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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding!!!, 13 Oct 2004
By A Customer
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This new production of Les Troyens at the Chatelet had been one of the major events in the celebrations for the 200th birthday of one of France's greatest composers, Hector Berlioz. Les Troyens is one of the greatest masterpieces of 19th century opera, one that stands alongside with Verdi's 'Otello' and Wagner's 'Tristan and Isolde'.
Director/designer Yannis Kokkos created wonderful classical sets, brown - gray for the first two acts, white - blue for the second part of the opera and directed a very effective and moving show.
John Eliot Gardiner conducted his Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique magnificently. Various period brass instruments are used on stage according to Berlioz instructions. The Monteverdi Choir combined with the Chatelet Choir make a wonderful and precise sound. The linkage of the music of Berlioz with Gluck is presented here more than in any other performance of this masterpiece I have heard in the past.
Major roles have been given to lighter-voiced singers than one usually associates with this score, but Gardiner assembled a great cast of wonderful singers - actors. Anna Caterina Antonacci is a magnificent Cassandra: a beautiful woman, a fascinating actress. She has a real sense of the text and sings with great beauty. Susan Graham sings a great performance of Dido with big violence and involvement for the tragic last scene of the opera.
Tenor Gregory Kunde sings a lot of bel canto roles, while the heroic Aeneas needs voices like Vickers, Heppner etc. but Kunde as Aeneas is a great surprise. Ludovic Tezier as Chorebe is one of the best baritones singing in French. Mark Padmore sings Iopas aria 'Blonde Ceres' beautifully, and Laurent Naouri is an impressive Narbal. So is the young Mezzo from Croatia Renata Pokupic. Tenor Topi Lehtipuu sings the young sailor Hylas's Act V aria 'Valon sonore' beautifully.
Great opera. Magnificent performance!
Highly recommended. Should be in every opera fan collection.
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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding!!!, 22 Sep 2004
By A Customer
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This new production of Les Troyens at the Chatelet had been one of the major events in the celebrations for the 200th birthday of one of France's greatest composers, Hector Berlioz. Les Troyens is one of the greatest masterpieces of 19th century opera, one that stands alongside with Verdi's 'Otello' and Wagner's 'Tristan and Isolde'.
Director/designer Yannis Kokkos created wonderful classical sets, brown - gray for the first two acts, white - blue for the second part of the opera and directed a very effective and moving show.
John Eliot Gardiner conducted his Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique magnificently. Various period brass instruments are used on stage according to Berlioz instructions. The Monteverdi Choir combined with the Chatelet Choir make a wonderful and precise sound. The linkage of the music of Berlioz with Gluck is presented here more than in any other performance of this masterpiece I have heard in the past.
Major roles have been given to lighter-voiced singers than one usually associates with this score, but Gardiner assembled a great cast of wonderful singers - actors. Anna Caterina Antonacci is a magnificent Cassandra: a beautiful woman, a fascinating actress. She has a real sense of the text and sings with great beauty. Susan Graham sings a great performance of Dido with big violence and involvement for the tragic last scene of the opera.
Tenor Gregory Kunde sings a lot of bel canto roles, while the heroic Aeneas needs voices like Vickers, Heppner etc. but Kunde as Aeneas is a great surprise. Ludovic Tezier as Chorebe is one of the best baritones singing in French. Mark Padmore sings Iopas aria 'Blonde Ceres' beautifully, and Laurent Naouri is an impressive Narbal. So is the young Mezzo from Croatia Renata Pokupic. Tenor Topi Lehtipuu sings the young sailor Hylas's Act V aria 'Valon sonore' beautifully.
Great opera. Magnificent performance!
Highly recommended. Should be in every opera fan collection.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exemplary, 1 Oct 2006
By 
Plaza Marcelino (Caracas Venezuela) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
As ever so often with the house of BBC Opus Arte, this is an outstanding product, with superior packaging and domumentation, hair-rising state of the art sonics and video quality, and relevant and interesting material supplementary to the main "feature" (a full-length documentary on the production itself deriving from a BBC TV programme, with interviews with the main singers, the conductor and the producer and a sound -i.e., read- detailed synopsis of the opera's plot with visual references to the performance itself). "The Trojans" is nor precisely a repertory work so these extra items do mean an important advantage.

