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Jonas Kaufmann: Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci [DVD] [2016]
Jonas Kaufmann: Cavalleria Rusticana/Pagliacci [DVD] [2016]
Dvd ~ Philipp Stölzl
Price: £9.99

18 of 25 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Yes I truly hated this double bill of the 'terrible twins, 30 Mar. 2016
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Yes I truly hated this double bill of the 'terrible twins.'
The production of Cav is a toe-curling experience from beginning to end. In the prelude where Mascagni depicts a hot humid Sicilian morning we are presented with what appears to be an engraving of a clearly industrial vista as Turiddu and Santuzza and their son(!!) get up for breakfast. They and everyone else are dressed in black and white. Various scenes unfold in various levels and 'boxes' onstage so you can look at one scene top left and then another bottom right. Spectacularly annoying. The big duet beginning 'Tu qui Santuzza' takes place back in their kitchen while sitting at the table etc etc. Mamma Lucia is clearly a successful business women in smart clothes, smart earings and sporting a hairdo that suggests her own hairdresser. Two thugs protect her. Alfio is a risible mafiosa boss who wouldnt scare a mouse and sings his aria/song whilst beating up a local inhabitant. Etc etc. Its a ridiculous effort to re-present the familar in an unfamilier way. Several times the libretto is ignored. Poor Mascagni.
Kaufmann is Turiddu. He sings (not very well) the siciliana in his room alone with his back to the audience. Elsewhere he does his best singing with strong virile tones but missed some of the arrogance leading to hopeless fear that is needed. The Santuzza is pretty dreadful with a loud warble and gusty high notes and precious little power below. Her acting is from early silent films and for me evokes no shred of sympathy at her dilemmas. Alfio is dull and looks like a caricature of a mafia boss. The conductor finds nothing in the score to ratchet up the tension. I NEVER intend watching this perverse mess again.
Pagliacci. Better cast but same split screen production but in colour. Tonio sings his Prologue not in front of the curtain but in front of the cast who are getting ready for the opera. Kaufmann (who died on stage in Cav) is still dressed as Turiddu which is as clever or idiotic as you choose to see it. The scenes with Canio see Kaufmann in tremendously dramatic form but even he forces his powerful tenor in a way that is not always comfortable. A decently sung Alfio and Nedda help but my overall impression of both productions is the 'verismo' has been replaced by indefensible production decisions that negate the Composers intention utterly. Philipp Stolzl is responsible. May the shades of Mascagni and Leoncavallo haunt him forever. Unless you are a Kaufmann fan I suggest you give this is miss though I see some have enjoyed it. .
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 2, 2016 5:46 PM BST


Massenet: Werther
Massenet: Werther
Price: £14.06

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Maestro Pappano see the whole of it clearly and conducts a performance full of the ebbs and flows of emotions in a wonderfully p, 18 Oct. 2015
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This review is from: Massenet: Werther (Audio CD)
If you are someone who has every note that Villazon has recorded and you are unable to even whisper a word against him then I suggest you move on now. Werther is an opera of passion and of tears. Maestro Pappano see the whole of it clearly and conducts a performance full of the ebbs and flows of emotions in a wonderfully paced and detailed performance. Sophie Koch has made this part - as Charlotte - very much her own and can be seen on a DVD opposite Kaufmann. She is detailed, fresh voiced and believable in each and every utterence. She is a Charlotte to treasure. Smaller parts are well sung and fit in the overall Concept so no worries there.The only problem is an underpowered Werther in Villazon. The truth is that he does not dominate in the 'big moments' when you need him to. During the ecstatic moonlit walk when Werther unleashes his declaration of love to the rising chromatic chords from the orchestra he has nothing in reserve and the moment passes almost unmarked. Again in the recital of Ossian's poem 'Pourquoi me reveiller' he sings sweetly but the climaxes go for little enough.. He is sensitive, nuanced but ultimately underpowered. It is an acceptable performance of this splendid opera but it goes no way to being representative of Massenet's intentions. Discussions of why he is underpowered at this stage of his career are another matter. I am writing about what I hear. Thill Friant, Vezzani and some later tenors such as Di Stefano and Kaufmann have been more successful in presenting the Byronic, ultimately doomed poet that is Werther. Here, Koch and Pappano steal the honours.


Gounod: Faust
Gounod: Faust
Price: £18.85

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars blasting at every ff note it is like listening with one ear to the outside of the ..., 14 Sept. 2015
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This review is from: Gounod: Faust (Audio CD)
I do not feel able to comment on the performance because the recording is inadequate, wavering, blasting at every ff note it is like listening with one ear to the outside of the opera house. Best avoided.


Bartered Bride
Bartered Bride
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £17.95

1.0 out of 5 stars Despite the seeming opportunity to hear the great tenor in a complete performance of this splendid opera ..., 5 Sept. 2015
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This review is from: Bartered Bride (Audio CD)
This really doesn't deserve even a single star. Despite the seeming opportunity to hear the great tenor in a complete performance of this splendid opera it is de3nied to us. The sound is truly appalling - little better than trying to hear Jean De Reszke on a Mapleson cylinder. An utter waste of money.


