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Glilla Bear (Isle of Wight, UK)

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Donizetti: L'Elisir d'Amore (Heidi Grant Murphy / Orchestre e Choeurs de l'Opera de Paris / Edward Gardner) NTSC Region 0 [DVD] [2008]
Donizetti: L'Elisir d'Amore (Heidi Grant Murphy / Orchestre e Choeurs de l'Opera de Paris / Edward Gardner) NTSC Region 0 [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Heidi Grant Murphy
Price: £22.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Delightful production with fine soloists, orchestra and chorus, 2 May 2013
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I have seen this Pelly production at Covent Garden, with Diana Damrau in the role of Adina, and it is truly delightful. Heidi Grant Murphy does not have much history, as far as I can tell, as a bel canto singer, but, although her voice is not a strong one, she acts her part very well. You simply cannot imagine a more appealing Nemorino than Paul Groves, though he is no Pavarotti (probably just as well, for Pavarotti would have drowned out poor Adina). Laurent Naouri is his usual zany self as Belcore - very funny and with just the right voice for the part. Ambrogio Maestri has a gorgeous bass-baritone instrument, and sings and acts his heart out as the naughty doctor, Dulcamara. Edward Gardner conducts with zest - and some beautiful mid-aria/duet tempo variations in more set pieces than one. The chorus too are superb, and Aleksandra Zamojska makes a lovely Giannetta, a gossipy bespectacled maid of uncertain years. By the end of the performance initial queasinesses have disappeared and the audience can sit back and truly enjoy this delightful production. All in all a huge success.


Brahms: Symphonies Nos.1-4
Brahms: Symphonies Nos.1-4
Price: £28.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unsurpassed, 1 May 2013
I grew up with these monumental performances and I have never doubted my first impression, that these are the greatest performances I have ever heard, live or on disc, of the most awe-inspiringly magnificent corpus of symphonies certainly since Beethoven and notwithstanding Mahler and Bruckner. I have only ever found Kempe's (BPO) First and Horenstein's Third to rival Klemperer's: for my money, in the other two there is no plausible competition.


Isabel the Fair
Isabel the Fair
by Margaret Campbell Barnes
Edition: Paperback

3.0 out of 5 stars A slightly quaint account of Edward II's naughtinesses and the reactions they inspired in his beautiful wife, Isabel, 24 April 2013
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This review is from: Isabel the Fair (Paperback)
This is a good, though not outstanding account of the life of Isabel, Queen of England. It encompasses both her own infidelities and those of her husband Edward. The writing is of serviceable quality, but the tale is a good one, and my interest was held until the very end. Some 'facts' contradict those in other accounts of the marriage, but this is a niggle: we're dealing here with "historical fiction" after all. There's not a great deal written about Edward and his lovers, Piers Gaveston and Hugh Despenser, so if you have an interest in the Plantagenets, I'd recommend this novel.


Mary, Queen of France: (Tudor Saga)
Mary, Queen of France: (Tudor Saga)
by Jean Plaidy
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Thoroughly enjoyable and informative read, 11 April 2013
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I came to this book after reading several other historical novels set in the Tudor period. There is a certain snobbishness about Jean Plaidy among readers of historical fiction. On this showing, such readers are mistaken. I knew little about Mary Tudor, but after this delightful account of her marriages, her relationship with her elder brother Henry and her personal qualities, I shall definitely be reading Ms Plaidy's account of the life of Mary's elder sister, Margaret (about whom I know even less!). The copy of the book I have, from an Amazon dealer, was previously owned by a student. I do hope she enjoyed it. The writing is so readily accessible, and yet so stylish that it is difficult imagining a person of any age not taking pleasure from it.


L'Elisir D'Amore [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
L'Elisir D'Amore [DVD] [Region 1] [US Import] [NTSC]
Offered by M and N Media US
Price: £155.35

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars (Eventually) a wonderful production and performance, 7 April 2013
This dvd has many things to commend it, but it starts out inauspiciously. In the opening scenes Judith Blegen sounds and looks like a cross between Listen with Mother and Maria in 'The Sound of Music'. Brent Ellis struggles both with breathing and intonation, and indeed he almost falls over on one occasion! But as the performance gets going, the singers get stronger and stronger, until, in the Act II duet between Blegen and Bruscantini, one feels one could ask for nothing more. The orchestral contribution is exceedingly fine, and Rescigno knows a thing or two about not hurrying Donizetti accompaniments. The balance favours the orchestra, and all those superb orchestral devices Donizetti so ingeniously employs to support the singers' voices are beautifully, marvellously, in evidence. Pavarotti is in excellent voice, perhaps too excellent, since he drowns out Adina, Belcore and Bruscantini when he has duets or larger shared arias to sing with them. He sings 'Una furtiva lagrima' with great delicacy, and there is in his voice a gentle mellifluousness elsewhere too. As I have said, Blegen's voice becomes more and more impressive as the opera continues: she is capable, as we know, of some truly lovely things. The recording is very true, though the bass needs reeling in at times.


Sarasate: Works for Violin & Orchestra
Sarasate: Works for Violin & Orchestra
Price: £7.82

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic pyrotechnics!, 6 April 2013
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Some people might know Tianwa Yang from earlier discs in this (and other) series in the Naxos catalogue or indeed from the Naxos 20th Anniversary DVD. She is a superb violinist with an exceptionally sweet tone and a gloriously glossy mastery of the G string: at times she sounds as if she has a viola in her hands, rather than a violin. She sounds like Emanuel Vardi! It matters not what Sarasate throws at her, she seems to take it all in her stride: double and triple stopping, spiccato, pizzicato, harmonics - she takes it all in her stride. No complaints then about this wonderful soloist. I have only two gripes. One is that the orchestra sounds as if it were playing in a room behind the soloist, albeit with the door left open - it is a plummy acoustic. The soloist, on the other hand, is quite brightly recorded.The other is a personal gripe. I do not like 'Navarra' recorded with the same violinist for both parts: this violates 'live' possibility. Having said that, with Ms Yang's ability she might well be playing both parts simultaneously!


