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Thread: Operas by Gluck, Purcell, Lully, and Rameau on DVD/CD/BR

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  1. #16
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Purcell: Dido and Aeneas

    I was determined to love this after falling in love with Sarah Connolly’s Giulio Cesare – but I didn’t. Connolly did sing beautifully and the cast was fine apart from the sorceress (too wobbly) but it wasn’t convincing. I think the problem is the production, and specifically the constant interspersing of the opera with totally unrelated gyrating dancing done with ultra-modern choreography and costumes (including the sorts of knickers I used to have to wear at boarding school in the 70s). Connolly also over-did the despair at the beginning, but she did sing the lament with great feeling - although the production had her clutching slashed wrists while she sang, another instance of “knock us over the head with the - literally - bleeding obvious”.

    As this was on the waiting list I watched it straight after. Of course it’s difficult to compare a film with a stage production, but if you want a good night’s entertainment with a coherent plot, convincing characters (Ewing was wonderful), beautiful and historically appropriate costumes and settings (Hampton court) go for the film. I was willing to forgive the slight discombobulation of lip-synching for the rest of the package.

    As for Connolly, I’ll just listen to the CD (which has Patricia Bardon as the sorceress so sounds loads better anyway).


  2. #17
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Soave_Fanciulla View Post

    I cannot possibly recommend this production of King Arthur. It takes appalling liberties with the story and sometimes the music (although Le Concert Spirituel and the singers are largely impeccable), it replaces Dryden's three hours of spoken dialogue with heavy-handed Gallic humour and farce, involving false Norwegian skiers, real barbecues and Hervé Niquet in lederhosen performing Tyrolean songs. It is terribly silly and I enjoyed it nearly as much as the performers. I think everyone else will hate it and it is guaranteed to bring traditionalists out in hives.
    Likewise with this production. Avoid at all cost. Despite the excellent performance under Harnoncourt and singers, the stupid staging simply ruined it all. Or buy it and listen to it with your eyes shut. It's a great shame because King Arthur was a very fine piece by Purcell and certainly does not deserve a modern stage director defecating all over it.

  3. #18
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Lully: Atys on Blu-ray

    Atys, tragédie en musique en un prologue et cinq actes
    Music by Jean-Baptiste Lully
    Libretto by Philippe Quinault
    Première on January 10, 1676 at Saint-Germain en Laye

    Blu-ray (2 discs) released by FRA Musica on November 8, 2011
    Filmed live in HD at l'Opéra-Comique, Paris, in May 2011 - a revival of the 1987 Opéra-Comique production (with costumes borrowed from the Opéra National de Paris) this time co-produced by the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Thêatre de Caen, Opéra National de Bordeaux, and Les Arts Florissants

    Conductor William Christie - 2011(LI)
    Orchestra - Les Arts Florissants
    Chorus - Les Arts Florissants
    Le Temps, le fleuve Sangar - Bernard Deletré
    Flore - Elodie Fonnard
    Zephyr 1 - Francisco Fernández-Rueda
    Zephyr 2 - Reinoud Van Mechelen
    Melpomene - Anna Rheinhold
    Iris - Rachel Redmond
    Atys - Bernard Richter
    Sangaride - Emmanuelle de Negri
    Cybèle - Stéphanie d'Oustrac
    Doris - Sophie Daneman
    Idas - Marc Mouillon
    Mélisse - Jaël Azzaretti
    Célénus - Nicolas Rivenq
    Le Someil - Paul Agnew
    Morphée - Cyril Auvity
    Phobétor - Calum Thorpe
    Phantase - Benjamin Alunni
    L'impresario - Olivier Collin
    Danseurs - Compagnie Fêtes Galantes and Gil Isoart of the Opéra National de Paris

    Stage director Jean-Marie Villégier
    Choreography by Francine Lancelot (deceased), Béatrice Massin
    Sets by Carlo Tommasi
    Costumes by Patrice Cauchetier
    Filmed by François Roussillon

    Running time: Opera 195 minutes, bonus 100 minutes ("Cinq visions d'Atys" with interventions from the crew and the administrators of Opéra-Comique, including Maestro William Christie - La Métamorphose d'Atys, Les Grands Apartements, L'Opéra du Roi, Machines d'Opéra, Le Réveil d'Atys)
    NTSC, Widescreen 1.78:1, color, all regions
    Audio PCM Stereo or DTS 5.1
    Sung in French, with optional subtitles in French, English, German, Spanish, and Italian

    Liner notes - credits, numerous beautiful production pictures in color, chapter list with number names but no character names; one paragraph about the revival of this production, thanks to New York businessman and philanthropist Ronald P. Stanton, and synopsis in the five languages above.

