Cavalli: Ercole Amante / Pisaroni, Cangemi [Blu-ray]

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CAVALLI, F.: Ercole amante (DNO, 2009) (Blu-ray, HD)

Francesco Cavalli
(Blu-ray Disc Version)

Ercole – Luca Pisaroni
Iole – Veronica Cangemi
Giunone – Anna Bonitatibus
Illo – Jeremy Ovenden
Deianira – Anna Maria Panzarella
Licco – Marlin Miller
Nettuno / Tevere / Spirit of Eutyro – Umberto Chiummo
Bellezza / Venere – Wilke te Brummelstroete
Cinzia / Pasitea / Spirit of Clerica – Johannette Zomer
Mercurio / Spirit of Laomedonte – Mark Tucker
A Page / Spirit of Bussiride – Tim Mead

Netherlands Opera Chorus
Concerto Köln
Ivor Bolton, conductor

David Alden, stage director

Recorded live from the Het Muziektheater, 2009.

- Illustrated synopsis.
- Cast gallery.
- Behind the scenes with Johanette Zomer.
- Behind the scenes with Luca Pisaroni.
- The making of Ercole Amante.

Picture format: 1080i High Definition
Sound format: PCM Stereo / DTS Surround 5.0
Region code: 0 (worldwide)
Subtitles: English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Dutch
No. of Discs: 1 (BD 50)



CAVALLI Ercole amante Ivor Bolton, cond; Luca Pisaroni ( Ercole ); Veronica Cangemi ( Iole ); Jeremy Ovenden ( Hyllo ); Tim Mead ( Paggio/Bussiride ); Anna Maria Panzarella ( Deianira ); Anna Bonitatibus ( Giunone ); Marlin Miller ( Licco ); Concerto Köln; Netherlands Op Ch OPUS ARTE OA1020D (2 DVDs: 261:00); OA BD7050D (2 Blu-rays: 261:00) Live: Amsterdam 1/2009

Francesco Cavalli lives pretty much in the shadow of his teacher, Monteverdi, whose three operas are frequently performed. Not so with most of Cavalli’s extant works. When you watch the Netherlands Opera production of Ercole amante it becomes clear why performances of this very large work are few and far between. It is a long opera that requires a large cast of singers and dancers. The Netherlands Opera production is truly a labor of love and daring venture.

The basic plot is simple: Hercules wants to bed his son’s girlfriend. His wife, their son, and the girlfriend are not pleased by this. For three hours an assortment of deities and the girlfriend’s deceased father are outraged and conspire against Hercules. Only a few of these ancillary characters support Hercules in his amorous endeavor.

Ercole amante was written to celebrate the marriage of King Louis XIV of France to Marie-Thérèse of Spain. The opera was intended to be a lavish court entertainment; a new theater was built for the occasion. Unfortunately the theater was not completed on time, so the premiere was delayed a year and Cavalli’s opera Xerse was performed instead. The French composer Lully composed dances that were inserted into both of these Cavalli operas. King Louis danced in the opera to the great delight of the audience (did they have a choice?). It is unknown if Louis was aware that the opera was about the abuse of power and that Hercules was a thinly disguised depiction of the King.

The Netherlands Ercole amante is a big-budget production. It employs a large cast, magnificent costuming that is colorful and often whimsical, elaborate scenic effects, and some ingenious motorized props. The staging is very imaginative and cleverly gives the feeling of Baroque opera even when modern elements are incongruously added to the mix. I wasn’t quite as smitten with the scenery. The stage appears to be quite large, a huge expanse to fill. A few of the set pieces are brilliantly colorful with large bold patterns like wallpaper patterns blown up to gigantic proportions. On video they often overwhelm and detract from the performers. This perhaps was caused by the lighting, which I find harsh and too white. Huge shadows are cast on the scenery and occasionally over the performers. This might have been effective in the theater, but with the tight focus of home video it is distracting and sometimes annoying.

Don’t let these quibbles dissuade you from watching this video. The performance is three hours 18 minutes long (plus five minutes of curtain calls) and is never boring. David Aldin’s creative direction and the talented cast bring this very old opera to life with vivid characterizations and ingenious business. There is not a weak or second-rate voice in the cast; everyone (chorus included) is consistently engaged in the drama. A few performers play multiple roles and create individual characterizations for each. Luca Pisaroni is outstanding as King Louis/Hercules. Pisaroni is a slender man who transforms himself into a muscle-bound Hercules by donning a plastic costume piece by piece. Perhaps aided by the limitations of the costume, he struts and swaggers as a bully, but is strangely likable.

Bonus material is available on both discs. On disc 1 is a synopsis of the plot and “cast gallery.” The synopsis runs for 10 minutes; a voice-over narrator tells the story while pictures from the production are shown. It is well worth your time to watch this before watching the opera.

There are three bonus features on the second disc. Singers Johannette Zomer, who plays three comprimario roles, and bass Luca Pisaroni are the subject of bio-pics that run about 10 minutes each. Much longer, and perhaps more interesting, is the 30-minute feature The Making of Ercole amante.

The opera spans both discs: acts I through III on disc 1, acts IV and V on the second. The picture is 16:9 widescreen. There are two sound formats: LPCM stereo and digital surround. Subtitles are available in English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, and Dutch. The subtitles (at least in English) alternate between the top and bottom of the screen. The lack of punctuation and splitting sentences into phrases occasionally makes making sense of what is being sung tricky.

If you like Baroque opera, or are looking for an introduction to Cavalli’s under-appreciated works, or just want to see a classy and imaginative opera production, this Netherlands Ercole amante is recommended.

FANFARE: David L. Kirk

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: OA BD7050D

  • UPC: 809478070504

  • Label: Opus Arte

  • Composer: Pier Francesco Cavalli

  • Conductor: Ivor Bolton

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Concerto Cologne, Netherlands Opera Chorus

  • Performer: Anna Bonitatibus, Anna Maria Panzarella, Jeremy Ovenden, Johannette Zomer, Luca Pisaroni, Mark Tucker, Marlin Miller, Timothy Mead, Umberto Chiummo, Veronica Cangemi, Wilke te Brummelstroete