Alfano: Cyrano De Bergerac [Domingo/Valencia] Blu-ray Review
- Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080i/60
- Audio Codec: PCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 1
- Studio: Naxos
- Blu-ray Release Date: May 31, 2011
- List Price: $45.98
Click thumbnails for high-resolution 1920X1080p screen captures
(Screen captures are lightly compressed with lossy JPEG thus are meant as a general representation of the content and do not fully reveal the capabilities of the Blu-ray format)
Edmund Rostand’s play Cyrano de Bergerac, features a soulful soldier/poet, burdened with an impossibly large nose. Cyrano loves his cousin, the beautiful Roxane, yet aids his friend Christian to woo her instead. Given the improbabilities of this plot, this play has still fared well on stage and in film. Franco Alfano, a 20th century Italian composer, best known for his completion of Puccini’s final work, Turandot, made this true-to-source operatic adaptation of the Rostand play. Cyrano de Bergerac premiered in Rome in 1936 and received its first US premiere at the Metropolitan Opera in 2005 with Placido Domingo as Cyrano and Sondra Radvanovsky as Roxane, respectively. This present 2007 production from Valencia, Spain shows the couple reprising their roles with a mostly local supporting cast, led by veteran French conductor Patrick Fournillier. Although Cyrano de Bergerac is considered a “modern” opera, the score is quite tonal. Its romanticism is Puccini-esque but Alfano lacks Puccini’s melodic inspiration, so you won’t leave the theater humming these tunes. The highlight visually and vocally is the famous balcony scene in which Christian (Mexican tenor Arturo Chacon Cruz) tries to woo Roxane but is eventually replaced by a disguised Cyrano who delivers the romantic lines himself that seal the deal for Christian.
Cyrano de Bergerac has minimalist sets surrounding a large centerpiece which is constant in all of the scenes. While the costumes appear appropriate to the period, the clash between sets and costumes is somewhat off-putting. The videography also appears to be somewhat random. Lighting is unpredictable and does not benefit this video. The miracle here is the erasure of years from star Placido Domingo through a combination of makeup, wig and dress. He moves on stage like a much younger man. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of his co-star Radvanovsky whose severe makeup, hair style, and heft make an unconvincing femme ideale of Cyrano’s dreams. Arturo Chacon Cruz, playing the inarticulate youth in love with Roxane, is not only handsome and age-appropriate, but has an attractive tenor to boot. Baritone Rod Gilfrey as rival De Guiche presents a visually attractive alternative.
Here is where the major problems with this production occur. There is a lot of hall echo and the voices seem quite distant from the proscenium. Thanks to the power of the principals, the projection is good but there is a persistent harshness not becoming a DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Even if the audio presentation were ideal, there is little that can be done to make an under-inspired score sound like a masterpiece. Conductor Fournillier does the best that he can with his modest sized orchestra. Nonetheless, Alfano’s music still sounds prosaic and is the probable reason that, in spite of the appealing romanticism of its plot, Cyrano de Bergerac has not become a staple of today’s repertoire.
There are no supplemental materials.
The Definitive Word
It is not likely that another Blu-ray recording of Alfano’s Cyrano de Bergerac will happen in our lifetime. Taking the plunge on this offering, implies the willingness to take a chance on a second tier 20th century opera. For those who are considering mining for gold, there is some here. First and foremost is the opportunity to see Placido Domingo in another outstanding performance, pouring out his heart in gorgeous voice. Good god, he was 66 years old at the time of this recording! The second is to see a work that has been neglected for three quarters of a century. The good news is that the vocalism is mostly superb and probably as good as can be for non-mainstream works like this one. The not so good news is that the videography of this mostly dark production does not favor the cast. Furthermore, the recording is distant and sounds almost like the mics were set up in a tunnel. For those who bleed romantic blood, and hopefully there are a few of us left, the final scene is the justification for giving this disc a chance: Roxane realizes, at long last, that Cyrano was the real writer of her love letters and, as he dies in her arms, was always her one true love. Get your hankies ready, it is a “magic” moment.
Additional Screen Captures