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lionheart

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Offered by Assai-uk
Price: £7.95

33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Past Forever for Agnetha..., 19 May 2013
This review is from: A (Audio CD)
I wasn't sure what to expect from this album; would Agnetha still have a voice worth hearing? The answer is an emphatic YES! Her voice is in perfect condition, crystal clear and beautiful, just like in her ABBA days. It is also very expressive, perheps even more so now. It is a most distinctive sound, very lovely, and she has such dignity and class she makes almost anything sound good.

There are some great songs here. And one or two more ordinary songs. As other reviewers have noted, there's nothing very new going on, but I didn't expect anything groundbreaking; it's not her style and why should she fix what isn't broken at her age? And the best of the songs do have interesting quirks: The whistling in Perfume In The Breeze, or the bleak lyric and haunting refrain of the sweet sounding I Was A Flower. Generally, it's the slower, intimate ballads (as always) that suit her best: Past Forever, Bubble, I Keep Them On the Floor... etc. The more poppy tracks (including the singles) are predictable stuff, well delivered, if less memorable.

Rather like the song, Past Forever, Agnetha's theme on the album is mostly regret, nostalgia and sad memories. Is she looking back on her life? Whether or not she's acting a part or reflecting on her own experience, who can say. Perhaps she just recognises that most of us are sentimental in one way or another, and live our lives in the past... And it must be said that recent interviews reveal a far more upbeat and grounded person than the media previously led us to believe.

The album took a few plays to work it's magic; don't give up on it. Listen out for the more reflective moments. It's there that Faltskog weaves her magic spell most potently.

Overall I think this is a fine album, one which is likely to age rather better than her 1980s solo albums, which have dated. I almost wish she'd record some acoustic material, with just her voice, a guitar or piano, and no big production. There's a lot of talent working away on this album, but it's not always needed. It's Agnetha's familiar, plaintive, pleading soprano voice that transforms it all and shines out.


Puccini - Madama Butterfly
Puccini - Madama Butterfly
Price: £19.04

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest Butterfly on disc - but historic sound, 3 Jan. 2013
The other review is nonsense. This is the most devastating account of Butterfly on disc. De los Angeles said this was one of her favourite roles, and is shows. Unlike Callas or many other singers, there is no attempt to sound coy or twee when playing a 15 year old in Act 1. De los Angeles is wonderfully natural throughout. Of course, that can only be achieved by art of the highest order, and a good technique. Her attention to words, her subtle phrasing and her understanding of the role are unmatched, and she proves herself a surprisingly convincing singing actress. The highest notes take her to her limit, but no more so than Callas or Scotto, and those extremes suit the dramatic situation. If you just want a beautiful sound, without drama, then this may not be for you. But if you want a performance that will, as Puccini intended, break your heart, this is a great bargain.

With di Stefano and Gobbi, the supporting cast is ideal. Vivdly conducted and performed with passion, this is a classic recording. But the sound is definitely historic mono and a little shrill. Unfortunately this is the sort of sound that does not transfer to CD especially well. I have the original LPs - they sound far more mellow. But a few adjustments of treble tone on your CD player should mitigate the problem. And this is such a cherishable, embraceable butterfly that it's worth it.


Rimsky-Korsakov: Invisible City Of Kitezh (Naxos: 8660288-90)
Rimsky-Korsakov: Invisible City Of Kitezh (Naxos: 8660288-90)
Price: £14.41

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Splendid City of Kitezh, 11 Nov. 2012
I'm inclined to agree with 5 star review by Mr Mayhew. This is a wonderful bargain of a beautiful, unjustly neglected work. Another reviewer criticised the sound quality. I can't honestly hear what the problem is. The sound is more than acceptable for a live recording, and as far as the voices are conceerned, it is superb.

The singers are not all uniformly outstanding; King Yuri's aria requires more legato than Kazakov musters here. But Tatiana Monogarova was simply born to sing the role of Fevronya: she is glorious in every respect - youthful, powerful, warm-toned and expressive - as near to perfection as one could wish for. The rest of the cast are never less than good, some a little better than that. Vedernikov conducts prudently rather than with passion, but creates his own hypnotic spell in the extraordinary fourth act, with it's glimpse of paradise.

There's more stage noise than I would like - oh how I long for a modern studio recording! But I can't imagine a better Fevronya, and these CDs have afforded me a great deal of pleasure.


