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H. A. Weedon "Mouser" (North Somercotes, Lincolnshire, UK)
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Janet Baker - Song Recital
Janet Baker - Song Recital
Offered by music_by_mail_uk
Price: £24.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Inspiring., 12 Jan. 2016
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An inspiring recording of the all time great voice of the wonderful Janet Baker. Thoroughly recommended.


Mozart - Mitridate Re Di Ponto [2006] [DVD]
Mozart - Mitridate Re Di Ponto [2006] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Gösta Winbergh
Price: £16.39

5.0 out of 5 stars A Real Gem of a Watch from a 14 year old Genius., 12 Jan. 2016
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Watching this production of Mitridate Re di Ponto by the fourteen year old Mozart is an absolute delight, not least because it could not have presented his genius any better if it had tried. Some of the most rewarding opera watching is often found unexpectedly away from the top ten most popular ones and here we have a superb example of that. The fact that it's 4:3 and not Blu-Ray doesn't matter much either when it's so delightfully watchable. Why spoil everything with a plethora of quibbles about age, sound quality and so on when all we have to do is to relax and enjoy what we have here?

It's worth watching just for the costumes, all of which appear to be based on the most extravagant of late Seventeenth, Early Eighteenth styles. Upper class male dress is depicted as extravagantly flared skirts over knee breeches. And the skirt of the dress worn by Yvonne Kenny, outstanding in the lead role of Aspasia, is so wide it would not be possible for her to walk through a normal doorway without turning sideways. Coloured patterning, footwear, hair styles and wigs are equally fascinating. All this is complemented by imaginative staging, with the depiction of a fleet of sailing ships especially well presented. It seems to me that this is all just how the young Mozart would have liked it.

All told there are seven solo singing roles, four of which are performed by women with two of them being trouser roles, which, I imagine, would have been sung by castrati in Mozart's time, but are here brilliantly portrayed and sung by Ann Murray (Sifare) and Anne Gjevang (Furnace) two of the sons of Mithridate, convincingly sung and acted by Gosta Winbergh. The role of Mithradate's youngest son, who is still a boy, is admirably performed by Massimiliano Roncato, soloist in the boys choir of Gorgonzola.

In a way this work can be seen as the herald of what Mozart's genius was yet to produce. It's just like when we see a colourful, glittering herald announcing the advent of something very much out of the ordinary. If the herald is as good as this, what must the retinue be like? If Mozart were alive now I feel sure he would be delighted that women could sing and play the one time castrati roles so convincingly and realistically as they do here. If you are an opera lover, don't miss out on this recording. It's an inspiring delight in every way.


Joanna: The Notorious Queen of Naples, Jerusalem and Sicily: The Notorious Reign of Joanna I, Queen of Naples, Jerusalem and Sicily and Countess of Provence
Joanna: The Notorious Queen of Naples, Jerusalem and Sicily: The Notorious Reign of Joanna I, Queen of Naples, Jerusalem and Sicily and Countess of Provence
by Nancy Goldstone
Edition: Paperback

4.0 out of 5 stars Packed with Carefully Researched Information, but Jumps Around too Much., 9 Jan. 2016
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This carefully researched and presented account of Joanna, Queen of Naples during the Fourteenth Century, becomes tedious at times because it tends to talk all around the subject instead of focussing steadily on Joanna herself. Fortunately, this irritating idiosyncrasy can, at times, prove attention holding in its own right such as when the author indulges in the best descriptions of the battles of Crecy and Poitiers likely to be found anywhere. The work might be better entitled 'The Life and Times of Joanna. Queen of Naples.'

Joanna had her time cut out dealing with power hungry, sanctimonious popes, cardinals and archbishops, not to mention a hoard of secular, power hungry males of one kind and another. Sadly, it all gets a bit much at times and I found myself saying: 'Cut out the cackle and get on with telling us about this remarkable woman Joanna.' Then you read through pages and pages and ask: 'What's become of Joanna? Where is she?' Maybe this work should have been entitled: 'The Life and Times of Joanna, Queen of Naples.'

Then again, the work jumps around too much. It begins with an account of Joanna's trial for murder before the pope, when this could have best been narrated in chronological order as the reader is guided through Joanna's life. Fortunately, the work is well indexed with helpful notes and bibliography and also contains several helpful colour illustrations, excellent maps and genealogical tables. A good way to benefit from this work is to use these aids and look up what you want to find out and read it up in the relevant pages. For instance, if you need to find out as much as possible about Joanna, consult her name in the index and read about her on the relevant pages. For example, if it's the battle of Crecy you're interested in, look it up and you'll find the description of it is on pp 162-64. Then again, if you want to find out what's become of Joanna, look her up in the index and find her again.