Donizetti: L'Elisir d'amore (DECCA The Originals)
Donizetti: L'Elisir d'amore (DECCA The Originals)
Price: £10.01

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This is the set for me!, 6 April 2013
This performance of 'Elisir' is simply wonderful. To hear Sutherland's unique voice embrace Donizetti's wonderful melodies in Adina's arias and duets is a marvellous experience. For once Pavarotti does not 'swamp' his soprano: Dame Joan holds her own throughout. Never does she shirk a high note, and her trills are something to behold, though she does not simply show off. Dominic Cossa is a suitably stylish Belcore - with a voice like that you can see why Adina might fall for him, and Spiro Malas makes a very convincing Dulcamara, with excellent articulation in the very fast passages he has to sing. You get extra music too! Act 2's 'Prendi, per me sei libero' is properly augmented with the massively taxing 'Il mio rigor dimentica...nel dolce incanto..' I am not surprised most sopranos funk it, but it is one of the most joyous arias in the entire opera, a very fast waltz yet with a Spanish feel to it. Whether Donizetti meant it for this opera or for another, it fits perfectly both musically and libretto-wise. Bonynge, of course, has this music in his veins: he lives and breathes it, and the ECO rise magnificently to the challenge. I cannot think of another orchestral contribution in this opera which succeeds better.


Puccini: Tosca [Royal Opera House, 2011] - Gheorghiu, Kaufmann, Terfel [DVD] [2012]
Puccini: Tosca [Royal Opera House, 2011] - Gheorghiu, Kaufmann, Terfel [DVD] [2012]
Dvd ~ Angela Gheorghiu/Antonio Pappano
Price: £11.67

22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A definitive 'Tosca' at last., 3 April 2013
I was immensely impressed with this dvd. Not only do we have Gheorghiu's beautiful soprano and convincing acting, but we have in Kaufmann the greatest dramatic tenor I can remember. Terfel gives us a (for me) credible alternative to Gobbi in the role of Scarpia. He is a twisted, tragic rogue in Dickensian mode, who has bullied his way to high office and is held in awe by those who surround him. Terfel gives us a true villain, not as sinister as Gobbi, it's true, but one who wears his villainy on his sleeve. Gheorghiu sings her heart out: she has clearly listened to Callas, but is wisely anxious not merely to copy her. The ROH orchestra gives its all and Pappano conducts with conviction and to magnificent effect. How influenced Puccini was by Wagner - listen to the orchestral interlude preceding Cavaradossi's execution, for example: almost 'lifted' from the pages of 'Die Meistersinger'. Sound is excellent, camerawork superb. I cannot either fault the performances of lesser characters like Spoletta, suitably sycophantic: creepy and knowing. This is a 'Tosca' I feel should be invested in by all lovers of the melodrama; it will be a very long time before it is surpassed.


Engleby
Engleby
Price: £4.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A rather pointless exercise, 3 April 2013
This review is from: Engleby (Kindle Edition)
I am afraid I find little merit in this novel. It is almost entirely a train-of-thought sequence of uninteresting self-observations about the first-person narrator, Mike Engleby, following him from early childhood to a his mid-fifties. Engleby is an intelligent individual, so some of his thoughts are thought-provoking: to give you a flavour of these thoughts, one such is that he is probably not an individual at all! An awful lot of his reflections are far from being engaging. The confusing mix of present and simple-past tense narration is both gratuitous and peeving; I can detect no logic to it. The reviews on the cover imply that this is a thriller; it isn't. It is simply the relaying to the reader of Mike's multifarious prejudices and hang-ups. By the time anything interesting comes along (first 20 or so pages excepted - these are promising), we have all guessed what has happened to Engleby's fellow student, Jennifer. Even when we find out for sure, it is a boring discovery; what follows, namely further accounts of Engleby's own assessment of his new situation (I am trying not to give away the plot here, so bear with me) is no more interesting than the accounts we find earlier in the novel. Oh dear.... The very ending is a veritable damp squib. I am sorry to be so negative, but I really became tired of this story quarter-way-through, continuing with it only because I thought something exciting or genuinely interesting might develop: it did not.


Donizetti: L'Elisir D'Amore (The Elixir of Love) [DVD] [NTSC] [2002]
Donizetti: L'Elisir D'Amore (The Elixir of Love) [DVD] [NTSC] [2002]
Dvd ~ Roberto Alagna
Price: £15.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Charming production ultimately spoilt by Alagna's shouting, 31 Mar. 2013
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This is a lovely production, with some genuinely amusing comedic touches. Gheorghiu sings beautifully, as always, but, in the duets (as is the case in his duets with the other principals), has to make extra effort to make herself heard above her husband, who seems to have only the rarest moments at a volume below mezzo forte. Alaimo makes an excellent Dulcamara, and Scaltriti a suitably masculine Belcore (though I do wish he didn't sing out of one side of his face, something which, in close up, is most off-putting: I guess the audience at the actual performance wouldn't have seen this, or at least not very clearly.) Synchronization is sometimes slightly out, but on the whole, the DVD is well produced - or so it seems to me, who have only slight technical knowledge.) The continuo is slightly forward, and so its contributions seem a little bold. A reserved recommendation, then. I far prefer Villazon as my "Little Nobody". Those dvds (Blegen and Battle) with Pavarotti also suffer from the fact that he rather overpowers his soprano - though I do not find this the case with the Sutherland/Pavarotti/Bonynge CD.


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