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Gluck: Iphigénie en Aulide/Iphigénie en Tauride [De Nederlandse Opera] Blu-ray Review

gluck-iphigenie-blu-ray-cover

  • 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, Korean
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Running Time: 168 minutes
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: Opus Arte
  • Blu-ray Release Date: March 26, 2013
  • List Price: $39.99

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures

(The below 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]

2iph

Christoph Willibald Gluck cast a giant shadow over great composers like Mozart, Berlioz, and, even Wagner.  A prolific artist, Gluck composed thirty-five operas and the two on this blu-ray disc are among his most mature masterpieces, coming in the last decade of his career. De Nederlandse Opera turned to modernist director, Pierre Audi, who seriously updates both productions. The orchestral and vocal forces are under the knowing leadership of early music specialist, Marc Minkowski. In an unusual move, both operas, based on the retelling of the Euripides plays, are performed in the same evening.

title 1

Iphigénie en Aulide opens with the Greeks harbored in Aulis and prepared for war with Troy. The goddess Diana (Salome Haller) has becalmed the fleet, as punishment for King Agamemnon (Nicolas Teste) who killed her sacred doe. Agamemnon must atone by swearing to sacrifice his daughter, Iphigénia (Veronique Gens). Iphigénia is betrothed to Achilles (Frederic Antoun) but if Agamemnon can deceive his daughter into believing that her fiancé is unfaithful, then she and his wife, Clytemnestra (Anne Sofie von Otter) would remain safely in Mycenae. However, Iphigenia comes to Aulis and is convinced by Achilles that he is true to her. The impending nuptials are halted by the revelation that Iphigenia is to be sacrificed to Diana. Achilles swears that he will prevent this from happening, and Agamemnon begs the gods to release him from his oath. The Greeks pressure Agamemnon to allow the sacrifice to proceed so that the fleet can leave for Troy. Iphigénia is resolved to meet her fate when Achilles and his Thessalian troops attack Agamemnon’s army. At this point, Diana intercedes and Iphigenia is saved.

2title

Iphigénie en Tauride picks up the story many years after Troy has fallen. Orestes (Jean-Francois Lapointe), Iphigénia’s brother, has avenged their father’s murder by Clytemnestra and Aegisthus. However, he has unleashed the wrath of the Eumenides, goddesses of vengeance, who require that he and his friend Pylades (Yann Beuron) visit Tauris and recover the statue of Diana. Iphigénia (Mireille Delunsch), now exiled to this island and a priestess to Diana, has been sworn to sacrifice every stranger whom she encounters. She is unaware of what has happened to her family, although their murders are relived in her nightmares. A storm brings Orestes and Pylades to Tauris where they are imprisoned and sentenced to death by Thoas (Laurent Alvaro), King of Scythia. Iphigénia visits the prison but does not recognize her long lost brother as he recounts the fate that has befallen their parents. Iphigenia decides to send Orestes to give a message to their sister, Electra. Once he discovers that Pylades will be executed, Orestes pleads successfully to have his friend to go to Mycenae in his place. Iphigénia prays to be released from her vows as the siblings finally recognize each other.  Just in time, Pylades returns and slays Thoas. Diana, declaring that her demands have been met, allows Orestes to return to home.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

over

Given the abstract and bare nature of the set, the challenge to the videographers was to make these operas living works. Fortunately, they are up to this challenge and with clever shifts from close ups to stage views we get a real sense of being there. Colors and details are excellent. Costumes are a mixture of antique styles and modern military but, with mythology being what it is, this is not a major issue.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

diane

The audio engineers work their magic and we are drawn into the classical era that was Gluck’s environment. Fortunately, most of the singers turn in magical performances that we are privileged to hear with utmost clarity.  No contest here, the surround version is the best.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:3/5]

2women

There is an excellent 40-minute behind-the-scenes feature on this production that will be most appreciated by those unfamiliar with these works.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

duo

The 21st century audience that is starving for Gluck might be candidates for Survivor Island as his operas, with the exception of Orfeo ed Eurydice,  are less frequently performed than they were in the past.  While it might seem that offering both Iphigénie operas was a risky decision, seeing them together for the first time makes a great deal of dramatic sense. It was also a wise to cast two different singers in the title role as there is a considerable time lapse between the operas. Traditionalists will probably bristle at the erector set staging or at some of the stage play, for example, Iphigénie wearing an explosive device belt in anticipation of her sacrifice. However, the quality of the musicianship is high enough to set aside these quibbles. As no Blu-ray competition currently exists, I would consider this disc to be a safe recommendation.

Additional Screen Captures

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Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4.5/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:3/5]

 

 

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