Bizet, Gounod, Massenet, Puccini and Verdi (DVD)
Sonya Yoncheva (soprano), Vittorio Grigolo (tenor); Verona Arena Orchestra/Plácido Domingo
C Major DVD: 757808; Blu-ray: 757904 114 mins
Recorded last year in front of a Covid-restricted but appreciative audience at the Arena di Verona, this concert was perhaps exciting as a live event but doesn’t quite work as a concept on DVD. Arias and duets from Roméo et Juliette are intercut with shots of Sonya Yoncheva and Vittorio Grigolo kissing, swooning and looking troubled at beauty spots around the town. With no local angle available for the subsequent Tosca, Bohème, Manon, Butterfly and Traviata extracts, the costumed vignettes are abruptly dropped. The singers work hard to create a sense of theatricality, but Grigolo cannot seem to decide whether to inhabit a role or cry ‘look at me!’. Yoncheva conveys a good deal more with a good deal less.
Vocally, there is much to relish from two artists at home in this repertoire. Yoncheva performs with consummate artistry, her dark-hued voice consistently well-projected and even across the range. Grigolo too has an attractive tone and sings with considerable ardour, only occasionally slipping into ‘crooner’ mode on pianissimos. The sequence from Tosca showcases both singers to particularly thrilling effect.
In the orchestral interludes, Plácido Domingo consistently pushes the tempos, not allowing the Méditation (Thaïs) or Intermezzo (Manon Lescaut) to breathe as expansively as they should. The concluding ‘Libiamo’, with audience clapping and stamping and Domingo singing along, verges on the cheesy. Overall, this disc offers an enjoyable introduction to some of opera’s greatest hits, but aficionados may prefer to seek out these artists in a complete, staged performance.