Deutsche Grammophon proudly presents the new faces of the opera world in a glamorous new live concert DVD: Anna Netrebko, Elı - na Garancˇa, Ramón Vargas and the highly acclaimed young French baritone Ludovic Tézier sing a wide range of Italian and French opera favorites. This recording features highlights from concerts at Baden- Baden's Festspielhaus, where tickets to this extraordinary event sold out in record time. The DVD features the four young stars performing duets and the popular quartet "Bella figlia dell'amore" from Rigoletto. Other highlights include Delibes' famous flower duet from Lakmé performed sumptuously by Anna and Elı-na. Total Playing Time: 139 min.
The Festival Theatre at the German spa town of Baden-Baden is a spanking modern concert hall behind the façade of a handsome 19th-century railroad station. In July 2007, it hosted an evening of wonderful singing by a quartet of leading operatic stars in a program that could have been titled "Opera's Greatest Hits." After a brief orchestral piece from Bellini's Norma the fireworks begin with the duet Mira, o Norma featuring soprano Anna Netrebko and mezzo Elina Garanca, their voices blending beautifully. From then on, it's one familiar, well-loved operatic chestnut after another, all done with spirited fervor and admirable vocalism. Tenor Ramón Vargas is a positive presence, giving us the bel canto gem Una furtive lagrima from Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore in a flawlessly idiomatic interpretation that includes stunning diminuendos and a melting mezza-voce. Ludovic Tézier's rich baritone scores with a subtle rendition of Riccardo's death scene from Verdi's Don Carlo and, in yet another highlight in an evening full of them, joins Vargas in the great duet Dio, che nell'alma infondere from that opera.
Garanca's Mon coeur s'ouvre à ta voix from Saint-Saën's Samson et Dalila is undersung but her showpiece aria from Rossini's La Cenerentola sparkles, with impressive coloratura fireworks. Netrebko is among the most brilliant stars of today's operatic firmament and while overparted in Norma's Casta Diva, she's effective elsewhere. She brings the house down with the first of the concert's many encores, a performance of Lehar's Meine Lippen from the operetta, Giuditta, that includes seductive singing and acting, sexual flirtations, and energetic dancing. Her enthusiasm is infectious, sparking her colleagues as well as the audience. All four singers join in the quartet from Rigoletto that ends the formal portion of the concert, and in the final encore, they trade verses in an arrangement of the Drinking Song from La Traviata. Conductor Marco Armiliato, whose supportive accompaniments help make the concert a rousing success, directs the capable orchestra.
So this two-hour singfest provides joys for vocal buffs despite the hectic video direction that keeps the cameras moving endlessly, unnecessarily swooping around the auditorium, zooming from balconies to the stage and back, and otherwise distracting from the main event. --Dan Davis