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Mozart: Le Nozze di Figaro [Opera National de Paris/Jordan] Blu-ray Review

  • Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
  • 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
  • Region: ABC (Region-Free)
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: BelAir Classiques
  • Blu-ray Release Date: October 30, 2012
  • List Price: $39.99

Overall
[Rating:4/5]
The Performance
[Rating:4/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:3.5/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2.5/5]

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:4/5]

One of the most frequently performed of Mozart’s operas, the comedy, Le Nozze di Figaro, has always been an audience favorite. Considering its pokes at nobility and numerous liaisons dangereuses, this opera was at the cutting edge for its 18th century audiences and set the tone for numerous successors. This 2010 HD film from the Paris Opera is a revival of a Giorgio Strehler production first mounted in 1973 and one that appears to have aged well like a fine vintage wine. The production’s dramatic success is virtually guaranteed by a youthful cast with excellent camera appeal and great vocal chops.  Headed by Figaro (Luca Pisaroni) and surrounded by strengths in the other major roles, Susanna (Ekaterina Surina), Countessa di Almaviva (Barbara Frittoli), Conte di Almaviva (Ludovic Tezier), and Cherubino (Karine Deshayes),  we get ensemble performance of the first class. The minor roles of Marcellina (Ann Murray), Bartolo (Robert Lloyd) and Don Basilio (Robin Legate) are perfect examples of the luxury casting in this production.

The well-worn plot concerns the impending marriage of Figaro (he of Barber of Seville fame) to the maid Susanna. The glitch is the tradition of le droit du seigneur that allows Figaro’s employer,  Count Almaviva,  the right to enjoy Susanna’s favors for the first night. The only problem is that the Count is already married, thanks to Figaro’s prior efforts. Almaviva’s wife, the Countess, notes that her charms are beginning to fade, although this does not deter the young page Cherubino from hitting on her.  Through a combination of behind-the-scenes machinations, clever twists of fate, all ends well for the various couples involved.

The Strehler production with its huge high walled and rather sparsely decorated sets elicited plenty of buzz at its debut but now looks rather tame in comparison with more modern efforts at mounting this opera. Musical direction of the Paris Opera forces by their music director Phillipe Jordan, and talented son of conductor Armin Jordan, is well paced, allowing the comic elements in the score to shine.

Video Quality

[Rating:3.5/5]

This is an HD film with generally good resolution but, as such, has occasional motion artifact. Director Strehler’s huge sets seem pretty vacant and nearly dwarf the singers. In spite of this impression, the staging has been very popular for nearly four decades! Costumes are accurate for the original period of the opera’s composition and the cast, very camera-friendly. The indoor scenes have a yellowish cast, possibly intended to suggest illumination by candlelight (appropriate for the era).

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The singers are well captured with good recording of the orchestra in the pit. This is particularly clear in the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.0 track conveys Mozart’s intents quite nicely. The PCM stereo track is also very listenable.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:2.5/5]

BelAir Classiques offers a 21-minute interview with stage director Humbert Camerlo who assisted the late Giorgio Strehler with this production more than 30 years ago. Using clips from the actual footage we see these concepts come to life and arrive at a timeless mise en scene of Mozart’s creation.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:4/5]

Opera experts would agree that Le Nozze di Figaro is one of the high watermarks of opera. In looking at the current catalog there are dozens of SD versions and three previous BDs including a stunning 2008 Royal Opera House production from David McVicar. The current set also competes with a 2011 BD from the Teatro Real Madrid that features several of the same principals. The current release has excellent singing and yields ground only in the video quality of film rather than HD video format. This will not matter much to lovers of great singing and there is an abundance of that caught here. The principals are as good as we are likely to see on today’s stages and, if the oversized and vacant sets are not a put off, a BD worthy of your consideration. Fortunately, even if you already own the Opus Arte disc of the McVicar production or the Teatro Real release, this one would still be a nice addition to your collection. After all, with an opera this good, you really deserve more than one recorded version.

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