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Thread: Berlioz on DVD and blu-ray

  1. #31
    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Oh well, why am I fooling myself, I'll have to bite anyway. This is my second favorite opera of all times, I'm kidding myself if I sustain that I'll *not* purchase a new version of it, regardless of how outrageous it is. I'll *have* to check it out, even if it means I'll deeply complain about it and threaten to sue just like I did for the Copenhagen Ring. I just hope that one of you will take the plunge first and warn me so that I don't get to it totally unprepared for the shock.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

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    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    You never know, you might like it. That's the joy of regie productions, they're like Bertie Bott's Every Flavour Jelly Beans, sometimes you get caramel, and sometimes you get vomit.

    Oh cr8p, did I just sound like Forrest Gump?
    Natalie

  3. #33
    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Yep, you did.

    Hey folks, come see this!!!
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  4. #34
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    The Gergiev Cellini staging is a bit odd (CP3O?), but the performances are excellent. I'd say he has a good handle on the Berlioz style and I'd be interested in a cd of his troyens (but maybe not the DVD).

  5. #35
    Senior Member Almaviva's Avatar
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    Default Berlioz: Les Troyens on Blu-ray



    OK, for the next four hours I'll be watching this and posting simultaneously about it.

    This is of course my second favorite opera, after the Ring. And this is a controversial production. I own and love the Gardiner/Chatelet version. This is the Gergiev/Valencia/La Fura dels Baus version.

    First impact: it's 1080p unlike most opera blu-rays which are 1080i. And yes, it makes a difference. Spectacularly sharp image! DTS-HD Master audio. Technically speaking, this product from Unitel Classica is perfect, with substantial and complete liner notes, bonus features, documentary, trailers, fabulous sound balance, subtitles in several languages including original French. Running time for the opera, a round 240 minutes.

    Opening chorus and orchestra: very energetic. It looks like this will be a good performance, musically. Cassandre makes her entrance. Elisabete Matos is old for the role and her voice falters, but she does have stage presence and dignity. So far I like this thing!

    Chorèbe comes in, dressed in a sort of ridiculous looking Star Trooper uniform - and he's too fat for it. He sings well (Gabriele Viviani). Actually, very well. Cassandre is on a wheelchair (why?) and Matos is really mismatched when compared in age to young Viviani - whose voice is also a lot more potent than hers. Her acting though is better than his.

    The Trojan horse is high-tech, full of computer screens - it's a Trojan Horse, get it? (Computer virus). The images projected on a screen backstage are a lot more low tech which doesn't make for a beautiful effect in my opinion. So, we're into it for only 20 minutes and there's a lot of highs and lows already.

    End of the Cassandre/Chorèbe duo - well sung but with distracting visuals and poor acting. In direct comparison, I like better the same scene in the Gardiner version, with the fabulous Antonacci. But this is not bad and I'm enjoying it. We'll see how this unfolds.

    Dieux Protecteurs, the next chorus number, is nothing short of spectacular, both from the stage and from the pit.

    On the other hand, the Combat de Ceste is done with boxers on a ring. Not cool.

    The highs and lows pattern continues, because this rather silly scene is followed by a very beautiful scene for the pantomime Andromaque et son fils.

    The scene with the two serpents devouring Lacoon is utterly ridiculous and visually unpleasant. Again, it distracts from the tragic chorus music.

    Act I finale, the Marche Troyenne, is again spectacular. By now I'm coming to expect one good scene, one bad scene, and so forth.

    I'd give a 7 out of 10 to act I. Overall, inferior to Gardiner's.

    Act II is starting now.

    Énée seems to be sung by a weak link - Lance Ryan. Darn, this may ruin the whole thing!
    Very impressive scene with Hector's shadow, well sung by Yuri Vorobiov, and visually striking.

    Now the second tableau, the women. It starts very well with the beautiful choir Puissante Cybèle. All in red lighting. Alma's Boob-O-Meter registers that the dancers are topless - but they are rather unnecessary and again, distracting. This production doesn't seem to have a sense of theatrical propriety.

    The scene when Cassandre is inviting her peers to kill themselves definitely lacks theatrical impact. Acting is week. Singing is fine. Visuals are fine. But something is missing. The very end of the scene is interesting, with the blood. But overall, fail.

    Still, I give to second act a higher note than the first - 8 out of 10. Gardiner remains ahead.
    This is the end of La Prise de Troie. Pause for snack. Next, Les Troyens à Carthage (acts III, IV, and V).

    Oh well, this starts very badly. Here the 1080p image works against this product. The cover picture does seem interesting, with the singers inside this spaceship/particle accelerator thingie. But when this scenario actually comes up on stage, it looks incredibly fake and cheap, because the high-def image allows us to see that it's all made of inflated plastic tubes.

    Didon (Daniela Barcellona) makes her entrance hanging from wires, in a rather ridiculous costume (her hairdo makes her look like a huge Minnie Mouse), and sings only reasonably, nothing great (I hope she'll warm up later). Something tells me that this production will derail rapidly; I'm starting to like it a lot less.

