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Verdi: I Masnadieri [Teatro di San Carlo] 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)
  • Running Time: 135 minutes
  • Rating: Not Rated
  • Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
  • Studio: C Major
  • Blu-ray Release Date: January 29, 2013
  • List Price: $39.95

Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:3.5/5]
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 Film

[Rating:3.5/5]

By the time Giuseppe Verdi had written I Masnadieri his eleventh opera in 1847 (same year as the original version of Macbeth), he was a very experienced composer. Based on Friederich Schiller’s play, Die Rauber or The Robbers, it looks at a theme that Verdi had explored in his earlier opera, Ernani, ie, that of a nobleman who becomes dispossessed and turns to a life of crime.

I Masnadieri opens in the wilds with Carlo (Aquiles Machado), son of Massimiliano, Count Moor (bass Giacomo Prestia), trying to reconnect with his family and his beloved Amalia (Lucrecia Garcia). His evil brother Francesco (baritone Artur Rucinski) has written to him, conveying the hopelessness of this attempt to return. Depressed, Carlo becomes leader of a band of brigands, vowing never to leave them. Meanwhile Francesco has Arminio, the count’s steward (tenor Walter Omaggio) inform Count Moor that Carlo has died causing the old man to collapse. Amalia, distressed at this news, is reassured by Arminio that both Carlo and his father are very much alive. She then repulses the advances of Francesco with a pistol. Later, Amalia reunites with Carlo who discovers that his father has been held hostage by brother Francesco and vows vengeance. Francesco suddenly has a pangs of guilt over his misdeeds and begs Father Moser (bass Dario Russo) to grant him absolution but the pastor refuses. Carlo’s bandits attack the castle and Francesco kills himself. Finally, Carlo reveals to Amalia who has been brought in by Carlo’s men that he is a bandit chieftain. She professes her love but the bandits remind Carlo of his oath never to abandon them. Faced with an impossible choice, Carlo kills Amalia and surrenders to the police.

This production, another in the Tutto Verdi series, comes from the 2012 performances in Naples’ Teatro di San Carlo. Like Ernani, this opera requires stellar performances from a soprano, tenor, baritone, and bass-baritone to succeed, contributing to its infrequent staging. I am happy to report that we are given a strong cast from top to bottom. Soprano Garcia hearkens back to the old style Martina Arroyo-like stage presence, stout but with a fabulous voice, that surmounts most of the challenges of this role. Particularly impressive is Polish baritone Rucinski’s grasp of the Verdi style and delivery of the evil character type of which the composer was so fond.  Orchestral and choral forces of Il Teatro di San Carlo are stylishly led by Nicola Luisotti who has Verdi in his veins.  The only downside is the costumes and sets but more about that later.

Video Quality

[Rating:4/5]

Alessandro Camera’s sets, to put it simply, are unattractive and non-atmospheric. The stage is mostly bare with railing, black posts, and spotlights that gives no sense of place; there are few changes with the changing locations of each act. Additional tomatoes must be hurled at the wardrobe designer Andrea Viotti who dresses the characters in a mishmash of Elizabethan, Victorian, and 20th century urban punk duds. That aside, video director Annalisa Butto provides outstanding coverage of the stage and singers. Detail is crisp and you get to see the head-mike of tenor Machado and the profuse perspiration of soprano Garcia.  Colors are terrific.

Audio Quality

[Rating:4/5]

The Teatro di San Carlo is a legendary Neapolitan opera house and has wonderful acoustics. The surround DTS-HD Master Audio version gives us much of what the audience would have heard from the stage; the two-channel version is clear and well balanced.

Supplemental Materials

[Rating:2/5]

The Tutto Verdi series includes 10 minute featurettes that have the history of the opera and a visual synopsis using clips from the actual production. With operas this obscure, this is helpful indeed. Trailers from other Tutto Verdi operas are provided.

The Definitive Word

Overall:

[Rating:3.5/5]

I Masnadieri will not be coming to an opera house near you any time soon. Not only the sole BD version of this rare Verdi work, its cast and conductor make a strong argument for the strength of the score, as powerful as the more popular Ernani. Well recorded and videographed, the productions main drawbacks result from its staging, costuming, and directorial decisions . I have already addressed the odd wardrobe and the unattractive sets. Director Gabriele Lavia rarely lets the characters connect on stage, favoring the stand-and-deliver approach. I found this disappointing since, like most Verdi operas, I Masnadieri is about the intense and intimate personal conflicts of its characters.  On the very plus side, the singing is excellent to outstanding with idiomatic musical direction. Even with the above stated reservations about this production, the current BD gives us an opera that most of us will never seen in person. I will certainly return to it with the wonderment of why it is performed so less often than Ernani.  A safe bet for your opera library.

Additional Screen Captures

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Overall
[Rating:3.5/5]
The Performance
[Rating:3.5/5]
Video Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Audio Quality
[Rating:4/5]
Supplemental Materials
[Rating:2/5]


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