    Quality of image and sound - impeccable


    This opera was created for the court of King Louis XIV, and it was his favorite - thus its moniker L'Opéra du Roi. It is dramatically intense, and notable for being the first French opera to focus on the subject of love, and also the first one in which the hero dies on stage.

    This co-production done for the celebration of 150 years of the Brooklyn Academy of Music has counted on infinite supply of money and resources from different opera companies, thanks to the caprice of octogenarian American billionaire Ronald Stanton, who fell in love with this opera when it was given by the Brooklyn Academy in 1989 and 1992, and wanted to see it again in grand style, for the anniversary of the institution he had been supporting. Mr. Stanton donated $3.1 million to this production.

    This abundance of resources resulted in a truly luxurious production, with scenery and costumes that are among the most beautiful and realistic ever to grace an operatic stage. The attention to detail and the materials used are simply magnificent (see, for example, Cybèle's incredible crown).

    To this, the producers added the exquisite HIP musical values of Les Arts Florissants and William Christie, with a numerous cast of specialists in early French baroque, lead by the spectacular Stéphanie d'Oustrac, as well as a large dance company - not to forget how good the Les Arts Florissants chorus is.

    If all of this weren't enough, we also get a FRA release, with its costumary high-quality packaging and technical perfection, with François Roussillon consistently perfect video direction.

    The result is a show of extravagant beauty, executed with precision by all involved.

    This said, a word of caution: Lully's operas are long and rely more on recitative and poetry than on melodious arias (unlike Handel's). So, be prepared: we're getting three hours and fifteen minutes of frequent dancing and declamation.

    However, this is my very favorite Lully opera, of the four that I know (Armide being a close second, and Persée and Cadmus et Hermione a little lower in my esteem). Its tragic solemnity and poetic French libretto are very compelling, and its third act has one of the most beautiful baroque moments in my opinion: the dances and allegories about sleep, which contain very delicate and melodious music.

    Mme. d'Oustrac shines as usual, with her pinging timbre in the more dramatic moments, but she is also capable of pungent lyricism. Bernard Richter is an excellent and intense Atys, with clear diction and incisive singing, aided by excellent acting as well. Emanuelle de Negri is attractive and very convincing as the unfortunate Sangaride, and she sings very well.

    Two other outstanding singers are Bernard Deletré - the only survivor from the 1987 production in the double role of Time (during the standard prologue praising the King, comically modified by Villégier to include a Lully-like character) and the river Sangar - and the excellent tenor Paul Agnew as the God of Sleep.

    This production is very effective in terms of finding the right tone to stage early baroque opera. Instead of reproducing exactly what was done at the time on the operatic stage - like the Cadmus et Hermione from Benjamin Lazar and Martin Fraudreau has tried - they did not employ period gesticulation during the recitatives and arias, candle lighting, or rustic painted scenery. The attempt here wasn't one of staging the action like it was done *on stage* for King Louis XIV, but rather, bringing the action to a realistic depicting of what his palace looked like and how his entourage dressed up. The dance numbers, however, do conserve the period gesticulation, which in this case increases the authentic feeling of the production.

    While Lazar and Fraudreau seemed excessively restrained by the compulsion to reproduce opera as it was done in the 1670's, here Christie and Villégier went for naturality. Christie recommended that the singers did not over-indulge in period accent but rather sang naturally, like if they were speaking to each other, and Villégier preserved natural movements, like I said, except for the dances. And rather than rustic painted materials, we get luxurious polished marble and elaborated walls and ceilings. Also, the fabulous Les Arts Florissants musicians play on stage and in full costume during the Sleep scene of the third act - and it all looks and sounds wonderful!

    One small complaint is that with all these resources, the scenery is static, there is only one room, and the different settings are suggested by changes in lighting - but for such a long opera, it does get a bit tiresome, I'd have preferred to see some scenery changes.

    I know that some of you here have loved the Cadmus et Hermione above described. I didn't. I much prefer the approache adopted here by Christie and Villégier.

    All in all, this is a highly recommended blu-ray for lovers of early baroque (although those who aren't into this sort of thing may find it boring). It's delicate, poetic, well played, well sung, and a visual feast. A+

    Available here (also on DVD).
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); February 24th, 2012 at 02:42 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  4. #19
    Senior Member Top Contributor Member HarpsichordConcerto's Avatar
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    Here are some samples of the Atys production reviewed by Almaviva above. I haven't yet bought it but will. To me, it looks like the perfect modern production of Baroque opera: historically informed in spirit, but not purist for the sake of it.

