Firstly, can I say that I nearly didn't buy this, because it is advertised as Region 1 and won't play on our recorders, unless we've had them modified. Anyway, I really wanted to get a copy of the Met's Elektra with Hildergard Behrens, recorded on 22nd January 2001 (because I attended one of the performances in the run and they were wonderful). So I rang the Met and they assured me that all the DVDs of Met performances are coded 0 (regardless of the recording label). So I took a chance and bought Andrea Chenier and it is region 0, not region 1 (as advertised on this website) - so I asssume the Met's Capriccio will be the same - well, I hope so because, I've just ordered it!
Sorry for the digression, but I think that is an important thing to note. Now to the review.
Yes, it is all the things other reviewers have said and Pavarotti (although at the start of his vocal decline) is excellent, but I do think they could have worked a bit better on his makeup. Watch him in closeup in Act I and you will see what I mean - maybe the director should have taken note of the scene in Tootsie when they say, "closeup on .... NOT TOO CLOSE!" Anyway, he was in his sixties, so all game to him for singing it on stage for the first time. However, get hold of his studio recording from 1984 (Decca 410-117-2) and you will hear how sublime he was in this role. Here, acting apart, he is excellent too - but, you only have to watch Carreras at La Scala in this to see how it should be done. Also, it is rather touching to hear one of the greatest singers of all time having to work just a little harder to achieve the sounds and vocal lines that in his youth he just nonchalantly tossed off without a second thought.
Juan Pons is very good too, but for me he just lacked the passion of Piero Cappuccilli at La Scala (with Carreras) and Vienna (with Domingo)- but, I have to say that (other than as Tonio in the Met's Pagliacci); this is the best performance I've seen him give.
I thought Maria Guleghina was the weak link (hence only 4 stars), which suprised me because I enjoyed her performances when I saw her as Fedora and Tosca at Covent Garden. For me, she wasn't quite committed enough, whether it was because she was performing with a rather wooden Pavarotti, I don't know - but her performance of that great aria 'La mamma morta' in Act III says it all. I'm afraid that it didn't move me, as Eva Marton's does in La Scala or Aprile Millo who was Maddalena di Coigny in this production in 1996. Also, personally, I think her voice is too shrill for this role - which surprised me, because I liked her Fedora; maybe she's just been singing too many Lady Macbeths or Abigailles. What ever it is, she wasn't right for me - which is a shame, because I thought the production was good, especially the climax of Act I and Act III.
I have to tell you that the story of Andrea Chenier has always fascinated me, ever since my parents took me to a performance of it at Covent Garden as a young boy in the 1970s. My ambition is to write a screen play to tell his life story as it really was - which, believe me, is just as exciting as what happens here. Although I can see why Giordano took liberties with historical accuracy; and it was a mark of genius to use the actual poet's own words (written in prison) for his major arias. So watch this space and maybe, one day, someone will be reviewing my Andrea Chenier.
So, in conclusion, a very good production and well worth investing in.