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Cavalli: Ercole Amante [Concerto Köln/Bolton] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080i/60
  • Audio Codec: Italian DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0, Italian PCM 2.0
  • Subtitles: English, Dutch, French, German, Italian, Spanish
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 2
  • Studio: Opus Arte
  • Blu-ray Release Date: February 23, 2010
  • List Price: $49.99[amazon-product align=”right”]B0030BK8XU[/amazon-product]

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Overall
[Rating:4.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4.5/5]

Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]

Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]

Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2.5/5]

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)

The Performance

[Rating:4.5/5]

Originally commissioned by Cardinal Mazarin to celebrate the marriage of the “Sun King,” Louis XIV, and Marie Therese of Spain, Cavalli’s Ercole Amante took two years to complete and was first performed at the Tuileries in Paris, France, on 7 February 1662. It is Cavalli’s only opera written for Paris.

With an Italian libretto by Francesco Buti based on Sophocles’ The Trachiniae and the ninth book of Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Ercole Amante tells the story of Ercole (Hercules) (Luca Pisaroni) who lusts after Iole (Veronica Cangemi), but she hates him for having killed her father. She instead is in love with Ercole’s son Hyllo (Hyllus) (Jeremy Ovenden), who in turn is in love with her. Ercole, finding this out, wants to kill his son, but he relents, only after Iole agrees to marry him. Ercole instead imprisons his son in a high dungeon. Meanwhile, Ercole’s wife and Hyllo’s mother, Deianira (Anna Maria Panzarella) sees Hyllo, in despair, plunge to the depths of the river Styx from his high dungeon and, believing him dead, seeks the aid of Licco (Marlin Miller) who promises to help her and Iole get revenge on Ercole. Just as Ercole is about to marry Iole she saves herself by giving him an enchanted shirt and Ercole is instantly killed.

This production at the Het Musiektheater Amsterdam with the Concerto Köln and Chorus of De Nederlandse Opera by stage director David Alden and set designer Paul Steinberg is filled with quaint intentional anachronisms that add to the opera’s humor, such as an oddly placed mobile phone, a six-pack of Heineken mini-kegs or Ercole’s pro-wrestler action-figure costume.

Also making this revival of Cavalli’s baroque opera a grand and marvelous achievement is the informed conducting by Ivor Bolton, beautiful vocal performances by Anna Maria Panzarella and Veronica Cangemi along with a charismatic performance by Luca Pisaroni as Ercole.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

Originally captured in high definition, Ercole Amante arrives with a splendid 1080i/60 AVC/MPEG-4 encoding on Blu-ray from Opus Arte. The detail of the production’s set and costumes comes through effortlessly. Video noise is not an issue and shadow details are strong while black levels are deep.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0 and PCM 2.0 audio mixes on Ercole Amante both offer dynamic and clean sound with deep percussive instruments and superb instrumental separation across the soundfield. Vocals are clear and natural. The 5.0 program is mixed from an audience perspective and provides a good balance of ambience in the surround channels that effectively captures a live venue sound.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:2.5/5]

All supplements appear on Disc 1 and are in high definition.

The supplements provided on this release are:

  • Synopsis — Audio synopsis
  • Cast Gallery (1.78:1; 1080i/60)
  • Behind the Scenes with Johannette Zomer (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 0:10.28)
  • Behind the Scenes with Luca Pisaroni (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 0:12.38)
  • The Making of Ercole Amante (1.78:1; 1080i/60; 0:29.27)

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4.5/5]

Ercole Amante is rarely performed and not often thought of as one of the great operas, but this oft-forgotten opera is and was responsible for influencing the French classical scene for decades after. De Nederlandse Opera and Opus Arte are to be applauded for this stupendous and immeasurably enjoyable revival.

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