    [Link to video deleted by Admin - video no longer available]

    Interview with Mr Christie:-

    Last edited by Ann Lander (sospiro); January 15th, 2018 at 04:44 PM.

  5. #20
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Yes, I will second the recommendation of Atys. HC, you really NEED it. Stéphanie D'Oustrac is a tour de force in the title role.

  6. #21
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Dido and Aeneas by Purcell, on blu-ray disc

    I'm busy with a number of things so I won't do my usual detailed review, but will just hit the main points (probably this will be better than my verbose deliveries, hehehe).

    This is the Covent Garden version of the 2006 La Scala staging that combines dancing and music in Purcell's masterpiece.
    What we have here is widely variable performance that goes from the sublime to the ordinary.

    What is sublime:

    First and foremost, Sarah Connolly's Dido, one of the best in any medium, and the visual side adds her talent as an actress to her spectacular vocal delivery.
    Second, the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, with their incredibly beautiful, precise sounds, with a continuo section to die for.
    Third, the tasteful, minimalistic scenery that adds an undeniable element of visual beauty, complete with a striking projection at the very end (of a horse, but no, it's not tacky, it's actually a quite intriguing horse).
    Fourth, Lucy Crowe's Belinda, with fine singing, good looks, and even finer acting.
    Fifth, a good chorus

    What is ordinary:

    The other singers, with thoroughly unimpressive Aeneas, Witch (lots of wobble), and witch assistants.
    The choreography, definitely the low point of this production, with a misguided and unmatched concept that is completely divorced from the piece and the staging in everything from costumes to movements, and actually quite poor in terms of creativity, and repetitious. I expected more from the Royal Ballet.

    Basically this blu-ray works when the dancers aren't on stage, and doesn't when they are. A pity, because musically it is quite compelling, although we'd want the two outstanding female singers to get at least a decent set of comprimarios.

    Technical aspects are decent but nothing to write home about (there are plenty of blu-rays out there with better image definition and fuller sound).

    Overall, B, with the A+ grade performance by Connolly and Crowe being bogged down by the other inept factors. Recommended if you want to listen to Sarah Connolly's fabulous Dido, but since she is equally represented on CD with better companions, not recommended, all things considered.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  7. #22
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Paride ed Elena by Gluck, on CD

    Paride ed Elena, dramma per musica a cinque atti, sung in Italian, premiered in Vienna in 1770
    Music by Christoph Willibald Gluck (1714-1787)
    Libretto by Ranieri de' Calzabigi

    This performance uses the critical edition by Paul McCreesh and Richard Campbell from original sources

    Available on Amazon for $24.39 [clicky]

    Orchestra and chorus: Gabrieli Consort & Players, on period instruments (ensemble founded in 1982)
    Conductor: Paul McCreesh

    Released on 2 CDs by Archiv Produktion in 2005; recording from an opera-in-concert performance in a church in London (All Saints') in 2003, DDD - it is unclear from the insert if this was a live performance or one with closed doors simulating studio conditions - I'd assume the latter since there is no audience noise whatsoever.

    CD 1 79'39" - overture, acts 1-3
    CD 2 66'40" - acts 4-5 which ends in a re-worked last scene; plus an appendix with the original last scene

    The insert contains the complete libretto in Italian, with side-by-side translation into English, French, and German. The documentation includes credits; full list of musical numbers with names, characters, and durations; a 4-page essay about the opera; a 1-page essay about the performance authored by the conductor; a 4-page synopsis, 5 pages with the artistic biography of the singers and conductor; all of this is in English and is then repeated in French and German. Other than Ms. Kozena's cover picture, the only picture is a color one with the conductor.


    Paride (Paris, son of Priam, king of Troy) - Opera Lively interviewee Magdalena Kozena [read it (here)]
    Elena (Queen of Sparta) - Susan Gritton
    Amore (a.k.a. Cupid, under the name of Erasto, Elena's confident) - Carolyn Sampson
    Pallade (Pallas Athene, a.k.a. Minerva), and also A Trojan - Gillian Webster


    You know how much I love the history of Troy, and the point I made of visiting the archeological site and the Mount Ida, so it is with trepidation that I approach still another opera that addresses the topic. I expect something exquisite, given that the pair composer-librettist is responsible for two other sublime works, Orfeo ed Euridice, and Alceste.

    Gluck wanted to reform opera with these three pieces, given his dislike for Baroque opera seria and its vocal acrobatics to the detriment of dramatic cohesiveness. While his Orfeo is a staple of the repertory and Alceste comes around from time to time, Parise ed Elena remains obscure, which maestro McCreesh deems unfair, given that it has in his opinion "great music, some highly dramatic scenes, and it holds together well."

