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The Phantom of the Opera at The Royal Albert Hall
The Phantom of the Opera at The Royal Albert Hall
Price: £7.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars BEST COMPLETE PERFORMANCE ON CD, 4 Aug. 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
COMPLETE: first of all, this is so far the most complete official English full recording of this musical I've ever heard (there were a few changes in the order of the lines, e.g. Firmin and André's entrance is after the rehearsal of "Hannibal" instead of while the ballet; but there is more or less the full original text). A little modification was made in the ending of "Whishing you were somehow here again", adding an orchestral climax where the original had an ending nearly a cappella. (Better also the sound effects, especially the Phantom's fireballs, in the second act, where they sound as a blaze insted of as a cracker)
VS. THE ORIGINAL CAST RECORDING: while perhaps Sierra Boggess has not Sarah Brightman's purest voice, she studied as a soprano and it's rather evident, and her top rings somehow like Brightman's even though it's fuller and warmer; Ramin Karimloo's nerly baritone-voice is perhaps better suited to the Phantom than Michael Crawford's lightest tenor.
VS. SCHUMACHER'S 2004 CAST (2 disc integrale soundtrack): Schumacher's movie's cast is quite opposite to the Original Cast recording: a baritone Phantom (Butler's rocky voice), but a Christine (Emmy Rossum) with a rather feeble voice (usually quite unsuitable for an opera singer, even though some professional sopranos - e.g. Kathleen Battle - do have a similar one). Schumacher's demystifying approcah is perhaps the most evident change from the original show (he shows us the Phantom's tricks, which are hinted but never shown as sch in the theatre musical) - other than nearly full rewriting and (apparently reasonless) switching of diaglogues and "recitatives" (see "Think of it: a secret ingagement; look your future bride!" which is throughly sung in the musical, whereas the movie has just "Think of it" sung by Rossum, then switching to spoken dialogue).
ORCHESTRA: the orchestration is quite rich, with the enormous orchestra they assembled for the event, and the acting very good.
LIVE RECORDING: on the other hand, cheering and other audience noises are very few (just some cheering after two or three big famous numbers). Of course, you should own both this and the video recording in order to fully appreciate the performance.
LOVE NEVER DIES: moreover, the two leads link this recording to that of "Love never dies" ( (being the same in both recordings).
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 28, 2014 3:37 AM GMT

Verdi: Nabucco
Verdi: Nabucco
Price: £10.67

4.0 out of 5 stars Best available, 20 Nov. 2013
This review is from: Verdi: Nabucco (Audio CD)
Get Gardelli's Sinopoli's and Muti's Nabuccos and compare them:
A - CONDUCTING: Gardelli is far slower than both of Muti and Sinopoli, and his paces are sometimes ill-fitting what are supposed to be strette and fast pieces such as Act I finale. Sinopoli is either slow or ludicrously fast (see the pace-contrast between Abigaiile and the chorus "Salgo già del trono aurato"), Muti is generally faster and perhaps more violent, but his reading is fitting with young Verdi's writing: you can appreciate especially his talent in pacing because of the old operatic structure Verdi still employed in Nabucco (arie and recitativi/ariosi), which he deals with without great pace-problems (i.e.: slowest recitativo then fastest aria, or vice versa).
NABUCCO: Personally I find all three of these Nabuccos lacking something vocally: Gobbi is far too old and bleating, Cappuccilli might have the right voice, but if it is it doesn't come out with his slow and artifcated singing; Manguerra has a somehow light, feeble voice, sometimes much alike Gobbi's, but at least can characterize quite well. I wonder why other great baritones such as Milnes didn't record the role (why, O why didn't Muti cast him, who recorded just two years before a terrific MacBeth under his baton?)
ABIGAILLE: Suliotis has a nice voice and the best sung high notes, but has something artifacted in her singing; Dimitrova has a big Big BIG voice, but Sinopoli's erratic conducting badly influences her performance; Scotto has a sometimes shrill voice, and shrieks more than the previous singers, but brings something very Lady Macbeth-esque in her perfomance, with a heavy (and perhaps sometimes unmisical and unpleasant) approach to angry Abigaille, and a completely transfigured, neraly angelic tone to loving/repented Abigaille (I'm thinking of her last aria).
ISMAELE & FENENA: Domingo is quite a name, but this hopeless, miserable role gives him no room to boast his usual features; Prevedi and Lucchetti are more or less the same. The best Fenena is most probably Valentini Terrani under Sinopoli, with a smooth pure voice; Carral is good too; Obraztsova has the tipical Slavic voice "through a bottle-neck", which makes her rendition more vocally "dirty" and more of a sidekick.
CONCLUSION: Muti has good conducting, a tipical Ismaele, reasonably good primarios and a it-would-be-better-another-singer-but-it's-still-fine Fenena, plus Nicolai Ghiaurov as Zaccaria and Robert Lloyd as the High Priest: the best average betwewen the three recordings.

