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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More amazing rare Pergolesi from Jesi
Last year saw the Blu-ray release of Adriano in Siria, the first Pergolesi opera made available through a new initiative by the Fondazione Pergolesi Spontini to not only stage new editions of all the existing opera works by the composer - all of them rare, most all-but forgotten - but to have them all released to the public on DVD and, if we're lucky, Blu-ray. The hopes...
Published 23 months ago by Keris Nine

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1 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not applicable
As with 'Il Flaminio', this was a Christmas gift for a friend. The feedback from the receipient was somewhat cool due to the modern production. The singing, orchestra, etc was apparently OK.
Published 20 months ago by J. Hansen


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars More amazing rare Pergolesi from Jesi, 4 Oct 2012
By 
Keris Nine - See all my reviews
(TOP 500 REVIEWER)   
This review is from: Pergolesi: Il Prigionier/ Serva Padrona (Antonio Lozano/ Marina Rodríguez Cusí/ Marina de Liso/ Accademia Barocca de I Virtuosi Italiani/ Corrado Rovaris/ Henning Brockhaus) (Arthaus: 108068) [Blu-ray] [2012] (Blu-ray)
Last year saw the Blu-ray release of Adriano in Siria, the first Pergolesi opera made available through a new initiative by the Fondazione Pergolesi Spontini to not only stage new editions of all the existing opera works by the composer - all of them rare, most all-but forgotten - but to have them all released to the public on DVD and, if we're lucky, Blu-ray. The hopes raised by Adriano in Siria at the possibility of recovering some unheard of masterpieces are met with yet another extraordinary work (or should I say pair of works, since the composer's Intermezzos are also being recorded and released alongside the main works) in the 1732 dramma per musica Il Prigionier Superbo (The Proud Captive), which is released here alongside its rather more famous Intermezzo, La Serva Padrona. And, happily, it's another exceptionally well-performed production of a work that truly merits rediscovery and re-evaluation, which also looks and sounds just incredible in the High Definition Blu-ray format.

Il Prigionier Superbo, right from the outset, demonstrates a sense of melody and use of instruments that sounds to me quite unlike anything else from this period. The work as a whole reveals similarities to other contemporaneous composers in certain respects - an unrelenting rhythmic force that reminds one of Steffani, with some furious Vivaldian flurries and a sense of Handelian dignity in the how it carries the 'affetto' emotional core of the drama - but there is at the same time something unique about the way the musical approach reveals the emotions behind the drama. Directed by Corrado Rovaris and recorded in the intimate and acoustically sparkling surroundings of the Teatro G. B. Pergolesi in Jesi, it's the quality of the HD sound formats that reveal those telling details in the scoring and in the variety and use of the period instruments that the conductor and the Accademia Barocca de i Virtuosi Italiani tease out of a work that would otherwise seem fairly conventional in form. The musical arrangements rather seem to reflect the more involved circumstances and nature of Il Prigionier's drama, showing a sophistication that suggests deeper conflicting sentiments and even connections between the characters and their individual motivations.

Set for some reason within a cave, Henning Brockhaus' staging also reflects the complications and sophistication of the arrangements. Or at least it attempts to, but I'm not sure it doesn't just end up needlessly complicating things further. Nearly all the roles are played by females (Jesi seems to prefer the female voice to countertenors) who wear modern dresses, regardless of whether they are playing men or women, their roles ("artistic alter-egos" apparently according to the booklet) acted out by more traditionally attired near life-size marionettes. It makes it all a bit more visually interesting than the usually static nature of opera seria, enlivening the recitative sections in particular, but it's also a little cluttered and doesn't really add anything that couldn't be expressed a little more conventionally by the singers alone, since there is a very strong cast here more than capable of bringing it to life. There are no main starring role and no show-stopping arias, but each performer nonetheless has the opportunity to express their ability and serve the dramatic purpose through wonderfully written individual arias or scenes, and each of them rises to their moment with some fine singing. The success of the production lies not just in the singers or the direction then, but in how they are marvellously brought together, with consideration for the nuances of the music and for the drama as a whole.

It was the practice for Neapolitan opera to have a short comic farce for two or three singers played out in the intervals between the acts of the main 'dramma per musica', and Il Prigionier Superbo is paired here with its original Intermezzo - and the work that would come to eclipse it, at least in terms of historical importance - La Serva Padrona ('The Servant Turned Mistress'). It was this little comic interlude that would become the focus of a heated debate in France known as the 'Querelle des bouffons' (1752) over the superiority of Italian comic opera over the rather stuffy long-winded academicism of the royalty-approved native French form. It's not difficult to see why a work like La Serva Padrona would be so popular, its subject matter and irreverence showing a pre-revolutionary disrespect not only for the nobility, but also in how takes opera further away from the myths, gods and legends of opera seria by making common people and their down-to-earth affairs the subject of the work. You can see the influence this might have had on Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, but La Serva Padrona goes one step further here with its suggestiveness and the outrageous situation where a shameless maidservant, Serpina, not only demands to be treated as an equal with her exasperated master, Uberto, but also believes that she is worthy of marrying him and becoming the dominant one.

That's evidently not as shocking an idea now as it might have been back in 1732, and that's maybe why the director Henning Brockhaus chooses not to rely on the traditional setting of the noble/servant relationship, but sets it instead in a circus which is perhaps more in keeping with the farcical, colourful nature of the work and its historical legacy. Again though, rather like the staging for Il Prigionier Superbo, this doesn't really add anything to the work - which as an Intermezzo was never intended to be fully staged in any event - but it serves well enough for the comic elements that ensue. Aside from its historical importance, La Serva Padrona's reputation and fame is merited as a comic drama as well as for its musical qualities. It's only 50 minutes long and there is quite a bit of recitative within that, but there is also a great deal of humour in the situation and some lovely lyrical beauty in the arias which have the same effervescent character that is in all Pergolesi's compositions. It's sung and played reasonably well here with an appropriately light touch by Alessandra Marianelli and Carlo Lepore, even if it's not the most witty staging or interpretation of the work, but that could be as much to do with the work being placed in its original context for the first time in centuries alongside a work that now looks to be the superior achievement.

