newyear 2023 766208

New Year’s Concert – Teatro La Fenice 2023
Federica Lombardi (soprano), Freddie de Tommaso (tenor)
Jacopo Tissi (ballet dancer – principal of the Dutch National Ballet)
Corpo di Ballo della Fondazione Teatro Massimo di Palermo
Orchestra and Chorus of Teatro La Fenice / Daniel Harding
rec. live, 1 January 2023, Teatro La Fenice, Venice, Italy
C Major 766208 DVD [91]

I begin the review of this New Year’s Concert 2023 DVD by writing briefly about the theatre where it took place. The reason? Well, Teatro La Fenice is as much a star of the show as the actual musicians and artists performing on its stage.

La Fenice was finished in April 1792, after a legal dispute between the company that owned the previous theatre, called San Benedetto and destroyed by fire in 1771, and the Venier family who owned the land. The company rebuilt the San Benedetto but lost the dispute with the Venier family and therefore were forced to sell the San Benedetto (today the Rossini Theatre). Immediately after, the company decided to build a new, better, larger and more spectacular theatre than the San Benedetto. They named it La Fenice (The Phoenix like the mythical bird in Greek mythology that has the ability to be reborn from its ashes) to symbolise the rise of the company above all its past issues. In fact, the theatre has done justice to its name more than once throughout its history. It was destroyed by fire in 1836; rebuilt and reopened in 1837. Then, on the evening of 29th January 1996 it was again destroyed in a fire. Rebuilt and restored to its former glory by architect Aldo Rossi, La Fenice reopened on 14th November 2003.

Throughout the years and the centuries this gloriously beautiful theatre has been the stage for the premieres of countless masterpieces by some of the most celebrated and renowned composers – from Paisiello, Rossini, Bellini and Donizetti to Verdi, Wagner, Britten, Stravinsky and Prokofiev. First rate conductors, like for example Strauss and Toscanini (to list only two), directed opera performances on La Fenice’s gorgeous stage.

The DVD film takes full advantage of the theatre. It becomes the main setting to stage the concert. It is brightly lit throughout, so one can see the exquisite details of its gold and claret interiors, the resplendent and elaborate chandeliers, and the splendid paintings on the ceiling. It may well be a little intimidating for the artists and musicians on stage but on the other hand, to be able to see so much beauty when normally one only stares into the darkness must be exhilarating.

A look at the theatre’s website is well worth it and I’d recommend it. Some of the information above is taken from there. On the website, you will find La Fenice’s detailed history and also that of its second venue the Teatro Malibran. It makes for fascinating reading.

The concert begins with a ballet, featuring principal Jacopo Tissi and the corps de ballet of the Fondazione Teatro Massimo in Palermo. The dance happens during the introduction, depicting a typical New Year’s Eve on the streets of Venice. It is an unusual, effective and attractive start.

The first piece, after the balletic introduction, is the splendidly ‘sunny’ Symphony No. 4 The Italian by Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy. The orchestra of the Teatro La Fenice under the baton of Daniel Harding gives an exceptionally fine account of the piece, leaving one with a smile and a feeling of warmth. In fact, the best and most striking performances of this New Year’s Concert 2023 are the purely orchestral moments and the chorus. Besides Mendelssohn’s Italian Symphony, we have Mozart’s magnificent overture to The Marriage of Figaro – delivered with gusto and style by Harding and the orchestra. Impressive is also their account of the Intermezzo from Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana, attractively danced by the corps de ballet, and the Allegro Vivace of Rossini’s overture to William Tell. The latter probably known to a good many people as the music to the Lone Ranger. Of course, Rossini was there first!

Daniel Harding understands that a New Year’s Concert needs to be a crowd-pleaser, which is obvious from the choice of programme. Harding is a subtle at times delicate conductor although simultaneously energetic. His enthusiasm for the music is palpable. He establishes a good rapport with the orchestra and manages to please the musicians as well as the audience. The chorus are excellent throughout but their moment of glory (and one of the concert highlights) comes with Va, pensiero (the famous chorus of the Hebrew slaves) from Verdi’s Nabucco. It’s a very popular piece, poignant and with great beauty. Exceptionally well sung and played as it is here, it never fails to impress and touch the heart.

