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A fine modern version to consider along with favoured versions from previous generations,
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This review is from: Cilea - Adriana Lecouvreur [Blu-ray]  [Region Free] (Blu-ray)
This opera was put on at the ROH in 2010 after an absence of some 100 years and as a direct response to a request by Angela Gheorghiu with a view to her singing the title role. She has been surrounded with a cast of impeccable calibre, a director of vision, a sensitive conductor and supported by an orchestra which has never played better than at present.
David McVicar's new production is totally in period and can be reasonably described as essentially 'traditional.' It is typically lavish in its detail and, importantly, is able to clarify the complexities of the evolving plot as the overlapping layers of the stage world and the `real' world increasingly mingle in Adriana's mind.
The choice of cast in this opera is especially crucial in several respects. The singers must clearly be able to sing well of course, but in an opera set in an acting environment, they must also be able to act particularly well. On top of this, with themes of love, jealousy and revenge, these passionate relationships must be believable and, for me, this requires believable age ranges in the casting. In all of these respects this production is faultless.
Gheorghiu, in a title role that she particularly identifies with, produces one of her finest performances both as a singer and as a multi-layered actress. In these respects she is ideally partnered with Jonas Kaufmann who is an outstanding actor/singer on the world stage today. Alessandro Corbelli stands out as the disappointed lover/admirer giving 100% support for Adriana throughout. Olga Borodina as the jealous Princess is as mercilessly domineering as required. All the other supporting roles are of equal calibre.
There is a particularly revealing 23 minute bonus in the form of interweaving interview extracts given by director David McVicar, set designer Charles Edwards, conductor Mark Elder and the two lead singers, Angela Gheorghiu and Jonas Kaufmann during which all offer detailed comments about the opera generally and this production in particular.
In terms of recording quality the camera work is superb and involving and provides the great clarity of imaging typical of HD. The sound is simply wonderful and fully up to the standards that one would expect from a recording company with the pedigree of Decca. It is presented in DTS-HD as well as stereo.
I would suggest that this is an outstanding modern production and performance of a fine and often under-rated opera. It deserves to be seen as a benchmark modern recording to be considered in that light and separate to older recordings. Those may bring various other virtues such as particular alternative production values or interpretive insights but they cannot compete in terms of a modern HD recording experience as presented on this disc. This disc therefore brings together an impressive number of plus points which should give considerable satisfaction to all but those in favour of more established but older recordings.
I summary therefore, I would suggest that, when specifically judged on its own terms as above, it deserves to be considered very seriously along with other more vintage performances of repute. It also has the considerable advantages of fine visuals and sonics of a modern recording as previously mentioned which should give enormous additional pleasure to most future purchasers.
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...
Thank you (UK review)
I'd also add to this. When you in particular review a particular CD, I pay pretty close attention. I would say the characteristics of your reviews I value the most are the detail and general sense of balance and fairness that comes across. That's a great help. Thanks for taking the time on your reviews. (US review)