Thomas: Hamlet
Thomas: Hamlet
Price: £13.75

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good AND complete, 8 Oct. 2013
This review is from: Thomas: Hamlet (Audio CD)
As far as I know, this is the only full-length UNCUT recording of Hamlet.
Excellent Hampson as Hamlet, with a light voice which has something of a tenor; Hamlet was thought as a tenor, but Thomas had no good singer for the premiere, so he transposed it for a baritone: Hampson is a good compromise.
The rest of the cast is good as well.
Personally, I found Almeida a bit too sleepy, and mechanical, ad the chorus somehow incoherent.
Compared to Bonynge's recording (the one recording before this one, which many know):

- BAD: the conductor has less "savoir faire": less spontaneus music, slower tempi, much less dynamic nuances (either slow and quiet or fast and noisy);
- BAD: the chorus sounds less coherent than Bonynge (sometimes it actually sounds phisically removed and disjointed);
- GOOD: a more young-sounding Hamlet, who stands the match with Milnes' heavier (and older-sounding) Danish prince;
- BAD: a more anonymous and feebler-souding Ophelia (Anderson just can't stand with Sutherland's rendition, techically AND vocally - sorry Anderson's fans);
- GOOD: a better sounding queen;
- NEITHER: both Claudius and the Ghost are good on both recordings, but Jean-Philippe Courtis on this has something which makes him a little better ghost. Ramey and Morris sing more or less the same (even though Ramey's bland "À moi, à moi, des flambeaux - suive moi!" cannot stand with Morris' terrified cry - but this is due to Almeida's conducting).
- GOOD: the original ending AND "Covent Garden's finale" (Bonynge's is neither of them);
- BAD: the ballet music and an additional duet for Claudius and Gertrude ("L'âme de votre fils est à jamais troublée") are in an appendix, whilst Bonynge has them in their right place: it's OK as log as it's about the additional duet, but the ballet MUST be where the composer intended it - you can't remove the ballet from act IV because it's boring, especially if you are recording a full edition.

Personally, I thinkyou should own both Bonynge and Almeida: the first for both conducting and Suterland (and Milnes); Almeida for both the uncut original edition and Hampson.

Tales From Earthsea - Double Play (Blu-ray + DVD)
Tales From Earthsea - Double Play (Blu-ray + DVD)
Dvd ~ Goro Miyazaki
Price: £14.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Best Earthsea movie you're gonna see unless there comes some Le Guin-loving Kubrick, 7 Aug. 2013
Le Guin's cycle is hard to film: slow paces, little action and a lot of philosophical dialogues. If Jackson's "LotR" is what it is (and it's better not to talk about his "Hobbit(s)"), imagine what harm could Hollywood do to an author even more movie-unfriendly than Tolkien (see the awful "Legend of Earthsea" to get an idea). It's not perfect, but at least Miyazaki jr's script doesn't pretend to be faithful while rewriting the whole thing (I'm referring to Jackson's "Lotr" and "Harry Potter" 3-8). Surprisingly, it is quite faithful in his own way, using many elements throughout the whole cycle of novels; I would call it an Earthsea compendium (there are elements from at least: "a Wizard of Earthsea", "the Farthest Shore", "Tehanu", "Dragonfly", "On the High Marsh"). The animation is obviously wonderful, and the design both familiar and positively unusual for fantasy (see Arren's Byzantine array: Byzantine style usually is not seen in fantasy movies, where a more western european style is preferred). Miyazaki jr's director's abilities are not at the level of his father, but it's not that terrible (the dragon fight scene in the prologue is simply perfect). Good soundtrack, very inspired.

