Monteverdi: L'orfeo / Henschel, Schiavo, Prina, Christie

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MONTEVERDI L’Orfeo • William Christie, cond; Dietrich Henschel ( Orfeo ); Maria Grazia Schiavo ( La Musica, Euridice, Proserpina ); Les Arts Florissants; Les Sacqueboutiers...

MONTEVERDI L’Orfeo William Christie, cond; Dietrich Henschel ( Orfeo ); Maria Grazia Schiavo ( La Musica, Euridice, Proserpina ); Les Arts Florissants; Les Sacqueboutiers de Toulouse DYNAMIC 33598 (DVD: 113: 00) Live: Madrid 5/19/2008

This is the third L’Orfeo I’ve seen on DVD, and it’s a real success. In style it fits among the theatrical productions that use over 20 singers and over 20 players, even adding some supernumeraries to fill the stage. Yet as a performance it should stand comparison with the intimate versions that we have heard on CD recently, since Pier Luigi Pizzi, the stage director who also designed the sets and costumes, replicated the venue of the first production in the Mantua residence. This may suggest that adhering to the minimal personnel of the alternative interpretation (a dozen singers and a dozen players, more or less) is not really necessary, or simply that Pizzi imagines a pretty big palace. But he imagines well, for this is the best stage set, the best costumes, the best lighting, and the best camerawork of the three versions I’ve seen. It is simply the best theatrical production of an opera that I’ve ever seen on DVD (not that I’ve seen very many). All three were made in live performances (the Harnoncourt video of 1979 was pantomimed in a studio 10 months after the performance was recorded), but the audience manifests itself only twice at the ends of the two halves. Christie’s was a single performance of May 19, 2008, at the Teatro Real in Madrid, while Jean Claude Malgoire’s was made at Tourcoing in October 2004 (also for Dynamic) and Stephen Stubbs’s was made in Amsterdam in July 1997 for Opus Arte.

Henschel is a fine Orfeo, a good actor as well as singer, but it is interesting that he has made a career not in early music but in contemporary opera. Schiavo, a mesmerizing stage presence, outdoes herself in adding not just La Musica but also Proserpina to her main role. At least seven previous conductors allowed Euridice to double as La Musica, and Rinaldo Alessandrini assigned Proserpina to his Euridice, but no other singer has combined all three roles. This is Pizzi’s way of identifying Pluto’s wife with Orfeo’s beloved. Christie directs from the keyboards, seeing his role as comparable to the pianist for a Schubert Lied. There is not a weak member of the supporting cast, and Christie’s players, supplemented by the brass from Toulouse, maintain their longstanding reputation. The Madrid production was associated with La Fenice as well. This can replace any previous video of the work that you may have, for it is absolutely superb.

FANFARE: J. F. Weber

Recorded: Teatro Real, Madrid, May 2008
NTSC All Region; 16:9; Dolby Digital 5.1/LPCM 2.0; Approx. 113 mins.
Subtitled in French, Italian, English, German & Spanish

Product Description:

  • Release Date: January 01, 2011

  • UPC: 8007144335984

  • Catalog Number: DYN-33598

  • Label: Dynamic

  • Number of Discs: 1

  • Composer: Claudio Monteverdi

  • Conductor: William Christie

  • Orchestra/Ensemble: Les Arts Florissants, Les Sacqueboutiers du Toulouse

  • Performer: Dietrich Henschel, Hanna Bayodi, Maria Grazia Schiavo, Sonia Prina