- 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, German, Spanish
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 1
- Studio: Opus Arte
- Blu-ray Release Date: January 31, 2012
- List Price: $29.99
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)
Given his short life (1710-1736), Giovanni Battista Pergolesi turned out a group of opera seria or dramatic operas that must have influenced subsequent composers of the baroque and classical eras. Adriano in Siria (Hadrian in Syria) is typical of this genre with a number of set pieces or da capo arias with generous opportunities for embellishment. Those viewers familiar with the Handel repertory will feel right at home with this earlier work. This 2010 performance was recorded at the Teatro Giovanni Battista Pergolesi in Jesi, Italy. It features a mostly female cast including two of the leads Adriano (Marina Comparata) and Farnaspe (Annamaria dell’Oste).
The story involves the Roman Emperor Adriano who has fallen in love with Emirena, the daughter of the conquered Parthian king Osroa although Adriano is already betrothed to Sabina. The plot twists and turns among the tangled relationships of the principals, Adriano and Emirena, Emirena and Farnaspe, Aquilo (Adriano’s tribuna) and Sabina and Adriano. Eventually, the opera concludes happily with the proper couples united and Osroa’s kingdom restored to him by Adriano. Interspersed between each act is a happy mood switcher, the opera buffa interlude, Livetta e Tracollo, portrayed by soprano Monica Bacelli and bass-baritone Carlo Lepore.
This is highly specialized repertoire and requires the close collaboration of the singers and period players. Fortunately this production features a strong cast of soloists and the Accademia Bizantina ably led by Ottavio Dantone. While the staging is rather spare, the focus is constantly on the singers as it should be and both sound and video recording is superb.
The youthful director, Ignacio Garcia, has had considerable experience in mounting early operas and his vision of Adriano in Siria is ably supported by camera work with frequent angle changes and cut aways that suggest action while most of the arias are in the “stand and deliver” mode. The color palette and the high definition imagery are just plain gorgeous. While those new to this operatic genre may take exception to the unsubtle make up efforts to masculinize the female soloists, this is a minor issue.
The score of Adriano in Siria involves a small, chamber sized orchestra which aids the intimacy of this operatic experience. The beautiful voices of this cast come across very clearly in this setting. The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack has modest ambience befitting the relatively small venue in which the performance was recorded. Of the recent opera recordings that I have reviewed, this one comes extremely close to capturing the acoustics of the event, aiding the realism of this production.
There is a helpful interview with conductor Dantone on this production.
The Definitive Word
Viewers who are new to this early opera genre will find Adriano in Siria to be a real ear-opener. There is sumptuous vocalism with plenty of show piece arias for the principal voices who are an outstanding ensemble. The Accadmia Bizantia and its leader Ottavio Dantone have this repertoire in their genes and I would doubt that you will hear such a rarely performed work done any better anywhere. Further, this Blu-ray gets fabulous audio and video recording, making it a benchmark for any future productions if any will come our way. I did feel that, while keeping with the original performance tradition, inserting a comic opera, between the acts, interrupted the dramatic flow of the primary work, and I wish that it had been placed at the end of the line where it can be watched in its own right. When I watch unfamiliar works, and believe me Adriano in Siria is one of those works, I always look for some magic moments. In this production, American soprano Nicole Heaston supplied many of these and is a name to watch for. Pergolesi only wrote six operas in his brief career and is best known for his sacred setting of the Stabat Mater and his comic one act opera La Serva Padrona. The present Blu-ray is the premiere of what is probably Pergolesi’s masterpiece and I can think of no better way to get it across to the larger audience that it deserves.
Additional Screen Captures