Rimsky-Korsakov: The Legend Of The Invisible City Of Kitezh
Rimsky-Korsakov: The Legend Of The Invisible City Of Kitezh
Offered by KAOZI168 Classical_ ''Dispatch within 1 day to the world ''
Price: £25.00

8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Magnificent opera, mixed performance, 28 Nov. 2011
Kitezh - the legendary city has been as mystical and unattainable in it's operatic form as in the story. For decades the only recording was a Soviet one, magnificent in many ways, but hard to find and with a disappointing heroine. The opera, undoubtedly the composer's finest, tells not a fairy tale - as sometimes suggested - but the legend(crucially different) of a city that defied the tartar invasions in the 13th century, by disappearing. In the original legend the city is submered in a lake. In variations it becomes invisible. Rimsky-Korsakov took the latter idea and added a more specific Christian feel by combining a separate legend - that of Saint Fevronia. It sounds confusing to western ears because the resonances of the narrative are not part of our culture. Also the structure of the opera is unconventional like many nationalistic operas. But to my mind that is what makes the whole work so original. Don't expect Verdi, or even Wagner. This is something entirely of it's own world. Of course there are Wagnerisms there, just as there can be in Verdi - this was a great time of cross fertilisation. But the forest where the virginal Fevronia worships nature, although often compared to Wagner's Forest Murmurs, are perhaps closer to Rimsky-korsakov's own Snow Maiden - one of his earliest operas, written BEFORE he had heard Wagner's Ring (and which includes his own invented pre Wagnerian "leitmotives"). In short, the label "Russian Parsifal" is not really appropriate, for there is less Wagner in it than Wagnerites like to think.

It works its charms in unusual ways. Naturally with this composer much of the glory is in the orchestral music, such as the scene of Fevronia's death. Then there are the Petrushka-like crowd scenes (Stravinsky made a habit of stealing from his tutor) and the great ceremonial scenes: the sounds of bells to haunt the guilty betrayer(Grishka) and to herald the redeemed city's emergence as paradise. Imagine this work as a sprawling operatic pageant, a musical icon, a fresco of music, scenes reflecting musical ideas as the lake reflects the city... and you'll get the idea. Once you enter into the spirit of it and understand that the Russians had no real musical tradition to develop (compared to the Italians, Germans or French) then you will see why this work is so unusual and original. We have to accept it on those terms, and it is a very clever construction if analysed. Comparisons with Wagner and Strauss are meaningless in a way. Kitezh is from a different world. And it is ravishingly beautiful and - to challange the established (and rather outdated) view that Rimsky-Korsakov's music is shallow - it is deeply moving. The last time I wept at an opera was at the Kirov's Barbican performance in 2005. Kitezh, with it's green and optimistic vision of paradise on earth captures something unique. It will not suit everyone. It can appear a long haul. But it is so rewarding.

This 1994 recording is the best available on CD, but not without it's flaws. The sound is less than ideal - this is a live recording and it needs a studio recording really. Often the magic in the orchestra fails to make it's mark because of the balance. Compare King Yuri's act 3 aria "O vain Illusion of grandeur" with Boris Christoff's recording. Apart from Christoff's glorious singing, listen to the orchestra: beautiful, even in an old mono recording. This detail is lost in the Kirov's recording.

The text is utterly complete (unlike the butchered Bregenz recording). The cast are a good ensemble but individually the singing isn't really good enough, with Galina Gorchakova especially disappointing. In the same year she sang the opera at the Barbican hall, with Gegam Grigorian and it was magnificent (also in 1993 at the Amsterdan Concergebouw - if only that could turn up on cd!!!). But she has her moments here.

Holding it all together is Valery Gergiev, and his love of the opera is evident. Although more recent performances under him have shown even more incisive conducting and greater understanding of the work. I wish so much that he could record it again.

A recent alternative is a very fine performance at Cagliari with the Bolshoi on DVD. The staging is bizarre and frustating. BUT the musical performance is very fine. It was given complete and the Fevronia (Tatiana Monogarova) was utterly sublime. If you can ignore the visuals and listen to the soundtrack, then this is a highly recommendable performance. If this is released on CD it will be extremely strong competition to the Kirov set.


Rimsky-Korsakov: TheLegend of the Invisible City Of Kitezh (NAXOS 2110277-78) [DVD] [2011] [NTSC]
Rimsky-Korsakov: TheLegend of the Invisible City Of Kitezh (NAXOS 2110277-78) [DVD] [2011] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Mikhail Kazakov
Price: £19.50

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Keep it invisible... and just listen, 28 Nov. 2011
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This co-production between Cagliari and the Bolshoi was slammed by critics. And certainly the impenetrable and bizarre interpretation of an already complex and unusual fable, is disappointing. Quite what the director wanted to achieve is hard to say, but he gives a very poor case for the work as a dramatic piece on stage. Some scenes have a certain, unexpected beauty of their own...

HOWEVER, this IS the only filmed version available, and for that we must be grateful. This is a sublime work, undoubtedly Rimsky's masterpiece, and despite the eccentric staging, this is beautifully performed.

