4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars
A revelation!, 9 Aug. 2013
After 25 years or so listening to pirate recordings, trying to catch some details from the blurry video of the Paris Opera production from 1985, ROH finally gives us a great and enjoyable (although heavily cut) version of this work by Meyerbeer, an opera that changed music history when first performed 182 years ago. Director Laurent Pelly and his team do their best to make a somewhat dated story appealing to modern audiences, using strong primary colors and clever cardboard, cutout-style scenery to tell us a medieval legend imbued with romantic, religious and supernatural elements -demons, chivalry, princesses, nuns, ghosts - so popular in its time but now largely out of fashion in our high-tech world. All singers involved make a great job (this is not an easy opera to sing) including the chorus, which have a good share of farcical choreographed episodes in this production. This is understandable given the comedy-like style director Pelly has imposed on some scenes, specially those where the character of Isabelle appears: she's no longer the classic, old-fashioned romantic heroine but a whimsical, nervous, capricious girl instead. This kind of acting, however, robs the music much of its beauty and elegance to the point of trivializing it, doing no favor to the composer's cause. Otherwise things go pretty smooth. The tournament scene from Act II is great, as well as the special effects in Act III where Bertram summons the hell forces, much in line with the storybook style of the production. A hot number is the (in)famous Ballet of the Nuns, also from Act III, with its no-holds-barred, frenzied, sexy choreography. The music flows excitingly thanks to the expert conducting of Daniel Oren. Robert was the model on which many of the greatest 19th century French operas were written. You will hear echoes of it in works by Gounod, Bizet, Thomas and even Offenbach, which attest for its long lasting influence and popularity. The DVD comes in a nice, attractive package, with great, clear picture and sumptuous, detailed sound. Shame on the producers, however, who did not include Spanish subtitles. They lost a great marketing opportunity: more than 450 million people speak the language, so why the omission??