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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great performance - not so great production., 14 July 2010
This review is from: Verdi: Un Ballo in Maschera [DVD] (DVD)
This Ballo certainly looks pretty mouth-watering. But it has certain drawbacks. Had I known about them I probably wouldn't have bought this DVD. In the event I'm very glad I did. There are three main problems:

i. The opera is recorded in mono. The film must originally have been designed for television broadcast. Stereo television sets were almost unheard of in the 1970s. Nowhere on the DVD case or in the enclosed booklet does it mention that the recording is mono. This fact alone would be enough to deter many potential purchasers. I have to say, though, that the sound is not unlike what one would experience in the actual opera house. Unless one is seated very near the front there is little sense of left / right separation.

ii. The subtitles are barely adequate. They are in English and cannot be turned off. No alternative subtitles are available. They are kept to an absolute minimum. Entire arias are summarized in just one sentence. This becomes annoying as the opera proceeds. Otherwise, just enough is offered to keep the viewer informed as to what is going on. And when the subtitles do appear they are in big, bold lettering which dominates the lower third of the screen.

iii. The production is traditional but very dull. This may please more conservative viewers but for the rest of us the production is not very attractive to look at. Poor Amelia's costume in Act Two makes her look like - well, I'd better not say who! See it and find out for yourself.

In addition to the above there are a whole host of minor niggles. There is only one scene selection for each act. If you wish to pick out a favourite number, or hear something again, you have to fast-forward or back. Maybe that's no big deal. But why is there no mention of important members of the cast? Who sings Ulrica, Samuel and Tom? Their names are nowhere to be found, either on the case, in the booklet or in the film itself. Yet I notice that William Bundy, whose drab and unimaginative lighting has blighted this and a whole host of other Covent Garden productions from the period, is somehow deemed worthy of a mention.

What I have said so far might be enough to deter many a potential purchaser. But consider the other side of the coin. For me, Ballo is, first and foremost, a glorious and life-enhancing piece of music. And, musically, the performance you get here is as good, if not better, than you will get anywhere. In 1975, Domingo was in his absolute prime. His voice is lustrous, his singing is resplendent and bursting with character. This role must have been dear to his heart. I never heard Ricciarelli live but I've seen many films of her live performances and, in my opinion, her live work is always better than her studio recordings. Here she is in absolutely tip-top form. Reri Grist is a nimble and attractive Oscar - a much better choice for the role than Gruberova, who sang it for Abbado some years later. As for Cappuccili, he doesn't really get going until Act Three (there's not much for him to do before then) but his Eri tu earns the loudest cheers of the evening. With Abbado in the pit, the whole performance sweeps by with the greatest warmth and energy.

So - I wouldn't necessarily recommend this as a first choice for Ballo. I have other DVD versions on my own wish list! But it is a great performance of one of the most wonderful operas ever written. And I know that I will be returning to this DVD again and again.
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15 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars As good as a seat at Covent Garden, 23 May 2003
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Marian (Nr Southampton, Hants United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Verdi: Un Ballo in Maschera [DVD] (DVD)
If you want to hear Domingo singing as he did when he first reached top billing at the Royal Opera House in the early 70s, this is the perfect DVD to choose. A straightforward production of the opera (in its Swedish-name version)which allows you to follow the plot if you aren't familiar with it, and extremely well sung. A very young Gwynne Howell in his Covent Garden debut sings Ribbing, keeping his eye very firmly on the conductor!
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Verdi: Un Ballo in Maschera [DVD]
Verdi: Un Ballo in Maschera [DVD] by Otto Schenk (DVD - 2002)
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