In fact, there's practically nothing at fault here, although not all reviews in this site are favourable. I suppose US viewers will find it unnecessary that the greek invaders in Act 2 wear US Military uniforms and wield mock M16 rifles aimed at the trojan women, a precision at odds with the general timelessness attempted with the clothing, a stylised mixture of styles from several centuries (20th century raincoats, suggested antique breastplates made of some synthetic fibre, antiquity gowns, and the like). The same US guns are used by Aeneas's followers when they are summoned to help Dido's own forces repeal invaders of her realm, further on; an uncalled-for theatrical reference to the US as a world provider of violence instruments?

The production is indeed sumptuous, with outstanding renditions from both US-born protagonists (Graham and Kunde) and especially la Antonacci, who besides her considerable sung performance commands an immense stage presence; in the end, perhaps and in spite of Graham's exquisitely sung Dido, la Antonacci's is the performance that tends to linger in your memory, such is her strength of presence and character (others in the website have commented on her matching physical attractiveness). The exhilarating sounds produced by the original instruments used by the orchestra, especially the winds and brass (some of them traced by Gardiner to private collections as they have long fallen out of use, in France as well as elsewhere), are a delight to hear; this aspect itself sets this set in a class of its own.

The work is rather extravangantly spread over three discs, with the BBC documentary taking half of the third one and sharing it with the last act. But no complaints here either, as the price of the set is within bounds and more than justifies the outlay in view of what you receive.

So, in sum, a gem of a release that will put the way other companies present opera on dvd to shame, and a singular rendition of a key XIX Century opera seldom encountered in theatres today (and altogeher unjustly) in view of its demands.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Total opera, 19 Aug 2010
By 
Keris Nine - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
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This review is from: Hector Berlioz - Les Troyens (Theatre du Chatelet, Paris 2003) [Blu-ray] [2010] [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
Presented across two dual-layer BD50 Blu-ray discs, Berlioz's adaptation of Virgil's The Aeneid is truly an epic undertaking, both in terms of the production and the opera itself. His penultimate opera, Les Troyens is considered to be the composer's masterpiece, and indeed it brings together all the elements and the variety that is characteristic of Berlioz's range, from darkness to light, from blood and thunder to tender lyricism, with rousing choruses, dramatic singing performances, musical interludes and dance sequences.

Despite that, the opera was never performed in full during the lifetime of the composer, the first two acts dealing with the fall of Troy to the Greeks despite Cassandra's highly emotive premonitions of doom, excised in favour of the Trojans in Carthage section of Acts 3 to 5. There is certainly a strong division between the two parts, with many of the principal's inevitably dying at the sacking of Troy at the end of Act 2, including Cassandra and her lover Choreobus (Hector already dead before the start of the opera nevertheless makes a highly effective appearance at the start of the Second Act in the form of a projected apparition), but it's hard to imagine the opera feeling complete without the darkness and the powerful impact of the first half. Anna Caterina Antonacci, in particular, showing what the role of Cassandra has to offer the opera as a whole, a striking contrast to Susan Graham's Dido, who dominates the second half, though no less effectively.

As the surviving Trojans flee, they receive temporary shelter in the North African city of Carthage established recently by exiles from Tyre, under the rule of Queen Dido. Both exiles, the respective leaders of the two tribes, Aeneas and Dido, find comfort for their loss in love for each other, but only until the gods remind Aeneas of his duty to lead his people to Italy. In contrast to the opening acts, the second half of Les Troyens consequently covers a wider range of emotions and the musical accompaniment is likewise as broad and as colourful as the set designs for Carthage, the tone darkening again at the end in a manner that echoes the restored opening of the opera.

The 2003 production at the Châtelet in Paris is accordingly spectacular, the stage filled with movement and action, but never cluttered, the score dominated often by the power of the choral writing, but individual roles are strong and the performances are exceptional, Gregory Kunde a fine Aeneas to stand alongside Antonacci and Graham. Everything about the production, the orchestra under the direction of Sir John Eliot Gardiner, is of the highest order, every single scene offering something of fascination and wonder, whether it is in the music, the singing or the staging. But, particularly in this full version of Les Troyens, there is an overall impression of completeness here - total opera.

