Subject: I have found a DVD that I think you would enjoy
|Rossini - Il Viaggio a Reims|
Actors: Valery Gergiev, Daniil Shtoda, Larissa Youdina, Anna Kiknadze, Irma Guigolachvili
Director: Alain Maratrat
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts
Rossini's Rarely Revived Comic Opera
J Scott Morrison | Middlebury VT, USA | 05/30/2007
(4 out of 5 stars)
"This is the second DVD of Rossini's 'Il Viaggio a Reims' I've had the good fortune to review. The first, released in 2004, came from the Liceu in Barcelona and although musically pretty good it was tainted by its having been updated, set in 1900 Europe but with back-projections of Hitler's Germany and the Vietnam war. It aimed for 'big thoughts' and considering the silly plot of the opera itself, made little sense and was mildly repellent as a result. My review of that DVD can be read here: Rossini - Il Viaggio a Reims.
I shall repeat part of my plot summary from that earlier review:
'Il Viaggio a Reims' is an extremely difficult opera to produce, largely because it requires the services of ten first-class soloists as well as four other singers who can hold their own in the huge ensemble that closes the first part of the opera. It was Rossini's last Italian opera and was, in its time, strictly a pièce d'occasion (written for the coronation of France's King Charles X) that he did not expect ever to be staged again; indeed, knowing this he recycled much of the music for his later sparkling French comedy, 'Le Comte Ory.' The piece lay unproduced for almost 200 years before it was mounted at Pesaro, Italy (Rossini's birthplace and the site of the Rossinian Pesaro Festival) in 1984. That production was recorded by Deutsche Grammophon and made a huge splash in the operatic world at the time. (It is still available at Amazon.) It featured such star singers as Katia Ricciarelli, Samuel Ramey, Ruggero Raimondi, Lella Cuberli, Cecilia Gasdia, Lucia Valentini Terrani, Francisco Araiza, Edoardo Gimenez, Leo Nucci and Enzo Dara. And since the plot of the work is structured by Rossini primarily as a showpiece for reigning singing stars of his time, the story-line is weak and simply an opportunity to line up a string of arias, duets, and other ensembles, with no semblance of credibility or dramatic engagement. The plot, simply, is that a group of European nobility and gentry making their way to Reims for the coronation of the French king are stuck in a spa, called the Golden Lily, and cannot make the last leg of the trip because there are no horses and carriages to be hired. They turn their virtual imprisonment there into a house party, with plenty of opportunity for romantic intrigues and self-made entertainment (lots of singing, of course!). Thus, this long one-act opera is rather similar to the 'entertainment' so often provided in Act II of gala productions of 'Die Fledermaus.' As a result, one can say that a recorded or concert performance gives us most of the 'juice' of the piece without the distraction (or enhancement, if you prefer) of the silly plot.
This staging, a joint production of Paris's Théâtre Châtelet and St. Petersburg's Mariinsky Theatre, was filmed in 2005 at the Châtelet. The musicians are all Russian: Valery Gergiev leads the Mariinsky Chorus and Orchestra, with soloists from the Academy of Young Singers of the Mariinsky Theatre. Few of the singers are known in the West, although Daniil Shtoda, the tenor singing Count Libenskof, and Larissa Yudina, soprano singing the Countess Folleville, are reasonably well-known now. All the rest of the singers are young, attractive, dramatically apt and mostly quite satisfactory. Their voices do not match those of the classic (and first-ever) recording from the Pesaro Festival, made in 1984. And most of them are perhaps a notch below the singers in the Liceu DVD. But the staging -- or semi-staging, I should say (more about that below) -- is miles ahead of the Liceu's production in terms of it being frothy, humorous and engaging.
The Mariinsky Orchestra is seated at the rear of the Châtelet stage and all the action takes place in front of them. Considering that the singers cannot see Gergiev's baton it is amazing that there are no observable bobbles in musical synchronization. Singers interact in the shallow space in front of the orchestra and on a T-shaped runway that projects out into the auditorium, the latter allowing for some humorous interaction with the audience. The Chorus, acting as stagehands, set in place and then strike the various pieces of scenery and furniture that are required. This minimalist approach actually enhances the generally light-hearted approach to this most light-hearted of Rossini's operas.
Costumes are brightly colored, just slightly exaggerated for effect. Libenskof, dressed in Russian officer's uniform complete with astrakhan, arrives on a white horse and drinking shots of vodka. Countess Folleville is a voluptuously shaped and vacuous bottle-blond with a striking resemblance to Anna Nicole Smith. Corinna, a famous improvising poetess, makes her first appearance in a voluminous feathery costume and headdress, both lit from within; her entrance elicits gales of laughter from the audience. Count Trombonok makes his first appearance by standing up in the trombone section (get it?), holding a trombone. Shots of the audience, including some children, show them to be delighted throughout the show.
