on 31 October 2013
OK - I will concede that this is not Rossini's greatest opera - BUT - anyone who likes Rossini's music will find plenty to enjoy. There is a full complement of toe-tapping tunes, spirited choruses and plenty of opportunity for the principal singers to show off. This is the only DVD/blu-ray release of this opera currently available - and I suspect it will remain so - however it is hard to imagine it getting a finer performance any time soon. All the principal singers are very good indeed - especially the always-wonderful Daniella Barcellona as the hero Ottone. Jessica Pratt is excellent as Adelaide and Bogdan Mihai as the hapless Adalberto shows why he is hotly tipped to be one of the next big things in Rossini singing. The production is mostly quite straightforward. It's updated from its "historical" setting of the 10th Century to the period of the Italian wars of independence, and there are a few minor oddities (see Keris Nine's review), but these do not get in the way. I found this blu-ray very enjoyable indeed and have watched it several times. Contrary to Michael John Littler's review below, there are subtitles in several languages, including English.
Sound and pictures are both superb. Technical details: 24-bit LPCM Stereo and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1.
Although this opera does not express Rossini at his best, it's nevertheless a worthwhile and enjoyable watch. On the whole it is directed, staged, sung and acted well with only a few minor annoyances. For instance, can anyone tell me why the role of Ottone (Otto I of Germany) is acted and sung by a woman, Daniela Barcellona? (She acted it very well) Was this how Rossini wanted it or is it someone else's idea and, if so, whose? Why was it decided to have kitsch medieval costumes instead of correct period costumes relating to the time during which the events in the opera are staged as having taken place (circa 950)?
This production is worth watching if only for the role of Adelaide, superbly sung and portrayed by Jessica Pratt. It's a real treat to listen to her singing in the bel canto style. All the players, including the chorus, are top notch and the minimalistic scenery is just right for the job. I got the feeling that this is a work in which Rossini was 'feeling his way'. Sparks of the great stuff are there, but the best is yet to come. I think many opera lovers will enjoy watching it and for a number of reasons. Apart from anything else, it shows us something of how a composer does things when he is feeling his way to lasting greatness.
Bogdan Mihai and Nicola Ulivieri were excellent as the two villains even if their roles did verge on the farcical at times. The combined efforts of all concerned has turned this lesser known, not as good as the best of Rossini, opera into something very enjoyable and well worth watching. Here we have the opposite of a great opera being spoiled by such things as bad staging, miscasting, poor direction and so on. Here we have a mediocre work greatly enhanced by sensible staging, good direction and first class orchestration, singing and acting. For myself, I can say I would certainly enjoy watching it much more than once. Jessica Pratt's performance alone makes it all worthwhile. She really is very good. I just get the feeling that here we have a team of dedicated people, with the audience in mind, all giving of their best to lift a lesser known work to the heights of enjoyment for opera lovers. Bravo! Many thanks! You deserve five stars.
Composed in 1817 for Rome between the writing of Armida and Mosè in Egitto for Naples, Adelaide di Borgogna has all the signs of being a commission hastily filled by the composer to a classic template of war, revolution and romance, with a historical background of Italian significance. It's the kind of subject that Verdi would later make his own and, without underestimating the importance of the Rossini influence, often do it with considerably more character than it is done here in Adelaide di Borgogna. It's not the composer's greatest work then, but being Rossini it's not entirely without merit either, and the right kind of singing and staging could certainly bring out its qualities. Recorded at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro in 2011, director Pier' Alli and conductor Dmitri Jurowski certainly make the best of the work and are assisted with some fine singing performances, but overall the work still remains problematic.
The main problem with Adelaide di Borgogna is that proves to be a difficult opera to stage dramatically. There's a solid historical foundation to the work, which is based around the year 951 on the campaigns of the German Emperor Otto the Great, even if it has all the usual operatic mannerisms, coincidences and twists that we have become familiar with in historical romances. That at least gives the composer plenty of material to work with and the principal pleasure of the work then is indeed in listening to Rossini's spirited musical arrangements for the piece. It also helps that the performance of it here under Dmitri Jurowski is simply wonderful. Regardless of whether the music is the most expressive - sometimes it's fairly conventional, repetitive and monotonous - Jurowski varies the pace and seems to pitch the tone perfectly for demands of each scene. You could hardly ask for a more sympathetic account, and it makes all the difference.
Dramatically however, it remains a little creaky, with lots of off-stage to-and-fro action in Act II. Pier' Alli's production is also a little creaky in places and a little baffling in others, but it does manage to enliven the proceedings somewhat. The approach to the sets and costume design is classically traditional for the most part, with some ravishing gold and green colour schemes. To give it a little extra dimension however, Alli uses back projections of filmed sequences and some 3-D modelling, with an emphasis (I'm not sure why) on water and rain. Although there are one or two questionable touches - soldiers in raincoats duelling with umbrellas - the visuals are striking enough to give some dramatic focus to the work and help it get through some of the duller or less inspired sections of the work. Even if they don't entirely succeed, the musical performance and the staging do their best to bring this work to life. So too do the singers, and rather more impressively.
As Adelaide, Jessica Pratt gives a strong performance of a tricky role in terms of its dramatic and singing demands, and she manages to bring the role to life with some degree of character. The drama might revolve around Adelaide, but Ottone is another critical role and it's in safe hands with Daniela Barcellona. If there are any minor weaknesses in delivery of one or two notes, it's entirely down to the demands of live performance, as otherwise they are most impressive individually and in how the voices blend and complement each other. The Adelaide/Ottone Act I duet 'Mi dai corone e vita' is just marvellous. Similarly, Bogdan Mihai and Nicola Ilivieri are good fits for the roles of Adelberto and Berengario and work well within the whole ensemble. This is demonstrated most notably in the quartet at the end of Act I, which is typically well-organised in Rossini's management and orchestration of the rising drama. Even if it never entirely comes together convincingly as a whole, it's such moments that make Adelaide di Borgogna well worth viewing as an enjoyable minor Rossini opera.
Arthaus give us another nice Blu-ray package for this 2011 Rossini Opera Festival production. On a BD50 disc, the image is fine and detailed, with the usual fine PCM stereo and DTS HD-Master Audio 5.1 tracks. There is a wonderful rich, fullness of sound in this production from a relatively small orchestra that comes across well and gives the production an extra musical boost. There is a 17-minute Making Of feature on the disc, which has interviews with Jurowski and Alli, with emphasis on the unique elements of this production of the work. The disc is all-region compatible, and subtitles are in Italian, English, German, French, Spanish and Korean.
on 6 May 2015
This was a Rossini opera I hadn't heard of but I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story was slightly strange, all about rapid toos and fros in a war which often happened rather quickly without always making a lot of sense. It was also a slightly strange production but watching the 'bonus' explained where the producer was coming from. But I loved the music and thought it an excellent performance, I especially fell for Jessica Pratt's singing. One other point, the subtitles are very difficult to find but they are there