on 31 October 2013
I couldn't disagree more strongly with the review by Nemea below. This is not "incomprehensible rubbish" at all. The production presents a simple but intelligent concept and sustains it very well throughout. What's not to comprehend? For a description of the concept, see the review by Keris Nine. This is Rossini's first opera, astonishingly written when he was just 14 (according to some sources, with some help). As such, it's hardly going to be one of his finest works, but it's very easy on the ear, with plenty of Rossini-esque toe-tapping tunes and many indicators of the genius that he would become. Like several of the other recent offerings from Pesaro, it is hard to imagine this rare work getting a better performance. There are only four singers in the cast (plus chorus) and all four are excellent. A very enjoyable release. I just wish they hadn't put Yijie Shi in a curly white wig - it makes him look more like a demented old lady than an action hero!
Sound and pictures are both superb. Technical details: 24-bit LPCM Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.
There's a wonderful double-take moment at the start of this 2010 Rossini Opera Festival production of Rossini's Demetrio e Polibio, which turns out to be a thoughtful way to present the work and at the same time manages to strike the perfect balance between the traditional performance and more modern conceptual. The stage curtain draws back at the opening to reveal a final curtain call of a performer for an unseen audience out the back of the stage. His self-congratulations out of the way, the stage hands having moved the sets to the wings, the scene is set for some ancient 'ghosts of opera past' to arise out of the packing cases to re-enact a historic performance of the drama of Rossini's Demetrio e Polibio.
It's a clever and effective compromise that works well for this one particular Rossini opera that needs a thoughtful and considered approach. Demetrio e Polibio is Rossini's first opera, which he started to compose when he was only 14 years old. The nature of this 'dramma serio' dictates to some extent that it leans more towards the model of composition of the 18th century rather than towards the new Italian opera model of the 19th century that Rossini would play such an important part in establishing. The influence of Mozart is evident in the musical approach in an early La Finta Giardiniera or Apollo et Hyacinthus style, if somewhat less adventurous in arrangements and technique, but it's surprising just how much of the Rossini sound is evident even at this early stage. The arrangements may have been tailor-made for the Mombelli family, but they also work to the advantage of the musical drama, the first act made-up almost entirely of duets, with only the bare minimum of recitative, allowing the bonds to be established between the characters much more effectively than solipsistic arias of emotional turmoil, and it builds up wonderfully towards a couple of skilfully arranged quartets.
Demetrio e Polibio would still however be little more than an early Rossini curiosity, a pleasant but dull and conventional drama, were it not for the wonderful effort put into every aspect of the work for the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, the first stage production of the work in 150 years. As well as evoking the spirit of the Mombelli family through the period costume ghosts that inhabit a modern opera stage and thereby taking the origin of the work into account, director Davide Livermore also uses the haunted stage element to make the opera something wonderful to watch by employing plenty of Illusionist trickery. There's relevance in this as well as entertainment, acknowledging the "old-style" theatricality of the work, but also using handheld flames to evoke the sparking of love and anger, while the proliferation of doubles, mirror images and disappearing acts all reflect the shifting identities of the characters. It makes a rather academic work seem much more meaningful and consistently entertaining.
The consideration given towards the presentation of this extremely rare work is also reflected in the delightful performance of the musicians, directed by Corrado Rovaris, and the singing performances. Bearing in mind that the difficulty of the roles as written was determined by the capabilities of the original cast, the singing is good across all the roles. Lisinga has the most challenging singing and María José Moreno takes in all the high notes - sometimes a little effortfull, but with great expressiveness. Demetrio has the most active role in the work as the villain of the piece (or perceived villain) and Yijie Shi demonstrates a fine Rossinian Italian tenor style that suits the role perfectly. The breeches role of Siveno doesn't have quite so many demands placed on it in terms of singing and mezzo-soprano Victoria Zaytseva is absolutely fine for the part, while Mirco Palazzi's reliable bass fulfils the requirements for Polibio with characteristic Rossinian verve. In terms of duets and ensemble work, the combination of their voices works beautifully in these lovely little arrangements.
On Blu-ray, this is another lovely package of a Rossini Opera Festival production. The High Definition transfer looks superb, and the stage design and direction is so strong that Tiziano Mancini doesn't have to resort to video trickery to make it any more interesting. The usual high quality audio tracks in PCM Stereo and DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 give a detailed account of the fine music and the singing performance, making this curiosity all the more fascinating to listen to. The subtitles are in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish and Korean. The English subtitles have some curiosities of translation - "No more husband have I, a villain has subtracted him from me" is one example, but they are mostly fine if a little stiff and literal. As well as some words on the production and a full synopsis in the accompanying booklet, there is a fine 14-minute 'Making Of' with interviews and behind the scenes footage on the disc itself.
on 30 November 2012
I think this is about the stupidest and most incomprehensible theatrical direction I have ever seen! Musically it's actually quite good, but the theatrical direction is only confusing, irritating and incomprehensible. Although to be honest the opening sequence (during the overture is quite amusing, though totally irrelevant to the opera, if not to Italian theatrical practices). I am not a 'Traditionalist' but I do believe that an opera production should add to the music and/or the libretto in some way. In this case a concert performance would have been preferable in every way. Why waste money on such rubbish?! The original libretto is, by modern standards pretty silly... why make things worse with half-baked pretentious ideas (trovate)? I also find that the sound track is slightly out of Synch... so much for blu-ray at least of Italian origin!