    Gluck and his librettist approached the famous tale from the standpoint of a passionate love story. Gluck differentiates the Spartans and the Trojans by making the musical for the former rude and savage, and for the latter, delicate and soft, in his own words printed on a dedicatory preface. The opera is written-through and all recitatives are accompanied by the strings.

    Since Gluck aimed at distancing himself from the Baroque (while still using some of its conventions like in the brief scene with Pallas Athene who floats in on a cloud), he gave a more psychological and realistic feel to the interactions, with more character development than a mere excuse for a set of coloraturas. His musical lines are longer, employing lingering bow strokes. Gluck also breaks away from the Baroque structure, introducing short recitative sections in the middle of his arias. In agreement with these principles, the maestro tried to obtain from his singers enough work on the phrasing of the musical lines and emphasis on the literary aspects of the text to better transmit the emotions to the audience.

    The role of Paris was originally written for a castrato. The maestro decided not to hire a countertenor but rather go for Ms. Kozena, based on the fact that the tessitura for this role is quite high, and he felt that current countertenors couldn't reach those heights without losing colors and dramatic contrast.

    The maestro re-worked the last scene based on performance material as opposed to what is printed, given confusing relationship between stage instructions and the music. He did take care of re-performing the last scene as written, in an appendix.

    Act One happens on a seashore close to Sparta instead of Mount Ida (bummer!) since Paris merely reminisces about the judgment, in which Venus plays a more subdued role and it is Cupid that diverts the young man towards Elena. He arrives to Sparta dreaming of the beautiful queen.

    Act Two happens in a hall in the royal palace of Sparta where Paris meets Elena for the first time and is very impressed, leading him, when he is alone, to sing about her assets and his desire for getting her and not losing her.

    Act Three is at the great courtyard of the royal palace, where Elena celebrates Paris' arrival with athletic games. He sings an impassioned aria about her beauty (bold young man!) - 'Quegli occhi belli' - which makes Elena embarrassed with his audacity. She interrupts him, he declares his love and his intention to win her; she resists.

    Act Four in a room at the palace, has more declarations of love and begging from Paris while Elena says she is engaged to someone else (engaged?). Paris is devastated but Cupid intervenes and says that Elena is not supposed to resist the will of the gods. Elena is torn between love and duty.

    Act Five is in the gardens. Cupid pretends that Paris has left and Elena is enraged with his frivolity and about to order her navy to pursue him. Paris enters, and Elena finally admits that she loves him. Thunder is heard, and Pallas Athene comes in a cloud, mad at the lovers, and predicting the war that will result from their affair. After the goddess leaves, Paris and Elena wonder if they should go their separate ways to avoid the war. Cunning Cupid however convinces them to privilege love above all, and joins them to sing a final praise to the eternal flame of love.


    After listening to acts I and II, I am blown away. This is of a degree of beauty that is rarely heard. The written-through music flows magically in waves, and the all-female cast adds layers and layers of color. Right at the beginning and after the interesting overture, we are assaulted with a spectacular aria sung by a powerful and fierce Gillian Webster, 'Come consuma l'avida fiamma'. The aural pleasures continue, and we are introduced to the other singers. Magdalena Kozena si simply great in her colors and precise technique, indeed like the maestro said, working beautifully the musical lines. Her final aria at the end of act II, 'Le belle immagini d'un dolce amore' is one of the most compelling I've ever heard. This is a masterpiece, and the maestro was right when he talked about Paride ed Elena being a buried treasure.

    The libretto is tight and with plenty of literary quality, the pace is good, the inner thoughts of the characters are interesting, and the music just keeps rolling on and on, very well played by this experienced period ensemble.

    My friends, this is something! It can also function as a good introduction to (sort of) early opera given that it does not have the da capo structure that is off-putting to the novice.

    Susan Gritton is a very good Elena with her colder and harsher voice - that of a more mature woman as compared to the warmer, sensual, and youthfully impetuous Paris sung by Kozena. Only the Cupid of Carolyn Sampson is a sizable notch behind her three companions, not only due to a less pleasant timbre, but also to poor diction in Italian. These deficiencies however are not enough to skin the ship, given the high quality of the other singers, the conductor, the chorus, and the orchestra.

    Sure, there are three more acts and an appendix to go and I shouldn't pass premature judgment, but this is looking very much like an A++ product.