Rossini - Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Milan 1952/De Sabata)
Rossini - Il Barbiere di Siviglia (Milan 1952/De Sabata)
Price: £9.46

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Raucous Figaro to ruin your pleasure., 3 Sept. 2015
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Sadly I find this performance impossible to recommend. There are too many cons and not enough pros. Firstly the re3cording is a problem with constant blasting and moments where the sound dims and then recovers. Bechi's Figaro is a hectoring loudmouth. This fine Verdi baritone seems only concerned with drowning out his partners and roaring out prolonged high notes. He is a vulgar charmless Figaro. Dora Gaqtta is another problem. She was a house soprano with little to offer in the way of beautiful sounds and sparkling technique. Ross-Lemeni mugs his waythrough the role of Don Basilio and Luise is an acceptable Basilio.
The two plusses are the stylish and splendid Valletti, always a joy to hear and showing a true Rossinian style and the conducting of De Sabati keeping the whole thing alive and forward moving. Those two apart this is not a performance to treasure and Valletti's Almaviva is better heard elsewhere.


Greatest Operatic Recordings
Greatest Operatic Recordings
Price: £9.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I fell in love with his voice some 60 years ago and still ..., 21 Aug. 2015
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Lanza opera recordings have always brought a lot of mixed reactions. I fell in love with his voice some 60 years ago and still love to hear him - but I am not deaf to his faults when he sings opera. On the first track you hear him begin the aria with a beautiful mezza voce but then its full steam ahead. Sometimes as in the Rosenkavalier he can sound wonderfully apt (it is supposed to be a poke at Italian tenors after all) and I doubt if Turiddu's farewell has ever sounded so richly and dramatically voices. His Chenier (apart from some white tones) is superb as is his Rodolfo but how are you expected to react to Federico's lament from Cilea's L'Arlesiana supposedly sung at the side of a sleeping child when the volume Lanza injects in to it would waken the dead? The Pagliacci is superb testimony to the glory of his voice while remaining dramatically at odds with the composer's intentions. Canio's world has collapsed as a result of seeing his wife in the arms of another. He is crushed, despairing and full of self pity. Lanza's Canio sounds murderously angry - too early in the opera to have itsw full effect later on.
The Otello excerpts are indeed impressive though yet again at a crucial moments the tenor gets it wrong. Calling Desdemona a vile harlot with the voice rising suddenly to a high C it is scored for the note to be just touched, like a musical slap. Lanza holds it til his breath runs out. It's a great note but totally in the wrong place. The whole duet is with Gloria Boh who is an anaemic soprano unsuited to the role. It was originally issued as a duet with soprano Licia Albanese where some judicious splicing from one version to another was performed . I would dearly love to hear the Lanza-Albanese original!
Lanza has a place in the history of recorded opera. When he gets it right he can be stunning. There is much to enjoy here and much to wish for. I saw him in 1958 in recital and the voice was thrilling. It is a voice I love dearly and so I give 4 stars - 'I like it.' If you love Lanza you will buy it anyway. If you love the tenor voice but have never heard him then as I said, there is much power and beauty for you discover. Try the Boheme with a stunning and glorious climax. Then you will know whether or not he is a tenor for you, as he is for me.


La Forza Del Destino   MET 1954
La Forza Del Destino MET 1954
Price: £11.94

3.0 out of 5 stars He understands the architecture of his great aria and sounds wounded when he should, 15 Jun. 2015
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This is an opera set against the background of war although from this recording you would never guess. The war scenes from Act 2 and Act 3 are not included. Act 1 where the opera begins and the Marchese is accidentally shot become the Prelude and then we have the overture.. So this is all something of a muddle reducing the opera to a truncated version (or extended highlights) Melitone's sermon is included however.
I bought this mainly for the mighty voiced Penno who has no problem equalling Warren. He is an artist and apart from some flatness in the first scene he gives an exciting performance. He understands the architecture of his great aria and sounds wounded when he should. His final confrontation with the baritone is exciting and rewarding. Warren is in his element and sings with more focus that later recordings. He tops the 'E salvo' outburst with a glorious if unwritten B flat ( Im guessing) It was in this role that he collapsed and died onstage. Destino indeed!
Hines sings superbly.
My problem was always going to be Milanov If you are an admirer look away now! Leonora was a favourite role in which she was often acclaimed. The problem is that when she sings the long soaring phrases or floats a long pianissimo then she is fine - unique. Her singing in the final trio is nothing short of wonderful. Unfortunately in other places where she faces an increased tempo or has to interject dramatic phrases she - well, putting it as politely as I can, she squawks. The Met audiences adored her as is quite obvious but I find her tendency to sharpness and the squawking too much. I know nothing of the conductor Fritz Stiedry but he keeps things moving and tight - though a couple of times he inexplicably slows the tempo, Nothing too serious.
The recording is clear and vivid for 1954.


