Top positive review
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Vibrant cast and bubbling over with good-humoured sizzle. Terrific fun and the BD delivers better quality than the DVD
on 23 November 2011
This recording of L'Elisir d'Amore was made in 2005 at the Vienna State Opera. This is quite a small theatre and this has an impact on the production which is rather more intimate in feel than is often the case with larger venues.
The production is firmly traditional with completely believable costumes and set. The chorus have quite a large vocal and dramatic role in this opera so they need to be actively participative both collectively and individually. This is achieved very well throughout this performance.
The two star roles of Adina and Nemorino dominate this opera and feature Anna Netrebko and Rolando Villazon at a fairly early stage in their respective careers when both have the freshness of youth on their side. It is quite clear from numerous glances and more obvious interactions that they seem to have a special empathy with each other and this makes a huge difference to the veracity of the performance and to the viewers' enjoyment as the story unfolds on the stage. Both are in fine voice too and the stand-out aria is the touching `Una furtiva lagrima' sung most affectingly by Villazon and which leads to prolonged demands for an encore from the highly enthusiastic audience. They are suitably rewarded and their renewed applause almost stops the show! Netrebko is by no means over-shadowed by this however as her immediately preceding aria `Quanto amore!' is of the same calibre.
Leo Nucci as Belcore is clearly no more the young man as described by Adina but he has a twinkle in the eye which cannot be missed and obviously enjoys playing his role opposite the very attractive and nimble Netrebko. This genuine attraction has the effect of encouraging Nucci to shed years and to bring out some of the most vibrant acting I have ever seen from him. His voice is still in very good shape so he makes a good character part. Ildebrando D'Arcangelo as the wily Dulcamara also clearly relishes his role in much the same sort of way as Nucci and he is really very amusing as well as being vocally excellent.
Humour and amusement are strong features of this production and much of this stems from the very vibrant interactions between the above mentioned members of the cast and this is quite in addition to the humour built into the script. There are many, seemingly improvised, moments of humour sometimes verging on the slapstick such as Villazon tripping and bumping into things in a bumbling manner, his skilful turn of juggling with 3 apples (he was a circus performer at one time), Netrebko closing his mouth opened in astonishment plus many more small instances of natural good humour.
The orchestra under Alfred Eschwe is on good form and the on-stage trumpeter, Konrad Monsberger, is a nice visual touch.
The camera work is able to draw the viewer into the action very well and the imaging is crisp with good colour throughout. The sound is good but microphone placing produces moments of reduced volume from the solo singers as they move slightly out of optimum range. The effect is actually more realistic in the crowd scenes for example where the chorus is more powerfully projected compared to the more recessed balance of the soloists. I would not wish to make too much of this as I personally prefer this than the more even, but totally fake effect, of the radio mikes now becoming regrettably more commonplace. The sound is presented in DD 5.0, DTS 5.0 and stereo. The playback level is far lower than normal but can be adjusted via the volume control, in my case by about 4.5 dB.
The recent Blu-ray version differs in presentation slightly from the DVD by offering stereo or surround sound but does not give further information as to which type of surround sound. The low level playback is identical to the DVD but the picture is crisper than the DVD as expected. The biggest gain is the added depth to the sound and this is apparent from the start of the overture. The BD version is from the HD source material and is the result of Warner taking over EMI and making BD versions available. Neither the DVD not the BD offer sleeve note information about track listings or the opera plot and could be described as extremely minimalist.
This is a most enjoyable production and performance absolutely bubbling with vivacity. The cast interactions on stage seem to be very specially combined and this extra sizzle is very much appreciated by the enthusiastic audience. The whole effect is enhanced by the more intimate nature of the relatively small theatre. I would expect purchasers of this disc to derive great pleasure from it on repeat viewings and therefore it seems reasonable to suggest that this is very much a 5 star product despite the few instances of slightly recessed solo voices.