Showing results by author "Thomson Smillie"

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    • Mozart: The Magic Flute

    • By: Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated by: David Timson
    • Length: 1 hr and 10 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 14
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 14
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 14

    The Magic Flute almost defines a masterpiece, because it can be enjoyed on every level. It is a superb fairy story, complete with dragons, demons, a handsome prince, and a lovely maiden seriously in need of rescue; it is a political satire, social commentary, and psychological drama; it is full of tunes from the playful to the heart-stopping, jolly songs, and deeply spiritual outpourings. It is, in short, "Mozart" - and there is no greater compliment than that.

    • 2 out of 5 stars
    • The sublime and the ridiculous

    • By Zaubermond on 04-19-13

    Regular price: $6.29

    • Gilbert and Sullivan: Opera Explained

    • By: Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated by: David Timson
    • Length: 2 hrs and 39 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 13
    • Performance
      5 out of 5 stars 10
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 10

    This audio-biography sets out to explain the timeless popularity of the operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan: a colorful partnership of the most successful writers in the history of light music. It highlights Gilbert’s mastery of language - his wit, his turn of phrase, his brilliant lyrics (alternately very funny and deeply moving) - and the special melodic gift which enabled Arthur Sullivan to write music of such beauty and style. While each was a master of his craft, it was the combination that created magic sparks.

    Regular price: $12.59

    • Orfeo: Opera Explained

    • By: Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated by: David Timson
    • Length: 1 hr and 17 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 2
    • Performance
      5 out of 5 stars 2
    • Story
      4 out of 5 stars 2

    Monteverdi’s Orfeo, first performed in 1607, generates a special excitement because it is the first unquestioned masterpiece of opera. Notable for its precise orchestration and powerful drama it was a groundbreaking work. It concerns the legend of Orpheus, the demigod whose music had the power to conquer the forces of Hell and to bring his wife back, briefly, to life. The extracts used in this introduction are from Naxos’ full recording; it uses authentic period instruments, which serve to evoke the early Baroque period of the opera’s composition.

    Regular price: $6.29

    • Carmen

    • By: Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated by: David Timson
    • Length: 1 hr and 6 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 12
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 12
    • Story
      4 out of 5 stars 11

    Carmen is among the most popular operas for all the obvious reasons: great characters, a gripping story, and fabulous music. But what sets it on a pinnacle is an amazing combination of three factors: a sizzling Gipsy heroine (one of the most psychologically complex and compelling characters in all theatre), great atmosphere (Spain, hot sun, the bull-ring), and the prodigality of melodic invention - one great tune after another, at least a dozen of which are the staples of Madison Avenue and the animated cartoon.

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Passion, power, and truth

    • By Zaubermond on 12-08-13

    Regular price: $6.29

    • Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro

    • By: Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated by: David Timson
    • Length: 1 hr and 19 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      3 out of 5 stars 6
    • Performance
      4 out of 5 stars 5
    • Story
      3.5 out of 5 stars 4

    Many opera-lovers would name The Marriage of Figaro as their favorite opera. It appeals to the most intellectual listener, but also to music-lovers seeking great melodies and ensembles (while it remains accessible through its fascinating plot and memorable characters) and to those seeking only entertainment. One of three operas by Mozart to libretti by Lorenzo da Ponte, it represents one of the pinnacles not just of operatic but of human achievement.

    • 1 out of 5 stars
    • Not the audio that it promised.

    • By Chelsea on 01-22-16

    Regular price: $6.29

    • The Barber of Seville

    • By: Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated by: David Timson
    • Length: 1 hr and 18 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 10
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 9
    • Story
      4 out of 5 stars 9

    The Barber of Seville is Rossini’s most popular opera. Its effervescent overture (written originally for another work!) presents a perfect platform for the amusing plot in which the barber, Figaro, stage-manages a romance between Count Almaviva and Rosina, and puts to flight the old suitor, Dr Bartolo. "Largo al Factotum" is one of the most popular arias in opera - nearly 200 years after its first performance it is still one of the great show-stoppers.

    Regular price: $6.29

    • La Traviata

    • By: Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated by: David Timson
    • Length: 1 hr and 5 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 12
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 11
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 12

    La Traviata owes its enduring popularity to a superb story of young love and fatal sacrifice, set to music by Italy’s master melodist at the peak of his powers. Interest and poignancy are added by the fact that this is a true story - the baritone ‘heavy’ is Alexander Dumas who wrote The Count of Monte Cristo. But it is the central figure, the heroine Violetta, the archetypal ‘whore with the heart of gold’ who dominates the piece. It is her opera and we love her for it.

