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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful!! An All Time Great. Brilliant!, 8 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: Donizetti: Gemma di Vergy (Live, Teatro Donizetti Bergamo, Sep 2011) [NTSC all regions] [DVD] (DVD)
What can one say? Everything about this production of Donizetti's Gemma di Vergy is superb, magnificent, out of this world. Maria Agresta's performance of the main character, Gemma de Vergy, must easily rank as an all time great. Not only that, the other singer-actors were equally good in their roles. Both direction and staging are top quality and the costuming is spot on. I was especially impressed with the costume worn by Maria Agresta. It was so right for the part.

This is a work all about a strong woman around whom everyone else rotates as mere satellites, some of whom may think that they are setting the agenda, but all their agendas pale into insignificance beside that ultra-powerful one engineered by Gemma. The Conte di Vergy, brilliantly portrayed by Mario Cassi, may think he is in charge. Big mistake! Not only is he upstaged by Gemma, whom he feels obliged to set aside because she has, so far, failed to provide him with an heir, he also has to face another problem in the shape of Tamas, the Berber slave, perfectly performed by Gregory Kunde, who is in love with Gemma and is desperate to help her and make her happy.

Leonardo Galeazzi is perfectly cast as the Conte di Vergy's 'right hand man' torn between his loyalty to his master and his compassion for Gemma. All told, this performance simply fits together in the best possible fashion. The staging is right in every way: the chorus could not be bettered and the orchestration is top notch. It's hard to see how any of it could have been improved upon. All those involved are deserving of the highest praise. It's easy to talk about how, in a manner of speaking, Donizetti was 'squeezed' between Rossini and Verdi, but this opera alone gives the lie to that analogy. If he had never composed anything else, this work alone would have placed him among the great masters.

There was just one little thing that did puzzle me somewhat. It's the costume worn by Mario Cassi as the Conte di Vergy. In contrast to the top half of his body, which is clad voluminously, his lower half is enclosed in skin-tight tights under a the shortest of 'kilts'. If men actually went around dressed like this in the mid Fifteenth Century, the period in which the opera is staged, it would have been freezing cold for them around the nether quarters in the winter time. It would be interesting to hear what an historical dress expert has to say about this.

One of the many things I love about this work is that its absolutely all singing with none of this perpetual monotonous, un-voice-like sing-talking that is so prevalent in some Twentieth Century operas. Languages and their dialects, some more than others such as Italian, often have a musical quality about them when used in every day speech. Good composition will enhance this even in recitative. Opera goers ought not to be inflicted with 'singing' that is neither enhanced speech music nor arias. This wonderful performance is a supreme example all the way through, from composer to performers, of how get it right in every possible way. What more can one say, except that it's great stuff and I loved every minutes of it? You'll want to watch it over and over again. Great stuff!
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Review Details

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H. A. Weedon "Mouser"
(VINE VOICE)    (TOP 1000 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   

Location: North Somercotes, Lincolnshire, UK

Top Reviewer Ranking: 980