This work has been well researched. However, if you want to find out about Joanna, use it as a reference work rather than read as if it were a novel. It's truly remarkable how well she ruled and did so much for her people in the midst of a deluging plethora of scheming male intrigue. She was married several times and was accused of murdering one of her husbands, but was cleared of doing so. Apart from anything else, this works offers an interesting insight into European life during a large part of the Fourteenth Century. I'm just deducting the one star for what I regard as its often unnecessary tediousness. But, my, Nancy Goldstone certainly knows her stuff!


Vanity Fair [DVD]
Vanity Fair [DVD]
Dvd ~ Eve Matheson
Price: £27.59

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very Watchable, All Time Great., 9 Jan. 2016
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This review is from: Vanity Fair [DVD] (DVD)
I recall watching this adaptation when it was first broadcast on the BBC and I'm so pleased to have it because I've always thought it's among the very best of its kind. Despite the fact that it's 4:3 and rather shows its age, all this, along with the rather stilted staging and inferior sound quality, is cancelled out by the brilliance of the acting.

Although Thackeray wrote much else including novels such as 'The Luck of Barry Lyndon', he is nowadays beast known by this work. During Victorian times he was regarded as second only to Dickens. Nowadays, when Dickens sentimentality can be tiresome at times, Thackeray's lack of it is most refreshing and he holds his own among the greatest of Nineteenth Century writers. In fact, he is an all time great.

In this production, Eve Matheson is brilliant in the lead role of Becky Sharp among an equally excellent supporting cast. In fact, it's all so evenly well done that the drawbacks mentioned above are cancelled out as the viewer becomes absorbed in this realistic tale.


Rossini:Aureliano In Palmira [Various] [ARTHAUS: BLU RAY] [Blu-ray] [2015]
Rossini:Aureliano In Palmira [Various] [ARTHAUS: BLU RAY] [Blu-ray] [2015]
Dvd ~ Rossini
Price: £29.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding! Brilliant! Very Watchable! The Best!, 7 Jan. 2016
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Here we have an outstandingly brilliant performance of Rossini's Aureliano in Palmira, one of his earlier operas composed when he was in his early twenties. Both sound and picture quality are excellent on this Blu-Ray recording. Well sung and acted throughout, it is delightfully attention holding at every turn with sympathetic staging and period style costuming. The Rossini Opera Festival, Pesaro is to be congratulated for staging this rather less well known of Rossini's works in such inspiering fashion.

Although, as is pointed out at the close of the performance, the plot is not entirely true to historical fact, everything is made to turn out just as those of us who prefer 'fairy tale' endings would have wanted it to. The 'age of Verdi' with all its tragic endings had not yet dawned, this work having been composed around the time of his birth. Bel canto is also evident here with unabated glorious singing and music from beginning to end. The work is mercifully entirely devoid of the 'musical shout' which seems to have developed in operas during the Twentieth Century.

Everyone involved, including all the extras, give of their very best in this performance as if they are all overjoyed to be there working together in such a worthwhile piece of attention holding entertainment. This feeling includes the orchestra, stage hands and everyone involved. All told, this is a triumph for the director, Mario Martone, who believes that the link between stage and audience is important. Sergio Tramonti is to be congratulated on designing such realistic, yet unobtrusive staging, and Ursula Patzak gets it just right with her costume designs. Nothing is intrusive; it all fits in. Conductor Will Crutchfield and the orchestra are inspiring and the attractive overture sets the mode for the whole work.

Michael Spyres is excellent in the lead male role of Roman general Aureliano, as is Jessica Pratt in the lead female role of Queen Zenobia. He impresses with his realistic 'here's me and who's like me' Roman ruling class style and she is just like one would expect a brave and beautiful Queen to be like and their singing is inspiring. Lena Belkina is equally good in the trouser role of the prince Arsace, who is Zenobia's love interest. She has the right voice, right figure and right acting ability for this role. enabling the viewer to believe she really is a man. Raffaella Lupinacci in the role of Publia, also in love with Arsace, sings and acts her role to perfection, as do all the rest of the cast.

