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Cherubini: Médée [Theatre de La Monnaie De Munt] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080i/60
  • Audio Codec: LPCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Subtitles: English, French, German, Dutch
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Running Time: 138 minutes
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: BelAir Classiques
  • Blu-ray Release Date: January 29, 2013
  • List Price: $39.99

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(All TheaterByte screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG at 100% quality setting and are meant as a general representation of the content. They do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)

The Performance

[Rating:3.5/5]


Luigi Cherubini, while Italian by birth, did much of his operatic work in France. Médée or Medea, as it is more often performed in Italian (thanks to the Maria Callas revival in the 1960’s), is based on the legend that inspired so many other composers.  The opera opens some time after Jason (of Golden Fleece Argonaut fame, tenor Kurt Streit) has married Médée (soprano Nadja Michael).  Médée has borne Jason two sons but their relationship is now troubled.  Rumors of Médée’s sorcery and brutality (murder of her brother) have spread. Jason has already left for Corinth where he falls in love with Dircé (soprano Hendrickje van Kerchkove), daughter of King Créon (bass Vincent Le Tezier). Jason and Dircé are about to get married but the former worries about his children whom the King has promised to protect. Médée who has been in hiding, reappears and tries without success to stop the wedding and reunite with her lover. In despair and frustration she tries to win back Jason who offers her money to leave without her children. Her fury rekindled, Médée plots revenge including the murder of her children.  She has also gifted Dircé with a toxic dress and jewelry that turn the bride-to-be into ash. At the end, Jason encounters Médée, covered in the blood of their slaughtered sons, and she vows to reunite with him after death.

The current performance of Médée is taken from 2011 performances at Theatre de La Monnaie, a premier performance venue in Brussels.  Francois Benoit Hoffman’s libretto has been adapted for this production by Kryzysztof Warlikowski, the stage director, and Christian Longchamps.  Costumes were updated to the present time by Malgorzata Szczesniak.  Christophe Rousset leads the chorus of La Monnaie and period orchestra, Les Talens Lyriques.

Video Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

The image quality is generally quite good as are the colors. In spite of the very sparse staging and sets, the contemporary costumes all mesh quite nicely. Imagine soprano Michael making her entrance as the second coming of the late Amy Winehouse complete with beehive hairdo, black fingernail polish and tattoos! I was a bit put off by the obscene graffiti on the back wall that added nothing to the proceedings. Camera work, particularly in close-ups, is quite revealing, laying bare the singers’ head mikes.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The audio engineers have given a bit more prominence to the voices than to the orchestra. The surround DTS-HD Master Audio version is very clear and lets us hear many nice details in the score. The two-channel soundtrack is good but lacks some of the depth of its counterpart.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:0/5]

Viewers are completely stiffed here. In this particular case, with an opera that is not often mounted in its original language let alone anywhere, I would have appreciated a background piece on its origin and the concepts that brought about this production.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

Having seen the Italian version of Medea with the incomparable Maria Callas, it is difficult to imagine the role in anyone else’s hands. Unfortunately, Mme Callas never got to film this opera so we have only this BD and a previous DVD from Turin that, while strongly cast, has several serious technical issues. German soprano Nadja Michael has made a career out of portraying powerful women on stage like Lady Macbeth and Medea certainly fits this bill. Michael’s voice might not be the most glamorous but she has the knack of getting into the skin of her character and delivery riveting performances. A recent BD of Mayr’s Medea in Corinto offers up the same story and Michael makes a strong argument for being the Medea of today. Serious updating and sparse sets aside, director Warlikowski makes some quirky choices such as the unexpected background insertion of 1950’s pop songs like Neil Sedaka’s “Oh Carol,” or the backdrop projection of what appear to be family movies. This production overcomes these minor distractions with terrific contributions from all principals and maestro Rousset. This Médée is strong enough musically and dramatically to recommend it to all fans of great singing actors.

Additional Screen Captures

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Purchase Cherubini: Médée on Blu-ray at CD Universe

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Purchase Cherubini: Médée on Blu-ray at CD Universe

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Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]


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