Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop Black Friday Deals Refreshed in Fashion Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now DIYED Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Paperwhite Listen in Prime Shop Now Shop now
Profile for captain cuttle > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by captain cuttle
Top Reviewer Ranking: 88,685
Helpful Votes: 608

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
captain cuttle (Vancouver, Canada)

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5
The Solent
The Solent
Price: £13.48

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Emphatically not second-rate VW, 7 Feb. 2014
This review is from: The Solent (Audio CD)
Those who've long since collected the major works of the masters usually find themselves exploring lesser-known byways as an alternative to accumulating second and third versions of mainstream pieces. It's a pursuit fraught with dead ends as much as rewards. Many unrecorded works are so for a reason.
That's far from the case here. It's a superb disc in every way. The Three Impressions for Orchestra are early, shortish but very evocative tone poems with unmistakable VW fingerprints - think 'In the Fen Country' - well worth the price of the disc alone.
Three of VW's Songs of Travel, orchestrated by the composer, are nicely sung in a rich baritone by Roland Wood, though I marginally prefer the piano-accompanied versions.
The big surprise for me was the Four Hymns for Tenor, Viola Obbligato and Strings, recorded before I believe but new to me. Absolutely top-drawer VW, breathtakingly sung by Andrew Kennedy, surely a name for the future with a very fine Tom Rakewell to his credit (his acting is as good as his singing) on dvd also.
The rest of the disc is music for, or associated with, The Mayor of Casterbridge, much of it in variation form on the carol 'On Christmas Night the Joy-Bells ring'. Not absolutely essential Vaughan Williams but well-worth hearing.
Regardless, there are more than 40 minutes of music on here that no lovers of this composer will want to be without.
Albion give the RLPO a far better recording than Naxos have managed in their Shostakovich series, Paul Daniel is excellent as usual, the booklet notes are first-class and there's a lovely photo of The Needles on the cover. Well done Albion, all round!

Gounod: Romeo et Juliette -- film version [DVD] [2003]
Gounod: Romeo et Juliette -- film version [DVD] [2003]
Dvd ~ Roberto Alagna
Price: £24.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A disaster, 30 April 2012
This is appalling. Gounod's opera is so badly butchered that even if you're familiar with the play it's difficult to understand where you are. It falls apart as a story and as a work of art. Here, it's merely a vehicle for two singers.
If there are advantages to filming a performance and lip-synching the participants they generally lie in the ability to provide an authentic backdrop and to give the singers an opportunity to focus on their acting. Both those advantages go for nought here. The backdrop is a Czech castle not Verona and there's much wandering around in nondescipt, unimaginatively-photographed woodland. As for acting, I've seen both Alagna and Gheorghiu deliver stunning performances, but not here. There's little sense of real interaction, lots of stock gestures. And neither of them inhabit their roles. Gheorghiu looks like Gheorghiu without makeup, Alagna plays Don Carlo again and combined they generate the elecricity of a business partnership.
Watch the Villazon/Machaidze performance after this and you'd swear it was a different work. That performance turns this opera into a masterpiece, this one puts it at the level of a sitcom.

Donizetti: Anna Bolena [Blu-ray] [2011] [Region Free]
Donizetti: Anna Bolena [Blu-ray] [2011] [Region Free]
Dvd ~ Anna Netrebko
Price: £16.06

5 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A spectacular return to form, 15 Dec. 2011
After finding myself tepid-to-cold about some of her recent performances both on dvd and cd, it's such a joy to give a totally unqualified five stars to Netrebko's work in Anna Bolena. This surely is right up there with her 2005 Violetta and just about everything else she was doing back then. Both acting and singing are top notch. Admittedly this is a different Donizetti from, say, Don Pasquale or Lucia. Emphasis is on drama rather than vocal pyrotechnics, and she delivers in spades.
It's the highest praise I can think of to say she's a stand-out in a superb cast, starting well and building to an overpowering final scene. The voice is rich, precise and full of nuances appropriate to the text. Her scenes with Garanca, herself on top form, are breathtaking. In fact all three women (including Elisabeth Kulman) are a treat. Other reviewers have found the men wanting, but I don't. Ildebrando D'Arcangelo is an imposing Enrico and I thoroughly enjoyed Francesco Meli as Percy, sounding to my ears a little like young Carreras, perhaps a touch drier.
Colours are used to subtle but telling effect in both sets and costumes, making this an excellent demonstration of blu-ray visual capabilities. Sound, too, is near-perfect, showing off the fine support provided by Pido and the Wiener Staatsoper. The chorus sings beautifully but .......and this is my only `but' about this whole performance, stage direction is rather static. Acting is a few notches above park-and-bark and let's face it, both Netrebko and Garanca can act with or without stage directors. But it's certainly not up to the standards of today's best. Not a big quibble given the overall excellence of this performance. A gem.

Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor / Netrebko, Beczala, Kwiecien, Metropolitan Opera (2009) [DVD] [NTSC]
Donizetti: Lucia di Lammermoor / Netrebko, Beczala, Kwiecien, Metropolitan Opera (2009) [DVD] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Poitr Beczala
Price: £19.83

2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A mixed bag, 15 Mar. 2011
In many ways this performance was not what I expected. The last time I saw Netrebko in a bel canto role she was injecting much-needed life into a rather stogy Met Puritani. When I caught this Lucia performance on the radio I thought she sounded rather tired, but was very impressed by the Edgardo. Knowing how well she can act I expected Netrebko to reverse that first impression when I saw the dvd, but not so. It's an underpowered performance, not bad, but not up to her usual standards. Add to that the fact that her voice, while beautiful, is not totally at home in bel canto (smudged runs, for instance), and the result is that she is upstaged by at least two of her colleagues.

Baritone Mariusz Kwiecien delivers an excellent Enrico and Piotr Beczcala is outstanding in every way as Edgardo. His voice is ideal for this role and his characterization is spot on. The final double aria, heart-breaking, steals the show. A tenor to watch.

There is a revealing moment in the extras when Dessay, a very able interviewer, asks Netrebko if the recent birth of her child had re-set her priorities. She answers without the slightest hesitation, yes. Surely the answer we would all expect and want from her, but you can't help wondering if that physical and mental distraction had tempered her ability, or inclination, to give her customary all to her performance.

Mary Zimmerman's production has received mixed reviews and my own reaction is somewhere down the middle. Daniel Ostling's sets are striking, adventurous without being quirky. Some effects work, some don't. I like the ghosts but the wedding photographer is a bit of an intrusion. What I really didn't like was the acting, or lack of it. After a string of superbly-acted Met performances this was a return to the old stand and deliver school, Beczcala excepted.

Marco Armiliato and the Met Orchestra provide fine support. Picture and sound are quite good without quite matching some of the other recent Met dvds. All in all, this is a decent Lucia and most Netrebko fans (I can be one too, depending on what she's singing) will be happy. But there are better performances on dvd.

Verdi : Rigoletto [DVD] [2010] [NTSC]
Verdi : Rigoletto [DVD] [2010] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Diana Damrau
Price: £11.11

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rigoletto freshly restored, 23 Dec. 2010
Rigoletto was one of my first opera purchases - the Decca Pavarott/Sutherland/Milnes lp nearly 40 years ago. Today, with more versions on my shelves than I can shake a stick at, tape, dvd, lp, cd, I'd decided enough was enough, until somebody loaned me this Dresden dvd. After watching it once, I had to add it to my collection.

In many ways it is like a restored masterpiece. Conductor and producer are the real stars, their conception totally meshed and for the most part superbly realized. Musically, it is the opposite of a run-through. This conductor, Fabio Luisi, has an amazing ability to balance of Verdi's orchestration precisely without sacrificing feeling. There is almost a woodcut feel about the score, details emerging in sharp relief. If this is the future of Verdi conducting, bring it on! Lehnhoff's production, too, is freshly thought-out. For instance, there is a brilliant moment in the great Act 3 quartet when the Duke and Gilda embrace. Every other production I've seen keeps them either side of a stage wall, following the script literally. Here, Lehnhoff lets them act according to the fantasy contained in the words they're singing, and for me the result is breathtaking. I love the masques worn by the courtiers, in fact the entire realization of the courtiers' roles. They are the true bad guys, equally malicious to both the Duke and Rigoletto.

