Verdi wastes no time getting to the drama in the overture to Macbeth, as suggestive “tiptoe” motifs in the woodwinds contrast with bombastic blasts in the brass. Conductor Antonio Pappano’s tempi are a bit quick and intense, and the Orchestra of the Royal Opera House matches his every pulse. Macbeth provides the opportunity for the kind of rich and full company performance you’d expect from Verdi, but it’s the lead performers that make this particular rendition worth considering. As Macbeth, baritone Simon Keenlyside has a natural, sexy presence that’s a great complement to the special, consistent ping of his sound. In Lady Macbeth’s aria “La luce langue,” Liudmyla Monastyrska especially sparkles with intensity and evil plans. And American Raymond Aceto, just prior to his own murder as the general Banquo, masterfully throws his heart on the stage with his caution to Macbeth in “Come dal ciel precipita.” This is a second revival production from Phyllida Lloyd and Anthony Ward that was originally staged in London in 2002. The set is stark and gloomy, but among the claustrophobic shadows a handful of colors jump out: blood-red headscarves worn by prophetic and powerful witches, and the gaudy, golden drapes of chain mail worn by Macbeth and his lady at his coronation. The darkness of this production is relentless, but the mystery and grandeur of the score and the convincing performances envelop you in a bel canto blanket of awesomeness. This disc’s additional features, such as the bonus interviews with Pappano, provide a nice appetizer for the opera itself.
This 1971 film adaptation of composer Leo Fall’s operetta is musically and visually reminiscent of a sitcom from that era, though the original Dollar Princess premiered in Vienna in 1907. Like those of his better-known contemporary Franz Lehár, Fall’s early works were poorly received, and Die Dollarprinzessin was his first real staged success. Not many Fall operettas are in today’s repertoire, and even fewer are available on DVD. Set in New York, this romantic comedy is light and entertaining, with plenty of sexual references and gender profiling to fit its day. The audio was obviously recorded separately and synched later with the footage, but this fact is more an asset than a distraction. The performance is in German, and subtitles are available in English, German, and French.
– Anne Shelley