Puccini’s musical vision of the American West is vividly brought to life in Giancarlo Del Monaco’s atmospheric production. Deborah Voigt is Minnie, the girl of the title and owner of a bar in a Californian mining camp. Marcello Giordani sings Dick Johnson, the bandit-turned-lover hunted by the cynical sheriff Jack Rance (Lucio Gallo), who wants Minnie for himself. Complete with whiskey-drinking cowboys, gunplay, a poker game, and a snowstorm, La Fanciulla del West is Puccini at his most colorful.
In honor of the Tito Gobbi centenary (in 2013), the Associazione Musicale Tito Gobbi has unearthed and released this Otello, performed in the courtyard of the Doge's Palace in Venice, in August 1966. While technical challenges involved in broadcasting a production back in the '60s, from a venue not designed for theater, caused occasional problems involving camera work and sound, the resulting black-and-white video is well worth having, particularly for Gobbi's brilliant Iago. Although an earlier Gobbi Iago is available from VAI, filmed in Japan in 1959 opposite Mario Del Monaco's titanic Moor, this later document finds the extraordinary baritone no less nimble physically and vocally. In fact, the vastness of the performing area and the evocative atmosphere of the Palazzo Ducale seem to draw from Gobbi a sort of ownership of the environment that is perfect for Iago, as he darts about controlling events like a sardonic puppeteer. And, as one recalls from performances at the Met six months after this one, Gobbi was able to imbue the character with a youthful, amicable persona that made Iago's vile deeds all the more chilling. This video also confirms the recollection that this role, even in late career, was one the great singing actor found vocally congenial. There is a lightness of delivery that makes Iago's Act I drinking song and Act III duet with Cassio particularly stunning. Textual and tonal colors are employed in a manner that feels inevitable rather than applied, and Iago's "Credo" might as well have been written for Gobbi, so perfectly does it suit his gifts. All in all, this is a dazzling performance.
"This Bohème is a glorious vindication of traditional staging at its imaginative, re-creative best. Giancarlo Del Monaco here turns his attention to the much more popular work and comes up with a humdinger of a production, beautifully set by Michael Scott in period, fast-moving and full of pertinent detail." (Gramophone)
Not many records can be pinpointed as genuine historical turning points, but La Leyenda Del Tiempo is a bona fide before/after landmark in the flamenco world. El Camarón de la Isla, almost universally regarded as the greatest flamenco singer of all time, put aside his classic partnership with Paco de Lucía to record with different musicians and incorporate rock and jazz elements on an album often called the Sgt. Pepper's of flamenco. It was a radical, daring step by a singer in his late twenties who opened the door for a whole wave of musicians and bands who are still major figures in Spanish music. It cemented the legend of El Camarón de la Isla as a towering creative force who, much like Bob Marley in reggae, brought flamenco into the present without losing the essence of the root tradition.
Jordi Savall has brought us yet another treasure on his own Alia Vox label, this time a mixed bag of music by Reformation Era composers and a handful of slightly earlier works. It’s all taken from a concert program Savall gave last year under the aegis of “greatest hits of the court of Charles V”. The composers presented are mostly court musicians for that Holy Roman Emperor, but Josquin and Heinrich Isaac also are included, the latter as a nod to Charles’ grandfather, Maximilian I, who was responsible for getting Charles the crown. Savall combines his first-rate instrumental ensemble, updated to Hespèrion XXI, with his own vocal group, La Capella Reial de Catalunya. The results are captivating. Savall’s musicians are tops in the field, and their collective talents, constantly on display in this varied program, are simply a joy to hear.