    I'll keep listening and will be back for final considerations once I'm done with the full opera (maybe not tonight) but I can hardly imagine that I'll change my mind - there's just no way this sublime music and these fine performers will disappoint me. This, not to forget that just ''Le belle immagini d'un dolce amore' is enough to recommend the purchase of this CD. I can't remember too many arias I've heard for the first time that impressed me as much as this one. Fortunately for your aural pleasure, there is indeed a YouTube clip with Magdalena Kozena singing it, enjoy!

    OH! MY! GOD! This is too beautiful!

    This opera is the only one quoted in our Most Recommended thread (although it is one of those that haven't made it yet) that I didn't know. I was a bit disappointed about not getting fresh new discoveries from that list, but this one is so good that it compensates for it.

    Soave, this is just up your alley! Buy! Buy! Buy!

    Continuing. Act III has the first and rare incidence of male voice in this opera, a solo for a tenor who is not credited (probably a member of the Gabrieli Consort chorus. Indeed the music for the Spartans is martial and harsh as opposed to the elegant music for the Trojans. The contrast is very nice. Bravo, Gluck!

    There are various opportunities for ballets. This opera, staged, must be really interesting.

    I'm getting to the act III aria that Paris sings praising Elena's beauty, with harp accompaniment (pretending to be a lyre), 'Quegli occhi belli' - and it is superb!

    YouTube to the rescue, again:

    [Link to video deleted by Admin - video no longer available]

    This comes at a good time: it's the perfect Valentine opera:

    Vi pose i chiari
    raggi tremanti,
    vezzi brillanti
    della beltà.
    V'accese i cari
    lumi languenti,
    segni eloquenti
    della pietà.

    Translation (it's more beautiful in Italian, of course):

    Love gave you
    bright sparkling eyes,
    brilliant adornments
    of beauty.
    He lit for you
    those dear soft lamps
    eloquent indications
    of mercy.

    Next we have a troubled Elena in a beautiful halting recitative: 'Che fo! Che penso!' Something that Callas would do a killing with!

    Paris follows with a jarring declaration of love: 'Fingere più non so' - things are getting heated! Act III is much more intense than I and II. Again, great dramatic sense from Gluck and his librettist! This great jumpy duet is comparable to some of the best intensely emotional scenes, such as, for example, what we get in Tristan und Isolde. Yes, it's that good! What a great finale for act III!

    On to 4 and 5, disc 2. This is great, folks!

    Act IV opens with some 8 minutes of Spartan ballet.

    I'd like to see this with a troupe like the dancers who dance for Les Arts Florissants... I'm enjoying it with eyes closed, imagining the choreography.

    Another interesting duo, track 5 of disc 2, 'Ah, lo veggo, ad ingannarmi' - sort of not taking itself seriously, weird music, kind of simple/easy listening unlike the more sophisticated parts that precede it - sort of the precursor of a musical?

    English speakers, beware. The translation gets it wrong sometimes, even changing the emotional tone. Elena says "non resisto" - she is giving in, she is very tempted - but the translator gets "I cannot bear it." Sure, that's the literal translation, but in context, she is starting to think that her desire is getting the best of her, and she can't resist the temptation.

    Another one of those superb arias comes up: 'La tua celeste immagine' again for Paride, with Magdalena dazzling pure voice.

    OK, it has ended. How there is the replay of the last scene but I don't need it to pass the final verdict, and it is confirmed like I had anticipated: A++, highly recommended. A thoroughly competent product, with a phenomenal opera that indeed needs to be urgently revived and fully staged for DVD/Blu-ray.

    Oh wow, I found a playlist that seems to have the opera almost complete, if not complete, although out of order:

    [Link to video deleted by Admin - video no longer available]
    Last edited by Ann Lander (sospiro); January 15th, 2018 at 04:47 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  8. #23
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Les Indes Galantes on blu-ray disc, opéra-ballet (ballet héroique) with a prologue and four entrées (acts)
    Premiered at the Palays-Royal in Paris, France, on August 23, 1735 by the Academie Royale de Musique
    This rendition is based on the Toulouse version of 1750
    Music by Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)
    Libretto by Louis Fuzelier

    Les Talents Lyriques conducted by Christophe Rousset (who plays the harpsichord)
    Choeur de L'Opéra National de Bordeaux
    Stage direction and choreography by Laura Scozzi
    Production by Olivier Simonnet

    Recorded and filmed live on February 27, 2014 at the Opéra National de Bordeaux, France


    Hébe, Fatime, Phani - Amel Brahim-Djelloul
    Bellone, Alvar - Benoît
    Roxane - Eugénie Warnier
    Amour, Zima - Olivera Topalovic
    Emilie, Atalide - Judith van Wanroij
    Osman - Vittorio Prato
    Valère Tacmas, Carlos, Damon - Anders Dahlin
    Huascar - Nathan Berg
    Adario - Thomas Dolie

