2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
an old pro comes through,
This review is from: Un Ballo In Maschera: Metropolitan Opera (Levine) [DVD]  (DVD)
Having been disappointed with the Pavarotti/Solti recording of "Ballo" -- mainly because of problems with microphone placement -- it was interesting to go to this video of a Metropolitan Opera performance almost 10 years later (1991), with Pavarotti at 55, and to notice that the microphones at the Met caught the distinctive timbre and beauty of the voice better than Decca had done in their early digital recording. It's a solid, traditional production, a bit busy in the Ulrica scene, and rather cheesily stark in the scene by the gallows (the love duet scene), but the performers are committed, and, like the Sutherland/Kraus "Lucia," it works. Pavarotti, though too heavy to be very nimble, sounds in very good voice, and only in one or two places does it let him down a bit -- nothing to mar the overall performance, though. Interestingly, he plays Gustavo as a king who takes Ulrica's prophecy seriously, so that "E scherzo" is played as a deliberate attempt to make light of a serious matter and not as a carefree blowing-off of the situation. The love duet with Aprile Millo goes very well, except for a moment when Pavarotti can't produce the volume he wants, and Millo covers for him very nicely. Levine knows how to conduct the emotional arc of this scene in a way that escaped Solti. Millo is an absolutely reliable Amelia -- a good-sized handsome voice, more naturally fitted to the part than Margaret Price on the Decca recording, and sounding a bit gusty and loose in her very first scene (in Ulrica's cave), but fine thereafter, in both her solos and concerted pieces. Renato is Leo Nucci, trim as a whippet, with his well-focused but not very rich voice, who puts over the character splendidly. Florence Quivar's voice is almost too lovely for Ulrica's, but you can't complain about that. She's costumed as a kind of voodoo priestess, in the manner of Dr. John on some of his cajun album covers! Oscar is Harolyn Blackwell, singing well but a times a little edgily in a role that I always find a bit irritating, no matter who is singing it. The conspirators are solid too, and in general the camera work for video is apt. Most importantly, Levine knows how to shape and pace this stuff, and the orchestra sounds great.
When one listens to CDs as much as I do, I find it easy to forget just how involving a committed live performance can be. This is such a performance -- never mind that Pavarotti is getting old, or that Millo didn't have the distinctiveness of Leontyne Price, or that one would like a bit more richness from Nucci. They're alive in the moment, and it's exciting to hear.