Lohengrin (Karajan)
Lohengrin (Karajan)
Offered by FastMedia "Ships From USA"
Price: £51.26

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not that good, 24 July 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Lohengrin (Karajan) (Audio CD)
I bought this set expecting some Wagner music as Karajan's approach to the Ring, which I liked very much. Alas, it isn't the same thing: some slow tempi, some overblown music (but it's worse the volume settings) and a forgettable cast (compared to other renditions). Better Kempe's older edition (EMI) starring Thomas, Grümmer, Fischer-Dieskau, Ludwig and Frick - faster, if a bit less enthusiastic - and much better sung. This is for Karajan fans only, precisely to those who don't care about voices.

Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen (DG The Originals)
Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen (DG The Originals)
Price: £82.65

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars WAGNER played as should be: passion AND good, polished but brisky music, 9 Mar. 2013
There are two ways you can listen to musical theatre:
a) caring about music;
b) caring about theatre.
The latter is why some people like so much Maria Callas (whom I find rather uninteresting as a singer - sometimes even unpleasant) and why many singers /and musicians) forget their job (music!!!) and start making horrible noises so that the performance is more "likely".
Wake up, guys: opera IS NOT likely: it's a highly stylized tragedy where people (often fat ladies) sing; do you spend your day singing? No, I don't think. Nineteenth century opera is stylized in a far more evident way than twentieth century opera: aria and recitativo first, then Wagner's fluid everlasting music, but it's always obviously music. You have to wait for (Richard) Strauss for some talking-like singing. And even that's singing. And if singers are not singing, then it's no longer opera.
Personally, I look for music quality when I check possible recordings; that doesn't mean I dislike acting, but I look for a different acting - music-styled - from that many people look for.
I believe Karajan's is the best Ring recording I ever heard - even far more compelling than Solti's lifeless rendition (compare just some passages such as Walkürenritt, more vivid in DG), and Karajan's directing is always aware of the singers' presence, so that you hear both characters and orchestra. The cast is superb: great Wotans (Fischer-Dieskau and Stewart), bright Siegfrieds (Thomas and Brilioth), wonderful Brünnhilds (Crespin and Dernesch); plus outstanding minors: Talvelta and Ridderbusch, Stolze and Kelemen, Veasey and Domínguez, Ludwig and Janowitz, and Vickers, most of them doubling.
Karajan's smart and vehement conducting brings the most beautiful sounds and exciting rendition of Wagner's music, in the way I think we could have heard it in 1876, when verismo had just began to be though of, and barking tenors and coughing sopranos were still far away from stages (remember: passionate singing DOESN'T mean bad singing). This means that Callas/versimo fans will find it too polished and smooth, even though it is quite gritty compared, say, to Levine's 1990s Met video recording (I think he was sleepwalking during that performances - you can't play Walkürenritt and so on that slowly and be aware you're doing that!). It's true that Karajan envisioned music in his own way, but, as long as it's Wagner, he carves a wonderful work of colourful, ductile, brisk music. It's all about personal aesthetics (and historical accuracy).
Let me just say about Solti, that his Ring is slow-slow-SLOWER than Karajan's (I'm talking about his tempi, not the total timing): Solti seems to be erratic (or better, with less tempo nuances, starting slowest and then going fastest), going either with a fast oomph or a sleepy zzz, nothing between. Moreover, his big voiced cast is just big NOT great: dark voices that sometimes just can't do it (I'm thinking about Wotan, who, when sung by London, is just a bass singing too high, and, when sung by Hotter, just seems to be chocking). Karajan's singing is smoother, lacking three-penny vocal effects (such as Nilsson's last "hojotoh!" at her first appearance in Walkure act II), and because of that they call it plain and lifeless. But again, it's a Callas era recording: better sneezes and cough than belcanto! Karajan gives a more subtle rendition of the score, leaving heroic oomphs to Solti and weaving a psychological orchestral world where gods and heroes may unravel their inmost fears and ambitions - by the way, Wagner's Wotan/Odin (as an instance) has a psychological development that his mythological counterpart never has (whenever did Oðinn look for Ragnarök?).