Don't be put off exploring this gem of an opera by wingeing Wagnerites, complaining of plagurism. Of course Rimsky was inspired by Wagner. Many composers were. Indeed many composers were subsequently influenced by Rimsky. Such is the nature of rapid developments in creativity. I find the cross fertilisation exhilarating.

The opera combines two legends, creating a story in which the lowly peasant Fevroniya, a child of nature, is unexpectedly chosen as queen of a sacred city - Kitezh. When Tatars invade, and the city is betrayed, it is Fevroniya's prayers that are answered, rendering the city invisible. Only in Paradise does the city reappear. Combining pantheistic nature worship and sacred Orthodox music, the opera is a powerful exploration of treachery, guilt, innocence and purity, and an uplifting parable of faith; whether in Nature or God, depends on your personal view, perhaps.

Vedernikov insists on the score being given complete. His is not the most passionate or urgent view of the score. There is more drama to be found, as one hears in Gergiev's Kirov account. But where this recording scores over Gergiev is in the quality of the casting and the sound balance. The orchestra are extremely important (as usual, with Rimsky) and I find more detail coming across in this account. Vedernikov's bells in the transformation scenes are less sonorous than in the Kirov recording, perhaps, but all else is very beautifully performed.

Above all - and the reason for 4 stars - is the quite extraordinary Tatiana Monogarova. Here is a young Russian soprano with a glorious voice, soft grained, lyrical and yet powerful when required. It is the most ravishingly beautiful account I have ever heard of Fevroniya's music, far surpassing Galina Gorchakova with the Kirov (on Philips). every phrase, every moment she is on stage is illuminated with her superb, warm, commited singing. Already a known quantity from her account of Tatiana in the equally contraversial new Bolshoi Eugene Onegin, she here begs the question: why isn't she singing at Covent Garden? she would wipe the floor with Netrebko and Poplavskaya. Monogarova is simply in another league.

I hope the recording appears on CD. It deserves to. Until then, this DVD is very welcome. But please, ignore the visuals, close your eyes and just listen...
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 23, 2016 5:30 PM BST


Homage To Maria Callas - Favourite Opera Arias (Deluxe Edition)
Homage To Maria Callas - Favourite Opera Arias (Deluxe Edition)
Price: £9.98

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Callas vs Gheorghiu, 17 Nov. 2011
Bartoli's Malibran and Fleming's "Age of the Diva" (not to forget Sutherland's "Art of the Prima Donna")... Yes, the homage has been done before, so it's of no surprise that Gheorghiu should do the same. Marketing teams must love her.

What IS a surprise is the choice of diva and the repertoire. Gheorghiu often sites the sublime Virginia Zeani as a big inspiration, and their voices do have similarities. Callas is a tough act to follow...

Here we have a few of Callas' choice roles and I guess what must be a few of Gheorghiu's favourites - for La Boheme, La Wally and especially Faust were never particularly associated with Callas. True, she recorded Boheme complete, but it's one of her less successful recordings. Faust - she only recorded the Jewel Song rather late (and none too successfully)in her career - is a particular oddity.

Balancing this we have an aria from Medea (but only the reflective "Dei tuo figli"), the aria from the Pirata mad scene (Gheorghiu sensibly avoids the cabaletta; it would be beyond her), and the act one scene from La Traviata, staples for both divas (although Gheorghiu of course does not attempt a Callaseque E flat in alt at the end).

All this sounds critical, and it does seem an opportunity wasted. Why not sing arias actually associated with Callas? Why no Tosca? Lucia? Anna Bolena? Norma? Sonnambula? Granted she has recorded extracts from these before - but then so she has recorded arias from Boheme, Faust, Wally before too. Naturally the coloratura and high notes are not her "thing", but lower options (as with Traviata) are perfectly acceptable. And there are arias and scenes from all those works she has NOT recorded - Like "Come innocente" from Anna Bolena - it would have been perfect for her. And having paid for James Valanti, a little bel canto duet would have been nice... Lucia perhaps.

The disc actually doesn't do what is purports to do at all - this is no homage. It's a showcase. Which is fine because the important thing is that Gheorghiu sings magnificently throughout. Mostly. The only places where I felt a twinge of disappointment were the final bars of Traviata's "Sempre Libera" - the extremes push her to her limits now and the strain robs the tone of it's customery velvet. And the duet (with Callas!) of Carmen's Habanera is , frankly, disturbing and a trifle morbid. It must have taken technicians hours to set up. What a waste of energy. The other more lyrical tracks are, I must say, gorgeous and expressive.

