Opera & Ballet Favourites
This concert, recorded 15 years ago, was originally entitled'The Winter Gala' , being a tribute to Tchaikovsky as 1993 was the centenary of the great Russian composer's death. It was also attended by the Prince of Wales, and only two days before Diana 'withdrew from public life', and almost exactly a year after they officially separated...so she wasn't there. This is a shame, as she, being the patron of many dance and music organisations, would probably have enjoyed this more than Charles.
Anyway, I digress enormously.
The concert contains many favourite works, and several pieces I wasn't familiar with at all, which is always a good thing. It certainly has a very Russian feel to it (what with it being the Tchaikovsky centenary and all), but still manages to squeeze in some Puccini as Kiri has to sing something with words (the Rachmaninov 'Vocalise' being wordless).
A decent stereo track brings out a full (albeit slightly 'echoey') orchestral sound, with absolutely no issues with balance bertween stage and pit.
Not a bad transfer, although we seem to be in the realm of a video recording. Colours are very slightly muted, but it's nothing to really complain about.
None at all, which is annoying, as with the recent Great Opera Arias DVD, it would have been great to have had some perspective as to what is going in each piece. Everything is much clearer when it's in context.
Overall, this is a very fine concert. Domingo is in top form as usual (but the fact that he has to read Lensky's Aria from the music is a bit disturbing - isn't this something a tenor such as himself would have known backwards?), and it's great to see Anna Tomowa-Sintow in fine form, and she was at least 52 at the time of the recording.
Kiri te Kanawa is a little insipid in both her items unfortunately - the Vocalise needed a lot more expression (both vocally and facially) and Musetta's Aria lacked the passion and eroticism it needs. Maybe this is just because the song was 'untimely ripp'd' from its orginal setting and so seems a tad sterile.
'Ves tabor spit' from Rachmaninov's 'Aleko' was a revelation. Sergei Leiferkus sings as if it is the most famous piece around and so it is something I'm going to be making moves to learn more about.
Dmitri Hvorostovsky is impessive, filmed only 4 years after his victory over Bryn Terfel in the Cardiff singer of the World, although Bryn hasn't done too badly, considering.
The ballet items are all very well done, and it's good to see great dancers from the relatively distant past on stage together, but more recent recordings by the Royal Ballet show that they're easily keeping up the standards, and that there's certainly life after Darcey. The Sleeping Beauty 'Pas de Deux' is done better on many other discs (two of which are from Opus Arte), but again, this could be because it has been removed from its orginal setting.
I don't remember seeing the original broadcast, but this looks to have been edited down considerably, as there is no commentary and the the gaps between each piece are minimal. Every work is sandwiched between the same portrait of Tchaikovsky - a bit odd when his music hasn't actually been played, but that's probably not important.
Each conductor brings their best out of the orchestra. Edward Downes is brought to the fore more than the rest (excepting Domingo's rather good 1812), and we even have Mr. Joanna Lumley (the the form of Stephen Barlow) in four of the offerings.
It's a more satisfactory DVD than most which feature 'bleeding chunks' of larger pieces of music, and despite the complete lack of extras, is a worthwhile buy, if only for nostalgia's sake.