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Francesco Cavalli: La Didone [Les Arts Florissants/Christie] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • Video Codec: MPEG-2
  • Resolution: 1080i/60
  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Subtitles: Italian, English, French, German
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: Opus Arte
  • Blu-ray Release Date: September 25, 2012
  • List Price: $29.99

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]

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:4/5]

Virgil’s Aeneid, a cornerstone of ancient literature, has inspired numerous operatic adaptations. Francesco Cavalli, a an operatic pioneer and successor to Claudio Monteverdi, has taken the story of Dido and Aeneas and fashioned it into La Didone, a 1641 retooled version.

As the opera opens, we see war-ravaged Troy and the lamentations of the victims of the Greek carnage. Aeneas (Kresimir Spicer) and his wife Creusa (Tehila Goldstein who doubles as Juno) are deciding whether to press on with the war or abandon Troy. After Creusa is killed, Aeneas and the other Trojans try to escape Troy. In spite of Juno’s efforts to destroy them, the refugees are saved by Neptune (Francisco Javier Borda) and they safely reach Carthage. In Carthage, Dido (Anna Bonitatibus) is being pursued by King Iarbas (Xavier Sabata) who goes mad when she rejects his advances. Venus (Claire Debono) intervenes and has Cupid, disguised as Aeneas’s son Ascanius (Terry Wey), inspire her to fall in love with Aeneas. However, Mercury (Mathias Vidal) comes to Aeneas in a vision and directs him to leave for Italy where he will establish a new realm for the Trojans. In Virgil’s telling of the post-Trojan war story, Dido commits suicide after Aeneas abandons her. Here, librettist Giovanni Busenello gives us a happier ending in which King Iarbas, restored to sanity by Mercury, comes to Dido’s rescue and offers her marriage.

This 2011 Teatre de Caen production was directed by actor Clement Hervieu-Leger and featured the outstanding early music ensemble, Les Arts Florissants, under the knowing baton of William Christie. The vocal cast, many of whom assume multiple roles, keep reasonably close to the period style and we are treated to some excellent solo performances.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

Opus Arte seems to be blessed with great videographers and this one is no exception. The close-ups are extremely life-like and the camera coverage of the set superb. The only disappointment is the relative drab nature of the costumes. Since the sets are rather minimalist, I would have preferred a bit more regal nature to the Carthagenian wardrobe.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The Theatre de Caen in Normandy appears to be a rather intimate house favoring good details from the stage and pit.  I detected some brightness in the acoustic, but otherwise  the audio proceedings were well balanced. The sound engineers give us a very good seat in the house via the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, with the PCM stereo not far behind.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:0/5]

Trailers are it, folks.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

Bringing a nearly four century old work to life requires a lot of cleverness in staging and direction. Having Hervieu-Leger, a Comedie Francaise actor, assume the directorial responsibilities works quite well and sidesteps the often static nature of early opera. Vocally, we get some excellent performances.  Of course, you need a great Dido and here mezzo Bonitatibus does not disappoint. Her Aeneas, tenor Spicer, could have used a little more testosterone and legato while countertenor Sabata delivers a workmanlike portrayal of the mad King Iarbas. For fans of early opera, this is the Dido/Aeneas story that preceded Henry Purcell’s classic Dido and Aeneas and Hector Berlioz’s monumental Les Troyens. The only other video version of La Didone is a rather paltry affair and can easily be dismissed. We are not very likely to get another BD of this work in the near future so aficionados of opere antiche will need to get this one while it is still available.

Additional Screen Captures

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]


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