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Handel: Alcina [Wiener Staatsoper] 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: English, French, German, Italian, Korean
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1
  • Studio: Arthaus Musik
  • Blu-ray Release Date: September 27, 2011
  • List Price: $39.99

[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B005FAH17K[/amazon-product]

[amazon-product]B005FAH17K[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
Alcina (Wiener Staatsoper) -

Purchase Handel: Alcina [Wiener Staatsoper] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

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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]

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:4/5]

There is consensus that Georg Friedrich Handel ranks as one of the greatest operatic composers of all time. Alcina is his setting of the legend of the witch Alcina who turned her former lovers into natural forms such as trees, stones, and animals.  She meets her match in the hero, Ruggiero, who, in turn, is being sought by his lover, Bradamante. Eventually, love conquers all, and Alcina is defeated by her human adversaries.

The period orchestra led by baroque specialist Marc Minkowski is excellent and conveys a real sense of Handelian performance style.  This production is conceived as a play-within-a-play, featuring a series of tableaux  set within a Handel-period chateau. The videography is just plain gorgeous, exploiting the potential of Blu-ray as well as I have seen it done for the operatic stage. The soundtrack is also worthy with the singers appropriately highlighted.  Be warned in advanced, that this is a long work, lasting over 3 hours, in which most of the rather static action is carried forward by the singers rather than  by the staging. The vocalism is uniformly top-drawer, let by the formidable Anja Harteros in the title role, partnered by veteran Vesselina Karasova as her boy toy, Ruggiero. Supporting roles, Bradamante (Kristina Hammerstrom), Morgana (Veronica Cangemi), and Oberto (Alois Muhlbacher) are also capably handled.

Video Quality

[Rating:4.5/5]

The detail and colors in this video are eye-popping and the camera work, deft and stimulating. This is an opera whose central theme is sex, abetted by magic rather than drugs or rock’n’roll,  and in this regard, the videographers and director Adrian Noble leave relatively little to the imagination.   In spite of the minimalism of the sets, I did not feel that viewers will be short changed when the overall picture is this good.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]


The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0 soundtrack is well balanced and enables the inner voices of the baroque orchestra to be well heard. The onstage players who appear throughout are also well recorded. Instrumental and vocal clarity are important elements in the music of this period and, thanks to the sound engineers, we get a good impression of what was happening on stage and in the pit. Vocal perspective is probably true to the ambience of the Vienna City Opera House. Most of the sound is up front with a modest contribution from the surround channels. The absence of the subwoofer track is not missed as there is low frequency information is usually sparse in baroque orchestrations.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:2/5]

Thank you Arthaus Musik for providing an entertaining 21 minute video of the behind the scenes action leading up to this production.  This featurette contains interviews with cast and supporting staff and gives some good insights into this production.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

Alcina, one of Handel’s least performed opera seria,has the elements for a thrilling performance experience.  The erotic themes which weave in and out of the plot provide numerous opportunities for the man-eater heroine, who has cast aside her many lovers, and her prey, the young man in search of his lost love. There is florid vocalism galore, and one can see why some of the great sopranos of our time, including Joan Sutherland and Renee Fleming sought to undertake this role. Anja Harteros, this production’s lead singer, is best known for her romantic era dramatic soprano roles, such as Verdi’s Desdemona and Violetta and Wagner’s Elisabeth. Make no mistake, however, Harteros has lived with Alcina since 2005 and her experience with this role really shows in this 2011 Blu-ray, taken from live performances at the Wiener Staastoper. The rest of the cast rises to the occasion as well and, while three and a half hours does not exactly fly by, there is so much to enjoy and savor here, that most viewers will take a break here and there as did the audience during the intermissions.  Excellent videography with decent audio recording do much to enhance the live operatic experience. This is a previous DVD entry with a good cast but undermined by some dubious directorial decisions. Handel lovers will join in a group “hallelujah” for this Alcina!

Additional Screen Captures

[amazon-product region=”uk” tracking_id=”bluraydefinit-21″]B005FAH17K[/amazon-product]

[amazon-product]B005FAH17K[/amazon-product]

BestBuy.com:
Alcina (Wiener Staatsoper) -

Purchase Handel: Alcina [Wiener Staatsoper] on Blu-ray at CD Universe

Shop for more Blu-ray titles at Amazon.com

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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