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on 2 February 2011
Fabulous opera, beautifully sung and played. You'll be unlikely to see/hear it on stage, so this is your only opportunity. Don't hesitate.
The negative? No libretto. This is pathetic - the original box set issue came with a multi-language libretto, so why re-issue it without one? The cover is hideous, but then that applies to everything in this SONY re-issue series.
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on 27 February 2010
A sensational recording of a sensational opera, making a welcome return to the catalogue. Why this one-act masterpiece isn't better known and more often performed, is hard to explain. It's a real knockout, of gripping drama and truly glorious music, and it is arguably more effective as musical theatre than the famous one-acters, "Cavalleria" and "Pagliacci".

This recording does the work full justice in every way, with soloists in superb voice, and first-class orchestral playing -and the current price makes this a bargain (though there is only a synopsis leaflet, not a full translation of the libretto).

The passionate emotion and brilliant sense of theatre in this work are the equal of Puccini. On first hearing 'Violanta', Bruno Walter said, "this is the eruption of a musical-dramatic volcano!" It is astonishing that this opera was composed when Korngold was only 17.

The opera is set in Venice. Violanta's sister was seduced by Alfonso, Prince of Naples, and she committed suicide. When Alfonso turns up in Venice for the carnival, Violanta plots revenge for her sister, and persuades her husband Simone to kill him. But when Alfonso is lured to her house, the unforeseen happens......

(There are aspects of the charismatic Violanta as a role which would have suited Maria Callas -and the opera's story has surprising resonances to the legend of Callas. It would be fun to see a production of this opera set in the year 1957:- Venice plays itself in the party season, the elegant 'Violanta' resembles Callas (dressed, of course by Biki), the priapic 'Prince of Naples' is Aristotle Onassis, and Violanta's ageing husband 'Simone' is -naturally- Meneghini.)
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on 23 March 2010
This is an excellent performance of Violanta well cast and superbly played. Given the lack of available versions of this work its a must have. As a work this displays much of the talent of Die Tote Stadt without the length or perhaps the drama of the Stadt. To be honest I haven't yet read the story of the opera but as its only one CD long it is perhaps not performed due to its length and requirement for signers of the quality and style provided here. So...if you like Korngold (or Richard Strauss as in Die Frau Ohne Schatten) especially Stadt you should have this!
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on 8 November 2010
This is a fantastic buy. I found Korngold by Die Tote Stadt. A most underrated composer maybe the last of the old school. I took a chance on Violanta not knowing anything about it. Well recommended, not too long and good listening. Will find a dvd one day. Says it all!
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TOP 50 REVIEWERon 27 November 2014
A question: what do Montemezzi's "L'amore dei tre re", Zandonai's "Francesca da Rimini", Korngold's "Violanta" and Zemlinsky's "Eine florentinische Tragödie" have in common, apart from the fact that obviously they are all belters seemingly working within the then modern verismo genre, yet the action of all four takes place in a historical Italian setting?

Answer: they were written within four years of each other and form a good example of how within certain, specific artistic genres, artistic sensibilities may converge to reflect a Zeitgeist. All are sordid domestic claustrophobic melodramas of strange love, doomed passion and furtive betrayal with a homicidal outcome and all, despite moments of melodic sweep, place dramatic effect over lyrical appeal.

Korngold's second opera was written when he was, unbelievably, only seventeen and yet emerges as a fully coherent and expertly scored work with three meaty roles for big-voiced singers. This 1980 recording remains, as far as I know, the only studio recording and is in no need of being superseded: it is recorded in superb analogue sound and stars two singers at their peak in the mighty-voiced Eva Marton and Siegfried Jerusalem singing more beautifully and heroically than I have ever heard him. Walter Berry, here in his early fifties, shows some slight signs of strain but is still a really commanding presence as the jealous, unloved husband and the supporting cast is strong, especially Ruth Hesse as Violanta's servant, Barbara, tenor Horst Laubenthal as the foppish sybarite Bice and another tenor, Manfred Schmidt, of whom I have not heard, as another of Violanta's admirers.

The conducting and playing are terrific; Janowski really has the measure of this compact piece and tension never flags yet the lyrical moments are beautifully paced. The opening, depicting a calm Venetian lagoon at night, is wonderfully atmospheric, depicted by shimmering strings, harps and watery horns, its serenity punctuated by an ominous plucked string motif.

The really impressive part of this score, however, is the last half hour after Alfonso's entry. Jerusalem sings a superb serenade capped with a ringing top C; we are then led through a succession of passionate duets with Violanta, enhanced by instrumentation of Straussian richness and variety; the influence of "Salome" and "Elektra" is apparent although Korngold's idiom is more diffuse and soft-edged.

At an hour and a quarter this opera stands in need of a revival in a suitable pairing with a better-known war-horse of similar subject matter such as "Cav", Pag" or "Il tabarro". I'd certainly buy tickets.

(It's a pity no libretto is provided but there is a synopsis and it's a simple story; if you have a smattering of German you'll get the gist in any case.)
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on 17 October 2013
This was my first dip into Korngold. Having loved Richard Strauss for years, I was expecting to love this too and in almost every way, I did! The orchestration is lush, the style is almost 'Strauss meets Puccini' and there is some fantastic singing from the three leads, particularly Eva Marton in ravishing voice and Siegfried Jerusalem, strong and secure with amazing high notes. There's not much subtlety here - its quite a loud assault on the senses from beginning to end with very few quiet moments; this is probably why one of my favourite moments is when Violanta hesitantly suggests the murder to her husband - its very effective.

I deduce a star for lack of a libretto. The synopsis is all very well but for such a wordy piece, it would have been good to know exactly what they were saying. I appreciate that this Sony series is pretty cheap and this is one reason why but, honestly, I'd have happily paid a couple of pounds more for a complete experience. I think it will take another couple of listens to fully appreciate 'Violanta' but I enjoyed it enough to move on to more Korngold!
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on 26 August 2013
As a newcomer to Korngold I was extremely impressed with the textures and quality of his music. It washes over you in abundance, with the obvious influence of Richard Strauss.

Korngold seemed to want to test his singers, because what is clear is that both roles of Alfonso and Voilanta are hefty tasks. Marton and Jerusalem rise to the occasion with merit. Jerusalem, in particular, surprising me with his powerful upper range. The story is a little dry, almost as if Korngold wanted an anachronistic plot to allow him to wallow in ravishing music of times gone by(?).

Be warned, the disc comes only with a short synopsis and I would have preferred a libretto, but that said this is an opera that deserves to be double-billed with something - like Il Tabarro (for a dark evening).
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on 9 March 2013
Although I am glad I bought this disc it did not quite meet my expectation. As a Korngold fan it had all the elements of the special magic he is able to conjure but in the last resort the story proved deficient in not making Violanta a character that I could sympathise with. There are some wonderful moments but not in sufficient quantity to match the heights reached by some of his other works. The recording was good, although I think it favoured the soprano slightly: the singing I found first class. Notwithstanding my personal views I recommend this disc to all Korngold fans.
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on 12 July 2013
I purchased the CD recently on the promise there would be a free autorip download. No such thing! I am still waiting.
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