Pergolesi: La Salustia [Accademia Barocca de I Virtuosi Italiani] Blu-ray Review
- Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
- Video Codec: AVC/MPEG-4
- Resolution: 1080i/60
- Audio Codec: LPCM 2.0, DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
- Subtitles: English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, Korean
- Region: ABC (Region-Free)
- Running Time: 185 minutes
- Rating: Not Rated
- Discs: 1 (1 x Blu-ray)
- Studio: Arthaus Musik
- Blu-ray Release Date: January 29, 2013
- List Price: $39.99
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We have to thank the Fondazione Pergolesi Spontini for enabling this production of Pergolesi’s La Salustia, stemming from a 2011 performance in the Teatro G.B. Pergolesi, Jesi. This early 18th century opera seria is set in 3rd century A.D. Rome under the reign of Emperor Alessandro Severo (Florin Cesar Ouatu). The title character, Empress Salustia (Serena Malfi), is psychologically and spiritually abused by her jealous mother-in-law, Giulia (Laura Polverelli). Salustia’s father Marziano (Vittorio Prato) plots to murder Giulia but his daughter intervenes to save Giulia’s life. Alessandro reconciles with Salustia and forgives Marziano. There is a secondary story involving Claudio (Maria Hinojos Montenegro) a Roman officer and co-consiprator with Marziano and his lover, Albina (Giacinta Nicotra).
Vanessa Sannino’s costumes are from the 18th century, contemporary with Pergolesi’s era. Benito Leonori provides rather Spartan sets without much feeling for any period. The Accademia Barocca de I Virtuosi Italiani are conducted from the cembalo by Corrado Rovaris, who has a long history with this musical genre. Stage director Juliette Deschamps makes a valiant effort to pace this rather long, static piece.
Getting the picture to bring this ancient story to a modern audience requires a gifted video director. Fortunately, veteran baroque opera director Tiziano Mancini is more than up to the task. Camera movement makes the drama proceed quite well. We get great shots of the cast with good detail and color. Perhaps the only incongruity here is that neither baritone Prato or mezzo-soprano Poverelli look older than their stage children. Some of the stage effects such as the three chain-mail servants with hearts on their chests (and later bags over their heads) are a bit distracting, but readily dismissible.
Small orchestras such as the Accademia Barocca, the balance favors the singers who are generally quite impressive, particularly countertenor Ouatu. All of the details are quite clear in both two-channel and surround soundtracks. The acoustics of this venerable opera house are a bit more obvious in the latter version.
Arthaus Musik provides only trailers. The program booklet provides a brief synopsis and historical background on this work as well as the edition used in this performance.
The Definitive Word
A BD world premiere, La Salustia will be a “new” work to just about all of us. Given the wealth of musical invention that characterizes the Pergolesi catalogue, it is a pity that he died at the age of 26. I have been delighted to see a number of his operas being revived in his home town of Jesi, Italy, and even more pleased that they are reaching a larger audience through high-definition videos. While La Salustia may play a bit long for some tastes and, in the style of the period, is peppered with recitatives and relatively few big arias, those that are provided sound simply gorgeous. There is synergy between singers and orchestra that makes everything sound just right. Perhaps not a must see like some of Pergolesi’s comedies like La Serva Padrona, but for opera diehards with broad musical interests, a most rewarding watch.
Additional Screen Captures