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actor61
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I saw L.A. Opera's production of "Billy Budd" last night and was truly bowled over. I think it was possibly definitive. Conlon conducted and the orchestra was magnificent. The set was technically astounding, although I actually feared for the singers' safety at certain points. The singing was superb but what was even more impressive was the acting. Liam Bonner as Billy is not your traditional "barihunk" but he was splendid. Handsome in a different way, immensely touching, and he played the innocence of the character flawlessly, which is very hard to to. L.A. Opera is truly world class. Their Ring cycle a few years ago was astonishing. Their premier of "Il Postino" was delightful and I think will become a standard based on the production I saw. I'm looking forward to "Ghosts of Versailles" later in the season. "Lucia di Lammemoor" is next. I've seen it too many times to be tempted by this one. In fact, my introduction to opera many, many years ago was watching Joan Sutherland sing the mad scene on the Bell Telephone Hour (remember that program?!) with my mother. I'd love to read comments from others who might have seen "Billy Budd" here in Los Angeles.

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I was hoping that someone who also saw the production would respond. All I can add is that I have always been impressed with Conlon's conducting. Britten is not one if my favorite composers, but Donizetti is... Still, it would have to be a really impressive cast (like the reincarnation of Callas or some such event or possibly some comped tickets) to get me to revisit Lucia di Lammermoor...

 

Regarding, the Bell Telephone Hour, there are/were a series of DVD's featuring the operatic artists who appeared and that includes a DVD of Sutherland's appearances who was a regular feature during the 1960's.

IMG_0933_Sig_crop_46x20.jpg "Take it like a man!"
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I was hoping that someone who also saw the production would respond. All I can add is that I have always been impressed with Conlon's conducting. Britten is not one if my favorite composers, but Donizetti is... Still, it would have to be a really impressive cast (like the reincarnation of Callas or some such event or possibly some comped tickets) to get me to revisit Lucia di Lammermoor...

 

Regarding, the Bell Telephone Hour, there are/were a series of DVD's featuring the operatic artists who appeared and that includes a DVD of Sutherland's appearances who was a regular feature during the 1960's.

 

Thank you so much for the info regarding the DVDs. I would love to own them.

 

As far as Lucia goes, I'm sure that L.A. Opera puts on the goldie oldies to make a few bucks so they can do the more adventurous stuff, just as all opera companies do. They did a Tchaikovsky opera a few years ago that is rarely done and which I loved, but I had to sit through a very lackluster Tosca and a boring La Boheme in order to get to the more interesting work. I've stopped buying a season subscription as a result and now just buy for specific operas, usually through Goldstar.

 

I'm a Britten fan so seeing "Billy Budd" was a treat. They did "Turn of the Screw" a few seasons ago and I loved that one too. I wish they'd do "Midsummer Night's Dream" as it's lovely. I'm a big fan of "Peter Grimes" and "Albert Herring" as well.

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actor61... I just checked Amazon and the Bell Telephone Hour DVD's are still available on the VAI label. In addition to the Sutherland disc, there is a Nilsson compilation, a DVD of miscellaneous opera stars including Simionato and Gedda etc. plus much more! The camera work and sets are dated, but that's a small price to pay... Enjoy!

IMG_0933_Sig_crop_46x20.jpg "Take it like a man!"
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This L.A. Opera production was originally created for Paris and Covent Garden back in the 1990s by Francesca Zambello. It got its first performances in L.A. in 2000 with the stunning Rodney Gilfry in the title role. We had a wonderful Peter Hall production of "A Midsummer Nights Dream" which is an exquisite score, but it has not been mounted during Domingo's time as managing director. We are really lucky to have Conlon as music director. He conducted Britten's "War Requiem" earlier this year with student choruses and orchestras (but professional soloists) and it was incredibly moving.

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I didn't see this production since I live on the east coast, but a friend of mine who I spoke to on Sunday night saw this production of Billy Budd, He goes to many operas and thought this was brilliant. I wish I could have been there.