Too bad Florez has abandoned this role. The hard edge on his voice may signify strain but it could also be a recording quirk. You'll also hear that Florez too-much-of-a-good-thing ping in some of his early recordings, most notably, Matilde di Shabran, before most sound engineers learned to cope with it. As an interpretation, his Duke doesn't quite work for me. It seems to aim for Pavarotti's lovable rogue conception without quite getting there. He lacks Pavarotti's stage presence here. Had he taken the role through more performances I'm sure it would have matured to become one of the great Dukes. La donna e mobile is superb.

Lucic's Rigoletto works better on the ear than the eyes. Physically he's a long way from the hunchbacked cripple Verdi wanted. His acting strikes me as rather old fashioned compared with the rest of this cast and there is little of the `poisoned dwarf' about him. Neither is there the flip side, the open-hearted tenderness other Rigolettos have found in the scenes with Gilda. It's a big voice, but others - Milnes, Nucci, Gavanelli, Alvarez to name just a few, find more light and shade than is available here.

Diana Damrau's Gilda steals the show. She is a long way from the usual pallid, shrinking violet. Her Caro nome is almost a statement of claim and intent and her offstage rape by the Duke (graphically hinted by Lenhoff) might raise the question of who seduced whom. Vocally, she is absolutely magnetic.

Supporting parts are very well taken, a magnificently steely Sparafucile by Georg Zeppenfeld, Christa Mayer's Maddalena suitably sluttish.

Lehnhoff's thunderstorm is a bit over the top, but if there isn't such an episode in a Lehnhoff production you question its authenticity.

I recognize, reading other reviews on this page after I wrote this, that I'm at polar opposite to some. No matter, I'd urge any opera lover to investigate this dvd and form his or her own opinion. If it isn't an unqualified success there's more than enough that's outstanding, unparalleled by any other version I've heard or seen, to compensate for its shortcomings.

Great Curries of India, The
Great Curries of India, The
by Camellia Panjabi
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Test these recipes first!, 1 Sept. 2010
Once you've tested out her recipes, at least once, you can produce excellent dishes from Punjabi's book. They usually involve lots of work, but that's Indian cooking.
The big issue, as with most of her books, is that the recipes are chock-full of errors. Ingredients listed in the heading never appear in the description, and vice versa. Quantities are all over the place, sometimes wildly inaccurate. You definitely do not want to invite guests over for a meal from this book without going through a dry-run for the family first.
Just one of countless examples, the chick-pea dish near the end:
1)Calls for 1/3 cup, 9 oz of dried chick peas. 1/3 of a cup is about 2 oz, 9 oz is about one cup. Which is it? Or neither?
2)Calls for 3 onions. Then in the body of the recipe you're asked to chop 2, puree one, and add the ........... wait a minute, 4th? to the peas you've put in the pressure cooker.
3)Calls for 1/2 oz ginger, peeled, 1/2 oz garlic. 1/2 oz of ginger is hardly worth bothering with after you've peeled it and 1/2 oz garlic is about 5 cloves, pretty overpowering in a veggie dish. I suspect yet another typo. Or two.

And so it goes on. The introductory pages, intended to give you an overview of Indian ingredients, is big on nice pictures and by-the-way stuff, low on what you need to know from a cooking and preparation standpoint.
I've used the book for years, enjoyed many dishes from it, but only after a laborious vetting process that often ends with me tossing it to the back of the shelf on being caught out by yet another error. In fairness, it's a problem that afflicts every Indian cooking book I've ever used. As my son, who travelled the country for a year, says, that's the joy and frustration of India.