    Regular price: $6.29

    • Puccini: La Bohème

    • By: Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated by: David Timson
    • Length: 1 hr
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 15
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 13
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 12

    La Bohème is one of the three operas - the others are Carmen and Aida - believed to be the most popular ever written. In the case of La Bohème the reason is that it virtually defines the term "romantic". The poignant story of Mimì and Rodolfo is told in music of such tender beauty, allied, as always, to Puccini’s intuition of what works in the theatre. The result is an opera that readily appeals to our emotions and senses.

    Regular price: $6.29

    • Don Giovanni

    • By: Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated by: David Timson
    • Length: 1 hr and 19 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 8
    • Performance
      5 out of 5 stars 7
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 7

    Don Giovanni has long been regarded as Mozart’s supreme theatrical achievement. The subject seems unpromising - the last day in the life of the notorious womanizer Don Juan - but the skill of the librettist allied to the genius of Mozart at the very peak of his powers has created a work which is not only highly entertaining but reflects an incredible understanding of the human condition.

    • 4 out of 5 stars
    • Very short introductions to specific operas!

    • By Doggy Bird on 02-09-14

    Regular price: $6.29

    • Verdi: Rigoletto

    • By: Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated by: David Timson
    • Length: 1 hr and 19 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 10
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 9
    • Story
      4 out of 5 stars 9

    Rigoletto is simply wonderful entertainment with superb music. It is also much more - a daring (for its time) attack on aristocratic privilege, a tender love story, and an impassioned appeal on behalf of the disadvantaged, all set to music of such wealth and beauty that, with its sister operas La traviata and Il trovatore, it has defined Italian opera for 150 years. Overcoming initial trouble with the censors, Verdi's Rigoletto was a smash hit at its premiere and has not been out of the repertoire since. It’s not hard to see why.

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Fun intro (or recap) of the opera

    • By EmilyK on 05-24-18

    Regular price: $6.29

    • Pelleas et Melisande

    • By: Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated by: David Timson
    • Length: 1 hr and 18 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 8
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 7
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 8

    Dating from the last decade of the 19th century, Pelléas et Mélisande points the way into the 20th century. The score is hauntingly beautiful, but there is more to the work than shifting panels of elusive, impressionistic sound. Debussy retains the text of Maeterlinck’s play, and the linguistic subtleties of the French text are matched perfectly by the musical detail. Taking a little time to explore the romantic, elusive world of this opera is particularly rewarding.

    Regular price: $6.29

    • Verdi: Aida

    • By: Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated by: David Timson
    • Length: 1 hr and 3 mins
    • Unabridged
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 9
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 9
    • Story
      4 out of 5 stars 9

    Ancient Egypt and the war with Ethiopia is the setting for Verdi’s grandest opera. It is the story of the love between Rhadames, the Egyptian general, and Aida, an Ethiopian slave, and the jealousy of Amneris, daughter of the King of Egypt. It was written in 1871 to a commission from the Khedive of Egypt to inaugurate the new opera house in Cairo. Aida generally is considered one of the most spectacular of Verdi’s operas.

    Regular price: $6.29

    • Fidelio

    • By: Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated by: David Timson
    • Length: 1 hr and 19 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 6
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 6
    • Story
      4 out of 5 stars 6

    Fidelio is a work like no other. Beethoven’s only opera is about the joy of married love - by a man who never knew that pleasure. It is about heroism by a man who was often mean and petty in his human relations; it is about freedom by a man who was a prisoner of his own deafness; and ultimately it is about joy by a man who experienced precious little of it.

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Beethoven's only opera in all its glory

    • By Zaubermond on 04-20-13

    Regular price: $6.29

    • Mozart: Così Fan Tutte

    • By: Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated by: David Timson
    • Length: 1 hr and 18 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 10
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 10
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 10

    Così Fan Tutte contains some of Mozart’s most sublime music. On one level, the opera is purely a social anecdote about young people falling in and out of love; but Mozart was a supreme sensualist and a great humanist, and invested the tale with all his understanding of humanity and young love. In this title, David Timson refutes the charge that Mozart squandered his genius on a work full of trivial nonsense and proves this "miraculous yet problematic" opera to be a great work of theatre. To listen to this thought-provoking examination of the characters and the music is both thoroughly enriching and great fun.

