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 Recording of the Week  New and forthcoming Opera DVDs

A very happy Easter to you all!

One of the pleasures of my long weekend has been catching up on a couple of the latest opera DVDs, both comparative rarities and both featuring a line-up of singers that could scarcely be bettered today in their respective roles. (Incidentally, both productions were also part of the Met and Royal Opera’s new cinema-broadcasts – a fantastic and relatively cheap way to catch front-rank performances which time, money and distance might otherwise rule out!)

Faced with a frothy farce and a tragic melodrama, I decided to keep the comedy for dessert and kick off with Cilea’s Adriana Lecouvreur, starring Angela Gheorghiu as the eponymous actress and Jonas Kaufmann as her duplicitous lover.

Despite its soaring, memorable melodies, Adriana hasn’t been seen at Covent Garden since 1906. As cast and directors explain in the excellent bonus documentary, its rather far-fetched plot (an aristocratic chemistry enthusiast and some poisoned violets feature!) and the difficulty of finding a soprano with the charisma for the title role contributed to its fall from favour, but David McVicar’s beautiful new production makes the strongest case possible for the work: you can almost smell the grease-paint in the theatre scenes, and the high-Classical splendour of sets and costumes is breathtaking. Gheorghiu gives one of the performances of her career as the vulnerable, highly-strung prima donna: as she joked about her recent Tosca, due out on DVD later this year, there’s a strong sense that she’s ‘playing herself’ at times, but one of the reasons this production works so well is that it’s by no means a one-woman show. As regular readers may wryly note, I’ve almost exhausted my quiver of superlatives on Jonas Kaufmann, but suffice it to say that he’s absolutely riveting as the caddish Maurizio: the role showcases his almost superhuman diminuendi to perfection, and his nuanced, ever-responsive acting fares beautifully under the close scrutiny of the camera.

As Adriana’s love rival, Olga Borodina comes deliciously and appropriately close to upstaging the leading lady once or twice, and Alessandro Corbelli is quietly heartbreaking as the stage-manager Michonnet.

On, then, to Rossini, and another ground-breaker for the opera house in question. His late cod-medieval comedy Le Comte Ory has never been staged at the Met before, again partly due to the fiendish difficulty of the three principal roles.

Happily, the Met have assembled a real dream-team here. Diana Damrau’s fulsome Countess exudes an almost Carry-On-style naughtiness under her regal veneer, Joyce DiDonato is swashbucklingly ebullient as the Count’s page and Juan Diego Flórez (fresh from the birth of his first child, whom he helped to deliver less than an hour before curtain-up!) is all rakish insouciance as the randy Count, knocking out streams of cut-glass top Cs as he carouses in a nun’s outfit. All three come together magnificently in the infamous penultimate scene, where page and master end up ‘wooing’ the Countess simultaneously, dispatching breathtaking volleys of coloratura and crystalline top notes amid some very near-the-knuckle antics atop a king-size four-poster! Shades of Blackadder and Monty Python? Undoubtedly. Scintillating singing and knockabout good fun? See my previous answer.

There’s plenty to look forward to later this year on the opera DVD front: next month sees the release of the Met’s Fanciulla del West and Massenet’s Cendrillon from Covent Garden (with Joyce diDonato and Alice Coote), followed by Il Trittico in June.

We’re also pleased to confirm that Opus Arte will be releasing some treasure from last year’s Glyndebourne Festival: August brings Robert Carsen’s new Rinaldo, whilst David McVicar’s much-praised production of Die Meistersinger (starring Gerald Finley) will follow in September.

Cilea: Adriana Lecouvreur

Angela Gheorghiu (Adriana), Jonas Kaufmann (Maurizio), Olga Borodina (La principessa di Bouillon), Alessandro Corbelli (Michonnet), David Soar (Quinault), Iain Paton (Poisson), Janis Kelly (Mademoiselle Jouvenot), Sarah Castle (Mademoiselle Dangeville), Maurizio Muraro (Principe di Bouillon), Bonaventura Bottone (Abbé de Chazeuil), Chorus and Orchestra of the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Sir Mark Elder (conductor) & David McVicar (stage director) Also available on

Available Format: DVD Video

Rossini: Le Comte Ory

Juan Diego Flórez (Comte Ory), Diana Damrau (Comtesse Adèle), Joyce DiDonato (Isolier), Susanne Resmark (Ragonde), Michele Pertusi (Tutor), Stéphane Degout (Raimbaud), Orchestra and Chorus of the Metropolitan Opera, Maurizio Benini

Available Format: DVD Video

Massenet: Cendrillon

yce DiDonato (Cendrillon), Alice Coote (Prince Charming), Eglise Gutiérrez (Fairy Godmother), Ewa Podles (Madame de la Haltère), Jean-Philippe Lafont (Pandolfe), Madeleine Pierard (Noémie), Kai Rüütel (Dorothée), Jeremy White (Le Roi)

Orchestra & Chorus of the Royal Opera House, Bertrand de Billy, Laurent Pelly (dir.)

Available Format: DVD Video