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"VIDEO & AUDIO:
The video quality is flat out terrible. It is in widescreen, 1.78:1, but is non-anamorphic. The colors are faded and washed out and the picture overall is soft, lacking detail. The audio is slightly better then the CD version, more stereophonic and fuller. Overall, quite good. However, the recording could have been even better had it been remixed in Dolby 5.1. There are times in the recording where the orchestra over takes the singers and vice-versa. This problem could have been fixed with Dolby 5.1 by mixing the track so that the orchestra predominately comes out of the left and right speakers and by having the singing dominate the center speaker, thus creating a much more transparent sound.The subtitles are a good size. Easy to read while never obscuring anything.Like the CD, chapters are well placed, 63 in total. The booklet that comes with the DVD contains brief descriptions of what happens in each chapter.THE RECORDING
While this is labeled as a semi-staged performance, calling it a minimalist production would be more appropriate. Sets normally consists of one dimensional backdrops. The lighting design is equally as straight forward and simple. Personally, I like this approach a lot. Because the opera is so character driven, it can be performed without Ring Cycle-esque sets. Since the camera only has the actors to focus on, the video recording comes off being much more intimate then one filled with lots of wide shots to show off the set designer's handy work.Terfel's Figaro is excellent, probably the best in any modern recording. Hagley's Susanna is equally as good. The production also benefits from the young cast. Because no one is too old for their part, the sexual tension between the characters comes out well. The acting and singing overall is good, with the actors stressing the comic half of the opera quite a bit, but never over the top. As normal, Gardiner's English Baroque Soloist are technically brilliant. FINAL THOUGHTS
If you enjoyed past incarnations of Gardiner's Figaro, you're going to like the DVD. If you're looking for a DVD version of the opera which takes full advantage of the format, move along.At the same time, you do get your money's worth. For the most part the audio is excellent, singing and playing are great, the whole opera is on one disc, you can see the action and there are subtitles.VIDEO: 2/5
This is a very lively Le Nozze di Figaro.
J. Lee | Baltimore, Maryland USA | 01/26/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Bryn Terfel, of course, as Figaro and Alison Hagley as Susanna shine in this production of Le Nozze di Figaro. (I don't pretend to be objective about Alison Hagley but the role of Susanna was tailor-made for her.) The staging is quite sparse but the singing is strong across the board, although I also disagree with the beginning of "Voi che sapete...". Countess Rosina Almaviva, as played by Hillevi Martinpelto, seems to be having too much fun with the intrigue which makes it less than convincing when she launches into "Dove sono i bei momenti..."
By the way, catch the unintentional plucking on the guitar by Hagley at the beginning of "Voi che sapete..." when Susanna is supposedly accompanying Cherubino as he sings to Rosina.
Rodney Gilfry almost manages to steal the show with his simpering Count Almaviva. (A good comparison is the Glyndebourne Fest. Opera dvd of Figaro with Gerald Finley our protagonist and...Alison Hagley as Susanna. Andreas Schmidt casts a darker shadow as the Count. Both DVDs are worth the $$ to have in your collection.) One little beef about both DVDs and opera dvds in general. The capability of the dvd technology is being wasted when Extra features are not included. How many times have you watched a production on dvd and wished you could see footage from a rehearsal or even a snippet on how certain stage or music direction decision was made? If there is someone from DG reading this, I implore you to give it some thought. Interviews with the principals about how they approached their roles and their thoughts on the production is the type of information that should be on the dvd. (Kudos for having the Italian libretto on this dvd.)
How much easier would it be to attract the younger generation if they can be made to understand the opera through comments made by people they see on the screen.
My ten year old daughter enjoys watching the Glyndebourne dvd (principally because Finley is "good looking") but she has questions about the production that I can't answer. I, for one, would gladly pay more for the extra features if thats what it takes."
Good singing, shame about the visuals
Historically Minded | Melbourne, Australia | 10/24/2002
(4 out of 5 stars)
"I bought this opera because it has Italian subtitles, 10 points here. Its great to be able to follow the singing. I thought the singing was really good, clear, and there were nuances that I had'nt heard before. I've seen and heard Figaro many times so this was good. Orchestra is great too. The big problem with this one was the visuals. They are pretty poor. The film quality is poor, and the stage minimalist. Unfortunately Brian Terfel as Figaro ends up looking like a smurf in a nappy, with a strangely contorted face. The whole set along with the cast looks like a cheap cartoon. I'll have to watch it more to to hope it grows on me. This is a pity because there is alot of emotional content to Figaro and the ludicrous set/makeup/costumes means this production loses the emotive force that in other Figaro's have brought me to tears."
Superb sound, great performance
Frederick II of Hohenstaufen | right here | 06/30/2004
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is the best performance of Le Nozze di Figaro I have seen and ranks as one of my favorite opera dvds. The sound quality is fantastic (superb balance between voice/orchestra). Too often, great performances of opera are marred on dvd by poor sound and visual quality. Luckily, the engineers at Archiv/Univeral have outdone themselves with this fantastic disc. Highly recommended!"
Energetic, Delightful, and Touching
Goladus | New York State, USA | 05/15/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This is my favorite Opera DVD, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in Opera and wondering where to start. It's a classical piece classically performed, but with vibrant young cast. The interpretation is fresh and interesting but doesn't rely on anachronisms. The stage is spare, and the video quality is sub par, but the music, acting, direction, and editing are top notch.
The show is full of situational comedy, which is performed with taste, enthusiasm, and exquisite attention to detail. Figaro has many the same sorts of themes and scenes that populate trite movies and TV shows: Fighting over women, getting caught in the middle of an embarrassing misunderstanding, hiding in the closet, getting out of a lie by lying more, seeming arbitrary plot twists, and of course a horny teenager. There's even some Law and Order in there. But accusing Le Nozze di Figaro of being trite is like accusing Mozart of using authentic cadences. It becomes quickly apparent as you see the DVD that those comic absurdities I mentioned are the whole point. Mozart was great at drawing you into a piece with a simple, catchy tune and then taking you on a fantastic musical journey. It's the same with the situational comedy. It keeps getting more and more twisted and tangled, and by the end it's a mess of Shakespearian mistaken identities, that nevertheless arrives naturally at a believable, satisfying resolution.
But it's not just a comedy; the Count is a great character. He's generally a good man, but is blinded by lust and jealousy and prone to losing his temper. He's sympathetic, but we also see how his selfish actions hurt Rosina, Figaro, and Susanna. Rosina is perhaps the most admirable character of all, her final song of forgiveness "droppeth as a gentle rain from heaven."
The directors, cinematographers, editors clearly love the music as well as the actors. Scenes are cut to highlight Mozart's musical nuances as well as the stage action. If Susanna is ascending a scale and about to hit the tonic exclamation point of the phrase, you'll get a good shot of Hagley at just the right moment. The camerawork and editing keeps you right in the action and almost never feels forced. This is the best I've seen of a live recording. Only full movie adaptations, such as Franco Zeffirelli's "La Traviata," surpass this level of intimacy.
There are some minor issues-the picture quality is mediocre, (though the entire show fits on a single DVD, which is convenient). The quality of singing is excellent, even amazing from a dramatic interpretation, but occasionally there seem to be some minor technical sacrifices. At no point was I overwhelmed by the virtuosity of the singers, but due to the importance of the ensemble in this Opera that's not necessarily a bad thing. I also think Carlos Feller's voice as Bartolo is unpleasant, though that is probably intentional as well.
None of these things really detract from the overall experience, and I recommend this DVD to anyone curious about Mozart Opera."