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The first time that I heard Conlon conduct was at the MET premiere of Rossini's Semiramide back in 1991, and Rossini is one of those composers whose work is often interpreted in a trashy and inflated manner. He was far from bombastic and unsubtle. In fact the first thing that I noticed was that if anything he held back a bit, strove for clarity, and respected the piece's classical pedigree and proportions. I have been basically pleased with his other work even though I have not had the opportunity to hear him recently. I would assume that he would conduct a lean and clean Britten.

IMG_0933_Sig_crop_46x20.jpg "Take it like a man!"
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Death in Venice

 

I saw Britten's "Death in Venice" at the Met in 1974. The recording of the opera was released a few days before I saw it. I believe the cast in New York was pretty much the same as on the records. That's a long intro to my point: "Death in Venice" seem more popular in Europe, especially England, than in the U.S. Amazon has three DVD versions and two CD recordings of the opera.

 

Perhaps the subject matter is still too daring for Americans. I remember a lavish production at the Met; it did seem like the audience was actually in Venice (assume it was a co-production with another opera company). I still enjoy listening to "Death in Venice" as much as "Peter Grimes" and more than "Billy Budd." I wonder if it is performed elsewhere in the U.S. because it has not been performed in NY to my knowledge in forty years...hope small opera companies tried it.

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As mentioned above I am not exactly a Brittten fan. However, I vividly recall the MET broadcast of Death in Venice with Peter Pears and John Shirley-Quirk. I thought the piece better than Budd or Grimes and often wondered why it has not been done more as well. It does require a large cast and dancers... and especially for the tole of Tadzio... perhaps that is

the reason?

IMG_0933_Sig_crop_46x20.jpg "Take it like a man!"
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The first time that I heard Conlon conduct was at the MET premiere of Rossini's Semiramide back in 1991, and Rossini is one of those composers whose work is often interpreted in a trashy and inflated manner. He was far from bombastic and unsubtle. In fact the first thing that I noticed was that if anything he held back a bit, strove for clarity, and respected the piece's classical pedigree and proportions. I have been basically pleased with his other work even though I have not had the opportunity to hear him recently. I would assume that he would conduct a lean and clean Britten.

 

Interesting that my experience is competely different. I've listened to that recording of Semiramide a few times and always turn it off because I just can't stand his conducting. I feel he conducts everything in exactly the same manner and it just doesn't feel like Rossini to me. I much prefer someone like the late Claudio Abbado when it comes to Rossini.

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As mentioned above I am not exactly a Brittten fan. However, I vividly recall the MET broadcast of Death in Venice with Peter Pears and John Shirley-Quirk. I thought the piece better than Budd or Grimes and often wondered why it has not been done more as well. It does require a large cast and dancers... and especially for the tole of Tadzio... perhaps that is

the reason?

 

I saw a wonderful production of "Death in Venice" in Germany seven years ago with a dancer several years older than the usual Tadzio. It changed the story somewhat, but perhaps the role of Tadzio requires someone with more years of dancing experience. An older Tadzio is an interesting change, although Thomas Mann fans would probably cry foul. But, it worked for me and the German audience. I hope European and Australian opera companies took note of the critical and popular success of that German version.

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Interesting that my experience is competely different. I've listened to that recording of Semiramide a few times and always turn it off because I just can't stand his conducting. I feel he conducts everything in exactly the same manner and it just doesn't feel like Rossini to me. I much prefer someone like the late Claudio Abbado when it comes to Rossini.

Abbado was a gold standard among Rossini and Vedi conductors. The four Rossini operas that he conducted were were all of the comic variety. Would that he had tackled some of the more serious works. His second DG recording of Rossini overtures with the Chamber Orchestra of Europe includes some of the larger scale serious pieces and these are among the best available.

 

Regarding Conlon and that DVD of Semiramide, compared to commercially available audio recordings, his conducting is better than that of Bonynge on Decca and light years ahead of the DG made by Ion Marin. It is actually more or less on par with the two recordings by Rossini scholar Alberto Zedda, so he really is not that far off the mark. Plus he is respectful of his singers and does nothing offensive. He plays it safe I guess, but better that than incompetence.

IMG_0933_Sig_crop_46x20.jpg "Take it like a man!"
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