The ballet appear again a couple of times during the concert – although not for the audience in the theatre – only for television and included in the DVD. The dancers are solid, the performances pleasant and the costumes rather gorgeous. There is a somewhat bizarre moment, designed to make principal Jacopo Tissi shine but it doesn’t quite achieve its aim. It is from Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty. I say bizarre because we have Tissi dancing against footage from Rudolf Nureyev performing in the same ballet behind him. The idea seems to be to have Tissi in an imaginary duet with (presumably) one of his idols – the iconic Nureyev. But Tissi doesn’t appear completely comfortable thus the moment doesn’t quite succeed. Tissi is a technically assured, elegant dancer but this “duet” with Nureyev instead of being poignant (as was no doubt intended) had the opposite effect on me – too crafted, artificial and lacking emotion.

The concert continues with Casta Diva from Bellini’s Norma, sung by Italian soprano Federica Lombardi. She has a charismatic stage presence and a rich soprano tone, however, didn’t seem quite comfortable in this piece and was at times a little patchy. Her delivery is still moving, with solid high notes though a slight strain on some of the difficult legato lines is noticeable. She was much better in Puccini’s Quando m’en vo from La bohème. It suits her voice and she appeared totally at ease. Her soaring, beautiful and warm high notes filled up the theatre and the public’s hearts.

British-Italian tenor Freddie de Tommaso was the other opera singer. His first offering was the heartbreakingly beautiful La fleur que tu m’avais jetée from Bizet’s Carmen. His performance, to my mind, felt a little indifferent. His French is unclear. He misses the tenderness and despair in the love that Don José declares to have for Carmen. One wonders how Carmen would be moved by the love declaration of this particular Don José. His voice is better in the upper register but there was a minor wobble towards the end of the aria. In my opinion, an unconvincing performance for a tenor of his calibre. In his second piece, the ever popular Nessun dorma from Turandot, he is much more assured and delivers an exceptionally fine performance. Like Lombardi, de Tommaso seems more at home with Puccini. His voice rises without difficulty above the orchestra and his final note has the crowd-pleasing, powerful ringing that makes one’s spine tingle.

The last piece of the concert is the catchy Libiam ne’ lieti calici from Act I of Verdi’s La traviata. It is beautifully sung by Lombardi, de Tommaso and the chorus. Daniel Harding and the orchestra deliver here another outstanding performance that confirms them as the indisputable stars of the show. Unsurprisingly this is also the encore.

The DVD image and sound are of great quality. It comes with a booklet, containing the programme and a brief account of the tradition of New Year’s concerts at La Fenice, in English and German only. There are no artists’ biographies. The images of the booklet cover are in colour, showing the beauty of the theatre. There are a couple of photographs of the performers inside but these are only in black and white.

In all, this is a pleasing DVD and a nice to have when one is down or feeling blue. It is not a memorable concert but it will almost certainly cheer you up.

Margarida Mota-Bull

Margarida writes more than just reviews, check it online at

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Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy (1809-1847)
Symphony No. 4 in A major, Op. 90 “Italian”
Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924)
La bohème: Quando m’en vo (Federica Lombardi)Turandot: Nessun dorma (Freddie de Tommaso); Padre augusto (Federica Lombardi)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)Le nozze di Figaro – Overture
La clemenza di Tito: Che del ciel che degli dei (Chorus)
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
The Sleeping Beauty: Panorama (Jacopo Tissi – dancer)
Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835)
Norma: Casta Diva (Federica Lombardi, Chorus)
Georges Bizet (1838-1875)
Carmen: La fleur que tu m’avais jetée (Freddie de Tommaso)
Pietro Mascagni (1863-1945)
Cavalleria rusticana: Intermezzo
Gioachino Rossini (1792-1868)
William Tell: Allegro vivace dall’ouverture
Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
Nabucco: Va, pensiero, sull’ali dorate (Chorus)
La traviata: Libiam ne’ lieti calici (Federica Lombardi, Freddie de Tommaso, Chorus)

Technical information
Video director: Fabrizio Guttuso Alaimo
Picture format: NTSC / 16:9
Sound format: PCM Stereo / DTS 5.1
Subtitles: German, English, Korean, Japanese
Booklet in English and German only