A DVD of the same event is advertised on the inside of the back cover of the CD booklet, with the tag “the complete concert.” So for a few dollars more, one can see the gowns and jewelry of the female stars (credited in the CD Booklet to ESCADA and Chopard), and even, as a bonus, have more of the performance. Apparently there are enough customers who want less of the performance and no visual distraction. Thus this CD.
Without the sense of celebratory fun that the actual event ostensibly provided, the CD feels unnecessary. Stuffed with all too typical gala repertory, the only real highlight comes with mezzo El?na Garan?a singing a “caraceleras” from Ruperto Chapi’s Las Hijas del Zebedeo. A sweet zarzuela-type number, it comes as quite a relief after the forced fun of such ubiquitous fare as “O soave fanciulla” and “Una furtiva lagrima.” The short booklet essay, greasily oozing with publicist’s jargon, contains not a word as to the origin of the Chapi piece.
Ramon Vargas sings in half the tracks, with solos in the above-referenced Donizetti and the Luisa Miller act three aria. The tenor warms up in “Una furtiva lagrima,” straining on the higher notes. He sounds much better partnering with Ludovic TÈzier in the duet from The Pearlfishers, which seems to provoke the most honestly pleased reaction from the audience (yes, applause is included, sometimes fading out quite abruptly). The CD opens with Anna Netrebko and Ms. Garan?a in a pretty run-through of the Lakme duet. Netrebko’s next appearance finds her essaying Norma‘s “Casta Diva” scene. Online opera chat forums buzzed with negative responses to this rendition when clips appeared not long after the European telecast. Indeed, Netrebko doesn’t sound near her best, and she cancelled a few performances not long after this Baden-Baden performance. Despite the hint of hoarseness and some inattention to detail, the performance still has enough that is attractive about it to suggest that she could, with better health and preparation, deliver a quality performance of the piece.
TÈzier does a nice job with Rodrigo’s death scene from Don Carlo, a piece that in the context of a gala almost counts as a rarity. Later he delivers a merely competent “Toreador Song,” and the same can be said Garan?a’s Dalila aria. The ensembles for all four performers (the Rigoletto quartet and, yes, the Traviata “Brindisi” as a finale) feel very routine.
Marco Armiliato and the Baden-Baden forces support the singers with efficiency if not much distinction. If star power sells CDs, DG may do well with this CD. The DVD would at least add the element of suspense, as the many photographs had your reviewer wondering if Netrebko’s strapless gown contained her — well, herself — throughout the entire evening.
image_description=The Opera Gala — Live from Baden-Baden
product_title=The Opera Gala — Live from Baden-Baden
product_by=Anna Netrebko, Elina Garanca, RamÛn Vargas, Ludovic TÈzier, SWR Sinfonieorchester Baden-Baden und Freiburg, Marco Armiliato (cond.)
product_id=Deutsche Grammophon 477 7177 [CD]