BERLIOZ: Les Troyens

by | May 18, 2005 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

BERLIOZ: Les Troyens

Révolutionnaire et Romantique, cond. Sir John Eliot Gardiner – Choeur
du Théâtre du Châtelet, Monteverdi Choir –
Stage director: Yannis Kokkos
Didon: Susan Graham; Cassandre/Clio: Anna Caterina Antonacci; Anna:
Renata Pokupic; Enée: Gregory Kunde; Chorèbe: Ludovic Tézier
Studio: BBC/Opus Arte OA 0900 D, 3 DVDs, all regions
Video: Enhanced for 16:9 widescreen, color
Audio: PCM Stereo, DTS Stereo
Extras: Interviews with Sir John Eliot Gardiner, Yannis Kokos, Susan
Graham, Anna Caterina Antonacci, Gregory Kunde, and others; Booklet
with photos
Length: 5 hours, 12 mins.
Rating: ****

A full-screen DVD set with stunning clarity and great lighting, this
production of Berlioz’s long, penultimate opera Les Troyens lavishes
attention on production values, yielding gorgeous sets. A beautiful
mirroring screen shows a staircase to heaven, seemingly at a diagonal,
giving the illusion of characters magically walking up and down the
steps. Later on, the grotesque head of the Trojan horse is superimposed
on a translucent screen. The appearance of Hector’s ghost in Act 2
(sung powerfully by Fernand Bernadi) is a scene of shivering import.
The entire production imparts a sense of grandeur, a subliminal
awareness of the large geographic expanse separating Troy from Carthage.

In Act 1, the chorus members, whose faces are beautifully illuminated,
are dressed as World War I soldiers; their anachronistic costumes may
be taken as a hint of ancient Troy’s proximity to Gallipoli, which
played a strategic role in World War I. The architecture of Troy is
downright Hellenistic, which brings with it an emotional resonance,
however inaccurate this may be. The singers give their all to this
exceptional production, mostly with great success. Antonacci as
Cassandra is impressively overwrought in her prophetic distress.
Tézier’s Chorèbe, Cassandra’s phlegmatic lover, is a sweet, nutty
baritone with a rolling vibrato. In Act 1 the juxtaposition of the
highly strung Cassandra and the placid and trusting Chorèbe is
excellent. In Act 2, Antonacci is more resonant, since here Cassandra
has resigned herself to the Trojans’ fate. In a touching scene, she
holds her jacket in her arms like the baby she will never have.

In Act 3, which opens in Carthage, Susan Graham as the imperious Dido
has an agile and warm voice with good stage presence. Pokupic as Dido’s
sister, Anna, is less convincing. And Kunde, with his weak tenor and
thin timbre, is disappointing. He is far from the heroic Aeneas he is
meant to portray. His duet with Graham, however, is magical, with
gorgeous lighting. Iopas’s Narbal in Act 4 is sweet and expressive.
Gardiner conducts skillfully and dramatically, making interesting
comments in the bonus tracks. The strongest suit of this high-minded
production celebrating Berlioz’s 200th birthday is the visual effects –
including the camera work, and the weakest is the choreography in Act 4.

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