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on 10 November 2013
I was fortunate enough to attend the concert performance of Les Troyens at the 2012 Proms, with the same forces as recorded here. That was impressive enough, but this completely blew me away.

First of all, there is the staging. The visuals are quite simply superb, and the fire-breathing horse will make your jaw drop!

Then the cast. Bryan Hymel stepped in for an indisposed Jonas Kaufmann, and his final act aria brought a standing ovation both in the Royal Albert Hall and here. His singing is exemplary throughout, and his chemistry with Eva-Maria Westbroek as Dido is palpable.

For me, though, the standout performance comes from Anna Caterina Antonacci as Cassandra. Her portrayal of the prophetess doomed never to be believed was electrifying, both visually and vocally.

The lesser roles were all well sung, and Antonio Pappano conducted the ROH Orchestra with purpose and a real understanding of Berlioz's music.

This production is a triumph from start to finish, and has to be seen to be appreciated. A must-buy.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERon 13 November 2011
Unusually I would like to commence this review with an overall summary comment that in my opinion this issue is as fine as we have any right to expect with a sympathetic setting of the opera, excellent surround sound, sympathetic camera work and fine musical values throughout.

The opera is a complete dramatic work with extended dance and purely musical scenes or sections placed within the vocal parts. In this respect it is typical of the French approach to opera of the time as being a whole evening's entertainment but on a vastly greater scale than usual. The Russians share this comprehensive view too. This all-embracing concept suits the epic nature of the story of course.

Berlioz writes this in two parts which subdivide into 5 acts - the Greek's defeat by the Trojans followed by events in Carthage essentially concerning the doomed relationship between Queen Dido and Aeneas.

The production of this epic work is also suitably epic with full use made of the staging to create grandeur. The use of a mirrored wall in the first part is effective in increasing the sense of spectacle so that this is achieved without actual overcrowding. The second part by contrast, uses open spaces, clean cut colours and costuming to create a sense of an upwardly mobile and successful society.

The whole production is of extraordinary vision and rises impressively to scale all the heights. The cast is uniformly excellent throughout. Standout performances are given by Antonacci in the over-wrought role of Cassandra in the first part and this is matched by the conflicted role of Dido as portrayed by Graham. Gregory Kunde provides a good Aeneas in support and Tezier is a well-sung partner to Antonacci in the first part, even though I personally find that his regular lack of eye contact with those he is singing to is dramatically distracting. Still, this is just a personal view which may not be shared by others! All other supporting singers, including the chorus are of equally fine standards. The orchestra under the strong direction of Gardiner is excellent on their period instruments.

There is an extended documentary as an hour's extra which is as detailed as anyone would wish for.

It is very unlikely that there will be a serious challenger to this impressive production in the foreseeable future. The imaging is wonderfully clear and detailed without being invasive and the sound quality is superb in its DTS Master Audio format. In my opinion there cannot be any serious reason to deny this issue the full 5 stars.
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on 19 August 2010
Presented across two dual-layer BD50 Blu-ray discs, Berlioz's adaptation of Virgil's The Aeneid is truly an epic undertaking, both in terms of the production and the opera itself. His penultimate opera, Les Troyens is considered to be the composer's masterpiece, and indeed it brings together all the elements and the variety that is characteristic of Berlioz's range, from darkness to light, from blood and thunder to tender lyricism, with rousing choruses, dramatic singing performances, musical interludes and dance sequences.

Despite that, the opera was never performed in full during the lifetime of the composer, the first two acts dealing with the fall of Troy to the Greeks despite Cassandra's highly emotive premonitions of doom, excised in favour of the Trojans in Carthage section of Acts 3 to 5. There is certainly a strong division between the two parts, with many of the principal's inevitably dying at the sacking of Troy at the end of Act 2, including Cassandra and her lover Choreobus (Hector already dead before the start of the opera nevertheless makes a highly effective appearance at the start of the Second Act in the form of a projected apparition), but it's hard to imagine the opera feeling complete without the darkness and the powerful impact of the first half. Anna Caterina Antonacci, in particular, showing what the role of Cassandra has to offer the opera as a whole, a striking contrast to Susan Graham's Dido, who dominates the second half, though no less effectively.

As the surviving Trojans flee, they receive temporary shelter in the North African city of Carthage established recently by exiles from Tyre, under the rule of Queen Dido. Both exiles, the respective leaders of the two tribes, Aeneas and Dido, find comfort for their loss in love for each other, but only until the gods remind Aeneas of his duty to lead his people to Italy. In contrast to the opening acts, the second half of Les Troyens consequently covers a wider range of emotions and the musical accompaniment is likewise as broad and as colourful as the set designs for Carthage, the tone darkening again at the end in a manner that echoes the restored opening of the opera.

The 2003 production at the Châtelet in Paris is accordingly spectacular, the stage filled with movement and action, but never cluttered, the score dominated often by the power of the choral writing, but individual roles are strong and the performances are exceptional, Gregory Kunde a fine Aeneas to stand alongside Antonacci and Graham. Everything about the production, the orchestra under the direction of Sir John Eliot Gardiner, is of the highest order, every single scene offering something of fascination and wonder, whether it is in the music, the singing or the staging. But, particularly in this full version of Les Troyens, there is an overall impression of completeness here - total opera.