Musical highlights include the marvelous 'gran pezzo concertato a 14 voci' "Ah! A tal colpo inaspettato", the duet between Libenskof (Shtoda) and Countess Melibea (Anna Kiknadze), the Sextet 'Sì, di matti una gran gabbia', and the hilarious finale in which various of the guests sing a song representative of their country of origin. One always hopes that the aria of Don Profondo, 'Medaglie incomparabili' will be as wonderful as Ruggero Raimondi's rendition in the 1984 Pesaro recording, but we are terribly let down here. Still, I prefer this DVD, slightly, to the earlier Liceu version because of the staging. The singers may not, on the whole, be quite as good as those from the Liceu but the dramatic (or, perhaps I should say, comic) effect in this production is superior.
So. If you need a DVD of this bubbly opera, this is probably the one to have, by a small margin over the Liceu production.
Sound: LPCM Stereo or DTS 5.1; Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian; 16:9 anamorphic; TT=135mins.
Jerry Floyd | Washington, D.C. USA | 08/02/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw a live performance of this production a few months back and while the DVD doesn't fully capture all the wacky comic antics that happen onstage and in the auditorium, it's nonetheless a fun performance.
Who knew the Russian opera singers could do such a great job intoning Rossini's high-flying coloratura passages or that they were such masterful comedians? Or that the Kirov Opera Orchestra and Valery Gergiev could play Rossini's music with such panache?
This staging (co-produced by the Theatre Chatalet and the Kirov) was rehearsed for a year and the results are well worth it. The DVD quality is terrific; this is a fun, colorful performance for the entire family and for anyone who loves musical theatre!"
ABSOLUTELLY GREAT AND ENJOYABLE
Chilean Opera lover | Santiago, Chile | 11/08/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"All Russian cast, orchestra and conductor for a Rossini opera? ... not a good forecast until you watch this DVD. REALLY GREAT.
As I have stated in other reviews, for a real good Rossini performance is needed an Italian conductor and hopefully an all italian cast too. I am glad to realize that there are exceptions as is this case. This is a great performance. Gergiev conducting makes the music flow with expertise during the whole opera. The difficulty here is that the orchestra is on the back of the stage so the conductor can not see the singers. But it seems that this did not cause any trouble at all.
The cast are all youg russian singers. Each one performed more than great and higly convincing the difficult roles for the large cast. The only negative point here are some minor diction problems.
The stage is almost empty and what makes the difference here is the eye-catching costumes, some of them very funny including some make up.
The way the stage is designed and the stage direction allows continuous action and gives vitality to the great individual and group performances. It allows interacion with the audience too. All this compensate the empty stage.
This is really the way to perform a comic opera. You will enjoy the music, the singing, the acting, the costumes, and laugh too watching the DVD, and at the same time makes you wish to have been there live. Really a pleasure to watch in all senses. You will not regret to buy it."
Let's be generous
Brantwood | Buffalo By USA | 12/15/2008
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Scott Morrison places all of us in his debt with his splendid review, with all its background material and the history of this magnificent opera. As a result my own effort is much shorter; essentially ALL it sets out to do is
1. Urge you to buy this DVD.
2. Suggest that when Mr Morrison's review is read along with all the others, it seems somewhat ungenerous of him to stop at four in the star assignment, considering the unique effort that came to consummation in the Chatelet performances. Such manifestations of esprit de corps as we see on this disc, in my judgment, along with all the other qualities on display, demand, require, a five-star review.
3. Share a moment I treasure: Having seen it (and LOVED it) at the New York State Theatre, I went to see the City Opera's witty and quirky production of IL VIAGGIO when it was revived by the Canadian Opera Company in Toronto. (WHAT a TRAGEDY it is that so many SUPERB NYCO went totally unrecorded, even in an archival format, under the long-standing contract with its union musicians.) (I am a life-long supporter of all trades unions on principle, but sometimes I am appalled at the short-sighted protectionist decisions that are made.) As I left the Hummingbird Centre, I realized that I was right behind the finest music critic of my lifetime - the incomparable Andrew Porter, and I felt the urge to say, "Can we see ANYthing by Rossini that's better than the production we've just enjoyed?" He replied, "Only 'Tell' in a perfect staging, I think." (Or words to that effect.)
4. Give my opinion that as far as capturing the spirit of Rossini's joie de vivre, the Kirov production is greatly to be preferred to the one from Barcelona. If you can afford only one DVD of "Il Viaggio" please go to the disc where the great and generous Gergiev and his protegés have the times of their lives enjoying themselves at the same time as giving us so much to enjoy as well, on disc, whenever we wish to. What wonderful times we live in.