    I swear that I just saw a Klingon in the chorus.

    OK, folks, the very beautiful scenes in the Gardiner blu-ray when we get to the parade of laborers (constructeurs, matelots, laboureurs) here instead are simply pathetic. I've rarely seen something this unappealing. Terrible. I'll be giving this act a 3 out of 10 if this doesn't improve.

    Another problem is that in spite of all the high-tech scenarios, this production is rather static. These huge tubes make the chorus look sort of small and lost, down there. We're far from the fluidity and the movement of the Gardiner production, with the chorus coming in and out with movements amplified by the mirrors. Instead, what we have here is the same problem with Lepage's Ring: this particle accelerator / space age thingie is just too big and makes the stage look crowded.

    The female leads are unattractive. One wonders why in the hell would Énée fall in love with this Didon. Her sister Anna is played by an even less attractive woman (Zlata Bulicheva - who does sing reasonably well).

    In a trouser role, Oksana Shilova does very well as Ascagne, with a beautiful voice and nice looks.

    Lance Ryan has a terrible accent in French. He sounds like a hillbilly. The weak acting continues.

    Yep. Act III doesn't get any better than a 3 out of 10.

    OK, this thing is surprising, the highs and lows continue. After the dreadful act 3, act 4 opens very well, with, for the first time, truly beautiful visuals, great orchestral playing, imaginative ballet for the Chasse Royale et Orage pantomime (with the dancers from the Mariinsky that Gergiev imported with him - they are gorgeous, and topless). Next, the high level continues with the first truly great singer in this production delivering a very beautiful moment - Stephen Milling as Nardal. By now they have removed the big particle accelerator and the stage looks, for a change, spacious and sleek. So far, act 4 is getting from me a 10 out of 10.

    OK. Weird. For the ballets Pas des almées, Danse des Esclaves, and Pas d'Esclaves Nubiennes, we get instead a sort of fashion show with people in strange space-age clothes with erect penises and people on leashes like dogs. Okaaaaay... We're getting a little Eurotrashy. Fortunately the gorgeous Russian ballerinas are back, this time in black bikinis. Then we get a real ballet with two male dancers who do well. In spite of the Eurotrash, I actually like these scenes. Two female dancers now. Very cute (especially the brunette) and talented.
    The Nubian slaves scene is very beautiful as well, with nice choreography. The orchestra does a very good job throughout these ballet scenes, rendering beautifully Berlioz's thrilling music.

    Iopas' song Ô Blonde Cérès is well performed by Eric Cutler. The fourth act continues to be *very* satisfactory. If they deliver a good Nuit d'Ivresse at the end of it, it will boost significantly my appreciation of this production. We'll see (it's the make it or break it moment).

    So far so good. Act IV continues to deliver beautiful images, good singing, and good orchestral playing. The quintet is very successful.

    The septet however suffers from Lance Ryan's weak singing and dreadful accent. When he is drowned by the other six singers, things improve. Again for the first time, the use of the computer screens is helpful rather than distracting, with beautiful effects.

    OK, Nuit d'Ivresse now. Pretty good. Even Lance Ryan does better than expected. Daniela Barcellona sings beautifully. The scene is very atmospheric with the two singers being slowly raised in a strange contraption until they get into a kind of sphere (the cave, I suppose). Mercure passes by inside a communications satellite, to deliver his line Italie, Italie, Italie.

    I give to act IV 9.5 out of 10, knocking half a point down due to Lance Ryan's singing. But definitely this time the production delivered the magic of Berlioz's music and the extreme beauty of this opera. I'd say that act IV justifies the purchase of this blu-ray in spite of the extremely uneven performance (as evidenced by my scores of 7, 8, 3, and 9.5 for the first four acts).

    If in act V they are able to maintain this level of quality this thing will be rescued, but given what I've seen so far, I'm half expecting that they'll not do well in act V, to continue the up and down trend.

    It opens beautifully, though, with a space shuttle, Hylas as an astronaut, and Earth in the background. Hylas is sung by Dmitri Voropaev, and he does a decent job with Vallon sonore (another highlight of this opera) but could have been better.

    Panthée is Giorgio Giuseppini, a good singer who delivers in his short role, singing Préparez tout. The Par Bacchus duo however is a letdown, a bit too comic for the situation, and with weak singers (Yuri Vorobiov, Vincent Pavesi). Oh well, in an opera with so many characters, one can't expect too much of these two minor roles.

    Next we have Lance Ryan murdering the beautiful aria Inutiles Regrets... Ah! Quand viendra l'instant. Pity.

    The scene of the four shadows (Cassandre, Priam, Chorèbe, Hector) is interesting.

    The dramatic duo between Didon and Énée, however, is again spoiled by Ryan's appalling singing. This scene is fortunately the last one featuring Énée, so I'm looking forward to the last two scenes of the opera, which are thankfully Lance Ryan-free. The Trojans depart, in a spaceship, headed to outer space.

    I give to the first scene of act V a 7.5.

    Second scene - starts beautifully with a well-sung duet between Didon and Anna. The usual problem with updated versions happens again: the libretto says that the Trojans are gone, their ships are still visible at sea. However, the images show spaceships traveling in space.