Les Troyens is perfectly presented on Blu-ray, the division between the two parts of the opera much better than on the 3-disc DVD edition. Act 1 and 2 are on the first disc along with the extra features, the other three acts on the second disc. Image and sound can hardly be faulted, the audio presented in PCM 2.0 and DTS HD Master Audio 5.1. The tone on the surround track is soft and warm rather than clean and precise, but the dynamic range is nonetheless excellent, handling the extremes well, and it is well suited to the arrangement. The hour-long documentary features contributions from the main performers and makes some interesting observations, but is over-long, being mostly made up of a complete walk-through of the synopsis by John Eliot Gardiner, illustrated with extended sequences from the opera.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific DVD but get the Blu-ray version for even better results, 13 Nov 2011
By 
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
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Unusually I would like to commence this review with an overall summary comment that in my opinion this issue is as fine as we have any right to expect with a sympathetic setting of the opera, excellent surround sound, sympathetic camera work and fine musical values throughout.

The opera is a complete dramatic work with extended dance and purely musical scenes or sections placed within the vocal parts. In this respect it is typical of the French approach to opera of the time as being a whole evening's entertainment but on a vastly greater scale than usual. The Russians share this comprehensive view too. This all-embracing concept suits the epic nature of the story of course.

Berlioz writes this in two parts which subdivide into 5 acts - the Greek's defeat by the Trojans followed by events in Carthage essentially concerning the doomed relationship between Queen Dido and Aeneas.

The production of this epic work is also suitably epic with full use made of the staging to create grandeur. The use of a mirrored wall in the first part is effective in increasing the sense of spectacle so that this is achieved without actual overcrowding. The second part by contrast, uses open spaces, clean cut colours and costuming to create a sense of an upwardly mobile and successful society.

The whole production is of extraordinary vision and rises impressively to scale all the heights. The cast is uniformly excellent throughout. Standout performances are given by Antonacci in the over-wrought role of Cassandra in the first part and this is matched by the conflicted role of Dido as portrayed by Graham. Gregory Kunde provides a good Aeneas in support and Tezier is a well-sung partner to Antonacci in the first part, even though I personally find that his regular lack of eye contact with those he is singing to is dramatically distracting. Still, this is just a personal view which may not be shared by others! All other supporting singers, including the chorus are of equally fine standards. The orchestra under the strong direction of Gardiner is excellent on their period instruments.

There is an extended documentary as an hour's extra which is as detailed as anyone would wish for.

It is very unlikely that there will be a serious challenger to this impressive production in the foreseeable future. The imaging is wonderfully clear and detailed without being invasive and the sound quality is superb in its DTS Master Audio format. In my opinion there cannot be any serious reason to deny this issue the full 5 stars.

............................................

Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:

I thought that you might like to know that before I buy a recording I now look through all the reviews to see if you have posted one. Your assessments and opinions are invaluable. Thank you. (US review)

I particularly like your format of review. They give the prospective purchaser an idea of the style of the playing and relevant comparisons. They are succinct. Keep up the good work! (UK review)

I'm sure there are many other serious collectors, besides myself, who wait for your synopsis and opinion before spending their hard-earned money on new releases...
Keep up the good work!
Thank you (UK review)

............................................
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Terrific production and probably definitive for a long time to come, 13 Nov 2011
By 
I. Giles (Argyll, Scotland) - See all my reviews
(TOP 50 REVIEWER)    (REAL NAME)   
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Hector Berlioz - Les Troyens (Theatre du Chatelet, Paris 2003) [Blu-ray] [2010] [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
Unusually, I would like to commence this review with an overall summary comment that in my opinion this is as fine as we have any right to expect with a sympathetic setting of the opera, excellent surround sound, sympathetic camera work and fine musical values throughout.

The opera is a complete dramatic work with extended dance and purely musical scenes or sections placed within the vocal parts. In this respect it is typical of the French approach to opera of the time as being a whole evening's entertainment but on a vastly greater scale than usual. The Russians share this comprehensive view too. This all-embracing concept suits the epic nature of the story of course.

Berlioz writes this in two parts which subdivide into 5 acts - the Greek's defeat by the Trojans followed by events in Carthage essentially concerning the doomed relationship between Queen Dido and Aeneas.

The production of this epic work is also suitably epic with full use made of the staging to create grandeur. The use of a mirrored wall in the first part is effective in increasing the sense of spectacle so that this is achieved without actual overcrowding. The second part by contrast, uses open spaces, clean cut colours and costuming to create a sense of an upwardly mobile and successful society.

