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Gaetano Donizetti: Maria Stuarda [Carminati] Blu-ray Review


  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080i/60
  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0 (48kHz/24-bit) DTS-HD Master Audio (96kHz/24-bit)
  • Subtitles: English, French, Italian, Spanish
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: C major
  • Blu-ray Release Date: February 22, 2011
  • List Price: $45.98

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Maria Stuarda (Teatro La Fenice) -

Purchase Maria Stuarda on Blu-ray at CD Universe

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Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:3/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]

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:3.5/5]

Composer Gaetano Donizetti is best known for his tragedy, Lucia di Lammermoor, and his comedy, L’Elisir d’Amore.  Along the way, he composed a royal trilogy centered on three queens, Anne Boleyn (Anna Bolena),  Elizabeth I of England (Roberto Devereux), and Mary Stewart (Maria Stuarda). This latter work is rarely performed, a pity since it has a brilliant score and many opportunities for sensational singing. Revivals of Maria Stuarda were usually reserved for the great coloratura sopranos like Joan Sutherland or Beverly Sills as it usually takes a big name to sell this show to all but the most fanatic operagoers. This 2009 production was recorded at the rebuilt Teatro La Fenice in Venice, one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world. The acrimonious encounter between Mary Stewart, Queen of Scots, and Elizabeth I, Queen of England, may be apocryphal, but it makes for great theater. The story covers the Maria’s imprisonment, her eventual meeting with Elisabetta, the complex relationships with Roberto (both women  have designs on him), and, at the end, Maria’s condemnation to execution.  This production features an internationally heralded cast, led by Italians, soprano Fiorenza Cedolins (Maria) and mezzo-soprano Sonia Ganassi (Elisabetta), complemented by Spanish tenor Jose Bros (Roberto, count of Leicester), and  Italian bass-baritone Mirco Palazzi (Talbot, Count of Shrewsbury).

Cedolins delivers a great sing and quite literally smolders as the doomed queen. Ganassi is not far behind and the showdown between the two queens at Fotheringhay Castle sizzles with emotion. Jose Bros has a pleasant but rather lightweight tenor voice, falling somewhat short of the mark in the opera’s frequent declamatory scenes. There is a marvelous Act I sextet that presages the famous “Chi mi frema in tal momento” sextet of Lucia di Lammermoor, produced 5 year later.  Fabrizio Maria Carminati’s direction of the first-rate Teatro La Fenice orchestra is fairly routine and, on more than one occasion, succeeds in drowning out the singers, certainly not what Donizetti intended.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The camera work is superb throughout with crisp close ups and beautiful coverage of stage and singers. However, designer/director Denis Krief came up with the bizarre concept of having the stage set up as a labyrinth that changes shape and color throughout the scenes. Although, the Maria-Elisabetta story belonged to the 16th century, the costumes are largely contemporary and with the absence of any scenery to suggest a royal setting, this production exchanges a sense of historic events for an overlay of psychodrama.  I am not an absolute purist when it comes to period considerations, but I found Krief’s directorial notions fairly off-putting and the cast, doing their best to negotiate the labyrinth, suffered a number of awkward and distracting stage movements

Audio Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

The soundtrack is DTS-HD Master Audio and the voices are captured to a fare-thee-well. But opera is about more than just singing and the orchestra should be given its due yet not overwhelm the singers, after all this is bel canto not “can belto” music. Here, the balances frequently favored the orchestra, and while this might reflect La Fenice’s acoustic, when maestro Carminati reined in his forces, the singer-orchestra balance improved substantially. There is little if any atmospheric or house effect in the surround channels. Considering some of the spectacular vocalism offered in this performance, particularly by Cedolins, I was surprised by the lack of audience response, even at the conclusion.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:0/5]

This BD is devoid of extras.  Given the unusual nature of the staging, I would have liked to get some insight into director Krief’s decisions to stage this Elizabethan drama as if it were the second coming of The Minotaur.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

This is the first BD release of this opera. While you might be surprised to find 7 Maria Stuarda DVDs still available, none of the earlier releases is particularly distinguished in either performance values or cinematography. This set’s vocalism is generally strong,  and the cinematography outstanding.  However, this production is seriously undermined by its unconventional and unconvincing staging and costuming. Having seen Maria Stuarda mounted with historically accurate sets and dress, it becomes an entirely more potent theatrical event.  If you want this opera in your home (the most likely place you will ever get to see it due to the infrequency with which it is staged), this disc will certainly serve the purpose.

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product]B004GX91ZM[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
Maria Stuarda (Teatro La Fenice) -

Purchase Maria Stuarda on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:3/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:0/5]

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