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Vicente Martin y Soler: L'arbore di Diana [DVD]  [NTSC]
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L'arbore di Diana (The Tree of Diana), which was staged at the Gran Teatre del Liceu in 2009, is a two-act opera buffa by the composer Vicent Martín i Soler with a libretto by the famous Lorenzo Da Ponte. The opera focuses on the temptation and joy of falling in love. Though the plot includes features borrowed from the pastorale and erotic comedy, it also had political intentions and endorsed the abolition of convents and monasteries decreed by the emperor. The director Francisco Negrín has produced a colourful and modern staging.
What a beautiful tree!... Martin y Soler's piece turns out to be a happy discovery, especially thanks to such an imaginative director as Francisco Negrin.... --Opera Magazine
Lovers of the byways of eighteenth-century opera like me will enjoy this. --IRR,Feb'11
Top customer reviews
The plot, such as it is, is not very apparent, nor does the booklet, which in background is quite interesting, throw a lot of light on it. Try the internet if you want a better synopsis.
The music is Mozartian and pleasing to the ear. Voices and orchestra are well balanced, all in all pleasing to the ear.
The costumes are something else, unfathomable, ridiculous, and other such like terms come to mind, although Laura Aiken has quite a becoming evening dress.
The set is spartan, props are few and references to the garden are reinforced by drop down VDUs. There is a metallic surround with an opening one side and a strange shaped door on the other, and an occasional pop up through the floor. Visually this is a pretty boring experience.
To sum up, I give 4 stars because of the music and the singing, the other star drops off the end for inappropriate sets and costumes. It will remain in my library until perhaps one day a better staging comes along.
Unlike most sports, in which the difference between the physical strengths of men and women is an important factor, no such factor exists in the realms of singing and the playing of musical instruments. (Some of the best drummers are women and the best harpists men) Opera is the ideal genre for the portrayal of strong women, some of them mistreated and put upon, no doubt, but nevertheless strong with their courage being an inspiration to the opera goer. Sadly, there's none of that here. All we get is silly women being put upon by even sillier men. Cliché after cliché, in fact.
This is all very sad because the performers are all trying to give of their best and I wanted to like their efforts. Maybe some women will like it. However, since I'm a mere man, I was not impressed. It will be interesting to learn what others think. If anyone at all ever reads this review, I wonder how many ticks I will get in the not helpful box? I think that means how helpful a review is to the reader, not how helpful it is to the work being reviewed. I always read the one star reviews first because, every now and then, one of them notices something important that everyone else has missed. I always give these ones a helpful tick.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
Vicente Martín y Soler (1754-1806) was probably more widely-known and certainly more popularly successful than Mozart (1758-1791) during their contemporaneous careers. The opera on this DVD, L'arbore di Diana, was an immediate and sustained 'hit', receiving at least forty full production all across Europe. Martín y Soler had traveled from Naples to Vienna in 1785, in expectation of composing an opera for the wedding Maria Theresa! L'arbore di Diana is based very loosely on the ill-defined Hellenic myth of Endymion, a beautiful shepherd lad who fell in love with the Moon Diana; in some accounts, Endymion was 'rewarded' by Zeus with eternal sleep, during which he would lose none of his beauty forever. That's not the conclusion of the libretto of L'arbore di Diana; with the meddling of Cupid, Diana is smitten with Love, Endymion gets his Goddess, and her chaste nymphs discover lascivious bliss with the shepherds Doristo and Silvio.
The librettist for all three operas Martín y Soler composed in Vienna was the sly Lorenzo Da Ponte (1749-1838), whose knowledge of things lascivious was well cultivated. Da Ponte was born Jewish, became a Catholic priest in Venice, fathered a child with his mistress there, left the priesthood and operated a brothel until finding his niche in Vienna as a librettist. In all, he wrote 28 opera librettos for many of the greatest composers of the era, though L'arbore di Diana was one of only two that were not 'adaptations' of older works of literature. Da Ponte was a manic writer; he worked on three librettos simultaneously in 1787: L'arbore di Diana for Martín y Soler, Tarar for Salieri, and Don Giovanni for Mozart! Not bad for a mountebank! Da Ponte, by the way, regarded L'arbore di Diana as the finest of the completed operas. Mozart paid him the comic tribute of including his waltz from Una Cosa Rara in the banquet scene of Act 2 of Don Giovanni.
When Mozart and his later librettist Emanuel Schikaneder put together their Singspiel "Die Zauberflöte - The Magic Flute" in 1791, they had an obvious model - L'arbore di Diana - the success of which they plainly hoped to match. The 'borrowings' are astounding. The Goddess of the Moon is the prototype for the Queen of the Night, both in dramatic and in musical development. Three Nymphs find a confused male on stage at the beginning of L'arbore, just as the Three Ladies find and rescue Tamino in The Magic Flute. The shepherd Doristo prefigures Papageno, and Cupid, though a hugely comical figure, is as much the philosophical spokesman of L'arbore as Zarastro is of Magic Flute. In fact, there are so many borrowings from L'arbore di Diana in The Magic Flute that modern Hollywood would perhaps bill the latter as a 'remake' of the former.
So ... If you love The Magic Flute, I predict that you'll be thrilled by L'arbore di Diana. It's almost as zany, it's a good deal more coherent as a story, and it's extremely rich musically, with arias, duets, and Rossini-pointing ensembles that can stand up to a comparison with Mozart, and that are more artfully composed than anything I've heard so far from the operas of Salieri or Paisiello. I'd go so far as saying that L'arbore di Diana is a major re-discovery, one of the most entertaining comic operas of the classical era.
And this is an extremely able production, well acted and choreographed and marvelously sung. 'Amore' is a role made on Olympus for countertenor Michael Maniaci, with his absurd body and his divine voice. Laura Aiken is lustrous as the Moon; her three nymphs are gorgeous and sing gorgeously to boot. Baritone Marco Vinco performs the role of Doristo with rascally insouciance and powerful vocal technique. Perhaps the most outstanding voice is that of Steve Davislim as Endymion; that role has the most eloquent arias, and Davislim has the 'squillo' of the best Italian tenors of the bel canto.
Harry Bicket conducted the orchestra of the Gran teatre del Liceu in Barcelona in October, 2009, and I wish I'd been there.