During Act 2 a rural idyll is depicted during which several real goats appear on the stage with their goat herd. It's always interesting when live animals appear in operas. I've now seen real live horses, ponies, donkeys, dogs, sheep, goats and pigs in various roles. I don't know of any composer who has yet managed to incorporate the noises they make into the singing. It would be difficult to get them to neigh, grunt, bark or squeal at the appropriate times. However, composers do quite often imitate animal sounds in their music.

Following on from his belief in the importance of the link between stage and audience, Director Mario Martone has an attractive, long haired lady playing the harpsichord on stage during the latter parts of the performance. On one occasion she is accompanied by a man playing a double base. I liked the harpsichord on stage, especially when it fitted in well with the part when Zenobia and Arsace were contemplating suicide rather than having to be separated. It was tellingly done and I liked it. I'm overjoyed about this performance and I would be very surprised if many other opera lovers are not equally pleased by it.


Roberto Devereux: Bavarian State Opera (Haider) [DVD] [2006]
Roberto Devereux: Bavarian State Opera (Haider) [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Edita Gruberova
Price: £16.99

2.0 out of 5 stars Margaret Thatcher Lookalike Singing in a Bus Station., 6 Jan. 2016
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Now and then it sometimes happens that, no matter how brilliant the singing and performances are in an opera, it can be utterly ruined by some ridiculous quirk or other such as we have here in this production, which gives all the appearances of a Margaret Thatcher look alike singing in a bus station. Well, as the old adage has it, we learn by our mistakes and I certainly made a mistake in buying this recording. What makes it so very sad is that it's all so unnecessary. Modern costuming operas can work well, but not when they are Thatcherised in bus stations. This kind of unnecessary tomfoolery is fair neither to Queen Elizabeth I nor to Margaret Thatcher, both of whom should be allowed to enjoy their own greatness or otherwise in their own way and not be foisted into each other in such a crazy fashion. Fortunately, I thoroughly enjoy most opera recordings, but, as the old adage has it: 'You can't win 'em all'. I certainly made a mistake in buying this recording. It's just good to know that some viewers do like it a lot.


Tannhäuser Richard Wagner: Chor der Bayreuther Festspiele
Tannhäuser Richard Wagner: Chor der Bayreuther Festspiele
Dvd ~ Götz Friedrich
Price: £19.10

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Performance Featuring the Immortal Dame Gyneth., 4 Jan. 2016
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Here we have a 4:3, two disc, circa 40 year old Bayreuth Festival recording of Wagner's Tannhauser conducted by Sir Colin Davis and featuring Gwyneth Jones as Venus-Elizabeth and Spas Wenkoff as Tannhauser. Despite the age everything comes over very well indeed and it's worth watching just for Gwyneth Jones' brilliant performance in the duel role of Venus/Elizabeth.

Spas Wenkoff makes an ideal Tannhauser who gets all muddled within a plethora of a variety religious belief which succeeds only in complicating a straightforward and sensible relationship. Just as Gwyneth Jones succeeds in being both Elisabeth and Venus, Tannhauser could also have envisaged her in that way instead of trying to split one from the other. This all goes to show and epitomise why religion becomes such a divisive factor instead of bringing people together. The viewer is left with the feeling that Tannhauser would have done far better to have loved the petite and adorable Dame Gwyneth style Elizabeth and set about fostering a successful and happy life with her instead of getting all muddled up in a plethora of religious fervour of one kind and another.

I don't know if this is how we are supposed to interpret this great work. All I can say is that's it's as good a way as any, besides which such an interpretation can only add to the enjoyment of the opera because here we have inspiration to set us thinking in the happiest of constructive styles. All told, this is an ageless, all time great production that bears watching many times. Anyway, I hope you enjoy watching this great performance of a great work as much as I do.


Donizetti: Belisario (All-regions DVD)
Donizetti: Belisario (All-regions DVD)
Dvd ~ Dario Solari
Price: £28.11

5.0 out of 5 stars Very Watchable, Top Grade Performance., 4 Jan. 2016
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Since Belisario is not one of the best known of Donizetti's operas, it's most encouraging that it has been staged in such excellent fashion at the Teatro Donizetti in Bergano and this very watchable recording made of it for many more opera lovers to enjoy. Singing, orchestration, staging, costumes are all so well done it would be difficult to fault any of them. With a duration of little over two hours, the performance is rivetingly attention holding throughout. The world of Opera holds more wonderful surprises such as this than might sometimes be realised and it's encouraging to have the Teatro Donizetti there in Bergamo promoting so many of Donizetti's works.