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • especially fun before a performance

    • By EmilyK on 03-11-18

    Regular price: $6.29

    • Cavalleria Rusticana

    • By: Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated by: David Timson
    • Length: 1 hr and 16 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4.5 out of 5 stars 7
    • Performance
      5 out of 5 stars 6
    • Story
      4.5 out of 5 stars 6

    Cavalleria rusticana is the short opera that has all the elements of a grand opera compressed into a single highly dramatic time span. The story of love, lust, blood-feud, and betrayal played out against the pageantry of the Easter celebrations in a Sicilian village delivers an emotional wallop because of the youthful vigor and musical wealth of its great score which includes the glorious "Easter Hymn" and the deeply moving "Intermezzo". Mascagni was never to repeat his youthful success but this brief work is enough to ensure his immortality.

    • 5 out of 5 stars
    • Enjoy the opera as it was meant to be

    • By Essam on 04-05-15

    Regular price: $6.29

    • Verdi: Falstaff

    • By: Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated by: David Timson
    • Length: 1 hr and 18 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      3.5 out of 5 stars 3
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 3
    • Story
      3.5 out of 5 stars 3

    Verdi’s Falstaff repays careful study with real pleasure. It is opera’s happiest irony that the great Italian master should cap a career - distinguished for its blood-and-thunder tragic masterpieces - with the greatest comic opera in the Italian repertory. The genius of Shakespeare is harnessed (in a miracle of compression) by master-librettist Boito to give the 80-year-old Verdi a superb libretto, on which he lavished more wonderful tunes than most composers manage in a lifetime.

    Regular price: $6.29

    • The Flying Dutchman

    • Opera Explained
    • By: Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated by: David Timson
    • Length: 1 hr and 7 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 8
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 8
    • Story
      4 out of 5 stars 8

    The Flying Dutchman is the perfect opera with which to approach the operatic mountain that is Richard Wagner. It is short, has a great story (the legend of the Dutch captain doomed to sail forever unless redeemed through love), and the striking score has many pre-echoes of Wagner's later great music dramas. It contains wonderful tunes in its arias, ensembles, and big choruses, and the orchestral writing - from the gale that blows out of the Overture to the final theme of "Redemption through Love" - will "blow you away".

    • 4 out of 5 stars
    • An introduction to Wagner

    • By Zaubermond on 02-06-13

    Regular price: $6.29

    • Verdi: Il Trovatore

    • By: Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated by: David Timson
    • Length: 1 hr and 19 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 10
    • Performance
      4.5 out of 5 stars 10
    • Story
      4 out of 5 stars 10

    Il Trovatore has been ruthlessly parodied. It is a tale of murder and mayhem, burned babies, roasted hags, would-be nuns, strolling minstrels, and bad baritones. And indeed the libretto does call for a willing suspension of disbelief. The reward is in the music, a score as prodigally melodic as only the mature Verdi could write: the "Anvil" chorus, the "Miserere" scene, two great tenor arias, a beautiful baritone aria - a richness without embarrassment.

    Regular price: $6.29

    • La sonnambula

    • By: Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated by: David Timson
    • Length: 1 hr and 16 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      4 out of 5 stars 2
    • Performance
      5 out of 5 stars 2
    • Story
      3.5 out of 5 stars 2

    La sonnambula was written by Bellini as a vehicle for two of the supreme singers of his age and accordingly is a fine example of the school we call bel canto, where beauty of voice and the virtuosity of the singers is integral to conveying the emotions in the soul of the composer. The fact that Bellini was one of the great melodists, writing long, beautiful vocal lines, that he was a master orchestrator and that he could write stirringly for the chorus all conspire to make La sonnambula extremely enjoyable.

    Regular price: $6.29

    • L'elisir d'amore

    • By: Thomson Smillie
    • Narrated by: David Timson
    • Length: 1 hr and 18 mins
    • Original Recording
    • Overall
      2 out of 5 stars 3
    • Performance
      3.5 out of 5 stars 3
    • Story
      2 out of 5 stars 3

    L’elisir d’amore, or The Elixir of Love, has remained popular for almost two centuries because of a touching tale and a galaxy of comic characters adapted from the traditional commedia dell’ arte. Above all Donizetti poured into the score all the warmth and tenderness of the Italian temperament.

    Regular price: $6.29

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