As indicated above, credit goes not just to Jesi for putting on these works, but also to distributors who are putting them out on Blu-ray, since the High Definition format allows these rare opera works to be fully appreciated by a wider public. The quality of the A/V on this Arthaus release is impressive, all the more so for the detail that the audio mixes in particular bring out of the period instruments and playing of the Accademia Barocca de i Virtuosi Italiani. Unlike the interweaving of Adriano in Siria and Livietta e Tracollo one within the other, the Dramma and the Intermezzo here were filmed on separate occasions (one in 2009, the other in 2011) and you have to watch each piece separately, which is probably preferable for the home viewer. The BD is all-region compatible with subtitles in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish and Korean.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Viva Pergolesi !, 29 Oct 2012
By 
H. A. Weedon "Mouser" (North Somercotes, Lincolnshire, UK) - See all my reviews
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The first thing to note about this pair of DVDs is that they come with both superb sound and picture quality. Better still, they are an absolute delight to listen to and watch, facts that are vastly helped by the excellent costumes, staging, presentation and musical accompaniment on period instruments.

In Il Prigionier Superbo, the ludicrous appearance of three attractive female singers playing trouser roles is happily offset by their outstanding singing: Mariona De Liso, contralto, as Metalce, King of the Goths; Marina Comparato, soprano, as Viridate Prince of Denmark; and Glacinta Nicotra, soprano, as Micisda, Prince of Bohemia. For example, one needed to have an especially well trained imagination to visualise the comely Mariona De Liso as a man as she strutted around in high heeled shoes showing off her well-shaped legs.

Marina Rodrigues Cuis, who played the role of Sostrates' daughter Rosmene, was superb, even though it seems strange to have a deeper female voice singing a female role when two higher pitched female voices are singing male roles. Ruth Rosique, soprano, was also very good in the part of Ericlea and Antonio Lozano was outstanding as Sostrate, King of Norway.

This opera was first performed in the Teatro San Bartolomeo in Naples on 5 September 1733 in the re-opened theatre after the earthquake on 29 November 1732. However, it was never very popular and soon faded from the repertoire. It was performed in 1997 with a revised score by Marcello Parmi, since when it has become much more popular. On 11th September 2009 it was again performed, using period instruments, in the Teatro Pergolesi in Jesi in a revision by Claudio Toscani. I, for one, am very pleased that it's come back. Maybe, when it first came out, it either wasn't as well performed as it is now, or people's tastes were different. Maybe it just keeps on improving, making this a recording of the best performance ever. It would certainly be nice to think so.

La Serva Patrona, originally composed, as was the custom in those days, as a light entertainment in two parts to be performed between the acts of Il Prigionier Superbo, proved to be much more popular than the work it was intended to supplement. In this production, the idea of staging it in a circus with the characters depicted as circus performers was a brilliant one. What can one say? It really is an absolute joy to watch and listen to. The music, singing and acting are all of the highest quality. Bravo Pergolesi! You created a masterpiece that's as relevant 300 years after your short life as it was when you wrote it. More than that, those of your other operas that weren't as well received during your lifetime, are now much more popular.

In La Serva Patrona, Alessandra Marianelli as Sepina and Carlo Lepore as Uberto deserve the highest praise for their interpretations of these characters and Jean Meringue in the silent role of Vespone was superb.

It's great stuff all round and I thoroughly recommend all of it. Apart from anything else, the music on both discs is very uplifting and inspiring, making for a pleasant and enjoyable evening and now I can listen to this great music any time I want to. I fail to see how any opera lover, or indeed, music lover, could be disappointed by these performances. Buy and enjoy!
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1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A guide to the original context of La Serva Padrona., 24 Nov 2012
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I have given this DVD only 4 stars because of the separation of Il Prigonier and La Serva Padrona on different discs.
It would have been in the composers spirit to hold on of the idea of a comic intermezzo in twoo parts.
A strange, but when you get used to it, meaningful idea of the director are the cocktaildresses of the singers,
whether they are woman or men (Il Prigonier).
Rather unusual the plot is placed in Norway, without any litterary or historical source. As a matter of fact the result
is not so childish, as one could expect. The intrigues and political interests from Sweden and Denmark in the
problem, who has to be the king of Norway, is not that far from historical facts. Only is the unbloody solution rather far
from reality in nothern Europe. But as the lover of Italian opera knows, you do'nt kill kings or other rulers in italian
opera.
The two protagonist in La Serva Padrona gives a charming performance in an unusual circussetting. The cunning
young lady is played by a very young and good looking italian singer, who at this moment is making here way from
minor roles to the more demanding repertoire.
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1 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not applicable, 23 Jan 2013
By 
J. Hansen "roma95" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Pergolesi: Il Prigionier/ Serva Padrona (Antonio Lozano/ Marina Rodríguez Cusí/ Marina de Liso/ Accademia Barocca de I Virtuosi Italiani/ Corrado Rovaris/ Henning Brockhaus) (Arthaus: 108068) [Blu-ray] [2012] (Blu-ray)
As with 'Il Flaminio', this was a Christmas gift for a friend. The feedback from the receipient was somewhat cool due to the modern production. The singing, orchestra, etc was apparently OK.
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