Donata D'Annunzio Lombardi is superb in the lead role of Antonina. Not only does she sing it to perfection, she both acts and looks the part in her knowingly designed, flowing, dark green costume. Small wonder that she receives extra loud applause at the end of the performance. Dario Salari is equally good in the role of her husband Belisario and Anunniziata Vestri is very convincing as his loyal daughter. Antonina discovers too late that her husband Belisario did not 'do away with' their son now known as Almiro (well played by Andeka Gorrotxategui), whom Belisario had recently adopted not realising he was his own son whom he believed had not survived childhood, although, of course, he was not guilty of killing him as the estranged Antonia supposed.. By this time, Belidario had been blinded as punishment for his supposed infanticide and Antonina discovers too late that he did not kill their son. Mortally wounded in battle, he dies just too soon for Antonina to be able to achieve reconciliation with him and the work ends with her in a state of agonising lamentation with hers and Belisario's two children devastated.

Donizetti's music ensures that the work is attention holding throughout and Donata Lombardi engages in some inspiring bel canto singing. I'm so pleased I was able to find this recording of yet another very watchable Donizetti masterpiece. Less well known, rarely performed works can sometimes be every bit as inspiringly watchable as the very well known ones, as is the case here. Thoroughly recommended.


Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg [Blu-ray] [2012]
Wagner: Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg [Blu-ray] [2012]
Dvd ~ Marco Jentzsch
Price: £29.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Wagner Fans will Love this Outstanding Production., 3 Jan. 2016
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Glyndebourne does it yet again and can be justly proud of this excellent production of Wagner's Mastersingers. Orchestration, casting, staging and costumes are all top grade. Gerald Finley is outstanding in the lead role of shoemaker Hans Sachs. Although the Mastersingers meeting in Act 1 might very well seem tedious, this is largely a problem for non-German speakers having to read what is being said. Having to do this when most of the singing is 'song-centred' and melodious is no problem and only becomes one when protracted 'sing-talk' is taking place as we have here. Watching the production more than once helps with this problem for non-German speakers.

There's just the two female characters: Eva and Magdalene, well played by Anna Gabler and Michaela Selinger respectively. There are times when it's easy to have the impression that women are being drowned out by a blaring posse of self-opinionated men, epitomised in the argumentative gathering of the Mastersingers. Fortunately, this kind of thing is happily cancelled out by the endearing, caring characters of Magdalene's love interest in the shape of Sach's apprentice, David (Topi Lehtipuru) and the impoverished knight Walther von Stolzing (Marco Jentzach) These actors, and indeed the whole cast, could not have been better selected for their roles. It's like as if it's all the real thing, causing the viewer to exclaim: 'I know someone just like that!' This has to be a tribute both to Wagner's genius and to the excellent acting. Eva's problem in having to choose between the two men she loves, Hans and Walther, is tellingly staged, causing the viewer to meditate upon the many faceted meaning of 'love'. Although she realises that the choice is weighted in favour of the younger man, she also realises that her happiness could not have been possible without the caring, unselfish love of the older one. Here Wagner is showing us that there's never anything truly clear cut about how everything turns out in life.

Johannes Martin Kranzle is excellent in the role of town clerk, Sixtus Beckmesser, who hopes to win the master singer contest along with marriage to Eva. In fact, the whole performance gives the impression that all the participants have been carefully chosen for their roles. And, wonder of wonders, it's all been achieved in England at Glyndebourne and it's hard to imagine how it could have been done better. Yes, it really is as good as that! There's nothing wrong with the Blu-Ray recording, which plays well on my player. I'm very pleased I bought this recording. If you like Wagner, you'll love this production.


Stella Di Napoli - Bel Canto Arias
Stella Di Napoli - Bel Canto Arias
Price: £9.99

5.0 out of 5 stars An All time Great., 2 Jan. 2016
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The bel canto singing of Joyce Didanato is an inspiring joy from beginning to end in this superbly put together recording. There really isn't a lot more to say, except that, if you love bel canto, you'll be over-joyed with all of it and want to play it over and over again.. Bellini, Rossini and Donizetta are among the six composers included. There are also works by Mercadonte, Valentini, Carata and Pacini (not to be confused with Puccini) Thoroughly recommended. It's an all time great.


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