    Released by Alpha on August 28, 2015 on blu-ray disc, 16/9 (no other video details are provided), 2.0 and 5.1 sound tracks (again, no protocol details), subtitles in French, German, and English
    Runtime 175 minutes
    The insert contains a short (and rather insufficient) synopsis, an essay by the conductor (one and a half page, very informative), and a short (2-page) interview with the stage director Laura Scozzi, who does explain her concepts for the prologue and the four scenes. There are no titles for the musical numbers and characters. There is only the duration of each tableaux. These materials are repeated in three languages: French, English, and German.


    Rameau's compelling masterpiece gets its second modern video recording, following the absolutely brilliant William Christie version with Les Arts Florissants at the Opéra de Paris - Palais Garnier in 2004, released on DVD by Opus Arte in 2005.

    Ten years later, Christophe Rousset and Laura Scozzi deliver a daring updated performance with good musical merits and interesting staging that supplements Christie's more "period" rendition, for lovers of this extraordinary Baroque score.

    Comparison with the previous video is inevitable, and generally favors the older product, in my opinion. Christie and Les Arts Florissants have a more ballet-oriented show which matches well the dancing aspects of this work, and the maestro counts on superior singers/actors, with stars such as Danielle De Niese and Patricia Petibon. The visual impact of the Paris staging by Andrei Serban is far superior to this one with very beautiful sets, while this show is starker and darker (projections do liven it up). In this 21st century setting, dancing is kept at a minimum, unlike the Parisian show.

    In 2004 Christie and Serban went for the absolutely fun approach, while Rousset and Scozzi in 2014 updated the action to some more disturbing themes (refugees trying to sail from Turkey to Greece in the first tableaux, the Sendero Luminoso in Peru for the second one, the difficult conditions faced by women in Iran for the third one, and deforestation in America for the last act). While efficacious and sound, this update is just less charming than its more traditional cousin.

    The one part of this show that recovers the lively and light aspects of the original piece (as well as the most dancing) is the prologue, which makes use of extensive nudity (33 minutes of it, full frontal, male and female) to symbolize the innocence of the native populations of these exotic lands. It is very entertaining and well done, with attractive dancers and good singing by Amel Brahim-Djelloul in the role of Hébé. The same sets and naked dancers make an appearance at the very end.

    Singing by the various characters remains very correct throughout the piece, but while the cast members are homogeneously competent (and very good-looking for the most part), one can't help but miss the exquisite artistry of Ms. De Niese and Ms. Petibon in the Parisian show. This is a good cast with nice singing across the board, but there aren't the peaks of quality that we get from the older DVD. I don't really feel like commenting upon any individual singer here: they are all good, but they aren't that remarkable (maybe with the exception of Olivera Topalovic; she is very, very good, and very pretty).

    While it's been some time since I last heard the Christie recording (I remember that it is an A++ conducting performance), I don't think that Rousset and Les Talents Lyiriques are any less good. Both conductors and both ensembles are specialists in this repertory and as expected the conducting and orchestral playing are great in this 2014 show, like in the 2004 one. Rousset's tempi are a bit faster than Christie's (and again, I prefer the latter's more ponderous approach).

    Technically speaking, this blu-ray if far from ideal. There are black bands on the top and bottom of the image, but it looks like the original cameramen did not take into account this smaller visual field, so that some of the action gets cut from the full screen. Image definition is slightly less good than what we usually expect from blu-ray, and the audio field is a bit shallow. The insert is not detailed in naming the arias and ensembles, which I consider to be a grave sin.

    Which Les Indes Galantes on video is the best one? While I thoroughly enjoyed this show and don't regret at all the opportunity to see a different staging of one of my favorite operas, the William Christie / Les Arts Florissants product is far superior; no doubt.

    While Christie's rendition is an A++ product that deserves to be listed as one of the very best operatic video recordings of all time, this blu-ray earns an overall A-, very recommended for Rameau lovers, but optional for those who already own the much better Christie version.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); December 5th, 2015 at 03:37 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  9. #24
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Hippolyte et Aricie, tragedy in five acts with a prologue, sung in French
    Music by Jean-Philippe Rameau
    Libretto by Simon-Joseph Pellegrin, after Racine's tragedy Phèdre
    Premiered at Palais-Royal, Paris, October 1, 1733

    A Glyndebourne co-production with François Roussilion et Associés, Mezzo, and NHK, June 29, 2013, released on blu-ray disc by Opus Arte in 2014

    Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment conducted by William Christie
    The Glyndebourne Chorus, chorus master Christopher Bucknall

    Stage Director - Jonathan Kent
    Set Designer - Paul Brown
    Lighting Designer - Mark Henderson
    Choreographer - Ashley Page
    Video Designer - Nina Dunn
    Film Director - Opera Lively interviewee François Roussillon

    Hippolytus - Ed Lyon
    Aricia - Christiane Karg
    Phaedra - Opera Lively interviewee Sarah Connolly
    Theseus - Stéphane Degout
    Diana - Katherine Watson
    Cupid - Ana Quintas

    plus, a large number of comprimarios and dancers

    1 Blu-ray disc, 1080p HD, audio LPCM 16 bit stereo, and 5.0 DTS-HD Master Audio, all regions, 186 minutes of running time for the opera plus a 15-minute bonus, "An Opera to Surprise and Delight" as well as cast gallery. The documentary is not that good.

    Subtitles in English, French, German, and Korean. Booklet with credits, a 3-page interview with stage director Jonathan Kent, and a one-page synopsis, repeated in English, French, and German. No list of musical numbers with their duration and characters which is a big blunder.


    Oh well. I've just reviewed a production of The Tsar's Bride in Berlin that I called "good Regie." This one is not such. When will Regieoper-inclined stage directors understand that dead animals and blood are passé, and couldn't be any more cliché in this movement? They are just as bad and predictable as whatever boring traditionalist staging they are trying to avoid. I mean, dead animals again? Abundant blood being spread around on walls and people, again? Give me a break! Not to say, it's a bit weird to stage an opera in a refrigerator. The gratuitous novelty wears off pretty fast. Oh wait, according to the stage director it's not gratuitous because the fridge is supposed to symbolize coldness and lack of passion... Okaaay... There are pieces of broccoli and cauliflower. Gotcha. Great symbolism.

    So, the staging tries too hard to be original, and only manages to be ridiculous, most of the time. It also suffers from too many concepts. The ever-changing sets, each embracing something different (the fridge... the dead animals... pink sailors... some sort of decaying electric engine... erm, why??? ) hold no coherence whatsoever. Costumes are rather grotesque - for example, at one point dancers are large flies, complete with big-eyed masks, while chorus members are disgusting-looking spiders. Choreography is boring. We get as ballet a bunch of pink sailors repeating the same movements over and over. We are far from the beautiful dances in Glyndebourne's Les Indes Galantes.

    This is strange for Glyndebourne, usually a company that comes up with very compelling stagings. This one is not.

    Of course, the best part is the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment, and the secure conducting by William Christie. Hyppolyte et Aricie, while a bit less accessible and less lively than other Rameau pieces (being it his first and least polished opera), is a beautiful piece.

    Singing however is a bit uneven. Katherine Watson for example has a rather small voice that struggles to be heard even in a recorded production with sound engineering. Christiane Karg is OK but nothing to write home about. Sarah Connolly on the other hand does her usual great job. Ana Quintans, a singer I've appreciated before, here disappoints at first, before she warms up. Male singers are generally good (especially Stéphane Degout - which doesn't save the poor singer from his silly stage director who makes him at one point sing while drenched in water, dripping all over the place). Good chorus.

    It's when the sets get a bit simpler that they work better. A less busy room where the two lovers talk to each other is the least offensive set - but hey, the stage director couldn't resist being a bit different, and he comes up with the bed mattress being a stretch of green grass. I can imagine the wheels turning in his silly little head... "hm... just a room? Can't be! Oh wait, I get it! Let's put some grass on the mattress!" Yeah, buddy, a little sylvan touch, huh? Brilliant! (not!). Oh sure, and the continuation of the scene wouldn't do without a couple of chorus members sporting animal heads. Right.

    Let me teach you something, Mr. Kent: less is more. Learn it for the next one, will you?

    The dance with floral dresses and two dancers with flower heads at least was charming and cute. I wish this could be said of other parts of the choreography and costumes. Paradoxically, the end of that scene is supposed to have a monster that drags Hippolyte into a lake. After all the excesses of the previous scenes, the director chose to render the monster through a projection. Failure again: due to some sort of polarization effect, the image disappears every time that there is a close-up and can only be seen when the camera looks at the stage from afar. This is atypical of François Roussillon who usually has an eye for these things.

    The last scene is the best done (and includes some brief female nudity), but it can't refrain from another cliché in Regieoper: the altered end. Rameau's piece is supposed to end happily (unlike its source material) but here the director darkens the mood.

