Not the best opera gala I've seen, but in almost all areas The Opera Gala- Live From Baden-Baden is excellent. It is photographed in a way that is unobtrusive yet is also expressive, none of the too many close ups, lingering too long on one person or shooting at irrelevant objects approaches here. The picture quality is clean and lets the colour on screen burst out while the sound is resonant and sharp, balancing the orchestra and singers with no obvious fault. The venue is attractive and welcoming as well as well-lit and Ramon Vargas and Ludovic Tezier looks dashing and distinguished respectively. Same with conductor Marco Armiliato. Anna Netrebko and Elina Garanca, attractive women to begin with, both look incredible, the former in gold and silver dresses and the latter in blue and red, dresses that are worthy of awards on their own(particularly Netrebko's gold and Garanca's blue ones). The music is phenomenal and the positive adjectives go on and on. The orchestral playing is stylish and warm with the right amount of power and nuance. O Soave Fanciulla, Mira O Norma and the Brindisi were particularly good, really giving us a sense of time and place through the music(O Soave Fanciulla most effective). Armiliato conducts with sensitivity and authority, sympathetic to the needs of the singers and performers in general but keeping the momentum of the music alive too. Of the four, personal favourite here is Netrebko. Her voice sounds charming with shades of darkness, shaped with musicality and intelligence, her acting also really coming alive while allowing moments of dignity(Casta Diva) and pathos(O Soave Fanciulla, she even dances in Meine Lippen and most credibly too). Garanca is similarly wonderful and is a very close second favourite, her mezzo voice is rich yet flexible, particularly in Mira O Norma and Mon Coeur S'Ouvre A Ta Voix. She interacts beautifully with her colleagues and grabs you right from her first phrase to her last. Vargas' singing is characteristically ringing and even with breath control and long sustained phrases(Una Furtiva Lagrima) that are smooth and effortless. He is not quite as commanding as Netrebko and Garanca in the acting stakes but still has a certain warmth and involvement. Tezier is the only reason why the rating isn't a ten, he isn't bad but a case of some things that are very good and others not so good, his voice is sonorous, he is musical, his diction is fine, his phrasing excellent and he is excellent in the Brindisi and Per Me Guinto. He is however not as good as the other three in terms of interaction, often keeping himself to himself and his eyes could have done with more expression, with Bella Figlia Dell'Amore and the Pearl Fishers duet he sings them beautifully and blends very well with Netrebko, Vargas and Garanca but he could have done with being less serious. Overall though, The Opera Gala- Live from Baden-Baden is a treat and very highly recommended. 9/10 Bethany Cox
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