3 July 2011 | TheLittleSongbird
A magical night with two wonderful singers and a talented conductor
I have been a big fan of opera for as long as I can remember, and when I first heard of this concert I knew I wanted to see it. And on all levels it was a truly magical night, featuring two wonderful singers Placido Domingo and Sherrill Milnes, a talented conductor in the name of James Levine and the amazing music.
The concert is shot beautifully and the sound is of top notch quality. The orchestra are superb, particularly sending up a storm- not a figure of speech I actually mean literally- during Si Pel Ciel, as is Levine's, whose passion for his job comes through loud and clear(and he makes me smile with his hair) conducting. I have heard that Levine has a notoriety for slow speeds. In a way come to think about it, that's true, I remember seeing the 1991 Met production of Un Ballo in Maschera and thinking how slow some of the speeds seemed to be, however for some of the arias/duets here particularly in the Pearl Fishers and In Un Coupe...O Mimi, Tu Piu Non Torni this speed works and adds to how affecting these duets are.
Domingo is one of my favourite tenors of all time. He was one of the first voices I was introduced to, and to me he has been consistently strong vocally. Not only does he have handsome looks and a great personality coming across as funny in interviews and very kind and patient in master classes, but he is an outstanding actor too, he doesn't just play the character, like Jon Vickers particularly with Otello, Cavaradossi and Canio he becomes the character. He is wonderful here, he commands the stage wonderfully particularly in In Un Coupe...O Mimi, Tu Piu Non Torni where he and Milnes are a real treat acting-wise. And even in this concert he is one of the few tenors I can think of the top of my head who sings the beginning of Solenne in Quest'Ora as though he is dying of his wounds, there are some like Nicolai Gedda(disappointingly) who sound as though they are walking into battle.
Milnes, a wonderful yet under-estimated baritone, matches him perfectly. Vocally he isn't as good as Domingo, which is perfectly understandable considering how soon after his vocal health problems(hemorrhaging and a burst capillary) this was, there are times like at the start of Morrir Tremenda Cosa...Urna Fatale where he is flat and woofy in his lower middle register. That said, his Caballetta in the same aria is very exciting, probably the most exciting thing of the concert alongside Domingo's riveting Improvisso, he hits some terrific top notes-his G# at the end of that Caballetta and his high A at the end of Si Pel Ciel have to be heard to be believed. Apart from the hooking and the odd over-covering his technique complete with masterful legato, breath control and vocal expression(note how on recordings he always acts it up) is good, and like Domingo he is outstanding as a singing-actor(see him as Scarpia, Iago and Posa and you'll see what I mean) with his uttering of Cassio's name(Si Pel Ciel), almost as if the name repulses him beyond measure, and his reaction to Domingo saying "Faker. You're sick at heart" in In Un Coupe delightful in particular.
The two blend wonderfully vocally with the Pearl Fishers duet(my favourite rendition after Bjorling and Merrill's) and In Un Coupe...O Mimi Piu Non Torni standing out, and their acting and commanding of the stage are superb. Not to mention the music. With the Pearl Fishers duet Au Fond Du Temple Saint, Si Pel Ciel(Otello), In Un Coupe(La Boheme), Urna Fatale, Solenne in Quest'Ora & Invanno Alvaro(La Forza Del Destino) and a lovely duet from La Giaconda, the music throughout is amazing and very cleverly ordered too.
All in all, a truly magical concert and something to treasure. 10/10 Bethany Cox