitan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray
This was staged at the Teatro Farnese in Parma in October 2011, an unusual baroque arena. It's a gorgeous venue but the acoustic is problematic. This was the first and only time a Verdi opera was staged there. Body mics were used and the first impression you get is of the flat sound, with no ambiance. The sets were designed to help the singers - there are huge wood panels at the back of the stage; Falstaff's huge bed has an even huger headboard, again, to help reflect the sound. Fenton and Nanetta sing their duet from the most sound reflecting corners on stage. But the miking strips the sound of any sense of location and you can't hear any effect of the sets on the singers' projection. Any off-stage sounds (the women in the end of act III part one, and the "molto lontano" horn that follows) come from the same "no place" because the miking cannot locate the sound on or off stage.

The next impression is Ambrogio Maestri's Falstaff. It seems that God created this singer to sing Falstaff. Boito's verses are given the clearest, most detailed expression. The singing is unstrained with beautiful tone. Every musical line is given a specific nuance in a way that draws you in. The marriage of Boito's poetry and Verdi's music never sounded so perfect, you hear the innate musicality of the text like never before. As a stage presence Maestri is Falstaff incarnated and the detailed musical expression is matched by a detailed dramatic performance.

In Stephen Medcalf's superb staging none of the singers is trying to be funny, the acting is naturalistic. This enhances the drama and makes the comedy funnier. Familiar comic situations are clarified and placed in focus. It's as if someone took an old fresco and cleaned it of centuries of dirt - the original vivid colors spring back to life. For example, the first encounter between Mrs. Quickly and Falstaff ("Reverenza") that is usually stuffily overdone: she enunciates the text clearly and her singing and acting are unstrained. The effect is that she comes across as not being impressed in the least by Falstaff and the words are like sugarcoated daggers, she is being subtly sarcastic. His response, also with text and gesture clearly expressed and unstrained indicates that he possibly registered her sarcasm and couldn't care less because from his perspective she is nothing more than an insect, a speck of dust. This take may be a figment of my imagination, but when everything comes together so coherently and vividly dramatically, it acquires an intense meaning and that meaning is always somewhere between your imagination and the intentions of the creators.

Almost all the singers excel in their roles musically and dramatically; even the smallest roles are exceptionally well done. All the singers express the same unique marriage of the clearly enunciated poetry with unstrained, easily flowing vocalism. I don't feel inclined to bore you with a detailed assessment of the singers' achievements. On the complaints list, Romina Tomasoni's Mrs. Quickly lacks a booming lower register but I did not feel it mattered one bit. More seriously, Luca Salsi lacks the weight the role of Ford requires musically and dramatically. His timbre is suave and his singing is fantastic, but the director could not coax a Mr. Ford out of him. After all, on the face of it, Falstaff's ploy to seduce two women in Windsor could be perceived as nothing more than an idiotic, desperate and silly guff by a loser, a has-been. Ford could have paid someone to beat him up and throw him out of town and that would be the end of it. Ford's anger, anxiety, vindictiveness and paranoia are the mirror through which Falstaff's ploy and personality acquire their dramatic weight. Salsi comes across as enjoying himself too much, he doesn't do "angry", "vindictive" or "anxious", and his vocal and dramatic delivery is too light.

Gradually the next impression you get from the production is the seamless flow of the drama, the singing and musical pacing. Somehow that elusive lightness of touch is achieved from every angle of the performance and you feel like you are effortlessly gliding on cloud of hilarity. This fantastic lightness intrigued me. Who should get the credit for it? The conductor is in charge of the musical pacing, but here the dramaturgy glides in perfect union with the musical aspect - how was that achieved? Maestri's Falstaff is the very embodiment of this smoothly flowing lightness - what was his role, if any, in this? I turned to his performance under Muti from Busseto from 2001 (on DVD) and all I could glean from it was that this newer Falstaff from Parma is lighter, more effortless and much more detailed than in 2001. So I turned to his Falstaff from a few months earlier in 2011, in Zurich under Daniele Gatti (on blu-ray) and...boom! Something became immediately apparent.