Said this, let's try to understand the great question about this set: "Why, oh why, two singers for one rôle?"
It seems many would just say: "He got few money, he did what he could".
It's not that simple: see many recurring characters such as Alberich and Fasolt and 2/3 Rheintöchter who play their parts throughout the recording. See Thomas Stewart who sings Wotan in Walküre in 1967 and Siegfried in 1969, whilst he doesn't sing it in Rheingold in 1968. Here we have to do with Karajan's aesthetics, since he already did something like this in his 1961 Parsifal, where he had two Kundrys: 1) Höngen/wild Kundy and 2) Ludwig/sexy Kundry.
So, all the changes have some motivation:
A) Fischer-Dieskau --> Stewart (Wotan): Young arrogant Wotan vs. old, dependable Wotan (i.e. Wotan willing to dominate the world vs. Wotan willing the world's (and god's) end);
B) Wohlfahrt --> Stolze (Mime): Rheingold Mime is insignificant and miserable, Siegfried Mime is wicked and scheming; Stolze had already played the trickster rôle in Rheingold (Loki is the trickster "par excellence"), so he plays another if lesser trickster rôle (and thanks God);
C) Crespin --> Dernesch (Brünnhilde ): Crespin has a somehow icy voice which suits the warrior goddess, but Dernesch's warm voice is perfect for a loving Brünnhilde (and her mezzo nuances just give her character something quite motherly, so that we understand quite well why Siegfied mistakes her for his mother (other than Freudian theories, I mean));
D) Thomas --> Brilioth (Siegfried): Young Siefgried is an idiot teenager waving a sword, so Thomas' big wild voice is meant to express his wild temperament, whilst Brilioth's brighter voice marks Siegfried's come of age and transformation into a more standard (opera) hero - I think Thomas darker voice also suggests very well the voice of a teenager, not because of its sound but because of its "dirty" nuances, that makes me think of the teenagers' voice change. Thomas did indeed perform Gotterdammerung in Salzburg, so it's quite clear that Karajan just wanted Brilioth for the recording.
As for other rôles that were doubled, here are some theories (my basic theory is that Götterdämmerun for Karajan is the microcosmos of the Ring's macrocosmos - sort of a compendium):
A) Riddersbusch as Hagen?: Talvela, who was said to be singing the rôle, already sung Fasolt and Hunding, two "loving" men (though their love was unilateral and somehow violent - in fact, they both kidnap their love interests); Ridderbusch, on the other hand, played the fratricide Fafner, a greedy man, so he was a more coherent casting, Hagen being Alberich's (the personification of greed) son and Siegfried's half-bloodbrother/brother-in-law (he did not swear blutbruderschaft, but he's Hagen's and Gutrune's half-brother, so ...);
B) Stewart as Gunther: why not Fischer-Dieskau, or Berry or Wächter or whoever? Because it's Freudian: he is the embodiment of power (not a power yet to be attested as in Rheingold, but and old firm power), so he is somehow the father in a double oedipal triangle (Wotan, who tries to stop both Siegmund and Siegfried, respectively his son and grandson, from having Sieglinde and Brünnhlde; and Hagen, who gives Gutrune and takes Brünnhilde for himself); he's not really evil, but he's the patriarch who the son (i.e. Siegfried) must fight in order to become a man;
C) Janowitz as Gutrune: much more than Dernesch's motherly voice, casting Janowitz, who already played Sieglinde, must have some oedipal reflection both on Siegfried AND the listener. Whilst Brünnhilde is a mother because 1) she protected and saved the unborn Siegfried (and gave him his name) and 2) because she's Siegfried's half-aunt (precisely 2/3, since both Siegfried's parents were her half-siblings), Gutrune has no immanent reason so that Siegfried (once forgotten Brünnhilde) falls in love with her, if not something oedipal as I just said.
Think about it.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 2, 2015 11:12 AM BST

Carmen (2-Disc Restored Edition) [DVD] [1984]
Carmen (2-Disc Restored Edition) [DVD] [1984]
Dvd ~ Placido Domingo
Offered by ludovico_institute
Price: £9.99

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars not bad, but neither very good, 14 Sept. 2012
Domingo is fine, and Raimondi is too, though he's a bit too dark voice for Escamillo (who is supposed to be a barytone, not a bass). What's really wrong here is Migenés-Johnson, too light for Carmen: Carmen is supposed to be seductive, but Migenés-Johnson's voice is not. Her soprano voice misses Carmen's warm sensuality (the rôle was written for a mezzo for some reason). Moreover, Rosi's cel-world is very coarse (its realism is quite shocking for those used to theatre's perfect world).

