Monteverdi: L'Orfeo [Blu-ray]
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Monteverdi's seminal first opera tells the dramatic story from Ovid's Metamorphoses of the descent of Orfeo (Georg Nigl) into the underworld to recover his beloved wife Euridice (Roberta Invernizzi), who has died from a snake bite. In a new production for La Scala, based on a painting by Titian and directed by Robert Wilson, the opera receives a powerful and inspiring performance from a fine cast, the Orchestra of Teatro alla Scala and Concerto Italiano under the much-admired Italian early music specialist, Rinaldo Alessandrini. Filmed in High Definition and recorded in true surround sound.Press Reviews
"Robert Wilson meets Monteverdi with successful results." (The Opera Critic)
"Beautifully flimed in Milan, this DVD shows how well Wilson's minimalist productions can take to the small screen." (Gramophone)
"The drama comes from Alessandrini's edition and the bite and brilliance of the La Scala orchestra, and Concerto Italiano's inventive continuo section." (BBC Music Magazine)
"...this is a wonderfully satisfying performance, featuring one of the finest Orfeos on disc, and a production which suits the needs of both the large-scale theatre and the small screen equally well" (International Record Review)Cast
Georg Nigl (Orfeo)
Roberta Invernizzi (Euridice)
Sara Mingardo (Messaggera / Speranza)
Orchestra & Chorus of La Scala; Rinaldo Alessandrini
Company: Teatro alla Scala
Stage Director: Robert Wilson
Catalogue Number: OABD7080D
Date of Performance: 2009
Running Time: 116 minutes
Sound: 2.0LPCM + 5.1(5.0) DTS
Aspect Ratio: 1080i High Definition / 16:9
Subtitles: EN, FR, DE, ES, IT
Label: Opus Arte
Top customer reviews
The chorus does not really dance. And don't ask about the chimp or the white rabbits.
This is the next-to-least satisfactory of the six productions of Orfeo available on DVD. The least satisfactory is the oldest, the flamboyantly costumed Zurich production by Harnoncourt/Ponelle; that was a heroic door-opener in its time, but the musical values are very weak. The best, to my ears and mind, is the Netherlands Opera production, directed by Pierre Audi and conducted by Stephen Stubbs. The recent production from Madrid, conducted by William Christie, is a delight to my ears but a perplexity to my mind.
On the other hand, the stripped-down staging works better, it seems to me, when applied to more abstract subjects or at least the more archetypal matters of Greek mythology in opera seria and Baroque opera. Wilson's work for the Paris Châtelet productions of Alceste and Orphée et Eurydice, for example, is appropriate and perfectly in accordance with Gluck's reforming of over-elaborate and long-winded opera. The same should apply, one would think, to Monteverdi's L'Orfeo, the work that is considered the first opera proper - first performed in Mantua in 1607 - and, for many, the model to which opera should aspire. All the huge archetypes are there in its mythological subject - Heaven and Hades, with Eros, Fate, Hope and, most significantly, Music itself personified and indeed the main narrative force who introduces and tells the story of Orpheus and Eurydice, as well as the means by which the opera expresses itself.
This is the kind of material that is perfect for Robert Wilson's interpretations, and all the familiar characteristics of his approach are here in this production for La Scala in 2009 - static figures making strange poses with enigmatic hand movements, stage props reduced to geometric shapes, the colour scheme a limited palette of greys, pale blues and pale green. In contrast to his non-specific approach to Orphée et Eurydice, L'Orfeo is practically period - in the period of Monteverdi, that is - inspired by Titian's Venus with Cupid and an Organist (1548), with Thrace a Renaissance version of the Garden of Eden, by way perhaps of Gainsborough. On a first viewing, I'm not convinced that such a staging brings anything new from Monteverdi's famous opera this time, but it is interesting and worth considering.
As for the opera and its performance, well, L'Orfeo is a masterpiece that does indeed wield a heavy influence over the artform, or for at least a hundred and fifty years afterwards. It's a celebration of man's ability, intellect and ingenuity, taming nature and the seas, speaking with the voice of the Gods through music and, through Orpheus, even challenging Death itself through his singing and its expression of the finest human passions and sentiments. It's a worthy subject for what is generally considered the first opera - an artform that would unite so many artistic qualities, not least of which is music and singing. Monteverdi's opera accordingly lives up to the high standards it sets.
L'Orfeo is more detailed in its scoring and specification of instruments than Monteverdi's final opera Il Ritorno di Ulisse in Patria, for example, but how it is performed is highly interpretative nonetheless. Early music specialist Rinaldo Alessandrini's conducting of the opera of La Scala is therefore not for me to criticise, but I would find it hard to find any serious fault with it other than the actual sound mix not quite having the transparency of other versions I've heard - notably the Pierre Audi Netherlands Opera recording at the Muziektheater in Amsterdam. I would however state a preference for John Mark Ainsley's lyrical Orpheus in that version over the rather deeper tenor of Georg Nigl. The contrasts and differences should be appreciated however, as it is through them that new thoughts and ideas still arise out of an opera that is now over 400 years old - and on that basis, this is a fine production.
The quality of the presentation on the Opus Arte Blu-ray is as good as you would expect, with a clear 16:9 High Definition transfer, PCM Stereo and DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 mixes. The only extras on the disc however are a Cast Gallery and an Illustrated Synopsis. The thin booklet presents some background on the history of the opera, but there is no information at all on the production itself.
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