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Karajan: Mascagni - Cavallero Rusticana/Leoncavallo - I Pagliacci [DVD] 
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1. Preludio 2. "O lola ch'ai di latti la cammisa" (Siciliana) 3. Introduzione 4. "Gli aranci olezzano sui verdi margini" 5. "Dite, mamma Lucia" 6. "Il cavallo scalpita" 7. "Beato voi, compar Alfio" 8. Perchè m'hai fatto...Voi lo sapete 9. "Tu qui, Santuzza?" 10. "No, no, Turiddu, rimani" 11. "Oh! Il Signore vi manda" (Duetto) 12. Intermezzo sinfonico 13. "A casa, a casa amici ...Comare Lola" 14. Viva il vino spumeggiante" (Brindisi) 15. "A voi tutti salute!" 16. "Mamma, quel vino è generoso" 17. Opening Credits / Pagliacci / Karajan 18. Introduction 19. "Si può? Signore! Signori!" 20. "Son qua! Ritornano" 21. "Un grande spettacolo!" 22. "Un tal gioco, credetemi" 23. "Don, din, don - suona vespero" 24. "Qual fiamma aveva nel guardo!" 25. "Sei là" - "So ben che difforme" - "Oh! lasciami" 26. "Nedda! Silvio, a quest'ora" 27. "E allor perché, di', tu m'hai stregato" 28. "Cammina adagio" - "Derisione e scherno!" - "Padron! che fate!" 29. "Recitar!" - "Vesti la giubba" 30. Intermezzo 31. "Presto, affrettiamoci" 32. "Pagliaccio, mio marito" 33. "E dessa! Dei, come è bella" 34. "Arlecchin! Colombina!" - "Prendi questo narcotico" 35. "Coraggio" 36. "No, Pagliaccio non son" 37. Chor: "Wie lieblich sind deine Wohnungen, Herr Zebaoth!" 38. Scherzo. Pizzicato ostinato - Allegro 39. La Traviata Trailer 40. Catalogue Slides
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Cavalleria Rusticana is a brilliant performance with Fiorenza Cossotto as Santuzza she is a totally magnificent performer no matter what role she is singing, Cossotto to my mind was the most brilliant mezzo of her era, the tenor Gianfranco Cecchele (where have they been hiding him?) I have never seen or heard him before but judging by his performance as Turiddu I will be looking out for more performances from him, incidentally if you want to see a brilliant performance from Fiorenza Cossotto find her Azucena in Il Trovatore, she will knock your socks off. DVD D2839 from Kultur.
Herbert von Karajan's contemporaneous studio recordings for Deutsche Grammophon feature a slightly different cast in CAV and a very different one in PAG. Here as there, he makes La Scala's orchestra sound like a major symphonic ensemble some years before the Abbado/Muti era, when such virtuosity could be taken for granted. The playing and choral singing offer a combination of color, beauty, grandeur, and power unmatched on the other DVDs, though the Met may have run it a closer race had their broadcast come a little later in James Levine's tenure. Karajan also turns up for a Hitchcock-style cameo as an improbable villager in PAG.
The CAVALLERIA RUSTICANA is purported to have been based on a stage production by the great Giorgio Strehler. I cannot imagine that Åke Falck's facsimile of his work pleased him, if he ever saw it. This is, bluntly, inept moviemaking. When the soloists are not singing (as they often are not in a short opera padded with musical interludes), Falck unimaginatively fills the space with scenic shots -- flowers, rocks, a crucifix -- that do not establish atmosphere and are not effectively timed; there is no intrinsic rhythm to them. You may feel as though you are patiently bearing a slide show of a friend's uninteresting trip, but at least you would be able to tell a friend, "We've had that one already," so you wouldn't see the same plant a third time.
