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Verdi: Messa Da Requiem [Dimitra Theodossiou, Sonia Ganassi, Francesco Meli] [C Major: 725408] [DVD] [NTSC] 
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The documentary introduces us to Verdi's beautiful "homeland", the region of Parma. From the little village called Le Roncole in the vicinity of Parma, where Verdi was born, to the estate close to Parma, where Verdi despite the great triumphs he celebrated in Milan, Venice, Naples and other major cities always came back to and chose to spend most of his life. We get to know how Verdi "lives on" in the region and has even formed the area from the everyday life of a simple peasant to the life of one of the biggest opera stars in the world, Leo Nucci, who is a regular guest at the Verdi Festival in Parma.
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First of all there is essentially no video direction to speak of. Normally I do prefer conservative camera work. Yes, I get tired of Karajan's face. And I get almost seasick watching the Barenboim video, with its camera on a dolly traveling sideways. (How is that anything like watching a live performance? Does one walk along sideways in front of the stage, while the orchestra's playing?)
Here though, we have almost the opposite, just a few dreary camera angles and they hardly ever change. I sure wish I could watch the bass drum a-bangin' during the Dies Irae. Makes me miss the camera almost making love to the drum in the Barenboim video.
Now, how about the music? Again, modest and conservative. The choral and orchestral forces are a little smaller than average, the hall likewise. In any event the acoustics are mild, the sound not getting a chance to mix and, how shall we say, ripen, from the time it is produced on the bows and lips of the performers, to the time it is heard by the listener. It is sort of like a mild oregano pizza served straight out of the oven, with wine, as opposed to a double-cheese, triple-meat pizza rewarmed the following morning, with beer. Some, like me, might prefer the latter.
As mentioned, the star of this show is Meli, a pure joy to listen to. The other soloists were adequate of course but not nearly as memorable. The bass particularly is more of a dignified lieder singer.
Also it was apparent to me at least, no care whatever was taken to ensure the lady soloists appeared in an attractive light--literally. They have the harshest light possible, just bright light straight down from above, making shadows out of a horror movie. I have some shocking news for video producers: lady soloists like to look pretty. They are allowed to wear colorful gowns, while everyone else wears black. So this is not just a random sexist remark. Shame on the producers for not giving care to the lady soloists.
If you want to hear more of Meli, as well as the soprano Theodossiou (in an attractive light this time), I highly recommend their I Lombardi together.
Respectfully submitted ...
I did pick up on some intermodulation distortion in the choral audio, tho. The Teatro Farnese was not really built as a musical venue, it seems to be more multipurpose room, a 17th century one. And as it is historic it looks as though they do not allow suspension of microphones so any pick ups have to be done from the floor area and fairly close. I was able to get that cleared up to a very large extent by switching the player into stereo mode while leaving the receiver in 5.1. Each brand is different; I have Pioneer Elite, and the receiver will automatically synthesize some surround signal when it senses a stereo input, so it provides a gentle surround and a
subwoofer signal and it's quite satisfactory. I found the camber to be very intelligently paste spending enough time on a specific spot and then moving to the next. When I'm sitting in a concert that's the way my eyes I don't dart back-and-forth depending upon what instrument is playing at that moment.
I would love to have Leontyne Price singing soprano in this performance, but we don't, and Theodossiou is a bit wobbly to start but it passes and her part is not large. Ganassi is fine, but I find both men outstanding. Meli is nearly ideal: clear, even and expressive. He also did a great job as the Riccardo in the Ballo in the series. Zannellato is also excellent, with the same qualities. His voice is beautiful focussed and even from top to bottom, as opposed to Pape, who is known for a woolly tone.
Temirkanov leads a beautifully paced rendition that is light on its feet while being well grounded. I have at least one recording
where the conductor (HvK) seems to want to come after me and hit me over the head with it. If I wanted that I would listen to the
It seems to me that this would be a performance much like Verdi would have heard, both in size and interpretation.
To my mind, this performance is just about right, and it's my new reference. I appreciate its' judiciousness and neutrality.
Three of the soloists get added to my list of favorites as well.