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Giuseppe Verdi: Giovanna d’Arco [Teatro Regio di Parma] 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, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Japanese
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: C Major
  • Blu-ray Release Date: November 13, 2012
  • List Price: $39.95

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

The Joan of Arc legend has inspired several operas and Giovanna d’Arco is Giuseppe Verdi’s take on this extraordinary woman. This 2008 production from the Teatro Regio di Parma is part of a decade-long Verdi marathon that will conclude in 2013. Friederich Schiller’s play may have formed the basis for the story but the opera gives us unabashed revisionist history. As Giovanna d’Arco begins, the French Dauphin Carlo (Evan Bowers) is about to surrender to the English. In Domremy, he meets Giovanna (Svetla Vassileva), a shepherd’s daughter who believes that God has directed her to take up the French cause. Carlo, thus emboldened, presses on, while Giovanna’s father Giacomo (Renato Bruson) is convinced that she is not only a witch but also Carlo’s lover. Giacomo prepares to deliver his daughter to English commander Talbot (Maurizio Lo Piccolo) but these plans change when the French are victorious. Giovanna, believing her mission is now accomplished, prepares to return home but Carlo is in love with her and convinces Giovanna to accompany him to Reims for his coronation. Still believing his daughter to be a witch, Giacomo attends the coronation following which Carlo proclaims Giovanna the patron saint of France. Giacomo denounces Giovanna to the crowd, and, without accepting any defense she is banished, and later imprisoned by the English. The final act finds Giovanna in prison awaiting execution. She prays for a French victory and Giacomo, finally convinced of her innocence, releases her from bondage. Giovanna goes on to the battle, but is fatally wounded and, after seeing a vision of the Virgin Mary, she dies.

Giovanna d’Arco is one of the least frequently performed operas in the Verdi catalog although, given the magnificence of the coronation scene and a number of brilliant solo and ensemble pieces, it is difficult to understand why this is the case. Perhaps, it is librettist Temistocle Solera’s reworking of the story that undermines the credibility of Giovanna’s relationships with God, Carlo and Giacomo. Unfortunately, this BD premiere is vocally uneven and, in spite of maestro Bruno Bartoletti’s supreme efforts from the pit, falls short of a strong endorsement for this early Verdi work.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

Alessandro Camera’s sets vary from lavish (Acts I and III) to barebones (Acts II and IV), challenging the videographers to make the drama work effectively throughout. We do receive a great shoot and the cameras really deliver up the essence of the characters and their situations. The Act III coronation scene, the visual highlight of this opera, is simply stunning.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The sound engineers got it right with this one. We get very good projection of the voices and yet maintain decent orchestral detail, take for example, Carlo’s Act IV aria, a thing of beauty, with the solo voice supported only by a cello and English horn. The surround version has a bit more atmosphere than the stereo soundtrack.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:2.5/5]

We are fortunate that the producers of this Verdi series have seen fit to attach a 10-minute background video for each performance since most viewers will be unfamiliar with such early Verdi works as Giovanna d’Arco.  C Major also offers trailers from some of the other Tutto Verdi operas.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3/5]

This Tutto Verdi production is the only BD available. There is a 20 year old DVD from Bologna that features a much younger Renato Bruson, matched with soprano Susan Dunn, and directed by none less than Werner Herzog. If memory serves me correctly, Ms. Dunn’s well informed singing was considerably better than what we get from Ms. Vassileva. The latter singer who at least looks the part was rumored to be “indisposed” at curtain time. She began with some rough patches and, although matters improved, her voice was just too steely for this role. Evan Bowers is a sweet-toned if not particularly characterful tenor. However, he never seems to inhabit his role effectively, appearing adrift on the stage, and failing to connect dramatically with Giovanna. The evening belonged mostly to 74 year-old baritone Renato Bruson who has owned Giacomo for two decades. His acting was superb and his singing, on occasion, recalled the Bruson of old. However, his current vocal state exhibits considerable wear and lack of a top register (he withdrew from later performances of this stage run).  As this will probably be the lone high-def version of Giovanna d’Arco for the foreseeable future, those wishing to own “all things Verdi” will probably seek it out, in spite of my reservations. I will search for the Bologna DVD and willingly sacrifice some picture quality for better singing.

Additional Screen Captures

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Purchase Giovanna d’Arco on Blu-ray at CD Universe

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Overall
[Rating:3/5]
The Performance
[Rating:3/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]


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