If you like the repertoire and like Gheorghiu, it's a nice varied recital by her singer still (just) in her prime. But ignore the Callas label. It's misguided.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 26, 2013 7:44 AM BST


Homage To Maria Callas: Favourite Opera Arias
Homage To Maria Callas: Favourite Opera Arias
Price: £7.61

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gheorghiu verses Callas, 16 Nov. 2011
Bartoli's Malibran and Fleming's "Age of the Diva" (not to forget Sutherland's "Art of the Prima Donna")... Yes, the homage has been done before, so it's of no surprise that Gheorghiu should do the same. Marketing teams must love her.

What IS a surprise is the choice of diva and the repertoire. Gheorghiu often sites the sublime Virginia Zeani as a big inspiration, and their voices do have similarities. Callas is a tough act to follow...

Here we have a few of Callas' choice roles and I guess what must be a few of Gheorghiu's favourites - for La Boheme, La Wally and especially Faust were never particularly associated with Callas. True, she recorded Boheme complete, but it's one of her less successful recordings. Faust - she only recorded the Jewel Song rather late (and none too successfully)in her career - is a particular oddity.

Balancing this we have an aria from Medea (but only the reflective "Dei tuo figli"), the aria from the Pirata mad scene (Gheorghiu sensibly avoids the cabaletta; it would be beyond her), and the act one scene from La Traviata, staples for both divas (although Gheorghiu of course does not attempt a Callaseque E flat in alt at the end).

All this sounds critical, and it does seem an opportunity wasted. Why not sing arias actually associated with Callas? Why no Tosca? Lucia? Anna Bolena? Norma? Sonnambula? Granted she has recorded extracts from these before - but then so she has recorded arias from Boheme, Faust, Wally before too. Naturally the coloratura and high notes are not her "thing", but lower options (as with Traviata) are perfectly acceptable. And there are arias and scenes from all those works she has NOT recorded - Like "Come innocente" from Anna Bolena - it would have been perfect for her. And having paid for James Valanti, a little bel canto duet would have been nice... Lucia perhaps.

The disc actually doesn't do what is purports to do at all - this is no homage. It's a showcase. Which is fine because the important thing is that Gheorghiu sings magnificently throughout. Mostly. The only places where I felt a twinge of disappointment were the final bars of Traviata's "Sempre Libera" - the extremes push her to her limits now and the strain robs the tone of it's customery velvet. And the duet (with Callas!) of Carmen's Habanera is , frankly, disturbing and a trifle morbid. It must have taken technicians hours to set up. What a waste of energy. The other more lyrical tracks are, I must say, gorgeous and expressive.

If you like the repertoire and like Gheorghiu, it's a nice varied recital by her singer still (just) in her prime. But ignore the Callas label. It's misguided.


N.Rimsky-Korsakov. Servilla. Aria of Servilla
N.Rimsky-Korsakov. Servilla. Aria of Servilla
Price: £0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exquisite little known singer, 1 July 2011
I had never heard of this singer and investigated her to hear some rare repertoire (Servilia by Rimsky-Korsakov). She has a clear bright sound, typical of many Russian singers, but there is a bloom to the tone and a sensitivity of phrasing that sets her apart. A lovely record of a vibrant and committed singer.


Sheherazade
Sheherazade
Price: £7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Shhhhhhhhheherazade, 1 July 2011
This review is from: Sheherazade (MP3 Download)
Oh I wish they'd shut up the lot of them! The narrators talk talk talk all over the music until one is barely aware of it, and their storytelling skills are not great, frankly. Everything is rushed and over-emphatic, often entirely at odds with the music. The whole thing left me reeling. I'd recommend Bernard Cribbins on Naxos as a vastly superior (and cheaper) alternative


My Very Best
My Very Best
Price: £32.43

16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dancing Singing Queen, 21 Jan. 2011
This review is from: My Very Best (Audio CD)
If you like Agnetha Fastkog, but don't necessarily want all her solo albums (particularly the Swedish ones), then this is a good way a sampling her solo career before and after the ABBA glory days.

Disc one, in Swedish, includes her early hits as well as music created in the mid seventies. Tracks like Doktorn and her very first single Jag var sa Kar are nestled alongside a Swedish solo version of SOS and an early duet with Bjorn. While some are typically light pop songs of their time (late 60s) others are sophistical ballades in the ABBA tradition. Needless to say Agnetha's voice it wonderful.

Dinc two, in English is most post-ABBA (apart from The Winner Takes it All) and includes songs from all her English language albums, rigght up to her talest album (60s inspired) "My Colouring Book".

Her voice has lost nothing over the years and there is no doubt that she is one of the great popular singers of her time. I really enjoyed this album, and it really makes one appreciate the level of talent that went into ABBA.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 29, 2015 7:25 PM BST


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