Criterion Coll: Carlos Saura's Flamenco Trilogy [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Criterion Coll: Carlos Saura's Flamenco Trilogy [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by Japan-Select
Price: £109.19

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Speaking for El Amor Brujo ......., 24 July 2010
I'm afraid I've only seen El Amor Brujo out of this set so my review will be of limited use. But I wanted to alert lovers of Spanish music, and Falla in particular, to the merits of this production.
I love the score, in the Fruhbeck de Burgos/New Philharmonia version especially, and approached Saura's realisation with some trepidation. Would the re-working of less than 30 minutes of music into a 103 minute film generate irrelevancies and periods of tedium? How would Saura's vision fit with the images I'd had in my head for years? How would the musical performance stack up against vaunted recordings from the likes of Dutoit and Reiner, not to mention Fuhbeck?
In every respect, Saura's film blew me away. Beautiful to look at, acted and danced with sensuality and passion that never crosses the line into poor taste and above all, founded on a realization of Falla's score that is at least the equal of the best recordings I have ever heard, this is an absolute triumph. The National Orchestra of Spain is conducted by Jesus Lopez Corbos and Rocio Jurado sings with that open-throated, earthy sound so essential to this music. Saura's stylised updating of the setting to a modern Andalusian village works superbly as do his additions of modern flamenco pop songs. Sound and picture quality are excellent.
All in all, a must for lovers of Spain, Spanish music, Falla, and great cinema.

Prokofiev: The Gambler [DVD] [2009] [2010]
Prokofiev: The Gambler [DVD] [2009] [2010]
Dvd ~ Dmitri Tcherniakov
Offered by Great Buys Uk
Price: £14.95

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As a link to a fuller review, 20 July 2010
Until reviews of this particular edition are posted, I'll just point out that I've given my thoughts on the NTSC version on this site. The performance is exactly the same, and excellent in every respect. So with the proviso that there may be some difference in packaging and picture/sound quality (I doubt this version will be inferior - Kulture NTSC editions are notoriously bare-bones) I'd say that those interested need not hesitate.

Shostakovich: Symphony No. 4
Shostakovich: Symphony No. 4
Offered by muzicmadnezz
Price: £19.99

3 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars underpowered, 16 April 2010
What a pity. This is a beautifully played and recorded performance, one of the best I've heard from DGG. But it sells this monumental work short. Compared to the old Kondrashin or even the ground-breaking Ormandy, it sounds like a run-through. Above all, there must be passion in a performance of the 4th but I find very little of it here. The apocalyptic coda that should tie the whole work together and leave the listener drained fails to do anything but end the work quite nicely. The sense of foreboding that ends the first movement and for which the second provides just temporary, ironic, relief, is completely missed.
No this, probably the greatest of Shostakovich's symphonies, is still waiting for a performance that comes close to what Kondrashin did with it. That recording was always full of gliches - tape wobbles, engineers monkeying with levels, but the performance itself is incomparable. I have my fingers crossed that the new Naxos series with the Liverpool Phil will at last give us a modern version that does justice to the work.

The Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword Book 9
The Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword Book 9
by The Times Mind Games
Edition: Paperback

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars weeks of fun and you can kid yourself you're actually doing something, 25 Mar. 2010
With about 60 clues per puzzle, these are a bit daunting at first but for me the key was to focus on segments and not go darting all over the puzzle looking for easy answers.

I believe the test of a great clue is that from it you can construct a word or phrase that you've never heard of. For that reason I used to love Auracaria's crosswords for the Guardian. Some of the compilers here - there are 13 of them - meet that criterion. From the previous edition of the the Times Jumbo there were very few puzzles that achieved difficulty, to me at least, by being vague - probably one compiler. That's certainly an improvement over Daily Telegraph cryptic crosswords which these days are only difficult when they're either imprecise or inaccurate or both. And over about 3000 clues in that last Times Jumbo edition I think I found only one that was answerable equally logically with two different words. Pretty good going.

These puzzles also passed another acid test. When you've finished and found you got one or two wrong, do you have to agree you were sloppy and that if you'd interpreted the clue more accurately you would have got the right answer? In almost every instance I've found that to be the case. With most of these compilers you feel you've been in a fair fight.

Having a recent copy of Chambers Twentieth Century Dictionary close at hand, helps. Okay, I know you're not supposed to use a dictionary but I'm not that clever and having lived half my life in Canada it helps to be able to check the exact English definition of a word, often slightly different from the Canadian version.

If I say that one of the highlights of my current day is the first half hour with a coffee and my Times Jumbo Cryptic Crossword book, I hope the phrase 'get a life' doesn't come to you.

Page: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5