The whole production is of extraordinary vision and rises impressively to scale all the heights. The cast is uniformly excellent throughout. Standout performances are given by Antonacci in the over-wrought role of Cassandra in the first part and this is matched by the conflicted role of Dido as portrayed by Graham. Gregory Kunde provides a good Aeneas in support and Tezier is a well-sung partner to Antonacci in the first part, even though I personally find that his regular lack of eye contact with those he is singing to is dramatically distracting. Still, this is just a personal view which may not be shared by others! All other supporting singers, including the chorus are of equally fine standards. The orchestra under the strong direction of Gardiner is excellent on their period instruments.

There is an extended documentary as an hour's extra which is as detailed as anyone would wish for.

It is very unlikely that there will be a serious challenger to this impressive production in the foreseeable future. The imaging is wonderfully clear and detailed without being invasive and the sound quality is superb in its DTS Master Audio format. In my opinion there cannot be any serious reason to deny this issue the full 5 stars.

............................................

Some dialogue from the comments section that may offer further help:

I thought that you might like to know that before I buy a recording I now look through all the reviews to see if you have posted one. Your assessments and opinions are invaluable. Thank you. (US review)

I particularly like your format of review. They give the prospective purchaser an idea of the style of the playing and relevant comparisons. They are succinct. Keep up the good work! (UK review)

I'm sure there are many other serious collectors, besides myself, who wait for your synopsis and opinion before spending their hard-earned money on new releases...
Keep up the good work!
Thank you (UK review)

............................................
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5.0 out of 5 stars a surprise pleasure, 17 Dec 2013
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Bought on a whim and glad I did so. Never watched /listened to such a wonderful performance. One after another of top quality singers . I watched spellbound (my partner said). This will not be a DVD that's just left on the shelf to gather dust !!!!!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Outstandingly Good! Great Performance!, 4 July 2013
By 
H. A. Weedon "Mouser" (North Somercotes, Lincolnshire, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)    (REAL NAME)   
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This review is from: Hector Berlioz - Les Troyens (Theatre du Chatelet, Paris 2003) [Blu-ray] [2010] [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
I'm so pleased I decided to invest in this sparkling production of Les Troyens, which envelopes the viewer-listener in an inspirational cascade of singing and orchestration superbly performed within an intriguingly mirrored stage setting. The costuming is among the best that's likely to be found anywhere. How wise it was not to attempt to dress the Greeks and Trojans in some form of quiche costumes purporting to represent how people actually dressed at the time of the Siege of Troy. The happy result is that we have here a masterpiece, in which singing, orchestration, acting, costuming and staging all blend together to create a superb production of this great work by Hector Berlioz. Both discs played perfectly on my blu-ray facility with first-rate picture and sound quality.

The end of the Siege of Troy and the entry of the wooden horse are covered in Acts I & II presented on disc one. Anna Caterina Antonacci, acting and singing her heart out, gives a spellbinding performance as Cassandra. Berlioz perfectly presents the frustration when someone knows she/he is right when everyone else thinks she/he is wrong. Cassandra epitomises great people such as Copernicus, Galileo and Darwin, whose discoveries, at the outset, were all vehemently rejected by virtually everyone. The truth is none of the cast can be faulted; they were all brilliant, which is not something that can be said very often about even the best productions.

Susan Graham's performance as Didon (Dido) was outstanding when the scene moves from Troy to Carthage in Acts III, IV and V and the legend of how the enmity between Rome and Carthage originated is played out. Since the praise already heaped upon this great production can only be repeated, there's little more to say save to heartily endorse it and the appreciation with which more erudite reviewers have already endowed this six star masterpiece. This is opera at its very best.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars How could i have ignored this for so long??, 21 Sep 2013
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Les Troyens is the most important oeuvre of french composer Hector Berlioz.
He is said to have been greatly influenced by Gluck whom had Salieri as a student and whose works influenced greatly Weber's and Wagner's. Being a fan of these I felt exhilarated by this work. It is not very often performed and, shame on me, i did not knew it.
This opera is poetic, epic and well served by a grand and respectfull staging. Nuit d'ivresse et d'extase will sweep you off your feet if you weren't already crying at the gandeur and noblesse of the Troyennes' sacrifice as greeks soldiers enter the city.
Voices: Ana Caterina Antonacci is a vibrant, passionate and of course desesperate Cassandre, she is at her best and yes you won't take your eyes out of her perfect figure.
Enee and Didon sing the most sensual duo, his voice nuanced and only powerfull where need be caressing and twirling around hers in a loving embrace. Fascinating.
This CD is an absolute buy.
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