Les Troyens is perfectly presented on Blu-ray, the division between the two parts of the opera much better than on the 3-disc DVD edition. Act 1 and 2 are on the first disc along with the extra features, the other three acts on the second disc. Image and sound can hardly be faulted, the audio presented in PCM 2.0 and DTS HD Master Audio 5.1. The tone on the surround track is soft and warm rather than clean and precise, but the dynamic range is nonetheless excellent, handling the extremes well, and it is well suited to the arrangement. The hour-long documentary features contributions from the main performers and makes some interesting observations, but is over-long, being mostly made up of a complete walk-through of the synopsis by John Eliot Gardiner, illustrated with extended sequences from the opera.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERon 13 November 2011
Unusually, I would like to commence this review with an overall summary comment that in my opinion this is as fine as we have any right to expect with a sympathetic setting of the opera, excellent surround sound, sympathetic camera work and fine musical values throughout.

The opera is a complete dramatic work with extended dance and purely musical scenes or sections placed within the vocal parts. In this respect it is typical of the French approach to opera of the time as being a whole evening's entertainment but on a vastly greater scale than usual. The Russians share this comprehensive view too. This all-embracing concept suits the epic nature of the story of course.

Berlioz writes this in two parts which subdivide into 5 acts - the Greek's defeat by the Trojans followed by events in Carthage essentially concerning the doomed relationship between Queen Dido and Aeneas.

The production of this epic work is also suitably epic with full use made of the staging to create grandeur. The use of a mirrored wall in the first part is effective in increasing the sense of spectacle so that this is achieved without actual overcrowding. The second part by contrast, uses open spaces, clean cut colours and costuming to create a sense of an upwardly mobile and successful society.

The whole production is of extraordinary vision and rises impressively to scale all the heights. The cast is uniformly excellent throughout. Standout performances are given by Antonacci in the over-wrought role of Cassandra in the first part and this is matched by the conflicted role of Dido as portrayed by Graham. Gregory Kunde provides a good Aeneas in support and Tezier is a well-sung partner to Antonacci in the first part, even though I personally find that his regular lack of eye contact with those he is singing to is dramatically distracting. Still, this is just a personal view which may not be shared by others! All other supporting singers, including the chorus are of equally fine standards. The orchestra under the strong direction of Gardiner is excellent on their period instruments.

There is an extended documentary as an hour's extra which is as detailed as anyone would wish for.

It is very unlikely that there will be a serious challenger to this impressive production in the foreseeable future. The imaging is wonderfully clear and detailed without being invasive and the sound quality is superb in its DTS Master Audio format. In my opinion there cannot be any serious reason to deny this issue the full 5 stars.
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on 13 November 2014
Just excellent Wonderful opera and everything about this DVD is wonderful
Cassandra is indescribably wonderful - but the opera is good enough to continue after her exit!!
Strongly recommend it - I am sure many people will wonder, as I do, why this masterpiece is pretty well unknown and unrated.
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on 17 December 2013
Bought on a whim and glad I did so. Never watched /listened to such a wonderful performance. One after another of top quality singers . I watched spellbound (my partner said). This will not be a DVD that's just left on the shelf to gather dust !!!!!
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on 24 May 2014
this item is very good quality, the item was presented as the best choise by a very good classical critical book. and it's true, sounds are great
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on 22 September 2004
This new production of Les Troyens at the Chatelet had been one of the major events in the celebrations for the 200th birthday of one of France's greatest composers, Hector Berlioz. Les Troyens is one of the greatest masterpieces of 19th century opera, one that stands alongside with Verdi's 'Otello' and Wagner's 'Tristan and Isolde'.
Director/designer Yannis Kokkos created wonderful classical sets, brown - gray for the first two acts, white - blue for the second part of the opera and directed a very effective and moving show.
John Eliot Gardiner conducted his Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique magnificently. Various period brass instruments are used on stage according to Berlioz instructions. The Monteverdi Choir combined with the Chatelet Choir make a wonderful and precise sound. The linkage of the music of Berlioz with Gluck is presented here more than in any other performance of this masterpiece I have heard in the past.
Major roles have been given to lighter-voiced singers than one usually associates with this score, but Gardiner assembled a great cast of wonderful singers - actors. Anna Caterina Antonacci is a magnificent Cassandra: a beautiful woman, a fascinating actress. She has a real sense of the text and sings with great beauty. Susan Graham sings a great performance of Dido with big violence and involvement for the tragic last scene of the opera.
Tenor Gregory Kunde sings a lot of bel canto roles, while the heroic Aeneas needs voices like Vickers, Heppner etc. but Kunde as Aeneas is a great surprise. Ludovic Tezier as Chorebe is one of the best baritones singing in French. Mark Padmore sings Iopas aria 'Blonde Ceres' beautifully, and Laurent Naouri is an impressive Narbal. So is the young Mezzo from Croatia Renata Pokupic. Tenor Topi Lehtipuu sings the young sailor Hylas's Act V aria 'Valon sonore' beautifully.
Great opera. Magnificent performance!
Highly recommended. Should be in every opera fan collection.
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on 13 October 2013
What a wonderful work of art! I had high hopes for the new Troyens, and this production exceeded my expectations!
First and foremost, I expect a new work of art to provide me new visions, things I haven't seen before, and here the director David McVicar and the team do deliver plenty of food for the brain, and then some! The stunning sets are by Es Devlin, and they are wonderful trough the length of Les Troyens.
For example, look at the giant, mechanical Trojan horse, posing on the cover of the Blu-ray! It took over a year to cast all the pieces, attention to detail is mind-boggling.

