Bargain-priced package of seven Shakespeare-based operas
L. E. Cantrell | Vancouver, British Columbia Canada | 01/03/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Our old friends at Allegro Corporation out of Portland, Oregon, are at it again. To opera fans, Allegro is better known by the its Opera d'Oro label. Od'O, of course, is an old standby for fans with shallow pockets and those with a taste for sonic adventures. Its offerings are mostly live performances captured and published under circumstances into which the wise do not enquire too closely, but leavened with a few older studio and historic performances of great value. In quality, Od'O ranges from surprisingly good to just plain awful. You pays your penny and you takes your chances when you deal with Od'O.
This set represents a new (to me, anyway) label for Allegro: the "Bravissimo Music Library." It is based on an interesting marketing gimmick, for it offers no less than seven operas, each based a Shakespearean source. Now, it so happens that each of these performances has been published separately by Od'O, in the old, familiar, barebones, libretto-free versions and more recently sometimes in more expensive versions boasting of libretti and freshly commissioned art work.
Due to space constraints, I'll not attempt to review each of the operas included in this package. I shall point out, though, that each one has been reviewed by at least once by an Amazon reviewer, and that the combined critical consensus has been generally positive. There are even a couple of minor raves.
Here are the seven operas, along with some of the performers to be heard in them:
Vincenzo Bellini: I CAPULETTI E I MONTECCHI (Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet)
CAST: Romeo - Fiorenza Cossotto; Giulietta - Antonietta Pastori; Tebaldo - Renato Gavarnie.
CONDUCTOR: Lorin Maazel with the RAI Orchestra and Chorus, Rome.
Live performance broadcast October 23, 1958.
(Disks 1 and 2)
Richard Wagner: DAS LIEBESVERBOT (Shakespeare: Measure for Measure)
CAST: Isabella - Hilde Zadek; Friedrich (Shakespeare's Angelo) - Heinz Imdahl; Claudio - Anton Dermota.
CONDUCTOR: Robert Heger with the Radio Austria Orchestra and Chorus, Vienna.
Live performance broadcast in 1962.
(Disks 3 and 4)
Giuseppe Verdi: MACBETH (Shakespeare: Macbeth)
CAST: Macbeth - Sherrill Milnes; Lady Macbeth - Christa Ludwig; Macduff - Carlo Cossutta; Banco - Karl Ridderbusch.
CONDUCTOR: Karl Böhm with the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra and the Vienna State Opera Chorus.
Live performance in Vienna, April 18, 1970.
(Disks 5 and 6)
Otto Nicolai: DIE LUSTIGE WEIBER VON WINDSOR (Shakespeare: The Merry Wives of Windsor)
CAST: Falstaff - Kim Borg; Frau Fluth (Shakespeare's Alice Ford) - Erika Köth; Herr Fluth (Shakespeare's Ford) - Hans Günter Nöcker; Anna (Shakespeare's Anne Page) - Eva Maria Rogner.
CONDUCTOR: Fritz Rieger with the Bavarian Radio Symphony and Chorus.
Live performance broadcast in 1967, Monaco.
(Disks 7 and 8)
Charles Gounod: ROMÉO ET JULIETTE (Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet)
CAST: ROMÉO - Alain Vanzo; Juliette - Andrée Esposito; Mercutio - Jean Pierra Laffage; Gertrude (Shakespeare's Nurse) - Iris Plaque.
CONDUCTOR: Antonio de Almeida with the Orchestra and Chorus of the Opera of Nice
Live performance in Nice, 1976
(Disks 9 and 10)
Giuseppe Verdi: OTELLO (Shakespeare's Othello)
CAST: Otello - Placido Domingo; Desdemona - Mirella Freni; Jago - Piero Cappucilli.
CONDUCTOR: Carlos Kleiber with the Orchestra and Chorus of La Scala, Milan.
Live performance in Milan, December 7, 1976.
(Disks 11 and 12)
Giuseppe Verdi: FALSTAFF (Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor and portions of Henry IV, Part 1.)
CAST: Falstaff - Tito Gobbi; Alice Ford - Renata Tebaldi; Ford - Renato Capecchi; Nannetta Ford (Shakespeare's Anne Page) - Mirella Freni; Dame Quickly - Fedora Barbieri.
CONDUCTOR: Mario Rossi with the Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro San Carlo, Naples.
Live performance in Naples, December 1, 1962.
(Disks 13 and 14)
DOCUMENTATION: No libretti. Short introductory commentary from Bill Parker, who does the same sort of thing for Opera d'Oro. Short plot summaries (called "The 60 Second Overview") which point out a few musical highlights for each opera.
This is an attractive set of seven good to superb operas. The live performances are strong and the casts are generally excellent. There is a sort of general agreement among Amazon reviewers that the sound is pretty good (or at least not sufficiently bad for widespread complaint.) The price of the set is certainly attractive, especially from Amazon's secondary sellers.
About the matter of redundancy, I'll just note that I already owned three of the seven operas in this package, but the price was so low that I felt no qualms about ordering the set for the remaining four.
RATING: For the individual operas, four to five stars. For the whole bargain package, five stars."