- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080i/60
- Audio Codec: English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0, English LPCM 2.0
- Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 1
- Studio: Opus Arte
- Blu-ray Release Date: April 27, 2010 (US); Mar 1, 2010 (UK)
- List Price: $35.99; £29.99
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
A group of nymphs and shepherds are celebrating the beauty of their surroundings. They’re joined by the half-divine nymph Galatea who expresses her longing for the shepherd Acis who is equally in love with her. Acis is counseled by his friend Damon to be more restrained in his feelings. The couple meet, he praises her beauty whilst she urges him to stay with her. The pair rejoice in their happiness. The chorus announce the arrival of the giant Polyphemus. He’s also in love with Galatea and serenades here with a rustic song, but Galatea rejects him in disgust and he turns on her. Damon warns Acis that love is only a passing pleasure, but Acis and Galatea swear their eternal love. Enraged, the jealous Polyphemus crushes Acis with a rock. Galatea laments his death and transforms her slain lover into the god of a fountain.
Handel’s masque, or “mini-opera” dates all the way to the early 1700’s, though he worked on and revised versions of the piece through his career. Based on Ovid’s mythological characters, the piece, more intended for an open-aired, non-stage performance, despite its heady themes is a light, pastoral work in the truest sense. Breezy melodies, giddy lovers, and no real connecting strains or themes as a true opera would contain. This latter point presents problems for the modern performer looking to stage Acis and Galatea as an opera today. Stringing together some of the more strident performance juxtapositions in characters and recitatives need to be reeled in, tamed if you will, into one conjugated whole that balances out into a pleasing thematic conclusion. It is not as impossible as it seems, as the story and Handel’s writing make it quite easy.
This production from the Royal Opera with Christopher Hogwood and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment does Acis and Galatea a great justice. Not only does the masque play out smoothly in one thematically seamless whole, but the balance of music, vocals, and dance is splendidly pulled together. There is also a great reverence for the period here, At no time is Handel’s music overly romanticized and bloated with constant streams of vibrato or overwhelming dynamics. It is pleasantly played in an appropriately baroque style, with coloration placed, as they should be — decorously.
Danielle de Niesse as Galatea and Charles Workman as the Shepherd are brilliantly paired. Their giddiness and overall energy seeps through in their duets while their voices meld together nicely. Also putting in a nice turn is Matthew Rose as Polyphemus. It would also be shameful to go this entire review without mention of the skilled and amazing flexibility of the Royal Ballet who integrate into the staging effortlessly.
Captured in high definition, Acis and Galatea appears in a beautifully rendered 1080i/60 AVC/MPEG-4 encoding on Blu-ray from Opus Arte. Details are sharp, video noise is not a hindrance and shadow detail is well extended. Colors are vibrant, flesh tones are lifelike, and there are no issues with artifacts that I can see. Watching this presentation is almost like being there at the Royal Opera House.
In both the English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0 and LPCM 2.0 options, the sound of the Royal Opera and the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment are captured superbly. Balance between orchestra and vocals is beautiful, the string section is smooth and airy, and the recorded volume is appropriately low for a Baroque-era piece such as this. It’s not bombastic or overly dynamic. There could perhaps be slightly less of a metallic edge to the strings, something easily rectified with a higher sampling rate (48kHz here) and Blu-ray certainly has the capacity to do so. I would enjoy seeing more of these opera releases coming to market with higher-resolution soundtracks. I would also liked to have heard a slightly higher level of ambience in the surround channels for the surround mix, but I may just be picking nits.
Expect no exorbitant amounts of extras here and you’ll be fine. There’s a brief “making of” that is interesting, but hardly in-depth, and the video synopsis is a nice touch. Call me old fashioned, however, but I would still prefer a written synopsis be provided as well, and one isn’t here.
The supplements provided in this release are:
- Cast Gallery (1080i/60)
- Staging Acis and Galatea (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 0:09.35)
- Booklet: Features the essay “What’s in a Name?” by Andrew Jones, Senior Lecturer in Music at Cambridge University.
The Definitive Word
For a beautiful afternoon of light and enlightening entertainment, Hogwood and the Royal Opera’s Acis and Galatea will not disappoint in this splendid high definition effort from Opus Arte.
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