As to the question who is to get the credit for the smoothly flowing lightness - it has to be mainly the 24 years old conductor, Andrea Battistoni, and to some extent the director Stephen Medcalf as well. But this question was completely superseded by what the Zurich Falstaff shed light on: that all the singers in the Parma release are singing in a body-mic mode. Eh? What is "singing in a body-mic mode"?

The singers in Parma don't break a sweat. They do not display the physical signs of the effort associated with performing in a live performance, let alone trying to project into a huge venue under difficult acoustic conditions. In a live performance a singer operates within his/her dynamic amplitude, and there is an ebb and flow between the piano and forte extremes of a singer's dynamic amplitude. At the loud end there is more pushing and the tone changes, as well as other aspects of the vocal production, particularly in late romantic operas. The pushing required for the louder singing is associated with physical signs that are unattractive to watch, sometimes bulging eyeballs, sometimes sweating, there is always something. On this Parma release you get dynamic amplitudes from the singers without either the physical signs associated with moments of pushing or the changes in the tone associated with it.

There is tension in operatic singing between vowels and consonants, as the vowels is what carries the sound and consonants stop it. Every singer solves this conflict as part of their training and technique (there are famous examples of singers doing away with consonants almost altogether, I don't think I even need to bring up names), but in a live performance, even with the best singers some proportion of consonants (and clear enunciation) has to be sacrificed, particularly at moments of pushing or singing very high or low notes. The artificial, light mode of singing in this Parma Falstaff enables the singers to have an almost 100% clear and accurate enunciation, not one consonant of the text has to be sacrificed.

You may watch this release and hear and see nothing of what I am describing here. The claims I'm making here may seem like complete hogwash. I don't know if it is possible to convey convincingly what I gleaned from comparing the Zurich 2011 Falstaff to the Parma one from the same year. You have to watch the two releases yourself. I now also believe that Francesco Meli sang in body-mic mode in the Tutto Verdi Parma Ballo, he alone among the cast (conspiracy!).

This claim brings up many questions. Did they sing in body-mic mode every night? Wouldn't that affect how they sounded (or not) to the audience? Wouldn't someone notice and put a stop to it? Who is responsible for getting the entire cast to sing like that? And on and on.

The singers were almost inaudible for long stretches on at least one night (but not on other nights), and not because they were drowned by the orchestra (this also happened). Later releases from Parma do not show signs of singing in body-mic mode - I can only speculate why. As to whose idea it was, it must have been the sound engineers. They must have figured out how the voice can best interact with body mics and coached the singers. There is nothing new about singers learning to adapt their technique to singing in front of microphones in the studio, but an entire cast doing so in a live performance at the expense of the ticket paying public is something entirely different.

Using body-mics (or any close miking) is problematic in itself from several angles. In addition to the problems mentioned in the first paragraph, any kind of close miking deprives the recording of two extremely important aspects of the singer's art. One is the sense of how the voice projects into space. You can stand next to a singer on stage and hear a feeble, tiny emission whereas what the audience hears is a powerful and electrifying projection. The other aspect is the overtones (harmonics) of the singer's voice. The fundamental pitch of the tone is not as loud as one or more of the harmonics above the fundamental. The ear hears the louder harmonics best and the brain deduces the weaker fundamental of those harmonics as the pitch of the tone. Some singers flood you with a sound rich in overtones that are the main ingredient of their magic (it requires a little pushing, this is not the beauty of tone involved in soft singing). In close miking you get just the basic tone.

The Zurich Falstaff was not miked with body-mics and the sound engineers were able to capture Barbara Frittoli's rich overtones at those moments when she brings out that rich sound. The sound in Zurich is open and natural. The excellent Tonemeister in Zurich is Wilhelm Zürrer.

Italy does not have a tradition of great sound engineering. The best come from England, Holland and Germany (in that order). Every release from Italy now employs body-mics. In this Parma release the sound engineers crossed the line from documenting the event to infiltrating it like cancer and changing the way it is delivered in the interests of home-viewers.

