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Giordano: Andrea Chénier [Bregenz Festival] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
  • Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
  • Resolution: 1080i/60
  • Audio Codec: PCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
  • Subtitles: Italian, English, French, German, Spanish, Chinese, Korean
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: C Major
  • Blu-ray Release Date: October 25, 2011
  • List Price: $39.99

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BestBuy.com:
Andrea Chenier (Bregenzer Festspiele) -

Purchase Andrea Chenier on Blu-ray at CD Universe

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

Humberto Giordano was a charter member of the Italian verismo school, along with contemporaries like Giacomo Puccini, Ruggero Leoncavallo, Pietro Mascagni, and Francesco Cilea. The thrust of this style was through-composed, often dealing with the sordid aspects of real life. Giordano’s singular masterpiece, Andrea Chénier, is based on the life of a real poet who lived in revolutionary era France. The idiom, however, is very much in tune with its late 19th century date of composition. The love story, set amidst the cataclysmic events of national strife, follows the doomed couple of poet Chénier (tenor, Hector Sandoval) and privileged aristocrat Maddalena (soprano, Norma Fantini) to their eventual meeting with the guillotine. The intervening action pits the forces of social change as reflected by the one-time valet now revolutionary Gerard (Scott Hendricks), also in love with Maddalena, against the old order which she represents.

When viewing a Bregenz Festival production, one has to accept the fact that the stage is literally set in a lake, the singers are mic’d, the acoustics are outdoors, and the orchestra is recorded in a dry and distant location. This performance also features some dramatic liberties such as a “modern” entr’acte with violent acts, and, a backdrop of a huge statue which looks a lot like Marat. The music is marvelous and effectively if somewhat briskly conducted by veteran maestro Ulf Schirmer. The videography is dramatic, often unconventional, but overall appropriate to this unusual setting. The success of this opera depends on the principals and, here, this international cast provides some mixed results.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The videography here is excellent exploiting the unusual sets, large icons, and walkways. There are acrobatics, divers and other visual special effects to boot. While the staging is unconventional, no surprise, given the watery setting, it is consonant with the theatricality of this work. The costumes, thank God, are for the most part in keeping with the opera’s period. The head mics are initially distracting but after a bit, you get used to them. The conceit of erecting a central sculpture as part of the backdrop is a hallmark of opera in the Bregenz setting and is a refreshing change from traditional staging. Despite the fact that this opera is being shot at night with obvious “cover spots,” the colors are vivid and details quite good.

Audio Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

An offstage orchestra with mic’d singers actually works and the soundstage is unexpectedly wide. Voice reproduction is well balanced with a good capture of vocal clarity. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack provides considerable atmosphere. The orchestra, as might be expected, is a bit distant. However, this opera sinks or swims on the two principals playing Andrea Chénier and Maddalena. Mexican tenor Sandoval has thrilling voice with real ping, but compared to his operatic forebears, seems a bit lightweight for this role. His costar, Norma Fantini is a very capable, if not particularly distinguished veteran Italian soprano. The main supporting roles of Bersi, Maddalena’s mulatto servant, is the real revelation here as portrayed by Dutch mezzo-soprano, Tania Kross. The only let down is the somewhat leathery performance turned in by Scott Hendricks as Gerard. Minor roles are adequately handled.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:0/5]

No supplemental materials are offered.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

An opera critic from another era has called Andrea Chénier is one of the best “bad” operas of all time. I would take issue with this appraisal since it has numerous great solo and ensemble moments and is definitely a tenor love feast. The story line is also ultra-romantic. In the end, this opera succeeds or fails on the shoulders of its hero, and, I am happy to report that vocally, if not dramatically, Sandoval’s Chénier is very good. One could take issue with the sets or directorial concepts but from a sheer vocal perspective, this is a reasonably strong performance. I was pleasantly surprised to hear how well the offstage orchestra connected with the onstage performance. Videography was fabulous and the sound engineers have obviously solved the venue issues. Having reviewed the Bregenz Festival  Aida a year ago, I am amazed at the improvement in all of the essential performance aspects this BD presents. Unfortunately, this BD comes up against the recently issued, if more conventionally staged, Metropolitan Opera DVD with Luciano Pavarotti in the title role. In the end, one must choose between high-definition video and a very good 480p DVD with fabulous singing.

Additional Screen Captures


[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B005H7WDYM[/amazon-product]

[amazon-product]B005H7WDYM[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
Andrea Chenier (Bregenzer Festspiele) -

Purchase Andrea Chenier on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

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

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