    Barcellona sings very well the rage scene, but her acting remains subpar. Je vais mourir is beautiful and the imagery is fine. We get to Adieu, fière cité. Good, too.

    The whole scene is quite effective and gets 8.5.

    So far, act V has an average of 8. We are now in the very last scene. Very stylish, with the laptops making a beautiful effect, all in bluish lighting, turning red when the queen stabs herself. There is no last line "Carthage is over, now Rome." Pity. 8 again. So the average for act V remains 8.

    7, 8, 3, 9.5, 8.

    Final average, 7.1

    Pros:

    1080p blu ray with spectacular image and sound
    Gergiev and the Orquestra de La Comunitat Valenciana play beautifully
    Some moments of sublime visual beauty (especially in Act IV) and nice singing, with about half of the singers doing well
    Interesting documentary as a bonus

    Cons:

    Dreadful Act III
    Weak singer in the role of Énée, and about the other half of the singers doing poorly
    Rather bad acting across the board
    Ridiculous costumes and fake-looking scenarios - don't expect the visual fireworks of the Valencia Ring - this is definitely not at that level of visual quality
    Questionable update to the space age
    Overcrowded, static staging

    It's hard to say "recommended." Act IV is recommended. The rest, not as much. The Gardiner version is much, much better. For someone who doesn't know Les Troyens, this is definitely NOT recommended, since only in act IV they really convey the extreme beauty of this opera. Get the Gardiner instead. For someone who already knows several versions of this opera, this production does have some beautiful moments and some redeeming qualities, it's not a totally wasted buy.
    Last edited by Almaviva; Jul-08-2011 at 14:22.
    "J'ai dit qu'il ne suffisait pas d'entendre la musique, mais qu'il fallait encore la voir" (Stravinsky)

  6. #36
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    I watched this production in Valencia, at Les Arts, a couple of years ago.

    A great job by Gergiev, orchestra and chorus.

    However, the voices were just not the right ones, except for Daniela Barcellona. Enée was Stephen Gould, instead of Lance Ryan, but it seems they both play in the same league.

    The staging was not very well received, with some people protesting loudly at the end of the performance. In my view, the first part, in Troy, was interesting, but things just grew out of control in the second, in Carthage.

  7. #37
    Senior Member DarkAngel's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Almaviva View Post


    OK, for the next four hours I'll be watching this and posting simultaneously about it.
    Thanks for the scouting report Luke Skywalker, may the force be with you........


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  9. #38
    Senior Member sospiro's Avatar
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    As part of my homework for next July I bought this recently.



    Not knowing much about Berlioz, I don't feel qualified to do a meaningful review but being PAL, the picture quality is superb.

    Anyway I like it very much.


    Not sure why all the cast are wearing these though

    Ann

  10. #39
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    Les Troyens is definately a tough one to crack as a viewer/listener. I now have 2 DVD versions the one with Susan Graham and Anna Caterina Antonnaci and then the new 'star wars' version from Fura del baus.

    Struggling with both of them to be honest. This is a long opera and it is taking some getting into!!!

    I quite like the newer DVD from Fura del Baus. I am not a huge fan of their Gotterdammerung (not seen the other parts) but i quite like the effects on this one.

    I guess i just need to persevere and watch bit of Les Troyens and let it sink in a bit.

  11. #40
    Senior Member sospiro's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yashin View Post
    Les Troyens is definately a tough one to crack as a viewer/listener. I now have 2 DVD versions the one with Susan Graham and Anna Caterina Antonnaci and then the new 'star wars' version from Fura del baus.

    Struggling with both of them to be honest. This is a long opera and it is taking some getting into!!!

    I quite like the newer DVD from Fura del Baus. I am not a huge fan of their Gotterdammerung (not seen the other parts) but i quite like the effects on this one.

    I guess i just need to persevere and watch bit of Les Troyens and let it sink in a bit.
    Like you I really struggled with it at first. I listened to the CD over & over & over, then watched the Antonacci DVD & only then started to enjoy it.
    Ann

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    Quote Originally Posted by sospiro View Post
    Like you I really struggled with it at first. I listened to the CD over & over & over, then watched the Antonacci DVD & only then started to enjoy it.
    Silly me....realised the Opus Arte DVD has an excellent synopsis!

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  14. #42
    Moderator mamascarlatti's Avatar
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    I still haven't really warmed to it much. I mean, I quite like it, but it's never going to have a great place in my heart.
    Natalie

  15. #43
    Senior Member Hesoos's Avatar
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    First time when I watched Les Troyens I loved it, I have the Gardiner version. That opera amazed me strongly. The next version to buy is the Met version with Domingo.
    1813 - 2013 Verdi and Wagner 200 years

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  17. #44
    Senior Member Hesoos's Avatar
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    That is a good stage version from La damnation de faust, the special effects are wonderful, and the singers great, Giordani and Graham. I don't like the Solti's concert version because is too slow.


    dam.jpg

    1813 - 2013 Verdi and Wagner 200 years

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