But when the result is so exhilarating why complain? I must admit that I find this Parma Falstaff much more fun than the Zurich one, or than any other Falstaff, and that is in great measure due to Stephen Medcalf's superb staging but also due to the pact the singers and the sound engineers made with the devil.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Brilliant.....the Best. 2 Nov. 2013
By Dr. John W. Rippon - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
Falstaff is Verdi's final opera; the crowning achievment of his long career. After years of deep and profound dramas (and one failed comedy)this one he as he himself said "I write this to amuse myself". This is a frothy "commedia lirica", the frosting on the cake of his career. It is not an "opera buffa" in the vein of Rossini or Donizetti nor is it a "dramma giocosa" of Mozart. So it does not have any slap-sick or prat-falls of a "buffa" nor philisophical perceptions of a "giocosa". This is lyric commedy where the hero is a gentleman, a "Sir" as knighted by royal order in the time of Henry IV circa 1413. He has served his king and his country well and is looking for a little "non military" entertainment. Yes he is older, heavier and cannot accept the fact that he is "over the hill" and not the dandy he once was. So for some amusement he writes some letters.....
The adventures that this leads to are "frothy and fun" and not to be taken seriously. I think this production is a gem. Directed by Stephen Medcalf with sets and costumes by James Varton, this production is "modern" up to date but most satisfactory.(Not Eurotrash!) The bed sheets as props is most original, and the giant bed (which acts as a baffle for the singers) is a stroke of genius. Everything works!
The head of the cast is, of course, the Falstaff of Ambrogio Maestri. He was born to be Falstaff. He is tall, ample of body with a deep basso cantante that carries all over (here it is body-miked so no strain on the singer)and he has a natural sense of comic timing. He is superb! Even better than in his performance under Ricardo Muti with La Scalla at Busetto in 2001. (The Fenton in this performance is a young Juan Diego Florea and the Alice is Barbara Frittoli). He has constantly refined the role as witness the disc recorded in 2011 in Zurich and he will perform the role at the Metropolitan in 2013. I have been following the exploits of Falstaff since the 1950s. I heard all degrees of interpretaation; some great and some not so. Recent performances by Jose van Dam and Bryn Terfel are outstanding. The present record has an adequate cast in the other performers (I was a little disappointed in the Mrs. Quickly and the Pistola) but the others were quite good. Yet the whole experience was one of great joy. This recording is simply the best(at this time).
0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
This operqa has no hits, but it is worth the price, consdering who is sing in it. 6 Oct. 2013
By Richard J Ormsby - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Blu-ray Verified Purchase
I Italian opera in blu- ray. This really great stuff, especially when you consider it costs no more than a cheap seat at the opera house.
2 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Not much fun.... 16 Aug. 2013
By Bill - Published on Amazon.com
Format: DVD Verified Purchase
Ugh, isn't Falstaff supposed to be a comedy? Well sung, well conducted, and well played, but the director's take here is so dark so as to be unwatchable for me. Falstaff is portrayed as a sinister, disengaged, narcissistic, boorish, slovenly, borderline sexual predator. The Merry Wives dressed all in black just come off as harsh and mean spirited. The sets are dark and depressing and sort of cheap looking. The fake Falstaff dumped in the river was pretty cheesy. Not much nuance or true humanity here, just another overbearing director's concept taken too far. Maybe he thought he was directing Rigoletto, but I think he got the `color' of this opera wrong. Give the performers 5 stars but thumbs down on the concept here. I watched it a few times to give it a chance. But liked it less and less on each viewing.

This is one of my favorite operas and there are many better versions in my opinion that are actually fun to watch. The Met production (Levine, Plishka, Freni), The Royal Opera House production (Giuliani, Bruson, Ricciarelli) and the Glyndebourne production (Jurowski, Purves, Kuznetsava) regularly make it into my play list and I know there are more good versions I haven't had time to see yet. Even the ROH over the top production with Bryn Terfel is preferable over this dark mess.

One comment on the sound. The orchestra seems too dialed back and in the background. This score especially is vibrant, complex and weaves in and out of the vocal lines. Usually I really like the voice forward, but not this time.

Like all the great operas there is obviously room to interpret characters over a broad range. But somebody turned the Falstaff bad guy knob to 11 here. To each his own taste, but for me just ends up being menacing and depressing.
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