    Is this worth buying? I'd say it is, thanks to William Christie and his orchestra. It's very well played, pleasant Baroque music. Watching the video is optional. I could do without the dead animals and the blood. One might want to turn off the TV and just listen to the music from the home theater speakers.

    I'd give a C minus for the staging, and A minus for the singing; A plus for the orchestra and conductor.

    Overall, B. Recommended for the musical aspects only.
    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); April 9th, 2016 at 04:25 AM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  10. #25
    Opera Lively Site Owner / Administrator / Chief Editor Top Contributor Member Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva)'s Avatar
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    Dardanus on DVD and Blu-ray disc (dual packaging) - version 1739
    Tragédie lyrique en cinq actes - sung in French - premiered at the Académie Royale de Musique, Paris, November 19, 1739
    Music by Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683-1764)
    Libretto by Charles-Antoine Leclerc de La Bruère, after Metamorphoses (Ovid)

    New production recorded at Grand Théâtre de Bordeaux in a performance by the Opéra National de Bordeaux, April 2015 - released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc both in the same package, by Harmonia Mundi in 2016

    Co-Production Opéra National de Bordeaux, Château de Versailles Spectacles, Centre de Musique Baroque de Versailles, Ensemble Pygmalion. The video is a co-production of Opéra National de Bordeaux, Mezzo, and Oxymore, with the participation of France Télévisions, Harmonia Mundi, and Medici.TV, directed for video by Stéphane Vérité.

    Ensemble Pygmalion conducted by Raphaël Pichon
    Stage Director Michel Fau
    Sets Emmanuel Charles
    Costumes David Belugou
    Choreography Christopher Williams
    Lighting Joël Fabing
    Make-up and masks Michel Fau


    Vénus - Karina Gauvin
    Iphise - Gaëlle Arquez
    Dardanus - Reinoud van Mechelen
    Anténor - Florian Sempey
    Teucer, Isménor - Nahuel di Pierro
    Amour, une Bergère, Bellone, un Songe - Katherine Watson
    Un Berger - Étienne Bazola
    Un Songe - Virgile Ancely, Guillaume Gutiérrez

    16:9 color all zones, subtitles French, German, English. DVD with DTS 5.1, 3h 12', no extras. Blu-ray Disc PCM 2.0 or DTS 5.1, 3h 33' as it includes a behind-the-scenes documentary. The insert contains 9 color production pictures, credits, and an essay of one and a half pages situating the work, repeated in French, English, and German. No synopsis (but one paragraph of the essay does provide the skeleton of the plot), no track list.

    Available on Amazon for the bargain price of $16.77 (Prime).

    The piece opens with a delightful overture that is immediately recognizable as something written by Rameau, a treat for someone like me who wildly enjoys this composer's style. Hehe, the camera lingers a lot on a very attractive violinist. The Ensemble Pygmalion is very well oiled with a clear, bright sound and exquisite dynamic variations, nice transitions, and good equilibrium between the sections.

    The prologue opens with the kind of visually striking and colorful sets that we expect from French productions of Baroque opera. The second female singer is very pretty (Katherine Watson - OK, this starts very nicely, cough cough). Here, in this scene, and next, au naturel:

    At the end of the prologue there is a nice ballet with interesting choreography and a compelling chorus number. Everybody has white wigs and the effect is beautiful.

    The second scene is the one that is on the cover of the disc, and it still features the pretty Katherine Watson. Her voice is fine too.

    Next we get the first appearance of Gaëlle Arquez who is good-looking too (a little bit not as much) and can sing as well (a lot more). She beats her colleague Watson in the singing department. Her father is sung by Nahuel di Pierro who also sounds excellent.

    I'm always surprised with the high level of singing in these modern Baroque performances out of France. Where do they find these people???

    The title role is sung by a decent singer but I'm less impressed by him than by his counterparts.

    Anyway, I'm at the 1h 5' mark of a 3-hour opera, and it's been more of the same: colorful sets, good singing, interesting costumes. I like this production very much.

    About at 2h10' there is a subdued dream scene all in blue lighting - very beautiful both visually and musically, one of my favorite parts.

    The plot is convoluted as usual for Baroque and I'm not really paying attention to it; just enjoying the music, the good singing, and the eye candy.

    Those who don't like Baroque will find this long and boring, but those like me, Soave, Festat, etc., who love Baroque, will find that this is a treat and highly recommended.
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    Last edited by Luiz Gazzola (Almaviva); June 10th, 2017 at 08:28 PM.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  11. #26
    Opera Lively Moderator Top Contributor Member Soave_Fanciulla's Avatar
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    Yes I have watched this twice already. Love the music!

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