Things improve only a little when the people show up. Lip-synching is poor, and the performers tend to be isolated from each another in one-shots. These are neither strong screen actors nor embarrassing ones, so when left to fend for themselves, as seems to be the case, they do not make much of an impression either way. The CAV film's redemption is in Fiorenza Cossotto's immaculately sung Santuzza, captured in fresher voice than for her Tokyo DVD performance with Domingo almost a decade later (there, her physical acting for the live audience is, shall we say, unconstrained). There was a line here, in the scene with Lola, when I thought to myself that she had it all in 1968, if that is the date of recording. The top is so sweet and free, soprano-like, that one might expect the bottom to go dusky -- not so, it is firm and assured. The musicianship with which she manages her considerable means is exacting as usual, and she convinces in acting with the voice, if less so with the face. The performers around Cossotto merit less discussion. The booklet note implies that Gianfranco Cecchele replaced Carlo Bergonzi, the Karajan audio recording's Turiddu, because Bergonzi was "never the strongest actor." If so, Cecchele was not an upgrade in that department, and he sings less well, his mere serviceability making the opera seem more a mezzo vehicle than it should. Giangiacomo Guelfi offers a strong, conventional Alfio; Anna di Stasio makes a striking appearance but has a placid, almost nonreactive presence as Mamma Lucia. On the evidence here, she will not grieve Turiddu much after the opera, if the news of his death even sinks in.
The better opera gets the better film in PAGLIACCI. Karajan himself is the credited auteur this time, from a staging by Paul Hager, and his pedestrian direction is more relevant than Falck's. Jon Vickers's Canio, even in this "canned" form, acting in a studio and miming to his own recording, is a portrayal of towering greatness. There is no condescension in it; he imbues Canio with all the pathos and anguish that distinguished his Tristan, Peter Grimes, and Otello (the last perhaps the closest parallel, for what is PAGLIACCI but a shorter, trashier OTELLO in which the wife really is guilty?). What Vickers does extremely well has as much to do with management and implication as it does with his roaring magnificently through the final scene. Early on, even when this Canio smiles at the crowd, you know he is not someone to be crossed. There is a brute strength about him, and a sense of menace never far from the surface. Vickers has a better cast around him than does Cossotto above. Raina Kabaivanska, I believe, would become more vocally fluent within this idiom than she is here, but she has a voice to be reckoned with, and her characterful face hints at Nedda's complex personality. Kabaivanska is especially good at the nastiness to Tonio as well as the marital interplay leading to the denouement, the mounting fear, then contempt and defiance, the desperate attempts to get the show-within-the-show back on track. She credibly fuels Vickers's rage. Peter Glossop is seen and heard in a brief prime as Tonio, making the most of opportunities opposite strong partners (he might have done more with the prologue); the ever-scrupulous Rolando Panerai seems a luxury as Silvio. Karajan, like Muti and few other conductors who have recorded the opera, thankfully assigns the famous last line to the "controlling" character, the baritone Tonio, as Leoncavallo intended.
The productions, blamelessly "period" in their intentions, are unmistakably of their time. For Exhibit A, look to Santuzza's "'60s fabulous" wig in CAV. Picture and sound quality hold up well when their age are taken into consideration.
Jon Vickers was the finest Canio of his time. If you have seen his Peter Grimes, his Otello or his Fidelio, then you know what power and stature he brought to a role. This film of a La Scala stage production breathes fire. Vickers is riveting in his portrayal of Canio. The DVD is worth its price merely for the thrill of watching Vickers' incendiary performance. Raina Kabaivanska as Nedda and Peter Glossop as Tonio hold their own, as do the rest of the cast. But Vickers is the story here, he is stunning! Von Karajan conducts the Orchestra e Coro del Teatro Alla Scala with great beauty and power, but also with great tact, stepping out of the way and letting the singers act the drama. It is a splendid performance.
The full screen films have been remastered and look fine. Sound in both PCM stereo and DTS 5.1 is crystalline in clarity. The usual DGG booklet, menus and translations are here. The total disc time is 148 minutes.
Cav/Pag was a von Karajan specialty and this DVD shows why his reputation was what it was. The performance by Vickers must be experienced at least once, he was the finest male operatic actor of his era. Here are a pair of exemplary films on a DVD that won't gather dust on your shelf. Most strongly recommended.