- Aspect Ratio: 1.77:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080i/60
- Audio Codec: PCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1, Dolby Digital 5.1
- Subtitles: Italian, English, French, German, Spanish, Korean
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
- Studio: Dynamic
- Blu-ray Release Date: June 26, 2012
- List Price: $42.99
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Francesco Cavalli (1602-1676) was a leading composer of the Italian Baroque era. During his long career, he penned more than 40 operas; Il Giasone (Jason) falls about midway in the Cavalli catalog. This 2010 performance comes by way of the Vlaamse Opera in Antwerp, and features period instruments conducted by baroque-era specialist Federico Maria Sardelli. As has become more common in today’s productions, the sets are a combination of eras, mostly modern, while the costumes appear to be a potpourri of early 20th century. A number of the roles are doubled: tenor Emilio Pons (Sole/Egeo); mezzo-soprano Angelique Noldus (Amore/Alinda); baritone Andrew Ashwin (Ercole/Oreste); counter-tenor Yaniv d’Or (Delfa/Eolo); and bass-baritone Josef Wagner (Giove/Besso). The leads, Giasone sung by counter-tenor Christophe Dumaux, Isifile (and mother of his twin boys) by soprano Robin Johannsen, and Medea by mezzo-soprano Katarina Bradic, are all young and upcoming talents
The story is based on the legend of Jason and the Golden Fleece. Like its mythologic counterpart, the plot is very lengthy and convoluted, dealing with multiple relationships between Giasone and Medea, Giasone and Isifile (his true love), Egeo and Medeo and their various go-betweens. After a number of dramatic contortions, broken up with considerable levity by the scenes involving Oreste, Delfa and Demo, the right couples are reunited and Giasone saved from a watery grave.
The updated industrial staging and wardrobe do not work to the disadvantage of this ancient music and, despite its three hour-plus playing time, there is enough visual and vocal interest generated to keep the drama moving along.
Young French director Mariame Clement has become something of a hot property in the past decade. One can see the reason for this reception with the brilliant stage direction of what could have been just another static exercise in baroque opera. Medea is the obvious sex kitten of this piece, with countless costume changes a la Cher that accentuate her striking good looks. There is also a good bit of stage play like Giasone’s conquering of the bull arcade game, complete with toreador outfit, and Medea’s brewing up visual mischief. The videography is generally outstanding with a few minor rough spots in the beginning dark sequences, possibly due to the scrim.
Crystal-clear is the word for the audio with no word left unintelligible. The pit orchestra is well recorded and individual instrumental voices are quite distinct. The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack does a great job of putting listeners in the good house seats, an important consideration given the length of the proceedings. The Dolby Digital (lossy soundtrack) and PCM 2.0 alternatives are reasonably good, but noticeably flat in terms of their presentation in comparison.
I was fascinated by the interview with director Clement. This brief (5-minute) monologue gives you not only the motivation for this production but great insight into the director herself. An intense young person, she shows you the very essence of the creative process.
The Definitive Word
Even if you are a new to this operatic genre, as most viewers will be, Il Giasone is a very entertaining evening in an intimate setting replete with great singing, musicality, and stage direction. I am happy to report that there is not a weak link in this cast, largely unfamiliar to US audiences. If there are discoveries to be made from this unusual video, then mine was mezzo-soprano Katarina Brandic who was not only lovely to behold but who produced some gorgeous vocalism. Counter-tenor Dumaux lacked the obvious physique of a hero (maybe some Greek home-cooking would have helped) but contributed a consistent and appealing performance. The supporting cast both sang and acted quite well. Modern dramaturgy of ancient works can work either for or against the original piece. Here director Clement does a great job with making a nearly 400 year-old work new and vibrant for today’s operagoers. Cavils about wardrobe and sets aside, a real revelation into the world of opera antiqua.
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