Bohm conducts Strauss Elektra [DVD] [2005]
Bohm conducts Strauss Elektra [DVD] [2005]
Dvd ~ Catarina Ligendza
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £18.48

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE ELEKTRA, 30 Aug. 2012
This is the one Elketra recording you must have - then you'll need no others
I myself extracted the audio track and burnt it onto CD: there is no better sung/played recording, neither audio or video.
Nilsson has a "too light" voice as Elektra, whilst Rysanek has a warm, perfectly controlled tone. Her "Allein. Weh, ganz allein" is thrilling: at the very end, as she dances singing "dein Blut rings um dein Grab!" you nearly dance with her too. When she talks with Klytämnestra, and sings the hunt-scene ("Was Bluten muss?") you SEE her and Orest running after their mother through the palace, with the axe in their hands. The murder-scene is incredible: whilst when Orest kills Klyämnestra I didn't like how Rysanek looked on video (she nearly seems to weep), her shout "Triff doch einmal!" is thrilling, and when she welcomes Ägist and acts as a good girl, she is threateningly creepy. And finally when she dances and falls dead to the ground ... that IS Elektra!
Astrid Varnay has the perfect voice as Klytämnestra, and the creepy make-up she wears makes her look both deadly ill and lethally, evilly cunning (a bit of a Disney's Sea Witch, but that's OK).
Fischer-Dieskau acts very good - see his "Nein!" when Rysanek sings "Elektra heiss ich": never heard another "Nein" wich is both sung and shouted like that.
The rest of the cast is very good too.
Bohm directs the Wiener very finely, and roughly (as much as the score requires), but he is capable of very lushous moments too (see Elektra's final dances: that's why they call it orgiastic theatre!).
The setting could be better, i.e. coherent with the original setting of the opera (just like Friedrich somehow did with Stratas' Salome), but Friedrich has at least a great sense of drama and pace: Elektra's monologue and Klytämnestra's entrance are great (though Klytämnestra's entrance at some point looks like a softcore video).
A must have recording anyway.
Now, there is just a question left: Will DG ever release a soundtrack (i.e. the recording without rainfall etc.) on a CD set?

The Lord of the Rings -- Limited Edition Box Set [DVD]
The Lord of the Rings -- Limited Edition Box Set [DVD]
Dvd ~ Christopher Guard

4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Just Tolkien., 25 Jun. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Even though flawed, this movie gives us a fantastic vision of Tolkien's work, relatively far more coherent and original than Jackson's dramtaically sweeping design. This movie keeps as close to the novel as it can, and has been the uncredited basis of Jackson's Fellowship and Two Towers (not only P.J. copies-and-pasts the narrative structure (see Gandalf's visit to Isengard, which happens in the same place in bot films), he sometimes makes a shoot-by-shoot remake! - see Mr. Proudfoot, Frodo's first meeting with the Black Riders, etc.). For LOTR (novel) purists this is the best adaptation of LOTR 'till Helm's Deep and Crossing of the Marshes (there is even Saruman of Many Colours!). You could say the pacing, the character-design and the script are a bit lame, compared to Jackson's, but remember: Jackson came after; he is a live-action director, Bakshi is an animated movie director; Jackson had a lot more money than Bakshi got (some $ 281.000.000 vs. $ 4.000.000).

Verdi: Rigoletto
Verdi: Rigoletto
Price: £18.38

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars st, 12 Sept. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Verdi: Rigoletto (Audio CD)
Perfect recording.
Pavarotti is flawless - the ideal Duke, youthful, singing merry melodies (except "Ella mi fu rapita!" and "E' il sol dell'anima") and unresponsive.
Sherrill Milnes makes us feel his tremendous fate: his life is joyless, and yet he has to make laugh. Most dramatic performance (especially his last line: "Ah, la maledizione!").
Joan Sutherland ... a magnificent voice, which melts perfectly with Pavarotti's, and an immense experience - even though she may sound a little older for the rôle (but many others do as well).
Talvela is thrilling as the killer Sparafucile. As his giant role in the Rheingold, ruthless, frightening, and yet a beautiful technique.
Tourangeau is a mischevious seductress.
Bonynge is one of the few conductors I heard that don't make sound "la donna è mobile" as an idiotic circus song.
Excellent recording.

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