Verdi - Un ballo in maschera [Live in Florence 1957}
Verdi - Un ballo in maschera [Live in Florence 1957}
Price: £11.65

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Inadequate Ballo., 30 May 2015
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There are several reasons for not buying this and one only reason for buying it. The sole reason is Cerquetti in blazing form for the most part aqnd displaying wonderful control and beauty of tone in her second aria. Superb. Bastianini is better heard elsewhere. Here he brings down the house with his 'Eri tu' though he seems content to make make the greatest possible volume throughout. Stignani impresses in her short appearance but the fly in the ointment is tenor Poggi. He lurches and emotes, quavering through the role with a mixture of white and muddy tones and with no discernable style whatsoever.. Astonishingly he omits his Act 3 aria altogether. This is a relief to the ears but leaves a hollow in the drama. Oscar is unpleasantly squeeky and I defy anyone to find a worse performance of the prelude. It genuinely reminded me of the school orchestra at speech day. The chorus is sloppy and sounds bored. I know nothing of conductor Emidio Tieri - unsurprisingly.
The recording is quite good but some overloading. It was recorded in 1957. It's dreadful. If you want Cerquetti (or Neri as Sam) then its cheap enough. For myself I never want to hear it again.


Don Carlo: Salzburg Festival (Pappano) [DVD] [2014] [NTSC]
Don Carlo: Salzburg Festival (Pappano) [DVD] [2014] [NTSC]
Dvd ~ Peter Stein
Price: £13.99

6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but not great., 28 Mar. 2015
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I wanted this to be wonderful but it was not that. It was OK, Something of a curate's egg. Pappano didn't erase memories of Solti but conducted firmly and well. Sets were minimal and costumes mostly black of which my eyes tired quickly. There were some oddities in the production - Elisabetta comments on how Carlos' eyes are losing life as she stares at the back of his head; Philip asks who these people are who kneel before him before they kneel - quibbles admittedly but silly production mistakes that are easily avoided. But this opera stands or falls by the singers and here I was not altogether convinced. Salminen was a King who didnt scare me at all. He looked less than regal (rather like a cross Santa) and though he can still boom some impressive notes much else was uncertain in pitch, woolly or simply wobbly. The scene with the Grand Inquisitor was a battle of wobbles and the aria before it was free of legato and any noticable style..
Semenchek as Eboli sang well with a fine voice but spoiled the end of 'O don fatale' by needing a breath between each note.
Hampson's Posa was a complete portrait. He sang well (even attempting the three trills) and never left character for a second. Towering over Carlos physially he played it as an older brother, guiding and restraining. I did get a speck of something in my eye at his death I confess. A wonderful assumption.
Harteros' Elisabetta was convincing and well sung, even the difficult final aria went well - and that has tripped up many a vaunted soprano over the years, but her moves from one note to the next were often clumsy. But what a top. Her highest notes would have done Turandor proud.
Kaufmann's fans will not hear a word against him. I have admired him greatly in a number of roles and would probably have clapped my hands sore at his performance but...it is not a performance I will return to very often. Of course he had splendid moments when the voice rang out superbly and he acted the nervous and unpredictable Carlo with utter conviction. He fitted well enough into a non-italian cast for his voice is stubbornly non-italian. The highest notes are muscular without ever ''leaving his throat' as it were. Sometimes it sounds hollow, without a true centre and and others throaty though not constricted. Having said that he has little competion in thisrole today.
Not a Don Carlo for all seasons then but an enjoyable if imperfect night in.


Verdi: Rigoletto [DVD] [2006]
Verdi: Rigoletto [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Marcelo Alvarez

2.0 out of 5 stars A wasted effort., 5 Feb. 2015
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A new take on a familiar opera is always interesting and having read a few reviews I hoped for the best and tried to give this an objective viewing. I found it a muddled and wilful production and vocally second rate. What time are we in? Well there are men in armour, swords a plenty and in one scene an electric fan. I always have problems when the performers sing of one thing but the production says something else. As in the second scene where Rigoletto is finding his way home and sings of his relief when he gets there - except that he has been nowhere at all - sitting in a chair before the closed stage curtains while the whole of that wonderful monologue is crammed with distractions in the way of stage business. All well and good if there is a reason; if it sheds some light on the matter, which it patently did not. Rigoletto is encumbered with 'realistic' deformities yet he exists in a world of strained and often obscure symbolism. I reached for the notes provided to find the writer burbling of the implacability of the sets'. That's one way of putting it I suppose.
Sadly the singing did not improve matters greatly.I have admired Carlos Alvarez greatly as Iago with Antonenko as Otello but Rigoletto is a different kind of role altogether. It need a range of expressive tones, loving, comforting, angry, vengeful, bereft and pitiful but Alvarez has only one tone with variations in volume only. The voice is scratched now and free of bloom. Inva Mula looks lovely but where you yearn for a simple pure sound you hear a voice which under pressure tends to harshness. Best of the soloists is the tenor who starts well with 'Questa o quella' (not in a crowded ballroom but in front of a roundabout of potential partners sitting like girls for sale in a redlight district - as subtle as it gets.) But even he forces his voice in 'La donna' which he ends with a loud B as he fronts the stage and sings directly to the audience with one arm out as if he had just sung 'Di quella pira.' I cannot imagine wanting to sit through it again and wished my money back in my pocket. Of course my poison may well be another man's meat but for me it was a wasted attempt to say something new about an established masterpiece.


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