Les Troyens is sometimes called a French counterpart to Wagner's Ring, and this production does remind me of the Robert Lepage's new Ring for the Met, in a sense that it also made a grand masterpiece truly work for me, for a first time. The conductor Antonio Pappano seems to have taken a similar (correct) approach to the music, as Levine and Luisi had done with the Ring, less historical baggage, more beauty.
There are many things, that can go less than perfectly with an opera production, but when it really works, there's nothing better. Here we have an example, where *everything* worked; the lighting is wonderful, as are the costumes (all 100+ of them!). The dance choreographies are contemporary, bold, and exciting, alone worth more than the price of this marvelous Blu-ray. The video direction is faultless, it's all good.
The singing is of very high quality, and all the singers look their parts, a very important factor with a filmed production. The ROH orchestra is in a great form, as well.

And then there is the technical quality. This Blu-ray (2 of them) has the best image quality I have seen on a regular 1080 resolution Blu-ray disc, and by some margin.
I can only speculate, but I'd have to guess, that the ROH has acquired 4K resolution cameras, and the video has then been downscaled to 1080i. The image is truly striking, it's simultaneously pin-sharp and smooth-looking; after seeing this, regular Blu-rays look rather grainy.
The blacks are inky, shadow detail is good, colors are very saturated, and there's virtually no noise in the image. The image looks simply stunning, when projected to wall-size.
I really enjoyed the sound quality, as well. The orchestra has been recorded in great detail, with the sound stage close to the listener, a logical choice, when viewing the proceedings at a close range.
The grand choral scenes (chorus master Renato Balsadonna) were recorded with great skill, the sound is layered and 3-dimensional. There's no oppressive, bulky weight, that can burden the listener with these types of scenes. Full points!

The opera comes in a beautiful 2 disc boxed set, with an 80-page booklet. The disc production is great, as well, the opera can be started with an introduction by Pappano, and you don't have to surf the menus to choose English subs and DTS sound, they have been pre-selected (other options are available). Extra materials are good, again.

I rate this production tied 1st, with about 10 other great productions, for the best opera production I have seen. Two of those 10 are also directed by McVicar, Giulio Cesare in Glyndebourne, and Salome with ROH, both are available as Opus Arte Blu-rays. None of those Blu-rays have the technical quality of this one, though, so I have to rate this as the best Blu-ray currently available.
It's also a great, easily accessible opera, and a good, beautiful gift item, that would also work as a good introduction to opera
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on 13 October 2004
This new production of Les Troyens at the Chatelet had been one of the major events in the celebrations for the 200th birthday of one of France's greatest composers, Hector Berlioz. Les Troyens is one of the greatest masterpieces of 19th century opera, one that stands alongside with Verdi's 'Otello' and Wagner's 'Tristan and Isolde'.
Director/designer Yannis Kokkos created wonderful classical sets, brown - gray for the first two acts, white - blue for the second part of the opera and directed a very effective and moving show.
John Eliot Gardiner conducted his Orchestre Revolutionnaire et Romantique magnificently. Various period brass instruments are used on stage according to Berlioz instructions. The Monteverdi Choir combined with the Chatelet Choir make a wonderful and precise sound. The linkage of the music of Berlioz with Gluck is presented here more than in any other performance of this masterpiece I have heard in the past.
Major roles have been given to lighter-voiced singers than one usually associates with this score, but Gardiner assembled a great cast of wonderful singers - actors. Anna Caterina Antonacci is a magnificent Cassandra: a beautiful woman, a fascinating actress. She has a real sense of the text and sings with great beauty. Susan Graham sings a great performance of Dido with big violence and involvement for the tragic last scene of the opera.
Tenor Gregory Kunde sings a lot of bel canto roles, while the heroic Aeneas needs voices like Vickers, Heppner etc. but Kunde as Aeneas is a great surprise. Ludovic Tezier as Chorebe is one of the best baritones singing in French. Mark Padmore sings Iopas aria 'Blonde Ceres' beautifully, and Laurent Naouri is an impressive Narbal. So is the young Mezzo from Croatia Renata Pokupic. Tenor Topi Lehtipuu sings the young sailor Hylas's Act V aria 'Valon sonore' beautifully.
Great opera. Magnificent performance!
Highly recommended. Should be in every opera fan collection.
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